Is there a gene for journalists? I wonder.
Lately, like more and more curious people --- and who is more curious, by
definition, about life and the affairs of man, than a journalist --- I
sent away for
one of those DNA kits, swabbed the inside of my cheek and dutifully sent
it off for a report. What I was thinking was, “Where did I come from?” Something
many of us wonder. I meant what people. What place.
DNA tests for a woman can trace only the female line. So, as my grandmother
came from Romania, I was thinking about my mother’s mother and her mother’s
mother, and the long line of great and great-great and great-great-great
grandmothers who came before her, back into murky time. How did they get
to Romania? Who
went into making them who they were? Who I am? In other words, I am thinking
genealogy and geography. Nothing more.
Sure enough, before too long, back comes the answer to the mystery. And,
as they say, everything is illuminated. There in the package is a map which
a clear line of my ancestors and their journey. Out of Africa. Looping thousands
of years ago into what is now the Middle East. Another mutation and another
migration and “my people,” my ancestors circle around the far side
of the Black Sea into Europe, making me what’s called an H, and finally,
and I would say, amazingly, depositing me --- that is my forebearers – in
what is now Romania.
That, as it turns out, is not the end of the story.
The DNA lab offers an option. You can add your name to the list of the others
tested who share with you a common female ancestor. Some woman who may have
lived 500 years ago. Hundreds of names crowd this list. All of them with
roots, as it turns out, someplace in Europe. But along with that list, there
further breakdown. A much smaller list. Lets call them “the people with
whom you most closely share DNA.” Here the common female ancestor is
much closer in time. On this small list, for me, there are two names, both
The first, David M., lives in Texas. We talk. His grandmother came to America
from the Ukraine, just up the road, as the crow flies, from Romania. Then I
ask him what he does for a living. David, it turns out, is a university professor.
Of anthropology. The study of man. We laugh. Knowledge workers. Both of us.
In the genes, I wonder?
The other name on the list is Dmitri K. Dmitri lives in Russia. Clearly, his
grandmother never left, like ours, to cross the ocean. But Romania, Ukraine,
Russia. Somewhere in that territory once lived the mother of us all.
Dmitri’s name also comes with an email. I tried to find him, but so
far have not. Not to worry, though. David M. tells me they had an exchange.
so I learn, in far off Russia, at a time when the Iron Curtain was in place
in the years when the three of us were setting out on our path in life, choosing
to do the work we do, carrying the genes handed down to us by those who made
us what we are, at a time for him of restriction and no free press, what
Dmitri is a journalist.
Eileen Douglas is a
broadcast journalist-turned-independent documentary filmmaker. Former 1010
WINS New York anchor/reporter and correspondent for
ABC TV's "Lifetime
Magazine," she is the author of "Rachel and the Upside Down Heart," and
co-producer of the films "My Grandfather's House" and "Luboml:
My Heart Remembers." She can be reached at http://www.douglas-steinman.com.