A Taste for It

Thanks to a sale on a Groupon-like site, I now have another DNA test on the way to my door.

Why? Because Ancestry.com gave me a taste for genetic genealogy, but they won't let me buy the rest of the meal. Ancestry isn't giving its customers their raw data, and while I think their test is excellent and they are well-poised (with their huge genealogy-oriented - as opposed to medically oriented - database of customers) to be the new champion in using DNA for family research, they haven't made a single noise as to whether releasing the raw data is in the works.

(They even told blogger CeCe Moore at YourGeneticGenealogist that she had to understand that they are going to prioritize changes to the current test/interface based on feedback, not based on what she wants, which implies that her repeated cries for raw data might be way down the list. The guy sounded very nice about it, which almost makes it worse. Let's face it: Ancestry is the company that runs the TV ads telling Average Joe that his amazing family history is only a click away. They're possibly not catering to the crowd that wants to compare DNA segments... although many feel that's just because said crowd is too new to genetic genealogy to know what they want yet. Heaven knows that was me six weeks ago. I had no idea how important raw data would be to me once the giddyness of a finding some good matches passed.)

The other two big companies people seem to use for autosomal tests are FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe. Both have their merits. I wanted to get the test with FTDNA first for the following reasons: 1. They have more genealogy-oriented customers with family trees online to compare for cousin matching. (People complain about other customers at 23andMe not responding to genealogy queries because those customers only took the test for medical info.) 2. You can upgrade your test for deeper/more detailed results than what's offered at the other two companies (closer mtDNA and yDNA matching).

FTDNA even had a sale (autosomal + basic mtDNA or basic yDNA) for $249, a very nice savings over their usual $289 + $159, but I just couldn't justify it. I'm not teaching this year. Mike is finishing his student teaching and can't sub (or get a job) until his certification is complete in November. And there's all the back and forth travel between Australia and here.

Oh, and then I was walking across the parking lot and my ankle swallowed a grapefruit. Out of nowhere. Just while walking.

In other words, a sprained ankle.

The aftermath on this deserves its own post. (The short version is that the $60 office visit + $62 X-ray + $10 ACE bandage + $40 air cast + $10 second ACE bandage because the upper cast strap doesn't quite reach around my calf that has always been peasant-bulky no matter what my weight - ask me about a childhood spent unable to ever zip up cute knee boots... all of this was an unexpected expense.)

Well, the sprained ankle made me a little stir crazy. I couldn't pack. Couldn't concentrate. Was useless.  Would type about a paragraph of the Alaskan cruise trip report (See! Haven't forgotten!) and just slump over and stare at the wall. Except for having to shuffle-hop-drag myself to Roy, our ancient and diabetic dwarf hamster, every few hours to stand on one foot while he drinks for five minutes (I timed it) because he's too old to get upright enough to reach even the lowest water bottle (but too feisty and seemingly otherwise content to have put to sleep). "Roy, stop giving me perspective," I would say, sulking.

Even now I'm sitting here with my MacGuyver'd contraption on my ankle, hoping it won't shame me too much as a I hobble around the new Caesars Palace buffet next week. (Five-hundred-plus dishes! They're doing a week-long preview and Yelp "Elite" are among the invitees. I'll post my review here after it goes on Yelp. As a vegetarian taking a gluten-free friend, hopefully we'll have unique and useful points of view. Oh, and we'll be quite the pair because she's sprained her fingers and is waiting to find out if they're fractured.)

So, I was sad. And since it happened on the way to the car to go to the store, and since Mike was in Australia at the time, and since I couldn't get down the steps to the front door to take delivery from friends or pizza places, I was stuck eating the things in the pantry that are only meant to be eaten if there's an apocalypse. "Oh yes, I remember that can of soup. Bought it just before we were married."

But I did save on a week's worth of groceries, which negated the medical expenses somewhat.

And then Mike got some free online play at one of the Australian dog racing or horse racing websites. And things went... shockingly well.

So, when I saw the 23andMe deal for $225, I was tempted. But I looked away. My heart was set on FTDNA. Besides, Ancestry could suddenly offer raw data at any time, right? How long is beta supposed to last anyway?

But all that downtime meant I eventually started spending more time on Ancestry's forums, where I noticed that months were passing and no one was getting even a hint on whether or when Ancestry would be adding new features, let alone the raw data that might not even be a priority. Too much time on any internet forum will skew your perspective in silly ways, but I started thinking about how if/when Ancestry does implement new features (like a search engine, my empty Talenti jar collection for a search engine!), then those will have to be beta-tested.

It felt like a long wait was ahead.

And then I saw that there are three genes that will absolutely, positively tell if you're going to get early-onset Alzheimer's.

GIVE ME THE TEST, I hollered to my Visa card.

Okay, okay. I did a bit of research first, and it turns out that 23andMe only tells you about your risk percentage for late-onset Alzheimers. Pft. Percentage risk. I want to know about this guaranteed gene mutation for early-onset, what my mother has.

However, since 23andMe specifically says they don't give information about early-onset, and since I'm still too much of a newb to understand whether this information is discoverable within the raw data you get with an autosomal DNA test, I had to remove this justification for purchase from the table.


But just as Ancestry.com gave me the taste for using DNA for genealogy, looking over 23andMe's site and tools like Promethease gave me a taste for wanting to know if I was point-zero-one-seven-percent more likely to smell asparagus in pee.

Sure, the cost was only a little less than the preferred FTDNA test I'd just passed up, but that sale was over and there was no getting it back. Also, I always wanted to take the 23andMe test eventually because it seems to have more medical data for Promethease to analyze. And, FTDNA now lets you import your 23andMe results (for $89), so you can benefit from their databases. (23andMe's price includes the mtDNA test as well as autosomal, so I hope the mtDNA info is also imported to FTDNA and can be upgraded. Update: Apparently you have to re-test at FTDNA for mtDNA. I don't know if the price is the same.)

Starting with 23andMe then importing into FTDNA seemed like the best of both worlds, and maybe I was meant to miss that earlier sale so I'd use this one instead.

Justify, justify.

Ah hell. I've got a birthday coming up.

So! Stay tuned for more DNA rambling. And, although we've been lucky for some weeks now and all are currently in good spirits, more hamster obituaries. And, someday, that Alaskan cruise report. (Currently it's at 16,000 words with photos plus one video... and I'm only up to embarkation morning in Seattle. Apologies in advance as the end result is - spoiler! - going to be "Alaska is beautiful. Didn't care for the regular food or staff on Norwegian. My in-laws turned out to be very nice.")

15 September 2012 |

Previously: Madeleine Aurora
Next: Clark






Carnival Elation (2009)
Carnival Splendor (2009)
Carnival Spirit (2010)
Carnival Spirit (2011)
Carnival Splendor (2011)
Norwegian Pearl to Alaska (2012)