Tag Archives: DNA

Should Someone Ask You

Should someone ask you, “Who are you? Who are your parents, your grandparents, your great-grandparents?” Would you answer, “What’s in a name anyway? Is your name important to you? Did you ever struggle with your identity or search for your ancestors?”

Alesia at home in the photo taken 2021

Let me answer that your name makes you special, different from anyone else. It is our most important, unique identity which separate us from the crowd. The ancient of books declares every creature has an identity, even mankind. Where in our family tree could we be found generations yet to be, were it not for a name?

How unique we are, to pass on with not only our name, but parts of our personalities, idiosyncrasies and alas heritage. So shall we not expand our imaginations as we unfold our majestic closet of skeletons, or rather a colorful fantasy of generations.

We are all called to do something special in our lives and with our lives, something that no one else can do in quite the same way. People research their family trees for many reasons. Some are just curious, others have a deep interest in history; many trace there genealogy as a leisure hobby; but this research has expanded beyond fairytales of whom many were told a cover up story.

Should someone ask you who you are now after a DNA test, what would you say if you found out you are not who you were told for over a half century? As a huge history buff, looking back at Napoleonic times, we know he divided and conquered. Much upheaval occurred in those historical days and if he needed to make a kingdom, change names, and create order as he saw it, that is exactly what he would do. One such example he had power in his time was the Knightly Order. This potential to change peoples’ titles or names was something you would think only the kings of yesteryear could do, but in fact it is something that has been done since the beginning of time.

Who I am was chosen for me. It brought good along with rewards and regret of which I can not change. As it were, my vivid imagination allows me to peek in the window of the past to see what it may reveal of family I never knew. In today’s terms, ghost kingdom comes to mind thanks to the top series This Is Us.

So please indulge me as I describe my kingdom for a moment to you:

I dreamt I saw a huge gate where my unknown family was waiting for me. The only problem was the gate was on a high rocky plain that I would need to scale. So there I went climbing up with every ounce of strength I can muster. Getting to the gate and peering through grand window, I saw through. The spaces in front of me were of vast gardens waiting to be explored. I could also see multiple zig zags of trails to a majestic landscape where flowers were blooming as far as my eyes could see.

Stop. Reality Check.

I sat down before I really looked through the gate. I was not sure what the view was going to be. I realized I had a magical spell of my own doing placed on me and my imagination could take me anywhere.

Should someone ask you if you will go through that door, what would your answer be? Where do you find your satisfaction? Is it finding a prince in a kingdom in a beautiful garden or a man in prison looking downward in despair?

So many questions. Some answered . Some with no answer. If you do not mind me giving you a little advise before entering your Ghost Kingdom, think about changing your eye glass prescription. The view may look so much clearer, although that is if you have a good eye doctor.

To learn more about Alesia’s work in the field of knowing your genetic identity, mental health, and education please go to www.righttoknow.us and feel free to write her there if you need a referral or assistance in your own search for truth.

www.righttoknow..us

Introducing Kara Deyerin

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This photo was taken at a recent event that International Speaker Catherine St. Clair (L) spoke at that Kara and I hosted in Seattle.  Bruce Scott was presenting us with bird houses he made for each of us as a thank you.  Kara is to my far right

Hello Folks,

I want to introduce you all to my friend Kara who has become an unexpectedly wonderful friend as we journey together on our separate yet in many ways same path.  Give her a big hello and let her know you have read from her by commenting below.  Happy Friday all!! I have provided a link to her blog below, but as many of you know WordPress links do not always work or is that me messing up? haha Enjoy friends!

WHY MY DNA SURPRISE ROCKED MY IDENTITY/UNEXPECTEDLY JEWISH

BY KARA DEYERIN

Somehow you ended up taking an over-the-counter DNA test. Perhaps the commercial of lederhosen versus a kilt sucked you in. Or maybe you received the test as a gift for your birthday, Mother’s Day, or Christmas. Whatever brought you to the moment where you found yourself spitting into a little tube isn’t important. The only thing that matters is your little vial turned out to be Pandora’s box. And now that it’s open, you can’t go back.

When I took my DNA test I expected to find where in Africa my father’s ancestors hailed from. I was ready to visit Africa wearing a colorful Dashiki, I just needed to know which countries to visit. Being descended from slaves means my ancestry is lost to decades of oppression and rape. I wanted to know my exact heritage for myself and my three sons. I wanted to show my pride in my African heritage.

