Friday, August 29, 2014

On Origins

We sometimes go through our whole lives maintaining a single belief.  Some is written in the Good Book, some scribed on our heart or etched in tears.

Some are tales to be told.  My daughter Brigid Jr., as she is known here, was adopted into a family with a Native Hawaiian mother, after I had her as a teen. She is quite adept at Hula (which is NOT the grass skirt number you see at the bar by the Honolulu airport - THAT, my friends, is a Tahitian dance). Hula is living history in an art form.  For Hawaiian history was oral history, It was codified in genealogies and chants, which were memorized and passed down, generation after generation. In the absence of a written language, this was the only available method of ensuring accuracy. Chants told the stories of creation, mythology, royalty, and other significant events and people.
Such were the stories of my beginning, adopted out of a bad situation.  When asked as to my background and genealogy, Mom told me what she said she had been told by the caregivers who placed us with them.  I was just like she and Dad and would look like them, predominately Irish (with maybe a tiny bit of Scot) and lots of Scandinavian, like her. The eye slant?  That was said to be a bit of Native American, not hard to believe, given where I was born, with a high Northwest Indian population.

I identified my whole life with being Irish/Scandinavian. I was proud of whatever tiny bit of Native American blood I carried, volunteering and donating time and money to help some of the elders in that community.  That was my history, that was my belief, for fifty years. My daughter and granddaughters inherited the same unique slightly slanted, almond shape eyes, some thinking the little ones holding some Polynesian blood except for their blue eyes and  blond, blond hair. We'd laugh and say "no, we think they have a little Cree or something, we're not sure."

It was what it was, and I put my origins and questions behind me. I learned to make the dishes of my grandmothers, I learned the languages and the culture, just as my daughter has learned the culture and the language of the Hawaiian Islands (hearing a 6 foot tall redhead speaking fluent Hawaiian always gets some attention).
For it was my history, as I had no history; no one had tried to find me, no family remaining of blood. I tried the various sorts of Internet adoption searches after Mom had died.  But the trail was not just cold, there was no trail; no bread crumbs strewn to find my way, no one seeking me but the taste of ash upon the tongue.

So again, I  put it behind me and just enjoyed what I had, which was a wonderful family that loved me, a Big Brother who protected me and was my best friend.   I shared their hearts, I shared their heritage. I always filled out my "what race are you?" on applications as either "human", if it was fill-in-the-blank, or "white", for all I had was smoke and myth.
Besides I've always been a firm believer in hiring someone because of their skill set, not their color or gender.  I perfected Irish soda bread and colcannon, I crafted intricate Swedish pastries at Christmas time.  I learned that about any fish is good if you dip it in beer batter, fry it and serve it with chips and Guinness.

But I went ahead recently and had some genetic DNA testing done, if anything, to tell my daughter and two tiny granddaughters a bit more about their heritage, when they are old enough to understand.  It was an extremely reputable provider of this service, and not quick or cheap.
Big Bro and I with Grandma Gullikson (I look excited, as always, to be in a dress)

I got the results today.

I don't think anyone intentionally lied. I just think the placement folks didn't know and made up what sounded good to my prospective adoptive parents.  It was that or  my Mom said what she thought would comfort me, as in the beginning of our journey as a family, having come from a place where, as an baby, I screamed if anyone tried to pick me up to hold or comfort me.  I felt very much out of place.

The tests aren't perfect, and they certainly won't tell you who you are related to, but simply compare your DNA against known samples in the database for each area, comparing your DNA against those to come up with a primary geographic affiliation (where you share the same DNA traits  with the largest number of people).

I couldn't have been more surprised at the outcome.

For I don't have Irish blood. None. There's a slight possibility of a little Norwegian blood but only slight, and some other tiny percentages of regional DNA match scores including Welsh, and the UK. But no Irish.  In actuality, the regional DNA match score was predominately, from one country of the world. Not Ireland. Close, but no cigar.
Scotland, originating most likely in the Strathclyde area but possibly also from the Glasgow or Dundee area. My biological parents had remarkably similar Allele's in the Autosomal STR profile so they were likely of the same ethnic background, just with parents or grandparents (or so on) from a different part of Scotland.

