Family tree - NZDadsWhen I was eighteen I found out that I was half adopted. My dad had adopted me when I was two. When my mum told me she did so rather tearfully, expecting… I’m not sure what. Shock? Horror? Anger? I didn’t feel any of those things. It’s not that I’d known the specifics, but when your mother cries at every adoption documentary that comes on T.V. you start to get suspicious. I wasn’t even mildly surprised, but I will admit to feeling like there was suddenly a part of me that I didn’t understand.

As a child my Pop (my mother’s father) would show me our family tree. It was written on a piece of paper wide enough to span a single bed, and he proudly tapped my name written at the bottom each time to show me where I was. He would lovingly make his way up the tree telling me stories that I wish I could remember now. It made me feel connected – to him, to the long history of my family. Staring at a faded piece of paper might not have been every child’s idea of fun, but I loved hearing my Pop’s stories.

Finding out my dad had adopted me felt a little like a jigsaw piece had just been taken away from a puzzle, and replaced with another piece. The problem was, I didn’t know which piece was the right one. At a deep level, I had known that my dad had adopted me, but the fact that I look so much like my half siblings, and that I had so many early memories of my dad meant that I’d filed it under “ignore” in my brain.

When I got the chance to take Ancestry’s DNA test to help map out my family tree I was excited. There’s a whole half of me that is mostly unknown. What if I was related to someone famous? What if I had ancestors from completely different parts of the world than my known Great Britain ancestors? What if I was eligible for a ridiculous inheritance somewhere? My imagination went wild… Of course reality is usually less exciting, but in this case every titbit of information I’ve found on Ancestry.com has made me feel like I’m closer to completing that jigsaw puzzle.

I filled out a form with what information I knew about my ancestors (clearly that was limited on one side!), spat in a tube, and awaited my results. It took a while to come back, but when it did I discovered that while I don’t have any obvious famous ancestors or rich relatives, and yes, I’m very European, my DNA results show that I’m 12% Irish and 9% Eastern European. Oh and I have a number of second and third (and beyond) cousins on the site who have done the DNA test as well.

Not having names to put on the paternal side of the family tree meant that matching my DNA to other people’s family trees was difficult. However, the beauty of Ancestry.com is that as more people get the DNA tests, the more people you get matched to. And as I started to build up my family tree on both sides I have started to piece things together. There is a library of information to help build trees, and it grows every day. As other people discover information like birth records, marriage certificates, photos etc, you can add their findings to your own tree. Basically if you are not careful you can spend hours and hours finding out things about your long-dead family and forget that you have to cook dinner for the family you have right here.

Despite getting lost in it for so long that I neglected a few things at home for a while, I’m really happy that I got the test done. As I’ve built up my tree I’ve come to a realisation. My jigsaw puzzle is bigger than I’d first known, and all the pieces have their part.

You can find out more about the Ancestry DNA by going to http://www.ancestry.com.au/

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