Family Ties

Family Ties

Inherit Midnight by Kate Kae Myers

If you were a fan of the 39 Clues book series, this 2017-18 Gateway Nominee might be a perfect choice for you.

Avery VanDemere should want for nothing as she’s the granddaughter of a wealthy business owner with a million-dollar estate. However, Avery can’t wait until she’s eighteen and can run away from the strict household her grandmother runs. Mrs. VanDemere is practically obsessed with her family history and refuses to allow Avery to do simple teenage things like get a driver’s license or invite friends to the house. Avery was born as the result of an affair between her father and the family nanny, and her snobbish relatives refuse to let her forget it. Because her father is a drunk and her mother is deceased, Avery bides her time under her grandmother’s thumb.

Avery’s grandmother surprises her and her relatives, however, when she brings the family together at the estate and remotely invites them to participate in an Amazing Race style competition to determine the sole heir of the family business. Mrs. VanDemere sends Avery and her greedy family traipsing across the globe to compete in challenges that relate to their family history. Avery teams up with young Riley Tate, son of the her family’s attorney, and is determined to win the competition to earn financial freedom. Along the way, however, Avery learns a horrible secret about her past that makes her question the value of winning at her grandmother’s game.

Down the Rabbit Hole

While reading Inherit Midnight, I began to question my own family history, a topic I didn’t know much about. I remembered that my mom’s mother, my grandma, had descended from Lithuania and that her husband, my grandpa, had relatives from England. My dad, however, is adopted, and I knew nothing about his biological family heritage. I decided to tackle this #plotdrivenlife experience in a couple of different ways:

First, I purchased an Ancestry DNA kit from Amazon. This was a pricey purchase at $99, but I was excited about the possibility of learning about my dad’s family history by testing my own DNA. When the kit arrived, I spat a disgusting amount of saliva into the tube and mailed it off for analysis. This was definitely the weirdest thing I’ve sent in the mail!

That’s my spittle, ready for the postman.

I waited about four weeks for my results to come back, and I know my dad was just as excited as I was to know about his ancestors. Interestingly, the results throw some of my mom’s known family history into question. While my relatives were definitely from Europe, the results show that I am only 9% British. Overwhelmingly, my DNA suggested I descend from Ireland. While it’s possible my dad is of Irish heritage, it’s also possible my mom’s family had Irish blood, too, for me to be 34% Irish. Regardless, it was so cool to learn about my ancestors, and I think my results will encourage my dad to test his DNA, too, so he can have more definitive information about his biological family.

Second, I asked my mom for a copy of a family tree created by a relative on my grandpa’s side of the family. I had never seen this family tree, and I definitely got goosebumps when I saw it because it tracks my family back to 1785! While the paper copy of the family tree blew me away, it was when I started building a digital tree on Ancestry DNA’s website that I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. As I added family members, the website connected me to other existing family trees in their database where I could review information about possible relatives and decide if I wanted to add the people or details to my own tree. I opted to access this information for two weeks during my free trial, and I’ll have to decide if I want to pay to continue to subscribe to this service. Right now, I’m still in the process of adding all of my known relatives, and Ancestry DNA has found 99 possible connections to other trees! I feel like I have fallen down the rabbit hole. I can absolutely understand how researching one’s family tree can be a lifelong project. I’m now determined to sit down with my living relatives and add as much information as possible to our tree. It’s a powerful experience.

My family tree beginning with my great, great, great, great, great grandparents.

Had I not read Kate Kae Myers’ novel, I’m sure I wouldn’t have tested my DNA or reached out for a copy of my family tree. This project has been eye-opening and humbling. I realize I am one piece of a large family puzzle, and it’s exciting to think I have the opportunity to connect with previously unknown family members online through shared family histories. I’m excited to see where this #plotdrivenlife experience has yet to take me. I wonder if it’s too much to hope that I’ll connect with some of my dad’s family. . .

This week, I challenge you to search out your own family tree and consider adding to it or creating one if it doesn’t exist. If you are a high school student, please consider marking your calendar to participate in this year’s The Great Thanksgiving Listen, an annual project sponsored by StoryCorps. The project is designed to encourage the recording of oral family histories which are then stored in the Library of Congress for posterity. Can you imagine if your descendant was able to listen to your recorded interview of a family member hundreds of years in the future? It gives me chills just to think about it!

Thanks for reading,