But what about  that second, and not miniscule, area?--that measurable piece of something that perhaps gave me my unique facial features, and was not Native American as was claimed by those that passed on my history to me.

It was Ashkenazi Jewish (Budapest, Hungary)

Color me surprised. 
For tonight folks, I'm just going to sit here and think upon what we believe, and how fragile it is; rolling it around on my tongue trying to  taste the sweetness of it.  I'll sit and look as the night approaches, pondering the nature of half glimpsed truths; of the mournful stillness of wanting to belong, of the little death of losing something that you never held. I'll pour a small finger of amber liquid and gaze slowly at a glowing candle, a flame never wide enough to embrace the whole world, but large enough to sum up in glowing light, this one small soul, in one small corner of it. 

Still hate Haggis though.


  1. It's amazing how far DNA testing has come.

    I'm 100% Polish on my Dad's side, and 50/50 Irish/Scottish on my Mom's side.

    And yes, potatoes were a religious experience in our household.....

  2. My pop-pop, who we believe to be a mostly Askenazi background, had reddish brown hair until he passed away in his late 60's.

  3. I'm also adopted, and have never been motivated enough to do battle with the DC courts to get the records unsealed. Certainly nobody has ever looked for me, although they'd have been led such a merry chase if they tried that I might never hear about it.

    I find my "generic white guy" status a bit liberating: I have no dog in anyone's fight. While my heritage is mostly (probably) European, there could be any old thing in there.

  4. Did the disc arrive?

    I don't want to spoil the regenerated Doctor's lines after discovering that he's now Scottish.

  5. I have been considering this, but don't really want to take the chance on having my "illusions" shattered. German, Scots & Irish is good enough for me, weather or not it is true.....


  6. I never went to that extent. I can see why you did though. I have a family history that is still passed down by elders with words even as they sadly pass away. Unfortunately it is only one side of the family. One side is the definition of Walton mountain, the other side is well, not so much.

    It's OK. You are who you are and at least you did not hang out in the shallow end of the gene pool. =) It shows.

  7. I was told Irish (grandma) Norwegian and Swedish (grandpa) Did some digging of ancestry, I need to get back to that. My cousin did her side (my dads) all the way to the farm in Sweden that the family come from. Her and her husband even went to Sweden and saw that farm several years ago.

  8. Our family history is told from a hand-painted coat of arms (with a typewritten explanation on the back), generational stories, and my own genealogical research.
    In service to the Church in three crusades on one side, DAR fodder on the other. Irish and German stock.
    With a smattering of some other stuff in-between. And stories like one of us was a horse thief, and another liked to sit on her front porch, smoking her clay pipe!
    Of course, there's some mystery, like my twin brother (who was not named) who died at birth.
    Still looking for info on him.


  9. Monkeywrangler and I will hoist a glass of Balvenie to you tonight then.

  10. Dr. Jim - potatoes are their own food group.

    greg - I'm doing some homework on it. Einstein (clearly not related to me) was Ashkenazi Jewish.

    Temnota - I admire you for that. Thanks for stopping

    Roscoe - I've not yet talked to Partner, it would have come to the Range Address. I'll have him check the porch before his drive down for the gun show.

    Merle m - I understand, part of me would have not done so, but for for my child, I wanted to know.

    Keads - give your Mom a hug tonight and we'll talk tomorrow

    Rob - I have some very embarrassing, cow milking, photos of the family, that if we were in the you-tube generation, would totally be viral.

    Armedlaughing - I would be proud to meet ANY of your family

    Dave - As I am drinking a finger of Jameson, I may spontaneously combust, but your sentiment is appreciated. Hugs to M.W.

  11. I call dibs on your stock of Amish bacon if you decide to honor your heritage!! ;)

  12. Uh oh, now you've got to develope a kreplach recipe and a creative twist to haggis. Good luck. I'm 1/4 Scottish, 3/8 German, 1/8 native American, and 1/4 Irish. Basically, when I hear the pipes I want to take over the world.

