Who am I? Who am I? 24601? I’m definitely not Jean Valjean, and whether or not I was number 24601 in the 23andMe lab is irrelevant.
For those of you who might not know, 23andMe is a genetic testing lab. From saliva, they can determine your ancestral origins, or if you have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s, Breast Cancer, Parkinson’s and more. These genetic testing sites have seemingly sprung up all around lately: Ancestry.com, Canadian DNA Services, 23andMe and more!
I think we all yearn to know where we came from, and I think this is especially true for those of us of a certain age. Before we go, we want to know where we’ve been!
I first heard of 23andMe from someone on Facebook, who gushed on and on about her gypsy blood, and her Ashkenazi Jewish heritage. Then I heard of others who were tested. I even heard of someone who’d received a testing kit as a Christmas gift, but I have been curious about my ethnic origins ever since my cousin mentioned that my paternal grandmother (Anelia Wiczorek) may have been Jewish.
At first, this rocked me to my core. I’d never heard a whisper of anything about this from anyone in my family. Could I have strong Jewish genes and not know it? Would this change how I saw myself? Would it change my life?
From the time I was born, up until the age of six or so, I lived with my paternal grandparents. I thought back, and I think I remember crosses scattered throughout the house, but I can’t be sure. I do know my father’s parents never went to church, at least, they never took me. The only thing I can remember is that my baba had been instructed (by my mom,) to take me to catechism classes. She probably sat around with other parents or grandparents and waited until class was finished, so she could bring me home. She never once spoke to me about God or Jesus, (that I can remember,) so when my cousin mentioned that she may have been a Jew escaping war-torn Poland, something about that pinched a little.
I began to think that maybe I didn’t know myself or family history as well as I thought I did. So, who am I?
Well, I’m 99.6% European, and I’ve been European as far back as ten thousand years! That’s a long time!
The breakdown is this: 76% Eastern or Southern European, 12.7% Balkan, (who according to Wheeling Jesuit University/Center for Educational Technologies states: Sometimes scholars define the Balkans as the region that was conquered and ruled by the Ottoman Turks for varying periods of time after 1300. – Today they would be Greeks, Albanians, Macedonians, Bulgarians, Romanians, Serbs and such 😉 2% Brit/Irish, .4%Ashkenazi, .2% Asian or Native and finally, .1% Sub-Saharan African. I’m about as Eastern European as they come. Talk about white privilege!
I have to say; I was more than a little disappointed with my results. I guess part of me wanted to have some exotic gypsy strain or sultry Mediterranean; or have Jewish blood coursing through my veins perhaps going back to the time of Christ.
Apparently my ancestors liked where they were, didn’t have the traveling bug, or simply couldn’t go anywhere.
Now, for the scarier side of DNA. Did I want to see my health overview: genetic risk factors, drug responses, inherited conditions or traits? Did I want to know my risk of developing breast cancer, or Parkinson’s?
Even with specific variants present, it doesn’t mean I will develop these things; it just places me at higher risk.
I started with traits. It seems my odour detection is: sensitive. Both my kids can tell you that. I was born with an extra sinus. Whether or not this helps me smell better (pe-ew 😉 is debatable, but whatever it is, I have an extremely strong sense of smell.
I have odds of early menopause. I am already post-menopausal, so I’d say this is correct.
I am likely: not resistant to one form of Malaria. Good to know, just in case I’m traveling to a certain part of the world where I might get this one in a million strain.
Inherited conditions: – I have a variant present for Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy. Limb-girdle Muscular Dystrophy is a term for a group of diseases that cause weakness and wasting of the muscles in the arms and legs. The muscles most affected are those closest to the body, specifically the muscles of the shoulders, upper arms, hips, and thighs.
Now for the sobering three: Alzheimer’s, Breast/Ovarian Cancer, Parkinson’s. I took a deep breath and unlocked the reports. Thankfully, I’m clear for “increased risk for the first two, and 0% for Parkinson’s.
What it doesn’t say is that I think I have several variants which give me an increased risk of being: kind-hearted, funny, forgiving, gifted, loyal and faithful. I’ll take those traits any day!
So, who am I? 24601? Nope, just me!