With her blonde hair and hazel eyes, Retha Barghelame had always assumed that she was German with maybe a touch of Irish and Scottish in her ancestry. And her husband, David? His background was well established—he was an Iranian immigrant who had come to the U.S. as a teen for school. He then met Retha and the rest was history in the Barghelame household.
But Retha always wondered if there was more to their genetic story that she was missing. She decided to put that assumption to the test with the help of National Geographic’s Geno 2.0 kit in the Helix Store, joining thousands of other people who had unlocked their genetic history. “Especially because it’s been in the news a lot recently, my mom decided she really wanted to try it herself,” her daughter Rachelle said.
“My mom decided she really wanted to try it herself.”
Retha and David’s four children, which include daughters Rachelle and Elanuz, bought kits for both of their parents for Christmas. After sending off the saliva samples, Retha wanted to have her friends and family be present when her ancestry results were revealed in order to commemorate the event.
In turning their personal DNA discovery into a family affair, Retha and David set a date for when the results were to be revealed and invited their friends and family to a party hosted at their home. David’s sister flew in from out of town, joining the rest of David and Retha’s siblings that made it. And their son, Rachelle’s sibling, video-called in to add to the 40 people in attendance at the party.
The party—which was “around the world” themed—had biscotti, pierogis, and even a German chocolate cake decorated like a globe and adorned with frosting that read, “Who am I?”
Before the results were revealed (and in between bites of the global feast), party guests guessed the potential heritage of Retha and David by pinning countries on a world map.
“There were plenty of helping hands involved—in making the food, setting up the decorations, and planning the big reveal. We really made it very personal and made it a family event,” said Elnauz.
And because Mom and Dad wanted to be surprised, the National Geographic results were a mystery to them as well. Within two map-wrapped boxes, Rachelle and Elnauz placed flag-emblazoned balloons. As Retha and David unwrapped the boxes, balloons floated out, revealing that Turkey, Russia, and Spain were all countries that were part of the Barghelame genetic background.
Retha was especially surprised to see that she had Spanish and French ancestry in addition to her expected German, Irish, and Scottish background. On the map, no one had even guessed Spain or France as potential backgrounds for Retha. And David discovered that his genetic background was much more of a blend of Middle Eastern nations than anyone in the family had initially thought, including Georgia, Turkey, and Russia.
“Everyone was really surprised—I was shocked, especially in my mom’s case. You always think it’s going to go one way but it never actually does,” said Rachelle.
“It’s a big reveal for everyone in the family.”
The Barghelame family now knew that their ancestry spanned across from Europe, from Russia to Turkey to Spain. Even other family members were impressed by the newfound knowledge DNA had given them—Rachelle and Elnauz’s cousin had previously tried another ancestry product, but was happy to see more details this time around. “Once my dad got revealed, all of his siblings were able to find out their own backgrounds as well. It’s a big reveal for everyone in the family,” Rachelle adds.
By making their DNA journey a family affair, Retha and David were able to discover a new piece of their heritage, and in turn, a new piece of themselves.
“Being able to share this big moment with all of our friends and family was fantastic,” said Rachelle.
Click here to learn more about Geno 2.0 by National Geographic. To find out more about Helix, visit helix.com/howitworks.