DNA testing—not much more use than a parlor game—fun factoids (barely) but…That was my conclusion after testing my family with 23andMe, including my brother, children, grandchild, and husband.
Not that I don’t believe in the power of the genetic link.It’s a theme in my novels, a conduit across time. “She knows them, deeper than words or dates or research; they exist in her DNA; they are a soul truth to her.”Science points the way, as well, with conflicting evidence as to the existence of genetic memory and whether experiences change a body’s DNA.
But I just don’t buy it as genealogical proof.I hoped to use the information as a springboard to more historic and record-based research. Maybe I could break down a few brick walls on my side of the family. And, as an aside, the results might give my children some insight into their adopted father’s ancestral background. On a whim, I also decided to push the button to compare my husband’s 23andMe results to other “DNA relatives.”
Before I get to the punch line in all this, let me mention that I have this thing about the intersect between free will and grace(or serendipity, or synchronicity in Jungian terms). In my book (literally in my books…it’s a theme) nothing just happens—without work.
I had already gone through the long-winded process of unlocking my husband’s original birth certificate, including petitioning our congressman to open the records.(I am grateful that he made it happen, and I recommend doing so if you ever run into roadblocks as an adoptee.) Because of this work, we had my husband’s original name, the names of his birth mother and father, and their places of birth. Not all of it was exact. But that’s always the assumption as a genealogist. Even facts are suspect. Anyway…
Matches came in—but highly unlikely ones.Less than 1% matches; matches that, upon closer analysis, weren’t matches. I didn’t expect much. What are the chances, with so many companies out there, that some relative to an adoptee would: 1. Decide to do a test, 2. Decide to do it with 23andMe, 3. Push the “DNA relative” button, and 4. After all that, keep tabs on the whole thing? Well—highly unlikely.
Still, you do the work; so I kept tabs on the results. Then one match came in significantly higher than my version of random, near to 25%.So, what the heck, a brief email seemed in order. “I’m sending this for my husband… Anything strike a chord?” Honestly, I forgot that I’d sent it—until I got a Thanksgiving reply.
My husband’s half-sister found—everything confirmed by birth records and common family stories. (Remember the work?) So, regarding DNA testing, is it a parlor game? Sure. But, sometimes, those kits are a genetic link, a healing of regrets, a righting of mistaken beliefs, and the discovery of a birth mother, long gone, but passing on her love through memories left behind.
Grace, and the will to pursue the improbable; there is, indeed, a lesson in everything.