Jacinda's OMG moment is part of a growing DNA trend

by Sally Blundell / 21 February, 2018

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Jacinda Ardern met her near-identical fourth cousin for the first time on DNA Detectives.

Interest in our ancestry and personal genetic histories has been stimulated by such television programmes as Who Do You Think You Are?, which has had versions in 18 countries, and New Zealand’s DNA Detectives.

Last year, viewers were drawn into the discovery by Jacinda Ardern (in a show shot when she was a mere “political bright spark”) of a near-identical fourth cousin in Athens – that smile, that hair, who knew? – and a highly genetically similar artist-technician “DNA-cousin” in Canada called, simply, White Feather. “My God – you have my teeth,” Ardern said. “I didn’t expect you to look like me. This is amazing … why couldn’t I get the teeth and the olive skin?”

Musician Anika Moa was shown the headstone of ancestor Susannah Martin, hanged as a witch in Salem in 1692 – “OMG!” – and met a third cousin in Hawaii. As she said, “You feel connected to them straight away.”

Actor Erik Thomson was taken to a long house in Haugesund in Norway where his Viking heritage was confirmed – the giveaway clue, a type of Y chromosome variant, is not uncommon in modern Scandinavians and those in the north of the UK. As he said, he had long been drawn to pine forests and snow clad lands.

Whisked over to the Shetland Islands, Thomson visited the croft where his mother was born, in the land his ancestors – Viking and a suspected hint, explained host Richard O’Brien, of Saami – plundered or settled about 1200 years ago. He said he planned to bring his children back. “I feel I have a right to be here and it’s good. It’s really good.”

Video: TVNZ OnDemand

The easy availability of DNA testing has prompted millions to shake their family trees, but what falls out is not always welcome. For more on the new ancestry obsession, pick up a copy of the new Listener.

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