Friday, June 14, 2013

DNA: I'm U. Are You?

I have the patience of a saint, as the saying goes. I'm that person who gets a birthday card in the mail and tucks it away until my actual birthday. I could wait patiently to open Christmas gifts. Really.

So when 23andMe offered $99 DNA kits late last year, I decided I had waited long enough and ordered one. The kit arrived in mid-December and I let it sit for a few days. I opened the kit, registered, and sent in my sample. The expected turnaround was 2-3 weeks. I received an email asking for my patience, as the holiday backlog was forcing a delay in results. I finally received my email that... drumroll... the results were in!

After logging in, I still needed patience as some of the results took longer - like actual matches! Not a problem. In another week, I settled in to explore the final results. And they were not at all surprising as I know a good deal about all the branches of my family.

I am 99.7% European. Shocked, I tell ya. Part of that is some Eastern European thrown into the DNA mixer by my Prussian-descended grandma, who is almost 95. She's on the left, in case you have a hard time telling us apart ;)

I also learned my maternal haplogroup is:


Solid with my knowledge that I was researching up the right trees, I ventured around the site a little more. Honestly, I was not at all sure what to expect. Armed with these mtDNA results and a lot of research on my maternal lines, I do hope to find matches. I suppose the site is like a topic-specific social media site - people join but you don't know who you might find. Yet.


Nice graphical results
Lists of possible cousins
Fun DNA surveys


Share everything to make connections
Few people reply

And my biggest negative is that I was hoping it showed me more. I read articles and blogs about connections and 'I share x % of DNA with this distant cousin,' and 'y strand of DNA matches this person so we confirm our relationship.' Maybe I'm doing it wrong, but I'm not getting that warm fuzzy connected feeling. I am analytical - I want to see data. No doubt, being able to even perform this test is amazing, but I want to know more

Next step - talk my dad into taking a test for those elusive paternal Irish lines!

What are your experiences with testing? Have you made unexpected matches? Any tips for me, like I really missed something on the website? Do you match me (crosses fingers!)? 

Maybe I will learn that patience is inherited.

© 2013 Sally Knudsen


  1. Sally, I think you are going to need all the patience you can muster. In my experience genetic DNA is a very slow process. I've written a few post about my experience so far. (The most recent one is: Bullish on Genetic Genealogy!- where I called out to family members to get tested). What I've mostly discovered is that you need to have as many family members tested as possible, not an easy feat when the results are quite abstract even for those of us who have a decent understanding of the field. Trying to explain a cousin in his 90s, what he is getting out of his DNA test is not easy. My family has been great tough. I manage everyone's accounts and try to make heads and tails of the connections. So yes, take a deep breath and don't expect any quick earth shattering results!

    1. Thanks Smadar. I hope to coax a couple family members to take tests, then I might have a better idea of the results. I will read your posts for inspiration :)

  2. I'm glad to learn about your experiences, and I especially notice that you want to know more.

    I haven't got my feet wet yet. I'd like to learn more about DNA testing (maybe at some conference sessions, if I can get to FGS 2013) and how to interpret results. Maybe I'm waiting until some of my living mixed-race 3rd cousins (I'm from slave-owning ancestors, and I believe I've found who these probably are) get in touch with me, and we can both do swabs.

    I just want to be more prepared and bone up on the topic. I'm analytical too -- I want to know more about what data I might or might not see.

    I wish you the best of luck with the website, and with finding more relatives to take the test! Good for you, that you know you're searching up the right trees!