“Your great-great-great-džedo Milo”, my mom started one afternoon as we sipped on Bosnian coffee as we do every Sunday, “was found as a baby in a village on the border of Crna Gora (modern day Montenegro) and Bosnia and Herzegovina.” A deadly plague had swept through his village, claiming all lives but one. A traveller was passing through and heard baby Milo crying. He took the baby with him, bringing him to modern day Čajniče, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the rest is history. From there, the Milović name was born (my Mom’s maiden name) and with it, generations upon generations.
It is stories like these, which I just learned after some 30+ years of being on this planet that tend to get lost with each generation. Upon marriage, my mom took my dad’s last name, Hadžić (as many women often do) and with that, the name Milović has been slowly evaporating from our family given my uncle’s recent passing.
In 1998, my parents made the difficult yet essential decision to immigrate to the United States, as many families do, fleeing religious or ethnic persecution or turmoil in search of a better life. As years pass, memories fade, driving a deeper disconnect between the two continents deeper than the Atlantic Ocean itself. First, the culture fades and then slowly words start to escape and pretty soon we are speaking Bosn-ish, finding it harder and harder to remember the Bosnian dialect.
When Jason and I eloped last December, I made the deliberate decision to keep the Hadžić surname going. And without any hesitation and a show of support, Jason decided to take on the name as well. Having always been fascinated with genealogy, I begin to wander more about my own and now my husband’s lineage. As we think about having children someday, we’d want them to not only know stories such as džedo Milo’s, but to also recognize that they too are immigrants and an ultimate product of a generation that made the ultimate sacrifice by taking the leap of faith and immigrating to a new world. It’s what many people have so easily forgotten – the ultimate sacrifice of generations that led them here to this place.
It’s for these reasons that I found it enticing to try one of the many ancestry tests despite the very vocal objection from my mother who called it a waste of time and money. I am not sure what exactly I was hoping for – perhaps I wanted to believe that generations prior to ours had immigrated from somewhere in the world, that it wasn’t my parents who decided to leave and maybe I’d no longer identify as that immigrant girl. Or maybe I was hoping for a cool discovery, since Bosnia was once situated near a major trading port and was once under the Turkish Ottoman Empire and I’d recall hearing and reading stories of kings and sultans from that region many moons ago.
My mind ran a thousand miles thinking up wishful stories that could have been. And as for Jason, we never knew much about his biological mother and were hoping to piece some of it together.
So, we gave it a go and tried the 23andMe DNA test, spitting into a tube and sending it off via snail mail hoping that it will magically reveal all of our lineage secrets, forgetting about it and after some time had passed, receiving an email with the headline “Your reports are now ready”.
The results showed that surprise surprise, I am 100% Eastern European! Which at first, seemed a bit anti-climatic, but after some thought, hit me hard with a knockout of realization that my parents' generation are indeed the FIRST ones to make this journey and change the course of our lineage.
Jason’s ancestors had much more of a different path in life as they journeyed half way across the globe from Western Africa, while mine called it good in Eastern Europe. We also learned that he is 49% Northwestern and 18% Eastern European, which we suspected and 15% Native American.
Since receiving the results, we have become more curious of our ancestral tales and family history, which has motivated us to continue to learn more through stories that we can hopefully one day pass on to our children. Although, it was fun to receive the results, we recognize that it's only a starting point to continue to learn more and put those family stories in writing. I believe in storytelling more so than some DNA test, so at least this has us prompting questions and continuing the conversation.
Have you done either the ancestry.com or 23andMe DNA test? Did you learn anything surprising?
Full time City Transportation Planner. Part time urbanista dreamer & traveler residing in Minneapolis, Minnesota.