JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- DNA tests are very popular. But have you ever wondered if what those DNA tests tell you is accurate? We have. So we sent in the same DNA sample to several different companies to see if we’d get the same results.
My family keeps family photos and family records, and we retell family stories.
So I submitted my DNA to not just one DNA testing company, but to three companies: My Heritage, Ancestry.com, and 23 and Me.
I wanted to see if the companies would give me the same results.
While I waited on the results, I spoke with Dr. Matt Gilg, a genetics professor at the University of North Florida.
"So what they’re doing is analyzing those million or so positions that are different in the human genome among different people," Gilg said. "And essentially they can assign each position to a starting point or to an origin."
Gilg said all the companies use the same kind of science and that science is better at determining which continents you’re from such as being "African, Australian, Asian, European. Those kinds of difference are much easier to pick up."
But when it comes down to pinpointing specific countries you’re from, such as "Germany vs. Ireland or France or something like that. Those differences are going to be more fuzzy," he explained.
Overall, Gilg predicted I would get similar results from all the companies.
"You might see some differences in details, but I think the main story is going to be the same among all of them," he noted.
He even said one company’s science may not be better than the other.
"If it was up to me, I’d probably do the cheapest one," Gilg said.
After weeks of waiting, the results started coming in.
And, there was a surprise.
While the My Heritage results showed I am 92.8 percent European, it also showed I am 7.2 percent African.
That was interesting to me. I did not expect that.
The other tests results were similar, but not the same!
The 23 and Me results show I am 99.6 percent European and only .4 percent African.
Ancestry.com is similar, saying I am about 98 percent European and less than 1 percent African.
And then again, there’s My Heritage showed I have much more African in me: 92.8 percent European and 7.2 percent African.
I shared the results with my father, Warren Clark. When he heard about the 7.2 percent African he said, "Really? How about that. I like that, actually. That’s jazzes things up!"
While I like the idea I am made up of a culture no one in my family knew about, I also know what it could mean.
"We have a history, a very bad history of enslaving people here in the U.S.," my father said. "That may well be, that that part of our background came from that. You can always hope love would’ve been involved, but with slavery, it may well not have been."
Gilg explained even one person can make a mark on your genetic story.
"It’ll stick around and it’s quite possible that even 100 generations after the fact, you could have a sign that person was there," he noted.
And while I know some of the faces and names and stories from my family, these DNA tests – even though slightly different -- gave me insight to what I don’t know… and to the stories I now want to uncover.