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updated: 3/16/2017 9:50 AM

Constable: My DNA makes St. Patrick's Day celebration go flat

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  • How much Irish blood does a person need to pull off this look for St. Patrick's Day?

    How much Irish blood does a person need to pull off this look for St. Patrick's Day?
    Daily Herald file photo

  • Video: Irish bagpipe loud, too


My mom's mother's maiden name was Casey.

That's pretty much all the evidence I need to conclude that the Ancestry DNA testing kit I got for Christmas would verify my right to take ancestral pride in Friday's St. Patrick's Day celebration. If the test comes back with some Irish DNA on my dad's side, too, I might be able to claim enough Irish heritage to justify wearing one of those, "Kiss me, I'm Irish" buttons, dance without moving my arms or actually walk toward someone playing an Irish Uilleann bagpipe, which, remarkably, is less harmonic than a big Scottish bagpipe.

Pondering the possibilities of what one small vial of my spit might reveal, I imagine that the DNA test might show a common great-great-great uncle with Irish wit Oscar Wilde, which would bolster my writing chops. But why stop with the Irish? I had a great-aunt who once used dubious, nonscientific methods to trace the Constable family tree back to English landscape painter John Constable, who died in 1837. From there, she used even shakier evidence to link us to Roman emperor Constantine the Great. That done, she traced us back to "Jimmy Christ" (a reference to James, the brother of Jesus). From there, it was smooth sailing through a sea of Biblical begots to make the link to Adam and Eve.

If my scientific DNA test shows the right mix, the world (at least most of the continents) could be my oyster. My mom has very wavy hair, and one of my dad's sisters once was mistaken for the black speaker at an NAACP luncheon, so perhaps the test will show some African roots, which, according to a new study, might make me appear bigger, stronger and scarier than I currently seem. Being able to say that I was a sixth cousin of acclaimed actor Denzel Washington would be exciting, but also would raise some unsettling questions about the behavior of my Casey ancestors in South Carolina in the early 19th Century. Some Native American blood on my side would come in handy during those political debates about immigration, as would some ancestors from South America or Mexico. And I remembering reading about how lots of Americans have a little Genghis Khan in them.

When my DNA results arrive via email, all that's missing is Maurie Povich saying, "You are NOT as interesting as you thought."

I'm not related to Genghis Khan, Chaka Khan or anyone with the Sioux name of Kohana. A whopping 48 percent of my DNA (and possibly 100 percent of my dental and dancing characteristics) comes from Great Britain. Another 23 percent comes from Germany, France, Belgium and the rest of Western Europe. The test shows that 13 percent of my DNA comes from Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Only 7 percent of me is Irish, which is just slightly higher than the guy wearing the "0% Irish, 100% Drunk" T-shirt I saw during last weekend's St. Patrick's celebrations. The rest of me is made up of "trace" DNA from Eastern Europe, Spain and Portugal, and less than 1 percent from Finland and Russia.

That means I am 100 percent European, the bland celery in America's melting pot of immigration.

My mom, whose results were equally boring, thinks the DNA test folks must have messed up. My wife, who also took the test, is 30 percent Irish, but even less diverse than I am overall.

It really doesn't matter. Being an American is more about where you are headed than from where your ancestors came. And right now I'm headed out to see if anyone sells a button reading, "Shake my hand, I'm just a wee bit Irish."

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