Tobias Haeusermann is an affiliated researcher and student supervisor at the Department of Sociology at the University of Cambridge, where he received his PhD in 2016. At Cambridge he teaches and instructs undergraduate students for the HSPS Tripos “Introduction to Sociology: Modern Societies I” and the paper “Social Context of Health and Illness” within the Medical and Veterinary Sciences Tripos. He previously was a post-doctoral fellow at the Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Prevention Institute (EBPI) at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. He was also our Caroline Miles visiting scholar in February 2018.
In the wake of ever decreasing costs for analysing genetic information, companies such as 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, and Ancestry.com now provide customers easy and affordable access to their genetic data. In particular, tracing one’s ancestry is steadily gaining popularity, above all in nations with a rich history of immigration. When used to find lost family members and ties or to seek connection to other people and places, such tests can be of great value. Yet even then, one runs the risk of altering their self-perception, which, as a result, can lead to profound psychological distress for individuals and their families alike. We should therefore tread carefully when digging up family roots, as we may unearth some uncomfortable truths about the present.