I had my DNA tested!

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I’m British, I’ve lived in the USA since 2006. I am interested in my family history, and have traced back quite a ways on ancestry.com, but it never quite went back far enough, and each branch I followed eventually grinded to a halt. My primary reason of getting my DNA tested was to find out the deeper history of who I am, how I came to be located on the North-east coast of England growing up, and at what point my ancestors decided to migrate.

My daughter is one year old, she was born on June 19th, she is also a major reason for me doing this: I want her to know where she comes from at a deeper level than I already knew. I also want her to grow up tolerant of other cultures, and understand we’re all the same, because at some point, likelihood is, her ancestors passed through the regions those cultures come from.

Price really wasn’t an issue for me, I only need to do this once. I just found a reputable company (23andMe.com) which uses a reliable laboratory, and placed my order. A short time later, I received a small box which contained everything I would need to collect and send my spit sample. The instructions were very easy to follow, but it did take quite a bit of time for me to collect enough spit (without bubbles) to fill above the line on the tube. The box came with a return label, so once I was done I just dropped it off at the Post Office.

I was notified I had results in less than two weeks, I was in Canada at the time, so did not get a chance to really study them until recently.

I am very happy with the depth of the results, and it’s worth noting that as a male I get both the Paternal (Y-DNA) and Maternal haplogroups, a female would not have that Paternal result as the Y-DNA is passed down only from father to son. It may be worthwhile having a brother tested, as well as yourself, if you are female.

The depth of the results is something I was surprised by: I’m finding out about any genetic mutations I carry (and can pass to my children), that either lead to a disease or an altered drug response. There are also traits people with similar DNA usually have, and then of course there is the history of the haplogroups I belong to, and the ability to find and contact distant relatives.

By default many of the results that people may find difficult to cope with, are hidden. You have to click and ‘unlock’ those results to be able to view them. I think I’m a logical person, I accept we carry mutations and traits in our DNA, but I did still find out I am a carrier for a serious genetic disease (which doesn’t affect me). While I do like that I now know this, and this means my wife can be tested to see whether she is a carrier, I do understand how some people may have problems with these types of results. If you are frightened about the implications of this, it may be better for you to never unlock those results, or to never have yourself tested.

All results are delivered to you through the 23andMe.com Web site.

The Web site
The home page of the members site is essentially a news and research portal. A lot of the traits found in DNA actually came from people answering questions about themselves, and 23andMe then finding similarities in their DNA controlling that trait. So it is worthwhile, when you have time, answering some of their surveys.

Home page of 23andMe.com. Notifying you of new results available to you, and of research you can help with.

The site itself is very functional, with an easy to read layout. And perhaps a Web site is the best way for them to deliver the information, because this isn’t a static test. When new information is found and a genetic mutation identified, they actually give you a result on it, even if they weren’t testing for that when you sent in your sample.

As I said above, most of this is locked when you first visit. You need to specifically ask the Web site to show you the results. It is also worth noting that it’s not saying how you’ll die, or what you have. It is saying what you have an increased risk for, based on what happens to other people similar to yourself. While useful, there wasn’t really anything that made me want to change my life, or that significantly worried me about the results (except from the Carrier Status, which I talk about below).

One of the major benefits, I feel, is the Drug Response section, which could possibly stop me from having to be tested like a lab rat in the future, should I need any of the drugs I have an unusual response to. It’s also interesting as a method for confirming that they really tested me, and didn’t just fake all this, because when I was a child I had a serious reaction to one of the antibiotics listed, and almost died.

The big results though, are the Carrier Status ones. I found out that I carry the variant for Cystic Fibrosis and Hemochromatosis. Both of these do not affect me, but if my wife also carries them, then there is a significant (but not complete) chance of our children being affected. So this does mean my wife will be tested soon, so that we are fully aware of the risks before having another child.

It was also extremely educational reading about the traits I have such as curly hair, ear wax, not being able to taste bitterness, etc! Even finding out that one out of 29 caucasians carries a Cystic Fibrosis related mutation, it was just really interesting reading about it all.

I also love that you can browse the raw data. Gilbert’s Syndrome runs in my family, but I have not been diagnosed. It is also not listed on the 23andMe carrier results list. But from discussion with other users of 23andMe, I found the appropriate raw data and saw that my results match those of people with the condition. This helps me to understand why I occasionally have yellow eyes!

This was what I signed up for, and I am really, really pleased with the results.

My maternal haplogroup is H13a1a. The group originated in the Near East (Russia), moving through Europe after the peak of the Ice Age (18,000 years ago). The group doesn’t really have a solid grouping, with the exception of those still living on the shores of the Caspian Sea, it is one of the most diverse branches of the H haplogroup. What this means for me, of course, is that I can trace my ancestors back to the shores of the Caspian Sea, and now understand that the migration of this group to Spain is what probably led this side of my traceable family to be in Ireland, Scotland and then England within the last 500 years.

H13 positioning approximately 500 years ago.

