Well, for Christmas, my daughter, Crystal, sent me one of those 23andMe ancestry test kits. I promptly read the directions, spit in the tube, then sent it off to the labs for testing. Last night my reports showed up in my inbox and I anxiously signed on to the site to read about my genetic makeup, and what it all might mean.
There were several surprises and some things I already knew. For example, the Scandinavian blood was there; about 9 percent Scandinavian and 1 percent Finnish to polish it off. So, the blood of old Johan Frande, who immigrated to America from Sweden in the 1640's was well represented. But, wouldn't you know, the Payne line that shoved their way in during the period 1890 to 1920, gave me 66% English-Irish primordial goop. The Frogs (French) and Jerries (German) kicked in 2% and then I got tossed into the "broadly northwest European" pot for another 22%.
There were two surprises; one minor, one quite astounding. Seems somewhere about 7 generations ago, one of my ancestors was cruising the casbahs of southwest Africa and threw a little ebony into the genetic pile. I'm .02 percent African, a fact I find hard to believe since I've not had a single craving for hog jowls and collard greens. Perhaps the most unsettling surprise was my test not showing even a smidgeon of Native America blood. Since I know for a fact that my maternal grandfather was 50 percent Cherokee I look at these results with something of a jaundiced eye. I guess I'm not alone as one of the most frequently asked questions to the lab involve queries about why their Native American DNA is not showing up, even as folks could prove their Native American bloodlines. 23 And Me offered a rather convoluted explanation about that; something that has to do with the recessive factors in Native American genetics that simply get crowded out by more robust European derived genetic goop.
With respect to genetic variants, my liberal friends will be pleased to know that I own somewhere around 4% of the Neanderthal variants, which 23 and Me says is more than 69 percent of other people who test out with far less. My liberal friends will say they knew it all along, and clearly explains why I'm so stupid and hard-headed. Four of those Neanderthal variants, according to the lab testers, contribute to my being a bit taller than the average male, that I have no proclivity to sneeze after eating dark chocolate, that, blessedly, I'm not inclined to grow back hair, and that my hair tends to be straight, without curl. (A fact that I find, in these latter days of baldness, quite cruel.)
23AndMe then provided innumerable sources for further investigating my ancestry, including links to dozens and dozens of cousins who share my chromosomal history. The Neanderthal stuff was quite thrilling, as anthropological studies describe in graphic detail how the first humans shared their "rolls in the hay" with my Neanderthal ancestors, then slithered off into the night, shame-faced, deathly afraid that someone might have caught them and issued a "he'd screw a (fill in the blank) as long as it feels good."
So, the reports are in. They're chock full of genetic confirmations, and a few surprises. That .02 percent West African now has me contemplating sampling some fried chicken and collard greens. And that 4 percent of Neanderthal variant has me hankering to go out and whittle me a nice billy club....and drag some nubile human type female back to the cave...to show her my cave etchings.