Ancestral Memory

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Minuteman, Oct 15, 2013.

  1. Minuteman

    Minuteman Chaplain Moderator Founding Member

    This is something I have been thinking about lately and thought I would throw it out here and get some opinions.

    How much of our personalities, motivations, drives and urges are genetically encoded in our DNA? Do we posses traits from our ancestors that effects how we are today?

    Two things set me to thinking on this. One was when my oldest daughter and I reconnected a few years ago. Her mother and I divorced when she was only 9 months old. I had very little contact with her during her formative years. Her mother was always running off with the latest meal ticket she could latch onto. I would go for years at a time with no idea where she was.

    When she became an adult she moved back with her husband and kids. We reconnected and starting building a relationship. What amazed me was that she is more like me than my children that I raised. We share the same personality, same sense of humor, likes, dislikes, interests. We both like and dislike the same foods, we like the same movies etc. Yet I had very little contact with her growing up. So where did these traits come from? It could only be genetic.

    I got into genealogy a few years ago and started tracing my families lineage. I have always had a severe wanderlust. I always want to see what's over the next hill. I have never been able to settle in one place for long. And this is a trait that all my uncles, my dad and grandfather have (on both sides of my family) to varying degrees, but it is there. Much of it was following the oilfields but that doesn't explain it entirely. Many people when the wells dried up would simply switch to farming or ranching or some trade to support their families. Mine would pack up and head out looking for greener pastures.

    I had a lot of success tracing my maternal family line. I traced them all the way back to the Norman invasion of Britain in the 900 to 1100 AD period. They were vikings.

    I watched a show recently about the vikings and it said they they were unique in their time. The majority of cultures never ventured far from their homelands. Yet, puzzling to scholars, the vikings journeyed far and wide. Never content to stay in one place. They have found viking settlements from the Middle East to North America.

    Then my family made it's way around England and eventually came to the new world in the early 1700's. One of my ancestors was a famous explorer. He worked as a guide, a trailblazer and explored far into the new continent. He ended up in Mississippi where he was adopted by the Choctaw tribe and married the two daughters of the chief. My family is a direct line from one of those sisters. They were forcefully moved to the indian territory of what would become Oklahoma in the trail of tears march in the 1830's.

    I was not so successful with my paternal side. I traced them to Ellis Island in the mid 1800's when they emigrated from Germany. But I was unable to find them before that. They made their way from New York to Chicago and ran a small store there until the great land run of 1889 that opened up the Indian Territory to settlement.

    So from both genetic lines of my ancestry I have wanderers and explorers. People who were not content to remain in one place and were always seeking greener pastures and looking to see what was over the horizon.

    Now I know that most people in the U.S. descend from emigrants but most settled in one place and have remained there. My family even today is scattered all around the country and even the world.

    So is this wanderlust, this sense of adventure, of being willing and eager to pack up and head out for new lands just a result of circumstances or could it be embedded in our DNA and handed down from our ancestors for hundreds and even thousands of years?

    An interesting thought.
  2. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    My stock dates from the late 1700s so far as we've traced, all settled more or less in an area and stayed put. So where did my itch to move along come from? Maybe, only maybe, my Scot ggfather that left Glasgow @ 14yo and sailed all over the Atlantic (in later years from the home port of New Orleans.) Dunno, but he's the only peripatetic ancestor we've found, and I'm the only one that wandered very far from the family stompin' grounds (tho' my eldest son was on more or less the same path as me until the motorcycle bit him.)
    chelloveck likes this.
  3. cdnboy66

    cdnboy66 Monkey++

    I will say this, I will try to be brief, but bear with me

    I am adopted, and very thankful to have been adopted to a very fine family and am very Proud to bear my Father's last name.
    Having said that, I was never "like" anyone in my family growing up. I wanted to get my hands dirty, wander about, explore, meet people
    I always wanted to be out of the city and on a patch of dirt somewhere. I was just different in many ways
    I got my license to drive truck at 18 instead of finishing high school, which my parents just shook their head in wonder about, but supported me through it all.