My paternal haplogroup is R1b1b2a1a. With solid grouping in so many different locations, I actually found it quite funny to see these results. It seems that throughout my entire ancestry they have been long established somewhere, and then moved somewhere else on the planet leaving no real trail to follow. The similarities between this, and what I’ve done leaving England, coming to live the other side of the Atlantic, wasn’t lost on me. It’s funny, it made me feel a lot smaller and made me wonder how much of my personality and decisions, have been developed long before I existed.

It’s worth noting that before I got back my results, I didn’t tell 23andMe where I was from. For all they knew, I could have ancestors in the United States, I could have been Native American, I could be Hispanic or an African American. The results I got back pinpointed the North Sea, I was absolutely amazed, I was born in a coastal town on the North Sea. If I can quote the 23andMe Web site:

R1b1b2 is the most common haplogroup in western Europe, where its branches are clustered in various national populations. R1b1b2a1a2b is characteristic of the Basque, while R1b1b2a1a2f2 reaches its peak in Ireland and R1b1b2a1a1 is most commonly found on the fringes of the North Sea.

So, what does this mean? Well, I have ancestors within the last 17,000 years from India, Northern Africa, the Middle East, Russia, Asia, Scandinavia and obviously Europe. Although I knew Britain was connected to mainland Europe at some point, I had never heard of Doggerland before, but apparently my DNA closely matches that found in Germany and Holland because when Doggerland was swallowed by the North Sea after the Ice Age, we retreated to nearby land in those directions. It’s also likely that I carry Viking DNA from invasions, so that probably explains the white-blond hair when I was a child!

Doggerland has been covered in an episode of Time Team. It actually makes me feel quite cool to realize my ancestors may have been the very first to live on the British mainland, after the North Sea claimed Doggerland.

R1b1b2 positioning approximately 500 years ago.

An interesting thing they do on the maternal and paternal haplogroup profile pages, is they match you with any famous people they can. I am from the exact same paternal haplogroup as Malcolm Gladwell (Canadian Author, born in England), and those of you who know what my hair looks like when I let it grow, will find pictures of him very amusing! Unfortunately he was the only exact match, other people only matched parts of it, so they are only related to me within tens of thousands of years, while Mr Gladwell it could be much closer.

Further reading on your haplogroup, once you know it, is also very easy. Just type your haplogroup into Google and suddenly you’re presented with multiple papers written on the migration of your ancestors. Without knowing your group, the relevance of those articles is lost, so I really like that I now know mine.

I haven’t yet had much use of this because this service isn’t used much in the UK, but it’s also possible to find relatives you never knew you had. My search results bring up a number of 3rd cousins, distant cousins, etc, most of them living in the United States, knowing they have ancestors in Ireland, etc, but it’s not really something I’ll make use of unless more people use it who are closer relatives.

However, there are a few interesting names on there… As I said previously we have tried to trace the family tree on Ancestry.com, it is interesting seeing where some of those branches grew to, and perhaps that is the major benefit for some people with this DNA service: If, for example, you’re an African American whose Ancestors were brought to another location as a slave, just imagine how powerful it would be knowing what country, perhaps even what town you came from – and finding cousins there. It was actually a documentary about someone doing that which led me to try 23andMe.

19 thoughts on “I had my DNA tested!

  1. Thanks for sharing! Very interesting, I’ve been playing around in my head to do this 23andme for over a year and haven’t reached a decision for me yet. I’m totally overthinking this and what makes tough is, I have no good reason to do it except… it could be cool. I’m not really interested in my ancestry.
    Although I found it very cool once googling a Daniel by the same name from 1840 in Ohio (who was not related) and reading on his life, which felt like an alternative reality. 8)

  2. I think if you feel no need to do it, there really is no need to do it. :)

    I’m really interested in my ancestry, genetics, etc. It was right up my alley.

  3. Very informative! I did the 23andMe thing as well, and I too am R1b1b2a1a! I know nothing about it yet, really, however, so I’m exploring. I was emailing with a guy who introduced me to “Doggerland” and suggested I might have a connection. I didn’t even know what it was, and I thought it was cool! lol; but he also suggested 23andMe’s analysis should be supplemented with another service that also takes it a bit further in the particulars. If I could talk the lingo yet, I could explain what he said, but there are too many numbers and acronyms! Something about subclades, lol

    Anyway, appreciate what you posted, and happy hunting!


  4. Hi Tim,
    I have just had my DNA test done with 23 and Me as I did not know who my Father was. My conception date was 6th. September 1945 ( VJ Day !! ) and I was born in June 1946 in Oxford. My result came back as R1b1b2a1a so it seems we could be related, although it seems we may have ‘Cousins’ all over America. I would be pleased to have further contact with you, perhaps we may be able to help each other on this journey? How does Malcolm GLADWELL fit into all this ?
    I look forward to hearing from you.
    Nick SMITH.

  5. Hi Nick!

    Unfortunately because England is such a mixed bag, it’s going to be hard to find a relation that close with just your group ID (which just means we have the same background). We were just invaded too much, I guess. :) Malcolm just shares the same group, so probably split off a few generations back. Unfortunately although 23andme helps to find your group, it probably won’t help you find relatives at this point, not enough Brits use it. :( But I am sure they will over time, and maybe you’ll have a 1st cousin pop up? Did you try the relative finder yet?

