Cherry Healey isn’t afraid of a challenge. In her documentary work with the BBC, she’s explored everything from the psychology of sales tricks to how to make a cracking cup of tea.
And she’s no stranger to getting introspective. Her book, ‘Letters to my Fanny’ is a candid anthology of confessions, exploring what it’s like being a woman through her personal experiences and stories.
But what about the story that really matters – the story of where she came from?
We invited Cherry to take an AncestryDNA test and go on a journey through her past to find out just how well she knows herself.
So how British was this British darling? Watch and find out.
Brimming over with her new discoveries, we sat down with Cherry after her reveal to find out how she felt about the experience.
Ancestry: Why did you take the AncestryDNA test?
Cherry: I can’t imagine anyone not being excited about finding out more about their background! I knew about tracing family history through records but I had no idea you could go even deeper using DNA. I said ‘yes’ before I really considered the consequences of finding out. It was only while I was waiting for the results to arrive that I started to think about the impact – what if there was a total anomaly in there – would that cause something hidden in my family to be revealed? I started to feel extremely nervous as I realised that the DNA results would inform our family’s understanding of our history – and I felt hugely responsible for opening that box. Of course, if family history is positive then that’s lovely – but of course there could have been things that were selectively forgotten, and I realised that I was potentially digging up unwanted information.
Ancestry: How much did you know about your family history before taking the test?
Cherry: I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t know very much! My uncle has done a lot of research but I’ve only really started to ask questions in the past two years. I know that our family used to be Quakers, at some point someone owned a huge brewery, one of my great great uncles founded a town in South Africa – but my knowledge is very sketchy! The more I find out the more interested I become…
Ancestry: What were you expecting to see in your results?
Cherry: I was expecting to be predictably British! I feel very, very British. I love Shepherd’s Pie, queuing is in my bones, I’m passive aggressive and say sorry for things that weren’t my fault (and then feel cross when it’s not said back to me!) and I think tea solves all problems (it does). I travel a lot for work, which I adore, but I’m always happy to come home. I feel deeply connected to the UK. And there is something about the British sensibility that I completely love – our national saying ‘Keep Calm And Carry On’ is in our blood and on our tea towels, cushions, mugs! In our chaotic world, I hugely appreciate that characteristic.
Ancestry: So you received your DNA results! What were they and what did you think?
Cherry: My results slightly blew me away! I was so, so sure I was almost entirely British but it turns out I am less than 1%! WHAT?! How can that be?! I’ve never even heard a mention of a different ethnicity in our family history – and yet I have a cocktail of different DNA inside me! I am a little bit Irish, a little bit French, German, Scandinavian and Latin! I am beyond excited to find out more about where they all came into our family – who, when, how?
Ancestry: How did it change your sense of identity?
Cherry: It definitely shifted something inside of me. I realised that there were people with more British DNA than me who probably couldn’t get a British passport – so I started to ask myself what it really means to be ‘British’? What does it mean to be patriotic? Is identity about where you were born, because that is just a case of luck. Is it about where your family are, because that can change by choice or by force and often people have family all over the globe. Is it about your DNA? After taking the test I realised that my real identity is just about the internal – the feelings I have, the thoughts and choices I make, my motives and preferences – rather than anything really to do with geography. And I think when that shifted I definitely felt more connected globally.
Ancestry: What do you say to someone thinking of taking the test?
Cherry: I would say YES! DO IT! It’s a unique opportunity to see far back into your past – often further than records can go – and it does something wonderfully connecting. It’s also incredibly easy – spit in a tube (not my favourite part but it did take less than a minute) pop in the post and then a few weeks later… boom! You’ll understand why you love salsa dancing so much (Joking! Sort of…).
Ancestry: You’ve just had your parents tested. How do you feel about receiving their results and revealing them to your mum and dad?
Cherry: I am so excited about being able to tell mum and dad their results! It will be fascinating to see if they have ethnicities that weren’t passed onto me – and it’ll be the perfect opportunity to ask them questions about their family history. I’d like to use the results as a catalyst to really find out what they know – I want to be able to pass onto my kids a sense of where they’ve come from.