Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Maybe I don't understand DNA?

I should stop paying for DNA tests.

Back in 2008, I wanted to know what kind of dog my beautiful Peanut was.

I forked over $188 to Wisdom Panel because they claimed they could identify 157 breeds of dogs. That was about the number of breeds the AKC recognized so it seemed all my bases would be covered.


I got back a report that stated Peanut had a trace of Chow and a trace of Giant Schnauzer.  Um, okay.  I had already guessed the Chow from the black spot on her tongue and her thick fur.  What about the other 90% of her?

No clue.

I should have been wary when pitched a DNA test.  But technology has progressed the past 5 years.  And their commercials showed someone getting back results for specific countries.  I particularly remember Ireland and Scotland being shown.

So I bought a kit, drooled saliva into a tube, and sent it off to the lab.  I will say, I was impressed with the kit.  Very easy to understand and kind of geeky cool.

But the results that came back were disappointing - 61% British Isles, 37% Central European, 2% unknown.

Regions, not countries.

Central Europe doesn't include Italy on their map, so that was kind of useful.  My Dad always claimed we were part Sicilian.   And no one ever mentioned Central Europe in our mongrel pedigree.

Ancestry suggested a third cousin based on some shared ancestors. That one panned out.  However, I checked a few of the 4th cousin suggestions and the only commonality was the surname Smith.  Not a particularly good criteria for matching when Smith is the most common surname in the US.

I checked back today on and saw there are little pins where a handful of my ancestors were born in the British Isles. A couple pins are in Ireland.  That's news to me.  Every St. Patrick's Day, both parents insisted we were not Irish.

So there are some specifics on countries in the British Isles - England, Scotland, Ireland.  Most of that seemed to be based on the birthplaces from my tree though.  A geographical representation of my tree would have saved me the $99 I spent on the DNA test.

Ancestry says they will continue to update my results as they get more data in from other people.  Not sure how that works, but I guess it's a good thing.

Still, despite some new information, I'm leaning heavily on the disappointed side.

Peanut - my late chow - schnauzer - unknown sweetheart

Updated -
I just got one of the promised updates from  And I'm pretty impressed.  This time they did have some actual countries.  It showed 28% of my ethnicity is Irish.  59% Great Britain, and 8% Scandinavian.  The latter is new to me.  And pretty darn cool.

Maybe DNA tests aren't so bad after all.


  1. I've been tempted but I'm afraid the tests would prove that my family dabbled outside their species in the past.

    1. Literally laughed out loud. It could be fun though - if you could watch the lab technician's face.