Tag Archives: Ethnic identity; DNA test; Late Discovery Adoptees; Blood relatives

Ethnic Identity: Part 2

Here it is St. Patrick’s Day. What an ironic time to learn I may not be all that Irish.

As I checked my email on the subway last week, I saw the message from Ancestry. “Your Ancestry DNA results are in!” Excited, I opened the message, and clicked on the analysis of my ethnic makeup. Much to my surprise, Ancestry estimates my Irish-ness to be merely 18 percent. About two-thirds of my ancestry can be traced back to England, Scotland and Wales.

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Ancestry’s ethnicity estimate

A while ago, I wrote about discovering and embracing my Irish roots after going through life assuming my ancestors came from Poland and Germany. This is a common phenomenon for late discovery adoptees. We grow up believing what our parents tell us and find out, as adults, that the truth is something entirely different.

My Polish-German identity started to crumble once I learned, at age 38, that I was adopted but I didn’t stop seeing myself as Polish and German until a DNA test made it official.

Family Tree DNA presents the information in a different format
Family Tree DNA’s ethnic breakdown

I also confirmed my heritage, or so I thought, with blood relatives. Chatting with my biological sister, Michelle, who told me our mother, Lillian was Irish, and talking to a family genealogist who suggested our family’s oldest known ancestor was an indentured servant from Ireland who immigrated to Maryland in the 1700s, left me convinced I was at least 50 percent Irish.

Of course, not knowing anything about my father and his relatives leaves a big hole in my story.

Also, the science of determining ethnic origins is evolving. DNA test companies can only provide estimates of ethnicity so I’m not going to read too much into those percentages from Ancestry. Besides, being English, Scottish and Welsh isn’t all that different from being Irish, right?

Have you heard conflicting things about your roots? I’d love to hear your stories.