As an African-American, Dr. Rick Kittles wanted to know who his ancestors were and their countries of origin. So the geneticist decided to create a database of African lineages.
After working on this database for several years, Kittles, 38, who holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology, joined forces with businesswoman Gina Paige, 38, to start a company that allows African-Americans to confidentially obtain information about their genealogy.
By using DNA technology, the company aids individuals in determining maternal or paternal ancestry. Customers go online (www.africanancestry.com) to order a $349 kit, use swabs to collect their cheek cells and then send their samples to the company via Express Mail. After the DNA is extracted from the swabs and sequenced, Kittles matches the sequence to his database of more than 25,000 African lineages and 389 ethnic groups.
Upon receiving their results, many clients feel they’ve received a priceless gift. "For many of [our clients], there’s a sense of connectedness," says Paige, who adds they have a 95 percent success rate. "There’s a sense of completion because this answers a question people thought they’d never be able to answer in their lifetimes."
African Ancestry has more than 3,000 clients, including celebrities such as actor LeVar Burton, director Spike Lee and Congresswoman Diane Watson. The company earned $300,000 and they expect to increase sales by 50 percent this year.