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African American DNA Research Forum

Tracing ancestry now easier with DNA testing

Tracing ancestry now easier with DNA testing

By Delma J. Francis
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Published July 13, 2006

MINNEAPOLIS -- Emmett Carson is adopted and doesn't know who his biological parents or grandparents are. But thanks to a Christmas gift from his wife, the Edina, Minn., man can trace his ancestry to three tribes in West Africa.

That might not seem like such a big deal to those who know that Great-grandpa came from Ireland or that Great-great-grandma was from Italy. But for blacks like Carson, descended from unknown slaves, there have been no such reassurances of identity -- until now.

DNA testing has moved from forensics to family, with the technology now being used to help blacks find their heritage. DNA is the unique cellular building block, inherited from our parents, that determines our physical characteristics. In the past decade, about a half-dozen testing firms have sprung up in response to a growing interest in genealogy nationwide. Most have limited databases for tracing African roots.

The testing made him "feel connected," said Carson, 46, who is descended from the Mende people of Sierra Leone and the Hausa and Yoruba tribes of Nigeria. "That feeling is magnified when other parts of your history you don't know."

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