Here are my raw results from the Ancestry.com DNA test I took recently:
Eastern European 35%
Native North American 24%
Native South American 10%
Southern European 7%
To my family, some of this may come as a huge surprise. I know it did to me. Various stories are rampant in our family about our heritage. These results add both clarity and questions to our process.
The verbal histories and documents for my birth father’s family are very clear. From my third great-grandparents, each responsible for 3.13% of my genes, generations of my paternal grandfather’s family are from Michoacan, Mexico. Many more generations of my paternal grandmother’s family are from Aguascalientes, Mexico. These individuals date back nine generations from me, some into the mid-1700s, which would account for one-quarter of one percent (0.25%) from each of my ancestors at the great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparent level. We know the towns and villages. We know the names. We know the dates.
In my birth mother’s family, though, we have always learned that we are not Mexican. We are Native American. Period. End of story, if my grandfather’s stories are accurate. The challenge is that the groups with which we should identify ourselves are not so clear since each of my maternal grandfather’s siblings told a slightly different story. Apache, Yaqui, Blackfoot, Ohlone, and so on. Having not been reared in this family, being adopted at birth, I had to learn all of these stories after most of my ancestors were gone, and be able to decipher them the best way I knew how. Eventually, though, I came to a dead end with no document-supported, objective answers that affirmed any of the stories without question with regard to our Native American history.
Several years after discovering even what questions to ask, I heard from a cousin of mine, Catherine, who has been a vital part of our journey to discover our family history, that a researcher in Santa Barbara was asking for DNA samples for people believed to be, in anthropology-speak, Costanoan indigenous people, or those whose ancestry came from the West Coast of California. We didn’t know whether we were from this macro group or not, but we had found our people in the San Jose, California region for more than 150 years. We do not have information about where some of them were born. With this information, I offered our direct-line genealogy and a DNA sample. That was several years ago and still I have not heard anything. All I know is that my DNA currently resides in Germany with researchers who are trying to make sense of my gene pool.
Let me continue this discussion by giving some perspective to percentages in every person’s family lines. The following table shows what percentage and fraction of my genetic material each person in that generation must claim:
Parents 50% 1/2
Grandparents 25% 1/4
Great-grandparents 12.5% 1/8
Great-great-grandparents 6.25% 1/16
If more than one of my progenitors shared an ethnic history, and in our case, some even shared family history, then the overall percentages of ethnicity would be skewered, which they are.
Late last year, I heard that Ancestry.com, an organization to which I’ve belonged since 2004, began sending out notices that a DNA test would be offered. This wasn’t one of the “Y” chromosome tests for one’s paternity information, or a mitochondrial DNA test for matrilineal information. No, this was an autosomal DNA test where they evaluate a person’s entire genome at more than 700,000 sites, or markers, in the individual’s full 23 chromosomes. This was the whole picture taken from all of my genetic material. I couldn’t pass it up. I added my name to the waiting list. Several weeks ago, my name came up.
I paid my fees, and within a few days, my test arrived. I spit in the vial and sent it out that next day. That was about three week ago. Yesterday, my test results came back in. Several things happened when I received that notice: I had some information confirmed, received some new information, and realized that my DNA may be in Germany a long, long time.
The confirmation I received is that my genetic history is about 1/3 indigenous to the Western Hemisphere; 24% from Central and North America, and 10% from South America. The data did not specify from which side of my family these numbers came. Although I was not aware that any part of my family originated in South America, it does not surprise me that some part came from there because my father’s family lived so far south in Mexico.
The most startling bit of information I received was that more than 1/3 of my genetic material originated from Eastern Europe, which includes countries from as far south as Greece to as far north as Estonia. One fact that made me smile is that my ethnicity is likely similar in part to my adoptive father’s, whose Polish heritage I have always claimed as my own, if only culturally.
As a strange aside, this information inspired me to to remember my late friend, Miriam, who often said to me, “I just know you are part Gypsy!” Contrary to what some who know me well may believe, she was not referring to the alluring musical theater character of the same name. She was referring to the Romani people. She had no reason to believe that I was part Gypsy; however, more regularly than I’ve seen with most others I know, she often made amazing leaps of intuitive gymnastics. Could there be a grain of truth in what she believed about me? She said this on numerous occasions, most often just before she died. The circumstantial evidence is there. The Romani people speak a language that many anthropologists and linguists believe originated on the Indian subcontinent. When people look at me, including individuals from that region,they most often ask me if I am East Indian. Not Mexican. Not Italian. Not North African. Not Middle Eastern. Indian. Could others see in my face what our family has had no knowledge? Could my genetic history confirm their observations by the fact that 35% of my ethnic pool originates in Eastern Europe, the same place the Romani people have lived since no earlier than the 11th Century? Of course, this is simply a fantastical hypothesis; or is it?
