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When DNA ancestry contradicts your identity.


Published: 26/06/2016


With the discovery of DNA more the 145 years ago and the vastly advancing research of DNA since then, we now have access to incredible information at our fingertips. One of the more trending services offered online is the invitation to discover the details of our DNA ancestry and origins. It sounds very thrilling and exciting to be able to look into our genetic history that we can’t trace in any other way through living or deceased relatives.

But is it always a pleasant surprise and is it always all it promises to be? Just yesterday, SBS news reporter Janice Petersen, published her personal experience of trying out an ancestry DNA test. It revealed a lot of information, some of which seemed obvious according to what she personally knows from family history and stories, and some of which just seemed completely random and unexpected.

And she is not alone. In reality, most people planning to try a DNA ancestry test actually already have high and particular expectations going in. They have most likely talked to several of their family members, accumulating a general family history, and believe that this test will just solidify that information. And then when the results arrive, numbers don’t quite add up.

It is important to remember that over the past few decades, travel within the same continents and between them became a reality! Just 100 years ago most of this travel would not have been possible and now we talk about flying to Europe from America as if it was just a bike ride away. According to the World Tourism Organization, UNWTO, in 2014 the number of international tourists was 1,138 million (that‘s right, check how many zeros that is)! And that’s the people who counted as overnight visitors. When it comes to actual migrations, according to UN statistics, the number of international migrants reached 244 million in 2015 which was a 41% increase compared to just 15 years earlier.

The point is that with millions and millions of people travelling and more permanently relocating from their country of birth to wherever they may please on a daily basis, is it really surprising that your recent family history might not actually match your more historic origins? After all, we only really know what we are told by our closest family and they only have a certain capacity of information as well.

And knowing this information about our DNA – does it define us as a person and our habits and our likes and dislikes? If we like curry and turns out that more that 30% of our DNA is attributed to Northern Europe (like Sweden or Norway), does that mean that we have been living our lives wrong and liking the wrong things? Of course not! We are the individuals that we build ourselves to be over our lifetime and these tests and the information they provide should only be regarded as an entertaining analysis. Something to enhance our understanding of ourselves, not to make us doubtful of our choices and lifestyles. Something to create social connections with people from the other side of the world who we will probably never meet, but are genetically connected to. Something to celebrate and really feel like an integral part of the big and diverse world we live in.

How do you feel about finding out more about your DNA ancestry? Have you done a test and how did you feel about the results? Share your stories and opinions!

If you are considering doing a test, you might want to check out the ancestry DNA tests offered here.