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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at George Mason University chapter.

With a last name like Grosskopf and a single look at my family, it’s not hard to anticipate that my ancestry is going to be 50 shades of white. However, I’ve been curious about the specifics of my ancestry and how DNA tests work since they became popular while I was in high school. 

While my immediate family is quite small, getting up into my grandparents and great-grandparents generation’s, there were multiple groups of eight or more siblings scattered everywhere. I don’t personally know a lot of them or really know anything about them because I grew up further away. There were also large gaps in ages between siblings so there were people that just didn’t talk a lot in the family once they all became adults, which made the puzzle of meeting my large extended family even harder. 

I started my journey on Ancestry about two years ago with a free trial membership to try and learn more about my distant family and those beyond my great-great grandparents. The Ancestry database had surprisingly more paperwork than I expected! I found my great grandfather’s World War II draft card all the way back to immigration records from when the first Grosskopfs immigrated to New York from Prussia to become one of four families that founded Niagara County. 

Then the free trial ended. 

I picked it up again last November when I had some leftover birthday money and decided to see how much an Ancestry DNA kit would be for Black Friday. I managed to find their basic DNA test kit on sale for $49 with three months of premium membership included for just an extra dollar. On top of that, I added the traits kits (which basically reads your DNA and tells you about illnesses and tastes you’re prone or sensitive to which I found neat) because it was on sale for $10. 

After two and a half long months of waiting for my results (thanks Covid shipping times) I finally received my test results last week. Safe to say, I was a bit surprised. 

73% England & Northwestern Europe (which does not include Germany) 

16% Scotland 

5% Norway

5% Ireland 

1% Nigeria 

Now, for someone who spent her whole life with a last name like Grosskopf and being told that her entire family was German and Irish, I was definitely not expecting to be almost entirely British and Scottish. 

I immediately called my dad who told me some relatives of his always used to talk about being Irish and Danish. Well, that accounts for the Norway bit. Definitely not complaining about that considering my obsession with vikings. 

Then my dad and I talked about how years and years ago, we went to Busch Gardens where you can get a copy of your family’s coat of arms. I remember reading over it and all of us being really confused when it told us the name Grosskopf originates from England and not Germany. Knowing what I do about England’s history and the Germanic origin of English now, that could totally check out. What freaks me out about that is that I have records of Grosskopfs that I’m definitely related to living in Germany well into the 1600’s, so I have absolutely no idea when the hell they moved from England to Germany. 

Maybe they just didn’t vibe with King Henry, who knows?

The Scottish I’m not even gonna try to figure out at this point, I assume someone generations ago in my family just got Irish and Scottish mixed up when telling our backstory. 

I should mention that before getting these test results, I’d been digging through the family tree again using my premium membership, just following random trails back into the 1700’s that may or may not have been accurate. While digging through my maternal great grandfather’s tree specifically, I found two members named Zebulien and Druscilla who were children of slave owners and had children of their own who had been marked as black on census records.

I wasn’t entirely sure if I was actually related to these people or if it was just Ancestry’s algorithm chugging out the wrong code. I decided to leave Zebulien and Druscilla in my tree as my fifth-great grandfather and fourth-great grandmother just in case. 

Getting my DNA results and seeing 1% Nigerian on them wasn’t entirely shocking because of this previous discovery, but I remember feeling my heart sink a little bit knowing how these two likely came to be a part of my family. Nigeria played a large part in the slave trade and I know that one of the only reasons Maryland helped the union in the Civil War was because they got to keep their slaves. 

There weren’t a lot of hints about Zebulien and Druscilla’s lives on Ancestry that I was able to comfortably say it was 100% them. I think Zebulien might’ve come to own his own land as an adult based on some paperwork that I’m not entirely sure is his. I do know that their children eventually met later in life to form the Johnson family, which, in my opinion, ended up being a pretty damn good family. 

Even though the remaining 99% of my results are unsurprisingly white as hell, everything I saw definitely threw me for a loop and makes me want to dig back even further to see what I can find. 

Now onto the important question, would I recommend you get the Ancestry DNA kit?

Overall, I would say that if you can get the basic DNA test when it’s on sale, do it. I don’t think that this test was worth $100 by any means, but $49? Not a bad deal. You get a general overview of what regions you’re from (which I personally wish had been more specific or were able to pinpoint what link maternally versus paternally), you can link the test results to your family tree and the database connects you with others who have taken the test to see if they can find your relatives! 

You get some pretty good bang for your buck if you can find a good deal, so if you’re ever interested in your Ancestry, give it a shot!

Jane Grosskopf

George Mason University '21

Jane Grosskopf is a senior at George Mason University majoring in creative writing with a double minor in Middle East studies and journalism. Outside of writing, Jane plays clarinet in the Green Machine Pep Band, and serves as Vice President of Membership for the Mu Omicron chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi, an honorary music service fraternity.
George Mason Contributor (GMU)

George Mason University '50

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