With home DNA tests now freely and cheaply available to the public, travellers are seeking to trace their genetic roots back to their country of origin.
I recently submitted DNA in the form of a saliva sample to be tested by 23andMe. Its website reads: “Ancestry composition tells you what percentage of your DNA comes from each of 31 populations worldwide. This analysis includes DNA you received from all of your recent ancestors, on both sides of your family. The results reflect where your ancestors lived before the widespread migrations of the past few hundred years.”
I am British but was surprised to discover that I am also 16 per cent French/German, 3 per cent Scandinavian and 1 per cent Sardinian. I told my mother and she laughed, saying: “No wonder your father pines for the fjords – I always said he looked like he had some Viking in him.” I almost immediately had the desire to book a trip to Norway or Sweden, and see how at home I felt.
It appears I am not alone in this thinking. A new worldwide survey of more than 7,000 people by travel search engine momondo.co.uk, has revealed that a third of British people (400 respondents) would want to travel to a country they found out their ancestors were from through DNA testing. Almost half would want to know more about that destination.
Lasse Skole Hansen, a spokesperson for Momondo, said: “We wanted to explore how people would react if they found out that they have more geographic ancestry in common with the world’s citizens, than they might think.
“Other findings from the study indicate that travelling makes us more trusting, because we go out and meet other people and cultures, finding out we are not so different from our neighbours, after all. And now we can actually see our ancestors’ travels through the centuries have an impact on where we would like to travel today.”
The survey showed that 19 per cent of British people believed they would be more open to people from the countries they found out that they came from, while 21 per cent would change their view of themselves if they discovered they were from new countries through their DNA tests.
DNA tests are generating increased interest in our ancestry and the places we descend from.
According to AncestryDNA, the world’s largest provider of personal DNA testing, scientific and technological developments have made it possible for many more people to find out their origins.
Brad Argent, a spokesperson for AncestryDNA, said: “We are currently seeing a growing trend in learning more about the many ethnicities that form part of us. When our clients get their results, they often develop a passion to explore and even visit their newfound ethnic heritage, and are showing an increased interest in the culture, people and geography, from which their biological ancestors came.”
DNA tests inspire 37 percent of Brits to travel to the birthplaces of their ancestors. Globally, of the 6,800 people quizzed from 17 countries (Australia, Brazil, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Norway, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the US), 46 per cent would want to travel to the countries they found out that they came from.
Globetrender predicts that it won’t be long until travel companies start collaborating with DNA test providers to offer “ancestry packages” abroad.
By Jenny Southan