The human race has been migrating, it is thought, since around 3000bc. Sometimes these migrations have been small and over long periods and at other times there have been great influxes over a much shorter time often either through invasions or slavery. In the main, our ideas concerning the migration of our species are greatly underestimated. In her book The Next Great Migration, Sonia Shah writes that “We weren’t migrants once in the distant past and then again in the most recent era,” but rather that “We’ve been migrants all along.”
When you take this into account it seems likely that all of us will have family across the globe. Some of us are aware of where our ancestors came from or think we are anyway, but there is always the possibility, indeed the likelihood, of some surprises.
One study conducted by the Pew Research Center found that of people that had taken an ancestral DNA test 38% had unexpected results regarding the countries and indeed continents they had family links to. This is less surprising in the context of one UK news report. Based on data from AncestryDNA, it assures us that people in the UK each have over 16, 000 relatives on average and that only a fraction, around 1200 of them, will also live in the UK.
Until fairly recently it would be very difficult to find relatives around the globe and involve a lot of paper trails and potentially challenging research. However, ancestral DNA testing has opened the way for anyone wishing to trace their ancestry. This is even easier as it becomes more affordable and, as it becomes more affordable, more people around the world are doing it. Therefore, more people are being added to the databases. This then makes it easier for people to find their relatives. The DNA research companies also use the publicly available research samples such as the 1000 Genomes Project among others which can help to balance out the fact that there are more people on the databases owned by the DNA testing companies from the USA, Australasia, and the UK than, for example, sub-Saharan Africa.
There are various companies out there that you can take a DNA test with, though if you are looking to find relatives worldwide you are probably better off sticking to the biggest names in DNA testing. This is because they usually will have split the world into more geographical locations, but also, and perhaps more importantly, means that their databases are larger. So there are more people in the pool of people you may be related to. To help you to decide which DNA testing company will be best for you it is advisable to do a bit of research on each.
Why Is It Important?
In modern times so many of us have lost connections with our families. We spend more time watching TV, or on social media, ironically usually watching rather than actually socially connecting. Families are becoming more disjointed and those that aren’t, still talk less. This means that we are not connecting as much with our past, with the stories of our family histories. Many of us don’t even look at photos anymore and don’t share them with our children, instead they are just stored away on our devices. We take more pictures but look at them less. Not only does this mean that we are missing out on a valuable bonding experience with our family members but research shows that learning and understanding about our roots, our family histories, where we come from provides us with emotional resilience and better coping mechanisms. Also, perhaps understanding that we have relatives around the world, people who are not so very different from us, can help us all as a species to get along better, rid us of our prejudices, and find the route to worldwide peace and harmony.