I always knew I was a white guy. It was pretty easy to figure out, especially for a kid growing up in Eufaula, Ala.
But I had no idea how white I was until the last couple of months. No, this is not a political discussion or one on race. This is about sending off your saliva to companies like 23andMe and Ancestry.com and they send you back the results.
Did I tell you I was really white?
According to 23andMe, I am 99.9 percent European. I thought I was 99.9 percent Alabamian. I am a little over 70 percent British and Irish; about 12 percent French and German. For the record, according to 23andMe, I am broadly European.
The report from Ancestry.com was a little different, but no less white.
It stated I was 37 percent Great Britain, 22 percent Scandinavian, 16 percent Western European, 13 percent Ireland, Scotland and Wales and 8 percent Iberian peninsula. I had never heard the Spain and Portugal part but that might explain this dark, curly hair that caused me to get the childhood nickname, “Brillo.”
One thing I liked about Ancestry.com was the information that came with the DNA testing results. It showed that my family had a migratory history in the first half of the 1700s.
My ancestors were among those who settled in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. So, not only am I really white, I am pretty damn Southern, as well.
When you look at the map that comes with the Ancestry.com research, I have Western Europe and the southeastern United States covered.
But that jives with the family tree research that my wife, Cathy, and some of my cousins have done on our family. My paternal grandmother, Thelma Haisten Williams, was a descendent of the Haistens that were among the original settlers in what is now Fayette County, Ga. What is now Brooks, Ga. — a town of 550 people — was once called Haistentown. I guess there were more Brooks than there were Haistens at the end of the day.
My maternal grandfather, Charles Watson Sutton, was a descendant of the founding families of Northport, Ala., on the Black Warrior River next to Tuscaloosa. I had ancestors fight in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. It goes without saying that my folks fought on the Southern side.
Growing up, I had always been told my Sutton side was where the Irish came from. I guess this makes me an immigrant.
If you are thinking about doing this kind of research, I would suggest you do it. All you have to do is spit in a vial, ship off a package and wait for an email. The costs range, but they are usually under $100.
I am glad we did it. It has provided some information that I didn’t know about my heritage. And that’s a good thing.
And you get some really interesting emails. A gentleman in Perth, Australia — I am guessing he’s pretty white, too — emailed recently and said we were a DNA match. He was looking for family tree information to see just how we might be family.
That’s pretty cool.
So, if you are looking for a few extra cousins this Christmas season, I suggest you get a DNA test. It works.