23 and Me – Do You Really Want To Know the Truth About Your Family?
All too many of us grow up not knowing our dads. We are raised by hard-working, single mum’s who don’t have much information on half of who we are… we grow up wondering what the other half of our family is like, our history, the stories, the illnesses and the triumphs.
I personally grew up with little interest in my ancestry (more-than-likely because I didn’t have enough information to make any inferences). I was told that my dad was Scottish and my mother was Irish, and somewhere down the line, I had a Native American ancestor.
I grew up in Canada, where Native American history was taught along side European history. I always felt more connected to stories about the Cree, the Blackfoot and Sioux peoples than any story about the British conquerors. As a child, I imagined one of the fiercest fighters against the European invaders was my great-great-grandparent, and that my tall stature, brown hair and high cheek bones were traits inherited from this mysterious Native ancestor.
A couple months ago, I came across an ad for “23 and Me“, which is DNA Genetic Health Risk and Carrier Status test. For $199US you can spit into a collection kit and in 3-6 weeks find out everything from your families ancestral heritage, whether or not you carry variants that increase your risk of breast cancer, or whether or not cilantro tastes like soap to you.
I was confident that I already knew my family’s origins, but I was more intrigued by the “just-for-fun-DNA-test” claims that it would tell me if I had dormant life-altering diseases or inheritable illnesses. Curiosity got the better of me and I sent my spit off to be analyzed.
I was not prepared for the results.
Much to my dismay, the results were different than what I had been told all my life. Turns out I have no Native American ancestor… I am 100% Northwestern European.
There was a mixture of embarrassment and confusion. Why did my family think that? Was my obsession with the First Nations people inappropriate now? I didn’t read too much into the reports at first, and the shock of it all kept me from embracing the truth and learning more about my true heritage.
It wasn’t until recently, when I went to the Netherlands for the first time, that I realized I needed to look into it more. I had never left North America before, so all I knew was the diverse countries of Canada and America. I didn’t see many people that looked like me, but I also didn’t think that we as a collective group were all that different from each other. We all have various hair colors, eye colors, shapes and sizes, but a large portion of the population is caucasian, so I thought we were all the same.
It wasn’t until I walked around Amsterdam and saw hundreds of me: very tall, slender, brown hair, light skin, blue eyes, similar facial features, that I realized that I had “come from somewhere”. My family, the one that I do not know, is from a place not far from here.
I didn’t think it was possible. It hadn’t occurred to me that there was a place on this planet where the majority of people looked like I did.
So, I came home and took a closer look at the 23 and Me Report:
To summarize “me”, I am 100% Northwestern European, which ethnographically means that my family is concentrated into only the following countries: Ireland, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, Northern Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Iceland.
None of the findings in this report changes anything for me in my life, nor should they change anyone’s view of me. It’s simply a story about myself, and I am discovering where my family lived their lives, what they did–and hopefully I can find some living relatives to connect with.
I am no longer sad about the results… I am glad that I learned the truth about myself.