What I Learned About Myself from 23andMe

Like most people, I have always wondered who am I REALLY?! Fortunately we are at a time in history where those answers are just a few clicks away.

You know you’ve watched too much tv when you’ve thought perhaps I was mixed up in the hospital at birth. Perhaps I’m secretly royalty! Where in the world am I from?! My gift to myself this Christmas was DNA testing from the service 23andMe so I could finally figure out those answers.

Note: This is a review of 23andMe based on my personal experiences. I don’t have any formal science background nor was I asked to provide any opinions. I just wanted to share what I thought should anybody be considering doing DNA testing themselves.

Testing Process

I ordered my 23andMe kit on December 18th. Within a couple of days of ordering, I received a DNA testing kit in the mail.

There are a couple of different options for purchasing a testing kit. You can either get the “basic” Ancestry + Traits Kit, which will provide the breakdown of where in the world you are from, and Traits (over thirty reports including potential hair, eye colour, hair photobleaching, whether you like sweet or salty foods and more) based on your DNA. There is also a slightly more expensive Health + Ancestry Kit, which also includes genetic predispositions, wellness reports, and carrier statuses. If you do pick the basic kit, you CAN opt to add on Health after for an additional fee.

Here is 23andMe’s comparison and cost guide.

I opened the box and did the testing right after I got my kit in the mail. The first thing you do is register the kit on their website with your unique code ~ which will track every single step of the process. You then take out the testing tube out for the most fun part of the whole process: permission to SPIT!! You have to fill up a vial with a not-insignificant amount of saliva that the lab will test. It took me a good five minutes to get enough spit to fill it to the line.

Finally, your body is saliva free! There are detailed instructions on every step, and how to repackage for shipping back to the lab. The return shipping is prepaid, and you simply resend the same box it came in so there is no stress about shipping labels or postage. You simply drop the kit back into the post box and it’s on its way! You will get a tracked shipping number and can follow your sample back to the lab where it’s on to testing!

Testing Process

A little part of you travels across the country to 23andMe’s testing labs (they appear to be located in Los Angeles and North Carolina – with mine getting the tropical LA experience!) You can follow each step on the website or through email updates as your registered sample moves through testing – it’s a very interactive experience!

The kit can take 6-8 weeks to test in total – but that’s very conservative. Each step has an estimated time-frame. Some kits are randomly chosen for quality testing in the Review stage, which apparently can take up to two weeks. I’m lucky that didn’t happen to me because my goodness I was impatient (they didn’t end up testing for that particular trait… phew)! As an FYI – this was my timeline:

  • Registered and shipped (in Canada): December 22nd
  • Arrived at Lab (in Los Angeles, California): January 4th
  • Prepped: January 4th
  • Extracted: January 8th
  • Genotyped: finished January 15th
  • Reviewed: January 15th
  • Computing Your Results: started January 15th
  • Results Ready: January 17th – results were “expected” February 15th, or up to March 1st

Ancestry

Then the most exciting day came! The email that my results were ready!!

Now the exciting part! Who am I?! Let’s take a look:

I’m more colourful than I thought I would be (my insides DO match my outsides)! The map is made up from the DNA where your ancestors are believed to originate from in the past 200 or so years.

Some results were not a huge surprise: my maternal grandparents migrated to Canada in the 1950s from West Germany – so the Germany results were as expected! My Opa (paternal grandfather) was born near Chelm, Poland – so makes sense that he had Polish ancestry.

My Dad’s side has always been a little “mysterious” and unknown! That side of the family has been in Nova Scotia for a number of generations and we knew that the family had originated in England and Ireland – which seems to be pretty accurate looking at this! But the “fun” family rumour is that somebody had an ~interaction~ with a ships’ captain a few generations ago. 😉 That originated because Dad’s family has an inherited blood condition called Beta Thalassemia (which is characterized by severe anemia, fatigue, and bone disorders.) Beta Thalassemia is also called “Mediterranean Thalassemia” as it’s prevalent more in those populations (Italians and Greeks). I tested negative as a child, fortunately, but it’s always been apart of who we were. Looks like the rumour was TRUE as there is a chunk of Southern European/Italian in there.

