This post should serve as a bit of a break from all the wedding posts around here lately!! I have been SO excited to write about this ever since we did it and I just got my results back so I figured it was time! Today I’m so excited to tell you about my experience using the DNA testing service 23andMe.
Fair warning this is going to be a longer post and you’re probably going to find out a lot of information about me that no one asked for so keep that in mind haha
If you haven’t heard of it before, 23andMe is a company that tests your DNA to find out all sorts of cool facts about your ancestry. It’s named for the 23 pairs of chromosomes that make up human cells. The basic premise is you provide the company a sample of your DNA (in the form of saliva that you spit into a tube), they run all sorts of tests and extractions and other cool things, and then get back to you with the results. Depending on which service you have, they can provide information about your heritage and ancestry as well as your health and cool genetic information.
As someone who has always been interested in finding out as much about myself as possible, this has been something I’ve wanted to try out for ages. Luckily for me, I have an amazing fiancé who decided it would make a great Christmas gift for me, so a few weeks ago I opened up my very own ancestry test kit!!!! Chris got a great deal in a Black Friday sale and decided to give it to me right away rather than waiting for Christmas, so we could get our results as soon as possible. (In a complete coincidence, my siblings and I also ended up getting kits for our parents for Christmas too haha)
Here’s our kits!! I was downright giddy to be doing this haha so apologies that the photos are not the best quality!
Inside the box you’re greeted with a little card and some instructions! This is a good place to say that I really loved the aesthetic of 23andMe as a whole – the colors and simplistic design obviously have nothing to do with the test itself but I like them haha
The first thing you had to do is go online, create an account and register your sample. This is so they know who it belongs to when they receive it!
The instructions look long but they’re actually really simple. You just have to spit in the tube, seal it up according to their specifications, and mail it back to them!
Now for the gross part. Here’s my tube before and after I….provided my sample:
Spitting in the tube was fun for about 1 second before you realize how difficult and gross it is LOL and you don’t realize til you’re doing it that they ask for a lot of saliva!!! I made Chris do his in a different room so we didn’t have to see each other hahahaha
After a few minutes we were done though, and we sealed up our tubes into the little biohazard bags:
Then we put them into our shipping boxes and it was done!! We were all set to mail them off the next day.
Exactly a week later I got this email!
I was so impatient to get my results, but it was going to take 6-8 weeks from the time they received my sample so I knew it might be a while. 23andMe has a cool tracker on the website so I could see what they were doing to my sample during my waiting period. Thankfully my wait was shorter than expected, and about 5 weeks later I got this exciting email!!!
I was so excited to view my results!! Going into it I expected to see lots of European but specifically German, French, maybe some British? Maybe other parts of Europe? Here’s my results:
So basically, I’m a European mutt – but South Asian??? Where did that come from haha
I was so excited to read over everything!! 23andMe also explains what these percentages mean and gave some interesting details about how recently these ethnicities appeared in your ancestry. I was mostly shocked by the South Asian but also the fact that I’m apparently 14% Ashkenazi Jewish?? My Jewish coworker said I have to start celebrating Jewish holidays with her now hahaha
I also learned that wherever it says “broadly _____” that means they couldn’t narrow it down to a specific area any further than that region. So like when it says I’m 18% Broadly Northwestern European, that means it could come from any of the regions mentioned above but they can’t be totally sure which one.
They had a section below that with a timeline too:
I like how below each section they have little dropdown explaining how to interpret it. This diagram basically shows how many generations back each ethnicity goes – for example, the Ashkenazi Jewish is 2-4 generations, meaning I likely have a grandparent, great grandparent or second great grandparent who was 100% Ashkenazi Jewish. This chart was confusing at first but I actually thought it was super interesting once I understood it more. In some cases it makes sense – like with Eastern European, I know that my great grandparents were pretty much pure Czech, so it makes sense that someone in that time period is 100% Eastern European. Apparently my South Asian ancestor is somewhere between 5 and 8 generations ago, likely born between 1720 and 1840!
There are also a lot of other interesting reports, like maternal haplogroups and Neanderthal ancestry – apparently I have fewer Neanderthal variants than 70% of 23andMe customers and I’m unclear if that is a good or bad thing haha. They also had an option to upgrade to the Health reports, which would tell me about my risk of developing certain diseases as well as information about certain hereditary traits. I’m considering doing this upgrade in the future when I’m not saving every penny for our wedding!
So…of course this is all really cool, but there are a few downsides to it as well. For some people there are some pretty serious privacy concerns with having your DNA tested. 23andMe is authorized by the FDA to provide this service but some may be wary of sending their DNA off to strangers, which is a totally reasonable concern. I found that the company is pretty clear about what you are consenting to and allows you to opt out of things you don’t feel comfortable with, but at the end of the day, you’re still giving away your genetic code to these companies. I found this article while doing research and though I think it’s a bit fear-mongery in ways, it also helps explain the risks of doing these tests. I personally feel that while 23andMe and other DNA testing companies seem pretty legitimate, they’re definitely not risk-free, and it’s important to understand what you’re getting into before doing the tests. 23andMe has their privacy info here.
The other downside is obviously that the tests are expensive. The normal price for the 23andMe Ancestry kit (the one we used) is $99 per person, and the Ancestry + Health one is $199! That’s no small chunk of change, which is why we thought it made a good Christmas gift rather than like a random rainy day activity haha
So the final verdict? Although I didn’t find out too much new information, and despite the risks involved, I am really glad that I did this. It’s just so interesting to see where you come from and I loved learning so many things about myself!! I definitely want to do the health upgrade in the future so I can find out even more info, and I can’t wait for my parents to get their results back too. I obviously haven’t tried any other ancestry testing brands so I can’t compare them, but I would recommend 23andMe as long as you are aware of the associated risks and know what you’re getting into!
What do you think? Have you ever done a DNA test like 23andMe or would you ever do one?
Thanks for reading as always!!