The part that is most confusing to me is that I have no idea from whom such a large proportion of my Eastern European genetic heritage could have stemmed. The only segment of my family that originated from anywhere remotely near there is the Sicilian branch of my family. As far as I know, not one person can be traced to Eastern Europe, let alone more than one-third of my ethnic heritage.
The most expected part of my genetic information is the 7% identified as having come from Southern European parentage. With families in Mexico often having Spanish ancestry, and a Sicilian Italian ancestor, this made sense. The one question that arose is that with one grandfather who I believed to be full Italian, this number should have been at least 12.5%.
One small surprise was the 6% defined as genes that originated from the British Isles. That means that one of my great-great grandparents was likely English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh. The only problem is that I believe that I have information on all 16 great-great grandparents. Is this an indication of a secret that no one knew before?
The most difficult challenge that I had with the results of this test is a category called, “Uncertain.” This classification is for genes that have markers that generally indicate they derived from a certain area, but they do not meet the “extremely high standards” that Ancestry.com claims it has. Until they can be verified, these markers shall remain in this quizzical category. Could this be where the specific markers for small bands of Native Americas exist that at this point cannot be authoritatively assured? Could these be African or Asian aboriginal people that have so few people tested that there is no way to verify the data? Which of my ancestors are represented by this number?
The number itself is problematic. When I checked others’ levels of “Uncertain,” I saw numbers as low as 6% to as high as 16%. Why did I not see anyone with my level of “Uncertain,” which was 18%? This is nearly 1/5 of my genes, representing more than one great-grandparent’s genetic history.
As with any research project, often the researcher is left with more questions than answers. Such is the case with my DNA results. In this case, though, this is all so very personal. The good news is that I now know that fully 1/3 of my heritage developed from the Native American people stretching from North America to South America. On the other side of my family coin, I now have to figure out from where we originated because our information is clearly nowhere near complete.
Stay tuned for more information as we delve farther into our genetic past.
We have seen the National Defense Authorization Act 2012 pass in the both houses of Congress and signed into law by the president of the United States that allows for indefinite detention of American citizens without habeas corpus. We have seen basic human rights ignored and denied by our fellow Americans through bans on gay marriage. We have seen basic health care and housing denied to our population because they haven’t the money to care for themselves. We have seen corporations evolve into entities that are considered individuals deserving rights. What this all means is that we have forgotten who we are. Any society, Roman, Ottoman, Egyptian, or any other, that forgets what it is, is doomed to reduction into oblivion so that something more aware and healthier can take its place.
When we removed ourselves from under the rule of King George III of Great Britain, we codified several facets of the lives we wanted into two documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
United States of America Declaration of Independence
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Most people discuss the “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” part of this sentence. A word at the beginning is much more intriguing – “self-evident.” They could have used the word “clear,” or perhaps “obvious,” but they chose “self-evident” in this beautifully-crafted statement. The authors made it clear that we as individuals are supposed to assume that all members of our society are equal and deserve the same treatment and benefits as every other citizen in our country. These rights are not issued with discretion by any other citizen; they are a natural part of being a citizen of this country. Not only are they a natural part of being American, we cannot be alienated or separated from those rights in any way by anyone or any entity, including our own government.
This first section is the part we all know; however, there is another part of this paragraph that we tend to forget:
“— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
Most people discuss the rights identified in this section as pertaining to themselves, missing the broader picture. Individuals have the proclivity to protect their own land, property, families, and rights. It may be an instinctual process; however, by focusing on one’s self alone, one misses a larger responsibility as a citizen of the United States – to protect our nation as a whole. We rightly value those who serve in our military as protectors of our liberties, yet we forget that we, too, have a weight on our shoulders as well. We must assume the rights of all citizens and fight to correct anything that disallows members of our society from their freedoms.
In the Preamble to the Constitution, the first words, “We the People of the United States in order to form a more perfect Union,” reiterates what we found in the Declaration of Independence. The authors said again that we as a whole must come together to work hand-in-hand to achieve the most unified citizenry and society we can. It didn’t say, “We the governors…” or “We the few…” or “We the wealthy and powerful…” It says “We the People.” All the people. Everyone single one of us inclusively has a role to play to elevate ourselves toward the hopes of those who began our country.
