By Gloria Masters
Everyone is playing the game. It’s a scavenger hunt for new or ancient ancestors. It’s easy to play. You simply send your DNA via saliva to a website with a check and voila! You receive a pie-shaped chart explaining what percentage of what ethnicity you are.
I am thinking about playing. Especially when I’m bored. Who knows what I might find out? I like a good surprise. Wait! What if my surprise is scary? What if my unknown ancestry uncovers undesirable results? I could be descended from kings or criminals, so I’d have to prepare for any surprise.
Almost everyone I know believes there is a person of nobility, brilliance, significant historical importance or enormous wealth whom they can point to as proof of their worthy heritage.
For example, not only am I supposedly related to Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia on mother’s side, but possibly Napoleon on father’s, and a Daughter of the American Revolution, to boot! Quite a stretch, I’d say.
Nobody ever said, “Your great-grandmother came from England, so, hold your head up, because Jack the Ripper is your uncle three times removed.” Those words never crossed my parents’ lips, true or not. Skeletons remained in the closet.
When my relatives immigrated to this country, they were looking for a better life than the one they left in Europe. They arrived with nothing but hope for a more prosperous life for their children. So they may have embellished. They wanted their children to feel pride in the midst of poverty.
They were impoverished. Some were indentured servants in the first generation. In order to inspire confidence in their children, who would believe their situation was temporary, they embellished facts about their heritage to some degree. They lacked resources but were almost all rich in family heritage, and many were descended from royalty.
Times were hard at first. Sometimes it took a couple of generations before these families realized the American dream. Knowing, or at least believing, that one was of royal blood meant that attaining the dream was inevitable.
The expression, “blood will tell,” meant that if you were not a peasant, then it was just a matter of time until your true worth would be recognized.
Fast forward to 2017 and we find ourselves questioning our heritage. Financial security sometimes leads to boredom. We have time to contemplate the possibility of what our true heritage might mean to us. We thought we knew who we were, but our DNA says we are not who we thought we were. Will any of this change who I am?
If I don’t know who I am by now, I don’t think any hidden ancestry will reveal a different me inspired to wear lederhosen, take up basket weaving or travel to a distant land to meet people with whom I have nothing in common.
Practically everyone I know is interested in knowing the results of his or her DNA. They ask, “Aren’t you interested in finding out?” Heck, I’m beginning to feel the pressure. I don’t want to be labeled “uninformed” or be an outcast at the senior center. “What’s your DNA say?” “I dunno.”
To many people, DNA is a forensic search, like being an orphan in seek of your true bloodline. My true family is the one I already know. At my age, I can’t cope with a whole new world opening up to me. Some days, I can barely understand the ever-changing one I live in now.
Still, I should probably satisfy my curiosity while I can still spit into a tube. After all, my distant relatives might actually be royalty. In which case, a huge inheritance is long overdue.