My DNA sample kit arrived today and at about the time this post hits the web, I'll be collecting saliva in a plastic tube.
My DNA sample kit arrived today and at about the time this post hits the web, I'll be collecting saliva in a plastic tube.

Who am I and how did I get here?

Who am I and how did I get here? These are questions genealogists seek to answer. As someone who's been working on family history for more than 20 years now, I've decided to take the next step.

I devour Henry Louis Gates' "Finding Your Roots" on PBS in part for the history told through the work-a-day families of well-known individuals. Sure, famous people make the history books, but it's the rest of us – the little people – who are just as important in shaping the world in which we live. That's really what makes genealogy so interesting.

And thanks to the internet – and especially sites like Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org and EllisIsland.org – it's easier than ever to find your ancestors and learn their stories.

But what Gates' show has really gotten me interested in is DNA testing, which often challenges people's notions of their ethnic backgrounds. I know that half my DNA is Italian (Piedmont, Liguria, Friuli, Campania), a quarter is German (Rheinland) and a quarter is English. Or do I?

Well, AncestryDNA is going to help me confirm or deny this understanding of my roots. Will I have Asian genes? A connection to the native peoples of the New World? Sub-Saharan African? Do I have ancestors who were Jewish? I'd typically reply "no" to all of these, but "Finding Your Roots" has made me less certain and more eager to find out.

In a few weeks I'll have my results and will follow up here. Now, pardon me, I have to go spit my DNA into a plastic vial.

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