Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Happy to be a mutt...by Leah St. James



As I sat on my couch, wondering what wonderful words of wisdom I could share with you this Thanksgiving week (ha!), an ad for AcestryDNA.com came on the TV. You know – where you send them a sample of your DNA, they analyze it and  send you back your “real” heritage.


What a fun topic for Thanksgiving, I thought – the American holiday where we commemorate the English settlers’ survival in The New World back in 1600-something. Since then, our nation has become a true melting pot of many nationalities and backgrounds, which I think is one of its greatest strength.


In the commercial, the woman said she’s always thought she was 100 percent Hispanic, only to discover that she’s “everything.”  And that’s the point of the commercial – that you never really know exactly what your make-up is, unless you undergo DNA testing, of course.


Let’s take my son, as an example. He sent his spit off in a plastic vial a few years back, and he did get a few interesting results.


But first, some background:

My husband loves studying genealogy and has traced his ancestors’ roots to Germany (50 percent), Ireland (25 percent) and Wales (25 percent).  As an odd side note, he considers himself more Welsh than Irish, despite the identical percentages. And he’s an accountant. Go figure.


I, on the other hand, am a mutt. Or at least I think I am. My mother was adopted, although back then the records weren’t sealed. Her adoptive parents told her she was from the Prussian part of Germany – which I found quite romantic. I’m not German. I’m PRUSSIAN. The knowledge  spawned many fantasies of discovering myself to be long-lost royalty from some tiny Germanic principality. My father’s side isn’t much better. He left when I was about four, so we know little about his background, but Mom always said he was all German.  Years later, we found out his mother’s side was from Eastern Europe – either Poland or Lithuania...something like that. So I’m German, Prussian and some sort of Eastern European. I’ve always guestimated myself as 75 percent German and 25 percent Eastern European.


So if I do the math, my children would be:

12.5 percent Irish
12.5 percent Welsh
62.5 percent(ish) German
12.5 percent Eastern European


If there are mathematicians/statisticians out there, please don’t grade me on this. It’s been decades since I cracked a book on genetics, and I’m sure my methodology has a few holes in it. :-)


Anyway, take a look at the report my son got back




His heritage is  99 percent European. Makes sense. But if we drill down, we see that some of the percentages are a little off. More from Ireland than Great Britain? Interesting. One of those Welsh ancestors must have come from Ireland!


Thirty-two percent from Western Europe, 22 percent from Eastern – those I can buy. But 11 percent from the Iberian Peninsula?


According to AcestrDNA.com, “People in this DNA ethnicity group may identify as: Spanish, Portuguese, Hispanic.” 


Now there’s a mystery!


This result prompted hubby to order his own spit kit from the company. Alas, even after two attempts, the samples he sent weren’t enough to generate results – very disappointing.


My sister, when she saw the report, implored me to send my own sample off for testing, figuring the “Iberians” must be from our side, and she didn’t feel like spitting in a cup. I promptly declined. I don’t want my DNA floating around out there, stored in some lab!  Some crook could get hold of it and do who-knows-what with it!


Although maybe I should, just in case some obscure Germanic principality is seeking descendants of its royal line....


Nah. In truth, I’m happy to be a mutt. I’m happy to be American. 


So as I celebrate Thanksgiving with my husband and two grown sons, I’ll thank the fates that landed me in this country of freedoms, in a family that hasn’t been rich in money but has been so rich in love.  I’ll give a prayer of thanks  for our collective health, for our jobs, for the joy of story-telling and for those who love reading. 


Wishing you and yours a joyous and safe Thanksgiving.

Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil and the power of love. She blogs here the 22nd of each month, but posts odds and ends, like pictures of her son's six-month-old kitten, on Facebook.She loves chatting on Twitter and occasionally blogs on her own website.

26 comments:

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

I loved your post, Leah. My paternal side came from Frammersheim, Germany in 1773. My eighth-great grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War. My maternal side was from Germany, too, I think. I love hearing stories like this. Of our histories. Gee, maybe I'll spit in a bottle. LOL Now, off to the madness of book release day.

Leah St. James said...

That's so cool, Vonnie, that you can trace your family back that far. Every so often I get the urge to hunt down my mother's adoption records, but I never have. Happy book release day!!

Diane Burton said...

Funny that you should write on this topic. Yesterday, one of my cousins asked about our history because I'm the only one who's done any genealogy. I just wrote him back right before reading your post. Our family legend was that we are related to Anneke Jans (a real person who came to the US in 1630) who was the daughter of the king of the Netherlands and was disinherited for 7 generations. My grandmother's generation was the 7th so her cousins hired a professional to research. I think my grandfather was right about the pro just wanting money. Anyway, the upshot is there was no Netherlands in the 1600s-it was part of Norway so no king, no inheritance. But it is a good story. LOL I've used the info from the pro to trace back that far and make the connection. It's a lot of work (which I haven't done in a while because I'm too busy writing) but interesting to know your roots. Like you, I'm a mutt. Dutch on both sides (along with lots more). Ironic that I now live in Holland (Michigan).

Diane Burton said...

Happy Thanksgiving to all the Roses. Safe travels.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Leah, I enjoyed your post. I keep hearing about these surprises (I wonder if some spit examiner is having fun by mixing up the saliva). What amazes me is how our ancestors got around without cars. I know land bridges helped, but these fellas roamed the world...versions of Johnny and the appleseed.
Different seed :-) I'm happy we're all mutts...makes it easier to avoid the 'pure' race poppycock. Happy Thanksgiving!

Leah St. James said...

