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Thread: Regarding Ancestry

  1. #1

    Default Regarding Ancestry

    My sister sent me a text with old family photos, asking if I could name anyone. Our grandfather was born in 1898, and our family is very small, so the question didn't make much sense to me. Why would pictures of people from the 1920's mean anything to anyone today? My mother was adopted, and I'm the only one in my 'blood family' to have children, and they don't care about things like that. On their father's side there are tons of relatives, but they've never felt the need to attend huge family reunions with strangers.

    And yet there are millions of people paying money to find their ancestral DNA roots. Why is that? Why does it matter?

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by GGT View Post
    My sister sent me a text with old family photos, asking if I could name anyone. Our grandfather was born in 1898, and our family is very small, so the question didn't make much sense to me. Why would pictures of people from the 1920's mean anything to anyone today? My mother was adopted, and I'm the only one in my 'blood family' to have children, and they don't care about things like that. On their father's side there are tons of relatives, but they've never felt the need to attend huge family reunions with strangers.

    And yet there are millions of people paying money to find their ancestral DNA roots. Why is that? Why does it matter?
    Answer; because we're not all the same and because we're not the same all the time. I recently distributed copies of pictures of my mother, her parents and paternal grandparents. The oldest of these pictures must have been from some time during WW I, showing my grandfather in uniform and my grandmother at a young age. Nobody had asked about these pictures for over 35 years, but everybody was happily surprised at their mere existence.

    A sense of belonging makes people feel safer, and when people feel safer they feel better.
    Greece shows us that there is a kind of politician worse than the ones that break their election promises; the ones that keep their election promises.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Hazir View Post
    Answer; because we're not all the same and because we're not the same all the time. I recently distributed copies of pictures of my mother, her parents and paternal grandparents. The oldest of these pictures must have been from some time during WW I, showing my grandfather in uniform and my grandmother at a young age. Nobody had asked about these pictures for over 35 years, but everybody was happily surprised at their mere existence.

    A sense of belonging makes people feel safer, and when people feel safer they feel better.
    Pictures evoke emotions and a sense of belonging, that's true. But I'm asking why people look to DNA testing to prove their ancestry, and therefore "feel better" about who they are. My mother was adopted, yet never felt the need to find her "blood" ancestors. My father's dad was widowed and remarried, giving me an Uncle and Aunt, and cousins by marriage. We're not blood related but we're family. That's something ancestral DNA can't measure.

    So why are web sites making money selling DNA as family roots?

  4. #4
    GGT, it's sometimes interesting to see where your family comes from if you're a bit of a mutt or have poor family records. It's also nice to see if family legends about g'g'g'ancestors are in any way substantiated by reality. My sister, for example, did the basic sequencing which easily showed that one story about my mother's side and ancestry wasn't true. I'd bet Elizabeth Warren would have saved herself a lot of headaches if she'd been able to do the same a few decades ago. It's just interesting and informative (and sometimes medically useful!), but hardly makes anyone 'feel better'. There are also websites that sell information about e.g. immigration records and the like, which are also not particularly evocative like photos but still gives some interesting family history and context.

    A few years ago I ran across an old photo of my grandfather in his US Army uniform. I personally didn't find it added to a sense of belonging or anything else, but I did find it interesting - from the patches and insignia I was able to figure out much more detail about what unit he was in during the war. This information was hard to get otherwise because he was quite reticent to describe much of his experiences of ~6 years in the Army other than to talk about inconsequential asides like the food; I once tried to request his service record from a FOIA submission, but it turns out that his records (and many millions of others) were lost in a fire some years back. So this gave me some useful clues to figure out more.

    Really, it just boils down to people being interested in how their family fits into history.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  5. #5
    My friend is the product of a sperm donor and used 23AndMe to find several siblings. I took 23AndMe to figure out if I had any surprises or genetic disorders. No surprises and no markers for known genetic disorders.

    But photos are a whole other thing. I'm helping a relative downsize and the most uncontested items to save are photo albums. In fact, I worry that the digital age produces SO MANY photos in login-protected formats that there will be little way for our progeny to see or interpret them. I'll have to make annual albums for every year of my life when I'm retired, then foist them on my kids. Who will be annoyed at the presence of a physical object to clutter their home-pods.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    GGT, it's sometimes interesting to see where your family comes from if you're a bit of a mutt or have poor family records. It's also nice to see if family legends about g'g'g'ancestors are in any way substantiated by reality. My sister, for example, did the basic sequencing which easily showed that one story about my mother's side and ancestry wasn't true. I'd bet Elizabeth Warren would have saved herself a lot of headaches if she'd been able to do the same a few decades ago. It's just interesting and informative (and sometimes medically useful!), but hardly makes anyone 'feel better'. There are also websites that sell information about e.g. immigration records and the like, which are also not particularly evocative like photos but still gives some interesting family history and context.

    A few years ago I ran across an old photo of my grandfather in his US Army uniform. I personally didn't find it added to a sense of belonging or anything else, but I did find it interesting - from the patches and insignia I was able to figure out much more detail about what unit he was in during the war. This information was hard to get otherwise because he was quite reticent to describe much of his experiences of ~6 years in the Army other than to talk about inconsequential asides like the food; I once tried to request his service record from a FOIA submission, but it turns out that his records (and many millions of others) were lost in a fire some years back. So this gave me some useful clues to figure out more.

    Really, it just boils down to people being interested in how their family fits into history.
    I have bound genealogy books tracing my family history. Several volumes. Marriages make the family tree pretty complicated, but it's not like I don't know my "roots", at least on my father's side

    My mother was adopted, and since she never felt compelled to follow her "genetic roots", I and my siblings didn't either. Some might think that's because maternal connections don't matter as much as paternal connections. There's some truth to that, as the genealogy books only documented paternity, and passing "the family name" to sons.

