When my brother bought me a DNA kit from 23andme last year for Christmas, I was thrilled. 

I had pondered ordering one myself many times, but had just never followed through on the idea. 

After opening the kit and manufacturing the requisite amount of saliva needed to ship off to the lab, I quickly went online to register my kit. It was a pretty simple process, save the 8,000 disclaimers about sending in your DNA. In a nutshell, they wanted to be crystal clear about the fact that finding out you’re related to certain people or possibly not related to people you thought you were, can be upsetting and emotionally devastating. No kidding. 

My mind started to race. Greiner is a German name. What if I find out I’m related to Hitler or something? I was excited, yet terrified of what I might find.  

More specifically, I’m missing information on one-fourth of my ancestry – one of my parents’ parents is an unknown wildcard, and anyone who may have known that secret has long ago gone to the grave. 

I sent off my DNA kit, eagerly awaiting the results. Meanwhile, I saw a Facebook post from a guy whose last name matched my grandmother’s maiden name. 

I quickly messaged him and found out that yes, his father was my grandmother’s brother “Buford” and that this guy’s brother is a genealogy buff who had “all the information” on my grandmother’s family. 

Pretty cool. 

So I quickly messaged Bob, my first cousin once removed, and asked him to coffee. He said he would love to meet with me to share what he knows. 

As the day drew closer, I started to get a little nervous. My dad was never close with his family, so I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Should I take someone with me? Would that be totally awkward? 

As luck would have it, the night before our meeting, I was having dinner with my aunt and uncle in my hometown in Galena, and my mom just happened to ask my uncle if he knew my dad’s cousin Bob. 

“He’s my brother-in-law,” said my uncle. What are the chances? 

The next day Bob and I met for coffee. And instead of handing me a sheet of paper with a family tree on it, he handed me a binder, complete with section tabs and a 10-chapter table of contents. The book traces our family roots back to the 1600s in France and Germany. 

Cool points of interest: My ninth great-grandmother, Charlotte Roussel, came to Canada from France between 1663 and 1673. She was among a group of women who came to be known as Les Filles du Roi, or “the king’s daughters,” 768 women who were offered dowries by King Louis XIV to move to New France (Canada) and marry one of the many French colonists who were living there at the time. 

“Millions of people today of French Canadian descent owe their existence to these brave women who wandered into the unknown seeking a better life,” wrote cousin Bob in the binder. 

How crazy is that? I looked into it and there is actually a King’s Daughters society I could join, if I decided to. (I doubt I will. My story has always been that I am German and Irish, because that’s what I was told. I’ll have to let this newly found French knowledge sink in a while.)

The history is fascinating, and includes how Charlotte and her husband, Pierre Gautier, survived the Lachine Massacre of 1689, during which Iroquois warriors attacked the settlement. It reads like something out of a James Fennimore Cooper novel. 

The researcher in me was so impressed with the thorough nature of Bob’s investigation, and how his brain had stored nine generations of family tree in a format that he could just rattle off at will. 

I was relieved, of course, when the German section on the Kromer family did not reveal any names I recognized from the Nuremberg trials. 

Also excited when the name Schindler showed up, thinking of Oskar Schindler, the guy who saved 1,100 Jews from Auschwitz during World War II.

It’s all pretty cool to think about. 

So when a few weeks later, I got my DNA test results back from 23andme, I was ready to receive whatever information they were going to lay on me. 

First of all, I have 1,079 DNA relatives in their database. Unfortunately, cousin Bob is not one of these, as he sent his money in to ancestry.com, a whole different database that tracks such things. I guess I’ll have to throw down my $79 if I want to further investigate that pool of genes.

I’ve already messaged a few shared-DNA people with surnames I recognize, and have been having some interesting conversations about how we are connected, etc. It’s kind of neat. 

And as I expected, 46 percent of my ancestry can be traced back to British and Irish roots, and another 24 percent to German and French lineage. 

But there was one little surprise that came out of my report. 

Keep in mind I’ve been living in Decorah for 24 years, and have been asked by everyone and their dog if I am in any way Norwegian.

“I’m not, but my kids are,” was always my answer. 

Come to find out, I am actually 5.4 percent Scandinavian. 

I better start working on my Uff Da.