    When my oldest turned 1 (16 years ago) I have the priviledge to meet both my birth parents and several siblings and half siblings.
    After a few long conversations, much of what made me "tick" came into place for me and I found that I wasn't so different after all, in fact, I was just like the people who shared my blood.

    My birth father was a farmer, truck driver, handyman and all round good guy
    My birth mother explained why I always had to have the radio on, why I liked some music more than others and how I looked just like Uncle Stuart.

    Most of what I recognized was not the environment I grew up in but the dirt that made my DNA.
    I am very close with my family ( adopted)
    My birth parents both lived lives that were so full of hurt they had troubles dealing with them, they did the right thing by me and I am Thankful they did so. I am also very close with my sisters/brothers/nieces from my birth side, funny how much they remind me of my kids when i look at them.

    There is much more to the story, but that is reserved for a nice bottle of scotch and a good camp fire

    suffice to say, thee is a fair bit more in our genetic make up than we often realize
    Yard Dart, JABECmfg and tulianr like this.
  4. Tracy

    Tracy Insatiably Curious Moderator Founding Member

    I agree with genetics being a determining factor.

    At our house - I call it "Daditude": My daughter has CC's attitude (poor thing ;) ), just as I have my father's attitude. :) I spent more of my growing up time with Mom, but can't shake Dad's optimism (hooray!). :)
  5. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    My daughter has my sense of humor....much to her dismay:rolleyes::D;)
    tulianr likes this.
  6. Airtime

    Airtime Monkey+++

    There is also a dimension called epigenetics where there are switches that can enable or disable the expression of genes in one's DNA. It has also been shown that environmental factors can turn on or off those switches for various characteristics in our DNA. Even more interesting is the notion that environmental experiences by our parents and even grandparents can in some cases flip those switches and affect the epigenetic expressions of DNA characteristics in the kids or in some cases even their grand kids. A ground breaking case of this were Swedish grandfathers who were subject to a famine as prepubescent youth had paternal grandsons with a significantly improved resistance to cardiovascular disease.

    So while DNA may well be significant, life experiences of common ancestors may well affect how those DNA get turned on and off making offspring even more like siblings and parents.

    tulianr likes this.
  7. tulianr

    tulianr Don Quixote de la Monkey

    I think there is certainly something to genetic traits being passed along; either from parent to child or, in some cases, skipping a generation and passing from grandparent to grandchild.

    While close to my father as a child, I looked at his life as a series of paths to avoid. Now grown, it seems as though I was using those paths as a road map to my own life.

    When I came along, my father was forty-five. He had two older children, one son and one daughter, by two previous wives. I was forty-five when my youngest son came along. He has two older siblings, my son and my daughter, born of two previous marriages.

    My father was a jeweler when I was growing up, and while I learned the trade from him, I swore to myself that I would not spend my days sitting on a repair bench. I was going to join the military and get away. I did join the military, served for a career; and then I settled down and became a jeweler.

    When I was a kid, I hated working in the gardens that my father delighted in planting and tending. I swore that when I got grown, I would never pick up another hoe, or pick another ear of corn. I now find myself stealing time away from other chores to sneak out to my garden, that I delight in planting and tending.

    I have turned into my father; perhaps not completely for the worse. I could have done without inheriting his body-frame and receding hairline though.

    If he could have lived long enough to watch me grow into him, I'm sure it would have given him a good chuckle. He's probably chuckling anyway.
  8. Minuteman

    Minuteman Chaplain Moderator Founding Member

    My father died a couple of years before my son was born, but I am constantly amazed at how much like him he is. His sense of humor, the mischievous grin he gets when he's going to do something he knows he's not supposed to. But more than just my perception of similarities it translates even into the way he stands, walks etc.

    But what interested me was how far back does that go? My paternal great-great grandfather ran a successful business in Chicago, had a nice family, but when they said "hey they're giving away land in the wild, untamed indian territory" he sells his business loads up the family and heads off. Exactly what I would have done.

