DNA overwhelm is something that has been mentioned in my blog articles before, but today I thought I would change tack and write about the opposite subject – DNA results underwhelm. This feeling occurs, usually in non-genealogists, when they get their results through after a wait of several weeks, only to be distinctly unimpressed with they got for their money.
I mean, it’s unsurprising, really. People get seduced by advertising to find out their weird and wonderful ethnicities, but really, Barry*, from Norfolk, whose parents were from Norfolk, whose parents were from Norfolk ad infinitum shouldn’t be that shocked and disappointed to realise that he spent around £100 all in to discover he’s 100% European and depending on who he tested with, possibly even confirmation that he’s 100% British.
So, I dedicate this post to the Barry’s among my readers, with an aim of trying to get you to do something more with your results that might reduce your underwhelm, or at least prevent you from feeling like you wasted £100 in ‘stupid’ tax. I’ll start with the more helpful/serious options and then move onto the more light-hearted options, after all, I am publishing this post on April Fool’s Day (but every single website and service is 100% real, save where indicated).
Compare your ethnicity results at other places.
Upload your DNA to My Heritage, Gedmatch, and FamilyTreeDNA and see just how much that 100% Europeanness differs by company. My Heritage, for example, might tell you that you’re a little bit Jewish. isn’t that exciting?! It’s free to upload DNA to all three services, but FamilyTreeDNA charges a one time fee of US $19 to unlock its ‘myOrigins’ ethnicity breakdown feature, and My Heritage charges a $29 one time fee for its ethnicity breakdown.
If you tested at LivingDNA they will not just tell you that you’re 100% European, but exactly how British you are, and where all the bits of you come from in Britain. Just think, Barry might find he is in fact 100% Norfolkean! LivingDNA does accept DNA uploads from other test companies in relation to its ‘Family Networks’ service, but doesn’t currently give you an ethnicity breakdown as part of that service – that may be something they introduce in future, so it’s still worth uploading your DNA there in case they do.
Upload to DNA.Land for good measure, and get trait information as well. Did you always suspect you might just be lazy? Well, see if your DNA confirms your suspicions!
Check out your DNA Matches
Seriously. Even if you have no interest in your family history, just take a second to go and look at your DNA matches. You are literally related to your DNA matches, even if you have no idea who they are, or how you are related to them. Inside each of you is some DNA that is identical (ok, there’s a lot of DNA that is identical since 99% is genetically identical to the rest of us. But stay with me here). How cool is it that science is able to work that out? Just a couple of decades ago it wasn’t possible to compare DNA in this way, only a few decades before that DNA was discovered in the first place. Before you DNA tested you may have had an awareness from news stories, or shows like CSI that DNA could be used to identify people, but now it’s literally possible for you to see that in practice, and for a lot of people with a bit of work (and sometimes hardly any if your matches are close enough), you can literally find out, with the help of genealogy, the most recent common ancestor for you and a particular DNA match, and know that that bit of you came from that ancestor, who got it from their ancestors and so on. I don’t know about you, but I find that pretty amazing. And it leads me nicely onto my next suggestion…
Take up genealogy!
DNA testing is a gateway to starting genealogy, even if you’ve never done it before! Start building your family tree and just get started. Genealogy is awesome – it brings history alive, it can help you understand your family better by understanding where your parents and grandparents came from and what personal and world events shaped their lives, and if you’re not Barry, learning about all the places your ancestors were from and seeing that reflected in your ethnicity results is pretty amazing too. Before you know it you’ll be hooked, and you’ll be glad you took that test, not only that, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll test and upload your DNA anywhere and everywhere that you can just to find more DNA matches to help build your tree even further.
(Potentially) Help solve serious crime! Help identify unidentified bodies!
