I’m taking a break from my usual content to share a story with you about my journey to me this year through my ancestry, and the surprising things that I learned about myself along the way.

“So… what are you?”

If I had a dollar for every time someone has asked me that in my life, I’d be rich.
It is a question that many biracial individuals, like myself, hear whenever we encounter someone new, and they can’t place our ethnicity or race into a category. It used to frustrate me and made me feel like I had to define myself to fit in, but it began happening so frequently that I became accustomed to it. That is, until it hit me:

Do I know what I am?

The truth was, that even though I knew I was multiracial, it was never really clear to me as to what extent. So, I made the decision to start my own journey to find out more about myself through a genetics test from 23andMe.
23andMe allows you to compare your DNA to populations worldwide and shares with you where your ancestors likely came from. It gives you an overview of your ancestry and also paints an image of your DNA, compared to others across the world. Fascinating, right?
Here is what I knew before I took the genetics test: My father and his family were Caucasian and of European descent, and I was told that we were German. I also knew that my mother’s family was multiethnic, with ties to Southern European populations, particularly Spain. For me, the information just wasn’t enough. I began investigating my family and the bits of information they had about our past one last time, before I made the decision to commit to taking the test. 
A few family members posed questions: Are you sure that you are open to what you might find? How would you feel if everything you thought you knew about yourself wasn’t the truth? Are you confident that you are going to be okay with the results, whatever they may be? They were valid questions, but knowing the truth meant more to me than being complacent with what I didn’t know, so I committed to taking the test.

After I took the test and anxiously sent it back to the lab, I continued to prepare myself for whatever it might tell me. I reflected over everything I had been told by my family, then considered the many other ethnicities that others have tried to place me as…

Waiting for results was truly the hardest part.

This past weekend, I received the email that I had been waiting for, which read: “Start finding out about you.”

My results were in!

I jumped online, logged in and was incredibly surprised about what I found there.

Although I had already accepted that my ancestry probably wasn’t what my family had been told for generations, I didn’t expect it to tell me that I was apart of four (that’s right, four) new populations:

  • British and Irish (European) 77.5%
  • East Asian and Native American (Asian) 18.1%

I was speechless.

The results showed that I had the highest percentages of these groups in my DNA, and that only one population that I’d identified with before taking the test was confirmed: my Iberian (Spanish) descent at 10.2% of my Southern European ancestry. The test also showed that I had less than 1.5% of German ancestry in my Northern European DNA, and that part of my DNA is still unassigned.

It’s a mystery to me as to how that can be, but you can’t really dispute a DNA analysis, no matter what stories you’ve been told.

After I had finished processing this information and alerted my family about the results, my husband made the astute observation that perhaps that is why I’ve always had the urge to visit both the U.K. (ironically, I’ve never been as I spent most of my time in Europe traveling through France and Germany where my ancestors were “from,” or so I thought at the time) and Eastern Asia.

Now that I have more questions about myself and my family than before, I have committed to researching more of my ancestry, and am also participating in a DNA program that will match me with any relatives, close or distant, who may hold some more information about where we come from.

I’m really looking forward to continuing this research, and am excited about having the opportunity to access, understand and benefit from the human genome.

I will continue to keep anyone interested in the mystery posted about any new clues that I may find!

Posted by:Caitlin Burm

Hi! I’m Caitlin, the creator of Burm Voyage, a blog sharing my family’s lives, moments, and travels across the U.S.

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