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What your thumb can tell you about your family history
A new research paper has found that your thumb may say something about your ancestry. Here's why it's important to know where you're from. - photo by Herb Scribner
Theres a new way for you to check your ancestry look at your thumb.

New research published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology suggests that ones ancestral background can be determined based on the characteristics of their thumbprint, according to

The researchers analyzed the fingerprints of 243 individuals 61 African-American woman, 61 African-American men, 61 European American women and 61 European American men. Researchers specifically looked at the Level 1 (pattern types, ridge counts) and Level 2 (specific variations and ridge splits) details to see if there were any differences.

The researchers found no variations between the men and women, but found African-American and European American fingerprints differed in their ridge splits and specific variations on the thumbprint, according to

Researchers werent specific about what those differences were. But they said their findings suggest that ones thumbprint can determine where their ancestors came from, according to

"This is the first study to look at this issue at this level of detail, and the findings are extremely promising," Ann Ross, a professor at North Carolina State University, said in a statement. "But more work needs to be done. We need to look at a much larger sample size and evaluate individuals from more diverse ancestral backgrounds.

Researchers said these findings will especially help law enforcement identify suspects more easily because itll help them identify a suspects ancestral background.

There are other science-backed ways to determine ones ancestral history. For example, in 2014, researchers developed a genetic ancestry test that analyzed ones DNA to pinpoint the location where a person's ancestors originated more than 1,000 years ago, according to LiveScience.

The researchers said the genetic algorithm can predict the point of origin for 80 percent of people, LiveScience reported. It can even help those from island populations identify which specific island village they were from, too, LiveScience reported.

The genetic test has the ability to do this because it can decipher code in ones DNA, which holds information on evolution, migrations, interbreeding and mixing, according to LiveScience.

"Only genetic tools can access this vast archive and extract the exact information about our geographic origin," Eran Elhaik, a geneticist at the University of Sheffield in England, told Live Science.

There are also ways people can identify their own recent ancestral history. Websites like and offer Americans a chance to see their family lineage, history and religious background.

Most experts agree knowing your family and ancestral history can help keep you healthy.

Families have many factors in common, including their genes, environment, and lifestyle, according to Genetics Home Research, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Together, these factors can give clues to medical conditions that may run in a family. By noticing patterns of disorders among relatives, healthcare professionals can determine whether an individual, other family members, or future generations may be at an increased risk of developing a particular condition.

For example, Ashkenazi Jewish people are more likely to have the BRCA gene mutation, which makes them more likely to have Tay-Sachs disease and certain types of cancer, according to the Cleveland Clinic. This was seen more recently with actress Angelina Jolie, who had the gene and had preventive surgeries because of it.

And, as Bruce Feiler wrote for The New York Times This Life blog in March 2013, knowing your ancestry and your family history can help unite your family. Feiler wrote that creating a strong family narrative that details your familys history not just genetic history, but a story, too can help teach you lessons about how to handle lifes problems.

The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your familys positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones, Feiler wrote. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.
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