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At 25 years old, I know there’s a lot of learning ahead of me, but I have a pretty fair idea of my strengths and what I stand for.

Yet I want to take it further, to understand my genetic makeup and to know where I came from. So I spit into a test tube and send it to ancestry.com to decode the DNA in my saliva. I also provide the names of as many family members as I can so the US-based genealogy company can build the basis of my family tree.

Waiting eagerly for my results, I reflect on parts of my background that I do know. My mum was born and raised in Ngaruawahia, a small town in the Waikato, so I’ve always assumed I have at least some Maori blood in my veins, especially as she greets everyone with a welcoming “kia ora” followed by a kiss on the cheek.

My father’s parents immigrated to Dunedin from Austria in the 1950s before having their two children, so I’ve known half of me was from that side of the globe.

But I’m astonished at what my results show.

Signing into the ancestry website I click the ‘DNA’ tab and my heart skips a beat: 51% Scandinavian, 25% Irish, 7% Italian/Greek, 3% Jewish and 3% Iberian Peninsula form the basis of me. Who knew a girl from Hamilton could be so diverse?

Clicking on each country brings up a raft of information about its history and genetic diversity. My imagination runs wild as I picture my ancestors and what life was like for them hundreds of years ago.  

I click on ‘Tischler DNA’ under the ‘trees’ tab. Ancestry.com has put together a list of family members and clicking on each name brings up a timeline of that person’s life.

Where they were born, when they married, their children, where they worked and when they died are all listed. It makes for incredible reading. I discover my great-great-grandfather on my mother’s side, Alfred Avery, was born in New Zealand in 1870. Despite my strong Scandinavian heritage from my father’s side, I feel proud to also come from a family with very strong New Zealand ties.

Now I can begin to find possible living relatives based on my DNA and family tree. My curser hovers over the ‘DNA matches’ button... It’s surreal knowing there are people out there in far-flung corners of the world who share my bloodline.

There are 19 matches of possible fourth cousins or closer. Clicking on each profile tells me more about their family history and also gives me a confidence rating of very high, high or moderate as to the strength of connection.

New matches are indicated so I can keep up to date with possible relations; as more people register, more connections are possible.

To reach out, I can click the green ‘send message’ button on each profile. It’s a fascinating tool to start the journey of understanding who I really am and where I came from. I can’t wait to dig deeper. 

Reported by Monica Tischler for our AA Directions Summer 2017 issue

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