The Gift of AncestryDNA May Give More Than You Think

I posted this as a joke to my personal Facebook page:

Order your AncestryDNA today kit so you can discover those non-paternal events in time for Christmas. Why have the same old political arguments when you can argue about your ethnic heritage and that new first cousin Uncle Kevin insists isn’t his kid but DNA says is?

While the intent was to be funny, there is truth underlying the message. The ethnicity results are only an estimate based upon DNA kits, submitted trees, and some other behind-the-scenes modeling that takes place at AncestryDNA. Personally I view the ethnicity results as entertainment, but AncestryDNA‘s marketing encourages individuals to give them more credence than I personally would. For some people the results are a shock–particularly for those who take them as being entirely accurate. But potentially telling Aunt Susan she needs to replace the Irish stew with Swedish lutefisk may be the least of your worries.

DNA matches may cause you to add a new seat at the family table at the holidays and the drama that brings about will dwarf any conflict over which ethnic tradition to celebrate.

The reliable part of the test–the DNA matches–is more difficult to gloss over than the ancestral heritage results.  DNA may tell the testee about:

  • first cousins the testee never knew they had
  • siblings the testee never knew they had–particularly half-siblings
  • first cousins who show as being more distantly related–suggesting that a believed parentage was not biologically accurate
  • other close relatives whose test results indicate they are not as closely related as believed
  • other results that are inconsistent with the family story

For some, the AncestryDNA kit itself and the ethnicity results aren’t the real surprise. The DNA matches may be the gift that keeps on giving.


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