No, this is not a joke.
Inspired by Will Ludwigsen‘s purchase of a DNA profile, my wife bought me a similar genetic-testing kit through 23andMe. (It’s just $99, if you’d like to try it.) To send them the DNA sample, I hawked a loogie into a plastic vial they supplied and mailed it to them.
The profiling package was just for fun, really, although others have more serious motivations, such as discovering their genetic susceptability to certain diseases. By comparing one’s DNA markers to others in the big database in the sky, I guess, businesses like this can also tell you how many other of their customers you’re allegedly related to.
So, here are some of the various things that I learned about my ancestry:
- I’m 2.9% percent Neanderthal. (Click to see.)
- I’m also 0.1% Native American. (How the hell did that get in there?) But I am 99.7% European, mainly northern.
- I’m distantly related to Benjamin Franklin on my mother’s side. They didn’t tell me how distant.
- I also have a whopping 984 DNA relatives in their database. The nearest is a “3rd to 4th cousin” with whom I share 0.66% of my DNA. This means if we go back four or five generations, we might have a common ancestor. This male’s privacy settings don’t tell me much more, although I could email him through the website and ask if he’d like to exchange profiles. I guess this makes 23andMe a genetic matchmaking service, or something.
- The most common surnames among my genetic relatives are Moore, Mullins, Ware, Perkins, and Burton.
Health-wise, I learned, I’m most at risk of developing atrial fibrillation (which my grandmother suffered from), psoriasis (which I’ve already experienced), and a couple types of cancer (which people on both sides of my family have had). I’m at lower-than-average risk for Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.
I’m disappointed to learn I’m only at average risk for mental disorders that would have increased my writer’s angst quotient: bipolar disorder, OCD, alcohol dependence, and Tourette’s.
Other interesting things are that I don’t have alcohol flush reaction, my earwax type is “wet,” and my eye color is “likely brown” (it’s actually a combination of brown and green; hazel?). Way down at the bottom of this list of health and traits is the fascinating statement that my AG genotype in the rs1800497 marker means I am “Much less efficient at learning to avoid errors.” Each of the hundreds of traits comes with its own linked message board, so I can commiserate with other AG rs1800497 flunkies.
Studies like these are to be taken with a grain of salt. I prefer to take mine with a glass of George Dickel. But it’s a fun dive into narcissism. The website comes with a helpful family tree builder so that I can collaborate with my 984 cousins to uncover our secret links to the secret kingdoms of R’lyeh.
I will live forever!