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African American DNA Research Forum

How African Are You?

How African Are You?
What genealogical testing can't tell you.
By John Hawks
Posted Tuesday, March 14, 2006, at 1:24 PM ET

Recently on PBS's "African American Lives," host Henry Louis Gates had his DNA tested to learn about his ancestry. Gates' family suspected its paternal ancestry could be traced to a white slave owner. But DNA testing showed that his Y chromosome did not match the man's white descendants. A second, newer test gave Gates another result he didn't expect: His DNA showed that only half of Gates' ancestry was African. The rest were apparently European.

DNA testing for genealogy has become increasingly popular, as a Newsweek cover story in February attests. Especially attention-getting have been efforts to trace genetic relationships along the male lineage. In January the New York Times wrote up attempts to trace Irish genealogy through the male line to Niall of the Nine Hostages, a fifth-century Irish warlord. Other tests have also shown that as many as 14 million men may share the Y chromosome of Genghis Khan. But tests that seek a single, Y-chromosome male lineage are limited: They leave out the vast majority of ancestors. Newer tests can survey all the DNA that can be inherited from either parent, but at a cost of precision: They don't tell

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How African Are You?

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