I have always been interested in genetics (I considered becoming a genetic counselor for a while!) and the idea that spitting into a small tube could provide me with information about my genetic make up and ancestral origins was quite intriguing.
I missed my first opportunity to purchase an AncestryDNA kit over the summer, but received a second invitation in October 2012. I wrote about my results here. As a recap, I am decidedly the product of a whole bunch of northwest Europeans.
The 23andMe service caught my attention for two main reasons.
1) The ability to further differentiate my DNA origins into countries. British Isles is pretty specific, but nearly all of the paper trails in my research point to Ireland so I was curious if there was a way to genetically ‘prove’ this.
2) Health information! I know some people are uninterested in the health data included in the service, but this was a big drawing factor for me.
It only took two weeks from the time my sample was received until I had some results in my account. Some of the genealogy data took a few extra days to populate and appear in my account, but I certainly wasn’t lacking information to examine during this time!
When you log in you get two main categories on the side of your screen – My Health and My Ancestry. Here are some interesting things you can discover under each:
My eyes are likely blue (yes), my hair is slightly curlier than average (yes), and my muscles perform more like a sprinter than an endurance athlete (nice! I just thought I was out of shape for long distance running!).
Analyzes your response to 21 substances (some are medications and some are not). This section was fairly uneventful for me.
Tests for 48 conditions. For females carrier status of the BRCA Cancer Mutation gene is hidden until you click through another set of check boxes to ensure you really want to know this information. This also came into play in a later section (risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s for both men and women). I opted to learn information for each category.
This section is broken down into “Elevated Risk”, “Decreased Risk”, and “Average Risk”. This was quite a fascinating section for me with a few surprises in each category. Clicking on each listing will provide you with a summary of the disease, which of your genes are contributing what, and in certain cases things you can do to modify your risk.
Edit: I forgot to add 23andMe says I am 100% European (a conservative estimate is 99.1%).
Interesting! Learning what percentage of your DNA was contributed by Neanderthals is an interesting experience. The information provided suggests for humans who originated outside of Africa 1-4% of their DNA will come from Neanderthals. I’m still doing more research on this.
I have 987 DNA relatives participating in the 23andMe site. I have already been contacted by 4 of them (exciting!) but haven’t had a chance to respond yet! My account suggests 122 of those individuals are 3rd-4th cousins and 865 are ‘distant cousins’. Nobody within the 1st-2nd cousin range at this point.
Female participants receive their Maternal Haplogroup and some information about where their relatives were 500 years ago. I’m still learning more about how to interpret this information as well.
Countries of Ancestry
Ah yes, what I have been waiting for! This matches pieces of my DNA with DNA from other 23andMe users. There are options to increase or decrease the size of the DNA segment included. Therefore being more exclusive [larger pieces] or inclusive [smaller pieces] with the results.
I’ve played with the different settings a bit.
- with the most ‘exclusive’ controls my list includes: Ireland.
- with the most ‘inclusive’ controls my list includes: Ireland, United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Russia, Poland, Norway, India, France, Denmark, Bahamas.
I am so excited and so overwhelmed with all of the information that I still have to look through!