The United States is a country of immigrants and we all have a longing to know where we come from. You frequently hear Americans, even if they’re born in the USA, talking about being “Irish American,” “Latin American,” or “Italian American” as a way of connecting to where their ancestors once came from.
As for me, I’d never really had a clue about my roots. As far as my family could recollect, we’d been in the US for a really long time. All of my grandparents have passed away, so I sort of ran out of options for learning more about where I came from. So, when 23andMe approached me, I couldn’t wait to try it and see what I could learn about my heritage.
Here’s my experience discovering my ancestry with 23andMe!
Tracing my Ancestry
While my last living grandpa was still alive, I wanted to make sure that I took the opportunity to talk with him to learn more about what he knew of our family. To my surprise, he didn’t know much. He knew his dad was born in the USA, and that his parents’ parents were also born in the USA. But, he couldn’t tell me much more beyond that.
So, that same year, I spent months retracing our family tree, filling in missing data and researching everything I could find that told me a little bit more about my ancestors. I was actually able to trace my family tree back 7 generations (I even connected with a long lost second cousin) and I got to share all that exciting information with my grandpa before he died.
But, even with gathering information on my lineage for the past 7 generations, I still found my family in the USA. I literally retraced my ancestors to the Revolutionary War. How could anyone be SO American?? I guess I can! However, this was a single branch in a very complicated tree. Because I only traced my paternal grandfather’s genealogy (my last name), there were still a lot of missing pieces I couldn’t put together without DNA testing.
How 23andMe Works
After getting a more intimate understanding of my family tree, I was excited to take things to the next level. I’d heard a lot about 23andMe, and I decided to finally try it out.
23andMe actually offers two services you can choose from: Ancestry Service or Health + Ancestry Service. If you have never used a service like this, it all starts with a saliva collection kit.
After you receive your saliva collection kit in the mail, the process is easy! You simply follow the instructions, provide your saliva sample, and return it in the pre-paid package provided. After six to eight weeks, detailed reports are provided to you in your secure online account.
The 23andMe Health + Ancestry Service provides insights on health, traits, wellness, ancestry and more. They analyze and compile your results into 90+ reports you can access online and share with your family!
The 23andMe Ancestry Service helps you understand your DNA breakdown across 150+ regions worldwide so you can see where your ancestors lived. They provide reports on your Ancestry Composition, Maternal & Paternal Haplogroups, Neanderthal Ancestry, and provide a DNA Relatives tool that you can opt into so you can connect with relatives who share similar DNA.
My 23andMe Results
When you get your 23andMe reports back, you receive quite a bit of information. It’s very comprehensive and they explain what your results mean. I was excited to get to see my ancestry composition. According to my 23andMe Ancestry Composition report, I am:
- 99.4% European
- 0.4% Western Asian & North African
- 0.1% Unassigned (so mysterious!)
From that 99.4% European, they break it down into the regions that your ancestry would have most likely descended from. Of course, like so many Americans, my family has come from a range of different regions. The majority of my heritage (31.1%) is French and German, with the next largest percentage (20.3%) being British and Irish Ancestry.
I love the little history facts included in the report!
One of the most interesting aspects of the 23andMe service is the Neanderthal Ancestry report. I got a kick out of seeing that I have more Neanderthal variants than 68% of 23andMe customers! According to 23andMe, your Neanderthal Ancestry accounts for less than 4% of your overall DNA.
Why I Decided to Explore France
I haven’t spent a significant amount of time exploring France. After seeing that French and German made up the highest percent of my European roots, I was looking forward to getting better acquainted with the place, and seeing more of the highlights of the beautiful country.
So, I packed my bags and, in less than a month, boarded a plane for a solo trip through France!
Of course, I started with a tour of Paris. The City of Lights is one of the most beautiful places in the world. From the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre to the delicious Parisian food and underground nightclubs, two days barely gave me enough time to scratch the surface.
My next stop was Saint-Émilion and Bordeaux—just a short train ride from Paris. I couldn’t wait to see this famous French wine region, and I was blown away by its beauty. I spent a couple of days there and got the chance to stay in one of the gorgeous old chateaus dotting the Saint-Émilion countryside, Le Pavillon Villemaurine.
Next on my list was the region of Provence, situated on southeastern France and bordering Italy and the Mediterranean Sea! It was supposed to be amongst the most impressive areas in the country, and it exceeded all my expectations. I rented a car to be able to visit more of the Luberon region—a region full of vineyards, orchards, hilltop villages—and drove through the beautiful towns of Gordes, Roussillon, Saint- Rémy-de-Provence, and more.
Unfortunately, it was too late in the year to see their famed lavender and flower fields. But, nevertheless, the region was full of stunning landscapes.
Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Provence
For my last couple of days in France, I headed down to the Côte d’Azur, the French Riviera. Iconic spots like Marseille, Cassis, Nice, and Menton offer stunning coastlines and true French charm. I spent two days making my way down the coast by train and lapping up the beautiful weather.
When I started traveling back in 2011, most of my trips were solo. It’s actually been a few years since I’ve taken a proper trip with me, myself and I. The entire trip was a whirlwind of hot summer sun, winding cobblestone streets and cute French cafés.
I’m so glad I took the 23andMe Health + Ancestry service and learned about my ancestry because, while I can’t re-write the pages of my personal family history, being in France made me feel like I helped bring some of my family back from the forgotten. It’s a bit crazy to think that in just a few generations, our lives might be a distant memory, but I feel more connected to my heritage than ever.
This post was written in sponsorship with 23andMe. As always, thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely my own.