Ancestry Surprises

So, for those who don't know, I'm adopted.

It's never been something that's been a big deal in my family.  Mom and Dad were very upfront about it when I was little, explaining that they loved me so much that they flew to Florida when I was born so they could bring me back to Smithtown to be their child.  It's thanks to this straightforward approach that I'm not pulling a Skippy Handleman, and it's never been any kind of issue.

I've never had any sort of desire to reconnect with my birth parents in any way.  Knowing I was adopted never sent me on any sort of bloodline quest to find out if I was a prince of a small island nation or David Lee Roth's kid or anything like that.  I was curious, but not to the extent that I'd start digging through microfiche and old newspapers.

Years ago, I found documentation pertaining to my adoption rummaging through my parents' stuff when I was bored one day.  That find gave me a few basic facts, including my place of birth, my parents' ages, my ethnicity and my birth mother's name.  This sat with me for years.  Again, I really had no desire to launch a search or to reconnect, especially knowing that my birth mother was 15 at the time and my birth father was 17.  Simply put, my curiosity wasn't enough to overcome any potential negative feelings regarding digging up the past.

Flash forward a couple decades.  I'm now 45.  The lack of any kind of family medical history is starting to become really inconvenient.  Typically, I'm a fan of going to the doctor only when something is drastically wrong, and I went through most of my twenties and the better part of my thirties not going to the doctor unless I needed to go to the emergency room.  Not for checkups, not really for anything.

But now I'm going to the doctor regularly.  Docs have been asking questions for the past several years.  When I fill out a medical history questionnaire when switching PCPs, there are whole sections I can't fill out - questions about cancer, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.  And it's starting to get scary that I don't know the answers to these questions.

In the meantime, doctors have started defaulting me to testing protocols that assume the worst case.  The frequency with which they want me to go get inflated like a balloon to check for colon cancer is both alarming and inconvenient.

What do I tell my kids?  Doctors want to know about their family history of allergies, diseases and whatnot, and my wife can give them visibility into whatever they want to know about her side of the family.  And my side is a big question mark.

My wife got me one of those DNA kits recently.  I sent it in.  The results came back two days ago.

Ethnicity-wise, there aren't any surprises.  My adoption documentation explained that I was English, Welsh and Irish.  And my DNA test says I'm 98% Western European, breaking down like this:

  • 51% Great Britain
  • 29% Europe West
  • 8% Ireland
  • A bunch of other stuff in the low confidence region

So yeah, no big surprises.  The only surprise came when we got to the section about possible relatives.

There's a guy. describes his relationship to me as "Close family - 1st cousins" and lists their confidence as "Extremely high."

There are other potential relatives, but described as 2nd-4th cousins and more distant, with varying levels of confidence.

I reached out to the potential first cousin.  He responded within a couple hours, despite not having logged on in months.  I told him a little bit about myself and what I know from my adoption papers, including my birth mother's name.  I'm awaiting a response.

Again, my primary motivation for doing this is to get some medical background.  If the males in my family tend to die in their 50s from heart attacks, that's something I'd like to know at this point in time, before my doctors have to assume the worst when it comes to genetic predisposition.

It would be nice to know a little about other aspects of family history, but at this time, I'm really not looking to reconnect with some lost family somewhere.  All things said and done, things have turned out well for this product of what was clearly an "oops" between two high schoolers.