I did a home DNA genealogy test and this is what I learnt...
My Mum has always been interested in researching our family tree and there was always some speculation that I had either an Indian or Spanish Great Great Grandmother, of some sorts. I was always a little skeptical of the Indian connection, although I wasn’t so sure about the Spanish one. Because of this, I decided to dive in and try one of those DNA genealogy tests you often see advertised.
I researched the most popular companies and was quite keen on maybe trying 23andMe because they also included a Genetic Health Risk report, but when push came to shove, I couldn’t really warrant spending the £149 required to do this; therefore, I looked around for a cheaper option. I then discovered MyHeritage, which was a relatively new company in this area of DNA testing and they were advertising their service for just £49 (£61 including shipping). This was a much better option for me, although it didn’t include a health report, which I would have liked to have had. In a follow up post, though, I’ll go on to explain how I was able to easily get a report for just $5, but for now, on with my genealogy test.
About eleven days after ordering my DNA kit, it arrived by airmail from Houston, Texas.
The whole thing was nicely packaged and inside were two surgical cotton swabs, two small vials, a small plastic sealable bag marked ‘Biohazzard’ (This was for the vials to go in once they contained my sample), and a padded envelop for return delivery back to the company.
The first thing I was instructed to do was to visit their website to activate the kit by typing in the unique code which came with it. This was to ensure that the sample would be associated with me, and no one else.
Their website was really well designed and the help section was very clearly laid out and everything was explained very well. I was quite impressed by this, so hats off to MyHeritage for doing this.
Then, first thing the next morning, before I had brushed my teeth, or had anything to eat or drink, I took my sample. MyHeritage says you can actually do the test 30 minutes after doing any of these activities, and that also includes smoking or chewing gum, but I wanted to make sure that my sample would be as uncontaminated as possible, so I waited until the next morning.
To take the sample, I was required to scrape the inside of one of my cheeks with one swab for between 30 to 60 seconds. You need to do one swab for each cheek and once done, you pop the end into one of the vials, break off the handle from the swab and so leaving the swab itself inside the vile, and then fasten the lid on tightly.
With some excitement, I mailed my sample back to MyHeritage. I must add, this was right at the time that Houston was being bombarded by Hurricane Harvey and because of this, their website said to expect a wait of one extra week before receiving my results.
It wasn’t long before their lab had received my sample and I was able to track each stage of the process as they extracted and processed the DNA. Each of these stages is fully explained and it was a nice touch and quite interesting for someone who has no idea on what the process actually involves. It made the whole experience very personalized.
The results were expected within 3-4 weeks of the lab receiving the sample, which, as far as I can see, was faster than their competitors. I believe 23andMe can take around 6 weeks for the results.
The reason you are asked to send two vials is because one is used for the actual testing, whereas the other is placed in storage. The company says it is very committed to protecting your privacy, which could be something of concern to some people, and I must say, I had some reservations in general about how these companies handle the data. I’m sure Apple, Sony, and Yahoo had the same concerns, but they have all been targets of massive data breaches.
A few weeks later I received the email to tell me that my results were ready and I quickly logged into their website to view them.
First I went to the part of their website where I could view my ethnicity estimate. The company prides itself on giving percentage-based estimates for 42 ethnic regions, which they say is more than any other major DNA company. My results showed that I was 100% European, so no Indian, and they were broken down as follows:
North and West Europe 53.1%
Irish, Scottish, and Welsh 22.9%
South Europe 33.4%
East Europe 13.5%
East European 9.4%
It was interesting to see that I am 26.2% Iberian, so maybe this confirms that I had the Spanish relative. I will still need to dig deeper to confirm this.
A nice touch that they included was an animated video showing my various ethnicities over a map of the world. This was accompanied with a sample of traditional music from each of the regions in which my ethnicity came from and the music nicely blended into each other in a rather modern fusion mix. It was quite tastefully done and you can watch my video below to see for yourself.
Then I navigated to the other part of their website where I could see my DNA matches. This currently totals fifty. I could see what relationship each of these matches were to me and they were things such 1st cousin twice removed, etc.
I could then select one of these matches and dig a bit deeper to find out more details about them. I could, if I wanted, then view their family tree if they had created one or even contact them personally, but these two services were only available to premium members. These premium memberships were broken down into three tiers depending on how many features you want. The annual pricing started at £54 for basic membership; £95.40 for PremiumPlus, and £119.45 for the complete membership. To be honest, I’m not too interested in paying for this service, but it might be of interest to others.
One thing, from my point of view, which I thought might be a bit awkward concerned my own matches in the event that if those on my father’s father’s side should contact me, then they might be in for a bit of a shock. This was because my father was born illegitimately and his father was never around and never had any relationship with him or his family after his birth. His biological father’s family probably don’t even know of my father’s existence. This was one thing that has always saddened my father throughout his life, and on a few occasions he did try to unsuccessfully track down his father.
So, what are my final thoughts on this service?
What I didn’t find out was whether I was related to any historical figures. I’m sure we would all love to find out that we were descended from some colorful person from the past or a member of royalty, but with MyHeritage, that data isn’t included. Because of this, some people may feel that their results are a little sparse and not so exciting, but I was prepared for this prior to purchasing the product.
I don’t have any complaints, though, and what I did learn was interesting. Be prepared because instead of finding answers, you could end up with more questions. You must bear in mind that you only receive 50% of each of your parents DNA, so there will be gaps that would need filling in. Because of this, my mother has just purchased a DNA testing kit for herself, so we eagerly await her results.
MyHeritage continues to grow their data base and they are refining their methods for obtaining the results. I occasionally receive a new email from them when they have found a new match and I believe they will send updates on the test itself, should they refine it further.
One last thing…
I still wanted to have a genetic health risk report to find out which diseases or medical conditions I had a higher risk of having. Look out for my next post because I was eventually able to get one and it only cost me $5!