Question of the Week: What's a trait or characteristic you've inherited from an ancestor?

+9 votes
What's a trait or characteristic you've inherited from an ancestor?
in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (1.7m points)
reshown by Chris Whitten
Oops, wrong place, see below.

laugh I think "traist" and "characteristics" are more due to nurture than to nature. Meaning, there's no gene for frugal, thrifty, flirty, solemn, quiet, perky, bouncy, ... zealous, forthright, candid, .... and in short from A to Z of "characteristics" laugh But because of Nurture, those characteristics CAN be "passed on".  

And if I'm factually in error here, then someone can explain it, clearly? 

Susan, what else accounts for very different personalities among different children in the same family, except that they were born that way?

Well, Julie what is the DNA gene for frugal? The DNA has the genes on it.  I SHOULD HAVE thrown in several IMO into my post. Anyone curious enough can surf the web and find out what's been studied about behavior and cultural behavior and temperament and so forth. Behavior is malleable, that it we can alter our behavior enough to obtain a favorable response from others (survival characteristic) OR to assist ourselves to reach some particular goal (Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs"). Behaving frugally or exhuberantly or whatever is shaped by our training / programming / conditioning as we grow up.  Whole libraries of info out there to read up on it all. 

We learn our behavior while growing up from those who have the position of Influence and Power over whether we live or die, basically. As we grow older we learn to moderate or pump up according to the responses from others. We want to survive and have a favorable lifestyle. Our behavior around others will shape that ... Smiling cheerful upbeat gets a more favorable response from others more often than not ... 

If we were going to engage in a long debate about this, we would first do well to define our terms: trait, characteristic, personality, behavior.  I would not call frugality a personality characteristic, but rather a behavior, and indeed I would say that frugality is one of those things that is likely shaped by environment (as well as culturally defined).

But it seems self-evident to me that not all of our behaviors are that malleable.  Otherwise, if as you say, being cheerful and upbeat gets a more favorable response, wouldn't we all be cheerful and upbeat all the time if we could?

Susan, researchers do believe they can discern a genetic basis for a variety of behaviors that we are inclined to think of as learned behaviors.

My profile at the website (an academic research site that is, by the the way, shutting down at the end of the month, to be replaced by a commercial site of the same name) reports a variety of predictions about me, based on my DNA. Among its predictions about me:

  • Likely a morning person (Based on 14 genes)
  • Educational attainment: "15.4 years. You have completed college." (Based on 30 genes)
  • Low tendency toward neuroticism. (Based on 8 genes)
  • Average coffee consumption: 2.5 cups a day (Based on 10 genes)

PS - And their predictions are mostly correct.

Okay, Ellen, THAT is the sort of thing that is needed, researched and proven within 95% confidence evidence -- otherwise all that occurs is that the various schools of thought debate without result 

Probably means that the tendency toward certain behaviors is genetic, but again, a number of other factors can modify, channel, direct the tendencies that are genetic such as will power, work schedule, allergies, other dysfunctions or diseases and so forth -- a brain tumor (removed) left one person I know with a short-attention span whereas that was quite the opposite of his behavior before the tumor 

So are they indicating in these studies that one may be genetically inclined to frugality or genetically inclined to being personable (charming), industrious, conscientious, ambitious, pragmatic and other such? I do not expect to live long enough to see the matter settled beyond any doubts or debate. I remain convinced that behavior can be and will be modified by the conditions and situation and circumstances prevailing 

As I understand it, these predictions are based on statistical correlations of  population data on genes and measurable traits. Sometimes researchers have information on the function of a gene that appears to be correlated with a particular trait (so they can form a theory on why the gene predicts the trait), but other times its just a statistical correlation. And when they can identify as many as 30 different genes that appear to be related to a particular trait, you can bet that pretty much everybody has a mixture of genes that point in different directions with respect to the trait of interest.
No one ever said that behavior could not be modified.  But for children who grow up with their parents, the parents are among the significant influences that modify the children's behavior, so in a sense, the children still got those resulting traits from their parents.  One definition of "inherit" is "receive."

