Genetics, Not Math Wednesday, Feb 27 2019 

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In November, I posted that I submitted to genetic testing (A Fuller Story of Ourselves). At that time, I was most curious about the health aspect of the testing. Fortunately, results indicated that I was not predisposed to any of the ten diseases tested.

Since then, the ancestry portion has intrigued me. 3/8 German, 3/8 Irish, and 2/8 Italian. That’s how I used to describe myself. I based this status on my grandparents: My maternal grandmother was all German, maternal grandfather all Irish, paternal grandmother all Italian, and paternal grandfather half Irish, half German.

But those proportions weren’t correct after checking out my ancestry with 23andMe. I never considered the genetic roll of the dice when each of my parents contributed a random half of their genetics to me. Nor did I speculate beyond a couple of generations. My mother spent decades researching our family ancestry through the 1800s, so I thought that I knew the whole story.

My 23andMe genetic testing went back to the 1600s, so it takes into consideration the generations prior that migrated and blended long before my grandparents. I’m 99.8% European. In addition to German, Irish, and Italian, I also have traces of Greek and Balkan, Scandinavian, Spanish and Portuguese, .2% Ashkenazi Jewish, undesignated broadly Northwestern European, and undesignated broadly Southern European. (Percentages may change and ancestry may become more specific as the 23andMe data base increases.)

Most surprising was my ancestry compared to my sister, Margaret. I’d expected us to be nearly identical because Margaret and I look most alike out of five siblings. In actuality, we’re only 53.6% genetically identical. Although 23andMe stated that they suspected we were sisters, my son and I are nearly the same proportion at 50% identical.

The proportions of ancestry, and even some of the nationalities between Margaret and me, differed. In addition to the ancestry list, 23andMe offered an interesting picture of the genetic areas tested and where we were completely identical, half identical, and not at all identical.

The more family members participate in testing, the more interesting the picture of our past will be revealed. Perhaps I’m more genetically like one of my other four siblings that I resemble the least.

What are your thoughts on genetic testing?

(Check out posts on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books, including We Can’t Know for Sure, How Will Our Story End, Sacrificing for God’s Mission.)


Our Parents’ Children Monday, Sep 24 2012 

You may be a CEO, church leader, or successful entrepreneur but when you and your siblings get together, everyone reverts to six years old, especially if you are back in your parents’ home.

My husband and his brother were senior citizens and still teased and poked each other when we’d visit. They were like two little boys with mischievous smiles. One look and you knew they were up to something.

My siblings and I aren’t much different. We enjoy each other’s company and are close friends. But we also share that unique sibling relationship of cohorts and competitors. We gather for birthdays, holidays, celebrations, and just because. Through the years we’ve supported each other financially, emotionally, and physically. And we are blessed with spouses who delightfully add to the mix.

When my mother was at the end of her life our family stood around Mom’s bed. It was an emotional time as we watched our mother slipping away. We prayed, held Mom’s hand, talked quietly among ourselves, and cried.

At one point my mother appeared to barely be breathing. She motioned for my sister, Patti, to come closer. The rest of us looked at each other. Why did Mom want Patti? What special last words did she have for her and not us? Mom always did like Patti best.

Patti knelt next to our mother. We stood silently, straining to learn that precious message.

And then we all heard it. We heard those memorable last words.

“Cut your hair,” Mom said to Patti. “You look terrible.”

Patti cried. The rest of us laughed. A perfect sibling moment.

(The photo above was taken Christmas, 1967. From left to right: John Michael, Mary Kathleen, Patti Ann, Margaret Ellen, James Joseph)

©Mary K. Doyle

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