Doing an Ancestry DNA test can be an incredible experience. Finding out your exact ethnic makeup can be a fascinating process and bring you closer to understanding not only your family’s history but also what your place is in the world.
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The intricacy of your genealogical past is one that takes time to unpick and one that can throw up secrets and mysteries that you would never have thought possible.
So if you discover that you have DNA from the Baltic States on your Ancestry DNA test then you might want to find out what that precisely means. You might wonder what the Baltic States exactly are and how it relates to your family.
This article will set out exactly what is the Baltic States ethnicity on Ancestry and will provide you with the information as to how to use it to find out more about your own ethnic origins and those of your ancestors.
What Are The Baltic States?
Let’s begin by making clear what the Baltic States actually are.
The Baltic States are a group of countries that are referred to as such because of their close proximity to the Baltic Sea. These countries are generally defined as being the nations of Latvia, Lithuanian and Estonia, nations which are close to Russia and the Nordic nations of Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
The term Baltic States originates from after the First World War when in the wake of the collapse of the Russian Empire and the ceasing of hostilities between the various nations involved in the conflict, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia became independent nations.
Whilst many people associated the nations of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia as being essentially Russian this wasn’t the case – indeed prior to being taken over by the expanding Russian Empire they had a distinctive cultural, linguistic and ethnic heritage which was separate from that which existed in the Russian Empire.
Now that we’ve explained what the Baltic States are, let’s explain what Ancestry means by using the Baltic States as an ethnicity and how that transfers into finding out about your heritage.
What Is The Baltic States Ethnicity On Ancestry?
Ancestry’s definition of ethnicities is of course somewhat different from that which is generally accepted.
The reason for this is that people can share an ethnicity without having necessarily come from one of the core Baltic State nations; you might think you are purely Polish for example and have had ancestry in Poland for centuries and still have Baltic States Ethnicity.
Ancestry defines Baltic States Ethnicity by stating that Baltic States Ethnicity specifically relates to Ancestry from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – however, thanks to developments in Ancestry’s DNA technology, they are able to break down with greater certainty whether you come from one country as opposed to another.
For example, Ancestry’s latest advances now separate Estonia and Latvia from Lithuanian meaning that rather than simply appearing on your DNA test about being just from the Baltics, your Ancestry DNA test can narrow down which nation your ancestors come from with a greater deal of accuracy.
The reason that Estonia and Latvia are represented on your DNA together is that, although they are separate nations, they have close cultural and historic links which means the population of both countries often blend together which means it can be somewhat more difficult to separate the DNA of someone whose family is just from Estonia from someone whose DNA is just from Latvia.
However, Ancestry does attempt to break down the DNA from Lithuania into community groups – these groups are Central Lithuania, Southwest Lithuania, South Lithuania and West Lithuania.
These groups allow Ancestry to be even more precise with which parts of Lithuania your ancestors originally came from.
This information is extremely useful as it allows you to narrow down where your Ancestors lived from an entire nation to a specific region which you might then be able to potentially narrow down to a particular town or village.
It should be noted that these community groups aren’t always entirely accurate on Ancestry and that sometimes they will only appear if you have significant amounts of DNA from those particular areas – if the amount of DNA is not as significant then it is likely that you won’t see those community groups appear.
Now that we’ve explained what the Baltic States Ethnicity is on Ancestry, let’s explore how you can use this information to your advantage when researching your Baltic roots.
How To Research Your Baltic Roots Using The Baltic States Ethnicity On Ancestry
Whilst DNA results are great in many ways, in particular in how they provide you with details about what your DNA ethnicity makeup is, it will never directly provide you with the actual names of your ancestors or where they lived or what they did for jobs.
This is where combining the information garnered from your DNA test with family history records comes into its own.
By utilizing your DNA test to provide a roadmap for where you should search for your ancestors, it ensures that you can then use the available historical records to drive you towards your specific ancestors.
The first thing you need to do is to try and identify where exactly in your tree your Baltic States roots lie. For example, can you be certain which part of your mother’s or father’s tree your connection back to Estonia, Lithuania or Latvia comes from?
