Thursday, July 27, 2017

Dear Sugar: My Honest Review of Ancestry's DNA Testing

Dear Sugar:

The (short) story:  I wanted to run a DNA test on one of my children to see the ethnic breakdown. 

The before:  I’ll tell you, I was choosing between 23andme and Ancestry.  The reason I went with Ancestry?  We tried 23andme a year ago, and their customer service sucked. I ended up returning the kit for a full refund.  Also, I’ll be honest that advertising got to me.  I used Ancestry because they’re the sponsorer of one of our favorite shows, Long Lost Family, which features stories of (mostly) adoptees and birth families reuniting. 

I caught the kit during a 20% off sale.  Seemed like a great deal at first, until I realized there’s a $10 shipping fee tacked on.  I only saved $10 off the normal price, but $10 is $10, right? 

The spitting:   I cannot even.   So I had to be SO patient and firm and encouraging.  You’d think ¼ teaspoon of saliva isn’t that much.   A kid like mine can produce that very quickly when arguing with a sibling, but on-demand, by mom, and into a vial?  Um, no.  It took us 45 minutes to get the sample.  And I pulled ALL the stops.  I had the kid “spit” at a bug outside.  I had said child “spit” by making big farting noises.  I encouraged child to “spit” loudly and quietly.  I had even had child “spit” by first swishing the mouth around.    The vial does come with a funnel you screw into the top, so it catches more saliva than if the funnel weren’t available.

I’m pretty sure I produced more saliva, like 10000 times more, than my child did during the process. Kid was miserable.  I mean, kid tried REALLY hard.  But 45 minutes of anything besides i-Pad time or swimming is too long for any young kid.   The only good part?   When there’s enough saliva to fill to the line, you get to remove the funnel, screw on a cap full of blue solution, and SHAKE.   My child LOVED the ten-ish seconds of shaking.   And, of course, the jelly beans I promised when finished.

The mailing:  Easy.  Register the kit online and then mail in the prepared packaging by dropping into any USPS box.  It was very easy to follow the directions.    After I registered, I got to state the name of the person (I used a fake name) and how much I wanted made public (basically nothing).   I found the permissions to be very up front and easy to navigate and understand.   Breeze.  

The arrival:  Ancestry e-mailed me when they received the kit.   Gave me peace of mind.  I had visions of my child's saliva going to some medical research facility and being used Henrietta Lacks style.   Which, if you haven’t read the bestselling book or seen the recent HBO movie, do it.  And just remember, you control how the sample is used and what info is published, so don’t freak out. 

The wait:  Oh did it feel like it took FOREVER to get the results.  Then I'd get all hopeful when I saw a message in my inbox from Ancestry, only for it to be another promotion or update that WAS NOT our results!   To be fair, I'm a pretty impatient, demanding person, so I can't blame Ancestry on this one.  They did say results take 6-8 weeks.

The results:  On a Saturday night, I got an (unexpected)e-mail that we had the results!  (I figured results were only sent M-F.)  It was not as climatic as I thought it would be.  The ethnicity results were not what I anticipated.  However, it was still really cool to save the results for our child and to know, via cold-hard facts, what the truth is vs. taking birth family's word for it.  Not because they birth family was dishonest, but because they themselves didn't have a full history and a lot of information!  The breakdown provided comes in the form of a pie-graph, as well as an explanation and a world map with highlighted regions.  

Repeat?:  Would we do it again?  Yes. Waiting was the hardest part (isn't it that way for everything in life?).   I'm not so interested in learning about my own history (I know I'm Polish and a mix of Irish and American Indian), but two of my other children have also taken the test, and we're waiting on the results.   It's definitely interesting to learn about one's origins, and I think for adoptees in particular, knowing the "once upon a time" and the beginning can be even more meaningful and important than for the non-adopted person.  

Have you used a DNA service?  Which one?  Was it helpful?  

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