Let us now take a break from the more controversial medical aspects of genotyping to talk about the fun part: ancestry! Well, not that learning I'm probably lactose intolerant wasn't fun. But it's more fun for me, unless you happen to share a bathroom with me. Which, by the way, you're welcome, Sean. And Sophia. Who recently inquired as to what I had been up to in the bathroom, and when I informed her, told me, "Well, I didn't smell it." So let's drop another quarter in the therapy jar and move on.
So. Ancestry! More accurately, the maternal haplogroup. (The who?) From 23andMe's website:
Okay. So what you get is a representation of the purely female line of your genes -- your mother's mother's mother's et cetera mother. Your own personal Eve, kinda. The female mirror image of the paternal name lines of western Europe. Mine is:
U5b1c. Again, from 23andMe:
Neat, yes? And then there's a world map showing the distribution of that haplogroup circa 500 years ago. For some reason I can't get it in here, but it's concentrated in the northern reaches of Scandinavia and shades down into western Europe, with a few outposts in north Africa and eastern Europe. Included with the U5 haplogroup are Lapps and Berbers, although they're not in my particular branch.
Here's where the forums are useful -- you get to find people with whom you share a haplogroup and learn about their ancestry, see how it compares to yours. Most of my maternal line (and paternal too) is Scotch Irish, and a lot of the other U5 people seem to be Irish or from the British Isles, which makes sense if you consider Viking invasion. Of course this haplogroup division represents something that happened 40,000 years ago -- we're talking pulses of people moving around the ice sheets as they wax and wane, encountering Neanderthals, moving south and back north again. It won't tell you about your great-great-grandfather who emigrated from County Down (just as a for-example) -- this is deeper history.
And frankly it appeals to the Clan of the Cave Bear fan in me. Because dude, that totally could have been me! Who singlehandedly invented, like, language and fire and weapons and childbirth! But really, this is some of the most fascinating research to me -- and the place I want to delve into more when I have a chance.