Weather Forecast


Judy Spooner: Family history is in the mail

Most families have stories that are passed down from generation to generation about where their ancestors came from, especially in the United States because we all came from somewhere else.

But are those stories true? Now, you can find out.

Friend Ruth gave me an unusual Christmas gift when she paid $120 to for a kit that was sent to me by mail. I took swabs of cells from the inside of my cheeks and sent the kit back.

By e-mail, I received the genetic information about my mitochondrial DNA tracing my mother's ancestors back to Africa where humans made their first appearance.

I, in turn, bought a kit for my brother to trace our father's DNA.

Interpreting the results is not as simple as it appears. You have to read the general information on the Web site. There is a lot of it and the more you read, the better you will understand your results.

I already knew that my grandmother's family, on my mother's side, migrated from Sweden in the 1880s. My grandma, May (my middle name), was fair-skinned, small in stature and blonde. I got those physical traits from her.

The gene test showed her ancestors, probably her great-grandparents, came from Finland. Like my grandfather, in haplogroup U, they can be traced back to sub-Saharan Africa through the Middle East.

My grandfather Stephen's line is very interesting since it reveals something I've suspected for some time. His father, Andro, (later Americanized to Andrew) migrated to America from Slovakia in the 1880s. His family, and that of his wife, Anna (later changed to Ann), both came from a town about 50 miles from the border with Poland.

Stephen was dark-complected, rotund, had dark hair and a very prominent nose that, fortunately, I didn't inherit.

The genetic information shows that Anna or Andro's parents (or both) were Polish Jews who, at some point, converted to become Lutheran.

I'm not endorsing Genebase to follow your genetic history. There are other companies that offer the service. Do some research before you select one.

Companies offer additional tests beyond the first one, for more money, that get more specific about your ancestors without needing additional swabs. They are, after all, in business to make a profit.

My father's side came out of the Middle East to Finland to England. There is also some Celt and Welsh in the mix.

There is also some Romany (gypsy) in my background. Isn't that interesting to think about?

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
(651) 459-7600