My Heritage

The following gibberish was inspired by an IFLScience! article about white supremacists sending their DNA off to be evaluated and finding out, to their horror, that they’re not as lily-white at a genetic level as they thought.

Carole bought us MyHeritage genetic origin testing kits for Christmas. I had never bothered to do so myself since we don’t have children and aren’t going to have children and consequently there’s really no one to pass the results down to. That said, I’ll be interested to see what the results come back with. (And in any event, I can share my data with my sister, who does have kids.)

Now, here’re my reasons for sharing my thoughts on this issue:

As far as I know, I have pretty much 100% White Southern Redneck ancestry. Dad’s people go back to the mid-1700s in the area just north of Charlotte, NC, and Mom’s family have been in the central Florida area (north of Tampa) for a pretty long time as well. All this probably means that I have a lot of your typical Southern USA Scotch-Irish genes and so forth, as well as some German/Swiss genes since that’s where my name original derives from (one Heinrich Furrer came over in 1742), but…

I also have a rare blood trait called thalassemia minor — I have tiny little red blood cells (microcytes) and only 75% of the amount of hemoglobin that you probably do. I’m always anemic as a result and so I can’t give blood under the current Red Cross rules. This trait is predominantly found in people who live in hot, swampy, mosquito-laden parts of the world, like the Mediterranean basin. It’s so common in Cyprus (1 in 6 Cypriots are carriers of the gene) that screening is mandatory to avoid having kids born with the much more serious thalassemia major, which would happen if both parents had the minor trait.

So, long story short, I just about certainly have some ancestry in the Mediterranean basin or in Africa — my particular strain of thalassemia is common there. I might be part black! Or Arab. My father at one point had a theory that we might be part Melungeon, which would certainly be interesting if you like obscure genetic subdivisions. I screwed around on Ancestry.com a couple of years ago but didn’t go back past the 1850s except in the main Heinrich Furrer line, which sure enough came from the area around Zurich, Switzerland as we’d always thought.

Long story short: I’m certainly not as Pure Strain Northwest European White as one might have initially concluded, if one looked only at where my last several generations of ancestors came from.

And …?

And this bothers me not at all.

You go far enough back, we’re all descended from African rift valley homo habilis.

I footnotes