Project Title

Decoding my Family History

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Examining the past through my genetic history laid the foundation from which my ancestry can be assembled. While my wider expectations of an ancestry contained virtually entirely within the Indian subcontinent were met, the nuances of the genetic data were surprising to me. The DNA showed patterns associated with an ancestor from South India about 7 to 8 generations back. As far as my recorded family narrative stretches, both my maternal and paternal ancestries are housed entirely within the state of Gujarat, and I have found no linkage to the South Indian genetic ancestry. This mystery has piqued my interest and is a question I would like to answer. The journey to answering this question, however, first requires me to hone into whether this ancestry is from my maternal lineage, paternal lineage, or both. Once this query has been answered, I can attempt to align the narratives and ancestry information passed down through generations with the genetic information in my DNA.

Beyond simply the genetic information, I found nuggets of information that changed my perspective by filling in the vital bricks to construct the pillars of the story. During the process of composing the family narrative for each of my maternal and paternal lineages, I became acquainted with stories of my ancestry that I was previously not familiar with or had only a limited understanding of. Chief among these chronicles was the tale of the origin of the last name Shah, framed within the history of India. Shah has an inherently Persian implication, which invites discourse into a potential Persian influence on the family line. However, I found that a voluntary, and likely preemptive, name change of a group from Dessa from either “sah” or “sahu” to “Shah” took place in response to the rise in power of the Mughals in India. This story was one that I not only found fascinating but one that grounded my mostly unwritten family story into the written history of India.

The two directions of obtaining information about ancestry, the genetics report and the family history, have provided both a more distant and more recent account of the family narrative respectively. While these two directions have not yet converged at a single point in the story, illustrating the entirety of my family history, I hope to continue to piece together information to construct a representative and contextually rich image of the story of my family.

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