18 Apr

7 Things I Learned From Doing a DNA Test

Retracing your ancestry one step at a time

Written By Sofia Guellaty

I am Arab. That, I know. I speak Arabic, and I need visas to go practically anywhere in the world. As far as visas go, unfortunately, I’m not a Khaleeji, I am just your typical, run-of-the-mill Arab. A ‘light skinned’ one, I always wanted to know why my skin was so white in comparison to my friends.

 

Today, much like myself, more and more people are interested in uncovering their roots — especially in the Arab world, a place where conquests and colonization have been ongoing for centuries.

 

So I decided to take a leap of faith and try a DNA test. Sadly, data on Arab backgrounds wasn’t the forte of practically all the DNA research companies (they are mainly based in the US and need more Arabs to actually do the test in order to gather more accurate results).

 

I decided to go with Google-owned 23andme and try and find some leads on my distant ancestors, discover if I have some hidden relatives anywhere and finally break the mystery of my skin colour.

 

Purchasing a kit

After spending $99 and waiting a whopping two weeks, the kit arrived at my home with instructions and a saliva collection kit.

 

Being a female is not easy

I had to ask my father to give me his saliva sample to send back to San Francisco. Indeed even genetic exploration works against us females. As a woman my main genome is XX meaning that the scientists would only be able to determine my DNA History via the women in my family ie my mum’s mum, her mum, etc. My father is XY so he can get information on his paternal and maternal side.

 

More waiting

Three weeks and around 100 questions about my father’s health later, the results finally arrived through the online portal.

 

Am I black?

Turns out, I am a little bit. I have a 100% West African ancestor born around 1650. I also have a Native American ancestor born around 1710. How cool?

 

#Arab

I am 38.6% Tunisian, but also broadly Middle Eastern, probably from the Levant. Hence my light skin. 23andme can retrace my father’s Arab origins to 30,000 years ago. Once out of Africa, they settled in the Levant and later in North Africa in the 18th century. The site provides in-depth pre-historical reports on your DNA group’s movements and their homo-sapien or Neanderthal origins.

 

Give me that Visa!

Turns out I am also European (from my grandmother’s side). Italian and Spanish to be exact, with a hint of Georgian blood. I am glad the Guellatys know how to shake things up (DNA wise).

 

Get to know your extended family

Some of my DNA distant cousins (who took the test via 23andme) include one Emirati, a Turk and an Iranian fifth cousin. The site offers the option to reach out to them…

All in all, I would suggest taking the test if you’re even remotely curious about your ancestry. However for people like me, who’s main origin is—as they call it on the site, “North African & Arabian”—the level of information is still very shallow compared to say English people who can retrace the town their ancestors in much more depth. But essentially, if we want more information on ourselves, we all need to contribute our DNA and write our own history… so let’s get to it!