The Russian

Many of you have already heard the story of our youngest child, Zack, who was adopted from Russia and shared a last name with me. His adoption story is truly miraculous and many within the family have wondered if he could really be related to my long-lost great, great-uncle. When I was in Chicago with Aunt Sandra last month, some of the women that we had dinner with one evening were talking about the genetic ancestry testing that they had completed. That got Aunt Sandra and I talking and with her financial backing, I ordered an ancestry composition test from 23andme.

A few weeks ago, the kit arrived and after having Zack fill up a test tube with his spit, I sent it off and waited for the results. They said it would be a 6-week wait but in under two weeks, the results arrived. And what did it show?

zack

Eastern European 79.3% (Teal)

Eastern Europe, represented by people of Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Lithuania and Hungary, is bordered on the east by the Ural Mountains. Although there are no such geographic borders to the west, eastern Europe has been distinct from European countries to the west in terms of cultural and linguistic affiliations.*

Northwestern European 9.8% 
Northwestern Europeans are represented by people from as far west as Ireland, as far north as Norway, as far east as Finland, and as far south as France. These countries rim the North and Baltic Seas, and have been connected throughout much of history by those waters.
Finnish 6.7% (Black)
Finland has been occupied continuously since the end of the last ice age. Despite their proximity to Scandinavia, many Finns speak a language more closely related to Hungarian than to most Scandinavian languages, which have similarities to English and German.
Broadly Northwestern European 3.1% (Light Blue)
Northwestern Europeans are represented by people from as far west as Ireland, as far north as Norway, as far east as Finland, and as far south as France. These countries rim the North and Baltic Seas, and have been connected throughout much of history by those waters.
Southern European 3.2% (Dark Blue)
Southern Europe, including the Iberian, Italian, and Balkan peninsulas as well as the island of Sardinia, is a region defined in great part by the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean has provided transportation routes, keeping these regions connected.
Balkan 2.5%
Located in the southeastern corner of Europe, the mountainous Balkans are rich in both cultural and linguistic diversity.
Broadly Southern European 0.7%
Southern Europe, including the Iberian, Italian, and Balkan peninsulas as well as the island of Sardinia, is a region defined in great part by the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean has provided transportation routes, keeping these regions connected.
Broadly European 7.6%

Much of Europe was buried under miles of ice ten thousand years ago. As the glaciers receded over millennia, Neolithic farmers from the Near East joined Paleolithic hunter-gatherers to settle Europe.

*So what this means is that these tests do not break down the regions into small enough categories to distinguish Russian from Lithuanian ancestry. Darn it. We still can’t tell if Zack’s great, great, great-grand relatives were Lithuanian. 
I was encouraged by 23 and me vs. other ancestry DNA tests because it said it was able to look at the maternal and paternal lines separately.
All that they results showed me were Zack’s Maternal Haplogroup was D4j:
maternal
and his Paternal Haplogroup was R1a1a:
paternal

So again, this didn’t really help me figure out if we were long-lost relatives.

However, based on other people who have given their DNA to 23andMe, they did identify 1260 potential relatives…third to sixth cousins or distant relatives that share less than 1% (.09% to .55%) of identical or overlapping DNA segments, indicating a common ancestor. It makes me want to do the test myself, or send in my dad’s DNA (since it would be an even stronger connection since he’s a generation back) to see if they find any common DNA between Zack and myself or my father.

The 23 and me reports also included things like 22 Trait reports.

This included things like, based on his genetic makeup…
    • Zack is 98% likely to have lighter eyes (he does)
    • Zack is 96% likely to have lighter skin (he does, for sure!)
    • Zack is 87% likely to have light hair (he does)
    • Zack is 72% likely to have straight or wavy hair (I’m not sure if you’d consider Zack’s hair wavy or curly….there’s a 16% chance he’d have big curls so he might fall in that category if you categorize it more curly than wavy.)
    • Zack is 81% likely to have no hair loss before the age of 40 years
    • Zack is 84% likely to have no bald spot

The report also gave us information such as:

  • Zack, is unlikely to flush after drinking alcohol. The alcohol flush reaction is characterized by redness or flushing of the face or neck after consuming alcohol. You likely can break down alcohol normally.
  • Zack is less likely to be a deep sleeper.  Zack, people with your genetic result tend to have typical sleep depth.
  • Zack is unlikely to be a sprinter. Zack, your fast-twitch muscle fibers likely do not have the alpha-actinin-3 protein. Endurance athletes tend to have more slow-twitch muscle, while sprinters tend to have more fast-twitch muscle. Some of the variation in fast-twitch muscle depends on a protein called alpha-actinin-3.
  • Zack is likely to exhibit typical or less movement during sleep.  Zack, people with your genetic result tend to have about 10 limb movements per hour of sleep.
  • Zack is likely lactose intolerant.  Zack, you likely do not produce the lactase enzyme.

Finally, 23andMe did not detect any variants for carrier status of 39 different gene disorders, such as autosomal recessive polycycstic kidney disease, cystic fibrosis, glycogen storage disease, phenylketonuria and related disorders or sickle-cell anemia.

Although there was a ton of information, there was nothing really earth-shattering or unexpected in the reports. It did NOT help to solve the question of whether Zack and I are actually related by a common ancestor three generations back. But Zack can bask in the knowledge that he is at least 80% Russian with some other European countries thrown in just for fun.

Thanks for trying Aunt Sandra!

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6 thoughts on “The Russian

  1. Interesting but not enough information to let us know if he is indeed a true Litvin. Your idea of sending your dad’s DNA sounds like a good idea. Zack should be happy to find out he is indeed Russian. No matter what his background is, we love him!!!!!

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    • $200. There was a different company that was only $100 but I chose this one because it said it broke down the maternal and paternal line but that didn’t really show me anything useful but migration patterns. I should have just chosen the cheaper one.

      Like

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