How To Interpret Genetic Ancestry Reports

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Image ID : 111916745
Copyright : Ioulia Bolchakova

 

If you’re curious about your genetic makeup, and you are considering obtaining a DNA kit, don’t be surprised if there are some inconsistencies, especially if you order kits from more than one company.  Variations in sample populations are quite common, resulting from closely related genetic populations which may be lumped into one broad category.

The first kit I ordered was from 23andme, and the results were consistent with what I expected to find on my report.  It confirmed that I was pretty much 50% (49.6%, to be precise) Japanese, and the other 50% was mostly Hungarian, 5.6% Greek, 2.3% Italian, and1.8% German and French.  Several years later, I ordered kits from Ancestry and MyHeritage, which only served to complicate the picture.  Ancestry’s report was the most simplified, with 50% Japanese, 45% Hungarian/Eastern European, and the remainder scattered among Italian, Greek, and English.  MyHeritage reported 46% Japanese, 36.8% Eastern European (no breakdown for Hungary specifically), and the remainder broadly European with no breakdown for Greece, Italy, Germany or France.  Once I sifted through all three reports simultaneously, I was able to interpret my genetic background, but I could definitely see how some people might be thrown off by a genetic report which was too general or broad.

Genealogy Strand Genes DNA Research Genealogist Word 3d Illustration

 

One important and confounding factor to consider is that we don’t express all 50% of the DNA we get from each parent, which skews the DNA analysis even further.  The best thing to do when interpreting a genetic analysis is to take it all with a grain of salt.  The science behind genetic analysis, while mostly accurate, also has a margin of error.

If you are trying to decide on a company to use for your genetic testing, it really depends on whether your primary objective is to uncover your genetic makeup for your family’s genealogy, obtain health information, or to connect with lost family and relatives.  For those more interested in genetic health markers, 23andme constantly expands its testing, so you will get regular reports as new genetic markers are added to the list.  Ancestry and MyHeritage are both fantastic for exploring your genealogical tree, and both offer multiple resources and archived records to members.

Genetic Ancestry Tests And The Rabbit Hole

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Source: 123rf.com

If you are considering ordering and completing one of those genetic ancestry tests (popular ones are 23andme, Ancestry, and MyHeritage, all of which I have now completed), be prepared for the possibility that you might be on the crest of a journey down into the rabbit hole.  I’ve heard far too many stories of people who made startling discoveries relating to their genetic background and genealogy which at times resulted in conflict within the family.  Mysteries may unfold which leave you with more questions than you may have ever had about your family members or your ethnic makeup.

If we consider the phrase, going down the rabbit hole, we can enter said rabbit hole without thinking that the journey will be as long or as confounding as it can be.  That’s how it was for me initially, and now I find myself searching more than ever before for the puzzle pieces which could solve the many mysteries my biological father left when he died. Although I knew the circumstances surrounding my conception were akin to a soap opera, I never in my wildest imagination expected my story to unfold the way it has.

Before I dive into my own story, and wiggle through the proverbial rabbit hole, I’m going to share this passage from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice In Wonderland”:

“In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.

The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well.

Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next. First, she tried to look down and make out what she was coming to, but it was too dark to see anything; then she looked at the sides of the well, and noticed that they were filled with cupboards and book-shelves; here and there she saw maps and pictures hung upon pegs. She took down a jar from one of the shelves as she passed; it was labelled `ORANGE MARMALADE’, but to her great disappointment it was empty: she did not like to drop the jar for fear of killing somebody, so managed to put it into one of the cupboards as she fell past it.

`Well!’ thought Alice to herself, `after such a fall as this, I shall think nothing of tumbling down stairs! How brave they’ll all think me at home! Why, I wouldn’t say anything about it, even if I fell off the top of the house!’ (Which was very likely true.)

Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end! `I wonder how many miles I’ve fallen by this time?’ she said aloud. `I must be getting somewhere near the centre of the earth. Let me see: that would be four thousand miles down, I think–‘ (for, you see, Alice had learnt several things of this sort in her lessons in the schoolroom, and though this was not a very good opportunity for showing off her knowledge, as there was no one to listen to her, still it was good practice to say it over) `–yes, that’s about the right distance–but then I wonder what Latitude or Longitude I’ve got to?’ (Alice had no idea what Latitude was, or Longitude either, but thought they were nice grand words to say.)”

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Image ID : 42904359
Copyright : Eugeniu Frimu

 

Thanks to 23andme, a half sister I had never known about contacted me at the end of January with the startling news that we were indeed siblings.  Three days after our initial contact, another half sister surfaced on the site, and we slid down the rabbit hole even farther.

It took some time for the other half sister to respond to our connection requests, but we three are all now in communication with each other.  I have met one half sister and was even able to help her celebrate her latest birthday in February.  The other half sister is lining up a visit so that we can all three see each other face to face and forge the bond we never got a chance to develop as children.

We also have a half brother whom we are trying to locate, but there are numerous barriers, including the fact that we don’t know his name or birthdate, are unaware of which country he currently resides in, and the fact that he evidently is the type of person who would not welcome the news that he has three half sisters.  I have known about this half brother since our father’s death in 1997, but he never signed up for genetic testing analysis, which means we don’t have the convenience of a genetic testing service to do make the connection for us.

We want to find out more about our family tree, but it will be difficult at best to ferret out such information because I have limited knowledge of our father’s mother tongue (Hungarian), and I have no idea who would be privy to such information.  Our father’s place of death is also a mystery, which also means that it will be challenging to discover where he was interred.

Curiouser and curiouser, indeed.

I don’t want children — stop telling me I’ll change my mind | Christen Reighter

I absolutely love this TED Talk by Christen Reighter, who talks about the resistance she met with when attempting to obtain approval for tubal ligation. There are two statements in particular which struck me:

“I’ve always believed that having children was an extension of womanhood, not the definition.”

“I believe that a woman’s value should never be determined by whether or not she has a child, because that strips her of her entire identity as an adult unto herself.”

The resistance which Ms. Reighter encountered during her consultations for tubal ligation was unfounded in both my opinion as a woman, and also as a physician. It’s astonishing how medical colleagues refused to hear her argument for the ligation, and how her primary doctor kept insisting that she would change her mind at some point. What infuriates me even more was that the doctors abused medical paternalism, infusing their own beliefs about what a woman might be feeling about the idea of motherhood, and essentially stripping this woman of her rights.

Similar to what Christen Reighter believes, I have never bought into the lie that it has been my duty as a woman to have children. I have always bristled when people would try to pressure me to start a family. I have received this pressure from my family and feel that this is appropriate, but I have also been pressured by friends, patients, acquaintances and complete strangers. What is with the intense societal pressure to create progeny?

I have never experienced anything more than a brief and passing curiosity about the idea of having a child, and now that I am post-menopausal, I no longer have to concern myself with it. I don’t feel that I am incomplete or less of a woman because I chose not to have a mini-me. I essentially chose to be childless for a number of reasons, and I had the right to make that decision regardless of what anyone else thought.

Bravo to Christen Reighter for proclaiming her strong beliefs and standing her ground.