The View from Faraway Farm: The science doesn't lie
You've probably seen the advertisements for a $99 DNA profile from Ancestry.com. You sign up, pay up, and Ancestry mails you a sample kit with a small, postage paid return box. All you do is donate some saliva by expelling it into a small plastic vial, secure the screw-on top. Drop it in the box and mail it off. Theoretically some eight to twelve weeks later you are emailed a profile that tells you your basic ethnicity by region. So, just like the television ads where a guy claims to have been brought up to believe his family was German, he learns that he's more Scottish than German and trades in his Lederhosen for a kilt, and he lives happily ever after eating haggis instead of strudel.
We Americans know full well that we are a mongrel breed. The great melting pot has produced all manner of interesting genetic combinations. Tonight I watch my two beautiful grandchildren sleeping happily and marvel at their diversity. Their father was born in Vera Cruz, Mexico, and their mother is a Yankee born in Springfield. Americans. With all of our genetic diversity, we want to know just exactly where we came from, what brought us to this great country of immigrants? That $99 DNA profile ought to be able to fill in the blanks that our parents left out or didn't know about, right?
To be precise, yes. Tracing our ancestry can be a very complex and confusing job. Missing birth and death records, fuzzy memories, or just out and out non-existent information makes the job very challenging. A good number of us simply want to know all about our past, and modern record keeping can only do a small part of the job. What about our ancestors from pre-history? We certainly have the desire to know. Having done my high school years in South Royalton, birthplace of Mormon Church co-founder Joseph Smith, I've known about the religious order's fascination with keeping vast genealogical records in Utah. But how do you go about tapping into that limited resource? Well, you don't. Go online and sign up for the $99 DNA profile from Ancestry.com.
Coincidentally, there is a connection between Ancestry and the Mormons. They have a sort of alliance that they've negotiated, and you'll notice that if you send your sample of bodily fluids off to Ancestry, it does end up in Utah. Yes, I've heard the suspicions about the Mormon interest in genealogy, but having Mormon friends and former classmates that I've known for nearly half a century I just don't think anyone has anything to worry about. So yeah, I spit in the plastic vial and sent it to Utah. Then I waited.
In my case, the DNA profile meant that much more to me because I was adopted. I found my biological parents on my own years ago. I had a lot of questions answered, but certainly not all of them because there is only so much information available, and then it fades from our incomplete view through time. I still wanted to know more, even though my biological father gifted me a huge three-volume genealogical history of his family going back to the 1600s and John Gallup, the very first harbor master of Boston Harbor. Well, the results came back weeks earlier than anticipated and they really were surprising.
I learned that I am 30 percent Scandinavian, 24 percent British, 17 percent Irish, 12 percent Iberian Peninsula, with a smattering of Greek and Italian tossed in for fun. It was the Scandinavian piece that surprised me. Also included in the profile were DNA matches, and the top two were cousins from both sides of my parent's families, my cousin John Gallup from Oregon, and another undisclosed cousin from New England; her family tree was available to peruse and there was my grandfather, Everard French ... her grandfather, too. Here's an interesting aside that I didn't absorb when I first heard it a couple of weeks ago. My half brother is a physical therapist who specializes in the rehabilitation of hands. He was examining my biological father's hand and noted that there was a characteristic in our father's hand that is only seen in people of Viking origin. I had always thought that we were mostly Scottish and English. Now I suppose we will have to live happily ever after eating haggis, bangers, and mash, and kipper snacks, all washed down with a hearty Guinness. Ciao, amigos. The science does not lie.
Arlo Mudgett's Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.
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