Genetic whispers: When our genes know better than we do

Genetic Genealogy Fun   •   August 25, 2019

By Allison Peacock

If you’re a truly addicted genetic genealogy fan, you may have seen the inspirational and now-so-famous-that-it’s-been-satirized YouTube series, The DNA Journey produced by European-owned travel fare metasearch engine, momondo. If not, taking a few minutes to watch the 2-3 minute videos will make your day.

The series’ mission, as stated on the videos is “To celebrate diversity in our world, we set out to find it in our DNA.”

I can dig that!

One of my favorite videos in the series – and they’re ALL amazing – features a delightful French woman named Aurelie. In the series, the website has enlisted the help of Ancestry DNA Services to offer 67 lucky winners a family heritage vacation to the countries that the DNA test finds in their ethnicity profile. I won’t spoil the details of her story, but after she receives her results she utters something that I’ve experienced first hand many times:

It’s almost like my genes know better than I do.

If you’ve watched any of the popular family history television shows you know what she’s talking about. You know the close up shot I mean – the wistful celebrity looks out over the ocean musing about how he’s always felt the call of the sea just after finding out his great grandfather’s grandfather was a sea captain.

I’m actually not making fun. This has happened to me and I’ve seen it happen to others.

Right before launching this company, I worked in wellness communications and teaching. The name of my practice White Horse Medicine came to me in a meditation as a part of my ancestral healing practice. It fit for various reasons that make sense to those who knew about my horse farm at the time. Yet you can imagine my surprise when in early 2018, I discovered that according to Oxford researchers my 20,000 year old ancestral Pre-Celtic grandmother was from the Camargue region in the south of France, having ventured there from North Africa generations before.

In addition to being famous for its natural sea salt prized around the world, this area is home to an indigenous species of white horse that has lived in the wilds there for thousands of years. In fact, I featured a photo of these very same indigenous white horses on the home page of my website for that business. The photo was chosen more than a year before I made the discovery.

White Camargue horses live in the wilds of the Rhône delta of southern France.

Even before discovering the white horse connection I became aware that my mitochondrial DNA traced to a North African region whose jewelry and textiles I’d been collecting for years. I always felt a little odd being drawn to the trappings of a culture so far removed from my own – slightly poser-ish if I’m honest – but nevertheless I was hopelessly drawn to them without knowing until 20 years later that I had this small historical genetic connection.

This is what I think of as a genetic whisper. I’ll tell you about another one.

The very first “client” for this business was a friend I affectionately call Baby Daddy, as we had two children together and have maintained a friendship for more than 20 years after being divorced. Somehow I think that qualifies him for a better moniker than “my ex.” You can read more about the 20-year journey to find his biological family here.

One of the funniest things that happened during our odyssey has to do with the surname that we chose when we married. It’s the surname that our children carry. We literally made up this last name on the way to get married. He’d told me early in our relationship that he’d been adopted and felt no connection to his childhood surname as all of his adopted family was deceased. So…clean slate, let’s give our children a new beginning, right?

But…Baby Daddy has a great imagination. Whenever he would cross paths with people who knew him before the name change his stock answer when they would ask “why” about his new surname or “where did it come from” was —

“Oh, it’s an old family name.”

Fast forward 15 years and while we sorted out how to find biological family we didn’t know in Mexico, I built out a 400-year family tree for him and our children. You can probably imagine my shrieking into the phone one night when I discovered his fourth great grandmother carried this surname. Not so unusual in a tree with hundreds of names, you say? Remember, this is a name we literally made up due to the way it translated into English.

When all was said and done I found seven people in his family tree that carried this name.

So it really was “an old family name.”

Watch Aurelie’s story below. If you enjoy it, clicking on the title of the series in the first paragraph of this post will take you to the whole playlist! It’s totally worth a watch with your morning coffee.