In the Faerie Tale Forest of Genealogy by Myra Dutton

I have been researching my family bloodline for about a year now, trying to understand what my mother, a genealogist for thirty years, had uncovered. Encouraged by a lengthy conversation with an archeologist/historian, I sent for a DNA test kit from a reputable online genealogy website, swabbed the inside of the cheeks of my mouth, shipped it off, and waited. Eight weeks later, the results arrived. I was 56% Scandinavian, 33% Central European, and 11% British (Isles). The genetics lab at the University of Arizona had uprooted my family’s long-held belief that we were mostly German with a bit of Danish ancestry. Instead, we were part of a lineage far bigger and older than we had ever imagined. Rather than explore the paternal lineage, which had already been done, I began to focus on the maternal bloodline.

Daughters inherit an identical copy of one of their mother’s X-chromosomes. It is the continuous thread woven into DNA: a mother-to-mother lineage passed down through the ages. An old bloodline may have a family tree of grandmothers, 35,000 years old. Their experiences can guide descendants on a cellular level in mysterious and intuitive ways. It is an invisible, innate survival skill, one that modern day, fast-moving, urban-dwelling people rarely acknowledge.

Current findings in the field of epigenetics reveal that RNA, which is sensory, triggers DNA to remember. If we see, hear, taste, smell, or touch anything that our ancestors perceived, a download of genetic memory occurs. This extensive cellular database provides information about things we have never personally encountered. It offers the unique insights and wisdom, compiled by our ancestors and made available through our RNA and five senses.

For over 20 years, I searched for Baltic amber, particularly in its most rare form: natural amber, turned red by exposure to the elements. Shortly after I found the piece I had been looking for, my mother told me that several branches of our family had lived for centuries on islands in the Baltic Sea. I read about the women who went to the beach to gather amber there—Baltic amber that had washed ashore from the bottom of the Baltic Sea—and equated my search for red amber with theirs. I could easily visualize my grandmothers picking up pieces of amber that they had found, glowing on the sand, and feeling the amber’s warmth, marveling at the bark imprints on its surface—the Baltic Sea rising and crashing before them.

Recently, my husband “googled” his full name and found his entire family genealogy, posted by a distant cousin. He and our children are part of a direct lineage of Viking kings, dating back to 165 A.D. William the Conqueror, Charlemagne, and royalty all over Europe and the British Isles flow through their veins. It is part of their very nature. One morning, years ago, our three-year old daughter awoke, quite upset, banging her fist on the table, and said, “I just wanted to be the queen and they wouldn’t let me!” She often dreamed about living in giant castles and would describe the countless rooms in great detail: the giant European bath tub that was so deep the water went far over her head, the huge candles on the walls used for lighting, the closet full of rows and rows of beautiful dresses, the woman who was always at her side, but was not her mother. I had never read her princess stories since it was not the trend at that time, and we didn’t have a television.

Our five senses can magically re-create the past in the present. Rich lore, incredible stories, and fantastic dreams arise from genetic memories. They are a treasure trove for writers. Within the faerie tale forest of genealogy, the unconscious becomes mystery, mystery becomes myth, and myth becomes reality as we move closer to our true source—connected, timeless and one.