  13. Will do and I look forward to it.

  14. Welcome to my clan Brigid! Scottish origins, but then in the early 20th century, some West Texas mongrel snuck in through an open window on a hot summer's eve. BTW, the last paragraph before the Haggis,is some of the best stuff you have ever written.
    But now of course you have to choose. Rangers, or Celtics... :-)

  15. Number One Son (probably) has a genetic condition that is recessive and generally indicates Med Jewish or Arab blood. It explains the dark skin my paternal grandmother's family has a LOT better than a Scotch-Irish ancestry.

    I am very mixed about finding birth parents. My mother was found by her half-sister, and her birth mother wasn't very interested. When my mother asked about her birth father, I think the birth mother chose to die instead of stick around and have to answer the questions.

    Your mileage will vary.

  16. Lady, don't be surprised. Most folks don't know from whence they come, and are always surprised to find out. I'm part Scot, part Irish, and mostly English (proper Brit, that is) with a a touch of Germanic for seasoning. But the bagpipes still make my blood race, and that's why I learned to play 'em.

  17. That is so interesting. I'm fairly sure of mine, just your run of the ranchers, sod busters, and horse thieves...

  18. Ok- definitely agree with you on the hagis! Not just Einstein
    Golda Meier, Anne Frank, Yoni & Benejamin Netanyahu. You are in the company of some brilliant minds who have made huge differences in our world!
    Not to make finding this out a bad thing but know that you know please make sure you get your yearly testing done as this background carries a higher rate of the BRCA 1 & 2 gene.
    Relatively sure I’ve mentioned it before. My dad is Catholic & my mom is Jewish…me I’m just confused. Kidding. In all seriousness though before my parents had us they underwent genetic testing because of my mom being Jewish. Turned out that my dad was a carrier for Tay- Sachs not my mom.
    I admire you taking the DNA test so you can give Brigid Jr. and your grandbabies the most knowledge possible to work with. Knowledge is power.

  19. Where you come from doesn't matter much (unless you are heir to a royal throne.) What matters is where you go and what you make of yourself along the way.

    Besides, you don't have to be Irish to enjoy good whiskey!

  20. That's VERY interesting... And you're right, one never knows...

  21. You will have a new title for this post after hearing one line in particular. :)

  22. We had a youth LEO in town whose last name was Ashkenazi.
    Everyone called him "A to Z".
    I was raised thinking I was Polish.
    We lived around a lot of Poles.
    One day, I read Gulag Archipelago, and recognized my last name as the same as one of the Ukrainian freedom fighters.
    Turns out we were from Kiev.
    Polish, Russian, Ukrainian. Pick your century.

  23. Looking forward to the HOTR take on matzo ball soup! LOL. Speaking as a 100% (although now you have me wondering) Ashkenazi, I am proud to share even a bit of common heritage with you. The Budapest part makes sense. If you have not read The Martians of Science, by Istvan Hargittai, I'd highly recommend it.

  24. It is interesting, isn't it, to find out about ourselves....

    100% red blooded American here, of German and Welsh descent. I look the part and am happy with that. My Honey is 100% Norwegian, imported directly from the oldest town in Scandinavia with Viking ruins to prove it. His family has been there for generations as far back as they can research or have oral history. When he came to the USA (legally) and became a proud American by Choice, we had his Viking horns removed. ;)

  25. Now that you're a Scot, there are four essential touchpoints:

    1) Scots Wha Hae! Traditional boast.
    2) Sláinte! Literally Good Life! A toast that goes really well with Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
    3) 25 of January: Rabbie Burns birthday. An occasion for observing a LOT of touchpoints 1 and 2, especially the Single Malt part.
    4) Most importantly, there is no such thing as "Scottish". "Ish" is a suffix implying somewhat or partially. Nae, you're either Scot - or ye not.

    Welcome to the Clan!

    Scots Wha Hae!


  26. To quote one of my favorite sages of truth... "If it's nae Scottish, it's Crap" :D

    We do the DNA testing for our dogs, as it is fairly cheap and interesting, never thought to do it for us...but then we weren't adopted so have a fairly good handle on the family tree.

