Well, since I’ve been pretty close to house bound for the past couple of weeks, I figured it was about time that I tackled another project that I’ve been interested in for a while now: finding out more about my ancestry through DNA testing. We’re talking autosomal DNA testing here – the kind of test that works across genders to help locate relatives.
You see, I have a pretty good idea about my ancestry. My dad’s side of the family is from Italy, and we know that they all lived there at least back to the 1700s. My mom’s side is a little bit more of a mixed bag, having come from both England and Ireland, but again, we know that they were there for quite a while before they came over to the US. But, I’m pretty convinced that not all that much further back than we already know there is a small amount of Asian influence on my dad’s side of the family. It’s a heck of a lot less work to spit into a tube and send it in for testing than it is to attempt to trace back my family tree even further, so that’s what I set out to do! Using a DNA testing service won’t give me any of the nitty gritty details, but it will at least give me an idea of whether or not I am on the right track.
There are four fairly decent options out there for genetic testing that I’m going to share with you as well as explain why I went with 23andMe.
23andMe isn’t the least expensive option out there, but they give you access to a lot of different data for $199. You get information about your carrier status for a number of different diseases and syndromes, ancestry reports, wellness reports, and trait reports. 23andMe used to interpret medical findings for you, but the FDA cracked down on that a few years ago and you now need to use another service, or try to interpret them yourself. A service like Promethease can do it for $5 to $10. 23andMe is generally considered to do the best job estimating your ancestral make-up, at least on the continental level – past the continental level it’s mostly an educated guess regardless of which service is used..
Note that the American Airlines shopping portal is offering 2,600 bonus miles for the purchase of a 23andMe DNA testing kit at the time of writing and other portals are also offering decent payouts. This is an easy way to earn a little bit back if you are planning to make a purchase anyway! I value 2,600 American Airlines miles at about $50.
Family Tree DNA
Family Tree DNA is the most widely used by people who are seriously into genealogy. They make it super easy to contact relatives that have used the service, and starts at the reasonable price of $99. They also offer mitochondrial DNA testing (your mother’s line, $199) as well as YDNA testing (your father’s line, $169), which only men can do because you need a Y chromosome.
Ancestry.com is the only service, as of now, that makes it easy to add your findings to your family tree. Of course, this is even more beneficial if you use Ancestry.com for your genealogical research. Ancestry’s test costs $99.
National Geographic has a little bit different of a focus right now compared to the other three companies listed above. They are a little bit less about providing consumer-level information and more about making a meaningful future impact. At a cost of $199.95, you will be helping move science forward but won’t necessarily find out a lot about yourself or your ancestry right now.
Multiple reasons. I am most interested in seeing my ancestral make-up, and 23andMe seems to be the best option to do that at this time. The cost is higher than most other options, but it will give me the most bang for my buck for what I want to know, plus a few other interesting tidbits of information. I will likely run my data through Promethease to get the report on my medical findings, because… why not? At this point in time, I’m less interested in spending the time and money to actually track down all of my ancestors past the point that I already know – that might be a future project!
What do you think about DNA testing to find out ancestry information?
Very interesting! This is something I’ve been interested in myself. You should do an update post. I’m curious to see if you have any Asian influence and how accurate that might or might not be.
I definitely plan to do any update post! I also at some point intend to do the actual research into my family history, but that will likely be at a less travel-heavy time in my life.
I would love to do 23andme just to get the medical stuff, plus I have a feeling that there is a surprise waiting in my ancestry too. My grandfather, who was hardcore into genealogy to the point where quite literally it was almost all we talked about, got some genetic testing done, decided the results were wrong and didn’t match up with his research, and refused to ever disclose the results. It would be fascinating to find out what he was hiding.
Oh man that does sound fascinating! Next time you are back in the US (or if they will ship to Malaysia) you should definitely do it! Maybe there’s a reason why you like durian so much hidden in there too 😉
I did 23andme back in December of 2014 when it was still priced at $99. Here’s what I learned.
1. It’s really hard to find the medical info if you’re looking for specific genes/SNPs that may make you more likely to have a specific disease or risk factor. It’s not impossible, but I have a background in Biochemistry which I think made it easier to work through.
2. I grew up thinking that I was 1/8 native american because of my maternal grandfather who wasn’t really in the picture. However, my report showed no native american influence, really nothing other than western/northern european.
3. I connected with a 2nd cousin on there who I already knew, but haven’t made any other familial connections that went anywhere.
4. I had relatives who had done a lot of investigation into my paternal side and some on the maternal side. Ultimately it was just reaffirmed that I’m very very white.
Thanks for sharing your results! I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes back for me. Did you ever figure out what the info was regarding your grandfather?
I didn’t. Either the man they believe was my grandfather wasn’t native American, or he wasn’t actually my mom’s father. Either way, I kept the info to myself and will probably never know the truth. Good luck with yours!
Well, I was going to post this when you first ran the story, but I got sidetracked, so here I am again. I had my DNA done about a year ago at Ancestry.com (not a plug) and have been very happy with the results. On the one hand, having already done pretty extensive family research, it served as confirmation of my previous conclusions. For example, I was pretty sure that most of my ancestors had emigrated from the British Isles (primarily Scotland and England), and my DNA results indicated that my ancestry was 96% Great Britain and Western Europe, with the remaining 4% made up of Finland, Greece, and Italy. That was all good, but the best news is that, so far, I have been made aware of over 1,000 (previously unknown) relatives who are 4th cousins or closer – and that’s just from the group that has taken the DNA test! So, I encourage everyone to take the test – you never know what surprises are in store for you.
For me, genealogy and travel go hand in hand, and I’ve been able to combine the two for some interesting adventures. I also enjoy helping others with their own genealogical research, so let me know when you’re ready to start the adventure and I will assist any way I can – it’s the least I can do to repay you for all the great travel tips!
Thanks for sharing your experience with Ancestry.com! I’m thinking about trying that one out too because I know they have a much larger database of people who have taken the test. Perhaps when I get home 🙂 Thanks for your kind words and offer to help with genealogy research! I would love to learn some tips from you when the time comes!