I’ve always wanted to learn more about my ancestry and where I came from. Growing up I was always envious of my friends who knew the exact country that they originated, and that embraced their heritage with food, music and clothing.
It’s not a secret that it’s harder for African Americans to understand their ancestral heritage due to the mass migration to the Americas on slave ships. We definitely have our own community and heritage that is special, but I always wanted to know more.
23andMe* provides genetic testing at a relatively low cost so you can learn more about ancestry, wellness and traits. I learned about 23 and Me through this BuzzFeed article/video – clearly sponsored but nonetheless interesting.
Then, one of my favorite influencers Vashtie Kola had her own DNA tested and posted what she learned on her Snapchat story.
It was pretty cool to watch people learn more about themselves, even things they never would have guessed.
I tried it for myself, and here’s what happened:
I ordered my 23andMe kit on the website. The kit costs $199, which seems pricy but consider the payoff! You’re receiving valuable information about your ancestry, and quite possibly important wellness information. Keep in mind: the 23 and Me genetic tests are not meant to be used to gather health information. It’s best to go to your doctor for that. If you want to learn more about your heritage like me, these tests are perfect. Once registered, the site offers optional surveys that help them better understand your genetic data (you don’t have to, but I did just in case). Next, we just wait for the kit to be mailed.
The mailed kit looks like this:
I spit into the plastic container up to the line (disgusting, I know) then closed it up and mailed it in. Quite harmless – shipping is already paid (I’d hope so, after paying $200) so I just dropped it off at the postal office. The hardest part was waiting for the results… it took about 6 weeks for me to receive my kit, but I received an email apologizing for the delay due to a backlog of kits (don’t know how true this was, but I’m impatient).
Analyzing the Data
After about six weeks (*sigh* too damn long) I received an email notifying me that my results were in! There were 64 reports available, including ancestry composition, physical characteristics, facial features, etc.. I was clearly most interested in the ancestry information.
23andMe can determine your ancestral heritage based on how your DNA relates to people in different parts of the world. My ancestry report was interesting to say the least. I wasn’t surprised to see about 80% African descent. I did expect this percentage to be higher. 23andMe included information on which areas of Africa my ancestors most likely descended: West and Central Africa. According to my genetics, my mother’s side is most likely from Central Africa (Congo or Uganda) and were from the Bantu tribe. There wasn’t much information available from my dad’s side, but they were most likely West African.
Okay, that’s only 80% what about the other 20%? 17% of my ancestry is European, specifically British or Irish. This was a shocker. I know 17% is fairly insignificant, but it’s enough to raise some questions. If you think about it, this makes sense though. The British colonized many areas of Africa, most particularly countries in Western and Central Africa – it was common for these colonizers to have children with African natives. This would explain why I have such a small percentage of British or Irish in my genetics.
There’s also a very very small percentage of Native American heritage in my genetics. I was honestly surprised that this percentage was so small – growing up, my mom would always tell us of a great-great grand father who was Native American with silky black hair (pictured minus hair). I was so sure that I had to be at least 25% Native American, but apparently not. Just proof, that we all know so little about ourselves!
Within the ancestry composition reports, there’s information on haplogroups. Haplogroups tell you where a small group of your ancestors originated thousands of years ago – which is obviously very beneficial for specific details about your heritage. 23andMe identified my mom’s haplogroup (L2b1a) and using this number I was able to determine her ancestor’s origination in Central Africa. This is great because it allows me to do further research outside of the 23andMe site – there are plenty of databases and websites that provide information on each existing haplogroup.
The rest of the reports were fairly interesting, but displayed nothing out of the ordinary. 23andMe predicted that I was lactose intolerant, but that wasn’t too impressive considering African Americans have a higher chance of having this condition. The genetic report did a good job of guessing my eye color (light brown/hazel) and even did a great job of explaining why my eyes are this color. Since neither my parents nor any other close relatives have lighter eyes, I’ve always wondered how mine were.
Other reports included information about specific genetic diseases or conditions – as mentioned before, be wary of this information. It’s best to run a real-deal genetic test at the doctor’s office if you are in need of these particular details.
If you’re looking to learn more about your ancestry, 23andMe is a great start. It doesn’t end there! Now that I know my mom’s haplogroup, I can do more research outside of the 23andMe site (maybe even for free). I am also encouraging my parents to have their genetics tested so that I can piece together even more information. I’m excited to learn more about myself and my heritage through these observations!
Check out that Buzzfeed video I mentioned earlier to watch other people take the test (especially the Mexican guy who was disappointed to not find any “Mexican” genetics on his test).
*Side note: This post is not sponsored and was not paid for by the 23andMe brand.