So I’ll be the first to admit it, my family tree is a bit lop-sided. The top of my tree is incredibly leafed out and present, but once you climb on down to my branch the limb is a bit sparse and empty. I owe the lush bit at the top to all of the work my Grandparents did in researching our genealogy. They spent years and years tracking down our ancestors and then beautifully compiled all of their data and research into many thick binders. These would be the very binders that I went to for the selection of various pet names and then later to research a good and unique family name for Snork.
Usually a person can look up in their tree and see two strong and hearty limbs above them, the mater and the pater limbs. In my tree I have just the one limb, the mater. And while I don’t feel like half of a person for not knowing my Father, I do feel a sense of missing when it comes to genetic information. Back at my tree I look down and see that Snork will have the same missing limb situation and I cringe with worry.
I think this is a huge reason why I was so drawn to the data that 23andme could provide. And then this is where I confess how let down I was that when my data was available to view it didn’t provide any paternal genetic information. According to 23andme, “Because paternal ancestry is determined by the genetics of the Y-chromosome – there is no way to trace a woman’s male lineage using her own DNA.” And that was utterly deflating.
But then I began to wonder how I could begin to sketch in my missing tree limbs so when 23andme offered to send tests for Mother and GM I was ALL OVER it. Once their data is in I could use some sort of genetic data math to glean what was from my maternal line and what was from my paternal line. And even better once Snork is born and able to spit into a test tube he will unlock data about my Father as well as his.
Mother was extremely thrilled to get involved with this bit of genetic fun and took to spitting with excellent gusto. With all of the health drama she has endured (epic long battle to get a proper diagnosis for her MS springs to mind) she has a unique perspective on the power of information.
Then it was time to get Grandmother involved and I have to tell you I was all kinds of anxious about that. I mean, seriously, imagine presenting a test tube to your genteel Grandmother and telling her to hawk up some spit for science! Mother and I brought the test with us to the nursing home and together we explained what it was and what it could reveal. You should have seen her face light up with interest! It was like the perfect mixer to combine her two most favorite things: ancestry and science.
However the spitting was a bit of an issue. She didn’t quite get what we were after and an amusing demonstration from Mother and I simply, well, amused her. After, I kid you not, thirty minutes, she was in the swing of things and making a dent on filling up the tube to the marked spot. And damn did she feel triumphant about finishing!
We sent the tubes off to 23andme and should have results in several weeks. I have already clicked on a link within their site that will connect (share) the genetic data once it is ready. And just typing that made me a weird sort of giddy.
The thing is, I don’t often talk about my feelings about not being raised with a father. I mean it is no secret that I owe all that I am to my amazing single Mother and my very present maternal Grandparents. My Grandfather, especially, was actively a part of my life and most likely filled any unseen gaps that I might have had in terms of paternal influence. He was the ideal male role model in every way and it makes me terribly sad that he isn’t here to see me pregnant.
I am also sad that the Snork won’t have either a Grandfather or a Father. When I learned that Snork was a boy this was one of the first things I thought about- how there isn’t really a solid source of maleness for him to learn from. And then I wonder if I would have had this feeling if Snork were a girl…
I know that genetics don’t determine all that we are or all that we can be, but just the not knowing feels off balance. Having some guides, clues and answers from the genetic analysis will hopefully make my tree fuller.