Many people are very interested in their ancestral connections. I’m interested, but not with the consuming passion that would lead me to list “genealogy” as an interest. But weird blips in my experience as a writer made me very curious. Who were those people, why was I writing about them, and what do the connections MEAN? I’ve been very interested in the question of ancestral memory since writing Savior.
Last fall I got a good deal on DNA testing through AncestrybyDNA.com. Nope. That’s NOT Ancestry.com. The information I got from that good deal was pretty useless (“Dude, you’re, like, White and stuff”) except for the revelation that I have nearly 20% native American ancestry. That made me extremely curious. I knew it could only have come from my dad’s side of the family since I had a pretty solid sense of who my maternal ancestors are. That sent me searching.
I learned that occasionally Sami DNA reads as native American DNA — that seemed very possible as my dad’s maternal grandparents came from Sweden — but southern Sweden, not reindeer land. AND there is no trace of them before Minnesota. Carl Berggren is a common Swedish name. Late nineteenth century ships were full of Carl Berggrens.
I looked around on my dad’s father’s side (formerly terra incognita) and discovered that the family we have always thought was Irish isn’t, much. The mysterious woman — my dad’s grandmother, the woman with my eyes — was not French Canadian of Irish descent. Her father was a Scot and her mother descended from Finns who had landed in Quebec. Aye but ’tis true. The man she married was an Irishman.
With all this random mating among my progenitors (thanks, though, guys) I began to think this ancestry thing is really a joke — especially when I found a very precocious Swiss ancestor who had married and had children AFTER he died at age 12!
But I took another test. This one required me to spit into a tube. That’s supposed to tell me what nationalities comprise the wonder that is me. I will get the results in a month or so.
In my secret heart I’m hoping it will tell me that I’m 20% Reindeer Herder or Elk Chaser or “I will fight nor more, forever” or a Great Builder of Igloos. I’d like a genetic explanation for my love of snow, animals and high country.