This blog post has been a long time coming. I didn’t think to blog about my experience with Ancestry initially because everything was so new and exciting and deeply personal. It didn’t cross my mind to share any of my experience but recently I was reflecting on my test results and decided that I absolutely have to tell you about the DNA test from Ancestry.com.
You’ve probably seen the commercials and web ads of people proudly explaining their ethnic heritage from taking an online DNA test. You might even be a little suspicious of it, wondering if it’s a scam or really true. I always wanted to know exactly what parts of Africa my heritage originates from, and I also wanted to know if there was anything else mixed in, considering I’m a bit on the lighter side of the melanin spectrum. So around the 2016 holiday season I bought a DNA kit on sale.
The box arrived and inside is a tube, solution, a postal box and instructions. When the kit arrives you have to register it online with your unique–and FREE–Ancestry.com account. It’s crucial that you pay attention here and write everything correctly because this is the only way they can identify your sample with you, and if you get your contact e-mail wrong it can delay your results.
Once you do this, you spit into the cup (you can’t eat or drink about 30-60 minutes prior to), mix it with the solution and then seal it away in a bag. Then you mail it using the enclosed box which is already addressed to Ancestry’s lab. At this point, you’ll do the waiting game by tracking the box on USPS and wondering why 6-8 weeks feels like 40 years.
Finally, your phone will ding with an e-mail notification from Ancestry telling you that your results have arrived! I’m telling you, it feels like a child finding out he’s going to Disney World. You’ll be on cloud 9 all day.
This is what your results look like. You’ll get a list of countries with the percentage that is in your DNA from most to least, and the map helps you visualize exactly where in the world your ancestors came from. The DNA cards are fun too.
I just took the test to see my ethnicities, but if you buy a subscription to Ancestry (you can pay just $19/month or for 6 months or yearly) you have access to records like WWII draft cards, US Census records, birth and death certificates and more. I used this subscription for the first summer to construct a family tree.
What I didn’t expect is that Ancestry shows you DNA matches. These are other people who took the Ancestry DNA test and are related to you! Crazy, right? I have over 4oo matches. And while I obviously saw a few relatives that had already taken the test before me (which is proof that it works), I quickly discovered a host of family I knew nothing about! Cousins, aunts and all kinds of people who I’d never heard about. I’m currently on a long-term journey to meet everyone in person.
A few things I learned during this process that you might find helpful:
- When two people make a baby, half of the mom’s DNA and half of the dad’s DNA join to make a child. This DNA is passed down randomly. So for example, my mom’s Ancestry has Scandinavian, but mine does not.
- Studying your ancestry can help you understand what life was like for your relatives in certain times periods and in different areas of the country. Looking at African-Americans in the South it was interesting that some of those working in tobacco fields died of cancer, and other died of malnutrition, whereas those in the North were often roomers due to low wages.
- I never thought of the Great Migration as anything that affected my family until I started following their path through Census records.
- You will almost definitely find a branch of family somewhere that you knew nothing about, from an older relative who had another child, or a half-sibling that no one talked about. Be prepared for some surprises!
Have you completed the Ancestry DNA test or are you thinking about it? Now until the 29th it’s only $59! Were you surprised by your results? Do you plan to visit any of your countries? Let me know in the comments!