Me and 23: Confessions of a Genome Junky

by Carol A. Westbrook

I have 23 first cousins. Me and my 23 cousins are not particularly interested in our genealogy or Grandparents copyour genetics. We know our roots: Polish ancestry via our common grandparents, and Polish on both sides for me; pictured here are my paternal grandparents. We know that we will eventually succumb to cardiovascular disease (heart, stroke or high blood pressure), while no other serious diseases run in the family. And we all look alike, as you can see from this picture of a recent cousins-only reunion.

In truth, I don't have 23 first cousins, I have 30. I have nine cousins on my mother's side. I have twenty-one on my father's side, most of whom were at the reunion in the picture, and all of whom are descended from our common Polish grandparents, Eva and Marek Garstka, pictured at the top of this article. I use the phrase “23 cousins” figuratively, as it is a convenient segue to the topic of the DNA test service, 23andMe. Initially I was dismissive of this genealogy-based service because, like most of my cousins, I felt that there was nothing to learn from genetic testing. I know my medical heritage, I don't need to confirm that I was 100% Polish, and I, for one, was not interested in using this service to find any more relatives. I have too many already.

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