Tracing My DNA

Well I finally just ordered my Ancestry.com DNA kit. I’m not sure how I feel about this or if I am ready for this. I have never known my biological father – who he is, where he is, anything about him or that part of my bio-family. I have often wondered. I’ve wondered if I have more family out there: brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents. I’ve wondered what their story is, where they came from – into the U.S. and how they have travelled across the U.S. I’ve wondered if there are any genetic conditions I may have inherited – but since I’m edging closer to 50 every day, perhaps the medical end of things matters less. As a biracial black person, raised by my white mom, I can only assume that I am most likely a descendant of slaves.

As a kid I daydreamed about my bio-father. My mom was a single woman who left her family home and joined the Army after finishing high school. She was stationed at Walter Reed and met a lot of people. She grew up in a family that was probably pretty normal in their views of black people at the time – not to excuse my grandparents’ racism, just explaining and contextualizing it. And likely, they would not have described themselves this way. However, once I came into this world, my grandparents couldn’t have loved me more. And my grandma dropped the racism and became much more progressive and inclusive. I didn’t know my grandpa as well so can’t speak to his perspectives on race. At any rate, my mom doesn’t know who my bio-dad was. My assumption has always been sexual revolution meets latent racism equals more progressive kids who have bi- or multi-racial babies. That seems to be how it worked in my family. Out of the five grandchildren, three of us are bi-racial and I’m the oldest of the five of us. I don’t want to delve more into my mom’s story as it is hers but this is where her story and mine intermingle. She doesn’t know who my dad was and therefore, I have never known one half of my biological identity, familial history, or heritage. And this has been a pretty constant curiosity in my life.

At some point, not knowing my bio-father wasn’t a huge thing. The technology wasn’t there for me to find him. The most I got was a suggestion to contact Walter Reed and see if there was some way to find out information for people who might have been stationed there in 1969. Apparently, I’ve been too lazy to do this as I never have. Well now technology has advanced and I’ve decided to order a DNA test. I haven’t really done much research into the different DNA tests beyond asking some friends who are black and have also done DNA testing. I have been a little concerned about how the DNA may be used by the government and tried to weigh the importance of finding out my heritage and perhaps learn about any living family. And of course, as I age, so does my bio-father if he’s still living. Secondly, I had a dad so I wasn’t overly concerned about filling that role in my life.

My daughter has brought this piece of me front and center because she wants to know her heritage. In my family, we have genealogists that have traced some of my family line. My great-grandpa’s (my mom’s mom’s dad) sister traced our heritage back to something like the 1400s. This part of my heritage is British, Scottish, and German – primarily. This part of my family first settled in Massachusetts. We claim that we come from a long line of witches; however, that could have just been my own direct family line that claims this and not the rest of the clan. This part of my family eventually started moving West, with my great great grandparents being one of the first families settling in Gig Harbor, WA.

My mom’s father’s family has done some genealogy work but I don’t know much about that as we were not close with this part of the family during my growing up. I think I know that this part of my family is primarily German and my grandpa and his siblings might have been the first generation born in this country. I am guessing this by things I have heard from some of the family on the occasions I have been around them and the fact that our last name is not pronounced as a German name but clearly is German derived. If this part of my family is as German as I have been lead to believe and my grandpa and his siblings were first generation born in this country, then his parents or their families left Germany around the time Hitler was coming into power. But I can’t imagine having any way of actually confirming what I think I have put together. The mystery is deep. I have been guessing that the white half of me is more German with a little Scottish and British and a few other odds and ends in there. But who knows? Perhaps Ancestry does.

I will say that being a bi-racial kid growing up in a white family, with a white mom, in white communities, I always felt a little disconnected. I still feel a little out of sorts about my racial identity. I often say I’m racially ambiguous. My kids look full on white. I’ve always struggled with my racial identity – white people never knew what to make of me, black people always saw me. I’ve heard more than once how I am not black (always from seemingly well-meaning white people), or that I am black (by white people with ill intent), and that I’m not very black because I don’t get blackness (again, from white people with mixed intent). I can never speak from a black perspective because that is not how/where I was raised and all of that is a little absurd because there is not one monolithic black experience except for perhaps dealings with racism. And while I have my own experiences with racism, I don’t experience the most violent pieces of racism because of my racial ambiguity. So yeah, it’s complicated as all hell and I have a hard time sorting it out. But add to the racial discombobulation, not knowing who my father is and I was a hot mess!

My hope is that I will learn more about who I am, who my people are, where I come from, and more. I am nervous to think about having more potential family. What if I do? Who might they be? Will they be interested to know I am out here and related to them? Or will they reject me? I don’t know and am not sure how much I care about all of that. My life is a-okay as it is and family is complicated, not sure I care to invite complicated into my life. But what if everything is sunshine and peach blossoms? Well, that would also be great. I guess, I just want to know. I want to provide a little bit better family history for my kids and their eventual families.

Because this is such a huge life decision and one that some might be curious about, I think I’ll blog about my experience. Why not?

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