    When I die, I'll be buried in the family plot at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago, Ill because I want to be buried next to my father.

    I could have chosen to be buried next to my mother, and her parents in Troy, MI, but we were never very close. I've always thought of myself as part of my father's family.
    Last edited by GGT; 02-28-2018 at 03:35 AM.

  7. #7
    If it makes you feel any better, many racist dumbasses who use these DNA-sequencing services end up feeling worse about themselves afterwards.
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
    — Bill Gates

  8. #8
    I don't know why I just posted such personal info, other than it bugged me that wiggin said I might be a "mutt" or have poor family records. Maybe the last straw was "g'g'g' ancestors", to which I felt a personal affront, and needed to defend. I suppose that's how tribalism works these days, and I feel bad for giving into that *sentiment*.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by GGT View Post
    I don't know why I just posted such personal info, other than it bugged me that wiggin said I might be a "mutt" or have poor family records. Maybe the last straw was "g'g'g' ancestors", to which I felt a personal affront, and needed to defend. I suppose that's how tribalism works these days, and I feel bad for giving into that *sentiment*.
    I don't think he meant "you" as in you personally. Think it was used in the general sense and read it as being equivalent to "... if one might be a mutt..." and I don't think "g'g'g'" was in reference to you but rather shorthand for "great great great".
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
    — Bill Gates

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by GGT View Post
    I don't know why I just posted such personal info, other than it bugged me that wiggin said I might be a "mutt" or have poor family records. Maybe the last straw was "g'g'g' ancestors", to which I felt a personal affront, and needed to defend. I suppose that's how tribalism works these days, and I feel bad for giving into that *sentiment*.
    No personal affront was intended, GGT; I was discussing generalities. Please accept my apologies for imprecise language.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    No personal affront was intended, GGT; I was discussing generalities. Please accept my apologies for imprecise language.
    Thanks Sorry for reading it wrong and taking it personally.

    I just don't think "mutt" is a good word to use, especially in today's politically charged immigration climate. It's weird and interesting. Not just because most of us are "mutts", or my adopted mother never cared about her "blood" ancestors (and neither did I), but now there's a real interest in finding ancestral roots.

    DNA kits for sale, give them as gifts, find your ancestors, know your family! Also, you could be a perfect donor match!

  12. #12
    Wait a second - is there some conflation between the ancestry DNA kits and HLA/etc. typing for e.g. bone marrow transplants? Because AFAIK they're entirely separate.

    Also, I guess I never really thought of 'mutt' as a bad word. To me most Americans (myself included) come from a mixture of backgrounds, so I don't have some weird attachment to a 'pure' bloodline, whatever that means.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Dreadnaught View Post
    But photos are a whole other thing. I'm helping a relative downsize and the most uncontested items to save are photo albums. In fact, I worry that the digital age produces SO MANY photos in login-protected formats that there will be little way for our progeny to see or interpret them. I'll have to make annual albums for every year of my life when I'm retired, then foist them on my kids. Who will be annoyed at the presence of a physical object to clutter their home-pods.
    I've recently downsized, and the photos were the most difficult part. It was hard, but I threw many in the trash....because they weren't marked or titled, and I had no idea who the people were. I saved the nicer portraits, dated postcards, and some streetscapes with gas lights and early cars, and anyone in a uniform (including kids in their school garb) for their historical value. So many pictures!!

    Make sure you name the people, and put date/time/place on every single picture! Seriously.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    Wait a second - is there some conflation between the ancestry DNA kits and HLA/etc. typing for e.g. bone marrow transplants? Because AFAIK they're entirely separate.
    That was my comment about commercializing/marketing DNA kits for profit. *edit--and using entertainment venues to encourage people to sign up as bone marrow donors. It was a blurb I heard on NPR*

    Also, I guess I never really thought of 'mutt' as a bad word. To me most Americans (myself included) come from a mixture of backgrounds, so I don't have some weird attachment to a 'pure' bloodline, whatever that means.
    Well, this whole misunderstanding came from you saying I was either a mutt or didn't know my family records, right?

    I'd say "mutt" should only be used for cats and dogs, not people.

  15. #15
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  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by GGT View Post
    I've recently downsized, and the photos were the most difficult part. It was hard, but I threw many in the trash....because they weren't marked or titled, and I had no idea who the people were. I saved the nicer portraits, dated postcards, and some streetscapes with gas lights and early cars, and anyone in a uniform (including kids in their school garb) for their historical value. So many pictures!!

    Make sure you name the people, and put date/time/place on every single picture! Seriously.
    Having spent most of yesterday throwing out two garbage bags full of photos...you're right. And damn I wish I had more albums with captions.

    Observation: I've always assumed that digital photography increases the amount of junk photos in circulation. I see something of the opposite; I delete digital photos and keep only the ones I like. And I caption them within my photo software. The captioning formats may not port, but back when everyone was using film you just had literal envelopes of bad photos that many kept just in case.

  17. #17
    Yep, and not just photos but their negatives, too! Add boxes of slides, early 8mm film, and tape recordings and that's a lot of stuff to sort. Not sure digital reduces the volume of "junk", but it does at least have less physical mass.

    I felt horrible throwing slides in the trash, even though we'd converted most of them to photographs (and then to disc), because each reiteration lost a finesse, a quality that's hard to explain. Kinda like throwing vinyl albums away when cassettes became popular...

    Anyway, it's interesting how original documents can connect us to our ancestry, and a lack of that can lead to pursuing our family "origins".

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