It should be no surprise to anyone who is familiar with me that I am suggesting this. It’s controversial to some in the genetic genealogy community, but it’s 100% true that your DNA could potentially help Law Enforcement, via the DNA Doe Project or other agencies, give a name back to a John or Jane Doe, or identify a suspect in a murder or serious sexual assault case. You might not have felt you got a lot of bang for your buck with your DNA test kit, but you can bask in the knowledge you are (potentially) doing good in the world by doing this.
Currently, law enforcement agencies use two databases, Gedmatch, and FamilyTreeDNA. To help, simply upload your DNA to Gedmatch and make your kit public, and/or upload your kit to FamilyTreeDNA and opt into law enforcement matching. Doing so will allow law enforcement agencies to potentially match you with suspect and victim DNA, which in turn may help them identify that victim or that suspect. Before you turn these options on, make sure you are happy with the privacy policies at each site, and make sure to protect your identity by using a non-identifiable to you email contact address and alias, unless you are happy to be easily identified by said Law Enforcement agency, and do not upload anyone else’s DNA without them confirming they are happy for you to do so.
Bear in mind that anyone anywhere accessing either FamilyTreeDNA or Gedmatch can potentially see your email address (and with Gedmatch they don’t even have to share DNA with you, they just need to obtain your kit number somehow), you don’t know what their goal is, so it pays to be careful with your own privacy. For example, Barry might want to use ‘[email protected]’ as opposed to ‘[email protected]’. The latter option would enable someone to identify Barry in less than a minute, the former a lot longer, especially if he doesn’t use that email address for anything else but Gedmatch. Do make sure you check that email regularly or have it forwarding to a real email address you use though so that if a DNA relative or law enforcement is trying to contact you, you don’t miss the email.
Upload your DNA to get health information
Upload your DNA to possibly slightly spurious health services, and find out health information that you can either act on, bring up at parties, to prospective partners, or totally ignore! Your options are:
Promethease is the least ‘spurious’, but it will tell you absolutely everything health-wise it sees in your DNA, and it can be hard to follow. Note, I am not the expert in this, I read mine once, and I do not recommend it if you have at all a hypochondriac bent. For more about Promethease, I would recommend reading this article by Roberta Estes at DNAExplained.
Genomelink will let you upload your Ancestry, My Heritage or 23&Me data to it for free analysis, although there are some paid reports as well. Genomelink covers a whole range of traits that it says it can identify from your DNA with broad subjects such as food and nutrition, personality, intelligence, physical traits and sports. I was astounded to learn that my beard is likely to grow thinner hair than most people. As a female, as you can expect, I am very glad about this.
What I do like about Genomelink, is that for each of its traits, it has a scale for each trait, categorising them as ‘very reliable’, ‘reliable’, ‘scientifically validated’, or ‘suggestive’, together with information about where its sample population came from for each reference trait. You can use this to ascertain how much (if any) credence you want to give each trait. They also give you a free new trait each week; recently the free trait was intelligence, but sadly it wasn’t able to determine any for me, which is slightly concerning. You may wish to bear that in mind before you read any more of my blog posts!
Nutrahacker will let you upload your 23&Me or Ancestry raw DNA, and, after you’ve filled out a 35 question questionnaire, will provide you with a free ‘detox’ report, providing you with a list of recommended supplements to suit your DNA profile, or willingly take your money for other reports. For me, I got offered a fitness report, a depression report, something called a ‘complete mutation report, a celiac report and a carrier status/drug response report. I neglected to take them up on any of these; I already have a fitness report from DNAFit (up next), my 23&Me results for carrier status/drug response, and I’m not depressed or celiac (plus, I don’t know about in the US, but if you were in the UK, wouldn’t you just go to the doctor if you felt you might be celiac?!). Obviously, check in with your doctor before you act on any of their recommendations. Mine were mostly fairly innocuous recommendations, including things like have a ‘low-fat diet’ and take Q10 and B-Complex. However, it also recommended me to avoid Vitamin E which doesn’t seem sensible. It also, unhelpfully said I should avoid ‘noise’ due to a greater chance of hearing loss. However, it could explain why my noise cancelling headphones would be one of the things I would make sure to take with me if the house were on fire.