Ellen, in short, it is -- in essence a behavioral study in a field where 1000's of such studies have been done but with the added benefits conferred by DNA test results, to compare with and against behavior traits (traits being a distinguishing characteristic or quality, esp. of one's personal nature) .  [the question there on the search was <trait, characteristics>]

Do they have a pool of 1000's of test results? Last I heard it took about 5000 to get a decent pool for such tests. It is, I note, a self-selected site, that is respondents volunteer their DNA test result. (Trait: curiosity?) and do you know if they have 5000? or nearly so? 

IMO IMO I hope we're not involved in predestined or fated outcomes or a course of events due to a genetic array passed on by ancestors. Which is what all this genetic traits correlation starts to sound like to me IMO IMO. Ah, well, even DNA testing is starting to look like Pandora's Box which is more IMO IMO. I'm nearing the end of my life, and it will make no difference in my life what the results of all this turn out to be (outcomes) LOL. You younger ones have exciting times coming. 

31 Answers

+10 votes
I understand that my Scottish ancestors have been known for their practicality and frugality. This was never more explicit than when I lived with my paternal grandmother. I tend to fix things and not throw much of anything away. I watch sales and often buy things that have been used.
by Alexis Nelson G2G6 Pilot (321k points)
That must be true for most people of Scottish ancestry because I also prefer to buy the bargains and not the full price items whenever possible!! LOL   And I am at least half Scottish - the rest being English, Irish and Scandinavian.
I too, am very "Scottish" in that way. I never even knew I have Scottish ancestry until in my 60s  :-)
+9 votes
I have the trait, often characterized as Jewish, of loving a bargain.  My favorite activity is to go shopping, but unlike the New York Jewish princess I was raised to be, my favorite stores are second hand stores, thrift shops, and don't leave out yard sales!  When someone compliments me on one of my "finds" that I have refurbished (and usually completely repurposed), I love to brag about how little I paid for it.
by Gaile Connolly G2G6 Pilot (817k points)
Gaile, you are my kind of gal, bet we could be great friends!
I am with you, my friend. And you too Alexis.
+7 votes
Many of my ancestors were Mennonite. As apostates of the Lutheran apostates, they were religious mavericks. I have that trait, that and an aversion to violence. Had my family stayed with the church (they were apostates from the Mennonites) I might have made a good Mennonite... or not.
by John Burkholder G2G4 (4.9k points)
+10 votes
Haven't we inherited EVERYTHING from our ancestors?
by Sue Hall G2G6 Pilot (138k points)

No we haven't! Remember the nature vs nurture argument? We are the sum total of first, our genetics, and second our experiences. wink

Yes, but nurture usually comes from our ancestors (i.e. parents) too.
yes we are the result of nature and nurture BUT inherit implies ancestors.
I was about to concede your point, but then for once I got up from my computer and walked over to the bookshelf and looked at my dictionary.  The second definition of inherit, after an obsolete one, is "to receive."  And, as another example, I inherited money from my mother, but it is not in my genes.
Julie, I'm glad it's in your jeans  (presumably) and not your genes LOL!
+6 votes
My g-grandmother was very strong and not easily manipulated. She came to the defense of the "under dog". As I worked back her line I also found I descend from Godgifu, Lady Godiva, who was also strong and stood up for the down trodden. I have been that way since I was a little girl, whether child, adult or animal.
by Jamie Thompson G2G6 (6.2k points)
I can totally relate to that.  Both my grandparents and their families were extremely stubborn.  However my maternal grandmother and her whole line made me extremely preservant under the most trying of circumstances.  I also always found the need to stick up for the "under dog" no matter what.  Not to pass judgement on people because of their looks, jobs, race, or what they owned.  That everyone is their own unique individual and should be treated that way.
Me, too, Elaine.  And one of my daughters would get in trouble in school for that reason.  Once in high school, she took up for a boy the teacher was verbally downgrading for no real reason.  Result:  when my daughter tried out for the drill team, she was blacklisted by that teacher.
+8 votes
This is an easy question for me to answer. My red hair.

