Black History Month is the one time of year that we focus on celebrating, recognising and valuing the inspirational individuals, important events & people from our past. With culture, race and identity dominating our headlines today, Black History Month this year, got me thinking about who I am, my history, and the history of my ancestors. Who were they? where did they come from and what is my family legacy?
What does ancestry mean to me? Well, my name Is Michelle. I’m a 33 year-old, married mother of two. Born and raised in Nottingham.
My mother was born in Jamaica and is 1 of 16 (on her dad’s side) she came to the UK when she was 9 and has lived here ever since. My father was born in the UK, however his parents were born in Jamaica, we still have family living there and up until recently, I believed my family solely originated from Jamaica.
After recent revelations that my paternal grandfather’s mother may or may not have been from India it got me wondering, how I have gone 33 years of my life without knowing my true family history. After talking with my other half about it he said, “Why don’t you just do a DNA ancestry test?” Genius! A DNA test would definitely confirm or refute the stories that my grandfather was of Jamaican Indian heritage.
Initially there was this immense excitement about what my results would confirm, but then I started to feel mixed emotions about what it could reveal. Two days later I received a text from the other half at 2am, it read – ‘Congratulations, your Ancestry DNA testing kit has been ordered’. My first thought was, aww how sweet of him; then it hit me, shit’s just got real! Flip-flopping between excitement and anxiety, I decided not to tell my mum at first. 3 days’ later the kit arrived in the post.
Finding the right time to take the test was slightly tricky. You have to register your tube online with the unique serial number which comes with your pack before depositing your saliva into a tube (super glamorous right). It also states that if you’ve eaten, then you have to wait 30 minutes to do this. Hmmm could the copious amount of garlic I used to prepare tonight’s meal really sway my final result? Nevertheless, I followed the instructions to the letter. After a few glitches I added the stabilising solution to the tube containing my saliva and shook the thing like my life depended on it for about 5 seconds. All that was left to do was pop it in the post, which I eagerly did as soon as I’d stopped shaking it.
After a few days I received an email confirming my sample had made it safely and not got lost in the post, hurrah! But it was going to take at least 6-8 weeks for my results. 6-8 weeks!?! Anxiety took over. Anyone who knows me knows I generally have the patience of a saint, but for this… didn’t they know that the results were going to be life changing!?
Having settled on the thought that my results wouldn’t be in till after Christmas, you can imagine my surprise 3 weeks later one Saturday night, when I saw an email from Ancestry. Thinking it was just a follow up email, I opened it to read – Your results are in, click on the link to sign in. Eeeeekkk! I jumped up and shouted to my husband; both excited, I logged into my Ancestry account and was completely floored. My DNA is made up of 14 different places. Even better they gave the percentage. As I looked down the list I felt a sense of pride and genuine surprise. My DNA confirmed that my ancestors originated from –
Nigeria | Ghana | Benin | Togo | Senegal | Cameroon | Finland | Russia | Ireland | Great British | Native American | Polynesia | Mali | East & West Europe
But what surprised me the most was that I had 0% Jamaican ancestry! I rang my mum to give her the news and when I explained that we have no Jamaican ancestry, she was shocked. To best describe it, I’m born in the UK which makes me British, but I’ve always known I have Jamaica as the place my people came from. My mum on the other hand was born in Jamaica which would class her as a Jamaican, she grew up Jamaican, however now she’s found out her heritage/ancestors did not come from Jamaica. This definitely raised more questions. Do we still have family members in any of those countries? Which did I get from my mum and which from my dad? Would I consider visiting the places for the next 14+ years? (HELL YES!).
The icing on the cake is that the Ancestry website matches you to other people on the website based on your DNA and will say if you could be related. Would I recommend this test to anyone? Yes. It’s been extremely insightful and I’ve learned even more about myself that I probably would not have known, had I not taken the chance.
*Side note, Ancestry do keep your saliva sample on file for you, which you may find troubling. For me this wasn’t really an issue, I don’t think they’ll start cloning people in my lifetime!