Diary of a DNA Test

by Elaine Clark
clark7_cPublished Oct 3, 2016

My 21-year-old stepdaughter was over for Easter dinner and saw the AncestryDNA kit on the table.

“I’m so jealous,” she said, “I want to know where I come from.”

I’ve been working on my family genealogy for 3 and a half decades, so, what do I want out of the DNA test?

I’m like my stepdaughter: I want to know where I’m from. And who knows who I might meet along the way?

Join me on my exciting journey in this diary of a DNA test.

March 28, 2016

Opening the Box

I’ve been worried about the ways I can screw this up. Will the pork rinds I ate at dinner show up in my results? What if I can’t spit enough?

Will this become part of my permanent record? What if it turns out my family is completely boring? Also, can I convince my husband to take it to the post office for me? I don’t have cash for postage… [but it turns out it’s pre-paid]

First a moment of intimidation, making sure I got the 15-digit code right to activate the test. I made a typo, but caught it on review, so check your work!

clark6
I carefully opened the box and made sure I had the right activation code.

I actually did something rare and read the Terms and Conditions. Apparently, I won’t be able to sue if I don’t like the answers I get – or really for any other reason. And yes, I retain the rights to my actual DNA. [phew!]

And then there was the Informed Consent form to participate in research projects to “better understand the human species.” Cool. This is probably the closest I’ll get to scientific research, so I had to say yes.

Preparing the Sample

I can’t eat, drink, or smoke for 60 minutes before the test. Luckily the pork rinds came some time ago.

The instructions were easy … and though it was a little more spitting than I’m accustomed to, it wasn’t onerous.

And, as I’d noticed, the postage is pre-paid. Should make it easy to convince my husband to play postman since he’s going there anyway.

Now the waiting. Not my strong suit.

May 3, 2016

Why I Like Curry

What do you do when you’re waiting for the doctor to come into the exam room? I used to read magazines, but like many of us, I now goof around on my smartphone. I checked my mail, and my results were in. What better place to explore who I am?

clark - ethnicity results summary
My ethnicity estimate confirmed some of what I knew, but also surprised me.

As I started working down the list, most of the results were no shock:

  • 40% European
  • 21% Irish (frankly, a little higher than I would have guessed)
  • 17% English (a little lower than I would have guessed)
  • 11% Scandinavian

Scandinavia, huh? That came as a surprise!  I don’t know of anyone from that region. Might have to chalk that up to Viking raids.

It’s the trace elements that really left me wanting more:

clark - ethnicity results
My ethnicity estimate trace regions were incredibly intriguing.
  • 5% Finland/Northwest Russia
  • 4% Greece/Italy
  • 1% Iberian Peninsula
  • 1% South Asian…

That’s what I shouted out to my doctor when he walked into the room:

I’m 1% South Asian!?

He looked at me like he might call a psych consult, but after I explained that I’d just gotten my DNA results, we learned that we share that 1% Iberian Peninsula. Olé!

Later, I looked into what my Ancestry meant when they said I have a range of possible ethnicity from South Asia that’s from 0 to 2%. That means that 0% is a possibility. But so is 2%.

In any case, I’m having my husband take me out to my favorite Indian restaurant to celebrate my findings.

I also have 311 user matches, which are all potential relatives. I want to talk to all of them tonight!

June 1, 2016

Let the Adventure Continue

I haven’t really plumbed all its depths yet. I have 29 results in the “new ancestor” section, but I haven’t figured out how any of them fit in with me.

I’m pretty excited to see how my DNA circles will grow. It builds a group of people descended from one of your ancestors. Sounds like it’s making Ancestry even more of a team sport.

Mostly, the database needs more participants to strengthen and expand the results. That’s fine, I don’t mind being an early adopter.

The more people involved (with online family trees that they’re willing to share!) though, the better chance I have of making new discoveries. I do hope any new data won’t negate my 1% South Asian results – though that wouldn’t stop me from going for that curry my husband keeps promising me.

Start your own Adventure

Could there be unsuspected Scandinavian or South Asian ancestry in your ethnic mix? Take an AncestryDNA test to find out!