Yooper genes…I could have told you that

July 2018 Posted in Community

carl-sampsonWho am I? Now there’s a question for the ages. You’d think that after all of these years, the answer would be obvious. A look in the mirror would reveal all there is to know.

That’s why an email I received recently made me think. It was from one of those DNA screening outfits, the kind that tells people like me what their genetic heritage is.

They do it from a sample of spit. The kit was a gift, so I figured I’d find out if I was related to some exotic nationality. Maybe my great-great grandparents were from Africa, China or Mongolia. Alas, I’m not special. I’m just me.

The email said I was 48.1 percent Finnish, 24.7 percent British and Irish, 7.2 percent Swedish, 3.2 percent French and German, 15.5 percent “broadly northwestern European,” 0.1 percent “broadly southern European” and 1.1 percent “broadly northern European.”

In canine terms, I’m a mutt, a Heinz 57, a shake-and-bake, the genetic equivalent of a smorgasbord.

Which is fine by me. I knew my mom’s parents came from Finland in the early 1900s and lived in the metropolis of Felch Mountain, Mich., on the Upper Peninsula. In other words, I’m half Yooper. Anyone from the Midwest knows what that means. A Yooper is the human equivalent of a punchline in nearly every joke you hear in Wisconsin, where I went to school for a year.

My dad’s side of the family goes back to England, but the trail ends on the East Coast. A gentleman who assured me that he knew all about such things told me once there was a guy named Samson on the Mayflower. The family name has alternately been spelled with or without a “P” over the years. That was before spell-check.

If he was right, my ancestor was probably the Mayflower’s janitor. He certainly wasn’t the captain, since my family is best known for getting seasick.

So what does that all mean? In essence, I guess all it means is everyone has to come from somewhere. If my mom’s family hadn’t come from Finland, they would have come from somewhere else. Timbuktu, perhaps.

Or maybe they wouldn’t have come from anywhere and were Native Americans. Did they have janitors?

I guess I’m just not impressed by this whole “find your roots” deal. I suppose it’s interesting for some folks who want to track down long-lost relatives, but I’m not like that. About all I got out of this exercise in DNA detective work is that my mother was right when she told me her parents were from Finland. They died before I was born, so I just had to take her word for it.

I find that in nearly all instances, labels just confuse people. I don’t really care for labels. The only label my wife uses is that she’s an Estrogen American.

When someone asks what my heritage is, I suppose I could say I’m a Finnish-English-Irish-Swedish-French-German-European-American. Or, better yet, I could say I’m just a plain old American. No other labels need apply.

Carl Sampson is a freelance editor and writer.
He lives in Stayton.

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