    My distant relatives living in semi-settled and safe 1800's Pennsylvania, they hear of opportunities in the west, load up and take off. I'm living in Oklahoma in 1981 after the great oil bust. I hear there may be work in California, I sell everything I can't take with me, load up a 3 month pregnant wife and we head west.

    My viking ancestors say "Hey let's hop in this boat and sail off and see what's over the horizon." If I were there I would have been the first on board.

    So is that just my own personality mimicking my ancestors or is there something in my DNA handed down from them that makes me like them?

    We have heard the stories of twins who grow up apart not knowing each other then reconnect later in life and both have striking similarities in their life choices. Working in the same profession, married to very similar women, sharing the same hobbies and interests.
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  9. whynot

    whynot Monkey+++

    We laugh about my son walking, talking and having many of my father's mannerisms. My father died when he was 18 months old and they had limited contact for the last 6 months. Chemo kept dad pretty weak and my daughter was always bringing a new plague home from preschool.

    I believe a lot of life is genetic. Some people are salesman and others can not sell anything. How many of us have seen a bad seed come from the best family and watched the pain caused by not being able to get them straightened out?

  10. VHestin

    VHestin Farm Chick

    I took a intro to psycho...oops psych I meant to say, years ago, and it mentioned something called the 'collective unconscious', where all humans tend to share things like a primal fear of the dark and such. As for the wanderlust a few mentioned, humans were not sedentary until the last few thousand years. We were nomads who lived off a hunting/gathering lifestyle. As for traits I've inherited, I can't really say, I haven't spent much time with relatives outside my parents and sister. But apparently my great-grandmother(my maternal grandmother's mother), she was quite the potty-mouth like me. And one of my cousins and I shared alot of similar preferences in our younger days. Don't know if we still do, haven't seen them for years. I know despite my best intentions, I do have some of my mother's traits. I see myself as more realistic though(I really don't agree with her hippie pacifist views, and how she'll do the ostrich routine when that view is threatened). I don't want to hurt people either, but I ain't gonna let people mess with me. And so I guess I encourage her views, since she doesn't have to worry about those situations, because I'll be there to pull the trigger. Though my mother always knew I was 'different' than mainstream kids. I don't know how much of it was genetic or environment, or all my interesting culinary tastes as a toddler(we had lots of animals around the place, and I would crawl all over the place on the ground looking for stuff), or the time I drowned(was actually clinically dead for 20minutes). And the older I get, the less I care what other people think, so I'm comfortable being me now. And it's nice to be one of, if not the only one, who can just start LAUGHING if someone ever says to me "Eat sh*t and die"
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2013
  11. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    It's a fascinating subject, actually. There's quite a bit of traits, behaviors and habits which seem to be passed on through DNA.

    Sometimes I will cough and sound just like my Dad. I stop, adjust, and try not to do that again.
    Yard Dart and tulianr like this.
  12. Minuteman

    Minuteman Chaplain Moderator Founding Member

    Here is a composite I made of my dad and my son. My wife says I am just seeing what I want to see but I disagree. They are mirror images to me in many ways. That same smirky grin, and my dads full body, big laugh is something that everyone who knew him remembers. My son laughs the same way. But the way my son stands and poses is a carbon copy of my dad. He always stood in that same type pose in nearly any picture of him. Arms relaxed at his sides, most times his forefingers of each hand stuck in his front pockets, one foot slightly forward of the other, one knee bent slightly. So how is that my son mimics that same pose when they never met each other? I find it fascinating.
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  13. Mindgrinder

    Mindgrinder Karma Pirate Ninja|RIP 12-25-2017

    All that "junk DNA"....isn't junk....some of it contains memory.
    You are more than are EVERY SINGLE CONTRIBUTING ANCESTOR that came before you. This is actually a very deep and dangerous topic for Christians as it can be twisted to lead them away from faith into beliefs in past lives, reincarnation etc.
    How does a baby deer know how to stand?
    How does a butterfly learn to fly?
    It was not taught by it's parents.
    Brokor likes this.
  14. VHestin

    VHestin Farm Chick

    I remember asking one of my anthropology teachers once what the difference between instinct and biological imperative is, and unfortunately I never remembered their answer.
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