We’ve probably all seen the commercials with people who had their DNA tested by one of the consumer labs and discovered some shocking ancestral heritage or two. I knew the likelihood of that for me was small – as far as I knew, both sides of my family have been in the USA for centuries and were all descended from England, Wales, or Ireland. While it’s very cool to have ancestors that have been here for four centuries, being essentially 100% American isn’t all that exciting. (I love the USA, but our culture is basically every culture, and thus none.) I’ve often found myself a little jealous of my boys’ clear Ethiopian heritage, even if they don’t get to grow up surrounded by it. So, when I caught 23andMe on sale, I went for it, doubting the likelihood but hoping for a surprise or two in my ancestry. I spit in a tube (so attractive), mailed it off, and about a month later… Surprise!
I had no idea I could be about 10% French and/or German, let alone the little bits of potential Scandinavian and southern European! The 96.7% western European made me laugh though because I’ve always called myself a “western European mutt” – but I thought the countries involved were just England, Wales, and Ireland. I’m even more excited to go back to France now! These results also spurred me to look at genealogy sites for the first time in a long time and I found things I’d never found in previous searches. Now I know that on my dad’s side I’m only three generations removed from Canada, and six from Scotland, so a lot more of that Northwestern European/British is likely Scottish than I knew.
After reading all the ancestry reports, I uploaded the raw data to Promethease to get the health info for $5 instead of paying 23andMe another $99 to get that info. It was interesting to see what they got right (skin/eye/hair color, susceptibility to sunburn, likelihood of depression, carrier for male pattern baldness, etc.) and what they got wrong (supposedly I’m likely to be an early riser, easily affected by caffeine, and think cilantro tastes like soap, as well as several more incorrect items). I also learned some useful things about how my body metabolizes certain medications, and increased likelihood of some health conditions, which are still unlikely but good to be aware of.
So. Would I recommend 23andMe? Definitely. If you know a lot about your ancestral heritage it may not be as interesting to you as it was to me, but if you don’t, it’s kind of fun to have a surprise or find out more. Also, getting the health data would be helpful for anyone. Since my kids were adopted from a country with less advanced health care, I would like to have them tested so they can know what they are genetically predisposed to. Even if there is birth family history of something, it probably went unknown or undiagnosed.
Just remember: as interesting as genetics are, they are simply potential, not a guarantee. We are not slaves to our DNA, but we can learn from it.
23andMe links are referral links.