1

Identifying Ötzi the Iceman’s Relatives

In 1991, German tourists in the Alps discovered the mummified remains of a man who died approximately 5,000 years ago. Named Ötzi, the remains have been studied extensively and have revealed a wealth of information about life in this region.

Ötzi’s DNA

Of note to genetic genealogists, Ötzi’s DNA has also been the subject of extensive analysis.  In February 2012, sequencing of Ötzi’s full genome was announced (see here and here) which revealed, among other things, that the Iceman probably had brown eyes, belonged to blood group O, and was lactose intolerant.  He may also have had Lyme disease, as the genome of the infectious agent  Borrelia burgdorferi was also identified in the sequencing effort.

Ötzi’s Y-DNA belongs to a subclade of Haplogroup G defined by the SNPs … Click to read more!

4

Napoleon Bonaparte’s Y-DNA Haplogroup Belonged to E1b1b1c1* (E-M34)

Researchers have recently discovered that Napoleon Bonaparte’s Y-DNA belongs to haplogroup E1b1b1c1* (M34+).

Dominique Vivant Denon was the director-general of French museums under Napoleon.  Denon made a reliquary (a container for relics) that included the beard of Henry IV, a tooth from Voltair, and a lock of Bonaparte’s hair. … Click to read more!

  1. B. Foulon, ed., Dominique-Vivant Denon: L’oeil de Napoléon, exh. cat., Paris: Musée du Louvre (Paris, 2000), 480.
  2. Lucotte, et al. (2011) Haplogroup of the Y Chromosome of Napoleon the First. J. Mol. Biol. Research, 1:12-19.
4

Additional Native American Haplogroup Discovered by Genetic Genealogists

Robert Estes of DNAeXplain announces the discovery of a previously-undiscovered Native American haplogroup.  Up to the current point, research had found only two Y-DNA haplogroups in the Native peoples of North and South America – C3b and Q1a3a (aka Q1a3a1).  However,  new research described in the accompanying paper (here (pdf)) uncovers a third haplogroup found in Native peoples.

From the paper:

“For the past decade, since the advent of genetic genealogy, it has been accepted that subgroups of haplogroup C and Q were indicative of Native American ancestry. Specifically, subgroups C3b and Q1a3a, alone, are found among the Native peoples of North and South America. Other subgroups of haplogroup C and Q are found elsewhere in the world, not in North or South American, and conversely, C3b and Q1a3a are not found in other locations in the world. This makes it very easy to determine if your direct paternal ancestor was, or was not, Native American. Or so it seemed.”

Estes is a scientist and business owner in the information technology arena.  She is the Administrator of the Lost Colony DNA Project, and more than 20 surname projects.  Her contact information can be found in the … Click to read more!

18

Sequencing the Genome of Sitting Bull and Other Famous People

ScienceNews reports that researchers led by Eske Willerslev at the University of Copenhagen are attempting to sequence the genome of legendary Native American “Sitting Bull” (see “Genome of a Chief”).

Earlier this year (2010), Eske Willersleve announced the successful sequencing of approximately 80% of the genome of “Inuk,” a man from Greenland who left behind a few small fragments of bone and four hairs frozen in permafrost when he died about 4,000 years ago (see “Long-Locked Genome of Ancient Man Sequenced”).  Using these ancient DNA sequencing techniques, Willersleve’s group is analyzing DNA from other samples.

One of these samples is a lock of hair from Sitting Bull.

Sitting Bull (c. 1831 – Dec. 15, 1890) was a Hunkpapa Lokota Sioux born in South Dakota.  Sitting Bull played an important role in the June 25, 1876 Battle … Click to read more!

13

How Neanderthal Are You?

On May 6, 2010, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany presented the world with a draft of the genome sequence of the Neanderthal (press release here (pdf) and full article here (free), NYT article here).  As part of the announcement, the team presented their conclusion that 1% to 4% of the genome of non-Africans is derived from Neanderthals:

“An initial comparison of the two sequences has brought some exciting discoveries to light. Contrary to the assumption of many researchers, it would appear that some Neandertals and early modern humans interbred. According to the researchers’ calculations, between one and four percent of the DNA of many humans living today originate from the Neandertal. ‘Those of us who live outside Africa carry a little Neandertal DNA in us,’ says Svante Pääbo.  Previous tests carried out on the DNA of Neandertal mitochondria, which represents just a tiny part of the whole genome, had not found any evidence of such interbreeding or ‘admixture.’”

Once this study came out, I knew it was only a matter of time before companies began offering tests that examined the percent of Neanderthal contribution to a test-taker’s genome.

The Neanderthal Index

In May 2010, DNA Consultants began offering a test called the Neanderthal Index.  Priced at USD $90.00, the test purports to “estimate how much Neanderthal is in your ancestry.”  From the test description:

“Created in response to the phenomenal interest generated by the revelation in scientific journals on May 8, 2010 that most humans are part Neanderthal (Green et al), our autosomal DNA Neanderthal Index can be added to your DNA Fingerprint Test or DNA Fingerprint Plus. It reports any strong matches you have with populations identified as Archaic, those preserving the earliest earmarks of interbreeding between Neanderthals and humans (Homo sapiens sapiens). The stronger the match the higher the likelihood that your ancestors gave you Neanderthal genes.”

