I remember sitting in my elementary school class on the day we were to do a genealogy assignment. This assignment asked us to study our personal ancestry and learn more about our family history. The undeniably valuable assignment is continually met with frustration for many adoptees (and other people groups as well) as we may not have historical family access for one reason or another.
Having had anticipated this assignment, my parents had already helped me decide that I would use information from their ancestry, in essence, pretending that I was of European descent. This decision certainly helped me temporarily avoid embarrassment, mental strife, or worst still, having to oust myself in front of the class by exclaiming that I did not/could not know where I came from. I still have a visual in my memory of the writing on the assignment that read “Remember to emphasize that genealogy is about biological relationships only.” What a frustrating admonishment for someone who did not know a single biological family member at the time.
A few months ago, in the most fitting of birthday gifts, I was given an ancestry.com DNA kit from my parents! Without hesitation I conducted the quick and harmless buccal cell swab exam and mailed it off to Ancestry.com, where I would wait just two weeks before receiving this email:
I clicked to find my results and immediately learned that a large percentage of my DNA traced back to the countries of Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) & Ghana, as well as trace amounts linking me to Great Britain – fascinating! I would’ve loved to have explored this information during my elementary years, possibly learning at an early age of the historical immigration to Great Britain by Africans. All of the time spent imagining that my family immigrated from the Caribbean islands before being enslaved in the South could’ve been thwarted with this truth!
This truly is a gift that keeps on giving as ancestry.com’s database continues to grow. I have been able to link together with other relatives for whom I’m able to then share this information with my birth families to help fill in the holes in our familial tree.
I urge all adoptees, or parents of young adoptees to invest in these scientific breakthroughs and allow adoptees ethnicity to be estimated through their genetics. Not simply for the sake of avoiding classroom embarrassment (admittedly a DNA test won’t solve all assignment woes), but for the purpose of being able to better understand the history of people’s movements leading us to where we are today.
This wasn’t the first time I’d taken a DNA test – the picture below was taken the day my birthfather and I met – this test determined that we indeed were father & daughter.