    I see as you use BT Internet, you’re in the UK, do you live in the North east?



  6. To Steve, Nicholas John Smith and Malcolm Gladwell. I am a Canadian Fraser who also has R1b1b2a1a as determined by 23andme. My father came from Eaglesham and his father from Glasgow with relatives in Ireland. How we got from the Hindu Kush area to Ireland and then Scotland is anyone’s guess except R1b1b spent the ice age south of the Black and Caspian Seas, then migrated west along the south coast of Europe. Their time in Gaul fighting Cesar on their way west and north to Scotland is interesting. The surname first appears on the borderland between England and Scotland subsequent to 1066 BPE. Their individual and collective movements within the confines of southern and western Europe make determining their ‘route’ problematic.

  7. I was tested by FamilyTree. My Haplogroup is:
    HVR 1 H CRS
    HVR 2 146c,263G, 309.1C, 315.1c

    Actually that is all the information I have. All my known relatives were from England, Ireland and perhaps Scotland. My earliest know female ancestor is Julia Sullivan of Cork, Ireland who emigrated to Kent and married my great grandfather. There first child married into a Kent Barrett family and then emigrated to the US. Is there any hope that I can get more information through my DNA?

  8. Well when you test your DNA, you would only get your mothers. Do you have a brother? I would ask them to take a test.

  9. I’m a R1b1b2a1a as well (thru 23andme). My parents, and all my paternal and maternal grand parents, great grandparents, etc., are all from a very tight geographical area of no more than 15 miles in diameter in Cantabria, Spain; not far from the famous Altamira caves and Basque and Pasiego population groups. I reckon this is where this haplogroup was during the Ice Age before migrating north after the thaw (e.g., British Isles, etc.). Just that my ancestors stayed put until only recently (only last 40 years immigrated to the States). However, since the 1500’s this area of Spain has seen massive immigration throughout the world but particularly to Latin America to places such as Mexico, Peru, Cuba, Venezuela, etc. Some of the place names, briefly, that originate from here are Laredo, Santander,…

  10. Hi Tim
    I have a Y D N A from Sorenson SMGF 46 marker
    test results == R-M207 sub/group R 1b1b2a1a -S 128 and
    all the marker values
    SMGF have been taken over by ancestry and I have not been able to make a satisfactory crossover. I am not anything more than a dabbler, but would be interested in comparing
    my results with you or any others of our group regards Bill

  11. Good morning TIM,

    Is there any chance to compare our D N A marker
    numbers on this site?
    Cheers BILL

  12. Similarly, I too have the characters; R1B1b2a1a from my father’s side. What does this mean in regards to others with the same characters? Thanks ahead, Sincerely, Michael Serkin-Poole

  13. Thanks for the most interesting post! My father was adopted as an infant, so, I had my brother supply a cheek swob and it came back R1b1b2a1a. What I learned it appears to have originated in Camaroon, 20,000 years ago. I have birth certificates for my Gr Gr Grandfather from Bergheim, Germany in French. Thanks for posting.

  14. I had my DNA done by 23&Me also. Being female my paternal ancestry is unknown. My maternal DNA showed Haplogroup V3 common in Doggerland. Interesting stuff.

  15. I too am R1b1b2a1a according to 23andMe. It also told me that I am related to Malcolm Gladwell.

    However, because 23andMe is no longer doing health analysis, I downloaded my raw dna from 23andMe and analyzed it using Promethease. Promethease said that my Haplogroup is R1b1b2g. SNAPedia says that “The C allele arose about 3,500 years ago. It is most common in the Alps, Rhine & Meuse, Italy, Jutland, and southwestern Norway. Linked to Alpine Celts (La Tene culture)?”

    I can trace my surname back many generations to France. I am the 10th generation descendant of Thomas DuPre, a Huguenot refugee who arrived in Manikintowne near Richmond, Virginia around 1700 AD.

  16. Interesting stuff. I’m one of those ultra-distant cousins as my family (at least as far back as I can go) moved to the colonies in the early 1600s and spread out over New York, Indiana, and Wisconsin.
    The oldest ancestor I have records for is the Immigrant Thomas Safford born in Ipswich, Suffolk, England circa 1599.
    I used 23andme.com

  17. How do I find the Gilbert’s Syndrome snps? I have found UGT1A1 in the raw data on 2q. What variants do I need to find?


  18. I was born in a coastal fishing town in Lincolnshire and had white blond hair when a nipper.
    A typical Lincolnshire Yeller Belly trait?
    I’m looking at your Elite Dangerous videos as I intend to come out of retirement – I achieved Elite status in the original Elite on the BBC Master (with a co-processor) in 1984.
    See you around.
    And God bless.

  19. paternal r1b1b2a1a and maternal h5b any ideas where i originated

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Tim is British and lives in the United States with his wife and kids.

He works for software developers Image Space Inc. and Studio 397 on their racing simulations, and is a fan of Gaming, Motorsports, and photography.