You know that viral video that’s been going around? The one that shows people getting the results of their DNA tests? And getting emotional when they realize their prejudices against other people are actually against themselves? Yeah, that one. Well today I received the result of my own DNA test, and there are some equally surprising lessons in it.
My DNA test came about as a result of the video. The DNA Journey was created by my boyfriend’s company, Momondo Group, a travel metasearch business that helps people find the best prices for flights, hotels, and rental cars through their Momondo and Cheapflights websites. They made the video to demonstrate their belief that travel opens our world, and that if everyone knew where they came from there would be less prejudice across the globe. And it’s not just some marketing gimmick, it’s something he and his team really embrace.
I love the idea and I share their belief, having seen my own prejudices wiped away with every trip I’ve taken. As a teenager I spent two summers working at summer camps in Romania. I was terrified that I would have nothing in common with the teens there, but as soon as I arrived I learned that teenage girls, whether from California or Cluj-Napoca, like to paint their nails and talk about boys.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered the same common ground with people I’ve encountered all over the world. After traveling to 102 countries, I’ve found that no language, religion, political views, race, or age could prevent my experiencing it. All I have to do is get out of my comfort zone and interact with people who aren’t in my social circles at home.
DNA Test Results
As part of the video, Momondo Group gave DNA test kits from AncestryDNA to a number of people so they could open their own worlds by learning more about where they come from. They offered me one, and I accepted.
Unfortunately the actual testing process wasn’t smooth. The first kit got lost in the mail, and two attempts to get replacements through AncestryDNA’s help center went awry. After months of waiting, my boyfriend finally bought me a new one. When I went to activate it, I found that my profile page on AncestryDNA’s website had a link to where I could get a replacement for the original. Grrr. But I got there in the end, and this morning I received an email notifying me that my results were in.
Before I do the big reveal, it’s worth divulging what I thought my ancestry was. I knew that three of my four grandparents were of Scottish descent, with my mother’s mother and father’s paternal grandfather having been born and raised in Glasgow. I knew that my fourth grandparent was of Swiss descent, and his family came to the US in 1717. His middle name was Reese, which is Welsh, so I also figured there was some more British ancestry on his side. The last piece of the puzzle was my great-great-great-grandmother on my father’s mother’s side, who was half Red Wing Native American.
When I opened the email this morning, I found that I wasn’t far off. According to my DNA test, I’m 67% British, 15% Western European, 10% Irish, and 8% Other European. While the Irish was a surprise, it wasn’t a big shock given the proximity of Ireland and Scotland and the movement of people between the two over the centuries. The biggest surprise was that I registered as 0% Native American, but that may be due to a lack of Red Wing DNA in their system (or the possibility that my family has been wrong all this time).
But more importantly, my DNA test revealed larger truths about the world. I purposely haven’t written about politics on the A Lady in London blog, even with this year being a particularly big one in both the UK and the US. I’ve agonized over whether to share my views or whether to keep them separate from my blog, and I haven’t felt completely comfortable with either option.
But the one thing I will say is that with all the divisiveness on both sides of the pond, my DNA test showed me that the people we often try to alienate, “other”, or expel from our countries may be more native to our land than we are. Take my boyfriend and me for example. I’m an immigrant with 67% British DNA, and he’s a Brit with 5% British DNA. If we kick out all the immigrants, we might have to kick ourselves out first.
The same goes for the non-immigrants. The US is a diverse country, and London is the most heterogenous city I’ve ever been to. But the more I’ve gotten to know people with different backgrounds from my own, the more I’ve come to see how similar we are despite how little we may think we have in common. I grew up in a conservative Christian community, but as I’ve gotten older and become friends with Muslims, gays, and other people I didn’t have contact with before, those I was once taught to fear or judge have shown me how little I knew about them and how many similarities we have.
And that’s the beauty of opening my world. Whether through travel, a DNA test, or just getting to know people outside of my community, it makes me aware that we’re all more alike than we are different. I hope that through things like these more people can open their worlds, and the divisiveness my two beloved countries are experiencing can diminish, one person at a time.
Have you seen the video or had a DNA test? What did it reveal to you?