Submitted by Don Doman
I signed up for a DNA test after listening to my friend Chuck Matthaei. He talked about what the results showed about him and his siblings and explained how it all worked. At the time my wife, Peg and I were writing articles for a special Roman Meal project on aging. Chuck owned Roman Meal. It sounded like an adventure.
I got back my results and it was an eye opener. On my father’s side it was pretty much as I expected European/Anglo-Saxon. The world map showed my ancestors along the shorelines of northwestern France, and southwest and eastern England. On my mother’s side however, it was much more than I expected. I knew there was a native American bloodline from a grandfather I had never met. I don’t know when all my father’s ancestors arrived in the new world, but if they had arrived in or around Hudson Bay, my mother’s people were there to greet them.
DNA investigation is nothing new, but it is still interesting.
I enjoy “African American Lives,” a four-part PBS series on TV. It investigated the lineage of eight prominent African Americans: “Using genealogy, oral history, family stories and DNA analysis to trace lineage through American history and back to Africa, the series provides a life-changing journey for a diverse group of highly accomplished African Americans: Dr. Ben Carson, Whoopi Goldberg, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Dr. Mae Jemison, Quincy Jones, Dr. Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, Chris Tucker and Oprah Winfrey.”
“Who Do You Think You Are?” is a TV program based on a British show about genealogy. “In each episode, a different celebrity goes on a journey to trace parts of his or her family tree.”
Both of these shows are just like real life. Someone wants to find out where they came from or to find out if the stories they heard about their ancestors was true. I love watching the investigations going on and then the reveal of reality. There are generally surprises.
In an on line news article “White nationalists are flocking to genetic ancestry tests — but many don’t like their results,” the story begins with white supremacist Craig Cobb trying to gain control of a daytime TV audience, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, hold on, just wait a minute,” as they laughed and cheered to the news that Cobb was only 86% European and about 14% sub-Saharan African. Other white nationalists throw fits also when they learn that they are not as “white” as they thought. Isn’t that just too bad?
For black Americans they mostly expect to have a white bloodline somewhere in the mix. And they do. About 30% of black Americans find out that they are descended from Europeans . . . on their father’s side, but almost never on their mother’s side.
Melvyn Gillette says, “Before you go opening any door, you need to ask, ‘Am I really ready for what might be behind it?’ ” Gillette is a member of the African American Genealogical Society of Northern California. DNA is quite a revelation and an adventure. As more and more people take DNA testing, the more we know about who we are and where we came from. I used 23andme, and every month or so they send an update on information as well as a list of possible relations from 2nd cousins on down (for me).
In this morning’s Ask Amy column the headline read, “Genetic testing may turn up ‘surprise’ relatives who could change family dynamics.” Amy responded to a writer who did not want to “tarnish” her grandfather’s image after being approached with an extremely close DNA match. Amy mentioned, “Recently, I was at a gathering where several people had used a genetic matching site — and all of them noted shocking, unanticipated results, including being matched with (half) siblings they hadn’t known about. And yet all reported that this ultimately was a positive experience.” So, DNA is really a “relative” term.
But, DNA research is only partly about ancestors. Reports show your traits and more. It’s also a predictor of possible physical and health problems. DNA reports can give you more information than you want to know. For answers about the future and health issue odds, you have to acknowledge that you actually want the information. Some people don’t want to open that door.
I was working at my computer when my sister Marsha stopped by. She asked what I was writing about and I told her “telomeres.” We had discussed the findings from my reports before. She raised an eyebrow. I responded with “There’s a telomere sequence at each end of a chromosome. My telomeres are getting shorter over time. Mine and probably your’s aren’t delivering all the information when our cells duplicate.” Next she asked, “What does that mean?” I said, “It means we probably won’t live to see a hundred.” “Good,” she said, “I don’t want to be a hundred, anyway.” Words to live by.