I’ve been tossing around the idea of writing this piece for a few months. You don’t always know how something is going to be accepted. For the most part, people don’t like to confront uncomfortable things. There are people who don’t want to learn and prefer to stay in their only bubble. I am not one of those people. As a genealogist and an avid fan of history, I’m confronted almost daily with the ugly side of humanity. History is not pretty, but it’s what we can do with the knowledge of the past that helps us move forward in towards the future.
I know the answer that people expect me to give when they ask me why they should take a DNA test. They are wanting me to say how fun it is to find out your ethnicity and meet new cousins. That is all anyone wants really. A quick glimpse into their past where they don’t have to deal with any of the after effects. A graph that says you are 32% Scottish, which you had a feeling that you were already.
I don’t say any of this to say that DNA testing can’t be fun and exciting. I say this to remind us all that the results of our DNA ethnicity can be so much more!
As someone with the majority of her ancestors immigrating to the American south in the 1700 & 1800s, I knew that my DNA may not be all European. I wasn’t surprised at all when my DNA showed that have a 1% Cameroon, Congo, & Western Bantu DNA. What did surprise me is how this made me feel. I now had confirmation that I have DNA in common with someone who doesn’t look like me. My DNA also lead me to meeting cousins who don’t look like me and have totally different life experiences than I do. My cousin, Sonya, and I actually talked about this on her podcast.
I took my DNA test one step further and uploaded it to GEDMatch. If you’re familiar with GEDMatch, you know that there are several different Admixture programs that you can run to dive even deeper into your ethnicity estimates. I decided to run the Eurogenes Jtest to see if I had any Jewish ancestry. I clicked the results button with zero expectations. I was totally surprised when it showed that I have 4.18% Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry. I had no idea! This knowledge led me down a path of trying to find my Jewish ancestors. I have been digging into Jewish history and what is means to be Jewish. I have met so many amazing people only because I decided to dig deeper into my DNA.
I say all this in order for you to remember one thing…we are not that different. I am a firm believer that if we all really knew more ancestors and their ethnic backgrounds that we may show more kindness to other humans. I’ve realized that I now look at everyone around me as someone who could be related to me. I believe that our ethnic and genetic makeup is really the core of who we are. So why are we not doing more to understand ourselves and the world around us?
I know there are some people out there that either refuse to believe their ethnic makeup or use it as something to divide us even further. That makes me incredibly sad. My hope is that with every DNA test that is taken, we are perhaps a bit closer to a world with more kindness.