My Tribe

Old school version of ‘Toal’ + badass family crest.

Ancestry is a big thing in the United States. You ask people where they’re from and if you’re someone like me (I apologize to anyone I’ve ever done this to.) you say “Well, the US, but my dad’s mom is blah and my mom’s from bleh.” This compulsory genealogical-introduction probably has something to do with the whole “melting pot” thing and the fact that most people in America aren’t really… American. The attempts of our forefathers to hold onto our roots have lead to extended last names like “Smith – British with a bit of Thai” and “Schmidt – German version of Smith”. Mine went something along the lines of “Toal – Irish, Scottish, Native American.” OR SO I THOUGHT.

In a search to quantify exactly what my genetics contain, scare myself into never having children, and be even more irritating than I already am, I got myself DNA tested for my birthday. Part of this was driven by the ever-looming cost of college tuition for my parents (I keep telling them to send the younger kids to school in Finland or Germany.), and our knowledge of my mom’s Native American heritage. Prior to my testing, we knew my dad’s side to be mostly Irish and Scottish, and my mom’s side British with the exception of her grandmother who, we presumed, was mostly Cherokee Indian. My mom has the high cheekbones, aquiline or Roman nose, and a watered-down version of the coloring often prescribed to those of Native-American descent, and so, off to 23andMe we go to figure out whether my body had been blessed with the 1/32 “required” to join a tribe.

Full disclosure: I asked my mom a lot of these.

There were a few shockers throughout this process: #1) How long it takes to fill up a tube with saliva, #2) That we were mostly correct but also mostly incorrect, and #3) There is evidently no reason I shouldn’t have kids, aside from the obvious in that they suck away all your resources and energy until you’re an empty (but proud and happy) shell of what you once were. I opted for the full gamut – they went through the ancestry portion and then for good measure tested whether I was a carrier for 40 different diseases from cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia to Sjögren-Larsson and Zellweger Syndromes. It doesn’t cover all variants – just the most common – and fortunately I was blessed enough to be cleared of all of them, preventing my mother from panicking that I’d never have her precious grandbabies and saving me from another thing to worry about concerning my future.

Now, on to the fun stuff! 23andMe placed me at an astonishing 99.7% European – or basically more European than 99.7% of Europeans. The majority of this, unsurprisingly, is British and Irish coming in at 80.4%. I might as well start saying ‘God save the Queen!’ after drinking my daily hot tea. French & German clocked in at 3.5%, with Scandinavian and “Broadly Northern European” (or anything between Iceland and Finland) at a combined 15.2%. “Broadly European” – another catch-all – has 0.5% while Ashkenazi Jew has 0.1%. Fittingly, the polish on my toes right now is called “Eurso Euro”. Kudos to OPI for the apropos puns.

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 11.24.37 PM
Kind of miffed it’s not Galls-Peter Projection.

99.7% seems like a lot – especially when we were pretty damn sure the pie chart form of my body would have at least 3% shaded in the tears of our thought-to-be Cherokee ancestors. The odd thing was, of that remaining 0.3%, 0.2% of it was Sub-Saharan Africa – (i.e. Senegal, Nigeria, and other places I definitely wouldn’t fit in). The remaining 0.1% was split between East Asian, Native American, and “Unassigned” (aka I’m <0.1% an anomaly). I’m more African than I am Native American. Henceforth, I’m adjusting my last name to “Toal-Irish, Scottish, British, unspecified Scandinavian-ish, slightly Jewish and Africasian”.

As I was waving goodbye to my chances of a US government-funded career, I suddenly realized that this holds new opportunity. Bye, Mom & Dad, I’m visiting every country we’re from. And, given the whole ‘broadly’ terminology, this could be one long trip.

Because Fernweh wants to completely bore you to death, we’ll soon be featuring the oh-so-exciting “More Websites you can Upload your DNA Thingamajig to for More Detailed Information” (working title, obviously). And hopefully, Food will get off her butt and post something soon (hintnudgewink). Until next time, XoXx Fernweh & Food

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