Saturday, September 5, 2015
Last Christmas my wife gifted me with a DNA test through ancestry.com. So many things that I'd taken for granted all of my life about my heritage proved to not be irrefutable. All of the anecdotal 'evidence' gathered from older relatives when I would periodically take up working on the family tree was much more slippery than what I'd been led to believe.
My family influences were primarily guided by the German side and the Italian side. The Germans, typically, were extremely strident in their identity, holding on to their language for generations, and never letting you forget that they were GERMAN and proud of it. Afterall, who gave us the Brothers Grimm? The Italians, on the other hand, gave up their language in the first generation, extolled the benefits of being an American (even after my great-grandfather was forced by the feds to blow up his still during prohibition), and made the most delicious food this side of Tuscany.
What I seldom thought about, or considered in my ancestry, despite having a very Welsh last name, was the British end of things.
Then I got the results back on the DNA test.
37% British and Irish
1% Middle Eastern
Where before I thought that I was a third German, I found that I was little more than a fifth. And when I did some research into the German ancestors, I discovered that all but one (he came from Bavaria) came from the Alsace-Lorraine region of France, and indeed on their immigration papers it lists their home country as France. The Alsace-Lorraine area is on the border between France and Germany, and its inhabitants do speak German, but, but, but all of those Germans in the family I'd listened to my whole life proudly declaring their nationality were really French! Oh how I wish my 'German' grandmother was still around. She used to say, no German would marry nothing but another German, even though she herself married a Brit. She also would say, no German would adopt a baby that wasn't German. That was in reference to her own maternal grandfather who'd been adopted. Well, given my low percentage of German/French ancestry, I'd say that old Jake Burkhardt didn't have a drop of German/French blood in him.
As time has gone by since I got the results, I've had a bit of an identity crisis at the hands of all that British ancestry. It's foolish, I know, but I've never, ever, thought about how British I might be genetically. I'm not an anglophile, though I am married to one, and this turn of circumstances seems so impossible. And yet, it is what it is regardless of what I think of it.
Of course the big shock was the Asian and Middle Eastern link. I have no idea where they came from or when, but I'm glad to have that diversity in the mix. If nothing else it explains my sister's incredible cheekbones and all-around beauty.
Well, maybe now that I've written everything down I'll be able to let go of this bit of identity/misidentity existential crisis. It's useless, I know, to get hung up on such things because I have no say in any of it. I am, and that is all I am.