Unraveling my DNA

genetic testing unearths more than ancestry


graphic by Victoria Van

Story by Victoria Van, editor in chief

A question that always plagues me concerning strangers is: Where did you come from? From a first glance, I’m Asian. Yet, I always respond with a straightforward answer: I’m from Texas. It’s where I was born and have grown up in my whole life as I identify as an Asian-American. It’s simple yet the guise people utilized by asking where I come from garners another question: No, where are you really from? It’s essentially a euphemism for: Tell me your race and what country you came from because I’m dazzlingly curious. I don’t mind revealing that small part of myself as long as it’s out of sheer curiosity and not a borderline ignorant questioning.

I’ve never been overly concerned with where I came from because my sense of traditional Asian heritage has been supported by my mother. I never saw myself as different from any other person in the world until I was exposed to an environment where I’d be the odd one in a group of unfamiliar people that knew nothing about me. To add on, I learned how to speak Spanish at a young age so it further confuses people when they’re in the midst of trying to figure out who I am.

Often, people think I’m Asian but they never guess Vietnamese due to the fact that I don’t look like the ideal version of my race. I’ve been identified as Caribbean, Chinese, Japanese, among other races and these assumptions arose in my mind constantly. I soon wore down my own curiosities and decided to venture out to discover what I’m genetically made up of instead of relying on other people’s assumptions.

I am now able to let go of all of the preconceived notions that people assume about my race and move on with the more important matters in life.”

— Victoria Van

23andMe is a genetic testing service that provides people with information containing that genotypes your DNA and lets you know your ancestry, how many generations ago your most recent ancestor for each population in a timeline, amongst other characteristics such as inherited traits, who your maternal haplogroup is, etc. I used this service in order to unearth mysteries about myself that have been hidden in my genetics.                     

I witnessed the breakdown of my genes that were traced to my maternal haplogroup which is B5a1. Many would glaze over this since it doesn’t specifically pinpoint who it is yet knowing how families of lineages that come from one common ancestor is fascinating because of how close knit my ancestry is linked.

My ancestry composition revealed that I’m over 80% Southeastern Asian which isn’t surprising since my father is full-blooded and my mother is Asian as well. On the other hand, my mother is mixed with Mexican and the second highest percentage of my composition is 13.7% European, more specifically Iberian which is where my Mexican heritage appears since many Iberians conquered areas in Mexico. All of this information somewhat verified my curiosities. It was neat to find out that somewhere in my lineage contained traces of Ashkenazi Jewish, Mongolian and Scandinavian.

Hopefully now that I’ve gained closure by acquiring the knowledge 23andMe has offered, I am now able to let go of all of the preconceived notions that people assume about my race and move on with the more important matters in life. I’ve ultimately learned that my ancestry is comprised of so much more than what I thought.

I’m still maturing and growing as an individual and at the end of the day, I need to take the ancestry as a grain of salt. Even though I’ve confirmed my genetics, I am not going to let that information dominate the characteristics that I’m continuing to forge as I manifest my individuality.