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From the Publisher’s Desk – Can’t we just all wear name tags?

By Keith Whitson

“I’m sorry, but tell me your name again.” I do it to myself every time I meet someone new. Someone can tell me their name and five minutes later I am trying to recall what they said.

Yet, I rarely forget a face. Many times I have recognized the face of someone I don’t know but realize I have seen them before somewhere. I think I think my brain is very observant of details but is lacking on a proper filing and storage system.

Names of people I know just leave me for no reason. It is then that I have to do the alphabet technique. You know, “A for Angie, B for Betty, C for Christine, D for Debbie, E for Edith……” I start to panic when I get toward the end of the alphabet and still have no name for the face. It is, however,  one of the best feelings when it works and the name comes to mind. It is like  the pressure valve releases and a great peace overcomes me.

This is the same reason I have trouble with connecting to a family tree. Many times for those who died before I was born, there are no photos, no stories and no descriptions of their work or interests.

It’s like reading the ingredients to a box of cereal, I can barely pronounce the words and have no clue what they are. Yet, put it all together and you have cereal which tastes good. Somewhere in my family line Snap, Crackle and Pop came together and eventually all the mixing led to me, a bowl of Fruit Loops.

As if I wasn’t having enough trouble with names and people and branches to my family tree, now I am getting emails to alert me of more relatives. Who knew that Marilyn was my first cousin, twice removed? It turns out the same relationship is found with Phillip, Bart, James, Patsy Lee, Donald, Mildred, Ivan, Jennifer from Canada, and many more whom I daily become aware of. All of these have different last names and none of them Whitson.

There is also Kristi from Texas who sent me her telephone number and would like to know more about me. People are coming out of the woodwork and it turns out somewhere our cereal boxes must have tipped over and mixed the contents.

I am talking about my DNA and, no, it wasn’t discovered at a crime scene. I sent off for a kit that would help me find my early ancestry. I know most of my immediate ancestors, and get confused on linkage to most of my deceased ancestors, but I wanted to go back even farther than that. Where did my earliest roots come from?

I got my kit in the mail, complete with instructions, vials and swabs. I figured it was best to get the samples first thing in the morning. I was to wash my hands thoroughly, open one swab and work it around inside my mouth on the left cheek for an alloted time. Then I dropped it in the first vial and tightly closed it. I repeated the procedure for the right cheek. When finished, I sent the samples off for testing.

I was notified when they received them. Technicians inspected my sample to make sure it was intact.

The DNA was extracted from my cells in the vial and amplified. In other words, they made copies of my DNA in order to make sure they have enough of it to analyze. My amount was sufficient to proceed.

My DNA was placed on a custom-made DNA genotyping chip and heated to a high temperature so the DNA could attach itself to the chip (hybridization).

A computer read the hybridized chips, producing the DNA data.

The DNA data went through a rigorous review to ensure it met the quality standards.

The company I used boasts 88 million users, 2.6 billion profiles, 7 billion historical records and 35 million family trees. Comparing my DNA to such a large data base has linked me to the world. My DNA has also shown me where my original ancestry came from. How they spread and mixed and matched and eventually resulted in Keith, here in East Tennessee, is a mystery to me.

It turns out I have three main influences. The least being Northern and Western European at 3.6 percent. I am 5.4 percent Finnish background, and 91 percent British and Irish.

Relatives are reaching out daily. I hope they don’t expect me to remember their names.