DNA Testing and Familial Connections

Commercial DNA tests: Some love them, some hate them, some are neutral and some know nothing about them. I‘m neutral due to my family’s circumstances. Researching specific communities and confirming biological relationships are the only reasons I support DNA testing. I’ve always questioned how exactly I should identify myself and my ancestors,  and events that had to occur to lead to my existence. Access to historical genealogical information is limited though. Textbooks often can’t be trusted due to their inaccuracies.

Even with genealogy resources being readily available online, the resources can be inaccurate and hard to interpret. I began researching my roots at the age of 12 after attending a family reunion. What I’ve learned since then is extraordinary. Beyond that, being able to confirm my family’s hunches on racial ambiguity is thrilling. It has reminded that family is more than blood, genes, or a last name. Love and bonding are what makes “relatives.” 

A fair sum of my ancestors seem to appear out of thin air in my research and yet they went on to have a strong presence in the community with many descendants. However, due to confusion as to how they originated, a DNA test was the best option for my family to find answers regarding familial relationships. We didn’t take the test to find out how “Native” we were or to confirm stories that originated because of  complexion, hair length, or any other narrow minded views of what the vast sum of society seems to think makes one Indigenous. 

Commercial DNA test for those like me can answer questions regarding the parental identity of those no longer living. Unlike a paternity test which can only confirm direct parentage cases, these tests can help those in cases such as informal  and formal adoption and cases like mine, where due to multiple circumstances and the inability to communicate with parties involved. I found much more than I ever could thanks to the test results though not what I expected. 

My family was able to confirm our direct lineal connection to quite a few Free People of Color. That in itself means that I can utilize these results to help with research of these families, our community, and confirm suspected family relationships further back with the help of relative match as well.  There was also another huge surprise that awaited me. 

This occurred during the Christmas season and was the best gift I could ask for. With only one photo that has been in our family for decades and a first name we able to confirm the identity of my grandmother’s father. We were able to learn her paternal roots and that she even had/has half-siblings through his side. We were lucky to have multiple close matches and family trees confirm this information. While out of about ten possible matches, we only received one reply from relatives when we reached out. We even found another photo from the same shoot! 

Whether you choose to use DNA tests within your research is a choice one most make after weighing the pros and cons. Though DNA test almost always result in bittersweetness, having answers about these branches of my tree was something I thought I’d never have. I’m beyond content with what I know thus far. While I hope to have unbiased and open communication with all of my relatives - I am grateful for the luck I’ve had thus far and appreciative to my ancestors guiding me through the roller coaster of information.