At the end of last year, I bought an AncestryDNA kit when, on the off chance, I saw that they were doing a sale. I’ve always wanted to know more about my history and where my family comes from so I bought the Genetic Ethnicity Test (at this point in my life, I don’t really want to know how at risk I am for various health problems – I’m dealing with enough medical stuff as it is), spat in the tube, and sent it off. And then, while I waited for the results to come back, I started building my family tree.
While my primary interest was in my genetic ethnicity, I was interested in what I could discover about my family tree. My Mum’s side of the family is already well researched and well documented in my Grandfather’s memoir so I wasn’t too focussed on finding those relatives as the information is all right there but I know practically nothing about my Dad’s family so that’s where I’ve been really dedicating my time and energy in this search.
I’m not sure what I expected to find when I started looking but very quickly, I built up a picture of my Dad’s family, all the way back to the 1800s. And some of the information I found was really interesting. For example, one of the women multiple generations back worked as a stenographer, interesting not only because it’s a job I find intriguing but also because she had a job, something that would’ve been very unusual considering the times. There was also somewhat of a family scandal involving one woman who disappeared, leaving her husband and children to start another family with a new partner; however she then all but combined the families, introducing certain family members so that the children never realised that they were half siblings. There were clearly some pretty strong personalities and I get the feeling that the women weren’t to be messed with.
A number of the people I found myself related to linked to other public family trees, including one run by a man who has extensively researched the extended family and made a family tree that’s more like a family database: there’s over twenty thousand names in there. It’s incredible. I think that, in theory, we all know that we come from somewhere, that we’re descended from real people with full lives but it’s kind of amazing when you start to learn who those people were/are. It has a way of making you feel so… connected. It gives you this sense of being a part of something so much bigger, in a way that the theoretical knowledge just can’t manage.
This is roughly what my family tree looks like at this point. I wanted to show some sort of visual but felt it was safer for me and everyone named if I blurred out the details.
All of that was relatively easy. The hard part has been my Dad’s generation, the generation I’m most interested and invested in. The only thing I knew about my Dad is that he had a brother who is still alive and a sister who isn’t, both older. I found the older brother, discovered another older brother, but found nothing on the sister or, in fact, my Dad himself. I’ve tried searching with every variation of known information, tried super specific searches, tried vague searches… but I can’t find anything more than what I found in my first search. I’m not sure what to do at this point.
Somewhere in the middle of all of this searching, the DNA results came back. Unsurprisingly, the results showed that most of my ancestors are from the United Kingdom; I’d expected as much. But there was a nice, more interesting surprise buried in there: I have some Swedish DNA. That was not something I’d predicted. Where that comes from, I’m not sure – I haven’t found a Swedish relative as of yet – but there have already been a handful of jokes about how that must be where the songwriting spark comes from (given how many successful songwriters have come out of Sweden). I don’t mind. There are definitely worse jokes.
Even though the results were pretty much what I’d expected, it’s cool to actually know. But it’s also kind of weird, an odd juxtaposition to what I guess you could call my ‘cultural DNA.’ Multiple members of my family – of my closest family – aren’t actually related to me so while I don’t genetically carry the DNA of their home countries, I was raised by them and the cultures they grew up with (to a degree, at least). So, while I may genetically be of the UK and Sweden, I’ve always felt strongly connected to my parents’ homes of England, Australia, and the Netherlands.
So it’s been an interesting journey up to this point, with fascinating discoveries and unforeseen frustrations. It’s definitely been a rewarding experience but I’m not done. Not by a mile. There are still so many things I don’t know, things that I need to know. So I’m not giving up yet.
I’m still investigating but I’m not sure how much further I can get with the limited amount of information I have. There are a couple of people – friends of my Dad’s – that I’ve reached out to but no one’s responded to me. I’m not sure what my next steps are, to be honest. Unless I pay someone to conduct a more thorough investigation (something that is very expensive, much more than I can afford at this point in my life), I’m not sure what more I can find out.