DNA testing, ancestors and cultural identity

During my stay in the United States, I noticed that people were very curious about their ancestors’ origins, especially amongst 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants, and that DNA testing has grown in popularity as a direct consequence of this interest, despite many controversial articles about the exactness of these tests and their impact on people’s feelings.

I was born in Slovakia and had the chance to get known my both great-grandmothers. As far as I can remember, all my descendants were born in the geographical area that belongs to today’s Slovakia. Thus, testing my DNA was more out of curiosity about the test’s accuracy and maybe, to discover the distant past of my ancestors.

My test through ancestry.com turned out to be very reliable. 99% (later updated to 95%) of my DNA is linked to the area of Southern Poland & Eastern Slovakia. I was really impressed byt the accuracy as two highlighted regions on the map above, correspond respectively to places where my mom’s and my dad’s families come from. The remaining 5% revealed some unknown history of my ancestors who had come from Germanic Europe (3% of my DNA) and from The Balkans (2% of my DNA). Maybe if I succeed in constructing the family tree that my mom already started, I will find out more about this part of my history.

An anonymous source states: “Genealogy: collecting dead relatives and sometimes a live cousin!” – indeed, with your DNA results you can start looking for people who share common ancestors. A few months after I got my results, I was contacted by a woman whose DNA matched mine and we discovered that her great-grandma was from the same village as my great-granddad and that her great-granddad was from the same village as my great-grandma. After all, Slovakia is a small country and a third of its population immigrated to America over the past 150 years, mostly from its Eastern part (read more on this subject in the post about Kasigarda Museum). It’s likely that I have some relatives in the USA that I didn’t know about, so I’ll try to find out more. But as Justin Thomas, professor of psychology at Zayed University (UAE) reminds us, “it is psychology rather than biology that connects us. Sharing stories is far more important than sharing DNA when it comes to meaningful and fruitful human relationships.”

Nevertheless, I find that we can both embrace our roots and have multiple cultural identities as a result of our lives. Being curious about our ancestors is natural and enriching and I don’t see it a trap but on the contrary, as a base from which we evolve. “To forget one’s ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root.”- Chinese proverb.

Facts:

The world’s genetic testing market was worth $70M in 2015, and is expected to rise to $340M by next year.

The popularity of DNA testing has also opened up new possibilities in the beauty and fitness sectors, particularly when it comes to the personalization of products.

Where you can order your DNA testing kit:

Tip:

Try this service where you can animate the face of your ancestors from a picture: Deep-nostalgia


Have you tried DNA testing and have you discovered some interesting facts? If so, I would love to hear from you.

By Martina Hornakova, Founder of KITnDO

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Platform that helps people to keep in touch with their own cultural background through local connections and the community.

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