- Courtesy Bill Crede
Until his daughter had her DNA sequenced for a college course, Bill Crede had no idea his father had been adopted.
“She came back 16% Ashkenazi Jew, and we didn’t know of any Jewish people in our family, and that particular thing is what spurred me on to get tested or get the test done,” he told Business Insider. “So I sent my saliva off.”
People who use genetic tests, in this case from 23andMe, send in a sample of spit. Then, 23andMe’s labs isolate the DNA in the sample and scan it for single genetic variations that are linked to specific traits like hair and eye color, susceptibility to certain diseases, and ancestry.
When Crede got his results back, he saw that he was about 33% Ashkenazi Jewish. That’s when Crede’s mother spilled the beans and let him know his father had been adopted, which forever changed the way he looked at his family history.
Crede, his daughter, and soon three other members of the family all took 23andMe’s consumer genetics test to find out more about their genetic makeup.
Crede, his wife, Luz Vasquez, and their daughter all took the genetic test before 23andMe had to stop providing the health report section of their test in November 2013.
But, for Crede and Vasquez, the health portion was not nearly as important to them as the genealogy portion. Consumers such as them could be part of why two years later, 23andMe, which just announced they had raised $115 million in a recent funding round, is a thriving $1.1-billion company.
23andMe spokesperson Andy Kill told Business Insider that, based on a survey question, the company estimates that about 5-6% of everyone who takes their test are adoptees. (He doesn’t know how many people find this out for the first time as a result of 23andMe’s test.)
After seeing Crede and her daughter’s results, Vasquez decided to try the test herself, mainly to figure out more about her ancestry. The test told her her background was a mix of Spanish, African and Mayan ancestry, which she had expected.
While Crede was pleased to learn more about his ancestry, Vasquez came away a little disappointed in the lack of specificity with her results.
She wanted to know more about her Puerto Rican identity, namely where in Africa her ancestors had originated before they arrived in Puerto Rico. Though, she said, “I found out I was related to half of Puerto Rico.”
Katarzyna Bryc, a population geneticist with 23andMe told Business Insider in an email that it’s still working to make its ancestry test more specific.
“We have several initiatives in place working on getting data that will help us more finely map ancestry,” she said. “We are always exploring new statistical methods to leverage the data we do have.”
Vasquez said the only thing she found surprising in her results is that people can contact you after, so fifth cousins started to reach out. Soon, she said, “My inbox was all of Puerto Rico.” So far, she hasn’t made any contact with the people who have reached out to her.