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24/05/2019 Communication Science news and articles

Family Finder: a Tinder for DNA?

Globalisation enables families to spread all over the globe. DNA ancestry tests can tell you more about your ancestors and distant relatives, wherever they are.


When the first homo-sapiens that decided to take a further path ended up in a different community far away, this journey marked the beginning of mixed communities and, subsequently, multi-racial individuals . Living in the Global Village, the existence of these multi-racial communities is nothing to be surprised about, especially with the emerging third culture kids who grow up in mixed families, in an environment made up of elements from both their home and host cultures. These developments have made people more curious about their heritage, and thanks to advancements in scientific research, there is a lot to find out.

Those who, sometimes quite proudly, argue that they are pure blood representatives of their nation, are most of the time bound to be proven wrong by the very obliging and unavoidable rationality of science. You might already see where I am going with this; I am, indeed, talking about DNA ancestry tests.

Fix Me A Shovel, We Are Digging Deep into Heritage
American sociologist Troy Duster and ethicist Pilar Ossorio make rather surprising claims: “Some percentage of people who look white will possess genetic markers indicating that a significant majority of their recent ancestors were African. Some percentage of people who look black will possess genetic markers indicating the majority of their recent ancestors were European.” I know some who would be struggling to collect their jaw that had dropped on the floor while reading these lines. To be fair, I bet we all do.

Some percentage of people who look white will possess genetic markers indicating that a significant majority of their recent ancestors were African

Loving who you are with respect to ethnical heritage is a beautiful mindset, but it could become dangerous when combined with aggressive nationalism, which is something a lot different than embracing your culture. Culture has a very broad definition, but it can get extremely personal. It does not get a lot more personal than this story itself, because I happened to take one of these DNA tests. These ancestry tests are not only here to remind us of the diverse characteristics of this world, but also of how small it actually is! That, at least, was how I felt when I was shown a bunch of individuals that were marked as my third, fifth and sixth cousins.

Hundreds of Matches
Family Finder is a specific service offered by a company called Family Tree DNA. The package is sent from Texas, USA and includes a kit for saliva samples, as well as a guide to the process, from taking the samples to finding your way around the online database and interactive tools of the service. When the results arrive about six to eight weeks later, you receive a map on which you can view the geographic origin of your DNA, discover the ethnic percentages and even ancient history. However, the most important feature of this service is how it enables you to identify your confirmed maternal and paternal DNA matches from their database, that includes all the other individuals around the world that decided to take the same test.

A Date Night of DNA Match & Meet
The one of my 5th cousins that replied to my insisted emails in the same excited and passionate manner, turned out to be a beautiful and smart Turkish lady in her mid-30s. She studied mechanical engineering at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, and upon her promising performance, was sent to China, where she built a trading business. She is now back in Lausanne, happily married to a gentleman as adventurous and international as herself and their household in Lausanne is blessed with an adorable, giant baby of a Tibetan Mastiff called Pasha whom my brave cousin saved from being eaten during Yu-Lin.

She studied mechanical engineering at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, and upon her promising performance, was sent to China

We have been talking for almost 2 years now, but had the first chance of meeting face to face just last month, when she was in town for a business meeting! She told me that she has been a vegan for almost 15 years and challenged me to find a restaurant that could provide the diners with a heavenly culinary experience while still having ethical and moral values. Guess where I took her? Vegan Junk Food Bar and she loved it! I bet Amsterdam is now on her list of frequent travel spots.

She identified herself with the keywords “adventurous” and “traveller”, which I totally agree with after listening to her stories involving her global undertakings that include not only planes, trains and buses but also a motor home, Siberian railway, a range of boats and a pair of courageous legs that carried her through more than 20 countries. She might not have said so herself, but it was obvious to me that she also deserved to be named “brave”, “loving”, “slightly crazy”, “out of ordinary” and finally very much “international”.

I don’t think I could have asked for a better matching!

Cover: NeuPaddy  / Final editor: Kevin Hesp

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