There is something heavy on my heart that I want to share. I have been in denial about it for two years and frankly I am embarrassed by the truth of the matter. So today I admit that I suffer from... TAA.
Terminal Ancestry Addiction.
There is not a morning, afternoon, or evening that I can resist searching, researching, or discovering information about my ancestry.
It began in 2010 when I was tasked to locate records on my 2xs great grandfather on Ancestry.com. The paper trails were only the gateway drugs to my addiction but DNA testing was the hard core stuff. It took me. I became full blown TAA in 2014 after taking 3 DNA tests. It started off innocently. I was only looking for one person, one connection.
Nobody told me this would happen.
There are days that I can go on binges, not eating, not bathing and not working. You will find me in a manic state, gaunt and disheveled, locked away in several TAA sites: AncestryDNA.com, 23&ME, Family Tree DNA, familysearch.org ― the crack houses of ancestry addicts. Other days I have not even seen my own face in the mirror while lost on Gedmatch.com. It’s a den of obsession. A rabbit hole. I am possessed by the dead. Trapped in the snares of U.S. census, slave logs, Freedman Bureau records, wills and probates, passenger logs, and Dawes Native American Rolls.
I am the Walter White of family trees, always looking to build a better meth lab (That’s a Breaking Bad reference in case you didn’t get that).
One of the side effects of TAA is CO ― Cousin Overdose. Your life becomes overrun with cousins. I have three DNA tests, each with 50+ pages of 50 cousins per page. That’s thousands of unknown relatives. Cousins all over the country. Cousins all over the world. Cousins of every different ethnicity. Cousins here. Cousins there. Cousins everywhere! I can’t bat an eye without seeing a cousin. I can’t pass a person on the street without wondering, “Are you my cousin? Please spit in this tube.”
I am guilty of neglecting my immediate and living family for the new and the dead. I wish my family would share in my excitement and manic ancestral discoveries. They don’t. They don’t want my drug. They don’t care about their Neanderthal percentages or how much KhoiSan we are. They could care less about having more cousins and they sure in hell don’t want their buried and dead secrets unearthed.
I am InDNA Jones and I must find the family jewels ― even if it means I journey alone.
I have even convinced some of my dearest friends and family into trying this DNA drug with me. I’ve shared the swab, passed the test tube, and begged them to just scrape for me. Just spit for me. Why? Because Ancestry loves company. So to them I apologize for my influence.
The ancestors made me do it.
TAA is curable theoretically, but practically as curable as the meaning of life is discoverable. The more roadblocks you hit, the worse the addiction grows. You will pull out your hair, grit your teeth, and bite your nails until the mystery is solved. A few other contributors and triggers to the persistence of the addiction are close DNA matches who keep their trees private ― or worst ― refuse to communicate or have no information at all.
Addicts spend hours and hours perseverating on why? Hours trying to find a way around their closed doors. Why won’t they share their ancestors with me? They’re my ancestors too! Why?!
I need more ancestors! Give me more ancestors!
The more ancestors you discover, the further you dig. I have dug until I unearthed Charlemagne from the tomb. He is now framed and on the family wall.
“That’s not just a medieval emperor. That’s my 39th great grandpa.”
I imagine being bounced on his knee as a little royal tyke as he tells me stories of his royal conquests.
My spouse thinks I’ve gone mad. Maybe I have. TAA is a Honey Badger and Honey Badger don’t care. My soul can no longer rest until I know every last single great grandparent as far as history can record.
With TAA the world begins to close in on you, growing smaller and smaller, as everyone becomes... RELATED.
Maybe my cousin Stedman Graham could invite me over to his and Oprah’s house in Santa Barbara and we can sit on the veranda for mint julep sweet tea and buttered scones in the Pacific breeze. Eat your hearts out world. Maybe I’ll call up Blake Shelton, Lance Bass, and Barack Obama to invite them to our family reunion for 7th+ cousins. We can eat Barbecue and play dominoes and sing N’Sync songs.
Can you imagine the family photos? Now that’s America.
“And Blake, don’t forget to bring Gwen and the baby along. We’d love to see them.”
Did I just name drop. Maybe? I’m addicted. Don’t judge me… and my family.
It is such a weight lifted to declare my truth and share my addiction. Acceptance is the first step to recovery. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms you may be suffering from Terminal Ancestry Addiction too. Well you are not alone. There are thousands of us like you ― likely your cousins. We even have television shows, Who Do You Think You Are? and Finding Your Roots that are dedicated to this addiction.
Sidenote: I am convinced that Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Pablo Escobar of DNA.
I write this letter as I suffer from ancestry withdrawal while attempting to go cold turkey for just one day. I’m shaking like an ancestry.com tree leaf. I don’t know if I can make it. I really don’t know. They’re calling me. Calling me. I need more of that double helix. Just one more ancestor hint.
Please pray for me… or at least open up your damn family trees.
(your 1st - 8th cousin)