For Christmas my husband gave me a kit from 23andMe using my genetic material to help uncover my ancestral genes. And so I spit into a little vial (it took a lot more than you’d think) and shipped my saliva across the country to a lab, where they extracted my DNA and ran it through a complex computer .
This morning I woke up to see an email in my inbox letting me know my results had arrived.
As I clicked on the email my hand shook. The thought of uncovering tens of thousands of years of personal history was exhilarating. I logged on and a beautiful chart appeared, graphing my personal story.
I’m over 95% Ashkenazi. No big surprise. I’m Jewish on both sides through and through. But there was also a little Finnish and perhaps a tinge of Japanese. Where the heck that came from I don’t know. My personal map lit up all over the world, revealing my genetic global connection: a little middle east, a lot of Europe, and some Asia thrown in.
On my mother’s side I am identified as haplotype K1a9. I learned that K’s are a broad group that include many Jews, as well as Palestinians, Kurds, and some Ethiopians. Stephen Colbert and Meryl Strepp apparently are my distant kin!
This afternoon I went to pick up the kids at school. Sitting in the school office I watched the students and teachers walk by and found myself envisioning them each as an amazing complex code…each with a unique set of markers that tells not only about who they are, but about those before them. I marveled thinking of their unique traits, a network of amazing genetic stories to tell.
At home I went online and found a discussion group of my fellow K’s. People seeking their own haplotypes sent out a call, like chauffeurs outside an airport, signs in hand. It was thrilling to see people connecting as if they were finding long lost family. I suppose some of them were!
Looking at this amazing map-of-me today, it dawned on me how truly interconnected we all are. Pieces of all of us stretch the span of the earth and although we each have our own unique signature code, we are all tied to earlier humans (and Neanderthals it turns out!) who left a gift with us.
I’ll admit it is a little creepy to think humans are being coded and classified. Many sci-fi books and movies have been written on the subject,, but I also find it all so liberating! As a person who wants to better understand herself and the world around her this seems like the perfect tool, because ultimately it’s just another way to help us understand who we truly are.
23andMe is a great service with an easy to understand website that not only shares your genetics but helps you connect with family and distant kin. The results are confidential. They do collect data for medical research; however participation is completely up to you. The service costs around $80.
And by the way, if there’s any other K1a9’s out there, let me know!