Friday, March 15, 2024

When the folks at 23andMe give you permission to be more Irish than you thought

For many years, St. Patrick's Day never seemed especially relevant to me. I know it's the day when we're all supposed to be Irish, but biologically speaking, I figured I was English, Scottish, German, and not much else.

Wearing green and walking around with a shillelagh in one hand and a Guinness in the other seemed a tad inauthentic.

Then, a couple of years ago, at my request, Terry got me a 23andMe genetic testing kit for Christmas. I sent off a dollop of spit to their labs and eagerly opened my ancestry report weeks later when it arrived via email.

I am no geneticist, so I can't speak to the accuracy of these mass-market, saliva-based tests. I hear and read good things, but the results are sometimes so precise as to evoke a level of skepticism.

I choose to believe the 23andMe test is reliable, though, if only because I like what the results had to say.

Yes, I am mostly English. And yes, there's indubitably some German blood in me, thanks to my maternal grandmother, one Ms. Bertha Spitznogel.

I was surprised to have Swiss and French roots, as well.

What really caught my eye, though, is that I'm 47.9% "British & Irish." When you break that down further by region, I'm classified as a "Highly Likely Match" for both "Galway and Central Ireland" and "Central and Southern Ireland," not to mention being a "Likely Match" for "Central and Northern Ireland" and "Northern Ireland and Central Scottish Lowlands."

Well, top of the mornin', kiss the Blarney Stone, and keep your hands off me Lucky Charms! Who knew?

Of course, I don't know exactly how much of my ancestry is Irish, but it's apparently more than the <0.1% I originally assumed. And that whole thing about me being of Scottish origin? Maybe not so much.

With St. Patrick's Day now just 48 hours away, I feel much more justified laying some small claim to the holiday. Maybe I'll sip a green beer on Sunday and listen to Irish pipe bands.

The English side of me will hate it, of course, but I can shut down that part of my brain for one day, at least.

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