Insight News

Feb 06th

DNA: The truth of our identities

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african ancestry-20140405 153207Callie Riser and Norma Miller were among the hundreds of Twin Cities residents engaged in a two-day event on African-American genealogy at the beginning of last month at downtown Minneapolis Central Library.

For Riser, a community organizer and elder, it was a day to affirm the mushrooming interest in Black Americans in reconnecting to ancestral families, tribes and nations of Africa. Riser led the steering committee, which created the Minnesota African American Historical and Genealogy Society.

The conference featured a presentation by Gina Paige, president of African Ancestry, a firm that uses DNA analysis to connect people with their ancestral roots.

Miller, who earlier had purchased the African Ancestry DNA test, got her results during the event. She is Yoruba and Fulani, the test revealed.

Paige says African Ancestry transforms the way that people of African descent view themselves and Africa.

"Identity is a constantly evolving narrative of self. At any given time, we look at ourselves through various identity lenses including religious, ethnic, political, educational, relationship and family," said Paige. "Family is one of the first constructs in which we form our identity. If we don't know our family, then there is a huge void in our knowledge of self. If we don't know who our great-grandparents are and where they lived here in the Americas, then we certainly don't know where in Africa they came from."

Paige said that in general, human migration patterns were from East Africa to the Middle East to Europe and Australia, and to Asia and the Americas.

"Our migration to the Americas and the Caribbean was a different migration pattern. During the Transatlantic Slave Trade, we lost our names, our languages, our religions; our families were torn apart and millions of us lost our lives," said Paige.

But African-Americans did not lose their DNA. DNA analysis works along either the mother's lineage or the father's lineage. Ancestry African Ancestry uses mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) to determine maternal ancestry. Both men and women inherit mtDNA from the mother.

Paige said the African Ancestry MatriClan Test looks strictly at DNA that is maternally inherited. Therefore, that analysis is not influenced by any of the men anywhere in a family tree.

Both men and women can trace maternal ancestry. Maternal ancestry is shared by all the descendants of a woman on the mother's mother's mother's line.

"Our MatriClan Test results tell you the ancestry of this one line of your family tree," said Paige.

African Ancestry uses the Y chromosome to determine paternal ancestry by identifying in men and women the Y chromosome from the father.

Paige said The African Ancestry PatriClan Test looks strictly at DNA that is paternally inherited; resulting in an analysis is not influenced by any of the women anywhere in a family tree. Only men can trace paternal ancestry. Women need a male relative to take the test for them.

Paige said African Ancestry's exclusive African Lineage Database is the largest, most comprehensive database of African lineages in the world.

"Dr. (Rick) Kittles (co-founder of African Ancestry) spent over 10 years collaborating with researchers on the continent, collecting samples himself, and incorporating data that is in the public domain," said Paige. "He decided which populations to sample under the direction of historians and anthropologists to make sure that he targeted populations that contributed to the Transatlantic Slave Trade. That is why you see the density of samples from west and central Africa."

The company's African Lineage Database has data from more than 30 present-day countries and over 400 populations. "Our extensive database allows us to determine African ancestry better than any other organization," said Paige.

"We find African results for 92 percent of the maternal lineages we trace; 6 percent are European or Middle Eastern and 2 percent are Native-American," she said. "We find African results for 65 percent of the paternal lineages we trace; 34 percent are European; one percent are other."

Some people take issue with the price of African Ancestry Test Kits, but Paige compared the cost of the DNA test to some popular items that many families consume. She said African-Americans comfortably purchase a Coach purse for $328, and spend $499 for the iPad Air and $170 for a pair of Chris Paul Air Jordan basketball shoes, so people should not fret the $375 fee for discovering their roots, lineage and ancestry.

Paige stressed the fact that African Ancestry is African-American owned and is co-founded by a world-renowned African-American geneticist who is an expert in African lineages.

Founded in 2003 by Dr. Rick Kittles and Gina Paige, African Ancestry, Inc.
( is the pioneer and world leader of tracing maternal and paternal lineages for people of African descent. Having helped more than 150,000 people reconnect with the roots of their family tree, helps Black people transform the way people view themselves and the way they view Africa.

African Ancestry boasts the industry's largest and most comprehensive database of more than 30,000 indigenous African DNA samples. With that broad and expansive database, is able to determine specific countries and – more often than not –specific ethnic groups of origin with an unrivaled level of detail, accuracy and confidence.

African Ancestry's business is providing a unique service to the African-American community that can improve the cultural, emotional, physical, spiritual and economic well-being of people across the African Diaspora.

ginapaigeGina Paige
President, African Ancestry, Inc.
Country of origin: Nigeria
Gina Paige, co-founder and president of African Ancestry, Inc., traces her own roots to Nigeria. Prior to creating African Ancestry, Paige was the founder and president of GPG Strategic Resources, a boutique consulting firm based in New York specializing in strategy development, new product development and project management. With her signature entrepreneurial approach, some of the nation's leading blue-chip companies benefited from her leadership and management skills for improved profitability. Sara Lee and Colgate-Palmolive are among the Fortune 200 companies she has served.

Paige resides in Washington, D.C. and holds a degree in economics from Stanford University and an MBA from the University of Michigan, Ross School Of Business.

drkickkittlesDr. Rick Kittles
Scientific Director, African Ancestry, Inc.
Country of origin: Senegal and Nigeria
Dr. Rick Kittles, Ph.D., associate professor at University of Chicago Department of Medicine, is African Ancestry's co-founder and scientific director.

A leading geneticist, Kittles received a Ph.D. in biological sciences from George Washington University in 1998. He is well known for his research on prostate cancer and health disparities among African-Americans. He has also been at the forefront of the development of ancestry-informative genetic markers, and the use of genetic ancestry to map genes for common traits and disease.

Currently, Kittles is an associate professor of Medicine and Epidemiology and Biostatistics, associate director of the Cancer Center, and director of the Institute of Human Genetics at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Dr. Kittles was named in Ebony magazine's "The Ebony Power 100." Ebony selected the nation's top 100 African-American "power players" in sports, academia, religion, business, environment, science & tech, entertainment, arts and letters, fashion, politics, media, activism and health.

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