While many people decide to explore their genetic ancestry to either learn something fun and new about themselves or find out more about their genetic origins, DNA tests can reveal much more about a person.
For instance, some DNA testing providers match your DNA signature with hundreds of thousands of individuals in their databases and discover your potential relatives among them, identify your genetic predispositions for certain diseases, and determine your carrier status for numerous hereditary conditions.
If you have or suspect Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, DNA testing can truly tell you a lot about yourself. One of the best companies for this journey includes 23andMe, whose services we will now explore to give you a better idea of what you can expect when you perform its DNA tests.
How Can 23andMe Determine My Jewish Ancestry?
23andMe’s Ancestry + Traits service includes 3 features that can recognize your Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, including:
This report utilizes DNA inherited from both sides of your family and provides you with an accurate estimate of your ethnic origins across 1,500 regions of the world. The accuracy of ancestry percentages is 99.9%. Ancestry composition offers the most comprehensive look at your ancestral origins since it examines DNA from most locations in your genome, which includes contributions from your recent ancestors on both sides of the family.
Maternal Haplogroup Report
Your maternal or mitochondrial haplogroup can also offer evidence of potential Jewish ancestry. Mitochondrial DNA is passed down from mothers to their children. Four mitochondrial haplogroups are specific to individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish descent and are very rarely found in non-Ashkenazi Europeans. These groups include N1b, K1a1b1a, K1a9, and K2a2a. If you carry one of these haplogroups, it is highly likely that you have Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry on your mother’s side of the family. That being said, around 50% of all Ashkenazi Jews do not carry any of these haplogroups, so they are not a necessary prerequisite for Jewish ancestry.
Paternal Haplogroup Report
Paternal haplogroup reports contain the examination of your Y-chromosome, which is passed from fathers to sons. Only males have a Y chromosome, so if a female wants to explore her paternal family line, a close paternal relative (father, brother, paternal uncle…) has to be genotyped instead. Like the aforementioned mitochondrial groups, certain paternal haplogroups are much more common among individuals with Ashkenazi Jewish origins. Carrying these paternal lineages is a strong indicator of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry.
Ashkenazi Jewish Ancestry & Health
Genetically, Ashkenazi Jews are rather unique and different from other European populations. Even though most individuals of Ashkenazi descent can trace their ancestral roots to Central and Eastern Europe, many of them also have Middle-Eastern ancestry.
Genetic isolation is an important factor as well since it makes Ashkenazi Jews appear more genetically related than they really are and has effects on the health of their offspring. This results in higher susceptibility to certain genetic diseases and conditions, including single-gene recessive Mendelian disorders like Tay-Sachs, Canavan disease or Gaucher disease as well as multi-gene conditions like Chron’s disease. Higher chances of developing one of these conditions have made DNA screening for relevant genetic variants an absolute must for Jewish individuals looking to start a family.
23andMe Health + Ancestry Service includes more than 150 personalized reports (some of them FDA-approved), including 40+ carrier reports. When it comes to diseases relevant for people with Ashkenazi Jewish origins, 23andMe offers carrier analyses for Blood Syndrome, Canavan Disease, Congenital Disorder of Glycosylation Type 1a (PMM2-CDG), Cystic Fibrosis, Dihydrolipoamide Dehydrogenase Deficiency, Familial Dysautonomia, Familial Hyperinsulinism (ABCC8-Related), Fanconi Anemia Group C, Gaucher Disease Type 1, Glycogen Storage Disease Type 1a, Hereditary Fructose Intolerance, MCAD Deficiency, Maple Syrup Urine Disease Type 1B, Mucolipidosis Type IV, Niemann-Pick Disease Type A, Nonsyndromic Hearing Loss & Deafness, DFNB1 (GJB2-Related), Tay-Sachs Disease, Usher Syndrome Type 1F, and Usher Syndrome Type 3A.