Monthly Archives: October 2016

Genealogy From Spit

This is My DNA Profile that I received today. It’s not the most exciting set of results.

I’ve been working on my family tree off and on for years. I don’t really need to do a lot of work as my Mom’s Mom’s family seems to have an unofficial historian and there are lots of notes out there. My Dad’s family is not well-documented – I think I first discovered my grandad had a brother when I was in my forties. (Dad didn’t talk about his family much, and when I asked him once what “Gilhooly” meant, he said, “The bastard down by the stream.” He may have just been stressed that evening.)

My wife has done some work on her family tree, but some of the branches seem more interested in their own specific branch than where the entire tree goes. I think it’s pretty much you go as far back as the people you saw at Sunday dinner at Grandma’s, and call it good. That, and she’s Brooklyn Italian, so a quarter of the branches in her family tree end up in the East River.

When I found out about the AncestryDNA kits, it sounded like an interesting idea, but a bit far-fetched. I wasn’t sure want bodily fluid was required to extract your DNA (it’s saliva, so calm down), but it sounded scientific and mysterious.

Why trace people’s names when you could find out you were part Gypsy just by spitting in a tube?

The test is interesting – you actually do spit into a tube (up to the fill line), seal it with another tube that has preservative in it, shake it, drop it in a post-paid envelope, and wait for the results.

I may be the first guy who was looking forward to a DNA test coming back.

They tell you it takes six to eight weeks to get your results, but I was pretty sure that was setting expectations low. I was correct. I mailed off my spit in a tube at the beginning of the month, and my AncestryDNA test results arrived today. Actually, I got an email that said they were available on the web site.

There is nothing earth-shaking in them, which is good and bad. Good, because it means nobody has been lying to me about my origins, and bad, because it means I actually am descended from these whack-jobs.

My wife and I sent out samples in the same day, and mine are back, and hers aren’t, which just shows alcohol is easier to process than tomato sauce.

It did occur to me that genealogy would be a wonderful subject in high school, when everyone is desperately trying to prove they’re not descended from the tyrants at home.

I’m pretty sure my wife’s family will now buy kits for each other, since they all criticize each others’ cooking and eating habits, and the greatest insult is “You can’t possibly be Italian.” Well, let’s see, shall we?

My key results:

56% Ireland, which would be my Dad’s contribution, as his family is from a small town in northern Ireland – which is not to be confused with Northern Ireland. We’ve visited there, it’s beautiful countryside, and small farms. If you go far enough north in the beautiful countryside, you will meet British soldiers with tanks and automatic weapons. That would be Northern Ireland.

24% from Europe West, which must be mostly Mom’s donations – her family emigrated to Texas from Germany (probably technically Prussia) in the late 1850s, and my maternal grandfather’s family was from Alsace, which is either German or French, depending on who won the last war. Mom’s family left Germany since all of the sons would very likely be forced to go into the Kaiser’s army, but ironically got to Texas just in time for some of them to fight in the Civil War for the South. Ouch. Luckily, I don’t think any of them saw active duty, they just wandered around the State, not fighting Yankees, since they’re weren’t any in Texas. Yet.

6% Scandinavia, which I have no idea, but it explains why I like lingonberries. If it’s ancient DNA, then it’s just the invaders who went to Ireland to rape and pillage, and found beautiful countryside and small farms. Either that, or the invaders who went to Germany for Oktoberfest.

6% Italy/Greece which is probably just from the gallons of tomato sauce that Virginia has fed me over the last 16 years – some of it is bound to be in my blood. Either that, or it’s from my ancestors who left France to teach the Italians how to cook and make wine, or the ones who left Germany to teach the Italians how to make sausage, or the ones who left Ireland to teach the Italians how to make love.

4% Great Britain which is probably some of my Irish relatives getting lost going home from the pub. “Sean! It must have rained while we were havin’ a pint. I don’t remember having to swim across the street when we left the house.

There are traces of random other stuff, but I’m not an African Prince, so don’t email me money, no matter how much I ask.

This is a wee bit more specific than “Irish and German” which is what I’ve been told all my life.

The results can’t say I’m German (it’s Europe West), since I think when my family left for Texas, they were Prussians. When my family left Ireland, they were technically British, but they were not happy about it.

I really didn’t think that I would ever pay a company $99 to process a vial of my spit for two weeks, but my cousin had done her DNA test a while ago, and we were discussing her results last month. Her results showed a lot of Great Britain in her DNA, which is  interesting since her Mom (my Aunt and my Mom’s sister) and Dad are from the same small town in Texas and have roughly similar family trees. (My Mom’s home town had five or six founding families who all tended to marry each other.)

The DNA results did predict that my cousin and I were cousins, so that part of the test works.

There’s a part of me that was really hoping to find out I was descended from gypsies or pirates, but so it goes.

Now that I have my results, I have to get the dogs checked. Rocky cannot be all Chihuahua.