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I just spit into a tube, repeatedly, until my saliva reached the wavy black line. I put the cap on the tube, releasing the blue stabilizing solution, and shook it. I put the tube in the plastic envelope, sealed it, and put the plastic envelope in the little postage paid box, and sealed that. Tomorrow I will mail the box to a lab in American Fork, Utah.

Magically, or miraculously, or you might even say through science, my quarter teaspoon of spit will reveal to me who my long-lost relatives are and just what I am made of, at least genetically speaking.

I confess I have already done this spit-in-a-tube activity before, and I received endless pages of reports that I did not quite understand about how I relate to neanderthals and confirming what I already knew that I am half Ashkenazi Jew and the rest a fine but certainly unexotic blend of Irish, Scottish, and German with some other Western European stuff thrown in.

I am repeating the exercise–through a different DNA testing company this time–because of an unexpected conversation I had last summer with the mother of one of my best friends. I was at a street festival in the neighborhood where I grew up, and my friend’s mom happened by. We ended up sitting on the curb for a while talking about how to mobilize democratic voters, and then the subject turned to one of her favorite hobbies–genealogy. I knew she had spent years conducting copious research into her family’s history, but I learned when we talked that she had also spit into several tubes to maximize the information she could gather from various testing services which might have access to different pieces of her genetic inheritance. She assured me that Ancestry.com was the most comprehensive in terms of helping you build a family tree and finding family members to nestle among the branches.

Did you know you can buy these DNA spitting kits all over the place now? I ordered mine online, but I recently saw them on a shelf at Target. Once scientists unlocked the human genome, we ran with it until vast stores of genetic information are as easy to get as it is to fill your red cart with over a hundred dollars worth of stuff you didn’t know you needed every time you shop there.

Here’s what I really want to know–what were the lives like of my great-grandparents who came from Romania and Hungary? Are there other descendants of them out there who I might meet? What could I discover about my Jewish roots? My dad has a small family. He has one surviving brother and one surviving first cousin. I know my Grandma had younger twin sisters, but I don’t know their names or their children’s names or anything else about them. I don’t know if my Grandma or Grandpa had cousins or if they did where they lived or if they had children. I know my Great-Grandfather was listed in census records as a peddler. What did he peddle? I desperately want to know.

I have no idea whether my questions are beyond the scope of the quarter teaspoon of spit that I have collected for analysis, but I cannot wait to find out.

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