My grandma Leinen had red hair. She passed it on to my mom, who passed it on to me.  I passed it on to both of my children, who passed it on to 3 of my 5 grandchildren. 1 of 2 of my g-grandchildren have red hair, but I have another one coming this month, so we shall see.
by Cheryl Hess G2G Astronaut (1.5m points)
It's funny, but I have no idea where my red hair came from.  My mother's jet black hair, brown eyes, and olive complexion caused her to often be taken for Italian.  My father had dark brown hair and brown eyes.  I am a green-eyed redhead with chalk white skin and freckles.  Funny, but my eyes used to be a deep green, however in the last 20 years or so they have faded and are now light blue.  FTDNA had an eye color predictor they were testing - they asked for feedback about how accurate it is - mine was the exact green that I started life with!

My children are both blue eyed blonds.  My 3 grandsons have dark brown, blonde, and light brown, 2 are blue eyed and 1 is brown eyed.  Their mother has dark brown hair and eyes, though.  I'm on the verge of becoming a great grandmother any day now - can't wait to see how he turns out!
Gaile, isn't that interesting? My eyes were green. Both of my parents were brown, but grandma's were blue. Mom said her eyes were hazel when she was younger. My daughter's eyes are brown, and my son had gray eyes. Grandchildren are a mix of blue and brown.
Thank you for selecting my answer, Elaine. That was very sweet of you.
Well I am kind of really missing my long red hair right now.  I became older and spent a year growing it out and now I have a mostly grey pixie for now.  My mother had a fit that I was doing so but after a while she realized that I was too stubborn to give in. ;)
Elaine, I bet you are missing it. I am old as dirt, but still have long red hair. My husband wants me to cut it, but it took too long to grow it. Are you sorry it is short?
Mine has been that way for well over thirty years.  It just became too expensive and time consuming having to use wholesale top of the line professional products to cover it constantly.  Although I can say that Redkin Color Fusion works the best by far.  Just in case you ever need the advice.  I do desperately miss it and can't wait to grow the grey out longer.  The odd thing is that no one recognizes me any longer.  It does make me wonder if I was in fact defined by others only by my red hair.
Thank you for the advice. I will remember that. My mother has colored her hair for so long, even she doesn't remember the exact shade of red she used to have. Grandma colored her hair, but decided to let it grow out naturally, and had the most beautiful white hair. I have had my hair short, but have a cowlick in the back of my hairline. Have a wonderful day, Elaine, and thanks for chatting.

Eye color is somewhat understandable. There are dominant and recessive genes that carry eye color. Brown dominates blue and blue dominates green and green-like.

A Punnett Square is a tool one can use to predict or at least explain possible outcomes.

D. thank you for that information. If my grandmother had blue eyes, did that somehow travel through my mom's genes to my sister who ended up with blue eyes, even though mom had brown/hazel eyes?
Your grandmother passed the allele for blue eyes to your mother. Your mother had brown which dominated the blue allele. But she carried the recessive blue allele. Can’t leave your grandfather and father out of the equation. If your grandfather had brown eyes he had to have the recessive blue. Then what about your father? Your mother had blue, so her two alleles were both recessive. Your father had to have a blue recessive if he did not have blue eyes.

Too hard to send a Punnett Square explanation here. It’s just probability.
Meant to say your sister had blue, not your mother.

@Cheryl Hess @Elaine Musser, Laughing at this one. My mom started telling me (by the time I was 30) that I was "too old" to wear my hair long. My hair is very straight and although it's gotten darker in the last few years, it's still naturally blonde and waist-length. Ha, I just turned 60! I guess I'm still "too old" to have long hair, but until it gets curley (LOL), or grey, it will be longer than my shoulders, maybe even then! I cut it for charity twice and both times it felt as though I'd lost a limb.

