There are a number of places for genealogists to get their DNA tested. Several years ago I had mine done. This past year, I had it tested with a different company to see what the results would be. Advances in testing over the years would make it likely that there would be differences.
23andMe (the name comes from the 23 chromosomes you get from each parent) did the testing this time. I must say, I am very pleased with the results overall. The test itself was extremely simple. You order it and pay for it online, and a test package is sent to you. I spent a few moments filling a tube with saliva. Then packaged it up in the included envelope. A few weeks later you will receive an email that your results are ready.
The 23andMe website has been dramatically remodeled, and I find it very easy to use. The Ancestry Composition section shows you what percentage of your DNA comes vrom various populations around the world. My standard estimate states that I am 99.7% European, 0.1% Middle Eastern and North African, and 0.2% unassigned (other populations include Sub-Saharan African, South Asian, East Asian & Native American, and Oceanian). You can also get conservative or more speculative estimates that might change your numbers slightly. Unassigned represents DNA that is found in a very wide area and cannot be narrowed down further. Each of those groups can be subdivided further. For example, I have 8.1% British and Irish ancestry and 2.3% Italian.
One interesting test result was the percentage of Neanderthal DNA that I carry. It is known that Homoneanderthalis interbred with homo sapiens. Although the Neanderthals went extinct about 30,000 years ago, the DNA survives today through the interbreeding. Traces of it exist in all modern humans outside of Africa. Each of us carries between 1 and 4 percent. I am in the 62nd percentile with 2.8%.
On area shows the countries where people with sections of DNA close to my own appear. In my case, the top five countries are France, Ireland, Poland, Ukraine, and Sweden. Now, I have traced almost every single branch of my family back to Europe. I know that I have ancestors in France and Ireland. There is no evidence to support any ancestors from Poland, Ukraine, or Sweden, so I’m not certain where this comes from unless it is people who migrated more than 500 years ago.
Once your results come back, 23andMe checks for relations based on identical sections of DNA. My profile shows 984 people in the database are related to me. These individuals are grouped into categories. Close relatives are first cousins or closer (siblings, parents, etc.). I have none of those (not surprising to me). The next group is 2nd and 3rd cousins. There are 53 of those in the database. This is an intriguing number to me. I have 58 second cousins and 63 third cousins (with likely an additional 5-10 third cousins that have not yet been identified). This means that more than 40% of my second and third cousins have been tested. That would appear to be a large percentage. The largest group is 711 people who are 4th cousins. There are 220 people who are more distantly related.
One of the nice things about 23andMe as opposed to other genealogical websites is that they also test for health issues. These range from minor to major. It is important to remember, that many of these are indicators, and are based on averages. For example, one indicator said I likely had brown eyes, which is true. Another shows I have decreased odds of male pattern baldness. More serious ones show that I do not carry the gene that makes me less susceptible to getting HIV. One of the most serious, however, is the presence of the gene for Alzheimer’s. You even have to answer several times that you actually want to know whether you carry it.
I cannot recommend 23andMe more highly. The testing is excellent, and goes beyond the ordinary services from the usual genealogy results. And, unlike some services, you can download the raw data from your test results at any time so you can upload them to other databases for comparisons and connections. Give it a try, you will be surprised what you find. It may be the best $99 you spend this year.