Around the World in 46 Chromosomes

I expected to discover myself in my DNA test. But I found us all. /

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him…” Acts 17:26–27

My heart beat rapidly with excitement when I received the email proclaiming that my DNA results had been analyzed. But nothing could prepare me for the surprise I experienced when I clicked the link that would take me to my results.

Colored circles lit up the world map showing me where my ancestors had ancient origins. Not surprisingly, a large blue circle highlighted East Asia—my mother was born in Korea and adopted as a child by a family in Missouri. What caught me off guard was the circle around West Africa.

According to my results, 20 percent of my DNA originated in what is today Nigeria, while another nearly 18 percent came from other parts of Africa.

Growing up, my assumptions were all wrong, according to this, and my emotions swirled around trying to make sense of it. Yet I was also grateful: This knowledge about my own life would not be possible if it weren’t for recent advances in DNA testing.

In the last few years, as scientists have developed a way to easily compare large datasets of DNA, curious people have begun taking advantage of affordable autosomal DNA tests, which focus on autosomes—the 22 pairs of chromosomes that do not determine sex. I jumped in. I’m a second-generation adoptee, so my quest is to learn more about both sides of my family.

My adoption records say that my mother, who was 20 years old when I was born, did not know who my father was. Out of three potential biological fathers, one was Mexican ...

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Also in this Issue

Issue 42 / February 18, 2016
  1. Editor's Note from February 18, 2016

    Issue 42: A surprise DNA test, an unexpected power plant, and a breakthrough chirp. /

  2. Why Solar Power Might Get a Lot More Green

    It turns out that Popeye was right all along. /

  3. Music of the Spheres

    When scientists detected gravitational waves, “astronomy grew ears.” /

  4. Little Blessing for My Floater

    “This tiny ruin in my eye” /

  5. Wonder on the Web

    Issue 42: Links to amazing stuff.

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