23andMe Ancestry Service: My surprising DNA results

This 23andMe DNA results post contains referral links for people who want to buy a kit.

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Why i chose to take the 23andMe DNA test 

I was 14 when I first felt the embarrassment of not knowing "who I was". I was at boarding school in French class, studying vocabulary and familial nouns (sister, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, etc). Our assignment was to draw a family tree and extend it as far back as possible, applying the appropriate nouns and ages of our family members to present to the class. 

I thought of the family long gone. Of family I never knew.

Why didn't I know more? Why didn't I ask more questions? Before boarding school, in the South Bronx, all I knew was that I was Puerto Rican. Forget about the fact that I wasn't actually born in Puerto Rico. The American way was to be told you're everything but an American. 

It wasn't until I reached 8th grade that a social studies teacher scolded my class on "Present Your Flag" day and reminded us that no one was 100% anything. What was I, then? Who was I?

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Back at my high school dorm room, preparing for my French assignment, I remember crying as I drew my family tree. Each branch stemmed to hold names of family either far away or deceased. I realized I felt ashamed to share my story.

I felt embarrassed because I thought my story wasn't good enough. 

If it wasn't for my fear of getting a bad grade I wouldn't have presented the project at all. But I did. I mustered up the courage to share my incomplete story in broken French.

I described all that was special about my known family members, their (guessed) ages, and fun facts about them. I focused on the information I did know and was surprised to learn that the wealthy or family-oriented students in my class also had incomplete stories. Even my teacher. 

I wasn't alone.

Years passed and every journey in my adult life has led me to discover another part of my lineage. From my improving my Spanish to discovering Belizian roots, Italian and Spanish ancestry, and even the random Mexican cousin, I've uncovered so much about my family history just by traveling.

As a Latina, American, and person of color, I know that family-trees, DNA, and the myriad of ancestral complexities that are woven into me will never be 100% revealed, but knowing that many people are on a similar journey makes it all the more exciting. 

When Alex's parents bought me the 23andMe DNA ancestry kit for my birthday in August, I knew it was time to find out more. 

Receiving my 23andMe DNA results

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It took a whole two weeks for me to even open the box because I suddenly became nervous. The $99 kit itself was quite straightforward (I'll add a link to a detailed Q&A post here with video soon) but did provide very detailed instructions. 

Even though my account said it'd take about 8 weeks to get my results, I received it within 4 weeks after shipping. I was initially going to record my reaction but then decided against it because the email came in the middle of the night while I was in bed -- I definitely wasn't going to wait until the morning to read it!

The results show that I am:

  • 43.6% European
  • 39.9% Sub-Saharan African
  • 7.4% East Asian & Native American
  • 1% Middle Eastern & North African
  • 8.1% Unassigned 

My first reaction was being shocked at how high the European percentage was. I consider my skin tone much darker than many Puerto Ricans and thought for sure I was a solid 75%+ African. Naturally, I yelled: "I'm WHITE!?" and then laughed hysterically. Goes to show skin color doesn't tell a whole story...

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Interesting facts:

  • Much of my European make up is Southern European (which makes sense, being Puerto Rican): which includes Iberia (Spain/Portugal), Italy, the Balkan peninsulas, etc. Basically Mediterranean.
  • Most of my African is West African (likely slave trade) and occurred 2-4 generations ago
  • East Asian and Native Americans share genetic history so this make up is probably from my Taino lineage (guessing here)
  • 8.1% unassigned has confirmed my assumption that I am indeed part alien
  • I found no family connected to my DNA on 23andMe (EDIT: I had to fill out additional surveys to activate this and have so far found distant cousins but did not contact anyone)

How I feel about my DNA results

This was so freaking cool! While it didn't give me as much detail about the African and Native part of me, I know that much of their research and results are based on data collection from participant DNA. Many people of color are skeptical of these tests (for good reason: it is not like we weren't experimented on for hundreds of years for the good of science), but if they don't participate, the results will continue to remain vague. I do wonder if the Ancestry DNA test would show similar the results and if I will connect with any closer family. 

What do you think? Were you surprised?

After my initial shock and upon further consideration, I can say that the ancestral genetic make up is pretty on par with what makes many of today's Puerto Ricans. The percentages may differ greatly, yes, but a mixture of European, African, and/or Native American is probably a good guess.  

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Would you try 23andMe? Send your questions and comments!

I know you might have a lot of questions. I recorded myself taking the (spit) test and took lots of screenshots and photos along the way.

The next post in this 23andMe DNA series will share all the details of how the saliva collection / registration process works and what you get for your purchase.

Please send me any questions (in the comments below, on Facebook, or via email) so I can be sure to answer it all. 

xx O.