Hello, everyone, and welcome back to my blog. If you’re just tuning in for the first time to my site, welcome, and I hope you enjoy your read. As the title suggests, this blog entry is going to be about my journey so far with Ancestry and 23andMe DNA testing. Before I go into my adventure of what has been happening with my genealogy testing (of which the 23andMe I literally just got in the mail yesterday, so I couldn’t complete this one and send it back for analysis), I would like to share some background information with you. Just a fair warning: this post won’t be all sunshine and roses, and I will certainly be brutally honest in my feelings of sadness, frustration, curiosity, etc., because this is one of those messy experiences where negative and positive emotions are all over the place.
I spent my entire childhood raised by my mother and maternal grandmother, and sometimes my maternal older aunt when my little baby brother was hospitalized for cancer treatments, though I never met my biological sperm donor. One day when I was really young, I asked who my father was, and my mama gave me a name. She was absolutely 100% adamant on the fact that half of his heritage was Irish and the other half was Italian. I already knew I was Irish, Scottish, and Welsh (from my maternal grandmother), as well as German, native American Cherokee or Lenape Indian (though I was later corrected on the fact that it’s Monacan, not Cherokee or Lenape, so that settles that), with a wee bit of French thrown in the mix (from my maternal grandfather, but this was another fact I was later corrected on, in terms of we’re not French). I was quite happy knowing all of this, but yet I was so completely devastated, because every time I looked at my family tree I didn’t know the paternal half of my heritage. I knew the name, and the heritage, but I didn’t know anyone from that side of the family.
Growing up, it used to bother me on the deepest of levels (of which I can’t even explain) when I would look at my family tree and see only half of it. It felt so … totally … incomplete. It made me feel like I was incomplete, like half of me was missing, like I would never be whole. As an adult now, I don’t allow any of my relationships, or lack thereof, to invalidate me or my existence as a human being. Children, however, have more difficulties with processing and understanding that concept, especially when they’re adopted or have a parent voluntarily or involuntarily absent from their lives.
I would also like to talk briefly about my older brother as well. Until I was 8 years old, I didn’t even know I had a brother 2 years older than me. I spent a weekend once with my maternal younger aunt who asked me what I would wish for if I could have my wish come true for anything in the world. My answer? I wished I had an older brother who would be kind and protective of me.
Her answer stunned me. I had an older brother named Seth (he was born with that name, but it changed legally when he was put up for adoption). After she returned me home, I asked Mama about Seth, and my question floored her. My little brothers and I were never supposed to know, but once we found out, I wanted more than anything to find Seth. All I knew about him was that he was born in May, that he was 2 years older than me and his last known location was New York, and that it would be next to impossible for me to find him, simply because the adoption was closed. Again, this bothered me on the deepest of levels which I can’t describe. Now I’m absolutely a firm supporter of adoption, but as a child, I felt like it was totally unfair when it came to not having my older brother or my biological father in my childhood as I matured into adulthood. I thought about my older brother and my sperm donor a lot in my life. I wondered what they would be like and how their lives were. I hoped that they would be kind people who I prayed would lead happy, meaningful lives.
In knowing that my search for Seth would really be next to impossible, I knew that if we would ever find each other, he would have to access his adoption files, whether it be for medical, legal, or for personal reasons. When Mama had enlisted into the United States Air Force, her maiden name changed right before I was born, because she got married. Quick Fun Fact: I carry Mama’s former husband’s maiden surname, so that makes him my “legal” father, but I didn’t get to know him until I was already in my early 20s and living on my own in San Diego, due to the fact that they legally separated just a couple years after I was born. Even though they eventually got a divorce, my bond with him has only grown stronger over time, and I really consider him the dad I never had growing up. With him living in Florida, and I in Pennsylvania, I only wish we didn’t live so far apart.
