Freckles & Cilantro: Reviewing AncestryDNA Traits

Ever wondered where your freckles came from? Or why you hate cilantro? The likelihood that an individual exhibits a certain phenotype is based, in part, on the presence or absence of markers in their genotype that are associated with specific traits. A few weeks ago, AncestryDNA unveiled a new feature–AncestryDNA Traits–that provides customers with insights into their “Appearance Traits” (including finger length, hair color and iris patterns) and “Sensory Traits” (including cilantro aversion, sweet sensitivity and bitter sensitivity). For $9.99, customers receive a “Traits Report” and can invite their DNA matches to compare their own reports, as well.


I think it’s fair to say that genetic genealogy and DNA testing is revolutionizing the way we, as genealogists, conduct family history research. And it’s fun, too: we all love to share our “Ethnicity Estimates,” and I had to check out AncestryDNA’s “Your Heritage Playlist,” no matter that it’s a silly marketing tool. The real value of a DNA test, though, is in the cousin matches, as well as in the potential to discover long-lost ancestors or to solve adoption mysteries. AncestryDNA Traits, it seems to me, is another marketing ploy, one designed to “keep up” with 23andMe’s genetic health, ancestry and traits reports. But did I fall for it? Of course; I need more ideas for the blog!

According to my traits report, I likely have a “cleft chin,” a small indentation in the chin that forms when the two sides of the lower jaw don’t completely fuse together. I apparently have the DNA for red hair–my father has the DNA for blonde hair–and “could pass on red hair” if I have children. I probably have dark eyes and a few freckles, I like the taste of cilantro, I’m sensitive to sweets (I mean, who isn’t?) and I’m extra sensitive to certain bitter tastes. That’s a lot of information, and there’s a few more details in the report that I haven’t mentioned, as well.


Is it right? The presence or absence of certain genetic markers aren’t the only factor in an individual’s phenotype; the individual’s environment maintains a role, too. Setting aside that the traits and their explanations, like a good Buzzfeed personality quiz, are incredibly vague, my “Traits Report” is somewhat accurate. I do have a small dimple in my chin that most people don’t notice; I had curly red hair until the age of four, when my hair turned light brown and straight; and my face is covered in tiny freckles. I have dark brown eyes, I love sugar and I don’t dislike cilantro, which is as close as I can get to liking it. If a hatred of ginger counts as being “extra sensitive to certain bitter tastes,” then that’s probably right, too.

An attempt at taking graduation photos (don’t ask, ha!)

My thoughts? If you’re an AncestryDNA customer like me and you haven’t taken a 23andMe test (yet!), reviewing your “Traits Report” is a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The report lacks the health and wellness component that 23andMe advertises and is known for, and for me, that component seems more helpful than reading about my freckles or my lack of aversion to cilantro. This isn’t to say that I’m not glad I went with AncestryDNA as my first DNA test: I value the cousin matches for their addition to my family history research, and AncestryDNA does have the largest pool of customers on the market at present. But is the “Traits Report” worth an extra $9.99? Maybe not. 

19 thoughts on “Freckles & Cilantro: Reviewing AncestryDNA Traits

  1. I just sent in my DNA to yesterday so I’m just getting started. However, I began my online research using a free site for now (amazing research results after three days of work).

    Thanks for the feedback about the Traits Report. I’m taking it one step at a time for now before I commit to spending any more money. Your blog is immensely helpful.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love AncestryDNA’s reports (I’m not sponsored in any way, I just happened to choose them), so I think that’s a great first start! And there really is so much out there to find for free–in my experience, you don’t need to have a subscription to some of the big companies, you just have to be persistent in your search (and able to travel if necessary).

      Glad I could help! That’s always great to hear. Best of luck with your search–you’ve got this!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “Freckles & Cilantro” is such an odd juxtaposition of words the title for this blog post is irresistible! As an indication of how much our world has changed in the last fifty-odd years, I learned who I inherited my eyes from while eating lunch in the dining room of my grandmother’s cottage in Cape Elizabeth overlooking sea. Out of the blue, she looked at me and said, “You have the Moore eyes. They change color depending on the light and your mood.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, that’s what I was going for!

      And that story had made me smile–I love it! I always got, “You look like your father. Probably like his father and his father, too.” A wave of the hand, and mom would move on to the next thing. It’s true, though!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Chuckle!! Along the same lines as “you like your father,” the most dismissive identification of an old family photo I ever heard was, “Hmph, looks like a Brown. Must be somebody’s uncle.” (The person who made the remark was related to the Browns by marriage, not by blood.)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Haha, my grandparents will say something along the same lines when they go through old family photos. This person “looks like a Gates,” that’s “definitely the Zielinski nose”–somebody’s uncle, for sure!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! All of it seems to fit me, for the most part, but it’s just so vague–the “Sensory Traits,” in particular, could fit ANYONE. It’s in Beta though, so I’m sure the report will continue to improve over time! Maybe reconsider in a few months, but skip it for now!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I did the 23&me full package with the health + ancestry and I STILL ended up buying this one, too. What can I say, I’m a sucker for information. 😛 its a good deal if you want a little more insight without buying the entire health package that 23&me offers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t think about that, but you make a great point! 23&Me is definitely next on my list–I’ve read through all of their material, and the information their tests provide is incredible. But that price! I’m saving up–fingers crossed I can purchase a kit soon.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hear ya, the price is pretty steep. I waited until it went on sale, but even then it wasn’t cheap. I justified it to myself that it would be worth it in the end, which I do think it ultimately was. I recommend it especially if you are considering having kids as it will tell you your carrier status on 43 different disorders/diseases. I didn’t come up as a carrier for any of these, but if I had it would have been good to know so that my husband could have been tested, too, to see if he was also a carrier. Same goes for the genetic health risks. I came up with variants detected for 4 health issues, meaning I’m slightly at risk for developing them. 23&Me makes it a point to state, in so many words, that “this does not mean freak out!” but it is useful information to be aware of and to be able to pass on to your doctor to keep in mind for screenings or if any related symptoms start popping up down the line.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for “taking one for the team” and trying it out! It is tempting, but then I figure I don’t need a DNA test to tell me I have the trait for freckles (I can see them on my face) or that I love sugar and hate cilantro!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.