Some of the interesting pieces the testing picked up were the Ashkenazi Jewish (albeit a tiny bit!) and the Senegambian DNA (it has 90% accuracy too and shows up on my relatives’ tests, so not just “noise”!) 1% means that it was multiple generations ago, but I am very interested in understanding the history of this person.

Health

23andMe definitely does not replace actual health advice. But understanding your genetic risks is still important. As I mentioned, I was tested for Beta Thalassemia as a child, so potential inherited risks is something that’s always been at the back of my mind.

The Health Testing feature provides insight into a number of Predispositions (like Macular Degeneration, BRCA, Celiac Disease, Late Onset Alzheimer’s, and Type 2 Diabetes, etc), potential Carrier Status (Beta Thalassemia, Cystic Fibrosis, Tay-Sachs, etc), and Traits:

I ended up not having any of the tested Beta Thalassemia variants (which I was already aware, but good to see!):

The test I was the most nervous for was the BRCA1/2 variant test which literally stands for “BReast CAncer gene” as it is a gene mutation known to cause a higher lifetime risk of breast cancer. BRCA gene has been in the news frequently over the past few years, brought into the forefront by Angelina Jolie who was found to have the gene and opted to have preventative surgery. Fortunately, I don’t have any of the tested variants. Again, not a replacement for healthcare and testing, but it still a relief and good awareness!

Some of the fun traits that your genetics can predict and 23andMe can tell you are such as dimples, eye colour, ear lobe type, hair colour, whether you have red hair, a widow’s peak, and ice cream flavour:

Now you know too much about my earwax!

The correct answer to the Ice Cream question is BOTH swirled together!

It’s worth noting, and 23andMe is pretty explicit in the tutorial you are required to take, that the Traits are “based on your DNA and data contributed by other customers.” So meaning, it’s only as good as the genetic information provided in comparison to other 23andMe customers with similar genetics, but it’s fun to think about.

DNA Relatives

You can OPT IN to find DNA Relatives (it’s not a requirement if you don’t want to.)

The site will show you your potential closest matches based on your shared DNA and shared segments, and estimate your relationship (I have over 1,500 matches)! I ended up finding a few of my Dad’s cousins over in Nova Scotia and lots of distant relatives. Doesn’t look like I’m secretly a princess or related to anyone who is going to stop the press! Boo!

You can then chose to message your relatives to get more information and build your family tree.

It appears that most users of 23andMe are North America-based, so unfortunately there are very few individuals from my mom’s side. Hoping that more of my family can do testing so our genetic picture becomes more clear!

In conclusion, DNA testing is very fascinating! I remember wondering about the possibilites when shows like CSI brought DNA knowledge to the forefront. Now it’s possible for ANYBODY to find out exactly who they are.

You do have to consider your own personal beliefs on privacy and whether it’s information you want to know and whether you can deal with potential outcomes (good and bad). But for me, this was a wonderful opportunity!

If you’re looking for more learning opportunities and experiences on 23andMe, I suggest checking out the 23andMe Subreddit!

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October Blogging Challenge! Day 13: Favourite Childhood Memory

Day 13 of the October Blog Challenge is to discuss Favourite Childhood Memories!

I had the absolute BEST childhood and I’m not even sure I can pinpoint my favourite moment out of all of them! I love going through old photo albums as they bring back feelings that are so vivid like these days happened yesterday!

My parents let my brother and I grow up to be anything we wanted. We were allowed just to be ourselves and be happy (there was a lot of climbing on counters and in silly spaces!) I like to think it’s why I have a rosy, fantastical view of life and try not to let things get me down.

Our pets were a big part of our lives! My brother and I only had sweet bunnies and hamsters growing up, as my Dad is extremely allergic to cats (he seems to be pretty tolerant of Sugar now, fortunately!) But they were (and still are) our entire world.

And fortunately for my parents, we were very easy to please! We got a plushie dog one Christmas that kept us content for a while!

I have so many memories of goofing off with my brother and playing video games for days on end!

My parents used to take a lot of pictures on old film rolls, most of which they still haven’t developed, and I’m hoping one day they’ll bring back even more fun moments!