In keeping that in mind, as well as the fact that my mama never changed her surname back to her maiden name, but just kept her married name instead, it meant that Seth could never find her under her married name. So, with that said, when Myspace was all the craze back in the day, I created an account for Mama. Instead of listing her on Myspace with her legal surname, I used her maiden name on her account. Wouldn’t you know that this actually worked!? It didn’t take too long for Seth to find her at all! I couldn’t believe that I only had to wait 11 years after I found out about his existence, after I came home from my cruise vacation in and around the British Isles, before I would get that message from my big brother that changed my life!
That’s when we found out his name was legally changed, and we confirmed with his adoption papers that he had in his possession that he was my long-lost brother originally put up for adoption in 1986. It was shortly after midnight that I saw he’d friend requested me (August 2007), and I was sooo confused as to who he was until I looked at his picture closer, and saw on his profile that he was born in May, and lived in New York. I … was … freaking out. After I accepted his friend request, almost immediately after I got a message from him about how he needed me to get my mother to respond to his message, because he believed her to be his biological mother. I then ran to Mama’s room and got her to face her fear of rejection.
A few months later (October 2007), we planned to meet up finally. When we did, I was a freaking mess, because I couldn’t stop crying when we first met. It was the best day of my entire life even until this moment. And the best part of all? He was exactly how I hoped he would be. He is sweet, and kind, and so protective of the people he loves. So, that means that my wish came true! He still lives in New York, and he and his wife have made me a proud aunt of 2 precious little boys (I just can’t imagine not knowing these 2 precious gems!). We see him and his own family once in a while, and when we do, we treasure each of those moments and memories spent together, because they are few and far between.
Despite my desire to know who my biological father and his family is, I have absolutely no expectations of being welcomed with open arms, because I don’t want to be rejected. However, because family is important to me, if anyone from his side were to contact me, I would certainly welcome them into my life to connect and form a familial relationship with. When my dad told me that the name my mother gave me might not actually be my sperm donor, and when he gave me a few other names, that turned my entire world upside down again. I’m so glad he was honest with me about it, but I couldn’t help but feel like I suddenly didn’t know half of me again, but only in the sense of truly knowing just half of my heritage. I also don’t know the paternal family health history either, which might be a major disadvantage for me, because that may be very important information for me to have access to later in life for medical purposes.
After my mother passed away last year in October from a myocardial infarction (medical term for “heart attack”) as a complication of her Diabetes, I realized just how important it is to manage my health. I don’t have Diabetes and I have a healthy heart, but I decided I needed to take more proactive measures in my health, but it can be complicated when you don’t know half of your family health history! You can see where I’m going with this now, right? That being said, I’m on a journey to discover my complete heritage, and to find out what all of my genetic predispositions are. I would have done this sooner, but I was just so nervous.
I bought the Ancestry test a little while back, in May for the Mother’s Day holiday when it was half off, and the entire kit was sitting in the drawer of my dresser for 5 months, unopened no less. I wanted to take the Ancestry test, because Ancestry supposedly has the largest database of DNA, so if I was ever going to find anyone on my biological paternal’s side of the family, it would likely be through that site. That’s part of why I was so nervous. The whole uncertainty of it is what drives my anxiety so high. However, since the test came to me in the mail, and since I put it away in nervousness, the test remained on my mind until I couldn’t stand it anymore.
I’m trying to live my life with as few regrets as I can. The reason the test was constantly on the back burner of my mind was because I knew if I didn’t complete it, then I would spend the rest of my life wondering, and I’m tired of always wondering. I knew I would regret it if I didn’t complete it and send it back. So, I completed it, mailed it in, and then the results came in! I am 61% English, Welsh (my second favorite part, because I am actually learning the Welsh language to connect to and preserve my heritage!), and Northwestern European, 21% Irish and Scottish, 16% Germanic European, and 2% Swedish!