    The Scots have to be happy to find such a wonderful addition to the lineage :)

  27. If the DNA profile was really specific, does that mean you get to pick out a clan tartan? They do sell a lot of plaid wool to the American tourists. My dad brought back a blue scarf for me when he went on vacation. Here's hoping that your tartan doesn't clash with your hair.

    DNA testing is a wonderful tool to have now. Even detailed genealogies and family histories can be inaccurate if unknowns like the mailman, milkman, or postman are left out of consideration. I guess that is why I preface my ethnicity with "family rumor has it that...."

  28. Don't forget that a great many Scots fled to Northern Ireland to escape religious persecution. Thus you could be genetically Scots, but Irish by trasplant. Which is exactly what happened to half my lineage.

  29. Absolutely nothing to do with your post but thought you would like to help me celebrate. According to local media, today (Saturday) is International Bacon Day. So Happy Bacon Day! Like we really need the excuse to eat more bacon :-)

  30. What you say does not surprise me too much. People always assume red heads are 'Irish', but in fact, there are an awful lot of Norwegian redheads and those Norwegians left their genes all over the Hebrides - and the interior of Scotland as well, wherever they could sail, row or carry their boats.

    My dad was a 'pure' Islander, both of his parents from Lewis, Scotland. He and one of his 2 brothers and 4 of his 8 sisters were blue eyed and red haired. I got some of that with dark red hair - and green eyes. I've been thinking of doing the genetic test, as my Mumma's side is the one in question and that is the side that will be more revealed by the test.

    It is something to ponder, is it not? While I always believe it is better to know the truth than not, sometimes it can make you stare, and that's a fact.

    When you mentioned Askenazi Jew and that it surprised you, but that set of genes is widely dispersed. People like to marry smart people.

    Humans tend to breed true to type... So I am not surprised you have some of that Super Smart stuff mixed into the wonderful Scottish heritage! Engineer meets Scientist! All in one package!

  31. I have always considered myself 100% american mongrel. We will just say the ancestors got around it would be interesting to get a dna test and see whats in there.

  32. Whereas I can totally understand your wanting to know your origins because of not knowing, the DNA test is also great for health reasons as well. I imagine you're shocked you have to rethink things now, but no matter what you are you because of your choices and decisions in life. (Which are usually guided by environment and lifestyle more than genetics, in most cases.)

    I've read that the majority of Americans wrongly assume they are some part Native American. (myself included) I've also read that all redheads came from one person, originally - There's your real story to look into :)

  33. Ashkenazi, eh? Welcome to the tribe :-)

  34. You know, that makes sense. Honestly, I thought you looked Scottish the moment you sat down across the table. And you've seen Michael, I've seen some Scots. I would not have guessed Jewish, but I can't say I'm surprised.
    So which service did you go with? We've been thinking about having that done.

  35. Jennifer - I sent you the info via email. :-)

  36. I did one of those DNA search things, and shared it with cousins that remarked 'where is the English, the Archers were English?' Since most of it was Western Europe, Scandinavian and Irish - which when they descended upon the British Isles often, raiding, trading, settling, looking for work or opportunities. oh, I am sure the Archers were English, but then define English - really?

  37. BTW - my wife and I went to the Illinois State Fair in Springfield a few weekend ago. There was a booth selling chocolate-covered bacon on a stick.

  38. I did the DNA thing. 31% British Isles/Scandinavian. No surprise. 61% Irish. No surprise. 8% West African - well, I actually had an inkling, but it's nice to see it confirmed.

  39. I'm 1/4 German (From Russia), 1/4 Irish, 1/4 Norwegian, and 1/4.... Something else. I've always considered getting DNA testing done. Might be interesting to find out what that last 1/4 is.

    And don't worry Brigid, you'll always be Scandihoovian to me.


I started this blog so the child I gave up for adoption could get to know me, and in turn, her children, as well as share stories for a family that lives too far away. So please keep it friendly and kid safe. Posts that are only a link or include an ad for an unknown business automatically to to SPAM..