Genealogy: Is knowing your roots important?

I don’t know, is it important to you? I think it’s interesting to know my roots, and I certainly had fun the other day snooping up my relatives on Ancestry.com. Many people share a sense of curiosity about who their ancestors were and where they came from, hence the huge popularity of genealogy and, lately, those DNA swab tests to determine old lineage. There are also plenty of people who don’t really care, happy to just be themselves without thinking much about past relatives.

Until this June BlogHer project of daily postings on the theme of roots, I was happy knowing only that I was Japanese and Dutch. I know of my Japanese aunts and a few cousins, but never have met them. I knew a handful of relatives on my dad’s side, but now know one uncle’s family that I’m not close to. Someday there will be just my sister’s family and mine trying to keep our bonds. My fun is more in participating in the cultures of my heritage and hearing stories of history mixed with culture from my parents. I love history and culture – anybody’s.

Why do we care where we came from, and why would that be important? My cultural heritage is very strong since my mother and my paternal grandparents were immigrants, so I feel a sense of belonging to those cultures, particularly to the Japanese side since I don’t look very Dutch. Someday I may visit the Netherlands and Japan to stand on the grounds of my ancestors and see if I feel at home, but I feel at home right here where I live. I love where I live, and I definitely have an American mindset, which doesn’t go over so well in Japan at least. I’d be “that gaijin.” If I had more mix in my heritage or my immigrant relatives were farther back in time, I probably wouldn’t feel a strong bond with any of my cultures. I’d be “just”  American.

Curiosity. Where does my puzzle piece fit in the world. I guess the importance of roots is more a matter of personality. Are you the curious type? If you’ve stood on the ground of your ancestors, did you feel a sense of home?

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About moonbridgebooks

Co-author of Cherry Blossoms in Twilight, a WWII Japan memoir of her mother's childhood; Co-author/Editor of Battlefield Doc, a medic's memoir of combat duty during the Korean War; life writing enthusiast; loves history and culture (especially Japan), and cats
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10 Responses to Genealogy: Is knowing your roots important?

  1. I really felt connected to my relatives when I stood on the ground of their homeland, maybe because I had never met them or even seen photographs of them. I took one of the DNA tests (had to SPIT in a bottle, not just swab my cheek – gross!), and the results did not match my research so I think they have a ways to go with those tests. I think I am going to buy my brother the same test and see if the results come back the same.

    • Well now that is interesting, Kim. If these tests aren’t very accurate, a lot of people have been misled for $99. I felt connected to imaginary relatives when I set foot in little villages in the UK, but then we’re all related to only a few ancient ancestors anyway :). I’d love to visit your ancestors’ homeland someday.

  2. gpcox says:

    Even if it isn’t important to you, it can be fun.

  3. Cate Russell-Cole says:

    As an adopted person, it is critically important. That DNA test did more for my sense of peace than anything I could have done through therapy, compensation or accepting never knowing. A DNA test that goes back to the scientific Adam and Eve also shows how all mankind is connected and is a great promoter of world peace.

    • I’m glad you’ve commented about this perspective on a couple posts, Cate. In my mind, a child is formed mostly by environment and less from genetics, hence the stories that form adoptive parents are important, too. I wasn’t particularly interested in going back into my family tree, but then I did know my birth parents and something about my grandparents. If I did not, I think I’d be most interested in the story behind why they couldn’t take care of me. From the adopted people I know who found the stories, those are usually sad tales, and they can help but also hurt. Thanks, Cate. And I like how we are all connected.

      • Cate Russell-Cole says:

        I like that too Linda… but coming from a very bad home environment, I have still found that my life is what I make it and I can ignore those influences. The strength to overcome lies within us all.

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