Anyone out there is fascinated with DNA?
I once thought about pursuing Genetics as a career, because I was so passionate about this branch of Biology at school.
Why I like DNA so much?
Well… I mean what’s not to like? DNA (standing for these beautiful words of Deoxyribonucleic acid) is pretty much this beautiful staircase shaped molecule that is in fact in charge of defining a big part of you. Your Past, your Present and your Future. Pretty much like The Fates of Greek Mythology.
Your Past (the most exciting part) – it carries the genetic information of your ancestors. As you know, a lot of your features are a result of the mix of many DNAs, not only your parents’, but grandparents’, grand-grand-parents, and it keeps going back, and back and back…almost ’till the very beginning.
Your Present – pretty much almost everything you are, at least on a physical level, comes down to the information stored in your DNA. From the colour of your eyes, to the shape of your toes. The position of your ears, the receding line of your hair, your bone structure, your ability to easily lose or gain weight, etc, etc.
Your Future (the scary part I don’t want to know) – the likelihood of you carrying certain genes for future diseases. This does bring more good than harm. If you know one of your close relatives is suffering or has suffered from a certain condition that is typically inherited, you can get your DNA analysed to check if you have that gene. If so, and if possible, modern medicine can prevent the condition to evolve or, at least, delay it or make it more bearable.
Why do I think it’s linked to my wanderlust?
Precisely because of the past. I think we all go through existentialist crisis once in a while (it can’t really be just me) and you start wondering where did this all come from – okay there was a big bang, but what was there before the big bang, and what was there before, and then Earth came up, and for a while, no one could live here, and then little microorganisms started to exist, oxygen, a more complex creature, dinosaurs, and then the human race started to come up, it evolved, it was nomad, continents were moving, and still are, and groups of civilizations formed, procreating, and then moving again. Countries and cultures were created by groups of people throughout the centuries. Languages invented and spoken. Borders created. But invasions kept happening, wars, migration and emigration, colonization, slavery. Wow. A lot of words here that mean a lot and nothing.
And when I visit any country, I try to understand when it all started. When it became a country. How people, humans got there. How do these people I am seeing in the streets resemble those from centuries before. They carry their history. In their genes at least.
And I started to think about my own genes. Who am I really? Where did this line start?
So, these companies started to tempt me with the promise of answering some of these questions. You may have heard of 23&Me, MyHeritage, Ancestry and so many others. I was reading stories about how people decided to travel to the different regions that were in their DNA and I thought that was really cool, even though I was convinced mine would be pretty boring. Because these tests are usually quite pricy as well, I kept putting it off.
Then in 2019 I saw this Black Friday sale in MyHeritage (not sponsored, but wouldn’t have minded…) and decided to give myself for Christmas a DNA testing kit.
I only paid for the ancestry test, meaning I didn’t want to know my future in terms of health. To be honest, I was terrified of finding out I had a high likelihood of suffering from x disease. So I ended up paying the basic price of £48, including delivery *it was with a Black Friday discount*.
I can’t really show you how the package looked like I did not visually record the experience. But basically, you are sent a package with a couple of swabs and recipients to deposit them in, an envelope where you shoull sealed and post them back to MyHeritage laboratories. All you need to do is to get a sample of your saliva using the provided swabs. Instructions will be in the box.
You register your package on the website and add more details about your family as well, which will help their algorithm match you to distant relatives you may not even know existed.
They will notify you once your saliva samples have arrived at the labs and, from that moment it took about 3 weeks to get the greatly expected email saying my results were ready to view.
So what was I expecting?
Disappointment. I tried justifying it by telling myself “at least I’m contributing to genetic research…”. But really this is what I was expecting – with my parents both being Portuguese, I was pretty sure I would be mostly Iberian – like 70% of my genes based in Portugal/Spain, with the other 30% coming from North Africa (when I went to Morocco I kept being told I looked like a Moroccan woman, but I had also been told I looked French and Bulgarian and Russian, so it’s all very confusing. Never Portuguese though!).
On another hand, I’m above Portuguese typical height (1.78m – 5.8ft – whereas most of my friends are below 1.70m – 5.5ft…). I’m the tallest woman in my family and have very fair skin. Oddly, as my dad is dark. So was there any way I could have ancestors from the North of Europe, I wondered… 🤔
So of course I was having a busy day at work when the results came in. The expected email was there. I had to wait until I got back home and had some time to open what I had paid £48 for… and I had to share this with you. They make this nice little video that makes you feel you’re about to find out something truly unique about yourself, that will change your life forever.
WTF. You’re telling me I’m not even 50% Iberian?! My life has been a lie 🤯
16% North and West European? Well, that explains my height I guess? I am way above a typical Portuguese woman…🤔
15.7% Italian. YES. YES YES YES. One of my ancestors was probably a Medici spy. Or maybe… a renaissance artist?! Or a Pope’s bastard… Or maybe… from the Sicilian mafia or a victim of the mafia…🤔
14% Irish, Scottish, Welsh?! Okay, this was the part I REALLY loved. Because I do love Scotland. My eyes teared up (okay just being dramatic now). But explains the fair skin and the freckles. 😯
And finally as suspected, a small percentage of North African beauty. Nigeria seems a bit far fetched (I believe it’s less than 1%).
But what did I find out really?
I AM A EUROPEAN COCKTAIL. HOW COOL IS THAT?
And my ancestors were such a mess! What the hell happened in there? So I found myself thinking that perhaps my own eagerness to travel and live in different places may be genetic as well, even though looking at my family at the moment that may not be the case. My parents were emmigrants, but the kind that did for work and not for the pure joy of exploring.
Honestly, if you’re interested in this I would highly recommend it. It’s just so interesting and I think my results were very surprising for myself personally because I have no clue of who my ancestors were. I know it is expensive but keep your eyes open for sales – they run them often during seasonal and gifting periods and, of course, Black Friday. I’m actually thinking about trying another one just for curiosity. Did a little research on the three brands I keep hearing about:
23&Me costs £79 for Ancestry and Traits I like they have a Traits report that will tell you random things like your likelihood to be averse to cilantro taste. . If I do get another one, it will be from 23&Me.
AncestryDNA – I don’t like the website and honestly $99 for the basic one? Meh.
MyHeritage – this is the one I took. It is at the same price as 23&Me at £79, but I often see them on sale (currently an extended Easter sale so you can get it for £59). Glad I bought it for only £48… you would think prices would go down with time.
I really hope you enjoyed this post, as much as I enjoyed writing it!
What do you think about these tests? Have you done one yourself? I’d love to hear your experience, so please comment down below!