It’s All in the DNA…

As I sit here enjoying a gorgeous, sunny morning, watching a mindless movie and drinking my coffee, I once again see a commercial advertising DNA testing kits.  It’s easy and fast, they say.  They ask you a few questions about yourself and send you out a kit (which you must register) and in turn, you provide them with a sample of your DNA and mail it back to them.  Then, you happily await a copy of your results.  Depending on the company you choose, and there are a plethora of choices, you can learn everything from your ancestry to genetic health risks to long-lost relatives and more.  Of course, the concept is appealing to many who wish to learn more about their history and their future, even.  Perhaps, another part of the allure is borne out of the desire to feel more connected to someone or something, given how disconnected we are in other areas of our lives in this technological age.

I personally know a bit about my grandparents, two of whom passed before I was born, but beyond that, I can honestly say I don’t know much about my family tree or heritage beyond what information my parents have passed along, which is kind of sad in a way.  Would it be interesting to find out more about past generations of both sides of our family, i.e. who they were, where they lived, and how they lived?  I say sure!  I love learning new things, particularly if they will provide me with more insight into who I am and where I came from, so to speak?  And, wouldn’t it be helpful to know about any health concerns that I may be genetically predisposed to that I don’t already know about?  Mais bien sûr!  (French for, ‘but of course!’).  However, there is one major issue that is holding me, and hopefully others, back from going online and ordering up a kit, which is purported to help unlock the key to my past.  Plain and simply, it’s the word ‘mail’.  Mail and DNA samples?!?  Indeed, I cannot get past those two words in the same sentence to even dare to consider partaking in this popular trend of finding out my family’s background or anything else, for that matter.

Now, I don’t know about you, but the idea of sending ANYTHING in the mail, courier service or not, is a tad bit frightening and always has been given where it could end up, IF it even gets there.  Add in sending in something that defines my unique genetic make-up and the mere notion of it makes me a bit squiggly, to be honest.  While paper money and coins are a rarity nowadays in lieu of their ever-popular plastic and digital counterparts, it used to be that one was always cautioned to NEVER send cash through the mail for fear of it ending up in the wrong hands or not even making it past point zero.  Clearly, that reasoning made sense and most of us held fast to that rule; hence, money orders or cheques were used instead.  Yet, here are several different registries ENCOURAGING people to ‘simply mail in’ cotton swabs containing highly sensitive information?  Pardon me for foraying into this topic if you are a fan of these programs and/or have participated in them, but how is this even remotely considered a safe practice and more importantly, why are so many people willingly doing it when not so long ago money wasn’t even advised to go through the postal system?  The idea of it all truly floors me!

Maybe people reading this, including you, might think, “What’s the big deal?”, or “Are you paranoid or something?”, or “It’s perfectly safe–it’s all registered and no names are attached.”, but I will gladly take whatever criticism comes my way as opposed to risking the idea that my MOST personal information on this Earth could somehow become compromised and/or worse yet, available to others for who knows what reasons?!  Stop and think about it for a minute…

It is a well-known fact that in crime situations, there is a data bank of DNA information that can be accessed by police and others to help solve cases.  To quote an article by Fiza Pirani of the Atlanta Journal on May 11, 2018, “The DNA you send in the mail through genetic kits…can be used by police in a criminal investigation, but it doesn’t happen very often.”  (The point is that it does happen.)  A prime example of this is the recent headline wherein three decades later, the capture of the “Golden State Killer” is thanks to none other than an online genealogical site.  Naturally, in instances like this, many folks will agree that this is a fair violation of privacy in that if you place yourself in a situation where you purposefully harm others, due access should be provided and individual rights taken away.  The question to ask is, if authorities can access these otherwise protected and guarded particulars, then who else can?  The government?  Interest groups?  Researchers?  Scientists?  Religious Leaders?  And the list goes on…

While I do acknowledge that many individuals have been helped greatly by discovering their ancestry, diagnosing genetic health conditions, locating loved ones, etc., I am not sure that online venues, home kits and the post office are the way to go.  There MUST be some safer ways to investigate answers required from one’s DNA, keeping in mind that nothing in this life is 100% foolproof.  After all, we are unfortunately living in a time when identity theft is commonplace and online scams are at an all-time high.  Knowing that, I think I will gladly continue to sip my morning coffee and simply say, ‘thanks’.  Thank you to my many, unknown ancestors in various parts of the world for allowing me the privilege of being in this life now.  I am grateful for everything that you did and said and likely sacrificed to help get me here, and because of you, I will do my best to forge ahead and carry both our name and shared DNA in good stead.  What I do know, without a doubt, is that I am one very proud Canadian.  Cheers!

 

14 thoughts on “It’s All in the DNA…

  1. I had an aunt and uncle on both my parents side of the family go back as far as they could for me. Not that curious and for sure, not sending anything this personal through the mail. I’m am so with you on this, Sue.

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    1. Thanks so much for reading! In this case, with such personal information being shared, I think it is important to question these things and not feel ‘pressured’ by others just because it is the ‘in’ thing to do. I feel as though it has become far more commercialized than it has well-intentioned. In my opinion, our society could stand to do with a bit more questioning overall and a little less go with the flow.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We are like-minded! Being a frequent traveller, I’m always asked a whole lot of questions when I check in. I’m quite happy to tell folks, I’m not sharing! They have my credit card, and that’s all the info they need!

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      2. Good for you. We do seem similar, as I, too, love to travel! I was once in Italy and they required my passport information at the hotel. Really? I fought them on this one.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. haha! Check in is the only stress I have in new hotels! One hotel wanted my home address (which I have requested to have suppressed on the electoral roll!) And, yes I was almost combative on this one!

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      4. Unfortunately, there are many people who do not even think twice about handing over personal information. Just because they ask doesn’t mean that they are entitled to receive. We do have a choice. Always!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Ed Butler

    Well said – I share those concerns and question the integrity of results from what has become a highly commercialized industry.

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    1. Yes and yes! I’ve heard that some have gone through a couple of different DNA sites and ended up with some very different results.

      Another trend, it seems. Unfortunately, there is a lot at stake in this one!!

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