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African-Americans Can Find Their Roots

Jennifer Friedlin writes in Wired Magazine that it's now possible for African-Americans to use DNA testing to find out exactly where their ancestors came from.

Using a home testing kit, users send a cheek swab to African Ancestry, which sequences a portion of the genetic material and matches it to a database that contains genetic information for about 90 African tribes living in countries that once engaged in slave-trading, such as Senegal, Mali and Nigeria. Rick Kittles, the company's co-founder, says they can match 85-90% of the test users. The tests can also be used to find lost relatives who live in the U.S., and can be useful in tracking down genetic diseases. Kittles discovered his mother's maternal line came from the Hausa people of northern Nigeria, while his father's male line came from Germany.

For Anglos who don't want to be left out, Oxford Ancestors can trace the ancestors of people of European descent to the seven maternal clans that gave rise to all Europeans over the past 150,000 years. Are you a mutt? DNAPrint Genomics can tell you if you're part Asian, Native American, African or European.

Customer Okella Trice learned that her mother's maternal family came from the Hausa people of northern Nigeria while her father's paternal line descended from the Fulani, a nomadic people that roamed western Africa. She says, "I remember hearing stories that the person in my family who was captured and brought to America as a slave was captured when they were out watering their animals. I always wondered where that might have been. Now I know that would have been Lake Chad."

Customer Jacqueline Pitts says, "Most of us were not as fortunate as Alex Haley was to be able to trace our roots." She learned that her mother's maternal line descended from the Bamileke tribe living in Cameroon. "It's a small piece, but it's a big piece," she says. "Here I am, 51 years old and I never, ever uttered the word 'Bamileke.' When I finally said the word, I felt like my ancestors rejoiced. I got a chill."

Did the human race come from the stars? Someday we may be able to ask and get the answer to that question.

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