Preamble to the United States of America’s Constitution
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
The question for us becomes this: Which single individual in our country deserves less than everything promised in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution of the United States? Which person out of the millions born in our land or who have chosen our country as their homeland, requires or deserves fewer freedoms than any other? Any thinking person will, of course, respond that there is not one person that deserves less. Some might say non-Christians, gays, Muslims, the disabled, the mentally ill, or those born in other countries deserve fewer freedoms. Certainly those who would say this are wrong according to our nation’s establishing documents. They are acting contrary to our national intention. And who is responsible for defending these individuals who have lost their voice and their first-class citizenship in our country?
In the same way as our founding fathers intended, each one of us is responsible, wholly and without abjuration, to ensure the full and irrevocable rights of all American citizens through word and deed. Anything less is contrary to who we are as a people. As we’ve learned in other fallen civilizations, we must remember who we are if we are to survive as a nation.
January 1, 2012, is simply another day in the long string of days that have passed during the multiple millenia of our history. Of course, this is true, but is there more to the story? I suspect there is more.
As a civilization, we, along with our planetary brothers and sisters, are learning new things about ourselves. We are discovering we have voices and hearts and minds that must be recognized and valued by those in power. We are anticipating a major shift of spiritual consciousness. We are trying to find our ways back toward intimacy. Is this because the calendar reads, “2012?” Is it solely because the Mayans said there would be a shift of some sort in November of the coming year? Probably not.
The likeliest candidate for this awakening is that after tens of thousand of years, our evolution has insisted we grow. In the same way as plants, in order to survive, become larger or smaller, depending on their environment, we are ready to raise the bar on our consciousness. It’s simply time!
Everyone will have a different suggestion on how to do this. Prayer, meditation, thought, action, or stillness. My vote is for stillness of the mind. I suggest we simply listen to the wind as my ancestors might have said. I call it, “Openly Sensing Life.”
Have you ever had a sudden distraction and thought, “Oh! I need to call so-and-so immediately.” You had no reason to think that thought, but when you called, you realized that person needed you in some way. You intuitively responded to that voice within. Most parents can share examples of this happening about their children more than once. You openly sensed your Life with a capital “L.” I suspect that is where we find ourselves at this point. We are anxious and feeling fidgety about nothing at all; but is it about nothing at all?
Every single one of us is capable of listening and openly sensing life. It requires us to set aside what we so righteously “know.” It requires us to be humble in those moments when we open ourselves to that life sensation. It requires us to set aside our historical and cultural knowledge so that we may be surprised by what we hear. It requires us to breathe peacefully, allowing all the troubles of our lives with the lower-case “l” to dissipate if only for those few minutes.
My suggestion is that this action is not just for one’s own well-being. It is for the global well-being also. When we open ourselves to the forthcoming message from within, we are better able to receive that message. It may help guide us to the growth we seem so ready to embrace.
Some will call this listening for the voice of God. Some will say it is the vibration of global consciousness. People will have many things to call this process. It doesn’t matter how you name it as long as you participate. When a majority of us open ourselves to this voice, we will likely hear how we fit into this important process of growth, and may even discover how we can become more actively involved in this shift.
Of course, there will be people who reply with, “Phooey!”
That’s fine. You who choose not to take part are certainly entitled to express your free will anyway you want. Those who do participate will find answers to questions we may never have known were there. We may find new ways to love and new ways to welcome others into the process.
However one chooses to look at this process, know that it is happening with or without him or her. We will see these changes happen whether we drag our feet, join hands with others who encourage this process, or simply stand by and watch.
So as we approach 2012, listen to what the wind tells you, and as you do, I wish you a happy, abundant, and productive New Year, full of unity, good health, and joy.
I simply want to wish each reader and family a happy holiday season, no matter what or how you celebrate. Whether you…
Welcome the increasing light each day with the advent of the Earth-old Winter Solstice by dancing around a bonfire…
Remember the rededication of the Second Temple during the Revolt of the Maccabees in the 2nd Century B.C.E. with the Festival of Lights, Chanukah…
Celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior, in Bethlehem 2,011 years ago…
Celebrate the dynamic strength of family, community, and culture with Kwanzaa…
Or, simply enjoy the jolly old elf, Santa Claus, and all he represents,
Our family wishes you and your family a season full of joy enough to make your face hurt from smiling, laughter enough to make your belly ache, love and unity enough to make your heart and life feel radiantly warm and incredibly abundant, and peace enough to freely enjoy all of the above in their fullness.
