Metro-East Living

He took a DNA test and — surprise! There were no surprises.

Finding out your ancestry? Here’s what happens to your DNA sample.

Millions of Americans are submitting their DNA to companies, like AncestryDNA, to find out more about their ethnic backgrounds. Here's what happens to your sample and the privacy rights you have over your data.
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Millions of Americans are submitting their DNA to companies, like AncestryDNA, to find out more about their ethnic backgrounds. Here's what happens to your sample and the privacy rights you have over your data.

I am mostly Irish.

That’s what my late parents and grandparents told me, and I’ve had no reasons to doubt them.

I look in the mirror. White. Short. Thick. Pale. Freckles. Once a redhead but my hair has turned white with maturity. Ham hands. Laugh at my own jokes.

I have traveled to Ireland twice. It’s the only vacation destination where I look like the hometown folks. Felt like I was at a family reunion, at times. A lot of short, thick, pale white guys who look more comfortable sitting at a bar or on a bleacher than at a beach.

My family tree has been traced and tracked. My paternal ancestors settled in St. Louis after arriving from Ireland. Eventually, they made their way to the East Side where they owned property on Collinsville Avenue in East St. Louis in the 1800s.

But do I know everything about my roots?

Do I want to know everything?

You can choose many things in life. Friends. Job. Dress code. Car. Mood. Home. Attitude. But you can’t choose your genes. When it comes to your DNA, you are who you are, right?

But I was curious, still.

My son, Corey, gave me an AncestryDNA kit for my birthday last July. I put off filing my information for a few months. You know how it goes. Tomorrow. Then next week. I bet procrastination is a consistent trait with many of my ancestors, too.

Finally, in late October, I got it done

My DNA had never been tested.

And why would my DNA be tested?

I filled out the AncestryDNA kit paperwork online. My official bottle of DNA, or saliva, was sealed in a little bottle that I mailed immediately. Spitting in a little bottle and mailing it was fun, in a fifth-grade-boy sort of way.

Then, I waited.

I wasn’t nervous or anxious.

I wasn’t in search of mysteries of my bloodlines or past.

I just wanted to know, for sure.

AncestryDNA updated me by text a few times each week. My DNA (spit) was being processed. It all sounded important, scientific and formal.

I told a few people that I was checking on my genetic roots, officially. A few friends said they had done it already. Some folks looked at me like I was a weirdo. Do you want them to have your DNA on file? Made me pause. I’m not sure why my DNA would ever be an issue.

After about a month, AncestryDNA notified me by text that my results were available on their website. As expected, there were no surprises. My DNA shows that my bloodlines originated in:

Ireland and Scotland, 66 percent.

England, Wales and Northwestern Europe, 29 percent

Eastern Europe and Russia, 5 percent.

My strongest roots are in Ulster, Ireland (north) and Connacht, Ireland (west). I might pay more attention to these two Irish communities on my next trip to the Mother Land.

I’m assuming that 29 percent Northwestern Europe stems mostly from my maternal side. My Mom’s maiden name was Tockstein. Maybe a hint of German there.

AncestryDNA provided me a list of individuals with whom I share a genetic link. Long lost distant relatives? Maybe. I’m not looking up anyone. It starts simple. A few emails and texts. Then Facebook friends. Before you know it, you’re asking me to buy frozen pizzas and cookie dough for your kids’ soccer or dance teams.

My DNA research confirmed what I know: I’m mostly Irish. Slainte!

I’m not sure how I would have reacted if my DNA would have shown up with something weird, unexpected or unexplainable.

It’s good to know there are no mysteries out there.

And here’s an Irish toast to the hope that no one ever asks, or cares, about my DNA again.

Terry Mackin: terry.mackin@amwater.com
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