I’m getting close to the day. The day my 23andMe DNA test will return and I’ll know my genetic heritage. I’ve decided to share the results with my two children first, then my mom and brother, (my father has passed). Then share it here. The story will not end with the results. The social media aspect of 23andMe may potentially link-up the results with relatives. As I stated before it might be boring or a big mess of family drama—let me share my mess with you.
Honestly, a social DNA site freaks me out a little. I used my real name for processing, but a fake one for the profile. My personal photo is a bunch of flowers. I am chicken. Cautious. Nervous. Feeling the need to protect myself, and yet I have to look, I must take a peak into this unknown.
ADOPTED FAMILY TREE
Here is what I know. My adopted parents are mainly of Irish and German decent. My mother and her siblings were the first generation born in America, my father was his families third. I was raised by a working class family in the suburbs south of Seattle, on the wooded plateau of Federal Way.
Around 2009 I got the bug to research the family tree. My dad’s Irish side was a bit beat up from divorce, my grandmothers five husbands and the generational condition of not talking about the ass holes in the family. (Would have been nice if they would of at least saved their name and date of birth.) Mom’s side ended with her great-grandparents, the parents of the ones who made the boat trip over. She knew it all from memory, with the help from a few notes. That tree is a nice big full tree, with many children. However, I couldn’t go past 1880. Using European genealogy sites is expensive, so I stopped there.
I married into the Laws family. While researching their tree, I learned they have a long stake in America. The first, James Laws, came over from England, landing in Massachusetts in the early 1700’s. There was a split of some kind in the family. Many stayed in the Carolinas while others, my ex-husbands side, went to Chicago, then Kansas, then California. Prior to England, I could only guess that Laws was a corruption of “Lawrence” a possible connection to Scotland’s MacLaren Clan.
After contacting the North American chapter they confirmed the surname connection. We joined the clan immediately. It was exciting to learn about tartans, badges and read about the fighting history of the MacLaren. We took the kids to the Highland games in Tucson, found the MacLaren booth and told the kids, “These are your people.” Later we visited the popular Arizona Renaissance Festival & Artisan Marketplace. It felt like “place”. A virtual family I am happy to be a part of, even if by marriage. It is an identified part of my children’s heritage and I celebrate their lives as any mother would.
What if my DNA reveals something unexpected? Of course it will. Do you remember on the TV show “Who Do You Think You Are” when guest Spike Lee learns he is not 100% African?* Blood has no boarders. Do the boxes we check on a form define who we are in society?
Here’s another gem, this one from a usaid.gov job application:
“Ethnicity and race information is requested under the authority of 42 U.S.C. Section 2000e-16 and in compliance with the Office of Management and Budget’s 1997 Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity. Providing this information is voluntary and has no impact on your employment status, but in the instance of missing information, your employing agency will attempt to identify your race and ethnicity by visual observation.”
“Visual observation”―What the hell does that mean?
Lets play a game. Can you guess Keanu Reeves nationality just by looking? Here’s a photo of the famous actor:
He was born in Beirut, Lebanon to an English mom and an American father. His father was born in Hawaii, of British, Portuguese, Native Hawaiian, and Chinese ancestry. You only get to know that information when you get to know Keanu and he shares it with you (or you look him up on IMDB).
“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin,
but by the content of their character.”
~Martin Luther King, Jr.
Nature and Nurture
My DNA test talks to the very old debate of nature verse nurture. How much of what and who we are is dependent on our upbringing, and genetic makeup.
Saul McLeod writing for Simply Psychology has this to say:
“In practice hardly anyone today accepts either of the extreme positions. There are simply too many “facts” on both sides of the argument which are inconsistent with an “all or nothing” view. So instead of asking whether child development is down to nature or nurture the question has been reformulated as “How much?” That is to say, given that heredity and environment both influence the person we become, which is the more important?”
If you are interested in this discussion, please visit the site (see link below). It is full of intriguing arguments, especially about temperament and the “genius” gene. To much information to share here.
Washington Adoptees Rights Movement (WARM) was my first point of contact for information regarding my birth family. The site also included reunited stories. Some good, some not so good. One reunion I remember was about a daughter and her father that discover they had same mannerisms. They combed their fingers through their hair the same way and liked the same type of food. Makes me curious if mannerisms are genetic.
I am wondering what it will be like to meet any member from my birth family. I wonder if we have the same eyes, smile, and laugh. I wonder if any play the piano, sing or write. My mind is full of wonder. Questions my heart asks, the words go out into the universe like an echo, returning empty.
In part three of my series I will tackle race and religion.
Part One here: https://shannonplawswriter.com/2014/11/12/23me-it-begins/
McLeod, Saul. “Nature Nurture in Psychology | Simply Psychology.” Nature Nurture in Psychology | Simply Psychology. Simply Psychology, 2007. Web. 26 Nov. 2014.
MacLaren Clan of North America: http://www.clanmaclarenna.org/
To learn more about the annual Arizona Renaissance Festival & Artisan Marketplace visit: http://www.royalfaires.com/arizona/