by Kassandra Lamb ~ Getting one’s DNA tested can be a lot of fun—finding out more about one’s ancestry and heritage, sharing that experience with family. But sometimes there’s a downside. A curse of DNA testing is you may find out something you didn’t want to know.
And there’s no unknowing it.
The Blessing of DNA Testing
DNA has most definitely been a boon to law enforcement. The ability to use DNA evidence forensically to solve crimes is an incredible advance.
And the flip side of that—wrongly convicted inmates have gained their freedom when exonerated by DNA evidence.
But using it to track ancestry is a mixed bag.
A friend of mine sent in her spit to see what she would find out about her family. Turns out she had a cousin she didn’t know existed. This was a good thing, and happens fairly often. We end up getting in touch with family members we’d lost contact with, or never even knew existed.
The Curse of DNA Testing
But the flip side of THAT is potentially discovering hanky-panky in the family. This cousin was the result of an extramarital affair by her grandfather.
Another friend bought her husband a DNA kit as a gift. And they found out that his son (by an earlier marriage, supposedly) actually wasn’t biologically his.
My Experience with the Curse of DNA Testing
Years ago, my mother told me my ancestry was at least half French, that many of my ancestors had hailed from the Alsace-Lorraine districts of France, the ones that border on Germany. These areas were fought over for decades, sometimes under French control, sometimes under German control.
On her father’s side of the family, she claimed that her grandfather, Augustine, had come from Alsace-Lorraine. She told the story of how his last name was Germanized by a census taker during one of the many times this region was under German control. But he was actually French.
She remembered this detail vividly because she recalled her grandmother repeatedly protesting, during WWII, that her husband “Gus” was French, not German.
For Christmas in 2019, my husband gave me a DNA kit. I had asked for one, but then I procrastinated. I was a little afraid that the test would proof my mother wrong.
I’d always loved the idea that I was half French by heritage. I’ve been a Francophile since I was a little kid, memorizing the lyrics of Au Clair de la Luna and Frere Jacques. But I had intended to send the test in, eventually.
Fearing the curse of DNA testing
Then Covid hit in earnest. And I decided I wasn’t up for dealing with any disappointments regarding my heritage. Life was stressful enough in 2020. So I semi-intentionally buried the DNA test kit on my desk under paperwork.
Finally in February, 2022, I bit the bullet and sent off my spit. By this time, I’d semi-adjusted to the idea that my mother may have been mistaken.
And sure enough, it looked like she was. The results came back showing ancestors in England and Scotland (not a surprise; I knew the other half of my ancestors had come from the UK). But there were almost none in France (definitely a surprise).
A large clump of DNA ancestry did show up in Germany, but far away from the France/German border.
The results also told me that my great grandfather was Augustus (a German name; not Augustine, a French name).
I had braced myself for this possibility, but still…
Redemption of my heritage
But then an interesting thing happened. I was contacted through the DNA site by a distant cousin, and through a series of emails, I shared the story my mother had told, that a census taker had Germanized the last name of our mutual ancestor (his grandfather, my great grandfather).
He came back with the info that his grandmother had told the same story, that a German census taker had added a letter to the name that made it sound more German.
I was quite relieved.
My distant cousin and I concluded that the ancestors in Alsace-Lorraine must have migrated there from other parts of Germany, maybe centuries before, and had come to identify themselves as French long before our grandfather/great grandfather immigrated to the United States.
I was relieved, but also intrigued by the whole experience—by how easily the blessing could become the curse of DNA testing, when it disrupts one’s sense of identity. And then it became a blessing again, when the cousin I found through that same DNA testing provided the reassurance that my mother had remembered the family story correctly after all.
Have you had your DNA analyzed? Any surprises?
The curse of DNA testing and just such a disruption in identity is at the heart of Kirsten Weiss’s new book, Big Bucks, coming out this Sunday. Check it out!
Another Small Town. Another Big Murder.
I’m Alice, a thirty-something ex-bodyguard, and DNA tests are the Devil.
My brother Charlie took one, and it turns out he’s only my half-brother. Our parents aren’t around to explain things, but Charlie tracked down his real father, in the fancy-pants spa town the hill over. Charlie’s father is loaded. Or he was until someone killed him.
Now Charlie, high off helping me solve a murder last month, has decided he’s going to find his father’s killer. I’m not sure if it’s pride, or delusion, or… No, that’s not fair. Charlie cares. This hurt him. Bad. I’m going to have to solve this murder—and fast—before his rich new relatives eat him alive.
If you like laugh-out-loud mysteries, relationships with heart, and stories about figuring out where you belong, you’ll love Big Bucks. Murder mystery game in the back of the book!
Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida. Plus she has started a new police procedural series, also set in Florida—The C.o.P. on the Scene mysteries. And she writes romantic suspense under the pen name of Jessica Dale.
Misterio press produces an array of quality crime fiction. We post here twice a month, usually on Tuesdays, to alert you to new releases, to entertain, and to inform.
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