The moment my DNA results arrived, I knew there was a problem. My pie chart showed I was indeed 50% something, but it was an African ethnicity. I was 50% Ashkenazi Jew with zero African DNA—yes, 0% (Even my husband has a tiny bit). My foundation was rocked. First, because the ethnicity I was raised to believe was me was a lie and second because this meant the man on my birth certificate with not my father. I am an NPE, “Not Parent Expected.”

After I pulled myself from the abyss of my NPE discovery and could share my new reality with people, “I am not half black—I am Jewish and the man on my birth certificate is wrong,” a common response sent me running back towards the blackness. “It changes nothing, you are the same you.” They’re right it changes nothing and yet it changes EVERYTHING.

I’ve spent the past year and half thinking about identity. Why did my DNA results make me not want to look in the mirror? Why was my reflection now that of a stranger? Why am I experiencing an identity crisis? Apart from my name, which by the way isn’t what it should’ve been too, what makes me—me? Or you—you?

The man who coined the phrase identity crisis was Erik Erikson who interestingly suffered from his own crisis not too dissimilar to my own. He was raised Jewish but looked Scandinavian and didn’t know his biological father. As an adult, he changed his name and held himself out to be Scandinavian burying his Jewish past. Even though he coined the phrase and spent years studying the issue, I don’t think he ever really resolved his identity crisis.

According to Merriam-Webster, an identity crisis is “a personal psychosocial conflict especially in adolescence that involves confusion about one’s social role and often a sense of loss of continuity to one’s personality.” It’s the last part of the definition that resonates with me. Why did my DNA results and NPE status lead me to lose my stability in knowing who I was?

I brainstormed what I believe shapes our identity into three categories: Genetics, Culture, and Environment. Each of these categories has certain contributions that shape who we are.

Genetics Culture Environment
Race Family Interests
Gender Ethnicity Occupation
Physical Attributes Religion Events
Talents Nationality Friends

In looking at this list, the Genetics category really only had one thing that changed, my race. My talents didn’t change nor did my gender or physical attributes. But I think there’s something more going on than just an actual change. While there was only one literal change, the lens in which I viewed myself is now different. This perception is just as important as any actual changes.

Before when I looked in the mirror, I knew who I was looking at. I was the daughter of Kenneth Vassar and Joey Michaels. Now that half of that equation was removed, I didn’t know who I was seeing. I no longer could make the comparisons we’ve all made growing up. You know, when you look in the mirror to see if you’ve inherited your nose from dad or your eyes from your grandma.

I remember looking at pictures of Kenny and my mom and thinking, well maybe it’s possible. Now that I knew it wasn’t, I wanted to know who I looked like. I was desperate to know. I hated looking in the mirror and not knowing who I was looking at. So while my physical attributes hadn’t changed, the comparisons I’d been making my entire life were no longer valid. When considering perception, I can say my physical attributes and race are now different than I thought they were. This means half of my Genetic category changed.

I believe Culture has a strong influence on who we are. Our identity is developed by the stories and family traditions we’re immersed in growing up. Many of the stories I’d heard growing up didn’t apply to me, but I embraced them as mine because it was my family’s lore and traditions. Now the only connection I have to this part of me is my past; hearing the stories of people. I wonder if this is what it’s like for the kid who spent all of his childhood at his friend’s house? Do the traditions of a family a latchkey child spends his time with become his?  I think the answer is “partially.” The Culturecan be yours, but because you know your Genetics isn’t part of those traditions, you feel a little like they’re borrowed. You learn from the stories, but they are not yours.

My nationality is the same, I‘m still an American, but my ethnicity has changed. I’m no longer half black but Jewish. While I’ve come to understand what being Jewish means is complicated, I do know my desire to learn about my heritage is just as strong as it was before my DNA results. Heck, it’s that desire that brought me into this mess. And one can’t help but think about Israel if one is Jewish. Not that I’m thinking about changing my nationality, but I do believe a trip to Israel is now very high on my bucket list.

Many of you know religion is a tricky thing for me if you’ve been following my blog. I was not raised in a religious environment. I believe organized religion has done more harm than good in this world. So, the fact that Reform Judaism resonates with me is as shocking to me as my DNA results. I am trying to explore the warmth and sense of community Judaism brings me. This is a big change for me.

