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Big ancestry testing companies fail people of color—but smaller organizations can help

Illustration by Bárbara Abbês, photo by AP Photo
Katherine Ellen Foley
By Katherine Ellen Foley

Health and science reporter

Most people can get a sense of who they are and where they came from by comparing what they glimpse in a mirror to old family photos. Seeing physical traits passed down through generations, like the shape of a nose or eye color, can give us a sense of belonging.

Conversely, missing those connections can make someone feel lost.

Wendi Cherry is black. She has a straight nose with a small ring on the right side, and long hair that she wears in locks that go from dark to light. Before she was born, a black family living in New Jersey arranged to adopt her. Her adoptive family—mother, father, and an adopted older sister—all had much darker skin than she did. “Kids would tease me that my sister was not my sister because her skin didn’t look like mine,” she says.

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