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Sunday, December 15, 2019

About Great-Great-Great Grandparents and Such

Have you seen those Ancestry [dot com] commercials for their DNA kits? There are several, each with these well-crafted little histories… They’re neat and so very clear as to where ancestors came from and what they did and all sorts of fun details.

Of course, anyone who has ever done genealogy research knows it’s not always that easy or that concise. Sometimes it is a frustrating jumble of names and unfortunate coincidences that throw you off.

But for a good portion of people, it is a mystery and a journey through misery—depending on family histories.

When I did the DNA testing, I was curious how my multicultural background would manifest on paper. Certainly, the allure of finding out more about my people was strong; but I did not expect to get full histories for too many people. Any details are fun, but histories would probably need to be as fictionalized as those commercials.

Rather than a family history, or even memoirs of the process, I figured maybe I’d have flashes of stories—or at least tiny details to build stories. Not necessarily true stories, but based on a glimmer of truth.

What I wasn’t expecting was finding that ethnicities I expected to have inherited did not leave a trace, or that I’d find a heritage I knew absolutely nothing about.

I’m not writing any stories about it, though it is tempting. There’s so much there we may be straddling an epic!

And if bringing the details of the past together may be difficult, putting a face to what all the begetting begat is now technologically possible. There is a map that now gives you a glance at your familiars—next of kin to distant kin. Mine is fascinating--especially when you enter the fourth cousins*!

I won’t give you identifying details because that’s not the purpose here, but simply to illustrate that the potential for storytelling is extraordinary (if dizzying)…

At the moment, I appear to have at least 636 cousins around the world. The majority are in the US. I expected some of those. From coast to coast, there are people in almost every state of the nation—except Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Maine.

I was surprised to find I have a distant cousin named Tina in Wasilla, Alaska. I wonder if she can see Russia from her house. I have four cousins in Hawaii, in Oahu and Kauai—which led to a revelation I did not know about. Apparently there was a war time indiscretion… These may very well be the results of it.

I expected cousins in Puerto Rico, but there are far more than I expected and with concentrations in towns where there should be none. Of course, one of my great grandmother’s brothers made a run for it and tried to get away from his people. I expect that some of the folks over the mountain range may be the offspring of his offspring.

Granted, these results depend on the available pool of people tested—but I am missing people in Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Nevis and St. Kitts, St. Thomas, and Trinidad and Tobago. Of course, I expect to have people in the US as well as the British Virgin Islands. There doesn’t appear to be much going on there, but I do have a cousin in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

In Canada, I have Jennifer in Manitoba; Yossi, Chas, Violet, Edward and Paul in Ontario; and Marilyn in Quebec. Then there’s my cousin Tucker in Bogota, Colombia, rounding off the Americas.

In Europe, I have cousins in England, from London all the way up to Northumberland. I also have a cousin named Miklós in Hungary. I also have two cousins in Israel: Jacob and Elina. The family extends to Asia too, with Michelle in Seoul, South Korea. And to my surprise, I found cousins in Sydney, Australia, and one Puerto Rican in New Zealand (we're everywhere, even on the Moon!).

Of course, the bigger groups listed in my ethnicity estimates (see map) have no connections available, except for the Hungarian. Again, we’re limited by the pool of people who have DNA-tested, but it is also entirely possible that all connections to the Old World—despite the spicy flavor they provided to the making of me—all moved to the Americas and common ancestors exist on this side of the world.

Storytelling aside, I am tempted to put together a little book with recipes dedicated to my cousins—an addendum to the Food Goddess series. 

* Note: for those interested in the topic, there's a good piece about fourth cousins (actual and DNA-match ones) at