Do you know where your ancestors lived? Most of us have a pretty good idea, but new advancements in DNA research are making it easier and cheaper than ever to discover the story behind your genes. Companies like 23andMe.com and Ancestry.com offer to tell you what regions of the world that your DNA comes from, and if you have any relatives that you might not know about nearby. All it takes is some spit in a test tube, an internet connection, and the money. Should you take the ancestry DNA test?
Is the service worth it? How does it work?
I decided to try the Ancestry.com DNA service. Advertised as $99, the DNA testing promises that you will:
Get personalized details about your ethnic origins.
Discover more about your story with advanced DNA science from the experts in family history.
Like many Americans, I am a proud mutt. I claim not one ethnicity or ancestral homeland, but many. My genes come from different regions. I already knew that my ancestors had emigrated from France, the Czech Republic, the UK, and thanks to my freckles and my grandmother’s blazing red hair: Ireland. But what else could I find out?
I paid the $99 and within ten days, the package with the test tube arrived. I filled it up with my bubbly gene stew saliva and sent it back in the pre-labeled box – it was all very easy. However, I was quite annoyed to find out that in addition to the $99, I had to have a membership on Ancestry.com to access my results. Although they offer a free trial membership for two weeks, my DNA results would not arrive for “6-8 weeks” – essentially forcing me to shell out for the $34.99 monthly membership. So if you plan on trying this service, be aware that it will actually cost you about $135 – not the advertised $99. Membership does grant you access to the database of Ancestry.com, so if you are interested to spend some time researching your past, it might be worth it. (Editor's note: 23andme.com does not require a monthly membership.)
Just over three weeks later, my DNA results were in via email. My genetic ethnicity is 99 percent European: 58 percent Western Europe, 11 percent Scandinavia, 11 percent Ireland, and 6 percent Great Britain. “Trace” European regions made up 13 percent. I was a bit disappointed that the vague “Western Europe” wasn’t broken down more specifically. This huge area consists of everything from the continent’s Atlantic Coast over to the Czech Republic and Austria; from the Pyrenees and up to the south of Denmark. Apparently, if you want to know which European village (or country) your ancestors lived in, DNA is not going to tell you, because the DNA in those regions are too broad to be detailed.
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Basically, my DNA confirmed everything that I already knew – with the addition of the Scandinavian genes. But given the Vikings’ widespread intermingling with other Northern Europeans for centuries, I probably should have guessed it. I was also surprised to find out that I have a greater percentage of European genes than the average European.
The DNA results also provided matches for relatives in the Ancestry.com system: one second-cousin, four third-cousins, and dozens of fourth-cousins. Will I contact them and continue my research? That depends if I want to continue paying Ancestry.com’s $34.99 monthly fee.
All in all, I am glad I did the research. If anything, it’s a great excuse to dig deeper into my family’s history – and to indulge in “research” trips to Great Britain, Ireland, Western Europe and Scandinavia.
What about you? Should you take the ancestry DNA test?
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Image: brianna lehman