I’ve heard the rumors for years, often whispered around the dinner table at family gatherings. We were not the children of European immigrants, as my parents claimed. At least not entirely.
My aunt once confided that we were part Jewish, a closely-guarded family secret. Other amateur genealogists claimed we had African heritage, either Egyptian or Nigerian. And, like any self-respecting American family, there was the one about Elvis being a distant cousin.
So when my friends at National Geographic offered me a test from its Genographic Project, I envisioned a dramatic reveal, like this one:
I was almost right.
DNA can answer a lot of questions you have about yourself, beyond where you’re from. But it can also make you curious about the world around you, and as someone who has spent his life in the travel business, I think that’s great.
The test was easy and the results were ready in about three weeks. During that time, I wondered what I would do if all the rumors were true. Would I need to schedule a trip to Egypt to visit long-lost cousins? Make a pilgrimage to Graceland? Switch religions?
Here’s the “official” story of my family lineage: My father is part Scotch-Irish, part Greek and my mother is Polish and Ukrainian.
When the results arrived, I felt like that woman in the video. My hands were shaking just a little. What would I learn about myself?
I won’t keep you waiting. Here’s my DNA map.
And here’s the breakdown.
The number-one region is Eastern and Central European. Those are areas predominantly associated with cultures from Poland, Germany, the former Austria-Hungarian Empire and the former Soviet republics of Belarus and Ukraine, and Western Russia.
But, as the test explains, DNA origins tell only part of the story. There are also reference populations where your DNA is most prevalent. My number one reference population is Greece, meaning I’m mostly Greek, according to my DNA. The second reference population is Czech.
My closest famous relative? Napoleon. We shared a common father or mother 12,000-25,000 years ago. Oh well, there goes my trip to Memphis.
This explains a lot about my family. Let’s just say Thanksgiving dinner is going to be interesting this year. But it also makes me want to travel to the place I’m from and to see just how much I have in common with the people. I’m already planning to take the kids to Greece next year. Maybe we’ll add a road trip through Europe and hit Prague, Warsaw and Berlin while I’m at it.
How about you? Have you ever taken a DNA journey? What did you learn about yourself?
Here are this week’s articles:
- How to fight back against the ‘beyond our control’ excuse (USA Today)
- As airline revenue from extra fees increases, so does consumer (Washington Post)
- Insider Tips On How To File A Travel Insurance Claim (Huffington Post)
- Can an expired plane ticket get unexpired? (Travel Troubleshooter via Mercury News)
See you next week.