Genomes R Us

Fun facts about a couple of humans: Matthew: 4.9% Neanderthal & part Mi’kmaq. Petra 4.6% Neanderthal & mtDna from West Africa.

Fun facts about these humans: Matthew: 2.8% Neanderthal & part Mi’kmaq. Petra: 2.4% Neanderthal with mtDna from Sub-Saharan Africa.

Last week I reblogged a post about the MTHFR gene mutation.

In this post I’ll describe how you can get your genome analyzed.

Then I’ll tell you about some of the fun we’ve had with genomic analysis.

Mutants R Us~

We’re all mutants to some degree. But some of us have gene mutations that create a predisposition to a variety of health issues.

In my next post, I’ll consider how to use genomic analysis to determine what your predispositions to health problems might be.

This post is just fun.

Genomic Analysis

Getting the analysis done is easy: just order a kit online from 23andMe (That’s a Canadian link; Google 23andMe for other countries.)

They send you the kit, you follow their instructions, including spitting into a plastic vial. Send off your saliva & wait for your analysis.

Fun Stuff First~!


Neanderthal & modern human skeletons

Fun stuff: Your 23andMe report will tell you how much of a Neanderthal you are.

Modern humans range from 1-4% Neanderthal, with people of African ancestry having the least Neanderthal genes.

Being part Neanderthal is one of the funnest things I can think of.

As mentioned above, Matthew & I found out we are 2.8% & 2.4% Neanderthal, respectively.

You can find more information about research into the Neanderthal genome, including hypotheses about interbreeding between Neanderthals & anatomically-modern humans, here.

But your report will also scope out your ethic ancestry. Both Matthew & I discovered we were more ethnically diverse than we thought.


Blue=European ancestry; Orange='Native American' ancestry

Matthew’s genome: Blue=European ancestry; Orange: ‘Native American’ ancestry

Matthew’s genomic analysis turned up significant slices of ‘Native American’ genetic material.

After researching his family tree, it turns out that his great grandmother was Mi’kmaq.

Which makes a lot of sense to him. On a cellular level.

He had told me years ago that when he went to Nova Scotia when he was 12 he developed a strong & abiding affinity with all things Mi’kmaq, including Mi’kmaq language. I had previously attributed this to the understandable curiosity of a suburban white kid about Indigenous culture, but it turns out this recognition didn’t originate in his mind.

It originated in his genome.

African mtDna

Though my genome is less colourful than Matthew’s, being primarily the monochromatic blue that designates the British Isles (after all, my ancestors come from candy-land), with a few dark blue snips here & there from marauding Vikings, my maternal haplogroup (mtDna) is L2a1.

L2a1L2a1 originates in Sub-Saharan Africa & is the most common haplogroup for African Americans.

Through it, I can trace my matrilineal line back to an ancient time when my greatest grandmothers were African.

It’s not enough genetic material to show up as even a sliver of African heritage in my genetic profile, so it has to have been a long time ago.

Very remote, very dilute.

The only reason these ancient grandmas even show up is that between myself & them is an unbroken line of women who all survived long enough to give birth to a daughter. That’s a pretty awe-inspiring thought.

I joined a L2a1 forum online & inquired about my incongruous (white) membership in this haplogroup. Pretty quickly, someone responded:

My greatest grandma?

My greatest grandma?

There are numerous ways that L2a1 mtDna lineage could wind up in the British Isles. Roman era movement is certainly possible.  See this article: Roman remains in York are of “elite” African woman. It’s possible that she was the wife of a traveler or trader. It’s also possible that she was a manumitted slave or descendent of them. It would not have been unusual given the Roman attitude toward ethnicity/race and slavery for a slave to be freed, become a “client” of a former owner, and then  rise to wealth and status, no matter the place of origin. Of course, a Roman empire source is only one possibility. She could have reached the British Isles through that vector, or as a migrant from Iberia.

In summary, genomic analysis is fun!

In part 2 of this post, Matthew & I will dig into the health data that genomic analysis also makes available.