Cambrian: Opinion

Researching your roots with DNA? Proceed with caution

Ella Bomar Plaskett, Arley Abner "Dude" Plaskett, their daughters Delia Belle and Ethel Plaskett, and Dude's ranch dog and horse in San Simeon, 1918. The family is local singer Lloyd Oksen's grandparents.
Ella Bomar Plaskett, Arley Abner "Dude" Plaskett, their daughters Delia Belle and Ethel Plaskett, and Dude's ranch dog and horse in San Simeon, 1918. The family is local singer Lloyd Oksen's grandparents. Courtesy of Lloyd Oksen

Spit is in the air. Every day, gobs of gooey saliva are flown across the globe. Why? DNA analysis. People everywhere are exploring their family roots.

Warning! Once you start digging up your rootstock, it’s hard to put down the pickaxe and pan. An abundance of information is out there waiting to be unearthed, but doing so might make you lose track of time. Finding nuggets of data can keep you sifting through the sediment long into the wee hours. That said, if you’re interested in investigating your own DNA, I’ll tell you what friends told me. Read the fine print. Proceed with caution.

I chose Ancestry.com. A little spittle in a tube and ta-da, suddenly there are close relatives and distant cousins everywhere. Yikes! Overwhelming. A real can of worms — mostly in a good way. The tip of my shovel has barely broken ground, but I can already tell the familial soil is crawling with more facts than I can ever find time for.

Ancestry.com proved to be the “real deal” when their findings agreed with my parents’ pedigrees. I’m approximately 30 percent Danish, 30 percent Swedish, 30 percent Scottish/Irish, 9 percent British Isles, and less than 1 percent miscellaneous European ancestry. No, I’m not part Native American as my paternal great grandmother Ella Bomar Plaskett asserted. I did find Native American in her family tree, but not in my test results.

What else have I learned from my DNA sample? For one thing, I can now answer the question someone asked me long ago, “How is your great grandfather Arley Abner Plaskett (b.1887 Gorda) related to Mendocino May Plaskett Mansfield from the San Antonio District of Monterey County? Arley was Mendocino’s nephew. Arley’s father Leonidas Hamlin Plaskett was one of Mendocino’s many brothers.

Evidently, there were Plasketts all over these hills and canyons near San Simeon, Pacific Valley and King City. Several Central Coast landmarks bear the name: Plaskett Rock, Plaskett Creek and Plaskett Ridge. Great Grandpa Arley had 10 siblings: Cora, James, Annie, Jessie, Charles (Roy), Leonidas (Lee), Sadie, Hallie, Nellie and Louis. Hearty Plaskett brothers worked on road crews that built the Roosevelt Highway (aka Highway 1 or Cabrillo Highway).

Through the late 1930s, Arley was a foreman for Granite Construction Company.

Before that, in 1917, Phoebe Amperson Hearst employed Arley as a ranch laborer. This tidbit I found noted on a military document that declared 29-year-old Arley exempt from a WWI draft due to having dependents.

Genetically speaking, it’s no wonder I love these Santa Lucia Mountains. It’s in my blood, and apparently, it’s in my spit, too. Who knew?

Intrigued? Why not discover your own unique worldwide network of roots and the ever-growing branches on your family tree. Go ahead. Dig deep into the domain of your DNA. Find out who and where you come from. Excavate hidden treasures. Reveal some family resemblances. Hey, you never know. You might even uncover your very own spitting image!

Over the ridge and off the grid, Michele Oksen lives in the backcountry of Cambria in the Santa Lucia Mountains. Contact Michele at overtheridge@sbcglobal.net.
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