My DNA results have arrived!

I have previously written about beginning my DNA adventures with a test with 23andMe, a company that focuses more on the health aspects of genetics than the genealogical aspects. They had an offer I couldn’t refuse, and I didn’t!

When I got up this morning there was an email to say that my genetic profile was ready. I had to go out and so couldn’t give this interesting news the attention that it deserved, until now. I’d like to write down my impressions as I go through the results.

The menu is split into three headings:

  • My Health
  • My Ancestry
  • Sharing and Community

The first thing I did before I left the house this morning was look for my mtDNA haplotype under My Ancestry. This is the one that sorts  you into migration groups from 10-50,000 years ago. Mine is X2b:

According to 23andMe haplogroup X2 is mostly found in southern Europe, Central Asia, and North America, with a few scattered populations in places like the Orkney Islands in Scotland. It is relatively rare in most of the populations in which it is found.

It’s nice to think that my haplogroup is relatively rare. We all like to think of ourselves as a bit special! I can trace my direct female line back five generations to Agnes Allan, who married William Stewart in Paisley, Scotland, in 1827, and died before William remarried and took his family to Auckland, New Zealand in 1842. So perhaps she was descended from the people who ended up in Orkney.

Other headings under My Ancestry are:

  • Relative Finder, which won’t have results for another week or so. Disappointing!
  • Paternal Line which is no good to me since I am not male and the paternal line can only be traced by the Y chromosome, which women do not have.
  • Ancestry Painting, which makes no sense to me at the moment. It has a diagram of some chromosomes and a key that shows different colours meaning different things if the chromosomes show those colours. My chromosomes show no colours, only grey bits, and apparently “Gray segments indicate regions where 23andMe’s genotyping chip has no markers.”
  • Global Similarity shows your similarity to groups of people from around the world. Check it out:

Global similarity map

Global similarity graphI am slightly more similar to the people of Oceania than to any of the Europeans. Apparently Oceania includes the people of Australia (ie, Aboriginals), New Guinea and the Pacific Islands, including New Zealand, but the sample only includes those from New Guinea. The sample dates from January 2008, which is a bit disappointing.

There is the opportunity to see the graph for others who have shared their profile with you, and those I can see have predominantly Northern Europeans and very little Oceania. That makes sense. Most of us in Australia, aside from the Aboriginal people, come from Europe.

My father, however, is a part-European Fijian. The Fijians are Melanesian, with some Polynesian where they associated with people from Tonga and other islands. So this result makes some sense.

When I have some time I will delve into these results in more detail to work out how they arrive at the conclusions they have.

Under the heading Sharing and Community are the tools for comparing your genes with those of relatives. So far I have shared my profile with two people, and I have no similarities with either of them. I will look at this category in more detail when it has something to show me.

The first heading, which I have left until last, is My Health. First up is Disease Risk.

The results for Parkinson’s Disease are locked, so that they can explain what the results mean, and don’t mean, before you see them. I think that’s a good idea. I have a scientific background and know that the percentages they are talking about are very small, but others may be unnecessarily concerned.

The other results are displayed in a long list, with the increased risk first, followed by decreased risk and then typical risk. The ones on the top of my list are no more than double the very low average incidence, which is heartening. I can then click on each one to find out more. Here are some of my ‘typical risks':

Health typical risk

Where the results show a red and green arrow there are multiple markers associated with the condition, and I may have one or more of them.

It would be easy, I imagine, to use these results as an excuse to do nothing. If I see a graph that shows my risk of heart attack is greater than average I might resign myself to the fact and keep living on fatty foods and no exercise (which I don’t – it’s hypothetical). Or I could make some changes to counteract the predisposition in my genes.

Each item on the list also gives a ‘confidence rating’, the stars, based on the number of studies that have been done and the number of participants in the studies.

I have a slightly higher risk of developing asthma, based on one of three markers for which studies have been done. The studies are listed and described, with the type of population and numbers of subjects described. I actually do suffer from asthma.

Carrier status to certain conditions has a similar layout. I’ll have a good look at that later.

Drug response will also take some time to digest. I am likely to be a fast metaboliser of caffeine, which I gave up some years ago, and I have typical results for most other items on the list.

Traits looks interesting. I don’t have the muscle performance of a world-class sprinter, nor am I resistant to malaria or HIV/AIDS. I am likely to have brown eyes (correct) and to have straighter hair (correct, despite my father having frizzy black hair).

