In Search For My Roots
I don’t know when self-awareness begins. I guess it differs from person to person. As for me, it happened when I was three or four years old. I was looking at myself in the mirror and realized how cute and adorable I was. I then started wondering who I really was, where I came from, and why I was born in the first place.
The wondering has continued to adulthood. I guess it comes with age when I’m no longer cute and adorable. I’ve become handsome, witty, and smart instead. Most experts credit the good fortune to the genes that I inherited from my ancestors. If anything, they include the ability to toot my own horn.
It’s therefore not surprising that I had my DNA tested for ancestry and ethnic composition. I found it wasn’t that hard. All that it required was paying the fee and sending saliva samples to one of the outfits offering the service. Needless to say, I was in for a few surprises.
DNA is short for deoxyribonucleic acid, which contains the genetic code of every human including you and me. It’s inherited from our ancestors. As nature has intended, it’s a unique blend composed of 50% coming from each of our parents, who in turn received the same amount of percentage from each of their parents, and so on.
The results of my DNA analysis show that I’m no Martian. I’m predominantly East Asian (paternal side) and Southeast Asian (maternal side) with a sprinkling of South Asian, European, and West African blood. My heritage is indeed a kind of mixed up brew.
In addition, the results reveal that my Neanderthal ancestry is measured at 3.2% which ranks it in the 99th percentile among the population tested. For comparison purposes, the Japanese is at 2.7% (53rd percentile), the Chinese at 2.5% (26th percentile), and the Nigerian at .3% (1st percentile). I don’t know if having above average Neanderthal DNA qualifies for bragging rights. At any rate, I do seem to fit the Neanderthal stereotype. I’m short (5’7″ tall, 150 lbs.), I’m boorish, I’m brawny, I love to hike and wander around, I prefer unprocessed food, I talk to myself in front of the computer, and I have a tendency to laugh at my own jokes. Shhhht! Some people want me to believe I also snore like a caveman but I’d consider it hearsay until I hear it myself.
In an AncestryDNA’s article, Understanding Patterns of Inheritance: Where Did My DNA Come From? (And Why It Matters), Anna Swayne used a chart to show how different segments of DNA is passed down starting from your grandparents, each letter representing a segment of DNA.
“In the example on the chart,” she wrote, “your paternal grandfather has the unique DNA of ANDREW. He can pass down only 50% of his DNA to each child. In your father’s case, the ‘pieces of DNA’ randomly selected to be passed on to him are represented by the letters DEW. At the same time, grandmother SANDRA provides the randomly selected segments ADR, which combine with her husband’s DEW to create your father’s unique genetic signature: EDWARD. Notice that not all of the letters from ANDREW and SANDRA get passed down to EDWARD.
“Your father, EDWARD, has three children with your mother, whose genetic signature is ANGELA. EDWARD and ANGELA each pass 50% of their DNA, randomly selected, to each of their children, who end up with the genetic signatures GLENDA, GERALD, and REAGAN.
“Again, the parents don’t get to choose which segments (letters) go to each child. And while having more children increases the chances of passing on more of your DNA, if you look closely, you’ll see that even with three children, not all of EDWARD and ANGELA’s DNA segments made it to the next generation.
“This is a simplified example of how genetic inheritance works in all of us. By understanding how DNA is inherited, you can see how and why you have some DNA segments that match your relatives, and others that do not, why you may or may not have inherited DNA segments associated with a certain ethnicity, and why getting multiple people in your family tested can help discover more of your family’s genetic tree.”
As you can see, we can only trace our genetic ancestry to a certain extent. We could be related to Genghis Khan or Napoleon Bonaparte, but we wouldn’t know it unless their DNA segments have been passed on to our immediate predecessors. Perhaps that’s the way it should be. Although where we’ve come from matters, what we’ve become matters more in this life and to the succeeding generations.