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"It gave me a whole different model of myself." Nick Donofrio, executive VP of innovation and technology at IBM, which is partnering with National Geographic on the Genographic Project, is a proud Italian.
He was stunned when his Y test came back saying he was a member of haplogroup J2, meaning his ancestors had lived in the Middle East some 10,000 to 20,000 years ago.
Tens of thousands of Americans have swabbed their cheeks and mailed in their DNA to companies nationwide for testing.
Far-flung cousins are finding each other; family legends are being overturned.
Brian Hamman had always wondered: what was up with his great-grandfather Lester? For Debra Anne Royer, DNA unlocked a deeper mystery.
Hamman, an avid genealogist, could trace his patrilineal line back to 19th-century rural Indiana, but there was a glitch in the family records. Three years ago DNA tests confirmed the lineage and a simple family mystery was solved: Lester's parents had hooked up before they walked down the aisle on July 25, 1898. Adopted at birth, Royer knew nothing about her biological parents.
Great-Grandpa Lester, the documents showed, was born before his parents were married. But certain physical traits--wide nose, dark skin--led people to guess that she was Iranian or even Cambodian. Two hundred dollars and a swab of her cheek gave her an answer: Royer's maternal ancestors were most likely Native American.
But that tiny 0.1 percent difference holds clues to our ancestries, the roots of all human migration and even our propensity for disease.
Last month one group of scientists found that 40 percent of the world's Ashkenazi Jews descend from just four women; another reported that one in five males in northwest Ireland may be a descendant of a legendary fifth-century warlord.