Well, I took the leap this summer, spitting in a tube, sending it off to have my DNA tested. I was really hoping I might have at least a tiny bit of Native American blood in my background. My father used to say he thought he had Cherokee Indian ancestors on his mother’s side, that he might be one thirty-second Native American. And since my next novel includes a Cherokee Indian character and part of the story is set against a backdrop of the Trail of Tears, I decided to put the issue to a test. My results? Not one drop of Native American blood. Dangit!
Genetically, it turns out I’m mostly a rather boring northern European American. Here’s the breakdown: 33% Scandinavian; 28% Irish-Scottish-Welsh; 24% British; 12% Western European; and if you can believe this – 2% the Iberian Peninsula (as in Spain and Portugal,) and 1% the Caucasus, (as in Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia.) Although those last two small percentages are considered “low confidence” results.
My dad would probably say something like “well, you can’t always trust those DNA tests.” And while he might be right, it appears our family may have suffered from “Cherokee Grandmother Syndrome.” As I mentioned in a previous post, that’s when people in the U.S. fantasize about having Native American ancestry for one reason or another, often talking about a long ago great-grandmother with coal black hair and high cheek bones.
An important thing to remember about any DNA test is that what it tells us is where people are now who share DNA with us, not where they were a thousand years ago. So I share DNA with a bunch of people now living in Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Norway and Sweden,) along with Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England and western Europe. It doesn’t guarantee my ancestors came from those regions. In my case, family stories suggest a strong link to England, Ireland and Germany.
As for the picture, that’s my dad’s mother – my Granny Dudley – when she was in her 80s. You can probably see why some in the family might’ve said she had a drop or two of Cherokee blood.
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