Genealogy is extremely time-consuming, Diane. My husband has spent hours searching ship records, cemetery records, and things like that to get as far as he got with his family. While I find it interesting, I don't have the same drive he does. Maybe because with an adopted mother, I've grown used to having a void in my genetic information. That must have been a bit of a blow, though, to find out your family legend is fiction! (I'm imagining your ancestors sitting around a campfire, spinning tales, when one of the kids hears and takes it for fact, and a legend is born!) :-) That is really neat that you can go so far back, either way.

Leah St. James said...

See, that's what I'm talking about, Rolynn--lab rats mixing up spit and seeing what fun/havoc they can create! I'm happy with my decision to steer clear! :-)

Andrea Downing said...

Leah, I've done the spit test for Ancestry--only one surprise. I knew my father's family came from Austria and Romania and my mother's from Russia but, despite having lived in the UK for years, I never knew that we also had English! My daughter is the true mutt; she has all that but her father is Scots-Irish and English. Now she is marrying a Colombian whose father's family came from France and his mother's from Spain, so my grandchildren should be very interesting!!
But whatever your ancestry, Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Brenda Whiteside said...

Loved your post. I'm dying to do this but won't let go of the money yet. FDW likes to say he's British Isles but mostly Welsh. He refuses to acknowledge the bit of German his mother found when she did the family tree years ago. A friend had this done and totally blew his mind. He'd always KNOWN he had Native American blood but found out there's not a drop. Pretty funny.

Jannine Gallant said...

I did a ton of genealogy research back before writing became a full-time occupation. It really is fascinating. I'm a quarter Swedish from my dad with a hint of French and German and Danish from my maternal grandma, but the vast majority is English from everyone else, I'd guess close to 65%, but I've never been tested. My maternal grandma's ancestors came here way back in the early 1600's. Not the Mayflower, but darn close, about 10 generations ago. Once you get back to colonial times, there's a lot of info because you share the same gene pool with so many others who have done the research! Great topic, Leah, and happy turkey day to you!

Leah St. James said...

I'll bet that was a fun discovery, Andi! I have a feeling each generation becomes more and more mixed, especially in the more modern cultures where there's a lot of movement of people, and it will be rare to find people whose ancestries are purely from one area or another.

Leah St. James said...

Too funny, Brenda, about your friend who KNEW he had Native American ancestry! I hope he wasn't too crushed! I'm with you on the cost of the test being a drawback. I couldn't believe it when my husband went for it (especially since he never got anything back!).

Leah St. James said...

That's so neat about your great-great-(etc.)-grandma being one of the early settlers, Jannine. That would be the one reason I'd want to do research on my family, to find out where they lived during which periods of history. That, to me, would be fascinating.

Susan Coryell said...

Love this--especially in light of recent election where school kids, in great sad numbers, worry about being deported or losing their families because they are not American. So, so sad. We are all mutts and should be welcoming of other human mixtures. Thankful for those who agree. Nice post!

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

What a cute post, Leah!

I imagine my children's percentages would be as varied...we have German, French and Native American in our blood LOL!

Hope your (and everyone's) Thanksgiving is Blessed.
PamT

Maureen said...

What a great post! I've thought about getting something like this as a gift for christmas.

Leah St. James said...

Thanks, Susan, for stopping by. I think most Americans are proud of the complexity of our national make-up, and with each generation, we see more and more "mixing." My husband's first serious girlfriend broke up with him because of religion, compelled by her parents who didn't like the brand of Christianity his family followed, versus theirs (both mainstream denominations). My father-in-law used to tell me not to "admit to" being Polish! So as much as we have room to grow, I think we've come a long way. I'm hopeful for our future.

Leah St. James said...

Hi, Pam and Maureen - It is fun to see what we're made of, isn't it?? :-)

Alison Henderson said...

Genealogy is so fascinating! My sister spent hours and hours doing one for our family that went back centuries. I strongly doubt the accuracy of some of those alleged medieval ancestors, but I was interested to learn that one side of the family has been on this side of the pond since the 1600's. OG has never known much about his family because their accounts were so confused, so last year I did the same for him. He now understands all the true connections and was also surprised to find he had some colonial ancestors. I've wondered about doing the DNA test, but I have a pretty good idea of what I'd get--a hodgepodge of northern Europeans, mostly German, English, and Swedish.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Unofficially, I'm English and German with a little French thrown in. My husband is Dutch, Finnish and, maybe, a little American Indian. My grandson is the family member who's big into genealogical research. Some of things he's found are fascinating. Apparently, we do date back to the Mayflower on my father's side. Somewhere in there I've been told a something, something grandfather was the Mayor of Munich. As I said, unofficial, all of it, but fun to consider.

marissagarnerauthor said...

Very interesting post. My mother says her ancestors came from the UK but has no real documentation. My paternal grandparents immigrated from Czechoslovakia, when there was such a country. I'm with you on not having my DNA floating around in some lab. Who knows what could happen?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Leah St. James said...

Very cool, Alison and Margo, that you can trace your family back so far. I don't have any of those neat family stories, but that must be fun to think of them!

Leah St. James said...

Right, Marisa?! I mean, think of all the DNA swapping that could be going on for all sorts of nefarious reasons!! :-)

Elizabeth Alsobrooks said...

Great post, Leah. Have a happy Thanksgiving with your mostly-Welsh-mutt crew!

Barbara Edwards said...

I've though about being tested and hesitate for the same reason. I know I'm not royalty so what's tha point. Interesting ost

Alicia Dean said...

Ha, very interesting. I've always wanted to do this. I have am at least 1/16 Cherokee, and maybe more. I think I am also part Black Dutch. Great post...thanks for sharing!