“Who Was She?” explores the concept of identity and heritage in a world where DNA tests are cheap, accurate, and accessible to masses. Alice Collins Plebuch took a test that uncovered Jewish heritage, a heritage that confused her, as neither parent, to her knowledge, was Jewish. After convincing her siblings and cousin to take the test, she discovered that her father, Jim Collins, was the Jewish parent, despite believing him to be Irish, and her paternal cousin had no genetic relation to them. Eventually, through a female relation that popped up to the un-blood related cousin through the service, the Collins discovered that their father had been mistakenly switched at birth with another baby at the hospital. The woman, Jessica Benson, had taken the test to discover more about her Jewish heritage, only to discover she was actually Irish. Her grandfather, Phillip Benson, whose biological parents were Irish immigrants, was switched with Jim Collins, whose biological parents were Jewish, at the hospital. Each man was raised in a different heritage than their biological heritage and had strong ties to the heritage they were raised in.
I think this article brings up some interesting ideas about whether heritage is in our blood or the culture in which we are raised. DNA testing challenges what heritage means to us and distorts perceptions of identity. Ultimately, I think the heritage in which we are raised is more relevant than the heritage in our DNA. My only living grandfather, my mom’s stepfather, who raised her, is a Chinese immigrant, and although I am genetically about as white as it gets, I still feel a connection to the heritage he and his parents share with us. Although DNA testing may be interesting and fun, I do not think unexpected results should totally change our perceptions of self, but I understand that may be easier said than done.