“Do DNA kits even work?” I muttered, pulling the colorful box from its packaging. I’ve heard of so many people learning their ancestry from spit testing recently, that when 23andMe offered a trial, I couldn’t resist.
After all, as a traveler, isn’t ancestry a good motivation to direct one’s world explorations? But I remained wary. What could simple spit even show about me?
I was provided with a DNA kit for review, but all opinions and cardboard-eating children are my own.
Before I dive into what went down next, however, a few disclaimers. First, despite the photo above of my daughter trying to eat the 23andMe box, and the photo below of my son in the middle of bopping me on the head with the spit vial, these DNA tests are only for adults over 18 years old. Sorry, little cuties! Gotta wait a few years.
Second, if you want to get your own kit, all links in this article are affiliates that provide a small commission upon purchase at no extra cost to you, so click away! 23andMe is always offering promotions and contests (even including free travel to follow your ancestry), thus it’s worth a look. Now back to the show.
I pulled the tube and instructions out of the box. With a few minutes of spitting, the vial was filled to the line. “Ew!” said my son. “Bbbb!” gurgled the baby, demonstrating that she, too, could produce spit.
I registered the vial online, copied down the code, sealed the small shipping box, and trotted down the street to mail it in. A few weeks later, I got the email that my results were available online. Yippee! I logged in and went straight to the ancestry section.
Gazing at the results above, you can clearly see: I’m half Ashkenazi Jewish (from my mother), and half Northwestern European — mostly British and Irish — from my father’s side. Ashkenazi Jews settled in Eastern and Central Europe about 1,000 years ago, and indeed, my mother’s family traces its roots to a town in Poland which has since been annexed by Ukraine.
Now, a new trend in travel is “Ancestry Travel” — tracking down one’s roots in person, and this DNA test has certainly kindled that fire in me. I’ve already started to explore Ireland and loved it, but I haven’t yet dived into Britain or Eastern and Central Europe. Adding those spots to my future schemes now!
Though the DNA test confirmed a lot of what I already suspected about my heritage, I did — like many people — find some surprises. Mine came in the form of the ancestry timeline, above. Hovering over the far right lines, details about distant relatives that were Native American, French and German, and Sardinian emerge.
I asked my mother, “Did you know we had someone Sardinian in our family tree?”
“I didn’t know about that,” she replied, “but your grandfather sure did love sardines!”
So what about you? Have you tried DNA tests like 23andMe? What’d you find, and did it inspire future travels? If you haven’t tried a DNA test, would you like to? Do share!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 4.2 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!