Spit-balling Your Legacy With DNA Testing

Sending off saliva has become wildly popular as people search for clarity in their legacy. The concept is as odd as it is compelling. For roughly $100 it’s worth a try, isn’t it? Societal struggles fuel the curiosity. Employees are asked to compromise their integrity to achieve business goals. Parents are striving to instill standards in their children. Grandparents are wondering if the latest generation even cares to hear their story. A quick legacy fix is more appealing than ever. 


A Legacy Botched

The Gizmodo headline “How DNA Testing Botched My Family’s Heritage, and Probably Yours, Too” grabbed my attention. The author, Kristen V. Brown, received some confusing DNA test results and decided to run an experiment. She sent her saliva to three more companies. Seemingly, her heritage changed. Kristen’s search for answers reveals a genetic guessing game paid for by consumers like you and me. But how?


Comparative Science

Experts refer to DNA testing as a “comparative science.” DNA samples are compared to others in a company’s database. As companies collect more DNA the results they deliver too will change. Troubling, isn’t it? Kristen relates one friend’s results:

Initially, he said, his Mexican family came up as Arab North African, which was surprising. As 23andMe refined its test and its data set grew, it also refined the results: Now, he was descended from Jewish people from Southern Europe.

In one AncestryDNA commercial a young German man ditches his liederhosen for a kilt after he came up Scottish. Who up his family tree is to blame for destroying all the family kilts? What culture would this man adopt if he’d sent his saliva to a competing company? I laugh until I’m sad. 


Where are the answers?

We learn our legacy from our parents. Our grandparents taught them, and so on. Our legacy breathes through the stories we pass down. Which stories we prioritize is our choice. We are actively editing our legacy every day by the stories we choose to live by. This power is inspirational. 

When a boss asks an employee to sacrifice their integrity but they recall their mother’s voice. A parent tells their child about how their ancestors traveled across an ocean to give them an opportunity for a better life. When a grandparent tells their grandchildren about their own childhood. These everyday occurrences answer the question of who we are. The practice is so ordinary it’s easy to overlook, but it’s these little things that make us whole. 

It’s our responsibility to pass down our story, and through that practice we breathe life into our legacy. It’d be a shame to swap our stories for anything less. 

Read about Kristen’s journey navigating the world of DNA testing here: https://gizmodo.com/how-dna-testing-botched-my-familys-heritage-and-probab-1820932637

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