23andMe – Finding Out Who I Am

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About two months ago I came across a study that 23andMe.com was offering.  They were looking for participants with a history of or family history of depression and/or bipolar disorder.  The purpose of the study was to help scientists further research into genetic components of mental illness and help them determine if there are genetic markers that can indicate mental illness and maybe possibly, one day lead to a better understanding of mental illness and maybe also develop better medications.  Because I am very passionate about mental illness due to my own personal history and family history I applied for the study and got accepted.  As part of the study, which I will be participating in for the next year, my ancestry would also be analyzed.

I’ve always been interested in the DNA aspect of ancestry.  I LOVE the tv show Who Do You Think You Are.  I LOVE genealogy.  It fascinates me.  My genealogy is extremely hard to trace because on my mother’s side of the family my great-grandparents escaped Russia during the Russian Revolution.  On my father’s side of the family, my grandparents were Holocaust survivors.  I basically end up with brick walls on both sides of my family when I try to trace my ancestry.  On both sides of my family tree, I can’t go back all that far, so I always thought having my DNA tested would be interesting to see if maybe I could locate long-lost relatives.

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As far as I know, I am 50% Polish and 50% Russian (my mom is 100% Russian, my dad 100% Polish).  Today I finally got back my results from 23andMe and it was really fascinating.  My Ancestry Composition didn’t surprise me.  I came up 100% European – 99.9% Ashkenazi Jewish and <0.1% Broadly European.  What was really awesome was all the insights I was given based on my DNA.

For example, according to genetic factors I am more genetically likely to have dark eyes (correct), pale skin (correct), lots of freckles (correct), and straight to wavy hair (correct).  One funny thing was genetically I am more likely to have dark blonde to light brown hair, when in actuality I have super dark brown hair.  Who knew that genetically speaking I should have been a blonde!  I find it interesting though because blonde hair does run in my family.  My grandfather had blonde hair in his youth.  My uncle, my mom’s brother, had blonde hair as a child that darkened as he got older, as did my cousin (my uncle’s daughter).  Also, according to my genetic reports, I am very likely to be lactose intolerant (which is correct and thankfully have managed by drinking raw milk which is extremely different then the milk you can buy in the store).

23andMe also can link you up with genetic relatives based on your DNA and Maternal Haplogroup.  I belong to the Maternal Haplogroup K2a2a.  How cool is this:

“Your maternal line stems from a branch of haplogroup K called K2a2a. The K2a2a lineage traces back to a woman who lived approximately 2,000 years ago, near the beginning of the Roman Empire. Evidence suggests her lineage was one of the founding maternal lines of the Ashkenazi Jews. Today, K2a2a is almost solely found in the Ashkenazim, where it makes up nearly 5% of the total haplogroup lineages, and also at low frequencies in eastern Europe.

Tracing the Maternal Founders of the Ashkenazi Jews

A few particular haplogroups, including K2a2, are specific to Jewish populations and especially to Ashkenazi Jews, whose roots lie in central and eastern Europe. These branches reach their highest concentrations in the Ashkenazim, but are also found in Jewish populations from the Middle East and Africa, and among Sephardic Jews who trace their roots to medieval Spain. This suggests that these haplogroups originated in the Middle East before 70 AD, when the Roman destruction of Jerusalem scattered the Jewish people around the Mediterranean and beyond.

Today, about 1.7 million Ashkenazi Jews living share a single branch of the K haplogroup, K1a1b1a. The diversity within the haplogroup suggests that it arose in the Middle East between 2,000 and 3,000 years ago. A similar pattern in K2a2, N1b2 and K1a9 has led researchers to conclude that 40% of the Ashkenazim living today — about 3.4 million people — could descend from as few as four women who lived within the last 2,000 years.”

23andme.com

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I also have 1,251 DNA relatives!  The closest to me is someone who is genetically a second cousin and the rest are 3rd, 4th, 5th and even more distant cousins, but maybe through these new connections not only can I connect with a distant relative, but maybe also  figure out how we are related, and reconnect with some long-lost family!  I have reached out to quite a few people who 23andMe figured out I am closely related to.  I am so excited to see what I learn.

I’ve been having so much fun this morning reading all my reports and learning about myself genetically.  I have learned more today about myself genetically than I ever have before!  My mother is now anxious to test herself and has ordered her kit.  I’m excited to see what more I can learn about myself through my mother’s results as I can link her results up with me.  We also ordered my husband a kit.  He’s been wanting to do his DNA for a long time.

I have researched my husband’s genealogy and have been able to trace his roots very very far.  On both his mother’s and father’s side of the family tree, his ancestors came to America in the 1600 and 1700’s.  He has deep New England roots which were fascinating to trace.  He is a descendant of William the Conqueror, various Kings and Queens in Europe, founders of Hartford, CT and Providence, RI.  He is literally a walking history book, and his lines have been highly researched.  He has deep English roots among others.  But, there’s always been one part that I haven’t been able to prove.  Supposedly he has Native American Ancestry on two sides of his family tree, so we are anxious to see if that comes up at all in his DNA results.  His should be a very interesting Ancestry Composition.

I love learning and researching and not only am I helping science by providing my DNA to help map out depression and bipolar, but I am also learning about myself!  How awesome is that?

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23andMe is running a Thanksgiving special right now.  If you purchase two or more kits it’s only $49 per ancestry kit instead of the usual $99 per kit.  So, if you’ve ever thought about finding out your DNA ancestry and learning more about your lineage, now is definitely the time to take part.  It would definitely make for a fun and educational holiday gift!  Click here to order today and find out who you are!


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