A Final Thought: The DNA results are in


By Mitch Allen

Earlier this spring, I wrote a column called “Waiting on the DNA results,” in which I revealed that I had ordered a DNA report from Ancestry.com in an effort to determine once and for all whether there was any truth to the persistent family rumor that one of my ancestors was Native American.

The results are in and, alas—no. John Thomas Shavor’s mother was apparently not an Indian princess after all.

This is a huge disappointment. My wife’s 11th great-grandfather, Stephen Hopkins, came over on the Mayflower along with his daughter Constance, and I wanted to be able to tell her that my people were already here waiting on them.

Instead, according to a swab of my cheek, my ancestors hailed from:

  • 84% England and Wales
  • 13% Ireland and Scotland
  • 3% Norway

This explains why I cannot stop watching The Great British Baking Show.

After receiving this discouraging summary, I downloaded my raw data from Ancestry.com then uploaded it to Promethease.com to learn more. It turns out, among many other likely characteristics, I am a white male with blue eyes, prone to high blood pressure and macular degeneration and, the report reads, “you have a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the oxytocin receptor which may make you less empathetic than most people.”

Say, what?

That’s right; apparently I am genetically predisposed not to give a crap.

This explains a lot, like the time my daughter said,

“Dad, we’ve been fighting for three days and you don’t even know it.”

“Fighting?” I said. “What are we fighting about?”

I am excited to use this new information to my advantage. The next time someone complains that I am checking out in the express line at Giant Eagle with 15 items in my cart instead of the maximum of 12, I’m going to say, “I’m sorry, I have an SNP in my oxytocin receptor. You’re going to have to complain to someone else.”

Maybe I can get a handicap sticker.

Of course, my wife keeps reminding me that the description reads, “may make you less empathetic” so I cannot use it as a wholesale excuse to be a jerk.

She’s probably right. After all, I have neither high blood pressure nor macular degeneration, so maybe I don’t lack empathy either. I mean, I cry during Coca-Cola commercials, for goodness sake.

I’m also highly empathetic toward the fate of Native Americans, particularly the Muscogee who once inhabited the part of Georgia where I’m from. One broken treaty after another finally forced them to relocate west of the Mississippi. Many died along the way from exposure, disease, and starvation.

My father always believed he was part Native American and he was proud of it. He died in 2012 before home DNA kits became popular so he never knew what I know. He loved to go searching for arrowheads and pottery shards in freshly plowed fields after a hard rain when the artifacts would rise out of the soil after hiding for a thousand years, and there was almost always a book on Native American culture on the table beside his easy chair.

I would never want to take that away from him.

I told my first cousin once removed in Baton Rouge about my DNA results. She’s one generation closer to John Thomas Shavor than I am. It didn’t matter to her.

“I trust the old people more than I do your DNA test,” she said.

I wish I did.

For obvious reasons, I think about the fate of Native Americans more at Thanksgiving than at any other time of the year. Pilgrims, too—the few who arrived on the Mayflower on November 11, 1620, and the millions who have arrived since, many against their will, others fleeing war, tyranny, persecution and starvation in search of a better life. As Lady Liberty proclaims with silent lips:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Happy Thanksgiving.


Categories: Smart Living