It was a Monday afternoon when I made the decision. I’d been sitting on the fence about it for some time, and we all know where that gets you. Sitting on the fence gives you splinters. So, I leapt. It felt like I had stepped into the pages of my personal ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ as I clicked on “Buy Now.” Where was this going to take me?
Over the following days, I checked my mail every day. Every single day. Unusual for sure, and a sign that I was excited about this package. About the arrival of my Ancestry DNA test. In the back of my mind, I was wondering how I’d get through the next six weeks while waiting for the results.
Looking back, I’m not sure what I was expecting. I was hoping to find some answers. Like whether or not we do have Spanish heritage as our generations-old family story suggests. As well as connecting with other relatives who were researching the same families that I was. I’m always hoping to discover that one mythical relative who holds all the family secrets.
So, I spat in the tube and popped it in the post the same day it had arrived. Now I just had to distract myself from checking Ancestry.com every day to see if my results were ready yet. I was as excited as a kid at Christmas. Let’s hope that the experience can live up to this level of anticipation.
To distract myself I fell into my ‘reality TV’ of choice. That seemingly endless loop of watching YouTube videos of other people talking about their ‘shocking DNA results.’ I’ll admit, it got my hopes up. Could it be that I was about to discover some incredible family secret? Something that years of research and listening to family stories had failed to reveal? Fingers crossed!
It was Saturday evening that I saw the notification that my results were available to view. This was it, the moment of truth. I made myself a cup of tea to be ready for the shocking reveal of my genealogical DNA.
In a wild frenzy of mouse clicking, I navigated around the site trying to read everything at once. Yes, there was the Irish/Scottish heritage, no surprises there. English, yes, I knew that would be in there. Oh look, there is the European and Scandinavian. All on track so far. Ah, a slight hint of Spanish, just like the family stories suggested (we are talking hundreds of years after all).
I’ll readily confess, there was a tinge of disappointment. Years of research and predictable ancestors had already answered most of the questions; this was just the confirmation. I wasn’t going to discover the family skeletons via a DNA test. It just couldn’t be that easy!
After watching various webinars on genealogical DNA, I joined GEDMatch and uploaded my data. It’s top-notch for connecting with distant relatives, and some brick walls shattered as a result. And reinforcing the frustration around the lack of some Irish records. Does anyone have a time machine?
This brings me full circle, so I am back to where I began. A little bit wiser and with a set of data that will be a valuable addition to my genealogy research toolbox. Did I get sucked into the hype about the ethnic results? Sure, it’s fun, and it is the topic that everyone talks about when discussing genealogical DNA. It’s the most promotable part of all the tests because people want to see where their ancestors lived.
What the marketing doesn’t tell you is that your DNA results may not uncover anything you didn’t already know. You might be like me and sit there prodding it, hoping for a lightning bolt discovery that never arrives.
Is it a hack to save you years of genealogy research? Maybe, if you connect with someone you trust who has already done the work. It will help you confirm some theories that you can’t find records to support. Like the relationship between two people that you are sure are brothers.
Is it valuable? For me, absolutely. I’ve since had all of the eldest of my Mum and Dad’s families spit in a tube for me, and it’s been a treasure trove of information. Now you must excuse me, but Ancestry is having a sale this weekend, and I need to stock up on tests. After all, I still have more family members that I don’t have DNA results for yet!