Sunday, September 14, 2014

Finding My Ancestors

I am a white American female. I think I know what it means to be an American, at least my version of it, but I've always been interested in where my family came from *before*, as if that holds more value. Sometimes being an American feels watered down or uninteresting. Sometimes I feel a bit homeless, like a girl without a country - lacking in identity. How many other Americans feel this lacking? How many of us carry a sense of National pride for a country we've never been to.

For me, and I'm sure for many Americans, the origins of my family are muddled, confusing, and a bit lost. Some lines can be traced, but after just a few generations back and the trail goes cold. I have bits of information, but these bits just leave me with more questions. (And how much of these stories and tracings are accurate anyway?) I have been led to believe there is French on one side and Norwegian on the other, but that's it. The rest of my story is that of an American mutt.

It's not enough for me, I want to know more; where exactly did my ancestors live, what are their stories, what were their lives like, how can I better connect with them?

I had started to really identify with the ancestry that I has been told. The truth is I started to embellish a bit, create stories, and fill in missing pieces with my own desires. I started to own this Norwegian identity. I started to create an image and idea of what my ancestors would have been like. I read the myths of those lands, I studied the lore of my people. I found myself becoming really proud of my ancestors even though I wasn't really sure who they were.

And so I took a DNA test to learn more...

My results came in with a whopping 3% Scandinavian ancestry. Wait, what? 3%?? How can that be? How is that possible if 25% of my blood supposedly comes from Norway? What the hell?

This is how my test breaks out: 70% Western European (mainly French, German, Danish), 15% Ireland, and 8% Iberian Peninsula; all the rest are only trace amounts, with the largest of these being 3% Scandinavian.

I have to admit that this was difficult news and I am still processing it.

My ancestors are not who I thought they were. Now I am trying to rectify who I am with who I thought I was and where my blood actually comes from. On some level I feel broken hearted over the fact that there is only a trace amount of Norwegian blood in there, as if I've lost something that was never mine to begin with. Who am I? Why is this so hard?

The bottom line is my blood isn't what I thought. My ancestors are not who I thought they were. On some level this may not matter, but on another level it really does. I actually feel like I am not who I thought I was. The stories of my ancestors are important. I always imagined walking on the land that they came from and feeling at home on some deep blood, breath, and bone, level. Tracing my roots was going to show me where that land might be. And it has, but it such a surprising way.

At this point my search continues. I now have a new culture to dig into, a new culture to learn about, and people to connect with. I feel like I have to. I need to know, both for myself and for the ancestors that made my life possible.


  1. I don't think it is weird at all that is so hard. If you had written this a couple of months ago, I would have offered some insight into your German heritage, from a "true" German. But now that I have taken a DNA test myself, that heritage isn't as strongly mine as I thought. I am mostly Eastern European, so now I have a new culture to learn about.

  2. Denmark ruled Norway so that is why you have 3% Norwegian blood. May 15 is the Norwegian Independence Day from Denmark although the Norwegian Royalty are Danish even today. BTW my husband is Norwegian.