Sunday, December 7, 2014

It's In The Genes

Have you ever taken one of those genetics ancestry tests?  They are really cool at first swipe, if you will.  Once you get past the gross part of spitting into a tube, sealing it up and mailing it, the rest is just sitting back and waiting for your results to come in the mail. 

My husband did this recently.  It turns out his ancestors are pretty much from where he thought they would be: 98% from Eastern Europe.  But lo and behold, 2% were actually from Ireland.  And when he finally stopped walking around greeting everybody with a “Top o’ the mornin’ to ya!” we started to discuss what this actually means.  When you delve into what this number implies, it is somewhat of a mathematical conundrum. 

If you’re 2% Irish, does this mean one of your predecessors from your parents on up to your great, great, great, great grandparents was a full-blooded Irishman?  And what does it mean to be an “Irishman”? Does it mean that your ancestor was born in Ireland and stayed there and then met and procreated with one of those aforementioned Eastern Europeans?  And how do the Ancestry people identify an Irishman from say, an Italian?  I am guessing it is a string of genes found in the majority of people who live in that region.  But doesn’t every region have people who migrated from somewhere else?  There are lots of variables to consider here…

It gets even more confusing.  The Ancestry people say that as more and more people get tested, your results can actually change.  Which says to me this moving target has a learning curve.  Yeah, we think people like you were from here, but now there seems to be even more people like you waaay over there so now we think you are from Africa…

And to add a whole other layer to this, the Ancestry people say they can identify your cousins with great accuracy.  This part seems a bit dangerous to me: if you do not know who your cousins are, then somebody did something secretive and illegitimate somewhere and does not want anybody else to know, and has managed to keep anybody else from knowing.  Until today.

Now the rest of the family needs to get tested.  But until then, top o’ the mornin’ to you?

-- Eve

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