Thursday, November 15, 2007

Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Joins Forces with Family Tree DNA to Launch

Innovative Partnership Offers African Americans Unprecedented Choices in Search for Roots

BOSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE), the first company dedicated to offering both genetic testing and genealogical tracing services for African Americans, is being launched this month by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University, in partnership with the Inkwell Foundation and Family Tree DNA, the world’s leader in genetic genealogy. The precedent-setting site is the only company in the field of genetic genealogy that will provide African Americans with family tree research in addition to DNA testing.

Gates, a celebrated author, educator and social critic, is a strong advocate of the value and benefits of genetic genealogy for African Americans. Noting that the process is still in its infancy, he says: “Most people don't realize it, but their roots are on the tips of their tongues. The available DNA data are not by any means complete, and these tests will not yield the names of any of the individuals on our distant family trees—just the general geographic areas in which our ancestors lived. Sometimes the tests yield multiple exact tribal matches, making it necessary for historians to interpret the most plausible result.” is the only company that offers the service of scholars interpreting multiple matches when compared to the database. A board of historical consultants will include Dr. Fatimah Jackson, Professor, Applied Biological Anthropology, University of Maryland; Dr. Linda Heywood and Dr. John Thornton, both African historians at Boston University; Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Professor of History and of African and African American Studies (Chair) at Harvard University; and Dr. David Eltis, director of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database at Emory University.

Gates comments that “sometimes African Americans will discover that their DNA can be traced to a white ancestor, especially on the father’s side, because of slavery. About 30 percent of the African American male population has a white male ancestor.” offers two premium tests. The Maternal Test (Female-mtDNA) is a high-resolution mtDNA test that looks at the mitochondria received by both men and women from their mothers. The Paternal Test, exclusively for males, is a Y-DNA test that details the inherited Y-chromosome. Both tests’ results will include placement in the ancestral tree of humankind. Tests will be processed at the Genomic Analysis and Technology Core laboratory at the University of Arizona, headed by Dr. Michael Hammer. The renowned geneticist has been associated with Family Tree DNA since the company’s inception. Both Family Tree DNA and the University of Arizona lab are respected for their commitment to stringent scientific standards and privacy guidelines.

Singular in the world of genealogy and genetics is’s Genealogy Package. This unique product offers documented genealogical tracing of lineage as far back as records permit. Although former slaves, freed at the time of the Civil War, first appeared in the Federal census in 1870, many other records of African Americans under slavery still exist. Genealogists even discovered that Gates’ 4th great-grandfather—a Free Negro named John Redman—fought in the American Revolution, leading to Gates’ induction into the SAR (Sons of the American Revolution). DNA test takers who opt for the Genealogy Package will receive a customized family tree prepared by the genealogy services group.

Genetic results of AfricanDNA customers will be compared with the database of Family Tree DNA, the most extensive comparative database of DNA test results in the world, including African results provided by leading anthropologists worldwide. These comparisons will point many AfricanDNA clients toward their African origins. A percentage of all profits will be donated to the Inkwell Foundation, dedicated to reforming the teaching of science and history in inner city schools using genetic and genealogical ancestry tracing.

Long interested in genealogical research and DNA testing, Gates is the author of
Finding Oprah’s Roots, Finding Your Own (Crown, 2007) and the forthcoming In Search of Our Roots: How 19 Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Past, to be published next spring (Crown, 2008). He is also the host and executive producer of the critically acclaimed 2006 PBS series “African American Lives” and its follow-up, “Oprah’s Roots.” “African American Lives 2” will be broadcast on PBS in February, 2008 in conjunction with Black History Month.

Professor Gates is Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford African American Studies Center, the first comprehensive scholarly online resource in the field of African American and African Studies. Gates, an influential cultural critic, has written for Time Magazine, The New Yorker and the New York Times. The recipient of 48 honorary degrees and a 1981 MacArthur Foundation “Genius Award,” Henry Louis Gates, Jr. received a National Humanities Medal in 1998, and in 1999 was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Family Tree DNA, founded in April 2000, was the first company to develop the commercial application of DNA testing for genealogical purposes, which, until then, had only been available for academic and scientific research. Today, Family Tree DNA’s database exceeds 165,000 individual test records (roughly 110,000 Y-DNA and 55,000 mtDNA tests), making it the prime source for researching recent and distant family ties. Additionally, Family Tree DNA administers over 4400 surname projects, comprising some 65,000 unique surnames.

Press Release