If you don’t do genealogy ignore this post. Also, I’m not a reporter so this is just a blog I wrote at lunch. Not a fact-checked news story. Please don’t ask me DNA questions because I don’t know what the shit I’m doing. I didn’t even spell-check this because I have a deadline on something else I’ve been procrastinating but if I don’t write this now I’ll forget.
I am a bit addicted to genealogical searches. I’ve traced some family members as far back at the 1600’s and (if records can be believed) I have in my family a wide range of reprobates, farmers, immigrants, traveling preachers, prisoners, and a Native American chief who was famous for putting curses on people. But of course records can’t really be believed because everyone has in their family a hidden adoption, or a child that wasn’t by the person they claimed it was by, or someone who changed their identity for some reason, not to mention all sorts of stories made up to cover the terrible (at the time) things that no one wanted known. And it was very easy to hide until DNA testing became available and suddenly everything changes. But this isn’t that story. That’s going in my next book. Probably. This is just a thing I was looking for when I did my Ancestry DNA test and it didn’t give me exactly what I was expecting.
I gave my parents DNA tests last Christmas (not a good present if you think they might not be your parents) and turns out that they are my parents. YAY! But my DNA ethnicity estimate wasn’t what I expected. It’s not an exact science since different siblings may inherit different DNA from each parent so I knew it would be a bit iffy, and it’s even more off because the part of Bohemia my dad’s family is from is in the venn diagram between Eastern and Western Europe that is never listed as a real place when it comes to ancestry stuff. But it gave me some weird stuff I didn’t expect (and possibly could have been erased from our family history since there were more prejudices when my family came to America) and there were some things I’d wanted to find but didn’t. Like, no Native American DNA but technically it was so far back it might not have shown up anyway. But where did all this Irish come from? And my mom was crazy Irish on her test. And there’s African and Jewish and it’s just small amounts, but still…weird. Like there are stories out there from ancestors that I don’t know and desperately want to.
(Note: If you do your genealogical research fully and look for the real stuff instead of just the nice stories told to you by family, expect to find a shitload of bad stuff. Relative marked as “dead” who are actually in prison, relatives who were slaves or indentured servants, relatives who were slave-owners, relatives who died in mental institutions of the same problems you have. It can be a bit traumatic if you’re not prepared. Just be aware that the stuff written in the family Bible should be taken with a pound of salt and keep in mind that you make your own future and you are not responsible for your distant ancestors tragedies, failures or successes. At best they are stories to learn from. And if you do DNA research expect to find people you should not be related to but are -and vice versa – because flings happened even in the “good old days” and that’s life. It can be a bit jarring though and it happens way more than you would imagine. In fact, some of the DNA sites specifically let you opt out from knowing who you are related to because it might be upsetting to you. Personally, I think it’s fascinating but I found a relative I should not have been related to and it was a bit hard on all sides to realize that your ancestors are far more complicated than you ever imagined. That’s another story.)
Aaaaaanyway, in 2015 I did my DNA test on Ancestry.com and it came out interesting but not entirely what I expected so this year I did my DNA test on 23andme.com to see if I’d get the same info and it was close but fairly different. The 23andme.com test is more expensive but also tells you if you’re a carrier for some diseases, special traits you might have, etc. I’d wanted to know how the test differed so I thought I’d share some of my results with you in case you were trying to decide which one to do. Also, note that your DNA report can be updated as they get more information or refine their testing so it can change a bit each time you look at it.
According to Ancestry.com this is my approximate estimate of my ethnicity:
33% Great Britain
26% Eastern and Western Europe (Where they overlap is Bohemia/ Czechoslovakia.)
1% European Jewish
1% Middle Eastern
1% Iberian Penninsula
Today I got my 23andme results and this is my approximate estimate:
28% British and Irish
21% French and German
20% “Broadly” Northwestern European (Counties rimming the North and Baltic Seas)
17% Eastern European
4% “Broadly” Southern European (Sardinia and the Iberian, Italian and Balkan Peninsulas)
7% “Broadly” European
So basically they both say “You’re pretty European” but they certainly aren’t an exact match. The Ancestry test breaks it out a bit more and I’m not sure if it’s more accurate but there it is. What was interesting is that the 23andme test also gave me a bunch of other data about how I’m probably not a carrier for the diseases they look at (Whoop!) and gave me a list of a lot of weird traits and such that are somewhat true but not entirely. Like they say I’m probably not lactose intolerant and my bowels would disagree heartily. They were right on eye color and facial features and lots of other traits and variants though.
These, however were a few of my favorite things that made my DNA unique, according to 23andme. I should point out that I am not making these up. They are direct screenshots from my report:
This doesn’t feel like something I should want to succeed in.
Some people have natural rhythm or perfect pitch.. This is my gift. Apparently.
Disagree. I’m very attached to my earlobes.
NO, YOU ARE. (Is this an insult? I don’t even know.)
Finally, some good news.
In the end I preferred the Ancestry.com test because it seemed more accurate to me and I got more DNA matches to other members I was able to contact and share information with, but the 23andme test was cool too.
But what do I know? I’m mostly Neanderthal. Apparently.