Leah’s spit has arrived at the 23and Me labs but we still have another week or so before we know any results. So while we wait, let me tell you a little more about how we settled on a genetic testing company.
23andMe is not the only game in town. There’s also Family Tree DNA , DNA Tribes , and the DNA Ancestry Project … as well as a bunch that cater more to the “who’s your daddy?” vibe. For us, the choice came down to 23and Me or Family Tree. Family Tree is the company working with the Khmer Cousins Project. Khmer Cousins is a DNA testing project for the Cambodian community worldwide that was started by an adoptive mom. The goal of the project is to find cousin (or closer) connections and rebuild families separated by the war or adoption or any number of other reasons. I think it is a great project and I’d love to see tons of participation by the adoptive community, as well as the greater Cambodian-American community. But Family Tree doesn’t do the medical side of things, only ancestry. As far as I can tell, 23andMe is the only company giving medical information in addition to the ancestry information.
Why do I care about the medical side? A lot of reasons, the most foundational being the way I feel every time I fill out a medical history form for Leah and have to write “unknown” on practically every blank on the whole page. Generally, I don’t think a lot about whatever cancers or other diseases my parents or grandparents had and how they might affect me, but just knowing about them does give me an advantage. Also, my older sister, Tory, who is a domestic adoptee, found her birthparents right after she turned 18 and they both died within about fifteen years of that from cancer. There’s a lot of emotional and personal stuff in that last sentence, but there’s also the fact that it’s only thanks to a birth parent search that my sister now knows she is at a greater risk for those cancers. It literally changed the way she lives her life – she’s a total health nut now and also really into running. We can’t do a birth parent search for Leah, much as I want to. (And I really do.) Testing her DNA is the least I can do.
So we want the medical info, but we also want to participate in the Cousin project. What to do? Do them both! Or actually, something of a compromise – I can have the results from 23and Me sent to Family Tree for a reduced fee and then her DNA will be logged in both databases. Twice the possible connections! WOOT.
For anyone thinking about testing, here’s some resources we found helpful:
23andMe has a number of short videos that are informational and entertaining enough to hold my daughter’s attention too: https://www.23andme.com/gen101/genes/
I got a few different books from the library on DNA. Leah’s favorite was Decoding Genes With Max Axiom (a graphic novel, one of a series of fun to read science books)