23 Chromosomes

By: Erin Rose Hennessy

My father took one of those DNA tests last year, that tells you what your DNA ancestry comes from. It sounded so neat that my younger sister and I asked for the kits for Christmas. After spitting (ew!) into a test tube and sending it to a lab, I got my results about six weeks later. What was especially fun about the program we used – 23andMe – was that it connects you with your DNA family members. So, mine told me it “suspected” my father was my father and my sister was my sister. Good to know! My dad and I share 50% of our genes, which happens when an egg is fertilized. Half of the resulting zygote is father genes and half is mother genes. So, we have confirmation that my father is my father. We knew that, but it was still fun! What was also fun was finding out that my sister and I share almost 53% of our genetics. Even if we have biological children (not terribly likely in my case), they still won’t be as high of a match.

Initially, the results said that I was mostly Irish and British, with German and French next in line. This surprised me because I’d been told there was more German heritage in our family and also – my very Irish name aside, I’m built like a German! But once it matches you with your relatives, it will change a little. You probably guessed where I’m going with this – I’m now officially mostly German and French with Irish and British second in line.

I’m 41.0% German and French according to my DNA report, with our family hailing mostly from Northern France, most strongly from Brittany. Which makes sense, considering it’s across the Channel from England. Oddly, the results were unable to tell me where exactly in Germany my genes most strongly resemble – so I’m “German.” That’s all. There’s also a small amount of Ashkenazi Jewish (0.2%) in me as well, which .2 more points to Germany! I think I need to make more German meals. Most of the things I make are American, Mexican/Spanish (I have no Spanish/Portugese heritage, but my sister got some from our father), and seafood.

Next in line is Irish and British at 36.8%, mostly hailing from the Greater London area and, surprisingly, Glasgow, Scotland! My Irish heritage is the most strong in County Cork, Ireland, followed by County Mayo. No surprise there. The Hennessy family story goes: two Hennessy brothers got kicked out of County Cork (possibly for horse thievery). One Hennessy brother headed to France and started the Hennessy Cognac business (that’s right – my great-something-uncle is responsible for all that deliciousness) and the other headed to the States. My Dad and I once found the log of his arrival in New York in 1838, but I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the ship.

I also found it really interesting that I have 0.1% Sub-Saharan African in my DNA. It came from my mother, because both my dad and sister have Northern African and Western Asian at 0.1%. It’s fun to think about how, at one point, we all came from the same area many thousands of years ago. My maternal haplotype – passed down through the mother and can be traced back 180,000 years ago – shows origination somewhere in middle Africa.

I’m also more Neanderthal than either my dad or my sister. Thanks, Mom?

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