How much do you know about your ancestry? I’ve always liked hearing stories about my parents’ relatives in England and Poland, as well as looking through all the photos peppered around my 85-year-old grandmother’s house. When 23andMe, the genetic testing service, offered to let me try their new ancestry test, I was curious to see the exact results…
Shopping for British foods — including Cornish pasties and blackcurrant juice — at Myers of Keswick.
Although my siblings and I grew up mostly in the Michigan suburbs, England was a big part of our childhood. We visited our grandparents in my Cornwall almost every summer, and we loved eating salt-and-vinegar chips, playing on rocky beaches, and walking on the cliffs. My first kiss was actually with a guy in the little fishing village! So, I wondered if my DNA would reflect that.
First off, here’s how the test works: You register with 23andMe online and they send you a kit in the mail for collecting your saliva sample at home. It’s really easy. You spit into the tube and mail the kit back in a pre-paid package. A few weeks later, 23andMe sends you an email to let you know your reports are ready online. (The whole thing feels kind of magical.)
23andMe offers two different kinds of tests: one that looks purely at ancestry for $99 and one that also provides health wellness report for $199. I tried only the ancestry test, but you can do both with the same sample, if you’d like. The ancestry test results include tons of fascinating information, like where your ancestors may have lived more than 500 years ago, how your background breaks down between your mother and father, and how much of your DNA is derived from Neanderthals (!).
My heart raced a little as I clicked into the results. What I learned is that 98 percent of my ancestors likely came from Northwest Europe — 45 percent British and Irish but also 27 percent French and German; and the rest broken down among Scandinavia, Finland and elsewhere in the region.
One cool part of the report showed how many generations ago my ancestors likely lived in each area. (For example, I learned that my relatives probably lived in Scandinavia between about 1770 and 1860.)
Finally, the most entertaining aspect of the report showed how likely I was to have certain traits, based on my DNA. The results rang eerily true. For example, caffeine makes me jittery, I didn’t have to get braces or a retainer, and I’ve never run a marathon!
Would you do a test like this? It was fascinating — and might be really surprising. If you’d like, you can order a kit here.
23andMe is also offering 23 people the chance to take a trip somewhere in the world based on their DNA ancestry. Go here to order a kit by August 3rd and be entered to win a trip. Travel packages are valued up to $20,000 and include round-trip airfare for two, five nights of accommodations, a customized itinerary and more. (Here are the official rules of the Golden23 sweepstakes.)
Thank you so much, 23andMe!
~ Thomas Jefferson