That’s enough for now. It will take some time to go into this more thoroughly. My initial reaction is positive, and I’m glad I spent the $99.

Image courtesy of Chris Harvey at Dreamstime.

DNA testing continued

DNA graphicI had decided to take advantage of a special deal with 23andMe and get my DNA tested. I am hoping to learn a bit about my deep ancestry from my mitochondrial DNA in this test, as well as some genetic health risks and susceptibilities.

I tried to order the kit a few days before. I eventually realised that my first order with 23andMe didn’t go through, so I ordered again. I received confirmation that it has been sent, which I hadn’t had before, so obviously I had done something wrong, or not done something, before. So far so good!

Timeline so far:

9 Dec 2010 – I ordered a kit from 23andMe

10 Dec 2010 – Kit was shipped from 23andMe

13 Dec 2010 – Kit arrived at my front door

15 Dec 2010 – I spat my sample into the test tube

16 Dec 2010 – Sample collected by courier

21 Dec 2010 – Sample arrived at the 23andMe lab, and I was reminded to register my kit on the website

The process takes 6-8 weeks, so there will be no new updates for a while.

In the meantime, I had ordered some books from Amazon. That order did go through, and all 5 of them have arrived – 3 all at once and the other 2  individually. I’ve read the first 3, the last one being Megan Smolenyak and Ann Turner’s Trace Your Roots with DNA, (2001). Even though the book is nearly 10 years old it gives an excellent introduction to the basics of DNA testing. They discuss the coming developments pretty accurately – more markers, more usefulness for mtDNA, more popularity and so better chances of matching with someone else’s test results.

All this reading has inspired me to more testing! I’ve ordered a test for my maternal uncle, and one for my unsuspecting father or brother.

I’ve also changed companies. I will be using Family Tree DNA for these and probably all subsequent tests. It’s not that I think that they are a better company, or do better tests; it’s more that they do different tests.

Family Tree DNA are more concerned with pure genealogy, whereas 23andMe are more concerned with the health aspects of DNA. It will be interesting to compare the two. Family Tree DNA has, as far as I can tell, the largest number of  projects.

A project is what you join if you want to find matches with other people who may be relatives. The pricing is less expensive if you join a project. Most of the projects are for surnames. My husband, for example, is part of the Bassett project, so he can see how closely he is related to other Bassetts around the world, and where their most recent common ancestor came from. There is little point in getting your DNA tested unless you want to compare it with others’.

Other projects are for geographic areas. My uncle is one of the last of a line of Easons, the first of whom came to Australia from County Tyrone in what is now Northern Ireland, so he will be part of the Ulster Project. The story we were told was that Eason was originally a French Huguenot name with a d’ on the front of it. I have not found any evidence of this as yet, but then my trail runs cold in 1813 with the marriage of Sarah Irwin of Clogher, Tyrone, to Richard Eason of Armagh.

Family Tree DNA do not use couriers unless requested, so this story will unfold a little more slowly.

Image courtesy of Chris Harvey at Dreamstime.

DNA testing – is it for me?

I’ve been learning slowly about DNA and how it can help my family history research for what seems like years now, and have never done anything about it. What convinced me that it really was worthwhile was a lecture given by Megan Smolenyak at the Congress in Auckland last year, but still I’d done nothing. I really should get on to it, I think to myself whenever the subject comes up.

23 and MeToday I bit the bullet and ordered my first DNA testing kit. 23andMe is offering a huge discount on their tests, from $499 down to $99, although you then have to agree to pay $5 per month for a minimum of 12 months for updates. The postage is not cheap either – $69.95 to Australia, although this includes return postage back to the lab after you’ve spat into the container. The special runs until the 29th November “or while stocks last”.

23andMe is not the only DNA testing company around, although they do specialise in health aspects, with a long list of genetically carried diseases and responses to drugs. I have also considered Family Tree DNA for more complete testing of both sides of my tree, and will still do so at some stage. Perhaps when they next offer a discount!

Have a look at the special at 23andMe and decide for yourself. I will post updates as I continue my journey.

Postscript: I have to admit that my sudden resolve was not only due to the huge discount being offered. A discussion on the merits of the test on Facebook has resulted in three of us all signing up for the test together, and we will all be blogging about it.

Here’s Joan’s post and I’m sure Susan‘s will not be far off. It’s very exciting!