The site also provides an FAQ page, and a sample test result (pdf).  The test returns results on a scale of 0.1 to … Click to read more!

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Faces of America and Genetic Genealogy Testing

Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings (“I’m Puzzled by DNA Claims on ‘Faces of America’”) writes about the fourth and last episode of “Faces of America,” a PBS documentary series investigating the ancestry of several famous people in America. This fourth episode included several different types of genetic genealogy to examine the ancestral origins and relatedness of the show’s members.

1. Whole Genome Sequencing by Knome

The first type of genetic genealogy was whole-genome sequencing by Knome of Henry Louis Gates and his father. This analysis examined Henry’s (“Skip’s”) genome for medical conditions and physical traits, and also compared his DNA to his father’s, thereby allowing them to deduce the entire DNA contribution from his deceased mother. This segment … Click to read more!

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Q&A: Everyone Has Two Family Trees – A Genealogical Tree and a Genetic Tree

I recently received an interesting question from a reader (see this comment) about 23andMe’s Relative Finder, and thought it would be worth sharing the question and my answer with all my readers.

The Question:

I’m a man who recently took a 23andMe test, and I have a question about Relative Finder.  Another man who I match on 36 of 37 Y-DNA markers via Family Tree DNA also took a 23andMe test.  We believe that we are third cousins, but this individual does not show up as related in Relative Finder, nor does he show any similarities in the Family Inheritance section.  Does this mean that we are not related at all?

The Answer

If two individuals do not share any DNA in the Family Inheritance section of 23andMe or do not appear as relatives in Relative Finder, this absolutely … Click to read more!

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23andMe’s Relative Finder Success Stories at ISOGG

ISOGG, the International Society of Genetic Genealogy, has a “Success Stories” page where it posts short summaries of just a few the many successes that genetic genealogy has helped people achieve.  Today I noticed that there are several new summaries regarding “Autosomal DNA Successes,” both of which were the result of 23andMe’s new Relative Finder (currently still in beta testing).

Relative Finder

As I recently wrote, Relative Finder is a feature at 23andMe that allows users to compare their autosomal DNA to the autosomal DNA of others to potentially find cousins.  This has long been done with Y-DNA and mtDNA, but this is one of the first times this has been done with autosomal DNA.

Success Story #1

The first success story is … Click to read more!

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Gwilym of the Many Conquests and the Smooth-Talking Gene


[PLEASE NOTE:  The Onion is a satirical site meant for ENTERTAINMENT and social commentary purposes only.  The following study is NOT real!]

The Onion, an infamous mock news site has a (surprisingly intelligent) article today entitled “7 Million People Direct Descendants Of Single Smooth-Talking Ancestor” about a “study” that has found that millions of people around the world have a genetic marker that links them to “a single smooth-talking common ancestor.”

Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings brings the article to my attention (thank you Randy!):

The headline screams “7 Million People Direct Descendants of Smooth-Talking Ancestor” — see the article here in the Science and Technology section of The Onion. It sounds right up the genetic genealogy alley, doesn’t it? Megan, Blaine, Emily – why haven’t you written about this guy? Are 7 million descendants not enough?

Gwilym of Many Conquests

According to the article, after analyzing 4,000 samples from around the world, the Baltimore, Md. researchers announce that “the lineage appears to have originated with a highly virile ninth-century Welsh nobleman known as Gwilym of Many Conquests”:

“This is one of the largest diasporas known to have descended from a single progenitor,” said head researcher Lawrence Ghilcrest, adding that DNA evidence now corroborates stories about the Welshman that historians once dismissed as myth. “To have propagated his genetic material so effectively, and across so much territory, we can only infer Gwilym was quite the charmer.”

The article is clearly a reflection of several recent studies suggesting a link between prevalent traits or genetic markers and an ancient “prolific” … Click to read more!

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Family Tree DNA Discovers Y-DNA Signature That Might Represent the Prophet Mohammed

DNA An article in the United Arab Emirate newspaper The National (wikipedia) does a terrific job of highlighting recent research from Family Tree DNA.  The story – “DNA could illuminate Islam’s lineage” – discusses research that has attempted to elucidate the Y-DNA signature of Mohammed.  Although Mohammed did not have a son, he had a daughter who married her paternal second cousin, thus passing to Mohammed’s grandchildren the same Y-DNA.  From the article:

“For almost 1,600 years, the title Sharif, Sayyed, or Habib has been bestowed on Muslims who have been able to trace their roots back to the Prophet Mohammed through intricate family trees, oral histories and genealogical records. But now an American DNA lab says it may have identified the DNA signature of descendants of the Prophet Mohammed, and perhaps the prospect of a direct, more accurate means of confirming or identifying such a connection.”

The caveat, as the story briefly mentions by the phrase “if their oral tradition is accurate”, is that no one has an authenticated DNA sample directly from Mohammed.  If there were, this type of research would not be needed.  Instead, the conclusion that it might be Mohammed’s Y-DNA is based on testing individuals who … Click to read more!