‘All That is Mine is with Me’ — the Extraordinary in an ordinary DNA file: Part Two


An AI generated image (Dalle3) enhanced in Adobe Express

This is a continuation of the Part One.

A parent and a twin to yourself’ — said my husband when he saw the results of the three DNA tests that I had taken. At the time, I did not find it funny, I got offended. But little I knew that unsuspecting as his remark was it was absolutely spot on.

In my previous article — Part One — I shared my experience in finding out that the file with my DNA results produced by My Heritage Lab contained information in the Y-DNA fields. At first, I suspected that my file was switched with someone else’s or even that My Heritage did not perform the test correctly. Inquiring from My Heritage did not bring any results as they seemed to be as clueless to what I am talking about as I was to why I have the information in some of the Y-DNA fields in my DNA file.

I went to different FB groups created by different DNA platforms asking their members if they had similar to mine experience. No one had a clue but some even suggested that I should have never opened the DNA file as I had somehow corrupted it by doing so. What a weird idea — I thought. If one cannot even open a DNA file with their own results for which they have paid then what this file is needed for?

In the end, not having moved an inch in my quest for the truth I decided to do a third test with 23andME and compare its results with the two tests that I had already taken — My Heritage (the DNA file that contained Y-DNA information) and Ancestry ones. Just a note, normally regardless of which company performs the DNA test the results should be more or less the same as it is the same person, and not different ones, who takes the test.

Once the results of my third test were ready, I eagerly compared them with the two previous tests but to my utter surprise they yet again were different. And yet again when compared to the two other files the comparison showed parent/child relationship, and a twin to myself outcome. It was rather perplexing. I got really stressed, — ‘what is going on?

Meanwhile, a distant cousin from NYC approached me via email as she happened to come across and read my article — Part One. She wrote that she had forwarded it to a certain Thomas Huggins, a quirky man from the USA, whose interest and hobby is DNA and genealogy. The particular focus of his research and scrutiny is anomalies in DNA results. Thomas read my article, looked at the screenshots that were presented in it, and told me that it appeared that I was a chimera — a person who carries more than one genome. The news was so unexpected that I had to take some time to digest it.

Apparently, chimerism occurs when during a pre-natal phase, fetus acquires cells of his/her mother or his/her twin. In the first case, a chimera carries the genome of her/his mother and in the second — of his/her twin. One of the conditions of acquiring twin’s cells is the death of the twin — either in pre-natal stage or during birth.

In my case, it seems that I have managed to acquire my mother’s cells and also the genome of my unborn twin brother, hence the information contained in some of the Y-DNA fields. The information that perplexed me so much in My Heritage DNA file was related to the bits of my twin bro’s Y-DNA. The discovery was amazing to say the least as this meant that I had all my family contained in myself — my mother (her full ethnic composition) — 23andMe DNA results, my father (the Y-DNA information in my twin bro’s genome), my own — Ancestry DNA results representing both of my parents, and my twin bro My Heritage DNA results (the Y-DNA and some ethnic composition).

Comparison of the three DNA files/results on My Heritage: on the left — 23andME DNA results on My Heritage; on the right — top Ancestry DNA results on My Heritage, and bottom My Heritage DNA results on My Heritage

Having this information at hand I now could compare the three tests from the perspective of the members of the same family rather than three tests of my own which went pear shaped. At first it was difficult to see any patterns or even to comprehend that I have more DNA information than most of people do. But little by little I learnt more about each file and genome, and subsequently about my close family members.

An article written by Thomas Huggins and posted in a private FB group of which I am a member helped me to picture my three genomes in a better way. Thomas suggested to look at it from playing cards perspective. Imagine, he said, that your DNA heritage is like two ‘half decks’ of the ‘full deck’. When shuffled they create a unique mix — e.g. your own ethnic composition and genome. Now imagine, instead of just two ‘half decks’, you also got an extra ‘half deck’ and a separate ‘full deck’. The full ‘deck’ being the genome of my mother, and an extra ‘half deck’ the genome of my twin bro.

When performing DNA tests on my bio material the Labs could not have known which of the ‘decks’ they happened to pick up for the analysis. In the case of My Heritage, they happened to pick my twin bro’s ‘half deck’ hence the Y-DNA information contained in the results. In the case of Ancestry, my own ‘reshuffled deck’ was picked up, containing DNA information of both of my parents, and in the case of 23andME, it was my mother’s ‘full deck’ that happened to be examined and analysed.

At first, Thomas thought that my chimerism came from my mother’s side meaning there is a history of chimerism in her family. But then, we realised that it was not the case, and I was the first one in my maternal line to become a chimera. The realisation came again through comparing the three files and by discovering that I have a hemophilia gene, attributed to so called ‘Royal disease’. Since I have rs398122990 (AA) I am an unaffected carrier, similar to Queen Victoria. This gene, however, was not present in my mother’s genome — 23andMe DNA file, meaning she did not pass it to me with her X chromosome, but my father did. This, in conjunction with other evidence, led Thomas to conclude that I am the starter of chimerism and the first one to have it.

Hemophilia related SNPs
A screenshot of the X chromosome located SNP responsible for hemophilia — rs398122990 (AA), unaffected carrier (the DNA result of Seraphima Bogomolova. My Heritage)

All these discoveries posed a question — why would I need to acquire cells of my mother and some of my twin bro, and have my little family with me at all times?

The answer to this question lies in my past and the circumstances of my birth. While I am still working on parts of that mysterious story, I can say without a doubt that the family I grew up in was not mine for then I would not need to have my own within me. Growing up in a foster family, I, at the same, time carried mine with me. For quite long time, being unaware of my little family, I believed that my foster family was my own. The only thing that nagged me over many years though was a feeling of not belonging. It made me sad and thoughtful. I tried very hard to fit, yet always failed. My foster family did not encourage me either, always remembering to draw the line between them and myself. They were ‘they’, and I was ‘I’.

Now many years later, having done the DNA tests and discovered my family I am convinced that the reason I had to have them with me at all times was that at some point I would be able to find my way back to where I came from — to my own group of people and roots.

To be continued…

Seraphima Bogomolova