Illustration by Stuart Briers

Tracing your roots can be as simple as a spit test, thanks to ANCESTRAL DNA TESTING.

Spit in a tube and your family’s hidden secrets will be revealed. Sounds like a trick a magician would conjure up, right? Yet it’s not. In today’s high-tech age, you can find out whether your passion for pasta is due to an Italian ancestry without ever researching distant relatives. Back in the olden days — oh, say 20 years ago — there was a lot of legwork involved to grow a family tree, including talking to relatives and visiting courthouses to look at historical records. Then, just before the turn of the century, came on the scene and revolutionized the process, quickly becoming the world’s largest online gene­alogical resource and speeding up the hunt quite a bit.

Now it’s 2014. In our fast-paced world, delving deep into the past has to be simple enough to do on a lunch break — and it is. If you’re willing to gloss over the triumphs and tragedies of thousands of years of family history, you can easily pinpoint your genetic ethnicity without any work. Which is how I found myself sitting at my kitchen table trying to think salivating thoughts to fill a collection tube.

Though I’d been searching for months in an attempt to put more branches on my family tree, it was still so thin that it was more like a sapling. So when I saw an advertisement on offering ancestral DNA testing (which can determine where one’s ancient ancestors originated from), I was more than willing to give it a try. For $99, I ordered a test kit from AncestryDNA, one of several companies that perform DNA testing, and, while I was at it, I decided to order kits for my parents as well to see how their results would compare to mine. While intrigued, I had plenty of skepticism and wasn’t exactly convinced that the tests would work. In fact, I was ready to lambaste the entire process if any weird discrepancies showed up on my results.

Turns out I was wrong. The spit test really works. My family ethnicity was revealed in ways I could never have imagined. So what did the crystal ball looking back into my ancient past have to say? First, I discovered that I am 100 percent European. From there, it gets a little tricky. According to the AncestryDNA test, my ethnicity is 46 percent Great Britain, 27 percent Western European and several small amounts from other European countries. This was not what I was expecting, considering that my family tree, which on paper only goes back for five generations, shows that I’m mostly German.

Then I realized that these scientific results, while impressive, should be taken with a huge grain of salt.