It’s become a cliché: old people are supposed to make bucket lists (everyone knows what bucket lists are, so I won’t bother to explain). I’m old; I didn’t want to be the odd one out; so I made a bucket list. Having lived the life of a musician, artist and writer, and having been married to a woman I worshiped, I don’t have a long bucket list. Because whatever it is, I’ve most likely done it, and loved it. (Although I never learned how to drive! — Strange.)
One of the main things I wanted to do while I’m still here was to have my DNA analyzed. I was determined to confirm, if possible, two family stories regarding my ancestry. I spent years wondering if the two very interesting, intriguing stories could be true. It got to the point where I simply had to know. So I waited patiently, for maybe a year, for Ancestry DNA to offer a special deal. They finally did, over the Black Friday weekend. And for only $69, I was able to get my DNA analyzed. That’s pretty darn cheap! — I just received my results, and I am totally underwhelmed/disappointed! (I guess that means I’m disappointed in myself; but I shouldn’t be. It’s not like I had any say in the matter!)
I am like the most lily-white guy on Earth! This is so contrary to the two family stories my parents told me (which follow).
Dad’s family story: we are part Native American. — Dad went to his grave (OK, urn) thinking he was at least 1/8 Native American. I remember him once showing me a photo of his grandmother. He said she was 1/2 Colville Indian. (The Colville Reservation lies north of Spokane, WA.) Dad told me that, all his life, he’d felt drawn to Native American culture. He said that when they were both old men, his Uncle Harry gave him that photo, and called the woman it portrayed his “Colville ancestor”. Inspired by that story, I took it upon myself to conduct more research. I was really happy to learn that there are quite a few members of the Cherokee tribe in Oklahoma, who share our Bowles name. So I told Dad that we might have an additional Native American connection. (There was a famous Cherokee chief named Chief Bowles. I’ve spent a lot of time fantasizing about being his descendant. In fact, I met an older gentleman at a Seattle pow-wow a couple of years ago who told me he has a Grandma Bowles in Oklahoma. We shook hands, and said, “Howdy, Cousin!”)
I’ve even blogged about my awesome “Native American blood” in a story I called, “Our Very Own Pow-Wow Highway Adventure!”, which you can find in my archives.
Mom’s family story: we have African blood. Mom and I were watching an episode of the amazing “Roots” TV series, around 1976, when she started to cry. She blurted out, “We probably have African blood. Since the Randolph’s were notorious slavers (Mom’s maiden name is Randolph; it is my middle name), there’s a very good chance that, well, something happened, and yes, it may have been a very bad thing. But we probably have African blood.” Well, I cried too. And I’ve spent a good forty years pondering upon the possibility. I’ve tried to shed the best light possible on the story – that of two people falling in love. As opposed to other unthinkable scenarios….
I’ve been collecting Native American and African art for years. I’ve gone to more than a dozen pow-wows. I go to the African/African-American celebration called Festival Sundiata every year, at Seattle Center, our great gathering place located near my senior citizen’s apartment. – I don’t do these things because of the family stories; I just happen to be very multi-culturally oriented.
Well, thanks to Ancestry DNA, I’ve learned that both stories were fairy tales! I’m English (British Isles) and Irish, and some Western European. I do have 1% Caucasus blood in me, but that’s as non-Western European as I get. And the West European part may include a tiny bit of Mediterranean/Spanish. But basically, I found out I’m way, way more “white” than I ever thought.
Well, at least I know now. (I was really hoping to learn what percentage my Scottish DNA was; but that is a component of the British Isles DNA results. There’s no separate listing for Scotland.)
I guess I’m sharing my story in order to encourage you to spend a little money and get your DNA analyzed (with whatever company you choose – this isn’t an endorsement for a particular company). And then, be prepared to be underwhelmed, and perhaps quite disappointed, as I was. I really hoped the family stories are true.
I feel rather naïve. But, if I can’t believe my dad, who can I believe? — Well, in my family, everyone believed everyone. And no one knew the truth, until I got my DNA analyzed.
Regardless of what I’ve found out, I’m not going to stop living my multi-culturally oriented life. While my ancestors pretty much came from those islands off the European continent, I know we’re all brothers and sisters under the skin. And I’m going to continue to steep myself in the world’s cultures, including my own English and Celtic cultures.