A few years ago, they began creeping out of cupboards, or probably more likely rolltop desks. More than one began worrying about what the inlaws would say. Others greeted the results with interest and celebration.

The report was folded small and stuck in one of the tiny drawers in the desk that locked. The prodigious volume of genealogical effort – you know the one- he referred to it as seminal, was locked away. It now rested in the shadowed bookcase beyond eyes that prise out the question marks penciled in.
It wasn’t just that his great-great-grandfather wasn’t who the records said he was – he’d been nothing but a political hack anyway. Nor was it the six percent of American Indian nobody in the family knew about, maybe from the mysterious Tabitha.
No, it was the damming seven percent that proved him to be a mongrel that threatened his membership in the Mayflower Club and the Sons. In the old days, it would have been a brand on his forehead that banned him from polite society in his state. He took the damning report, walked to the fireplace, and burnt it.

On the other side of town:

Thomas laughed. He loved the newfound diversity: Europe, Africa, the Americas, and the Pacific. The twenty percent English, now that was a surprise! Maybe from the mysterious Tabitha? He could hardly wait to share with the rest of the family. They were going to be surprised at which famous American politician was in their genealogy.

15 Replies to “Ancestry”

    1. So glad you asked! As an anthropologist, I drew up many kinship charts. Frequently there was some dodgy stuff that was only admitted to me after a year of friendship. It was Tabitha, Samuel, Alberta, or Josip. They weren’t in the chart because they ran off to the circus, were bigamous, had a disavowed child, had an extramarital relationship resulting in a child, or…and this is the biggee – came from mysterious circumstances. That’s why even though human social organization ( kinship) was not my area in anthropology I love to hear these stories. I got my own surprises when the Ancestry report hit the mailbox, and I loved every minute of it, but I do know people who have buried it in dark little drawers.

  1. One of my friends does ancestral work. She always gets so excited when she discovers something new. You make it seem much more interesting!

    1. DNA testing has added a huge new dimension. But anthropological human social organization really gets hairy when you start talking about some of the more out there kinship systems with correlating rules for who you live with, what part of your kinship network you inherit from, land tenure, and all sorts of other stuff that I slept through years of lectures on. Western kinship ( it’s called an Eskimo system) is pretty boring.

  2. My Dad’s family were from Scotland, my Mom’s were from the Philippines. So that mix was interesting. My favorite part was finding the names- on my Dad’s side way back on the family tree named Lancelot and he had two daughters named Patience and Experience. Crazy right?
    My great Grandmother on my Mom’s side was named Saturnina. Seriously how did I get stuck with such a boring name!

    1. Boring names won’t be boring to our great-grandkids. They’ll think that they are romantic. However, I can see lots of Biblical names not getting revived- Uriah, Aholibamah? I like Louis just fine.

  3. Mail-in DNA kits make me nervous…. though, I’m sure that the results would be interesting. I’ve also heard that results vary depending on which company kit you choose. Not sure how DNA can vary?!

    1. different companies test for different things. but I chose Ancestry on a discounted offering. that was about four years ago, and about every six months, they update the analysis. the big things don’t change but there are subtle shifts.

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