OPINION COLUMNS

The DNA kit: A little bit of this, a little bit of that

By Gerre Joiner | Published Wednesday, March 27, 2019

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Gerre Joiner

I received an ancestry.com kit for Christmas.

Pretty amazing when you think about how the thing works. I guess most people know, but for the uninformed, here’s how you find out about your ethnicity.

First, you pay a handsome fee for a kit. In the kit, you find a little plastic baggie thing. You’re instructed to spit (I’m not making this up, friends.) into the baggie and send it to the folks selling the kits. There’s a little line on the bag that lets you know when you can stop spitting. They promise to send you the results within six to eight weeks.

Some of my coffee shop friends have dipped so much snuff, I’m thinking their report would read something like this:

Dear Mr. X,

  • Your DNA report is finalized and here are the results:
  • Looks like your relatives emigrated from Copenhagen years ago, settled near Winston-Salem, N.C.
  • They came to the U.S. and began farming and marketing tobacco and table spices. A huge part of their spice production was for the wintergreen market.
  • You are more than likely from the Morris clan – Philip Morris, to be specific.
  • Many results are coming in suggesting you might be related to R.J. Reynolds.
  • Results are sketchy, but we suspect you are also a descendent of a Mr. Durham. So far we are only coming up with a nickname for the original Durham. The nickname: “Bull.”

Now back to my kit.

It appears that 71 percent of my ancestry “ethnicity estimate” involves England, Wales and Northwestern Europe. Twenty-six percent of my ancestry is estimated to be Irish/Scottish. The Ancestry people think I’m 2 percent Swedish and 1 percent French.

A little deeper into my results, they mention I have Viking roots. The Viking guys originated in Norway and Scandinavia and were famous for being nomadic, raiders and pretty rough characters.

I went to a plastic surgeon several years ago and showed him the palms of my hands. Just under the skin, places had developed that looked like the tendons (or something) were getting hard. It looked abnormal to me.

But the doctor took one look and said, “It’s the kind of hand that descends from people with Norwegian/Scandinavian roots.” He mentioned the Vikings.

Looks like the Ancestry people are on to something here.

I began to complete my personal profile questions on the Ancestry.com website.

Among them were these:

  • Which do you prefer … cats or dogs? (Answer: Definitely a “dog” person.)
  • Have you been to an amusement park in the past year? (Answer: No. In my adult life, I have not been to an amusement park unless I had a group of church kids with me.)
  • How would you describe your cuspid teeth? Flat or round? (Answer: Why do you need to know about my teeth?)
  • Can you fold your tongue in half? (Answer: Yes. I can also stick out my tongue and touch my nose. Just not at the same time.)
  • Do you have a lisp? (Answer: No, thir! No lithp here.)
  • Have you ever been told you have torus mandibularis? (Answer: No. And I wish I could un-see the images that came up when I Googled it.)
  • Which of your fingers is longer? (Answer: I’m glad you explained by reminding me that you’re asking about which finger is longer … the one to the left of the “longest” finger … or the one to the right of the “longest” finger. They look to be about the same length.)
  • Do you have a unibrow?
  • Which of these describes your earlobes? (Answer: Attached. Really. The other possible answer was “unattached.”)
  • Which of these describes your ear wax? (Answer: wet, sticky, yellow. Really, friends. This was an answer among the choices.)
  • Have you ever run competitively? (Answer: No. And if you ever see me running, you’ll know I’m late and something’s wrong with my pickup.)
  • On average, how many days a week do you exercise? (Answer: I’ve missed my time in the gym every day since I graduated from high school.)
  • Do you know how to swim? (Answer: I know how to swim, but if you see me swimming, my pickup is probably waterlogged upstream somewhere.)
  • Do you know how to ride a bike? (You know it’s coming. Right? Answer: Yes, I know how to ride a bike, but if you see me riding a bike, you’ll know there’s something wrong with my pickup.)
  • How do you follow the news? (Answer: Newspaper, Facebook, TV/radio. We no longer subscribe to the Fort Worth paper. We’re Wise County Messenger devotees for sure. Digital and home delivered.)
  • Do you like music associated with your ethnicity? (Answer: Yes, I do. I have a strange attraction to music from England, Wales and Northwestern Europe. I’ve noticed I enjoy an occasional dose of the music of Ireland and Scotland.)

I have marveled at the wonderful things one can learn from knowing a little about the internet. But just think! These people know so much about me just from analyzing my spit. We’re definitely an advanced society!

I’m still pondering the unibrow question.

Gerre Joiner is a semi-retired church musician and has lived in Decatur since 1999.

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