Adventures in Retirement- DNA testing can provide surprising answers to ethnicity

Written by Bill Leavitt. Posted in Health & Wellness, Senior Living

Published on July 04, 2018 with No Comments

Most seniors reach a stage in life when they become more interested in class reunions, old friends, distant family, family history and their own backgrounds.  I recently created a family tree and wondered how accurate it was in terms of my combination of ethnicities and what countries my family came from.

I have been hearing that DNA testing has reached a high level of exactitude that provides virtually a 100-percent indication of your ethnicity.  I decided that it would be interesting to determine whether my actual ethnicity was the same as what my family records showed it to be.  It was a fascinating and enlightening experience.

However, before you get excited about doing DNA testing, understand that it can provide some surprises—maybe good, maybe disappointing. For instance, a person who believes he or she is 100-percent Polish is likely to be disappointed.  For the past century and more, Poland has been occupied by various other nationalities (including German, Russian, Austrian, French and Swedish).  All these countries had some effect on the purity of the Polish ethnicity.  The same is true for many other ethnic groups. Especially in the USA, ethnic groups settling here have had much diluting of their ethnic purity.

Thus, there is likely to be some traces of unexpected ethnic groups that show up in your DNA.  If you accept this possibility and welcome the knowledge, you are likely to be more satisfied with your results.

Also, if your parents are of different ethnic groups, you must recognize that there will be two separate ethnic backgrounds represented.  Differentiating them can be a real challenge.  In my background, I was taught that I was mainly Swedish on my mother’s side and Scottish/Irish on my dad’s side.  My DNA results showed a trace of Finnish that was very likely on my mother’s side.  There was some Western European (French/German) that was a mystery to me, but likely divided among both my parents.

On my father’s side, I was mostly Scottish and British as expected, but with some Western European (French/German) and traces of Italian, Greek, and Spanish.  There was less Irish than expected, but that might be explained by the fact that my Great Britain DNA likely included both Irish and Scottish.

I thought it was a fascinating experience, and one that I couldn’t have done 20 years ago.  So, if you are really interested in your family history, you might want to invest a few dollars to find out the real truth.  We even did a DNA test on our dog, with some very interesting results.

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About Bill Leavitt


All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Bill Leavitt is a technical writer from Valparaiso. After retiring from a large corporation in Chicago, he did technical writing consulting for many companies. He currently teaches part-time at Purdue University Calumet. You can order Leavitt’s book, “Retirement: Life’s Greatest Adventure,” by sending $16.65 (includes shipping and sales tax) made payable to Write On Technical Writing, Inc., P.O. Box 132,Valparaiso, IN 46384-0132. Or, visit RetirementLifesGreatestAdventure.com for more information.

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