After seeing an influx of commercials and my fair share YouTube video reviews on the 23andMe Ancestry DNA Test, I was finally ready to take the plunge.
Being the Amazon addict that I am, I opted to purchase my first at-home DNA kit via their website. Options included a kit just for ancestry services, and a kit that offers ancestry services and additional health screening.
I received my kit within two days (thank you, Amazon Prime!) and planned to collect my saliva sample right away since it takes an estimated 4-6 weeks to receive your final results. At the time, that seemed like an eternity.
Side note: it actually only took 3 weeks altogether — from the day I received my kit in the mail, to the day I received my emails results — so it really wasn’t that bad.
The kit includes a number of items: your saliva collection tube, a clear plastic biohazard baggie, detailed instructions, and a box (complete with paid postage for easy return).
The collection process is fairly simple and straightforward: spit into the tube up until the fill line. Just glancing at it, this doesn’t seem like much or that it would take very long… but it took a solid 7-8 minutes and mustering up as much saliva as I could in order to fill the tube. By the end of the process, all I desperately wanted was a glass of water.
For the next three weeks, I religiously checked my email and my 23andMe account for any indication that my results were ready. The progress tracker on the website suggested that DNA was being extracted from my saliva sample, but there was no information about when my results would be ready. I needed to be patient.
Just when I had finally forgotten about the test altogether (thanks to an increasingly busy schedule and mommyhood demands), I got an email. “Your reports are ready.”
Results are generated by looking at short pieces of DNA across your genome. The company compares each piece to DNA sequences from 31 ancestral reference populations from around the world, which include over 10,000 individuals with known ancestry. When a piece of your DNA resembles the DNA from a specific reference population with a high degree of certainty, it is assigned to that population.
It comes as no surprise that I am largely (like, really — 98.5%) European. French and British ancestry were pieces of the puzzle that I already knew about… and I also know that I have ancestors who can be traced back to the Canary Islands (which is where the 16.5% Iberian, or Spanish/Portuguese, must come from).
A big chunk — 33.2%, in fact — of my results were lumped into “Broadly” or “Unassigned”. What does this mean? Some segments of your DNA may match reference data from many different places around the world. According to 23andMe, if a segment of your DNA matches reference DNA from many different European countries but not from outside of Europe, then they label your DNA “Broadly European.” If a segment of your DNA matches a wide range of the 31 Ancestry Composition populations (or it doesn’t match any of them), then they label it “Unassigned.”
While I’m less than thrilled that over 1/3 of my results can’t be defined, I’m rather pleased with the specificity of others. A huge piece of my heritage is French/Cajun, so I was happy to see this validated in the report. Apparently, my saliva points to me having ancestors who have lived in France within the last 200 years — something that has already been verified through lots of family tree research.
Finally, a very small piece of my ancestry can be traced back to Native Americans (more than 5 generations ago) and Asia. Fascinating! My report also included this nifty visual timeline that shows my ancestry breakdown over time.
The service also tells you how much of your ancestry can be traced back to Neanderthals (ancient humans who interbred with modern humans before becoming extinct 40,000 years ago). According to my report, my DNA contains 293 Neanderthal variants — more than 74% of 23andMe customers.
What does this mean? Scientists have identified associations between Neanderthal variants and certain physical traits. If you have certain Neanderthal variants, it means that some of your physical traits may trace back to your Neanderthal ancestors!
Some of these traits include straight hair, less likely to sneeze after eating dark chocolate, less back hair, and taller height.
Finally, you have the option to participate in a project that will link you to other 23andMe customers who have DNA in common with you. According to my report, I share DNA with a number of 23andMe relatives who live in 18 US states and 2 countries — including Louisiana, where I was born (and where the largest concentration of my DNA relatives reside!).
Combining your DNA information, the report is able to compare you and your relatives with other 23andMe customers at large. For example, my relatives and I are:
- 52% less likely to be a vegetarian
- 51% less likely to be a superstar
- 46% more likely to have lived near a farm when they were young
- 45% more likely to be able to do side splits
- 40% less likely to drink instant coffee
- 39% more likely to think that fresh cilantro tastes like soap
- 35% less likely to have worn braces on their teeth
- 35% less likely to drink energy drinks
- 35% more likely to sneeze when exposed to bright light
- 34% less likely to have two differently sized feet
- 34% less likely to have learned a foreign language as an adult
- …and so much more.
Discover the story of your ancient ancestors, your origins, and your ancestral background. Buy your 23andMe kit today!