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Stories in the Genes : DNA in Family History Research

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Title: Stories in the Genes : DNA in Family History Research
Author(s): Lindström, Henna
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences
Degree program: Master 's Programme in Society and Change
Specialisation: Social and Cultural Anthropology
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2022
Has the arrival of widely available genealogical DNA testing changed the way we see kinship? Moreover, what do people mean when they say that they are interested in their roots? To approach these questions, I interviewed Finnish genealogy enthusiasts who had previously had their DNA tested. In this thesis, I describe how genealogists make sense of DNA by crafting what I call ancestral origin stories. Ancestral origin stories are narratives about the origin of the person. They explain the present by telling a story about the past. In Finland, ancestral origin stories are often stories about struggle and overcoming adversity. They focus on the parallels between the lives of one’s ancestors and one’s own life and make comparisons between the past and the present. Ancestral origin stories are also narratives about ancestral trauma. By crafting an origin story that traces the roots of misfortune to the past, one has the possibility of “breaking the cycle”: detecting a destructive pattern in the past so that one does not repeat it unknowingly. Just as importantly, ancestral origin stories celebrate the strength one’s ancestors had in the midst of life’s tragedies and struggles.
Keyword(s): Genealogy Genetic Testing Identity Narratives

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