I do not believe family is solely those you are genetically related to, but there is something about that blood connection that means something. You know, the deadbeat relative you give a second chance to you wouldn’t give to a random guy on the street or perhaps not even to a friend. Growing up it was just mom and me and thankfully our relationship is as strong as it was before my DNA results. The connection with my husband and children hasn’t changed and I am grateful for that. In college, I dated a man whose mother couldn’t accept me because I was half black (she wanted her son to marry someone Jewish—hahaha). What if my husband was anti-Semitic and couldn’t deal with me discovering I am now half Jewish? Kenny’s and my relationship is complicated; it was complicated before my NPE. But he encouraged me to seek the truth about my heritage and family before anyone else did. Upon reflection, I am thankful my immediate family ties are the same.

While my inner family ties haven’t changed, half of my extended family is different. It is heart-breaking most of my biological paternal family has passed and no one living is willing to share my family lore or traditions with me. Much of the cultural influence affecting my identity is in flux— no wonder the category of Culture feels like it’s spinning in shaky territory.

At first glance, my Environment appears to be the most stable for my identity. I’ve made plenty of new friends along this journey, but I’ve kept all of my old friends too.  But this news has caused my interests to change. I now have many Jewish cookbooks and my family is trying foods like Kugel and Shakshuka. We are questioning whether or not to practice Christmas how we used to. And, I have the shocking event of the results of my DNA test, which certainly altered the trajectory of my life. I imagine the reverberations of this news are still yet to be experienced. Perhaps my Environment is more fluid than I thought.

After looking at this I can see why I’m having an identity crisis. By learning about my new family, exploring my Jewish roots, embracing Reform Judaism, maybe evening visiting Israel instead of Africa as I’d planned I can rebuild my identity—it will just take time; lots of time. I doubt I will resolve my identity crisis, but I hope someday I can be comfortable in my new skin. Hopefully, Erik Erikson eventually felt the identity he created fit him well too.

If you meet a fellow NPE, be kind to them, there’s a lot going on. Please don’t tell them it doesn’t change anything because it does. Tell them you love them no matter what and you’ll be there to hold their hand when they need. Their NPE news changed their life path forever and they’ll need a shoulder to lean on.

If you discover you have a new relative in your family, I hope you take a moment to at least answer their questions about medical and family history. I knew their news is shocking and likely causing you to see your family in a new light. You too need time to reevaluate things. Please remember, your new relative is dealing with Pandora’s box and trying to find a way to rebuild their identity. All they want to know is who they are. You would want nothing less in their shoes.

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Why My DNA Surprise Rocked My Identity

 

My Wellbeing

fullsizeoutput_514f  I just came home from my doctor appointment at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.  I have been in remission for quite some time from cancer, however, I am followed up for tumors in my right breast.  So far they are benign. My wellbeing is dependent upon consistently having checkups.  That story changed after I took a direct to consumer DNA test.  My life became a bit complicated…Maybe you will relate.  Come along for a story friends…..

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The Organized Writer

IMG_8524You ever wonder what the most touching blog posts are written about especially those that always bring back your audience for more? By having a blog and developing a number of readers over the years who have in many instances stayed in touch with me through email, Instagram, or Facebook , I have found that my platform strategy in writing is utilizing my personal life experiences.  For example, I have worked over the years to deliver topics around my son Luke who has autism and the many struggles that have followed us through various experiences.

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Famous Figures in my genealogy lines! Say What!

In my last blog installment, I mentioned I would divulge our famous ancestors.  The time has come for me to “spit” it out.   I must explain for those that may be reading this for the first time,  my husband conducted a research test on his DNA by offering a spit sacrifice to www.23andme.com  .  This organization is on the cutting edge of discovery for research that possibly will lead to new  cures for some of the most debilitating diseases in our lifetime including  Parkinsons and Diabetes.

Now to our famous ancestors.  The study’s results were surprising and remarkable that included  four famous people.  But before I spill the beans, I wanted to give you more information on my husband’s other haplogroup.  In my last installment, I mentioned his maternal haplogroup H13a1a1a.  The paternal (father’s side) haplogroup is R1b1b2a1.  Again for further clarification, a haplogroup is defined in general terms as being that part of the family tree of life one arises from.  I also discovered that my husband’s lines are 100% European. Also it must be noted  the haplogroup R is a widespread branch of  human life origins of the Y chromosome.  Y of course for those non- scientifically minded is the male side.  The R’s of the world seemed to appeared first in Southwest Asia and moved across  Eurasia.  I must admit this does not say much as Eurasia (Europe and Asia combined-how cute a  name by some doctor of geography) holds 73% of the population.  However the R1 group in this catagory can be traced back to farmers 10,000 years ago that shaped Europe.  It also belongs to those subgroups such as the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings. In specific terms, R1b1b2a1 can be found in our current areas of Germany, Netherlands, and parts of the North Sea area close to England.

