(Author’s Note: I’m appalled that I left this post in the ‘draft’ file! While it was composed almost two years ago, the content is still very relevant!)
Yes, that sounds stilted, and yet how else would you say it and not dangle your preposition. Of course these days, it’s no longer a problem (according to the Chicago Manual of Style) to dangle your preposition. But choosing to use this arcane rule does cause people to wonder where I’m going with the post, and that’s always a good thing when searching for a blog post title. But I digress (which often happens with me.)
The study of DNA and genealogy is where I’m going.
A few months ago, I decided to get as many members of my family as possible to submit to a DNA test. They are available through Ancestry.com (among many others) and I thought it would be interesting to see where it took me.I submitted tests for myself, my husband, my daughter, my brother, my mother, and my father’s only remaining full brother. My father died in 2002, and I’m not aware any of these easy-to-use tests were available back then. The results of these test have provided an endless stream of education, enlightenment, and excitement.
For example, I’ve discovered something many of you probably already knew—namely that DNA gets distributed randomly and not at all equally amongst siblings. I’ve always believed I was 25% Greek because my paternal grandfather came from Greece when he was 17 years old. He married a non-Greek girl and had five sons with her. So my assumption was those boys were 50% Greek and passed along to their children a 25% share.
Wrong! It turns out my Greek genes add up to 12%, while my brother, with the same parents as me, is only 2% Greek. Even stranger is that my father’s younger brother certainly doesn’t show 50% but only a trace amount of Greek. Most of his ethnicity seems to come from his mother’s family.
I have discovered many distant cousins I never knew I had. It doesn’t surprise me that I didn’t know about them, because when you think about it, how many of us really know that much about all our distant ancestors. The really intriguing results have come from my two great-grandmothers. I’m now in contact with 3rd and 4th cousins from both sides of my tree and we’ve shared emails back and forth, exchanged photos of our families, and some of our distant relatives. It’s amazing to see the shared interests we have, some of us have the same pursuits, and all of us are interested in where we came from.
Along the way, I was able to share with one cousin the story of how my paternal great-grandmother traveled on a wagon train from Missouri to Texas in 1879. She was a child of eight or nine (depending on the birth year you believe she had.) During that grueling journey, her father died and one of her brothers also died. The father was buried in Smackover County—which I think is a terrific name for a county—Arkansas and was buried beside a creek. I’m not sure how exactly where the little boy was buried. My new-found cousin from this side of the family is related to me because his great-grandfather was a brother to my great-grandmother.
I think those of us whose roots are in the west or the deep south are more apt to have our distant relatives scattered about the country. It was the wanderers, after all, who worked to settle the western United States, and they often wound up far from their original homes.
I’ve recently met (through email) another cousin from my mother’s side of the family. He is more directly related to my mother but is much closer to my age. He has invited me to a family reunion of his branch of the family that descended from my great-great-grandfather, who is my cousin’s great-grandfather. It’s all pretty difficult to keep straight at this point. I have hope that by getting to know these people better, perhaps meeting some of them, I can better understand my closer relatives and the quirks passed down to all of us from long ago people.