GLEN ALLEN, Va. — After participating in the popular ancestry-testing service 23andMe, Henrico woman Priscilla Paterson had an unpleasant surprise when she discovered that she has DNA indicating she is from Petersburg.
“It said that I am 95% European, 1% East African, 1% South Asian, and an assortment of other nationalities,” she said excitedly before starting to tear up with the follow-up news. “But in terms of 23andMe’s specific locality-based testing, I was shocked to discover that they determined I am 2% Petersburg.”
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23andMe is beta-testing a new option that will use specific algorithms to determine which city in the United States your family most likely hailed from. Paterson participated in this experimentation phase unknowingly and is clearly terrified by the results.
“Oh, God,” she said, in between bouts of crying. “I’m basically conceived from the dirty, broke stepsister to Richmond. Why couldn’t it have said Portsmouth instead? Or even Colonial Heights? Why, oh why did it have to be Petersburg?”
“The only good thing that has ever happened in Petersburg was the Confederate surrender in 1865,” she added.
While 23andMe has been an unprecedented success that has helped reconnect distant relatives, solve gaps in family genealogy, and turn people on to the mysteries and histories hiding within their own DNA, Paterson gives 23andMe a less-than-stellar review.
“I don’t know if I would have gone through with it had I known that this would be an option,” she stated, head in hand. “Does this mean I have to start to care about Petersburg? That’s not what I expected when I sent a bunch of my saliva to a company. I just thought they’d tell me which Scandinavian country my people originated from, but not this. Never this.”
When asked what she plans to do with this newly-found information, she reasoned that she would follow what most other transplants whose families originated in Petersburg do and complain about the city for the rest of her natural life.
Additionally, Paterson reached out to the Petersburg city government to see if she could view and ultimately utilize census data and other genealogy resources to confirm 23andMe’s analysis. Due to their heavy workload, the City of Petersburg Department of Public Records assured her that they could send her a report after the last broken water main in town is fixed, which they predict will be sometime in the year 2078.
Despite the news, she remained slightly optimistic on what her ancestry could have been instead of Petersburg, stating, “at least it didn’t say I was from Hopewell.”
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