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Blake Family Picnic | Our Prairie Nest
How DNA Changed My Family History

With the availability of DNA testing, I’ve seen quite a shift in what I always thought I knew about my family.

It started in 1989. I saw a photo my grandmother had of her family and wanted to learn more about it. I found out that the little girl in the picture was my great-grandmother, Nina Gertrude Blake. Prior to that, I’d already been hooked on genealogy, but had no idea how to go about researching or figuring out who was who. My grandmother then showed me something even more precious – a crumbling leather wallet full of more photos, typed family histories, Civil War documents, and more.

Since then, I’ve been proud to be the keeper of these documents and photographs, and researched my family history almost exhaustively.

But I don’t think I was counting on any of it to change, even when I took my first DNA test in 2006. Or subsequent DNA tests.

It wasn’t until 2018 that I realized DNA testing had changed everything I knew about my family history. The first discovery was of a first cousin I didn’t realize existed. The second was the realization that my grandfather’s father wasn’t who we thought it was.

Judy Russell often reminds us that if we aren’t ready to face such potential news, then we shouldn’t test. And, like Judy, I haven’t met a DNA test I don’t like. I’ve had my DNA tested with Family Tree DNA, Ancestry DNA, and 23andMe. I’ve posted my results to GEDMatch and MyHeritage, and someday I will test with Living DNA to break down my significant British heritage.

For me, DNA is a powerful tool and one of many we can and should utilize in the pursuit of understanding family history. It’s made me rethink how I look at certain people in my family. Not in a negative way, but rather in an attempt to understand them, to put their lives in context. They are no longer here, so I can’t ask why they made the decisions they did. But maybe by studying time and place and circumstances, I can get a little closer to some insight about why they were the way they were.

Full Circle | Our Prairie Nest
Full Circle

As a witch, I believe many things in life come full circle – work, family, and who we are, just to name a few. Seasons change, but they always cycle back around. The same goes for astrological events, such as a planet changing signs, whether it happens over a day, a week, a month, a year… or even 84 years, such as the Uranus transit.

And when things come back around, we usually find ourselves shifting in response. Doing away with that which no longer serves us or making room for the new.

Life doesn’t stay the same from year to year, let alone day to day.

For a long time, certain things have become part of what’s normal for us. This applies to both our wider world and personal matters. Some of the “new normals” aren’t just positive. It’s long past time we had them, like marriage equality and transgender rights (both of which those of us who are part of or allied with the LGBTQ+ community have to continue to fight for). And other things are beyond reprehensible, like the normalizing of gun violence, particularly in our schools.

Another new normal in our lives is, well, an old normal now. And that’s social media. I’ve had a Facebook account for at least ten years, maybe longer. And realized I’m just sick of it. I want it gone entirely or to use it differently, and I’m working on that.

Remember when personal interactions were, well, personal? They didn’t happen in front of the whole world?

I do and I miss those days. So I’m working on bringing my life back full circle, back to where I put what matters most first – my family and friends, and the things I love. Social media has some small part in that, of course, and I’d like to keep it that way – small. Simple. Really, I’d love to go back to the way things were, but that’s unrealistic. Social media is our new normal. It’s how we use it that determines if this is a positive or a negative.

Be Picky

When I moved overseas, I mused that I probably better make friends with everyone I possibly could, since the opportunities to meet people on a small military base were probably few and far between. I’ll never forget what the Airman performing all our in-processing paperwork said to me. She said, “Be picky.” It didn’t matter that opportunities to meet people were limited. It was still perfectly fine to have my own personal standards and, yes, even to decide I didn’t want to be friends with someone; that I didn’t have to force a friendship merely because we happened to be in the same place at the same time.

Over the years, I’ve had various blogs. They’ve talked about the things that are most important to me: my passions, my family, and my spirituality. I’ve also come to realize I’m not fond of forging relationships online. They can be nice, but I want to live in the moment, here and now. So I’ve decided to be picky with my social media, how I interact online, and how I go through life. Whatever the reason is, right now I want to:

  • Share my time with my family
  • Spend time with my friends
  • Do what I love

Oh, I suppose that’s most of us, right? I’m not claiming I want to do anything exciting or ground-breaking. I just want to step away from the constant world of social media, of treating life like a reality show meant to be watched, instead of lived.

So if I’m not aware you’re pregnant, engaged, graduating, moving, or anything else, it’s not because I don’t care. It’s because I want to hear it directly from you over a cup of coffee or in an email, so I can express my sentiments back to you in a manner that is more private than a Facebook “Love” or “Congratulations” on your post. Maybe it’s nostalgic of me or – yes – picky, but I think all of us have the right be picky with regard to how we interact with our family and friends, and live our lives.