America's long-promoted status as the world's cultural mosaic has endured as long as 'land of the free' and 'home of the brave'. In popular parlance, this status speaks to the open-ended opportunities all immigrants have in this country to build better lives for themselves economically and socially. A recent study shows that this nation lives up to its moniker on a genetic level as well.
A genetic ancestry survey has found that many Americans, who currently identify primarily as European in fact carry African ancestry and vice versa. The study was conducted with participation from over 160,000 Americans with backgrounds ranging from African American, Latino, and European descent. Using provided saliva samples for DNA analysis, the study's researchers focused on identifying specific genetic sequence variations known as single-nucleotide polymorphisms or 'SNPs'. Identification of these specific sequences is a common technique employed by most commercial genomics firms already.
Through SNP testing and data mapping, the researchers discovered that over 6 million Americans who claim European heritage also possess African ancestry as well. Furthermore, approximately 5 million European Americans may also contain up to 1% of Native American ancestry too in their genomes. The regional variations in the study's findings stand as byproducts of historical events in the country's past, such as various waves of immigrants settling in the United States and creating new roots for themselves.
On the surface, these blurred lines may not seem incredibly shocking when placed into historical context. However, there remains a common disconnect in most individuals who solely claim their ancestry based on looks alone and rarely consider additional genetic factors may be at play. Ultimately, this study illustrates the growing importance of investigating one's own genealogy given that the answers may be more complex than previously assumed. Companies already offer ancestry testing services on par with the technology this study employed and are helping people throughout the country discover the depth and complexity their heritage entails.
Strength-based analysis, in which an individual's genealogy is not represented by simple percentages but by a gradient showcasing the various mixtures of ethnicity. No matter how large or small they are, every genetic thread that has coalesced over time to give birth to a single person is showcased. The advantage here is, akin to the study's results, people can begin tracing their ancestry over time and connect it to specific places and periods in history. In summation, these kinds of widespread genetic surveys are important in reaffirming the need for investigating personal ancestry and highlighting the tools used to do so, given their low-cost, high-value benefits for the regular consumer.
By Christopher Tisch Submitted On May 13, 2015