I'm almost 54 and my still growing out my grey pixie, already a month in now.  When I had breast cancer about seven years ago, I was going to donate all my hair.  However I found that none wanted color treated hair.  So do all small girls with cancer want grey wigs?  WTF?
Lisa, my husband keeps telling me to get mine cut. He likes it very short, and it is too hard to take care of when it is short. Yeah for long hair on older women.
+9 votes
Judging from photos, my big forehead!
by Jessica Key G2G6 Pilot (179k points)
I have a big forehead as well. My friends like to ask me, "Lisa, why the long face?" I can't bring myself to get bangs, ( I like to be able to put my hair behind my ears), which would take some of the emphasis off of it.
I used to get baby bangs (aka Bettie Page bangs) and I loved them! Everyone likes them, they're short so they don't hang in your eyes and you don't notice them so much, plus they still do a good job of covering our foreheads.
+6 votes
I think the abbreviation ADHD was created for us. Where I can see it or even know it was diagnosed in many of my cousins, looking back I see it as wanderers and alcoholics. Many were out of step with their neighbors.
by Judy Bramlage G2G6 Pilot (102k points)
+8 votes
A desire to serve God and of my great grandfathers of old was Sir Thomas More,1478-1575 . I just learned this fact in 2019.  I have always had a bent toward the Christian faith, trusted Christ as my Saviour when I was 22 years old and have a desire to serve my country and people, through childhood activity in churches, and as an adult in youth clubs, and through national political electoral ridings as a Board member.
by Kathleen Foster G2G Crew (950 points)
+9 votes
Most certainly the German short temper and inability to shut my mouth when angry. In my early ancestry 2 of my Luckhoff ancestors left the church after having refusing Nazism in Germany. One of my great uncles was asked to leave his ministry in SA due to his clashes with theother clergymen, so yes, the temper rules ..
by Janette Engelbrecht G2G5 (5.3k points)
Janette, I have to admire your ancestors’ principled stands. Maybe it wasn’t so much anger as much as a desire to be faithful to what they believed. A worthy legacy you can be proud of.
Thank you Pip, yes, my Luckhoff lineage my pride in life. A huge number of Dominees, some very well known, some not, but all firmly believed in their calling. I am much the dame, very passionate about whatever I try next..LOL..
It doesn't get any better than to have inherited a Legacy of Faith.   Scripture says that those who place their Faith in Jesus , have the Faith of Abraham.   Very good to be counted into the family of Abraham and not even be Jewish.
+6 votes
In the line of my maternal grandmother is a remarkable language ability.  My grandmother and her twin sister spoke five languages, four of them with native fluency.  Their great-grandfather is known to have spoken at least nine languages.  I remember my grandmother's sister teaching me a few phrases of Italian and French when I was about seven years old.  I don't remember the phrases.  But I remember her telling me that I would probably be very good at learning languages.

I don't have anything like her accomplishments, but I have studied four foreign languages.  And it seems I have to make much less effort to learn a foreign language than other students do.  I enjoy languages, and have a copy editor's mind and eye in English.
by Kate Hunter G2G2 (2.1k points)
+7 votes
I recognize the fact that I'm part German because in my very soul I know life is better because of cured meats. Ham forever! I can't live without it.
by Judi Stutz G2G6 Mach 3 (34.4k points)
+6 votes
I am a proud descendant of the Tedesco nose (TM). Those big Italian noses. My dad has it. I have it. My brother doesn't. LOL.

I have my grandfather's dark hair and I tend to walk with my hands behind my back like my other grandfather. My dad's bald. But, I've yet to lose any hair. So I think I have that from my mom's side.

My skin also tends to tan VERY quickly and when it does, it's an olive colored tan. It tends to fade, though.

That's all I can think of right now!
by Chris Ferraiolo G2G6 Pilot (400k points)
+6 votes
I inherited an aptitude for science from both sides of my family. I inherited shyness from my mother's side. I inherited stubbornness from my Scottish ancestors, and preciseness from the German and Swiss. Unfortunately, I inherited my father's poor housekeeping ability.

