Harvard’s Henry Louis Gates Jr. Launches a New Venture Tracing African Americans’ Roots Through DNA Testing

Henry Louis Gates Jr., Fletcher University Professor and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard University, has launched AfricanDNA.com. The new company offers two tests, one for mitochondrial DNA, which is passed on from one’s mother. A second, paternal test, which can be analyzed for men only, traces inherited Y chromosomes.

Customers can order DNA testing kits online for $189 each. After returning a sample of their DNA to the company, they will then receive a report tracing their family tree. Professor Gates estimates that 30 percent of the African-American male population has a white male ancestor.

In addition, the testing will typically give the customer a general geographic location of their African ancestors. At times the DNA results will show multiple matches from different areas. A panel of experts will then examine the results and give their educated opinion on a person’s probable ancestry.