Mirror Mirror - 2019

What’s Your History? Only a Little Vial Knows for Sure

By Jennifer Allen

Have you ever wondered why you have blue eyes when the rest of your family has brown? Have you ever been curious as to why your cousin is just so much taller than his siblings? Maybe you can't quite figure out where you got your natural singing talent from when both of your parents can't seem to carry a tune in a bucket.

A year ago, Shyama Parui mentioned in one of her Namaskar articles that we as human beings are all essentially DNA mutts with all sorts of “races" tossed into the mix of who we are. While that (especially in North and South America) is very true, it only makes us all the more curious as to where certain traits come from that make us who we are.

The recent “trend" has been people grabbing DNA tests so that they can see just what their lineage really is. Some tests reveal where your ancestors came from. Others offer some potential health problems you could have later on in life depending on your family medical history. Regardless, many folks have caught the “I want to know where I come from" bug.

I am one of those people. I'll admit it. I got one of those “Buy a DNA test for half price for a limited time only!" ads on my television screen and thought that maybe it was finally time to learn just where I come from. I already knew that most of my ancestry is from the British Isles (Ireland & Scotland) but I was also told that I have some German and Native American ancestors as well.

Well, after spitting into a tube, mailing said tube in, then waiting five weeks before that email came saying “Your Ancestry Results are in!" I immediately logged in to see what that little bit of spit revealed.

Turns out I am a mixture of English, Welsh, French, Irish, Scottish, Germanic, Swedish, and Portuguese? Absolutely no Native American showed up in my results at all. However, I have since been told that some Tribes refuse to let the DNA folks poke into their history. My potential Tribe is one of them so the pool to pull from may just simply not be available. Who knows?

So I am a “European Mutt" according to their results. Knowing now that I also have Viking ancestry certainly helped explain a few things about who I am. They did come to the British Isles around the late 6th century AD, and made a huge mark on the rest of Europe and North America over the corresponding centuries. Some also eventually settled in Ireland, which could explain why the Irish have a reputation for both having outrageous tempers and an affinity for alcohol.

It seems so ironic knowing that I come from a region known for both being invaded and then invading others. The Celts, the Romans, the Vikings, and the Normans (French) all made their mark on the British Isles. Yet within just few more centuries Britain would become the conquerors in their own right and make the phrase, “The sun never sets on the British Empire" a reality. The Government of India Act in 1858 was one of the more notable moments.

I realize that, as Shyama did a year ago, many while Indian and Pakistani Americans have ancestry from that region it doesn't always mean you are 100 percent this or that. A lot of the subcontinent has had its own melting pot of ethnicities as it were. The aforementioned British rule of India alone made sure of that, but there was also trade with Eastern Asia, Africa, the Mediterranean, and the rest of Europe. Foreigners visit. Some stay for the trade and, some of those traders want to marry and start a family. Love is a strange beast, and we've learned that it can cross many boundaries.

In the 21st century, the concepts of “race" and “culture" have blended together to the point that you will see people of all sizes, colors, and genders in celebration for many different faiths. An Indian American who celebrates Christmas is just as common as a Caucasian Brit who dances at Holi or an African who makes the pilgrimage to Mecca. I personally follow a Native American faith but also respect and include both South Asian and East Asian customs into my daily life.

While it is fascinating to look into our past, we must never lose sight of our future either. We as human beings have the greatest capacity to see how all of those little bits of DNA thread together and create that other interesting person next to you.

So if you get that itch to grab your own DNA kit like I did, you may be surprised that we're all not as “pure" as we may think. But in the end, does it really matter?


Jennifer Allen works at Saathee and is also a Podcaster, Blogger, Photographer & Graphic Artist.