As We See It

Gene shopping

DNA testing (and merch!) at a Henderson shop

Illustration: John Coulter

John Schoonmaker’s ancestors are Swedish—at least that’s what his parents always said, and so he got a heritage tattoo: a menacing Viking, staring out from Schoonmaker’s arm.

Except Schoonmaker is not really all that Swedish. In fact, his distant relatives actually trace back to Tunisia, Kuwait and Egypt—a truth Schoonmaker, co-owner of the DNA Shop in Henderson, had lining his cheeks. One swab, and his tattoo was all wrong.


The DNA Shop
11251 S. Eastern Ave. Suite 140

Researchers now plot ancient human migration with DNA, using “markers” in our genetic profiles that reportedly indicate where we’re ultimately from. Information gathered at the DNA Shop is sent to multiple labs, where it’s compared with historical databanks—an ancestry that stretches farther back than traditional genealogy can reach.

Schoonmaker figures ancestry reports will be the cornerstone of the Henderson business, which opened in May. Of course, once you start taking DNA samples, there are plenty of tests that can be done: paternity, predisposition to medical conditions or disease, infidelity.

Oh, and it’s not limited to humans. Determining canine breed is supposedly not unlike determining human: Swab the inside of the pet’s cheek (there’s no blood drawn at the DNA Store) and wait to see what kind of dogs went into the making of your mutt.

The DNA information gathered is kept private, Schoonmaker insists. People interested in getting tested for medical preconditions ($499) don’t have to worry about that information being sent to an insurance company, he says, or fed into some Big Brother databank. This is a consumer-oriented store, a place that’s pointedly not clinical or lab-like, a place that sells DNA jewelry—small copies of your own double helix, or your child’s, or your dog’s, set into a pendant.

And like Schoonmaker, people often learn that their ancestries are different, or more complex, than they knew. Physical genetic traits, he says, can vanish from view in three or four generations—as they must have with Schoonmaker, who looks more like the Viking on his arm than someone descended from Egypt.

“Maybe,” he says, pointing to the tattoo, “I’ll add a pyramid.”


Abigail Goldman

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