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Sunday, June 2, 2013

What am I?

I am not asking the above question in the philosophical sense of, who am I? (Though that troubles me at times too.) Nor am I inviting reader comments along the lines of, "A self-satisfied, obnoxious asswipe." 

Rather, I am referring to my ancestry.

My father says that he is half-Welsh, and an eighth (each) Scottish, Irish, English, and German. I've always wondered, how could he know so exactly? 

My mother is Japanese, so that theoretically makes me half Japanese, a quarter Welsh, and a sixteenth Scottish, Irish, English, and German.

But my father once told me that when he went to Wales he saw absolutely no one who looked like him. 

And my mother has a pronounced bridge to her nose, which is vaguely non-Japanese-looking. And none of the three kids in our family were particularly Asian-looking, though that may have been primarily a function of our father's craggy features. 

A couple days ago I stumbled across this account of how Vanessa Williams found out exactly where her ancestors had come from. I wondered if I might have any similar surprises, so sent away for a DNA kit from for $109. 

They seem to be able to break down your European ancestry (to "British Isles," if not Scottish or Irish, and "southern European," if not necessarily Greek or Italian). It will be interesting if I don't come back exactly as advertised. 

It may turn out that we have some Korean or Ainu blood, which might not please my mother, who grew up in Japan, and can't help but harbor a few typically Japanese attitudes.

My father's side of the family has been in this country for over 200 years; I'm sort of hoping we turn out to have a dash of African blood. If so, I'll be able to speak honestly about racial differences without anyone accusing me of racism. (Or, if they do, at least I can patiently explain to them that it's okay for me to say these things -- even if it's not okay for them.) 

I'll even be able to use the n-word with impunity. (Well, maybe not.)

I love the idea of DNA testing. Apart from its usefulness in determining criminal culpability and paternity, it could be a useful tool in other ways, too. For instance, in determining who has the right to open up a casino: personally, I don't think anyone who has less than half Native American blood should be allowed to. (Actually, I don't think the government should be awarding such licenses on the basis of ancestry at all, but that's another matter.)

I've seen pictures of some of the people who claim Native American ancestry in order to obtain such a license. About three quarters of them could never, ever get cast in a Hollywood movie about Indians. I look far more like an Indian than most of them, even though I have no Indian blood. 

Or maybe I do. As I said, my father's side has been in this country a long time, and stranger things have happened. If we are part Cherokee, that could be a nice windfall: step right up folks, we have the finest slot machines in the entire state! The roulette wheel is right over there; put your money on either the red or the black.

I'm not putting my money on either red or black ancestry; but I will consider it a pleasant surprise if I have either. 

An interesting surprise, anyway.

I'll report back in a few weeks. 


Anonymous said...

Do they test for Neanderthal ancestry?

John Craig said...

G --
I wish they did. I'd love to be able to I'm part Neanderthal along with the other mishmosh of things I am.

Have they been able to extract enough usable Neanderthal DNA from the bones they've unearthed to be ABLE to test for that now? My guess is no, otherwise they'd have a more definitive answer to the question of what happened to the Neanderthals, i.e., did they just die out or did they interbreed with Cro Magnon man.

Anonymous said...

You might be interested in this
I had never heard of Homo Floresiensis until reading about them in that article.
BTW, the first article says that the Neanderthals may have been done for by a volcano, possibly just like the dinosaurs
As my family seems to think of me as a Neanderthal dinosaur I guess I'd better keep away from volcanoes

John Craig said...

G --
That's an interesting theory about the Neanderthals, I hadn't heard that before, in fact had even been unaware of that volcanic eruption....I sure hope Neanderthals live on in us. From what I've heard, you're more likely to have neanderthal traits if you have a pronounced brow ridge (which I have), and your head is larger from front to back. The Neanderthals also had stockier, more powerful bodies, which certainly makes you a candidate.

I followed the floriensis saga when it first came out, but hadn't heard this latest theory about how they emigrated from Africa as creatures that size. The original thinking was that they shrank as an adaptation to the island's limited resources.

While I hope I have Neanderthal blood, I hope I'm not part-floriensis.