Triangulating my DNA

You know how I sent off a tube full of spit to Ancestry several years ago, and ever since then, they’ve been making unlikely changes to my “ethnicity estimate” at least once a year, if not more often?

Of course you do. I bore you with it all the time. (Oh, and just in case you’re keeping score, they’ve changed the “estimate” a couple of times since I last mentioned it, and currently I’m 47 percent Scottish. Which I know will change yet again.)

Most of you have heard enough about it. Well, brace yourselves.

Soon, I will triple the amount of personal DNA information at my fingertips. Well, maybe not the amount, but at least triple the number of sources.

I had put the word out before Christmas that I’d like to have my DNA done by 23andMe. Several people in my family have done that, but their data are of little use to me in building my family tree (which now has 9,829 people on it, and continues to grow, so you may be wondering why I need more data, but never mind), since I’m on a different platform. I wanted to see what I could find running my saliva through that filter. Not so much for the ethnicity stuff, but to make connections with folks for the tree.

And so my wife gave me a kit for Christmas, and a few days later I sent the tube off, and ever since then have been as impatient as a kid who has sent sent off a bunch of box tops for a secret decoder ring.

But wait, there’s more! Have you heard about the In Our DNA SC project? It’s run by MUSC, and it’s purpose is… hang on, let me look:

In Our DNA SC is a large-scale community research project investigating how DNA impacts health, with a broader goal of learning how to offer more personalized health care to our patients and community.

I had to look it up because I forgot what it was about. I had seen a flier about it maybe a year ago, and sent off for a DNA kit so I could participate in it. I did this even though, as you will see in the quote above and elsewhere on the website, they are inordinately fond of using “impact” as a verb.

I suppose I read about it initially and got the impression it was a sort of public-spirited, communitarian kind of thing to do. So they sent me the kit, and I congratulated myself on being a volunteer… and it sat about the house for months.

Finally, somebody called me from the project and asked me to get on the stick and send my kit in. I didn’t know where the kit was, so they sent me another one, several months back. It was still sitting on a shelf here in my home office when I got the 23andMe kit. Thus prompted yet again, I spit into that one, too, and sent them both off — on Jan. 6, I think. Seems a fitting way to celebrate such a date, don’t you think? Sending off some spit?

I don’t know if I’ll learn much from that one, since they must not have had an overwhelming response if they were willing to be that patient in waiting for me to send the thing in. (I have this sneaking suspicion that at this moment, someone at MUSC is ringing the bell and crying out, “We got one!“)

Anyway, while the young folks who still get paid to be journalists have been so suspensefully excited over what was happening in Iowa and New Hampshire, I’ve been breathlessly awaiting this.

Different priorities. I’m triangulating my DNA. Maybe that will help pin it down for sure. Which, to me, is way cooler than a decoder ring…

6 thoughts on “Triangulating my DNA

  1. DougT

    Both 23&me and Ancestry have my DNA samples. 23&me recently paywalled searching for common kin. Then again, Ancestry is raising prices also. 23&me does provide good health reports. Although there are several variants, I checked out OK on the most common Alzheimer variant for example. To me 23&me is useless in adding to my family tree.

    Several months ago signed up the GEDMatch. Lots of tools, still trying to figure them all out. Using triangulation, an acquaintance and I discovered we are kin (<8 cm which is under Ancestry's limits) but are not kin through the line we assumed. Neat tool. Also, could find on Ancestry only 1 common kin to an Irish line, but GEDMatch showed 170 matches, because they draw people from many different DNA platforms.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I suppose I’ll be getting that health info from 23andme soon, but it’s not what I’m in it for. I figure at my age, I’ve already encountered a health condition if I have such a tendency. Ditto with “traits,” which Ancestry offers. I mean, don’t I KNOW whether I like cilantro, or what color my eyes are?

      I’ll have to look into GEDMatch, once I get all this info. That’s an intriguing program, although obviously not for those folks out there who are highly protective of their privacy.

      There are a bunch of DNA services, and I keep hearing about new ones. A year or so ago, I connected with a distant cousin — one who still uses the initial spelling of “Wathen” for our surname — who still lives in the part of Maryland where my Wathen ancestors originally arrived from Britain in the 1600s. He’s a big believer in a Y-DNA service that tells you specifically to whom you’re related patrilineally, but I passed on that one, because it costs a lot more than Ancestry or 23andme…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Well, that cousin read this post, and did a very generous thing: He sent me a free kit for that Y-DNA service.

        He had told me that he so believed in this process, and wanted so much to build the database on the Wathen clan, that he had been raising money to buy up kits and give them to people who were interested, but avoided participating because of the price. I guess his fundraising effort has been successful.

        So I’m suppressing my embarrassment at being a beggar, and looking forward to getting the additional intel…

  2. DougT

    Also, signed up to a few Facebook groups whose members have Irish DNA. They upload to GEDMatch to find kin. Super easy. My problem is I have at least 4 Irish lines and struggling to untangle them.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      It’s not easy. I can go way back with English ancestors, and often can go pretty far with Scottish.

      But when I run a line back to Ireland, that’s it. The line ends….

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