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Getting in touch with my Neanderthal ancestors

September 7, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
In a few months I may know how many of my ancestors were Neanderthals.

I sent in a sample to a California company called 23andme that claims it can, among other things, identify what percentage of your DNA comes from our ancient cousins who lived back in the age of stone knives. Apparently most people with European ancestry have some Neanderthal in them. I've been curious about this company since I first read that scientists have proven that Neanderthals are among our ancestors. At the time, it cost close to $400 to get the test done and I didn't think mere curiosity was worth the price. Now that the price has come down significantly, to $99, I decided to do it. also provides other information about the general area your ancestors came from and various diseases you may be at greater risk to develop. I don't expect many surprises in either area, since I know a fair amount already about my family's medical history and where most of my many times great-grandparents came from. When I get the results, I fully expect northwest Europe to be shaded over on the colorful interactive world map that 23andme provides to show where your ancestors were living 500 years ago.

But there are a few other things (besides the caveman factor) I'm curious to see if 23andme can tell me. The service also claims it can sometimes match customers up with fourth or fifth cousins. It would be fun to see if any distant relatives contact me, especially if they come from the side of the family I don't know as much about. The history of my paternal great-grandfather, the one from Finland, is a bit of a blank and all of my efforts to find out more about where he was born and who his parents were have failed.

One side of my mother's family can be traced back several hundred years. When I looked at the family tree on, I discovered that there is some French and Welsh in the family several generations back that I didn't know about. I had thought they were all English, Scots and Irish. Will any of that turn up in the 23andme results?

And, of course, it would also be kind of neat if there were some other surprises. Was one of my remote ancestors a little bit Asian? My Finnish ancestry has always made me wonder. It would also be neat if there is some Sami somewhere in the bloodline, since I have met so many interesting Sami from Finland during the Norsk Hostfest.

For more about the service, check out


Article Comments



Sep-09-13 4:49 PM

"whose" not "who's" in the entry below.


Sep-09-13 4:48 PM

I don't think anyone's ancestors ought to be considered "less than" anyone else's. I'm sure we all can count some villains and saints as well as ordinary people among our ancestors. Genetic testing services like this one interest me for what they can tell us about disease and the movement and mingling of different population. It's absolutely fascinating that mitochondrial DNA can distinguish someone who's many times great-grandmother lived in central Russia or sub-Saharan Africa or India thousands of years ago. I'm guessing that my particular DNA will show northwest European ancestry, but wouldn't it be fascinating if there is a strand of Asian or African DNA in there too? Some people who use this site do come up with interesting stories like that. One found out his many times great-grandparents were Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings.


Sep-09-13 11:37 AM

They lived long enough to procreate anyway.


Sep-09-13 11:16 AM

Everyone's ancestors lived through every war, famine, plague and civil disputes or we wouldn't be here. We are related to the humans who discovered how to use fire and the wheel too. All this means to me is that we are all from a long line of thrifty, hard working social minded people and nobody should be considered less than the other even in the so called third world countries, their ancestors also survived every event that has happened through all of human time.


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