Does this change your mind?
Anyone with a spare $100 to $900 can buy a "DNA ancestry kit." Self-collection of DNA requires only a quick swab of the inside of the mouth to gather cheek cells. Mail that smear back and the company will then compare your DNA to various other samples.
But claims that this analysis will tell you much about where you came from are downright fraudulent, anthropologist Deborah Bolnick of the University of Texas at Austin and 14 co-authors recently reported.
Instead of tracing our genetic past, what we get is a scientific scam.
"It sure looks like science," says anthropologist Jonathan Marks of the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, one of the authors of the study. "Well, it is science. It’s done by scientists, and it’s done on DNA samples. And it produces real data."
But, Marks points out, these companies are preying on the public because they simply don’t have enough comparative information to pinpoint a gene on a world map. They might match your DNA to some group on some continent, but what they don’t tell you is that you would probably also match the group next door if only they had some of those samples as well.
More insidious, these companies pretend to trace your unique ancestry through mitochondrial DNA, but that’s simply not possible. A few hundred years, a few generations, and every person's history is a genetic mishmash. One little gene isn't going to inform anybody about anything.
As Marks puts it, "That’s the beauty of this scam. The companies aren’t scamming you. They’re not giving you fraudulent information. They are giving you data, real data, and allowing you to scam yourself."