I’ve been trying to avoid politics but the amateur genealogist in me just can’t let this one slide.
President Trump has recently offered to give Elizabeth Warren a million dollars if she will take a DNA test. He wants to disprove her claim she has some Native American blood.
But here’s the thing, taking the DNA test may prove Ms. Warren has a Native American ancestor, but it won’t prove she doesn’t have one.
You see, we inherit half of our DNA from each parent. One might assume that if someone’s father is half Irish and half Chinese, and his mother is Norwegian, he will then be ¼ Irish, ¼ Chinese and ½ Norwegian. Simple math, right? It’s how our family tree has been explained to us for years. However, DNA does not work that way.
While we inherit half of our DNA from each parent, it is not necessarily an equal ratio of a parent’s total DNA. That person in my example might get just the Irish DNA from his father and so, according to his DNA test, he doesn’t have any Chinese.
I had a DNA test, as did my mother and sister. Not everyone on my mother’s results are listed on mine or on my sister’s. And while my sister and I share the same parents, our DNA results are not identical.
I’ve been researching my family’s history since I was a teenager and my paternal grandmother gave me a copy of the detailed family tree her family had prepared. According to that tree, one of my ancestors was the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, author of the song we sing on New Year’s Eve, “Auld Lang Syne.”
However, I have since discovered that isn’t true. It doesn’t mean my grandmother lied—or that the person preparing the tree lied. It simply means it’s not uncommon for misinformation to be passed down in families when discussing lineage.
Elizabeth Warren might have some Native American ancestors, and maybe she doesn’t. I don’t believe for a moment there is anything devious or calculating in her claim. I see it as a rather typical response to someone embracing what she believes is her family’s story.
But the bottom line, I think this entire non-issue is petty and frankly, our country has real problems we need dealt with.