It is amazing to discover one’s roots as I hope you can see in this information.  It is also important to note how we all rose to prominance one way or another.  There are four folks that rose with my husband’s line to famous stature that may amaze you…..The names given to us are Napoleon, Prince Philip, Luke the Evangelist, and possibly my favorite Susan Sarandon..Now that woman can act!

Stay tuned for my next installment.  Peace to all and may you enjoy alittle of life’s pleasures through my diverse photography from places I have been:

Cascades Mountains WA state

Long Beach, Long Island, NY

Mt. Rushmore

Genealogy: A family affair

My family just came off a lovely vacation to Lake Chelan, Washington. My husband and sons and I enjoyed the mountains, boating, wineries, and each other. In one of the conversations that I had with my husband, I realized I was not the first genealogist in the family. Actually he was. After I have spent the last seven months studying our family lines, he reminded me of when he decided to take the leap to try to understand the story of his past.

Approximately five years ago, my husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. It was during those early months while coming to terms with his diagnosis, he learned through Michael J. Fox ( www.michaeljfox.org) about a company that was offering genetic screening. Michael J. Fox’s Foundation is an organization that is so proactive in research that they find anyway possible to get candidates to participate in aggressive studies so that a cure can be obtained. My husband was able to take advantage of genetic testing with www.23andme.com at a reduced price because of Michael J. Fox.

The company 23andme was founded in 2006 by a couple of brilliant women that thought the study of our DNA was relevant. 23 stands for the number of pairs of chromosomes we all have. The good news is that their database now has over 150,000 folks worldwide that have used this simple test. My husband’s test is now in that bank and it is with great hope that a cure will be found for Parkinsons as well as many other disease processes.

One of the interesting extra features we have found out from being a part of this testing is that www.23andme.com has released additional information on their website for each of their members. These details are specific genealogical/ancestry compositional insights on my husband’s lines. On our vacation my husband shared this information with me. Boy , I was in for quite a treat.

The research he had which by the way was obtained by him giving 2.5 cc’s of his spit in a tube was remarkable! The results mirrored much of my research I had done and I was quite pleased by the findings. In sharing this with you, I hope it encourages you to continue in your own studies of finding yourself. Here are some of the findings and remember this is not all of them. I hope to share other findings on another blog post at some point:

1. The test established that his origins were 100% European and that this traced back several 100’s of years. In my research, we revealed my husband’s lines to be of German, Belguim and Dutch ancestry for the most part.

2. It was also determined that my husband has 515 DNA relatives in the 23andme bank with 69 of those relatives being third cousins! The other 446 are distant cousins. We are now able to make contact with them through the social networking website that has been set up if we choose to do so.

3. The test also revealed that his Neanderthal ancestry was 2.7% which puts my husband in the 68 percentile among Northern European 23andme members. My indepth studies on my husband showed some of his ancestors did not come to America until 1850, 1867 and 1913. We have to remember intercontinental travel was not so prevalent until the immigration years especially in the 1800’s and early 1900’s.

4. The study also revealed the top surnames in the family which included Yoder, Stayrock, Kauffman, Holt, and Hoover. My studies revealed a strong link with Yoders on my husband’s paternal great grandmother’s side.

5. It was also discovered a link with some Jewish origins particularly of the group called Ashkcnzai.

6. The research also indicated the particular Haplogroups he belonged to. Without being too technical, a Haplogroup is basically what major family tree in the whole scheme of humans does my husband come from. One of those groups my husband belonged to is the H13a1a1a group. The H13 part indicated a group of people who typically would stay put in the area they originated from. This H group rose to prominence during the Ice Age some 13,000 years ago!

Wow. Doesn’t this just blow your mind? I hope you enjoyed this installment from Alesiablogs and I hope you will join me again as I explore more of these findings with you. If you have any questions feel free to drop me a line in the comment section. I hope this encourages you to keep discovering who you are. Although much of this is experimental, we know it is through research that new discoveries are found. Next time I will share with you what famous figures we share ancestry with. You might be surprised…See you soon!! Below are a few pictures from our recent vacation and also a glimpse of our family from a wedding photo taken over 20 years ago. Afterall this work is being done because of them and we would not be here if not for them:

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