You can’t box up a gift of wonder, or joy, but the knowledge gleaned from using 23andMe to unbox the insights wrapped up in your DNA come pretty close.
Some of these revelations may be small — an unknown third cousin, a smidgen of surprising ancestry or the genetics behind your caffeine consumption. Others can be life changing — an unknown genetic health risk,* a connection to a family member you never knew you had.
Here are some customers who received a 23andMe kit during the holidays last year, and the stories that unfolded after they opened their gifts. You can make someone’s holiday this year, by giving them a gift of 23andMe.
A Gift For A Mom
On the eve of the holidays last year, Sally’s daughter Mary gave her the perfect gift, a neatly wrapped 23andMe kit, and what turned out to be a connection to the father she never knew.
“Finally after 89 years of not knowing anything about my father, I discovered I’m 50 percent Ashkenazi Jewish,” said Sally, who turned 90 this year. “It was such fun as my kids were there for my big reveal.”
Until opening the results that looked at her Ancestry Composition, Sally thought the mysteries around her birth were long lost to time, but her DNA told a different story. And for someone who grew up believing she was 100 percent Irish Catholic, this was a happy surprise.
“I immediately got out a Menorah I had purchased for my Grandson,” Sally said. “Did we ever have some laughs about this find… this was so worth doing.”
This year’s holidays will hold some new traditions for Sally.
A Gift For A Wife
Barbara’s husband can’t top the gift he got her last Christmas — a sister she found through 23andMe.
“I was adopted and didn’t know anything about my biological family,” Barbara said. “23andMe connected me to my full biological sister who was also adopted out to a different family, and we are only 11 months apart.”
Now Barbara and her sister Lundy, who are both in their 60s and only live an hour or so from each other, are catching up on lost time after connecting using 23andMe’s DNA Relatives.
“I always dreamed of having a sister,” said Barbara. “(Someone) that I could tell secrets to. And now 23andMe helped my dream come true!”
Last year for Christmas JD’s wife, Jewell, gave him a 23andMe kit as a gift and what turned out to be a whole new branch to his family tree.
JD found his biological father, a brother, his 99-year-old grandmother, as well as nieces, nephews, and cousins he never knew he had.
“It’s like instant family,” JD said. “Just add water.”
Eventually, all four generations of the family used 23andMe, and now this Christmas JD and Jewell’s holiday dinner will include more than a half a dozen new place settings.
When he opened the gift from his girlfriend last Christmas, Paul didn’t realize that exploring his DNA ancestry with 23andMe would have such a profound impact.
A 55-year-old African American man, Paul spent years frustrated in his attempts to track his family history. Like many African-Americans the scourge of slavery left a black hole in his family history.
“I became angry every time I would see someone saying their family tree was traced back to Ireland, Italy or some other country and I couldn’t find my family because of slavery,” he said.
And then he received his 23andMe Ancestry Composition report.
“I logged in, and the tears started to well up in my eyes because my results showed that almost 90 percent of my ancestors were traced to West Africa and the shores of the Transatlantic Slave Trade,” Paul said. “These results placed my family on those slave ships. For the first time in my 55 years of life … I now have confirmation that I have a direct connection to the Motherland. I feel like an orphan that has been reconnected with his biological family.”
After his parents passed away, Rob, who was adopted as an infant, told his wife and kids that he wanted a 23andMe kit for Christmas.
Last year he got his wish, and the results gave him more than just details about his ancestry, he found his birth mother. It all happened so fast.
First, using DNA Relatives he saw all the distant cousins he matched with, and then he noticed one match that was particularly close, an aunt. They exchanged messages, and his aunt connected him to his mother.
Then she emailed him:
“You found me,” she said
Their first phone call lasted more than an hour.
“It’s surreal still,” Rob said. “When your parents pass you start to envision your own end. This has opened up a whole new chapter for me.”
He learned more about her life and struggles.
“She made the ultimate sacrifice,” Rob said. “As a parent, I cannot imagine that decision. She knew she could not provide for me. She entrusted my parents with her child – her child.”
This Christmas will be Rob and his family’s first with his biological mother.
After two decades of grabbing old photos and chatting up relatives to track her family history, Joan decided she needed to add DNA testing to her ancestry toolbox, so last year for Christmas she got 23andMe kits for herself, her daughter and granddaughter.
“This has been great fun,” Joan said.
The gifts opened up a whole new world of relatives, both distant and close, and more information about her grandmother’s French Canadian family and her mother’s Polish roots. Probably the biggest kick she got from looking at her DNA Relatives was learning that she’s related to her neighbors.
“What surprised me was when I … found that the sweet young couple across the street turned out to be my 4th cousins,” Joan said.
Archibald’s daughter had always been intrigued by their family’s ancestry, so last year he thought of the perfect gift for her, a 23andMe kit.