I also am thrifty and find ways to re-use things, and don't throw away anything that could be useful, as some of the other answers here, however, I attribute that to being a 2nd generation depression baby, as my parents were born in 1930, rather than genes, but it may well be both.
by Alison Gardner G2G6 Mach 6 (62.7k points)
+7 votes
I recently found a picture of my Irish Great Grandmother and now the question of where my whole families nose comes from is answered. Not big, not small, slightly large nostrils (flared looking) and an upturned round tip. All of my brothers and cousins inherited this nose, and their children.  I find it amazing that she stamped us all with this. And actually thankful as its not a bad nose. And VERY glad we did not get my other Grandmothers nose. It was a bit of a honker. LOL

by Marcella Nadler G2G1 (1.4k points)
In defense of the one grandma's honker... I've found a lot of guys like a big nose on a gal!
Well I guess my Grandfather did. LOL But she also had high cheekbones and bright blue eyes, with black hair.
And people's noses grow as they age, don't they?  So you may have that honker some day.
The shape is totally different. IT has gotten bigger, but as I am 60 and life expectancy is maybe mid 70's to maybe 80 I doubt it will get much larger. But my butt? Well that may. Mom was heavy, Dad was not, I tend towards Mom but not quite as big.... But I did get Grandmas boob size Now Those would make my other Grandmas nose look small.  I believe it is another thing I inherited from that side of the family. LOL From my Moms side bad knees, and arthritis. Sigh. Gotta take the good with the bad and make it work.
+5 votes

Going prematurely grey, then white. I am in my late 20s and have mostly grey hair. My dad went grey in his early 20s, and was white by his early 30s. My grandfather went white in his 30s. My great-grandfather had white hair by the time he was 44. It seems to come from my 3x great-grandfather John Robinson; although I don't know when his hair went white, the photos I have of him show he has the exact same snowy white hair that all my father's family has.

by James Knighton G2G6 Mach 2 (23.8k points)
+5 votes
Breathing - although they have given it up and I haven't yet, thankfully. Also maybe religion - seem to be quite a few clergy in my family as I build the tree and while I am not clergy - I am a believer and that has come down through the family.
by Sarah Jenkins G2G6 Mach 1 (13.8k points)
+4 votes

For me, it's a love of the great outdoors and outdoor adventure.  On my French Canadian side (paternal) they were farmers going back at least 10 generations.  Also, they were explorers and adventurers.  On my mother's East European side, they were travellers.  I worked as a parks planner and manager, while looking after my hobby farm with horses, goats and a large vegetable garden during my spare time.   My retirement so far consists of exploring and hiking in each and every national park in the USA and Canada.  I no longer have farm animals but I still have a vegetable garden and fruit trees.

by Mattie Coutts G2G1 (1.5k points)
+4 votes
A frenum which is an over-growth of muscle on the gums between the two front teeth which causes a gap. I believe it is from my maternal side as I see it on my uncle, grandma, and brother; all of whom seem to wear it better than me. I have always had a habit of grinding my teeth when I sleep so my teeth went buck in addition to the huge gap. I was suppose to have it surgically removed in grade school; however, I freaked out in a week long panic attack as I also had a terrible phobia of doctors, especially dentists so my parents let it go as I couldn't eat, sleep, or think of anything except being held down and having needles stuck in my gums. My medical related panic was so severe that I couldn't look forward to anything that was suppose to happen after a dentist appointment as I thought I would die in the chair.
by Lisa Perry G2G Crew (550 points)
Lisa, this is a true story. Fifty three years ago, age twenty, I had my frenum removed and came home and took a nap. I woke up and started down the hall, and that is all I remember.   I was found on the floor with a large break in the drywall and new sheetrock had to be put up and the entire hall repainted. My head must have hit the wall, but I have always been known for being hard headed. The whole incident upset my poor grandmother, who was the only other person in the house.
+4 votes

I have my grandfather's (Truslow 201) nose and wavy hair.

by Dorothy O'Hare G2G6 Mach 4 (46.5k points)

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