You’ve probably heard the stories about people discovering their heritage through home DNA tests. It’s becoming a popular trend.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I put some of the most popular kits to the test. I also learned a little about myself along the way.
Growing up in rural Indiana, I was the youngest of three girls. I had dark hair and freckles, and my sisters were both blonde. We knew we were related, but we always wondered about our ancestry.
I chose the two top-selling home DNA kits: AncestryDNA and 23AndMe. The first kit came from Ancestry.com, which retails for $99. It's the most popular testing company with 6 million people in its database. It comes with a container that you spit in. Yes, it's gross, but it's non-invasive, and I thought it was easy to do. Then you just seal it up, put it in the pre-paid box and send to the company.
I also thought it would be interesting to send one to my sister, Stephanie, in Tampa, Fla. Your sibling is supposed to share much of the same DNA, so I thought it would be interesting to see what it says about our ancestry.
We both got our results back within three weeks. Her's said 69% Great Britain and 14% Europe West which includes Germany, France, and the Netherlands. Mine said 35% Europe West and 23%-percent Great Britain. I also had 19% Ireland, which she didn't have. We also had a small amount of Scandinavian.
We asked Roger Moffat with the Western Michigan Genealogical Society to sort out the details. He's been researching his own family heritage for over 30 years. The New Zealand native is actually, Scottish. "I've been tested at four companies now,” says Moffat.
I asked him what he thought of our results since my sister and I had different percentages. “England, Scotland, and Ireland overlap because there’s been so much movement of people back and forth for some time. But you are predominately European.” We both had 0% Asian, African, and Native American.
The second most popular DNA company is 23AndMe, with 3 million people in its database. The testing process is like Ancestry.com. Three weeks later, I had my results. The breakdown showed I was 57.9% British/Irish and 10% French/German. The rest was broadly Northwest European.
“The takeaway from this is it’s not an exact science. It depends on what base population they are comparing your DNA against”, says Moffat. He says overall, in terms of genealogical research, it’s legitimate. Moffat would recommend it to anyone as a starting block to finding their heritage.
Back to the AncestryDNA results, it did confirm one thing. Based on my sister’s test, sent from a different address and different account, the results linked us as siblings. And although our percentages were slightly different, we're both European. I admit, I had a lot of fun seeing the results and discussing it with my family.
If it's something you're thinking about doing, both AncestryDNA and 23AndMe are offering Thanksgiving deals: AncestryDNA is offering a kit for $79, regular price $99 and 23AndMe is offering a kit for $49 when you buy two or more through Thanksgiving.
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