Upload your 23&Me or Ancestry DNA to DNAFit and buy their Diet, Fitness and Nutrition Guide (‘Dietfitnesspro360’) at a discounted price. This will give you a profile of what it thinks your diet should be, and a full fitness guide.
I actually like DNA Fit’s report, and it seemed pretty on the money to me, but it was also generic enough it could apply to literally anyone. It confirmed some things I had suspected and that my preferred way of eating was the right one for my genetic type, at least as far as DNAFit was concerned. Of course, it could be total rubbish, so do your own research. I have yet to take it up on any of its suggested exercise plans, but then I am pretty much a couch potato.
As well as the aforementioned use by law enforcement databases, Gedmatch has other tools you might want to check out, including its ‘are your parents related’ tool. This might be relevant to Barry if his ancestors really have been in Norfolk for generations and generations… If he uploaded his DNA to the old ‘classic’ version of Gedmatch prior to December 2018 then Barry can also check his eye colour (if he doesn’t own a mirror, that is), or compare his DNA to archaic sample DNA through the ‘archaic matches’ tool. These tools aren’t available in Genesis at the moment unfortunately, I’m not sure if they will be included in the future.
Paint your DNA!
If you tested at 23&Me you can import your ethnicity results into DNA Painter and see a ‘painting’ of the origins of each bit of your DNA, at least as calculated by 23&Me. If you decide to start working out how you are related to your matches, you can also start painting your DNA by importing your DNA matches from Gedmatch, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA and My Heritage into DNA Painter (unfortunately Ancestry does not offer this service), and as you find out how you are related to specific matches, you can label that bit of DNA with that ancestor’s name, and so in time build a picture of who you got all your DNA from. Quite advanced stuff genetic genealogy-wise, but really good fun!
Upload your DNA to Habit and get nutritional advice and personalised recipes tailored to your DNA. I have not tried this one, nor do I plan to.
Other companies that will gladly take your money if you give them your DNA
Buy a DNA scarf, or perhaps some fetching socks from Dot One, based on your own DNA. Note the socks do come with a warning: “Your DNA doesn’t determine or limit your ability to keep your feet warm and cozy.” The shockingly expensive scarf is a blend of “Italian wool and high quality acrylic”. As an admittedly snobby knitter, I question the term ‘high-quality acrylic’, and frankly if you’re going to spend this kind of money on a scarf, please go for 100% merino, which is also easy to care for and less flammable than acrylic to boot. If you really want to push the boat out, add some cashmere into the mix (and incidentally it matters not one hoot if the wool is Italian milled or not…). BTW, don’t be surprised if I come out with a DNA knitting pattern range, this idea is totes marketing genius. Perhaps a Y-DNA or MtDNA haplogroup scarf range?!).
Looking for love? Now use your DNA to try and find yourself a partner! I find this the most bizarre of all the sites I have featured, and was almost tempted to do it for science, but I just couldn’t bring myself to. But, Barry, if you yearn for the ideal partner to share all that life has to offer, go ahead and upload your DNA to DNA Romance.com.
Ready to poke fun at yourself yet?
Visit DNA Friend and really poke fun at yourself. This site was set up as a spoof; I tried very hard to be offended but instead, I laughed and laughed. It reminded me of Ancestry adverts where people say things like ‘I thought I was British but I was astounded to learn I was in fact 0.78% Finnish!’’. You can “upload” your DNA instantly (via state of the art camera intelligence) and get instant results. The upload process is a hoot, as is the resulting report, and if you want a laugh, do it (not) for science!
*Any resemblance to any readers called Barry who happen to live in Norfolk is completely coincidental. Even though I know of at least three Barrys who live in Norfolk. I do not know if any of them got DNA tests however, let alone whether they were similarly underwhelmed by discovering that they were, in fact, from Norfolk.