Blessings and Love to you all!
The Glica-Hernandez Family
Over the last several years, my cousin, Catherine, and I have been searching for the details of our ancestry in the Herrera line. It’s been a fascinating journey that has taken us back to the early 1850’s from San Francisco to New Almaden. Not unlike many who are searching in that region, our line stops dead in its tracks before 1850.
One has to question why? Our family lines have been identified in all the places where the American Indian group, the Ohlone, has been centered. Some of our family have been able to identify other Indian groups in their lineage, apart from our common heritage.
All indications are that we, at some level, have come from an Indian wellspring. The problem is that we can’t prove it. There simply is no paper. In the missing documents is an acrid irony. As a people who listened to the wind and the earth for our answers, we have become anglicized enough to believe that we need that documentation. The contradiction of our resonant, internal knowing and our contemporary need for empirical proof are in an horrific battle as we continue our search.
To see the faces of our ancestors, though, one would not question our Indian heritage. Our ruddy brown skin, our short, thick features. Our beautiful black hair. Our ancient eyes. It’s there in our genes. I have to wonder, if when we receive our genetic information from the researcher in Santa Barbara who is doing my DNA test, whether we will be genetically linked to the Ohlone, and if so, if we can match paperwork to our heritage.
So many Indians were killed during that time. Others chose not to participate in the mission system. If we are such a family, we may never have the answers. The question could be, forever more, left hanging over our collective heads.
As an amateur genealogist, will that be enough for me? Of course not. I want to close the circle. I want to know the names. I was to see the faces, if it’s at all possible.
Some documents have suggested that part of our family came from Sonora, Mexico. Perhaps part of our family did; however, if so, then why can we not find our church records like so many others can do. Not one branch of our family is identifiable in those records thus far. Every time we make a new discovery, it always lands in the Santa Clara Valley. What should we get from that message?
I suppose that is our Indian question to which the answers may only ever be known by our ancestors.
On the Andaman Islands, 850 miles off the coast of India in the Bay of Bengal, there lived a tribe called the Bo. They, and other tribes of the region, had been there since their arrival approximately 65,000 years ago.
Last week, in January 2010, Boa, Sr., as she was known, passed away at the estimated age of 85. This woman, who had been moved from her village on the Andaman Islands in 1978, longed for her village in the jungle and just one other person with whom she could speak Bo, her native tongue. The problem was that there was no other person on the planet who spoke that language. Boa, Sr., was the last of her civilization who spoke it.
In the 1850’s, when the British began colonizing the greater regions of India, the Bo, and other tribes in the area, were discovered. Boa, Sr.’s ancestors were subjected to British rule, a process they fought vehemently. As they died from the imported measles and syphyllis, as did many aboriginal people around the globe when Europeans arrived, their numbers dwindled. Those who remained attemped to quell their grief from having their cultured uprooted by turning to alcohol. Again, we see this in indiginous people whenever they are not left to their cultures and traditions.
Boa, Sr., took her language to her grave with her. Although there are snippets of it on videotape (click on the image above), both spoken and sung, the vibrancy of the culture and language are forever removed from our presence. 65,000 years of history has evaporated under our neglect and disrespect for an entire people.
If only this were an isolated case. It is not. There are other tribes in and around India, Africa, Australia, Asia and both American continents that are being disrupted, at least, and dessimated, at worst.
Survival International, an organization dedicated to the advocacy and preservation of ancient cultures, has indicated that the Bo were one of the most ancient existing cultures on Earth, originating during the pre-Neolithic period.
Because of their important work, those involved have found Boa, Sr.’s demise a tragedy and extreme loss.
The question becomes, what does it say to us about our world that after sixty-five millennia, we have allowed the extinction of another entire culture and language? How is it that we are so unenlightened to realize that this loss is a testament to our selfish and cruel view of others.
In various locations around the world, there exist uncontacted tribes. What is our response going to be? Are we going to infiltrate their culture, exposing them to our illnesses and shortsightedness, or shall we view them from a distance, recognizing their value as independent cultures, not obligated to our curiosity and invasion?
With over thirty tribes threatened by exposure to our greater culture, we must support the work of organizations like Survival International to enure these cultures are not lost, as we have recently witnessed with the Bo.
May Boa, Sr., along with her entire civilization and language, rest in peace, as we examine our horrific responsibility in their demise.