“What are you? Is your mama White?”
My dad and I took a DNA Test.
For Father’s Day last year, I bought my dad a DNA Test from Ancestry.com. I bought one for myself, too.
No, not the kind of DNA paternity tests featured on Maury Povich, where he famously says, “You are… not the father!” We took the DNA ethnicity test, the kind that shows our ancestry locations by percentages. Why?
Simply, we wanted to discover our roots.
However, I had no idea these tests were available to the general public for under one-hundred dollars, until I ran across Ancestry.com.
Jessica Alba Discovers her true ethnicity on Lopez Tonight, and it’s not what she thought.
This clip of Jessica Alba makes a great case that we can’t assume we know what our ethnic make-up is based on how we look or think we know. She gets unexpected results after taking a DNA test. (By the way, I loved Jessica Alba in Dark Angel, my favorite TV show in 2001.)
What does taking a test involve? What must you do?
In short, once you buy your DNA kit, you receive a kit that contains a test tube along with easy-to-follow directions. All you do is spit into the tube as described in the directions, seal it, and mail it back to the Ancestry.com lab.
That is all there is to it. You must “activate” your test online and then you are provided status updates. For example, I could see a confirmation of the date Ancestry.com’s lab received my test. That was a relief. “Whew, they got it.” Then I could see the dates the test was waiting to be processed. Then I could see the date it was processed. And finally, when the e-mail popped in that the results are ready, I was so excited.
The wait to get our results seemed like an eternity, but it was worth it!
Ancestry Background (“Ethnicity Estimate”)
Before I reveal my results, I wanted to share a little bit more about a few experiences I had earlier in life about my ethnicity. In college, my classmates would often ask me questions like:
“Are you mixed?”
“Is your mamma White?”
It seemed hard for anyone to believe that both my parents were Black. After all, I had hazel eyes, and my skin color does not have a lot of melanin. One of my college roommates liked to also point out that I did not “walk with a strut, talk jive, or have really big lips” (but that’s a whole other story for another day… it took her about 2-months to get over the shock that I was African American).
I would sometimes get defensive when questioned.
“Both my parents are Black,” I would answer, offering to show my birth certificate to prove I was Black (which was the most ridiculous thing I could say since one’s ethnicity is not documented on a birth certificate – ha).
But even though both of my parents were Black, and both of their parents were Black, surely somewhere in our blood line there was some interracial relations and non-Black persons.
Or as my dad would joke:
“A master must’ve had his way with one of our relatives.”
It is a rare thing for any human being in this day in age to be 100% of any one race, right? I know that is what Hitler was trying to do, create a so-called “pure race” (thank God he failed), and today no one race has people in it who all look identical.
Like the stanza I wrote in a fun poem years ago:
“Have you seen Different World
or the Cosby Show?
Blacks come in all shades
of the rainbow.”
Speaking of fun writing, there is a book titled, “Mixed: My Life in Black and White.” It is written by Angela Nissel who describes in amusing detail how it was to grow up with parents of different races. Angela also happens to be the co-founder of OkayPlayer.com, and was a writer and producer for the TV Show, Scrubs, until the show was cancelled in 2010. She is also absolutely gorgeous!
When younger, I would wonder about my hazel eye color. With the exception of my great-grandmother on my dad’s side who had blue eyes, every other person I knew in my family, including my parents and grandparents, had brown eyes! So where in the world did my hazel eyes come from?
Other people seem to wonder, too. They would ask, “Do you wear contact lens?” It took me a while to figure out that they were really asking if I wear colored contact lens, or asking if my eye color was real. See, I do wear contact lens, clear ones, to help me see (I’m near-sighted), but my eye color is the real thing.
Here are my results!
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I got an e-mail from Ancestry.com telling me my DNA Test results were ready!
I immediately logged into my free Ancestry.com account, and my results were more or less what I had guessed they would be.
(Drum roll, please.)
Turns out I’m 65% African and 35% European
The largest percentage of my African heritage is Benin/Togo (23%). This is one of the factors that led me to sponsor Nestor from Togo.
The next largest parts of my African roots according to my results reveal that I am Nigerian (18%) with small portions of Senegal (7%) and Ghana (6%).
12% Irish and 1% Jewish
The European part of my heritage includes Ireland and Europe West. The irony is that I am a military brat and lived abroad in German (and traveled to France and surrounding countries while there) and I never knew I was 20% from that area!
I even discovered that I am one percent Jewish. European Jewish to be exact.
No Native American or Asian Background
Not one drop of Native American or Asian Background. While I did not expect either of these to be a significant part of my heritage or ancestry, I was intrigued to see it completely ruled out.
Iberian Peninsula = No Hispanic or Latin American Heritage
Based on the results I saw, I was unsure at first if there was Latin or Hispanic background or not. It is not explicitly stated or labeled as such. But after some quick research on Google, it seems that part of one’s ethnicity makeup falls under the category “Iberian Peninsula” on Ancestry.com’s DNA Test.
The Iberian Peninsula covers all of Spain, Portugal, some Morocco, parts of France, Algeria, and Italy. As you saw from the previous screenshot that listed Iberian Peninsula, I have 0% from that region in my DNA.
¿Qué? ¿No hay herencia española?
My mom and brother have often suspected possible Latin American in our roots, and clearly my test shows I have no Hispanic roots. What’s interesting about that is that my mom and I have had similar experiences of living in predominately Hispanic neighborhoods. For example, from 1989 to 2004, I lived on the corner of Hancock & Diamond in North Philly which was mostly Perutorican.
