Based on our genetic ancestry test results, we discovered we have over 3,000 DNA  relatives combined. We contacted all our new DNA relatives and invited them to  participate in the Belongingness project, exploring what identity is and how we are all  connected to one another.  

After contacting our relatives, we each booked and had 10 meetings with 10 different  DNA relatives of all ages and from all parts of the world in March 2021. Through these  online meetings and conversations that lasted for roughly an hour each, we looked to  learn more about our connection, why participants took the genetic test, what they were  looking for, and whether they had found what they were after. Together we talked  through the complexity of our interconnections that define part of our identities and  discovered new meanings to old ideas.

We used landmark points to represent the faces. The names of the participants and our DNA relatives are abbreviated for the purpose of anonymity. Everyone involved consented to the publication of these stories, images and  audio recordings.  

Sandra :: J from USA, living in USA

J. and I share two DNA segments, one in chromosome 5 and another in one the chromosomes 16. We have a total of 0.36% shared DNA. Based on this, it can be inferred that we are 4th cousins so we might have a common ancestor approximately 5 generations ago.

The meeting was with J and his daughter P because J is getting 90 years old in May.  J has a lot of memories and he was willing to have a zoom meeting with me. By email, P shared with me some details about their family history, she mentioned that J mother’s sister was María de la Luz and used to live in Mexico City. They went to visit her several times when she was still alive. I was very excited because my grandmother’s name was María de la Luz and lived in Mexico city. I gather the few pictures I have of my father’s mom. I was excited to know more about her because I know almost nothing, she died when I was a child.

The meeting started and P introduced me to J saying “she is María de Luz’s granddaughter”. J started to share with me memories, stories, names that I did not recognize whatsoever with my father’s history. We shared pictures from his María de la Luz and my María de la Luz, we were not sure. After some time, we get to the conclusion that we were not talking about the same María de la Luz. So, we are connected through another side of the family, however they do not have information about that other side just that they are originally from Jalisco, Mexico, and were Tarascan natives. At this point P had taken control of the conversation. P is an artist, she has done pottery, painting and clothing. P has done a deep research about the Tarascan population and she mentioned that actually part of the Tarascan culture is pottery. I am not an artist but I feel a deep connection with art in all its forms. I wonder whether the connection between P and the Tarascan art, and the connection between P and I with regard to our interest in art, is a matter of coincidence or a matter of inheritance, we will never know.

I asked J, What does Belonging mean to you?. J was confused with my question, he said “belonging means to belong… it means a lot for me to belong… there’s a lot of heart behind that…”. I agree with him, it means a lot.