Ancestry and a warehouse of saliva


What constitutes summertime “fun?” For some, the answer would be neighborhood barbecues or camping trips to the mountains. Others might proclaim that baseball games or lounging by a pool are the pinnacle of summer fun. If you’re Donald Trump, it would mean selecting a vice-presidential running mate. Although, perhaps Mr. Trump should just pick himself to be his own VP. After all, he’s the most amazing person – surely he could do both jobs at once.

Anyway, when I was young, I eagerly awaited the summer so I could devour books from the library. I have a slightly obsessive nature, so I often stumbled upon a theme for my reading – like the summer I decided to learn everything I could about Greek mythology. Those stories had more drama than a telenovela and an episode of “The Bachelor,” combined. And here I had thought that the zestiest thing about the Greeks was their feta cheese.

For this summer’s project, I decided to work on expanding my family tree. I realize that may sound boring. But thanks to a recent explosion in genealogical resources online, it’s really rather exciting stuff. Plus, I’m addicted to those family tree shows on TV – like “Finding Your Roots” and “Genealogy Roadshow” on PBS and “Who Do You Think You Are?” on TLC. I get emotionally attached to the folks on these shows. Even if it’s only their great-great-great uncle’s neighbor that died at Gettysburg, I’m still going to cry a little.

To help with my own research, I took one of those online ancestry DNA tests – the kind where you spit in a tube and mail it in. It’s super easy to do. I just try not to think about the fact that, somewhere, there is a warehouse full of human saliva. And inside that warehouse, there are people that are paid to dissect my cooties and the cooties of thousands of other people – many of whom don’t brush their teeth as often as I do.

Using the results of the DNA test, and the information collected online, I was able to trace one branch of my family back to 1620! While I’m excited about the discovery, I doubt many of us would wish to live during that time. After all, those are the years before shampoo, penicillin and the internet. Without the internet, you’d be unable to stalk your ex on Facebook or follow the Kardashians on Instagram. We’d all be miserable.

Genealogy can be a great way for younger people to connect with their elders. This summer, encourage your kids to spend time with their older relatives and to ask them about their family history. If your kids grumble or complain, stand firm; they can go one entire day without playing video games or taking selfies on Snapchat.

I hope it brings you and your family closer.

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