“Wait - I’m what now?”
A couple of years ago, I decided it was time to track down our family tree. My mother’s side of the family is pretty dub t and she didn’t have the best childhood growing up. She wasn’t even sure who her father was and I’d only met my maternal grandmother once or twice. It was a broken family and as such she had no sure idea what her heritage was made up of. She has red hair and the family story was she was descended from Irish immigrants that had come over during the potato famine in the 1850’s.
With no way to verify – that’s what I told people when asked about heritage.
My father’s side of the family is much different from my mother’s side. We had large family reunions growing up and we could trace some of our ancestors back to pre-Revolution days. My ancestors weren’t anything fancy. The story was they left England for a shot in the New World and settled as farmers in the colony of New York sometime in the early 1700’s. My dad’s side has a pretty long tradition of military service going back to the Civil War and military records can be a great source for genealogy material so we were pretty confidant about that side of the family’s history. (EDITOR'S NOTE: just discovered that genealogy is NOT the study of genies and am kind of bummed).
I knew the privacy implications of having a DNA test but still decided to go ahead and do an Ancestry.com test so one day I ordered the kit, did the test, and sent it back in to get analyzed. I’m not going to lie – I was really excited to see the results and everyday I hoped an email would pop in telling me they were ready. Finally, a few weeks later – it arrived. I logged in and checked my results.
I called my mom. “Mom, I don’t think you’re Irish.”
But before we get to that - the largest percentage in the test wasn’t a surprise. I was 52% English. That fit with my last name and the research other family members had done. Ancestry.com also will show others related to you that have taken the test and where they are located around the U.S. and there was no surprise there – a large majority of my extended relations can be found in the Northeast around New York. That seemed to confirm the family lore.
The next biggest percentage was a surprise - 34% Scottish.
That had to be my mother’s side of the family. My poor red-headed mother – she dreamed of going to Ireland when she retires. She drinks Irish Whiskey. She wore t-shirts that said “Kiss me, I’m Irish”. She thought all her life she was mostly Irish. I called her and told her the results and said she should order a DNA test to find out. I think she was a little bummed out to think she might be Scottish but I was super happy because now I could scream at people “IF IT’S NOT SCOTTISH, IT’S CRAP!”
The next three percentages were all surprises. 8% French? What Frenchies were in the bloodline? That was followed by 4% Welsh. That wasn’t all that surprising with all the English DNA. The final was 2% European Jew. The Welsh I figured was from my father but the other two were a complete mystery. I had my mother order a test for my dad so we could figure this out.
Once we got their results back my mother really started getting into genealogy and trying to track our tree down. All these sites like Ancestry.com really make it fairly easy to go back four or even five generations without doing too much work. The French blood was from my mother’s side of the family. My great-great-grandfather and his wife were both from France and are now buried in a town about 100 miles away from where I grew up. I really wouldn’t have been surprised to see more. The town I grew up in started as a French fur trading post and even has a French name – something that always amused my French girlfriend when we were dating.
As for the Welsh, that was from my father and so was the European Jew. We were able to confirm through old records that the old family lore was true of them coming over pre-Revolution from England. We couldn’t find any evidence if they ever fought in the Revolution or not. My mother thinks she was even able to track down a couple generations in England before they came over but that can’t be confirmed as a sure fact.
So if you haven’t done a DNA test and you’re OK with the possible privacy implications that come with doing one – you should definitely order one and find out if your family lore is correct. I know it was a big surprise for my family. Who knows what you might find in your results?
Finally, as a joke, because my dad’s side of the family has been in America when they were still colonies I’ll just say - you might be an American but I’m more Americaner