| Ever feel like you just never know? Who do your genes really come from... and who do you share them with? DNA testing has helped me fully understand my roots.
(New drinking game: take a shot every time the words spit, saliva and sample are mentioned!)
As someone whose dad is like, borderline obsessed with everything ranging from archaeology, to Tai Chi, to aliens – it’s safe to assume that I’ve accumulated a fair interest in a few ‘niche’ subjects myself. After watching a few too many ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ episodes and receiving endless updates on the latest family tree finds from a young age (cheers, Dad) – it’s no surprise that the prospect of simply spitting in a tube and learning more about my own roots sparked my curiosity. Well, that and the fact that it was on discount for Mother's day but I digress.
So, let me give you a lil’ bit of info on how this whole thing works. Firstly, you have to sign up to the website – enter your email address and DOB etc, pick a username and password, probably sign your life away by agreeing to some T&C’s that you definitely didn’t even read… blah, blah, blah… you know, the usual. Next, you buy the thing, obv. The price usually comes to a total of £99, including postage. Like I said, I purchased mine around Mother's day so I had a £10 discount with mine totalling at £89, also including postage (pricey, I know - but hear me out!). Before you know it, a package arrives at your door with that distinct lil' Ancestry logo on and it’s go time.
Inside the box is some basic info on the process, instructions, the tube your spit goes into, a solution to mix with your spit and an envelope/box combo to send your off your sample with. Let me tell you, you have never and probably will never feel as incompetent as you do in the moment where you’re profusely reading instructions on how to correctly spit in a tube and still feel like you’ve gotten it wrong. Once you’ve reached the point where your tongue feels like sandpaper and you've lost the little dignity you had to begin with, you've ‘successfully' gobbed in the tube - congrats, go wipe yourself off and get a drink. Now, it’s time to mix it with the blue stuff they gave you, place it in the envelope and box provided and send it off.
I decided against taking pics of my saliva all up in the tube - you’re welcome.
Supposedly the results should be with you in six to eight weeks (not including delivery) but be prepared to wait longer. After waiting and waiting and obsessively checking your inbox, you’ll receive an email when you least expect it informing you that your results are in! Huzzah!
The most important thing to remember for this next part is to keep an open mind and hold on to any expectations loosely, if at all. Most of us have some idea of our ethnic background, no matter how brief. Due to the fact that my dad spent years on his and my mum’s family trees, dating back to as far as the 1800’s, he gathered extensive knowledge on our family history - so we had a pretty good idea what my results would be. Our
predictions were that, due to my dad being 'full' Irish, I would be half Irish - simple. We also predicted that I’d be a fair percentage of GB because my mum’s family tree, as far as we could find, is English throughout. Lastly, we predicted that it’s possible for me to have a tad Spanish and/or Scandinavian DNA in my blood – again, due to years of research.
As for my actual results? Well, see for yourselves… drum roll
Yep, insanely spot on. Turns out I’m not secretly a wizard or princess, or whatever. I blame Harry Potter and The Princess Diaries for my high expectations, BTW. So as not to bore you, this is just a basic overview. I have to admit, I was a teensy weensy bit disappointed. It's not that I'm not proud of my personal heritage, I am - it's just that, I always felt that there’s no way the results could be that predictable. I don’t know why but I just wanted to be a little surprised, I suppose. My dad was well impressed with himself for pretty much nailing it, of course.
I will say though, the results are fascinating nonetheless and actually were a little surprising. Given the fact that my dad is 'full' Irish and I bear a striking resemblance to him (seriously, if my ‘brows are left untamed and I put a shower cap on, I look more like my dad than my dad does) – I thought it was a no brainer that I’d be half Irish, at least. Nope, a measly 23%! As for the 1% Iberian Peninsula and Northwest Russian/Finland – it was cool to get a confirmation on that and a more specific Scandinavian location. Although only resulting in a 2% total, I feel silly but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel more ‘connected’ and keen to learn more about the countries.
Plus, it’s been an accidental running joke of mine that, upon any conversation on ethnicity, I’d mention that I’m part Spanish. Why is that funny, you ask? Well, the lightest shade of foundation is barely light enough for how pale I am, basically. I'm pretty much translucent. People thought it impossible that I could be so pale and also be even a little bit Spanish. So, at least I have proof now. HA!
So, why should you take a DNA test? I mean, I basically knew my outcome beforehand, so what’s the point? Well, unless you’re afraid of being genetically cloned (a genuine thing someone told me they were concerned about when I mentioned I was doing the test) then there’s no reason you shouldn’t do it. It’s definitely on the pricey side but so worth it. Putting aside the results themselves, you're also given a list of profiles of all the people registered to the site who are your DNA matches; people who you are or could be related to, based on how strongly your DNA syncs up. Ranging from first cousins all the way through to eighth!! cousins who you could try to get in contact with, if you so wish. It was so fun looking through the list, seeing who we already knew about and guessing which side of the family the people we didn't know about belonged to.
The whole results process is a real eye opener. Your perspective changes as you find out all kinds of details about the genetic communities you belong to and gain insight into what life might have been like for your ancestors. It’s a humbling experience to say the least.
Perhaps the most important possible outcome of this experience is the way it could have a positive impact on any racial prejudices. Before I even decided to purchase an Ancestry DNA kit, I’d watched loads of testimonial videos on the kit. Upon getting their results, people were so taken aback because all their lives they’ve believed and been told that they’re a certain ethnicity through and through but in actual fact, turn out to have DNA percentages where they least expect.
The fact is, I haven’t seen one result where someone 100% descends from one place, no matter how much they believed that to be the case. People can be so caught up in the present and how they perceive things to be that they’re unwilling to even consider the past or the ‘impossible’ which is what’s so exciting about DNA results... because you just never know.