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.
Tatiana, born and raised in Mexico City, Mexico
What are your expectations regarding your genetic ancestry test result?
I imagine that I’ll have some percentage of Germanic ancestry, with some indigenous Latin American, some Italian, and a little bit of Spanish ancestry, from way back in time. My great-grandfathers was German and he married a Tzotzil woman, hence my German surname. Another of my great-grandfathers was Italian, although I’m not sure where he was from, exactly. My mother’s family have always been in Mexico, as far back as we can remember. There has never been any mention of any migrations in that side of the family, or anyone that came from outside; they were all mestizos with castizo surnames. Now that I think about it, I realise that I barely know anything about my family tree: on one side I have some anecdotal information about my ancestors, but I don’t know where they were from; and on the other, I know where they came from, but I barely know anything about how they met or who they were.
To put it into percentages, I’d say I’m 25% south European, 25% north European, and 15-20% indigenous American. And the other 30-35%? Just Mexican: mixed, mestizo. It’s hard to break it down. Perhaps I have more European ancestry overall, although I don’t feel European. I have big eyes, which might come from some Andalucian or Arab origin, and I’ve had doctors tell me in the past that I have a Mediterranean phenotype in terms of my complexion – whatever that means. But in terms of appearance and identity I consider myself completely Mexican. ¡Más mexicana que el nopal!
What would be your ideal genetic ancestry test result?
If they could tell me what percentage of indigenous ancestry I have, and from which ethnic group, that would be really cool. Or if I could find out which part of Germany my family is from, so I could know a bit more about their origins. I might have some African ancestry, since all humans are rooted in Africa. On the other hand, I would be really surprised if I turned out to have any Asian markers, since, from what I know about my family, I don’t see how that would fit. Then again, I’ve always thought my skin was yellowish-looking, so perhaps that would make sense!
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