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The Boomerang Effect

When seekers begin, whether they're searching for their ethnic identity or biological pedigree, they often overlook the boomerang effect. A few of my genetic cousins submitted spit kits years ago to better understand their ancestral origins. African Americans are largely from the Bite of Benin and western shores of the continent, but once we hit the American 1840's it's difficult...(unlikely if not impossible) to make a definitive connection to a specific ancestral homeland. DNA is the only hope for such research, however the number of Ghanaians, Cameroonians, Nigerians, etc. testing their DNA is far below the number of African-Americans seeking that confirmation. When my cousins tested, they were only thinking of their ancestral connections. They were not expecting the boomerang effect - me.

One may test to learn one's ethnicity - the percentage of Irish, English, German, African, Eastern European, Latin.... but when one does this, one should understand that other motives are in play. This can be an unexpected blessing for those who are called. It can be a nightmare for those in darkness. If you submit your sample to understand your ethnic origins, your answer is private and satisfactory, but If someone tracks you down via public records and says, "Hi, Mom!" Well, that's quite different, isn't it? Be open to the blessing that this can be. Indeed, I hope you are able embrace it wholeheartedly with grace and thanksgiving.

Are you someone who believes in kindness, love and selflessness? Are you someone who is the guardian of a legacy or memory? Can you do both simultaneously - can you preserve and respect a legacy while acknowledging and welcoming a contradiction? Imagine finding that a dearly departed loved one had a relationship or child that you never knew. This can change your opinion of your loved one for better or for worse - if you allow it to do so. The salient point is that you have a choice. You can choose how to respond and that choice may have wide-ranging if yet unknowable effects on your future and your soul.

The greatest joy of my genetic journey after the discovery of my own biological parents was finding the father of a cousin to whom my own connection has yet to be determined. Our DNA results show that we are in the range of 4th cousins - we likely share a set of 3rd great grandparents. Now, if you're not up to speed on your 1st, 2nds, 3rds, etc., we each have 2 parents, 4 grand parents, 8 great grandparents, 16 2nd greats, and 32 3rd greats. So, I've narrowed this cousin and myself down to 32 possible common ancestors. Wow, that's pretty impressive for a guy who starts from nothing, right? This cousin and I were born in the '60s which means our parents were born in the teens to thirties, our grands were born around the 1890's and our 3rd greats were born in the 1780's. Clearly, there's a gap for people of African descent, but (gasp) many African-Americans are also the progeny of European-American slave owners.

So, I and this 4th cousin share a slave-owning white relative from the late 18th century in the Deep South. My kin went one way and hers went the other. The descendants of the slave owner who remained in Georgia led to me. His descendants who moved to Alabama led to her. She and I met in January of 2017 and many months of searching followed. Two weeks ago she had given up hope of ever finding her biological father when a new DNA match appeared - a 1st cousin! Within 24 hours we learned that her father was a genuine war hero who was stationed at Subic Bay in the Philippines in the 1950's. Within 48 hours she was corresponding and speaking with her paternal aunts and cousins in California and Alabama. She's a boomerang. I'm a boomerang. We had great lives and loving parents, but this DNA stuff brings closure in a way that's difficult to explain. I'm indescribably humbled to have had even a little to do with finding her truth. I know what it was like when I did not know my own, what it took to find it, and how I feel now. I know that she feels the same and that's as gratifying as my own personal discovery - even more so.

If you're interested in testing to learn about your own heritage, don't put it off any longer. My cousin was thrilled to learn that her father was such a wonderful man and that he sought her out - never having another child, naming her after his own sister - and simultaneously saddened to find him a few years too late. Although he passed a few years ago, she has the love and acceptance of his step daughter and his siblings. Imagine the joy she and her father would have experienced if she had been able to test just a few years sooner. Don't put this stuff off out of fear. Be of courage, be of good spirit, and know that what you do in love and kindness is a boomerang. Go ahead and test your DNA to learn about yourself - but also, be open to helping others you've never met. It's an indescribable blessing.

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