Aug 7, 2023

A Landmark Study Opens a New Possible Way for Black Americans to Trace Their Ancestry

Researchers have connected the DNA from enslaved individuals buried in a Maryland village to nearly 42,000 present-day descendants.

In 1979, workers expanding a Maryland highway came across a forgotten cemetery containing the bodies of enslaved people from the 1800s. They lived in what is known as Catoctin Furnace, a former ironworking village. About 30 bodies were exhumed and sent to the Smithsonian Institution for safekeeping. Now a partnership between the Smithsonian, Harvard University, a local historical society and the biotech company 23andMe is using the DNA from those bodies to connect them to possible relatives in the present day. Eadaoin Harney is a population geneticist at 23andMe.

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