For years I’ve wanted to do one of those DNA tests that tell you where you’re from. Like most people, I had a vague idea of my heritage but when it all came down to it I had no real idea. My recent ancestors were poor and didn’t keep good records. All I truly had was a handful of dates, larger than life stories and my mother’s eyes. This past Christmas I received a 23 and Me kit. I recently got back the results and these results have created more questions than answers. It confirmed there was a good deal of Irish and English blood flowing through my veins. It didn’t confirm the American Indian, which had always been part of the family lore. But, it showed Scandinavian, German and Ashkenazi Jewish, which was a surprise but not the biggest.
The biggest surprise was my DNA relatives. Most of these DNA tests link you up with people who have similar DNA as yourself. These people range from parents, siblings and first cousins all the way to very distant cousins. None of the surnames of my supposed relatives matched the surnames I knew. I immediately began to panic and started calling all of my living relatives to get to the bottom of this matter. My maternal aunt and uncle assured me they didn’t know anything. I just knew I was dealing with mixed up DNA or an outside kid. What if I was the outside kid? My mother was pretty and she loved men. It could be possible. Human interest stories are cropping up almost weekly about some guy that met his long lost twin through one of these DNA tests. Hell, the DNA companies are starting to hire counselors for the express purpose of talking people down when they find out their Uncle is really their Daddy.
Just when I was starting to entertain all the possibilities an email showed up from one of my DNA matches. Apparently, her dad was adopted sometime in the 1930s. Her father’s birth surname was the same as my paternal grandmother’s surname, meaning he was the child of my grandmother (unlikely since she would have been exceptionally young at that time) or one of her six brothers and sisters. The phone call to my father regarding this revelation was like something out of Abbot and Costell’s Who’s on First skit.
Me: Dad, do you know if anyone on Grandmother’s side ever gave a kid up for adoption?
Dad: No, no one in our family is adopted.
Me: No Dad, not was adopted ever gave a child up for adoption.
Dad: Nope, no one was ever adopted. Well, there was that one uncle on Papa’s side. He was adopted.
Me: No Dad this isn’t on that side of the family. It’s on your Mom’s side.
Dad: Oh, okay. Well, no one was adopted on that side.
Me: (Sighing and trying to retain my calm) No Dad, like given up. I mean it was the Depression. People were poor. They sometimes gave their kids away because they couldn’t afford to feed them. And, there is always the out of wedlock thing. I mean it was the 1930s.
Dad: Well, our family didn’t do that.
Me: How do you know?! This was at least 10 years before you were born, probably more like 12.
Dad: No one ever mentioned it.
Me: (Filled with incredulity) Dad, it’s not exactly something people generally talk about. I just thought you might have overheard the adults talking.
Dad: Nope, no one in our family was ever adopted.
That is where I gave up. God bless him it was like talking to a brick wall. And, God bless this long lost cousin’s family because I have nothing but a few random dates and names to help them in their search. I have to admit I have zero desire to be friends with these people. I have enough family scattered around the country as it is. I don’t need a new set of relatives to have to visit at least once a year. But, it’s sort of interesting to think what a vial of spit can tell about a person. FYI if you ever do these tests it takes 85,000 years to collect all that spit. You may think you have a lot of spit but you don’t. And, your mouth will feel so dry after coughing up all that spit you’ll think your throat is the Sahara. You’ve been warned.