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 :: L from USA, living in USA

L and I share two small DNA segments, one in chromosome 2 and other in chromosome 11. Based on this, it can be inferred that we are 4th cousins so we might have a common ancestor approximately 5 generations ago.

By doing her ancestry genetic test, L was looking to learn more about her father that she saw for the last time when she was 5 years old. She knows a little bit more about her mother’s history but not much.

L and I are connected through Romero. Romero is my father’s last name. I knew my father very well, but I barely knew about his family history. I met both grandparents from his side when I was a child, but I grew up knowing their names but nothing else. In my own search about my father’s family history, I found out that my grandfather was born in Sahuago, Michoacan, Mexico, and my grandmother somewhere in Jalisco, Mexico.

When L and I talked about our connection, it was very confusing for me; L is connected to Romero through her mother's side from Jalisco but also through her actual husband. Her mother-in-law was born in Sahuago, Michoacan. After a nice and friendly talk, we realised that I might be connected with her family through different lines, through her mother side but also through her husband. She shared with me that she indeed suspects that she might have children with her cousin,  she had even talked about it with her own children.

We reflected on how many ancestors we have: five generations back we have 32 ancestors (4th-great grandparents) and 10 generations back, we have 1024 ancestors. We also reflected on the amount of people with whom we share DNA right now, for example, according to my test, I have approximately 1500 DNA relatives in the dataset and L had more than 1700. We laughed about how many new cousins we have now adopted.

She was born in the United States but she knows that her grandparents were from Mexico, she identified her family as immigrants and herself as Mexican based on what she knows about her family history. She was also very surprised to discover her European and Native American ancestry. She shared with me that if you are Native American you can receive financial support from the US government. She did not know that she was Native American, she did not know that she was European, she thought she was Mexican.

She did the test because she was curious but now, she admits “It did not cure my curiosity, I just got more questions”. She questions if DNA is right, but at the same time she is surprised how the police are getting criminals through DNA so it must be right, she answers herself.

We had a great conversation raising complex topics that surround ancestry genetic testing and the complexity of our connections. But also, we shared a view of something we enjoyed; she showed me the tree where she sits to listen to the birds and I shared with her my favourite tree that was right in front of me.

We made a connection to the point that we now feel that we belong to the same family.