Little did he know that this present would be turned into a priceless gift for his whole family.
After getting the present, Archibald asked himself:
“Why don’t I do it, too?”
Retired and a widower, he had questions of his own, and he had even more when his daughter’s DNA Relatives results first came in and showed that one of her closest matches was with a man named Ken, living in Australia. Soon after that Archibald’s results came in, and he too matched with Ken, a half-brother he didn’t know he had. The two connected and began exchanging messages, and put together the pieces of the puzzle that linked them. All Ken had known about his father was that he was an American serviceman. Archibald’s father, who died in 1966, was stationed in Australia during World War II. A 72-year-old mystery solved.
“It’s like, Huh, Hello!” Archibald said.
Now he has another gift idea for Christmas.
“My daughter is so excited,” Archibald said. “She talks all the time by email with Ken. We are hoping to travel to Australia.”
A mother of four kids— three daughters in their 20s and a 19 year-old son — Julie got a 23andMe Health & Ancestry kit from her husband for Christmas last year.
The present was meant to be for fun, but it turned into something much more — a gift of knowledge for both her and her children.
Explaining what this gift meant to her and her family, Julie goes back almost 20 years when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her mother was 59 at the time. That and the fact that the family has Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry prompted both Julie and her two sisters to get a clinical test for mutations in the BRCA genes associated with increased cancer risk. Both of her sisters tested positive for one of the variants in the BRCA1 gene that carries higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Julie was negative, according to the test. Ultimately one of Julie’s sister developed ovarian cancer and died after a two year battle, and their mother also subsequently passed from a recurrence of her cancer. Julie now cares for her sister’s daughter, who is 11.
So with everything that happened Julie thought about her own test. “Could they have made a mistake?” she wondered.
A few years ago Julie even asked about getting re-tested but was told there was no need since she already had a clinical test done.
And then last year, at Christmas, Julie got the gift from her husband. A few months later, when 23andMe began offering a BRCA1/BRCA2 (Selected Variants)** report for the first time, Julie opted into viewing her results. The report looks at three of the variants most commonly found in people with Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry that are associated with an increased risk of developing certain cancers. When Julie looked at her Genetic Health Risk results she was shocked to see that she had one of the variants.
“That’s impossible,” Julie thought.
So she called her sister.
Julie wanted to know what BRCA variant her sister had tested positive for, and whether it was the same one in her 23andMe report. Her sister didn’t know but helped her work with the clinic to find out. After some investigation, they determined that there had been a mistake after all. So Julie contacted the oncologist, who initially had ordered her test 20 years ago. At first, the doctor was skeptical, but after some back and forth and discussions with the testing company Julie was re-tested. The clinical test confirmed the results in her 23andMe report. She was positive for the same BRCA1 variant as her sister.
After talking to her doctor, she decided to move quickly. To lower her risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, Julie decided to follow her doctor’s advice and had preventative surgery to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes, and then had a double mastectomy. She also wanted to make sure her children knew that the risky variant could have been passed on to them. Her three daughters each tested and her oldest, now 28, found that she was positive for one of the BRCA1 variants.
For Julie, who has lost both her mother and sister to cancer, this was more than just a gift of knowledge. It was potentially life saving information for the entire family.
“It was a Christmas miracle,” she said.
Make someone’s holiday this year, by giving them a gift of 23andMe.
*The 23andMe PGS test uses qualitative genotyping to detect select clinically relevant variants in the genomic DNA of adults from saliva for the purpose of reporting and interpreting genetic health risks. It is not intended to diagnose any disease. Your ethnicity may affect the relevance of each report and how your genetic health risk results are interpreted. Each genetic health risk report describes if a person has variants associated with a higher risk of developing a disease, but does not describe a person’s overall risk of developing the disease. The test is not intended to tell you anything about your current state of health, or to be used to make medical decisions, including whether or not you should take a medication, how much of a medication you should take, or determine any treatment.
**Warnings & Limitations: The 23andMe PGS Genetic Health Risk Report for BRCA1/BRCA2 (Selected Variants) is indicated for reporting of the 185delAG and 5382insC variants in the BRCA1 gene and the 6174delT variant in the BRCA2 gene. The report describes if a woman is at increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, and if a man is at increased risk of developing breast cancer or may be at increased risk of developing prostate cancer. The three variants included in this report are most common in people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent and do not represent the majority of BRCA1/BRCA2 variants in the general population. This report does not include variants in other genes linked to hereditary cancers and the absence of variants included in this report does not rule out the presence of other genetic variants that may impact cancer risk. The PGS test is not a substitute for visits to a healthcare professional for recommended screenings or appropriate follow-up. Results should be confirmed in a clinical setting before taking any medical action. For important information and limitations regarding other genetic health risk reports, [visit https://www.23andme.com/test-info/] [click here].