You’ve probably seen the ads for companies offering DNA tests to track your family history back hundreds of years. But can a simple saliva test really determine your ethnic background and match you to family members you didn’t know you had?
AncestryDNA approached McLaughlin on Your Side to try out its product, which promises to give you insight into your bloodline, ethnicity and family tree. And it turns out we had the perfect candidate for our test: the mother-in-law of CTV's Christina Heydanus.
Gayle Lawrenson's mother was adopted and she knew little about her past, other than she was born at Victoria General Hospital in 1929.
"My grandparents got a little uncomfortable with her digging, I guess, for the information so that's where she stopped," explained Lawrenson. “You're too busy when you're young to think about these things, but as I get older I kind of have a little bit more of an interest to look back,"
Lawrenson followed the instructions on the AncestryDNA kit, which costs $129, and took a saliva sample, which was shipped off for testing.
Weeks later, we sat down with Ancestry.ca to get Lawreson’s results.
"You’re definitely in the United Kingdom realm and you have a first cousin match which is amazing," said Lesley Anderson, Ancestry.ca family historian. “You also have six second cousin matches which means that you share a great grandparent and you have six different people sharing that DNA with you."
“That is really exciting to hear because I didn't expect to hear that there might be some relatives," said Lawrenson.
Her DNA showed her ethnicity in Europe West, Ireland, Great Britain and Scandinavia. Lawrenson knew her father’s side was German, but was intrigued by the British connection.
We then logged on to the Ancestry.ca website to look more closely at Lawrenson’s family tree.
She recognized some of the names connected to the first cousin, on her father’s side, but she also has 191 other connections to research.
“This is a very good opportunity to delve into it deeper,” she said. “Now that you know this much you want to pursue it. Maybe get in touch, to find out if there are any relatives on my mother’s side.”
Ancestry.ca says it has four million user samples in its database, which is one of the most extensive worldwide, used to make the connections and show migrations.
While the database is helpful to those looking to connect with distant relatives, companies like Ancestry have come under fire recently over privacy issues. So what happens to the samples and your information once you’ve sent them in?
Ancestry.ca says you can take your information offline at any time, and the information is stored in a secured database. The lab processing your DNA also doesn’t have access to your name, address or other contact information. However, if the company is sold your information is one of the transferred assets.