Junior uncovers his DNA background

May 7, 2018 — by Chelsea Leung and Alexandra Li

When junior Bassil Shama checked ancestry.com in February, he was happily surprised to see that the ethnicity estimate he had been waiting for since December had finally been uploaded.  

Shama had become interested in taking the test during his sophomore year PSAT, when the exam asked for demographic information. Not thinking the questions to be of importance, Shama checked random boxes, including African American. This backfired when his father noticed the races Shama had identified himself as when registering Shama for the SAT II Math subject test.

“He flamed me and said Egyptian was not [the same as] African American,” Shama said. “After that I always poked fun at him about how I'm ‘black.’”

Curious to find out whether his “claim” to being African American had any validity, Shama purchased a test from ancestry.com around Christmas last year. The test, usually costing $99, cost Shama $50 due to a holiday sale.

The company provided him with a tube, which he had to fill with saliva and send back. Two months later, Shama received the results.

Although Shama discovered he wasn’t African American, the test revealed that 58 percent of his bloodline originates from Asia, 16 percent from Europe, 14 percent from the Middle East, 4 percent from North Africa, 2 percent from Polynesia, 2 percent from the Iberian Peninsula, 1 percent from Scandinavia and less than 1 percent from Nigeria.

“The low percentage ones like Polynesian and Nigerian are interesting to see because even though my family mainly came from a few regions, I have other stuff mixed in,” Shama said.

Because Shama already knew the large majority of his heritage, he said that the full price test would not have been worth it. However, he added, the test may be useful for those who don’t know their birth parents.

“I was hoping for a bit more for the money I paid but that might vary by what test you buy,” Shama said. “Since I come from a diverse background, it's an interesting conversation point with my parents and grandparents. It opens up questions about my family history or where I came from, which is something that I talk to my family about a lot.”


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