Turns out I’m not Dutch after all

Here’s the latest on the search for my identity: I’m British! No kidding. Take a look.

To bring you up to speed, I bought one of those DNA testing kits, spit in a glass tube, and sent the package off for testing. I declined the medical results, as I mentioned in a previous post, and I also decided that I didn’t need to know about “surprise relatives,” thinking that the ones I know are surprising enough.

But the results were – how should I put this? – still surprising.

Remember all the comments I’ve made over the years about my Dutch roots? Remember the photo of my (very large) wooden shoes? Remember the unusual spelling of my last name?

Turns out I was wrong about all of that. I am British – and not just a little bit. I am a lot British. Overwhelmingly, disgustingly British. I don’t have the accent – yet – but my DNA doesn’t lie.

The explanation is actually more complicated than that, which seems to be the nature of explanations. I’ve been doing some genealogical research while waiting for my spit to be analyzed, and I’ve traced my ancestors back five generations – to the late 1700s. So far, all of those fine people came from the Netherlands before they began to migrate to the U.S. In fact, almost all of them came from the southern part of Holland.

To be precise about it, the small southern province of Zeeland shows up in just about all of the birth, baptism, marriage, and death records I’ve examined.

But going back still further – Ancestry.com likes to mention the figure 12,000 years – my people apparently came from Great Britain.

So, there you go. Mystery solved. I know who I am at last.

Or, more accurately, I have come to see that ethnicity just may be a social construct. It’s something we invent or devise to understand ourselves and the world around us better. Much of what we claim about ourselves is actually a fiction – probably a necessary fiction – that allows us to move more easily through life. What does it really mean to be Dutch anyway? (The Dutch people I met while living in Europe were always somewhat amused to hear me claim to be Dutch, especially when I confessed that no one in my family has spoken Dutch for a couple of generations.)

I’ve got more to say about this, so stay tuned … if you’re interested. And don’t worry – I won’t be working on an Oxford accent any time soon. Since moving to Michigan, I’ve been cultivating the social construct that what I really am is Midwestern – with the nasally accent that goes with it.

About Doug

I have been a writer ever since fifth grade when I won second prize in a “prose and poetry” contest. I am also a Presbyterian pastor, and for several years toward the end of my career I lived and worked in Zürich, Switzerland. I am now retired and live just north of Holland, Michigan, along the lake.

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One Response to Turns out I’m not Dutch after all

  1. Catrina Hamilton May 10, 2018 at 12:06 pm #

    For some reason, you seem very Dutch to me. I have some other Dutch friends and I’m sure you’d fit in well. However, maybe they’re British also. I’ll have to check into this more…I’ll get back to you. ?

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