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October Blogging Challenge! Day 7: Lessons Learned this Year

Oh 2020! You have been a wild ride so far!! I’ve been working from home since March and have really only left my house a couple of times, so there has been a LOT of time for learning and reflection. There have certainly been tough moments, but many bright happy times as well! A big goal has been to try and make every single day a special day and enjoy every moment as it comes.

  1. Talk to family as much as possible!
  2. Enjoy the sweets you are craving. YES, you do deserve it!
  3. Take a few minutes each day to watch the clouds go by
  4. Cover EVERYTHING in rainbows!
  5. Movie marathons turn a dark day into a fantastical journey somewhere else
  6. Turn off your phone and snuggle up with a big blanket and toasty warm hot chocolate!
  7. Ice cream IS an acceptable dinner choice (occasionally :))
  8. Make a mess! Cover the house in paint and yarn and glitter. Clean it up some other day 😀
  9. Give your pets an extra kiss!
  10. Write down a list of things that make you feel bubbly and happy (and look at it when you’re not)!

There are so many reasons to be appreciative this year! It’s been tough, but we’ll pull through and be brighter for it!

xoxo

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October Blogging Challenge! Day 1: Thankful Thursday!

Holy moly October already?! September was a VERY busy month but fortunately also meant it went by crazy fast – phew! It’s time to unwind with the very first day of the October Blogging Challenge, and the first topic is Thankful Thursday! I’m glad we get to start the month on a good happy note because I sure need it!

I am thankful for a lot of things as I’m realizing more and more this wild year, but here are FIVE for today:

Family

Always my favourite thing! My lovely parents surprised me this weekend by coming over to paint my bedroom and brought over sushi (my absolute favourite food!) which I haven’t had forever. They are amazing and I don’t know what I’d do without them.

Crispy Autumn Mornings

Something cool autumn days really me with warmth and happiness! I’m looking forward to planning and celebrating holidays (whatever that means this year!)

Studio Ghibli Movies

I’ve been binge watching Ghibli films lately and they’re really helping me escape from the real world for a little bit. They’re just absolute positivity and prettiness in movie form!

Creativity

I LOVE making stuff and having a million projects on the go at once! My house is an EXPLOSION of colour and yarn and beads at the moment and it’s so much fun.

I bought a couple of new knitting patterns off of Etsy that I’m so excited to get to work on!

Jigglypuff is by LittleWhitsKnits and the Sailor Moon Hat is by PamigurumiMakes!

Friends

I LOVE my friends (in real life and internet friends)! Even if we don’t talk frequently or just exchange the occasional likes, I really adore you and don’t think I’d be in as good of a place as I am without you. <3

What are you thankful for?!? 🙂

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25 Days of Christmas Baking: Day 4 – Around the World

Let’s grab our passports today and see how the holiday’s are celebrated around the world! I opted to stop over quickly in Germany where my family is from for this around the world bake. Germany is well known for it’s holiday traditions: Christmas Market, Advent Calendars, and of course the FOOD!

One of my favourite Christmas memories is sneaking my Oma’s Spritzgebäck (which translates squirt cookie as they come out of a cookie press, or spritz because you know spritz!) from the table before dinner. Spritzgebäck is a very traditional German fluffy butter cookie which looks oh so fancy so I had to try my hand at it.

I found this recipe from Dinner at the Zoo. The recipe is very simple: only butter, flour, sugar, salt, vanilla, and an egg. You then take the mixture and put it in a cookie press, and squirt each one out onto a cookie sheet and bake. The recipe is for chocolate spritzes, but I ended up doing half in chocolate, and half without.

Unfortunately my cookie press (a 60+ year old thing that my Oma passed on to me in which you actually have to crank the press like a stuck jar of pickles to get the cookies to come out) wasn’t really a fan of this recipe. The dough tastes absolutely amazing, but might be too dry for this particular press (or maybe I need to work on my arm muscles!) So instead I opted to roll out the cookies and do cut outs – which worked spectacularly!

I then dipped half of each cookie in melted dark chocolate (the half dip is a very German thing) and added sprinkles – and wunderbar!

Christmas Treats Elsewhere!

I absolutely love seeing how people elsewhere celebrate! Here’s some of the goodies that come from around the world that I would love to try:

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