The results came to me via email at 9:11 p.m. EST on November 30th, 2018. I didn’t see it right away, because I was focused on a few parcels I had received in the mail, but I checked my email in the hour of 11 p.m. I will be totally honest here … I actually expected to see a much larger blend in my heritage, seeing as America is a big melting pot, which I’m totally fine with, but … holy smokes! 61% English, Welsh, and Northwestern European!?!? That makes up 2/3 of my lineage! I also love the fact that I have 2% Swedish in me as well. I am officially going to open up my Bucket List to 250 items rather than 200! I don’t have Sweden on my current list at all, and it’s my dream to visit all the countries that my ancestors come from, but I will go over that on another day and in another blog post.
I’ll be taking the 23andMe for more detailed heritage information (hopefully a better breakdown of the Northwestern European heritage will be available!), but I’m mainly doing this one for medical purposes. I can’t go to the post office until next Saturday (December 8th), because the post office is only open during the time frame of when I work between Monday through Friday. However, I could activate my test by registering on 23andMe, and I also registered my test itself by the assigned numbers on the test tube that I will fill on Saturday right before I go to the post office. I am mainly concerned about whether I have the faulty breast cancer gene, for reasons I do not wish to get so personal about on here, except the fact that I want to manage my womanly health for preventive measures. However, there are a lot of genetic risk factors I would not mind being aware of, if I have them.
There is one that truly scares me, though. 23andMe states their genetic testing also tests for the Alzheimer’s genes. They say as a fair warning that just because someone has the gene does not mean the person carrying the gene will have any manifestation of the disease itself. I say it’s still important, because these are genes that can be passed down to every generation of the family tree that is brought to life. Personally, I do not think I will ever bear my own children to pass the genes down to, and here’s why:
When I was 9 years old, just 8 months after my youngest brother passed away from Neuroblastoma (a children’s cancer of the adrenal glands of the kidneys), I was in a major car accident that I was lucky enough to survive. I will not go into too much details, but I’ll give you the basics. My neighbor accidentally knocked me down with her back left tire and ran over my left pelvic bone with her front left tire. I remember the knockdown, but I don’t remember the pain, but naturally the brain would make me forget the pain! However, I remember what it felt like after the tire came off my body, and it felt like tons of weight had lifted from me.
Because of that, I’ve had a lot of womanly health issues in my teen years, and the doctors warned me not to have my own children once I hit 30. If I were to want kids, I would want to carry them in my 20s. Here I am, 30 years old, and no children to show for it. That’s okay, though! I want to adopt, and if I decide to have my own children, I may turn to surrogacy with In Vitro Fertilization. If I turn to surrogacy with In Vitro Fertilization, then my genetic DNA will be passed down. This means it would be helpful of me to go forward with this genetic test, because even though I might not develop a disease from the gene I may carry, my child(ren) could, or perhaps their child(ren) could. Who knows … if I have too many health risk factors, or if there’s something I don’t like that, I don’t potentially want to give to my kids, I might just simply adopt and call it a day!
Like I said before, though, the only one that I actually don’t kind of want to know is if I carry the Alzheimer’s gene or not. I’m at a crossroads with this genetic test, though if I were to have the gene, then I would give this entire blog a whole new purpose by adding video log messages to my future self … just in case! My biggest, BIGGEST fear is losing my identity, losing the memory of who I am and what I’ve done and accomplished in life, losing memory of my faith, losing memory of my loved ones, losing memory of being loved. Just no, no, no, no, no, absolutely HELL NO! I don’t want to lose any of that, but I would want to be more than prepared to remind myself!
So, I will suck it up, get my money’s worth of the genetic testing in its entirety, and … prepare for the worst and hope for the best! As far as having already taken the Ancestry test and how it makes me feel … I’m so glad I completed it and sent it in for analysis. Now I have a much better understanding of my heritage in whole, and I’m super, SUPER excited about it! I’m totally at peace about it now.
I am so sorry for the length of this blog, as I didn’t expect it to turn out to be this long, but if you’re still reading this line, then thank you for taking the time out of your day/night to spend a little time with me here. I will write another blog entry on how everything turns out with the 23andMe ancestral lineage and health report. In the meantime, may you and yours continue to be in good health, prosperity, joy, and peace, no matter who you are, or where you are from!