If you aren’t then it is worth asking your parents or any other relatives if they know of some ancestor or relative from that region.
As there was a great deal of migration from that region to the United States and other neighboring nations in the relatively recent past then it is well worth asking your relatives as they might know more than they think.
Equally, they might not know anything as the entrance of your Baltic ancestry into your family tree might come from several hundred years ago – however it is always worth asking as oral family history traditions are commonplace in many families.
If your relatives don’t have any answers and your family tree isn’t too well developed, the best course of action is to simply work backward through your family tree in an effort to find out where your Baltic State ancestors fit in.
It is particularly important that you check to see whether there are any names, first or surname, which automatically stick out as being from the Baltic area and whether there is any evidence of your ancestry coming from the Baltic through immigration records.
Once you have some idea of which part of your family tree your Baltic roots come from then it is much easier to link your DNA ethnicity to your family tree.
Ancestry provides you with an easy way to combine your DNA test and your family history documents through your Ancestry DNA matches. Your matches can easily be triangulated to determine which common ancestor you and they come from.
You can also easily compare ethnicity breakdowns meaning you can be certain as to whether or not they share the same Baltic genes as you.
It is worth pointing out that even if they don’t share the same amount of Baltic DNA that they can still share common ancestors with you from that region because DNA doesn’t always pass down from descendant to descendant in the same way, so there are often some discrepancies between person to person as to the exact amount of DNA that they might share or whether their DNA ethnicity explicitly states that they also have ancestors from the same place.
By getting in contact with your DNA matches, however, you are likely to find a wealth of information that will help you create a firmer picture of your family in the Baltic States.
Once you have a better understanding of your ancestor’s family dynamic, which nation they came from and which part of that country then you can really begin to explore their background and their ancestry.
Now that we’ve explained how Ancestry DNA can be combined with records and contact with relatives to help find out more about your roots in the Baltic States, let’s move on to looking at which records you should focus on to get the most information.
Which Records You Should Focus On If You Want To Find Out About Your Baltic States Ancestors
When you are researching your family tree it is vitally important that you focus on the best sources for information on your Baltic ancestors.
In many parts of the world, censuses provide valuable information for not only the membership of your family but also where they were born and their occupation.
You might be wondering if this also applies to the Baltic States – sadly there is only one that was ever enacted for Tsarist Russia – which then included Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. That census was held in 1897, so if your ancestors migrated before then they will not unfortunately be listed on the census.
The 1897 census is however highly useful if you wish to trace your Baltic ancestors in Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia during that period.
If your ancestors left before then, the next best resources are to search through the birth, marriage and death records. Whilst, unlike Western Europe where BMDs (as the abbreviated form of Births, Marriages and Deaths is sometimes rendered) are commonplace, the record is much scarcer in Eastern Europe, this doesn’t mean that they aren’t a highly reliable resource.
Indeed, if you want to push back your family tree in the Baltic States then you need to thoroughly go through the Birth, Marriage and Death records to ensure that you have the best possible picture of your family in the region.
The records you find will provide an insight not only into the occupation of your ancestors but also where they lived.
It is important to note that the most valuable records for helping you to advance your family tree are marriage records because they not only give you information on the married couple but also often the fathers of the couple, their occupations and two witnesses who might be relatives of the couple.
If you can only find one set of records, try to make sure it is a marriage record as it will give you invaluable information.
Why It Is Important To Find Out About Your Baltic States Ancestry
Your ethnicity doesn’t define you, but it is an important part of your past. Learning about your background and your family can give you an insight into yourself that wasn’t there before.
You can become far more aware of the history and struggle of your ancestors and thus have a greater awareness of where you are in the history of the world.
By understanding your ancestry, you can find out more about yourself and have information to pass on to future members of your family and thereby give them the gift of knowledge about their own pasts. Through studying and understanding the past we can have a better grasp of the future.
So, if you haven’t thought of buying an Ancestry DNA kit to find out about your family tree then don’t wait and do so now.
Use these to stay organized as you discover your family history!