Going bald by one's twenties seemed terribly early to me, but I never asked my dad why. Of course, I never knew any other members of his family besides his one sister, so I had no way to compare my dad to his male relatives.
It was when my cousin shared old photographs of the family that I realized why my dad went bald at such a young age. That was apparently his dad's story, too. And, as we can see from a glimpse of his head in a photo of a Laskowski family gathering, his maternal grandfather's plight, as well.
There is, however, a reason overarching even those details. It was not just that his dad carried the same trait, or that those genes were blended with the Laskowski side of his family. It was that quite a large proportion of those claiming a Polish heritage carry the same propensity.
Now that we have the relatively inexpensive ability to test our DNA, not only are consumers availing themselves of this scientific advance, but whole countries are looking to study what broad-based genetic studies can reveal about people groups. The main example that comes to mind is the People of the British Isles project, thanks to news articles I've stumbled across in various genealogy circles. For instance, take this nifty map showing the genetic clustering of the British population, or this archaeological display and explanation of the United Kingdom's genetic heritage from the University of Oxford's Museum of Natural History.
Only problem: as fascinating as that may be, I don't want to know the genetic history of the British people. I need to know about the genetics of the Polish people.
Fortunately, the British aren't the only ones to have thought of such a brilliant project. There is now a study dubbed the Thousand Polish Genomes Project. Similar to the one for the United Kingdom, this project will be used for scientific purposes, likely including furthering the study of genetics as well as seeking applications to various fields of medicine.
I couldn't help but smile when I read one resultant report of the propensities inherent in the Polish heritage. Polish people are more likely to be blonde and to have freckles. No surprise there. But there's another nationally-shared tendency: the likelihood for Polish men to go bald.
So there you have it. My paternal grandfather may have been tight-lipped about his national heritage, but all along, he was wearing a sign on his head advertising his Polish origin.
Inset above: Closeup of Antoni Laskowski from photograph at family gathering in New York City circa 1920.