My PhD research looks at genetic ancestry testing and genealogical practices in different post-slavery societies, and how these phenomena are influencing our notions of personal identity and human kinship and difference.
As a mini-experiment, I have roped five friends into taking DNA ancestry tests with me. We are from different national and cultural backgrounds, aged between 25-35 years old, and we are all awaiting our autosomal test results. I have asked each person to describe their expectations and hopes regarding their genetic test results, with the aim of highlighting the ways in which our national and cultural backgrounds – as well as our physical appearances – prime our ideas about what our likely or desired ancestral origins might be.
Kate, born and raised in Shapleigh, Maine
What are your expectations regarding your genetic ancestry test result?
I expect the majority of my ancestry will come from northern Europe (England/Ireland/Scotland), and southern Europe (Italy). I’m basing this on the genealogy I have compiled for both sides of my family, as well as family oral history and general knowledge about our family history. I don’t, however, know much about my maternal, Italian family prior to the 1920s as very little information exists about that side of my family from before they immigrated to the United States.
What would be your ideal genetic ancestry test result?
I think it would be very interesting if I had Native American or African ancestry. There is a black ancestor in my family tree, who lived in the late 19th century, although he isn’t thought to be directly related to me. My great grandmother on my maternal side was said to be Swedish and Native American, of the Mic Mac tribe, specifically. Whether or not that is true has been difficult to ascertain as she was adopted by a family member after the deaths of her parents. There is also very little that I know about my maternal history, so there could be some unexpected things that come out of that.
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