Thursday, September 22, 2005


I recently received the results of a genetic test. The National Geographic Society is conducting the The Genographic Project, which is a study of prehistoric human migration patterns. By studying markers on the Y chromosome scientists are able to determine the paths one's ancestors took when humans began migrating around the world tens of thousands of years ago.

Being a foundling has always meant that I did not know my ethnic ancestry. My adoptive family is of German and Polish origins, so whatever ethnic identification I have had has been with those two cultures. There were times when I was growing up that I took some pride in being German or Polish, but for most of my life I have identified myself as nothing more specific than American; if I got more specific than that it was to identify myself as a New Yorker. Since my known history begins in a hotel room on Chambers Street (in what is now called TriBeCa), and I was raised on Newtown Creek in Queens, identifying myself as a New Yorker has always been easy.

Nevertheless, I have always wanted to know my origins. I am obviously of European stock and judging by my relatively fair complexion probably of Northern or Western European ancestry. Obviously I could never be sure exactly where my family of origin hailed from, but at different times I have fancied myself of French, German, Spanish, Russian, Swedish, Norwegian, Ashkenazic Jewish, Icelandic, or Dutch ancestry.

So the genetic test reveals that it is quite likely that at least some of my ancestors came from one of the following places (in descending order of likelihood): England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Germany, or Spain. It is perhaps silly, but I have never conceived of myself as being English or Celtic. Yet it appears that at least some of ancestors came from the British Isles. This should not be surprising, as these are very common ethnic groups in the U.S. If I am indeed a WASP, however, that will take some time to get used to.

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