Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Who are we, really?

That’s kind of a deep and existential question, right? I, like many people, had been wondering that on and off for years, so a few months ago, I decided to find out.

I was actually looking for a gift for Paul. His birthday falls around Father’s day, so I knew I had to find two gifts and was having a hard time with the second. I have been trying to move away from physical gifts because that just makes it harder when we move, as we do every couple of years. I read an article about DNA testing around that time and was like, “Hmmmm…” I liked the idea of getting him a DNA test. It was definitely weightless. Plus, it would be illuminating, so I was intrigued and thought Paul would be too. I did some research and talked to friends who had done DNA tests. Based on that, I picked 23 and Me. When I went to the website to order the DNA test kit, they had a special for two, so I was like, “Well, I guess I’ll get one for myself too.” It took a few weeks for us to get the kits in the mail and then we had to register and do a little reading to figure out how they worked. We had to send saliva back to the US, so one morning Paul and I sat at the dining table and did some hard-core spitting in the containers provided in the kits. We put the spit packages in the mail the next day. It took a good month and a half to get the results but finally they came back and (drumroll, please) this is what we really are (at least according to our spit anyhow):


Were there any surprises? No, no major surprises but there were a few little ones. What we knew about Paul was that he had 3 grandparents from Poland and one from Germany, so we expected him to be about 75% Polish and 25% German. As far as I knew all of my relatives were Bulgarian, so the hypothesis was that I would be 100% Bulgarian, whatever that meant, considering that Bulgaria is located on a major trade route between Europe and Asia and has historically been part of multiple kingdoms/empires.

The test results confirmed that we were both 100% European. Paul turned out to be 77.5% Eastern European, which made sense because we knew that even his German grandma had some Polish in her. He is 8.7% Northwestern European (mostly German and French, 5.1%). He also had about 7% Southern European in him though and 1.1% Balkan, both of which were a surprise.

I, on the other hand, turned out to be 90.4% Southern European and 75.3% Balkan. I am apparently 8.2% Italian. Who would have thunk???!!! They think that I most likely had a great-grandparent, second-great-grandparent, or third-great-grandparent who was 100% Italian and was likely born between 1820 and 1880. Cool huh?


Another neat thing about 23 and Me (though maybe other DNA tests do that too) is that as more people get their DNA tested, they refine their algorithm and add information to your test. For example, when I first got my results I had about 10% unknown/unassigned genes, which I thought was kind of a bummer. Also, they could tell that I was mostly Balkan but didn’t know more than that. Now, they can pinpoint my Balkan genes to Bulgaria and think that my ancestors have lived in Bulgaria for the last 200 years. I guess other people from Bulgaria got tested since we did and that helped them pinpoint people with genes like mine to Bulgaria. Also, initially, Paul didn’t have any Jewish genes but now he has a few. Fascinating, no?!!!


Last but not least, I am a lot less Neanderthal than Paul – go figure!


Have you guys done genetic testing? Any interesting findings? Any surprises?

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