Sunday, December 28, 2008

My new ancestors

Over the past few years, I've been hearing more and more about these new DNA analyses they can do that break down your ethnic ancestry. Some of it appears to be BS--Oprah, for example, appears to have gotten one that claimed to tell her exactly what tribes her ancestors hailed from, and apparently they just can't do that. The basic idea, though, is fascinating. I've been asked a couple times if I would want to get one, and although the idea is a sort of cool one, I have to admit that it seems a little pointless to me. I think I know what you get back from me--Northwestern European plus Semite, and if there's something else mixed in there--well, how interesting is it to know that I have, say, West African ancestors, if I don't know who they were, or how they got mixed in the mix?

But anyway, something like that has happened to me, and without my having to offer a blood sample. My aunt sent my parents and me each a copy of the family history on my father's paternal grandmother's side of the family.

I know no one from this side of the family, mind you. I met my grandfather only a handful of times, and my great-grandmother once, I didn't grow up with any of these people. But I will confess that I find the whole document fascinating.

I didn't know, for example, that I had any ancestors who had arrived in the United States before 1890 or so, and now I learn I have ancestors who arrived before it was the United States. One line tails all the way back to 1634.

I didn't know I had any ancestors who were Puritans.

Or Dutch.

I also didn't know that I had an ancestor who, according to the family history compiled by my great-great-aunt, was a spy for Washington. Cool.

These are the kind of ancestors I find exotic when other people have them. I am not totally sure what to make of the news that they're relatives.

Huh. What would my readers think about the Balabusta joining the DAR?


Paula said...

I enjoy your blog and read it often when blog searching. I want to start by telling you that I work for a DNA lab. Family Tree DNA has the worlds largest data bank for comparison purposes. So let me tell you a bit about my experience. It wasn't finding out that I hail from Eastern Europe with some sub Saharan overtones, it was becoming a part of surname projects and finding genetic cousins all over the globe and having a sense of community. In today's world it is too easy to allow ourselves to feel isolated and this has given me a gift of community.
So there you have it, from someone who participates in the project!
Keep up the interesting dialogue, I enjoy your thought process...

The back of the hill said...

I didn't know I had any ancestors who were Puritans.

Or Dutch.

My guess is that the Dutch ancestor is Abraham Pietersen van Deursen. Checking my own family history, I discovered that what I had thought was ours alone is shared by millions of other Americans.

When I say that I too am a descendent of Abraham and Isaac, it's true. And my ancestor Abraham was also father of a multitude.