What Makes Me, Me?

Have you ever wondered if the stories your parents and relatives told you about your heritage are accurate? How much do you know about your ancestors, really? What might your DNA tell you about you? Your health? After asking ourselves these same questions, some of the staff members at Frisco STYLE decided to try 23andMe®, the first and only genetic service available directly to consumers that includes reports that meet FDA standards.

If you watch television at all, you have likely seen heartwarming commercials for 23andMe and other genetic testing services that leave a lasting impact convincing viewers to discover facts about their ancestry and DNA. After ordering the kits for a few members of our team, providing the required information online, taking spit samples and mailing each pack back to the lab for testing, the results were made available weeks later. When results were returned, they revealed everything from genetic health risks to ancestry reports.

Each participant has provided background information learned from family, extended family and other sources as to their heritage. The next step was to discover the truth! Each of us asked, “Who am I … really?” 

So, check it out! Some of what we knew turned out to be true, while some discovered truly amazing information about themselves.

Chris Johnson

Predictions: When I was growing up, family was the priority. Occasionally, while visiting my grandparents, my parents, aunts and uncles would have a discussion on the heritage of our family. I recall my mom saying her family was of Scotch, Irish and German descent. My dad described the same, but added that there was a small amount of American Indian in his background. He did not know the specifics, but was confident of it.

Years later, my dad’s sister began researching and documenting our family’s heritage and, to my surprise, a James Cooper (b. 1776) married an Elizabeth (Native American) (b. 1803). There it was! So, James and Elizabeth had Elizabeth Cooper. William Fine and Elizabeth Cooper had a son named Abraham Fine. Abraham Fine and Alwilda Sanders had Charles Fine; Charles and his wife Mamie Page had a daughter, L.C. Fines, who was my grandma — my dad’s mom.

Results: When I received the results from 23andMe, I was extremely impressed and somewhat overwhelmed by the volume of information gathered from my little tube of saliva! There are five large sections: ancestry, carrier status, genetic health risk, traits and wellness. Each has a number of reports related to the large category. For example, under ancestry, there are five linked reports; under carrier status, there are 42 associated reports, and so on.

As for being told by my parents that I was Scotch, Irish and German, my 23andMe report confirms this composition, to a degree. The report does say I am 100 percent European, including 65 percent British and Irish and 21 percent German. Apparently, I am “broadly Northwestern European” and a pinch of “Southern European,” with nothing from Eastern Europe or Scandinavia. The trace of Native American Indian I was anxious to confirm is non-existent in my 23andMe report. Perhaps a little more family heritage homework is required in this area.

To me, along with whether or not I should be able to curl my tongue or whether my ring finger is longer than my index finger, one of the more interesting sections of the 23andMe report is assessing genetic health risks. Several years ago, for another article in Frisco STYLE, I had some thorough blood work completed. The blood testing technology, the focus of the article, provided a glimpse into your health and propensity for certain risks during the process of aging. Since my dad died at age 40 of heart disease, this testing was of great interest to me. The blood work report, along with my 23andMe report, confirm a “slightly increased risk” of hereditary thrombophilia — a predisposition to developing harmful blood clots. The 23andMe report includes the two most common variants linked to hereditary thrombophilia. My test shows I have one variant of the two. Interestingly, the blood test included three markers for this condition and I have one of them; my brother has all three markers.

I look forward to reading all the reports within my 23andMe profile over time.

George Rodriguez

Predictions: My family (my mom, dad, sister, brother, aunts and uncles) were all born in Cuba. They all came to the U.S. during the Cuban revolution when Fidel Castro overthrew the Batista’s government. My mom and dad were on the last flight out of Cuba before the airport was closed by Castro’s communist army. The family had only a few hours to gather personal property which would fit in a few suitcases. When they arrived in Miami, Fla., they only had the clothes on their back and whatever personal items were salvaged from Cuba. 

For many months, they lived inside a high school gymnasium with other Cuban refugees. Cubans, or “Cubanos,” have always had a strong work ethic. Our family came here with almost nothing. After becoming American citizens, my parents worked night and day supporting a family of three. They defied all odds, worked hard and accomplished a small part of the American dream. 

Results: In terms of ancestry composition, I am 93 percent European — 58.3 percent of that being Iberian (which is surprising). I am 3.4 percent East Asian and Native American, 1.2 percent Sub-Saharan African and .5 percent Western Asian and North African. 

Zero out of the seven health risk reports came back positive … which is a great sign! 

Some of the more interesting things determined in the report, which are true, include the likelihood of consuming more caffeine, being less likely to be a deep sleeper, having more than average sleep movement and a predisposition to weigh less than average. 

