“Roots” Got the Attention of the Next Generation

An average of 650,000 people tuned in each night to TV One’s rebroadcast this month of the mini-series “Roots.” The audience exceeded the cable network’s highest expectation by 30 percent.

The children of the baby boomers-the generation that watched the series when it first aired in 1977-watched the series at an average of 330,000 viewers per night, according to TV One.

“We are especially proud that we could introduce this landmark series to a whole new generation of viewers, and with the historical context provided each night by our series hosts, help them understand why this series is so significant,” TV One President and CEO Jonathan Rogers was quoted as saying in a press release.

Nearly 2 million African-American households watched the series that documented the ancestry of one man-author Alex Haley. For the 30th anniversary of “Roots,” TV One partnered with African Ancestry, a DNA testing organization, to enable African-Americans to find out about their ancestry.

“We consider the partnership a success,” said President and co-founder Gina M. Paige of African Ancestry. She could not disclose the sales numbers or the volume of customer inquiries but said that “we’ve experienced a significant increase in orders over the same time period in comparison to a month ago.”

DNA testing kits are available this month for a price between $275 and $550, a discount of 20 percent for users of tvoneonline.com. The PatriClan and MatriClan test kits trace paternal or maternal lines back at least 500 years. However, women themselves cannot take the paternal test, since they do not have a Y chromosome. They must choose a male on their father’s side to take the test.

Page says the tests are equally accurate. The Family Package includes both tests. Each kit contains two cotton swabs. The swabs will store DNA cells, after they are rubbed on the inside of an individual’s cheek at least 20 times. The kit comes with two bar-coded envelopes and a paid return envelope.

Once both swabs are mailed back to African Ancestry’s labs, they are compared to DNA samples in database which contains lineages from 30 countries and over 160 ethnic groups in Africa.

“Not every analysis yields African ancestry,” says Page but most individuals within six weeks will find out an exact country/region in Africa from where they descended.

The results also include a scientific explanation of the ancestry match, a DNA print-out with sequence, a similarity score, and information about the country of origin.

“After finding out the results of the test, many people begin to stay informed about the issues of African countries,” Page said.

African Ancestry was co-founded with Rick Kittles, Ph.D, an associate professor in the department of medicine at the University of Chicago. Their labs are certified by the American Association of Blood Banks.