Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, is one of the most important figures with significant contributions in American history. However, for over two hundred years, there has been much dispute over whether Jefferson fathered the children of an enslaved African woman, Sally Hemings…

A DNA study in 1998 indicated a genetic link between the Hemings and Jefferson families, but it did not prove that Thomas Jefferson himself was the ancestor of Hemings’ descendants. As there is no biological evidence, how could statistics help in finding the answer? In statistics, there is an approach called Monte Carlo method that computes the probability of occurrence of an event. In 2000, based on the Jefferson-Hemings controversy, an archaeologist performed a statistical analysis of the coincidence of Sally Hemings’ likely conception periods and Thomas Jefferson’s visits to Hemings’ residence using the Monte Carlo method. The analysis showed a very low probability that the occurrence of the two events was a mere coincidence, and concluded that it was 99% likely that Jefferson was the father of Hemings’ children. Yet, statistics merely gives a measure of probability. As to whether or not the truth lies in the 1% chance, only Jefferson and Hemings would know about it.