It was reported that within my DNA family, there are 1080 DNA relatives. I even had two individuals reach out to me through the 23andMe website, wondering if we could be related in some way.

Leah Ratliff 

Predictions: According to my family, my heritage is mostly German with some English thrown in. My mother and my father’s sister, Cindi, have chased down some of our ancestry (on both sides of my family) and found that many of our ancestors did come to America via England and Germany. My mother has been accepted to the Daughters of the American Revolution, which makes my sister and me an easy in. She has even found some grandparents and uncles who fought with George Washington. My aunt found some relatives on my father’s side who make us Daughters of the Confederacy, but none of our family has pursued membership, to my knowledge. 

My dad says his great-grandmother was a Cherokee Indian. My grandmother confirms this, but it would be nice to know if DNA tells the truth on that one. Also, we have had several fiery redheads in our family throughout the generations. It would be interesting to know if we have any stray Irish or Scottish family members. We have many bright blondes with light eyes and fair skin, which seems Nordic, but none of us are very tall. In fact, many of us are kind of wide, if you get my meaning. It would be interesting to know where we get that “fun” part of our DNA. 

Results: My ancestry came back as mostly British/Irish and German. This was not very surprising. My dad was upset to find that there was not any indication of Native American ancestors in my DNA. Of course, he could have just not passed it down to me!

I was also interested in the information about Neanderthal variants. It was cool to see what genetic traits could be traced back to that relationship thousands of years ago.

I thought it was interesting that I have a genetic marker for misophonia. 23andme.com says almost everyone hates noises like nails on a chalkboard, but for people with misophonia, everyday noises like chewing can cause a similar reaction, with rage or panic. Genetic variants at this marker are associated with slightly higher odds of having this trait. I do get annoyed when everyday sounds seem too loud, as it makes it difficult for me to concentrate.

On the health side, I was happy to find I do not have high risks for most of the genetic diseases tested for. I was surprised to find I do carry a common variant for celiac disease. I did some further research from the raw data they provided and found I have other variants for celiac disease, but I do not have common symptoms. I am going to be sharing this information with my doctor.

When I was researching in the raw data, I also found I have several markers for longevity. So, I guess I will be around a long time, but may not be eating any cake on my birthdays!

Melissa Southam

Predictions: From my dad’s side of the family, I have always been told I was Scottish and Irish and a descendent of Francis Scott Key (who wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner”). Recently, my grandmother found evidence to believe we also come from Germany. Henry Wade was a great uncle known for the Rowe vs. Wade Supreme Court ruling on abortion. On my mom’s side of the family, the Loughry family (my grandmother’s side) came from Northern Ireland and England. The patriarch of the family (Jeremiah Lochry) is buried in Pa. and we located his gravesite. We found out a new grave marker that another Lochry individual purchased for the plot was actually placed on the wrong grave (we had it moved to the right location last year). We currently spell “Loughry” different than Jeremiah Lochry spelled the name, and no one knows the correct spelling since it changed when he came to America (from Northern Ireland and England). The ancestor who brought this part of the family to Texas died in the historic Galveston Hurricane of 1900 while searching for work to provide for his family. He survived his home being destroyed in a tornado in Okla. and a home fire in Texas before he was killed in the hurricane. 

Results: In ancestry percentage results, I found out I am 99.5 percent European, 59.3 percent British and Irish (which I expected), 21.1 percent French and German (I was expecting German from my grandparents’ recent research, but not French), .2 percent Finnish (which I did not expect) and .5 percent West African (also a surprise to me). 

Neanderthal variants reported were 251, which is less than 82 percent of 23andMe customers’ results and it accounts for less than 4 percent of my overall DNA. 

I found that I have 1002 DNA relatives on 23andMe. The only carrier I had a variant detected for was pendred syndrome and DFNB4 hearing loss. I found this to be interesting because, lately, I have struggled with bad hearing in my left ear and my family has a history of hearing loss. I do not know how I feel about it without being checked by a doctor for the problem, but it makes sense. Pendred syndrome and DFNB4 are inherited conditions characterized by deafness and structural problems with the inner ear. It is sometimes characterized by an enlarged thyroid. I had one of the two variants that were tested. 

The only health risk I have is age-related macular degeneration (slightly increased risk). I had both genetic variants they tested for. The disease results in damage to the central part of the retina impairing vision needed for reading, driving and recognizing faces. I have always had great eyesight and have not needed glasses, so this surprised me. 

Frisco STYLE
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