Where do I come from? And why does it matter?

“..It doesn’t matter where you come from, it matters where you go..” – Frank Turner

So, I’ve decided to do a DNA Test. Not in a ‘Jeremy-Kyle-who’s-the-father’ way, but more to learn a little more about where I come from.

While Frank Turner sings (beautifully I might add) about it not mattering where you come from, to me I find it matters for a couple of reasons. 

Firstly, because there are too many varying stories about our family heritage. 

I’ve heard many different stories from different family members. That we are all English through and through (even though that is a nonsense in itself). That my paternal grandparents were Romany. Or travelers. Or of no fixed abode. That there is Italian blood on my paternal side.  That there is Irish blood.

A short while ago I looked at our family tree to try and make some sense of this, and while I can agree that most of the family surnames are of English origin that can be traced back at least 500 years, there are a few branches of the family tree that come to an abrupt end, and are untraceable.

So ultimately, there’s a lot of hearsay, and not much scope for finding out the correct information.

Secondly, we live in a time when we can know the answers.  

Not too long ago, if you told someone that anyone could have access to DNA testing (for a fee) that wouldn’t have believed it. But look at us today in 2017! Criminals can be caught with the smallest scrap of body fluid. Genetic health risk testing can tell you what you are likely to die of. And you can sleep with several different men at the same time, become pregnant, wind up on a day time TV show, and find out who the (lucky?) father is all in a few weeks.

No longer do we have to rely on the sketchy memories of family members any old paperwork kept in the back of our grandparent’s cupboards to get a sense of where we came from.

As someone lucky enough to be born a ‘Millennial’ with access to these advances in technology, communication and health, I say I should take full advantage of the opportunity.

Thirdly, (my) identity matters. 

Identity is the sense of belonging or affiliation. It can come from what you know as true fact, or what you believe. So while I don’t believe that it’s essential for everyone to have a DNA and get the true facts, for me I think it will help with my overall sense of self perception,

So what’s involved? 

There are lots of different companies that do DNA ancestry testing, but I opted to go with Ancestry.com. Mostly because this was the organisation that I decided to do my family tree with (the introductory 2 week free trial marketing strategy certainly worked on me!), and also because they seemed to come up pretty well on comparison sites.

After you register and pay for the test (which works out around NZD $150), you are sent a pack in the post which contains a small vial and an activation code. You simply activate the code online by logging into your account, fill the vial with spit (I actually found that I had to produce a lot of spit and it seemed to take ages to fill the tube up to the line!), seal it off and send it off in the prepaid international postage box.

dna2

The activation code and the code on the vial match, which means that when it arrives in the Ancestry.com DNA testing HQ, they can match your spit to your record – and if your vial is intercepted on route no one can steal your DNA. Well, they can, but they won’t know it’s yours.

I did also sign the disclaimer allowing them to store and test my DNA for research purposes – so who knows if and what that might help. My conspiracy theory friends say that’s a mistake, but personally I like the idea that my DNA may be useful in some way.

In a few weeks’ time I should have my results which will map my genetic ethnicity and maybe uncover new family connections.

And while it will be interesting to know about my past, as Frank says, it mostly matters about the future.

“…and no one gets remembered, for the things they didn’t do”

 

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