The Science of Knowing Who We Really Are

More ancestry testing leads people to discover a mixed bag of racial roots.


Cathy Ball, lead geneticist for says differences in results among consumer companies that offer genetic predicting “are all about the algorithms and the underlying reference data used to make the predictions.” That is because the science is so advanced that “there is no true litmus test” that can pinpoint an exact percentage.

Ball adds that while technology has vastly improved over the years, she believes that even more significant advances will be achieved in the not-too-distant-future. There is also a hope that the cost of genetic testing will continue to decrease; today, a basic genealogy test costs about $100. Fifteen years ago, the price was thousands of dollars.

For many such as Withers and Carpenter, today’s costs are money well spent.

“The more we know that we’re not who we think we are, the better off we are,” Carpenter says. “The more we understand that this is one pretty small world in the global scheme of things, the more we’re related, I think that’s fabulous.”

Julie Walker is a New York-based freelance journalist. Follow her on Twitter.