Adventure travel isn’t always about jumping off cliffs, carving powder, or paddling whitewater. A deep and abiding adventure can begin with a simple DNA test. Companies providing inexpensive and accurate DNA testing are multiplying rapidly. Make sure you select a reputable organization like the ones below:
- FamilyTree DNA: best for genealogists, YDNA and mtDNA tests
- National Geographic Geno 2.0: best to contribute to advancement of science
- 23andMe: best for genetic health screening, not genealogy
- Ancestry.com: best for cousin matching, autosomal only
I was adopted in 1961 by a loving father who married my mother, me and two sisters. I took my first DNA test in 2009 because I was looking to learn more about my biological father’s family. Little did I know that I would be embarking on an exciting journey that would introduce me to my mother’s deep ancestry as well as my biological father’s family-line.
It turns out that my paternal ancestry traces back to southwest Ireland, County Cork on Sheepshead Peninsula to a renowned bardic school founded and run by genetic relatives in the 16th century. Unfortunately, we were considered rebels in the eyes of the occupying Brits and expelled or killed. Ruins of the old school still exist on a hillside overlooking the Celtic Sea and have been designated an Irish Heritage Site. I also learned that my mother’s people came from a line of nomadic reindeer herders found in northern Finland and northwestern Russia, whom today are called the Saami. As a recognized indigenous people, the Saami have their own parliament, and continue herding practices passed down through the ages by our ancestors.
In 2013, I submitted my DNA results to a Surname Project and was introduced to folks that had my genetic signature and my biological father’s last name. In this way, I was able to meet DNA relatives who shared an interest in exploring our common genetic and genealogical heritage. These relationships have evolved into true friendships as I got closer to finding estranged family members.
Last year I organized a self-guided bicycle tour of southwest Ireland with my son and four “DNA brothers”. We did 250 miles in six days. Day four of the trip included a detour and visit to the ruins of the 16th century bardic school of our ancestors.
View of Dumanus Bay from Bardic School
16th Century Bardic School Ruins
Finding the site and walking the ruins was an experience of a lifetime. Making a physical connection with the accomplishments of my ancestors piqued my interest in learning more about their teaching practices and literary contributions. Our group has committed to in-depth research of this hallowed site and the bards that ran the school.
Turnoff to 16th Century Bardic School
Most importantly, this trip gave me an opportunity to introduce my son to his genetic past, strengthening the connection between father, son and our shared history. We are already hatching a plan to travel to Saami-land above the Arctic Circle next year to meet our maternal relatives and maybe stay in a hotel made out of ice, Brrrrrrrr!