My neighbors swore I could speak Spanish. I tried to learn the language and can speak some basic phrases. But ultimately I get mixed up speaking my broken Germany that I picked up when my dad was stationed in Germany for six years. I guess you could say I was speaking broken Germish (half Spanish, half German) and a bit of English with a Spanish-accent (I can actually do a semi-decent Rosie Perez impression… “ya know?”).
In like manner, my mom has lived in mostly Mexican neighborhoods while living in North Carolina. She has a bit more success speaking Spanish than me, especially speaking English with a Spanish accent (as though native Spanish-only speakers can understand what she is saying if she adds the accent to her English). Alas, we do not have any Hispanic roots according to my results, despite natives mistaking us for one of them in those communities.
Getting Other Family Members Involved
I’m looking forward to my mom and brother taking a DNA Test soon. Incidentally, my brother and I share the same mother but different fathers, and he has much more melanin than me. Of course, his dad is also darker than my dad.
I also look forward to my Aunt Francine taking the test, as for years people tell me we favor each other a lot, down to both being light-skinned and having freckles! Yet, she and I are not blood related. She is my aunt through marriage. So I would be curious to know if we have any DNA matches! I also look forward to my hubby and son taking the test in the future as well, so that we can have as complete of a family profile as possible, ancestry-wise.
The Ancestry.com system confirmed my dad is my dad when I clicked into “DNA Matches.” Even though I already knew this of course, it was still kind of cool to see it confirmed.
Ancestry.com had no first cousin matches in their system to reveal to me; however, it did show me a possible second cousin and multiple third and fourth cousins. These matches are based on the DNA Test I took compared against the thousands of tests that other members have taken.
Ancestry.com lets me choose whether or not I want to participate in the DNA Match section. I think that is one of the best parts of the test, so I gladly opted in to that feature. There is no invasion of privacy really because even though it shows me who my DNA Matches are, those persons do not have my name or contact information unless I allow it–and vice versa.
Building My Family Tree
In addition to DNA Matches and Ancestry Background, you can build your Family Tree inside your Ancestry.com account. That’s how my journey with Ancestry.com began. After being inspired by a woman at Toastmasters who gave a speech of how she traced her family connections, I decided to build a family tree online that I could share with other relatives, and most importantly share with my son.
I wanted to create him a family tree with as much data possible so that I can pass it on to him, for legacy reasons, so he can know his roots and know who is in his family, etc. While I have electronic versions of the tree, I plan to print something out so that he has a tangible keepsake. That way my son will not grow up not knowing about his roots like I did.
Finding my Dad’s Long Lost Cousin
Through building a family tree, I discovered a lot of simply amazing information. For example, I quickly discovered my dad’s brothers had passed away (he had no idea). I was able to find pictures of their tombstones. I also discovered my dad’s long lost first cousin and able to let them know about the passing of my two uncles as well. I also learned a common denominator in my dad, his brothers, and his first cousin is that they all served in the military. Above is a picture of my dad who served in the U.S. Army for 22 years.
We recently had a family conference call to “fill in the gaps” of the family tree I’m building, and it was a huge blessing–to me, my dad, my husband (who was also on the call), and my dad’s first cousin. (We used freeconferencecall.com.) My dad’s cousin has quite a history, such as his dad playing professional baseball, which I look forward to blogging about in the future. He also had first-hand information on how my dad’s mother passed away when my dad was small, and he is searching for a picture he may have of her!
Some other DNA Test websites include 23andMe.com and FamilyTreeNDA.com
I thought of taking the same DNA Test by other companies who offer them, to solidify my results and perhaps find a bit more info or detail as each system may reveal different nuances. For example, one thing that is cool about 23andMe.com is that it also provides a Health detailed genetic assessment for things like Cystic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell Anemia, Hereditary Hearing Loss and more if you are willing to pay $100 more. Their regular DNA Ancestry test is only $79 when on sale. However, for now I’m having fun with Ancestry.com.
How to get the best deals
The regular kit at Ancesetry.com costs $99, which can be a hefty price tag, especially if you are buying more than one kit. I’m also having my mom and brother take the test, so I’m waiting for Black Friday when prices are the lowest at $79 per kit.
There are also discounts for $89 per kit on Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Saint Patrick’s Day, and other days like that. There are also affiliate links on this page that offer great deals for Ancestry.com’s DNA kit and other Ancestry.com services if you are serious about tracing your roots or want to a more complete portfolio of your relatives.
We are all related
When you think about it, we are all related! If you believe that God created Adam and Eve, then well, everyone’s ancestry traces back to those two individuals, correct? And of course, many Christians feel we are related to one another in the sense that God adopts us as His sons and daughters.
What are you?
I had to chuckle when I saw the below ad on the Ancestry.com website.
As mentioned previously, I got asked this question a lot!
I personally think people can come up with more diplomatic, tactful way to ask those type of questions. I know I do! Although for the most part, someone’s race, ethnicity or heritage is usually the last thing I think about. I’m more interested in who that person is on the inside.
What’s YOUR story?
So what’s your story?! Find out today! No matter what your background is, know that you are fearfully and wonderfully made by God almighty, no matter if your hair is straight or kinky, whether you have hazel eyes or brown eyes, whether your skin is dark or light, you are perfect just the way God made you.
If you try the test or are thinking about trying out the test and have questions, please leave a comment below. Thank you for reading and God bless.