Published On: Mon, Jan 13th, 2020

DNA-Testing Apps: You, Your Ancestry and Much More

2020 will be a big year in the United States, with everything from the return of human spaceflight to a presidential election that is sure to be anything but unforgettable. But it’s also the year of the Census, something that has also become political in recent times. 

Nevertheless, the Census will tell us more about the type of country we have become, and the direction in which it is going. It’s about more than race, ethnicity and gender, of course: The data tells us where money and resources should be allocated; it prompts us to ask questions about why people leave a state and move to another; and, it tells us if we are getting older or younger as a country. 

The Census, which will be recorded as produced on April 1st  2020, ten years after the last, basically gives us an answer to the question, “Who are we as a nation?”. But, commercially, there has been a rush to get answers to the question of the identity of the individual. 

Genealogy has gone from social to health-orientated

This can best be seen in the considerable rise in DNA-testing applications, or more aptly, commercial genealogy companies. You will know them from their main selling point, providing ways to discover long-lost relatives, but as the technology gets more sophisticated, people are increasingly using the services to learn more about themselves. 

For instance, there are companies like Vitagene and Nutrisystem that look beyond the idea of testing DNA to view your past, looking instead at your genetic make-up to determine how you can best determine your future. Your genes, according to their studies, can determine, for example, what sort of diet is best for you, based on factors like your metabolism. 

Beyond diet, there is also a lot they can tell you about your current health, as well as what might happen in the future. This is made possible by the gene research that has allowed experts to pinpoint genealogical traits – some hereditary, some not – that can lead to a propensity towards certain diseases. Much of this can be said to have revitalised the commercial genealogy industry because finding out about their past can now mean more to people than the social charting of a family tree.

Census expected to show 8% population growth

Then again, there is still something incredibly alluring about learning exactly where we came from, and that ‘social side’ of the DNA-testing is still arguably the biggest draw. These tests tend to have a global focus, allowing us to map our root down many generations. In a state like Florida, where only 36% (figures are from 2012) of residents were born in the state, and 23% of its residents were born outside the continental United States, this sort of information could be particularly meaningful. 

Is it worth exploring your DNA? It depends on the individual. There are tangible benefits, of course, in learning about how specific genes you carry can dictate certain health traits, and most people would be keen to find out if some hereditary diseases were common among recent ancestors. But learning about where you came from is a more philosophical journey. When the new Census data is released, it is expected to show over 333 million people living in the United States. Genealogy tests can help you understand your place among all those people. 

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