Jesse Woodson James, born September 5, 1847 and died April 3, 1882, was an infamous American outlaw. Despite strong evidence that James was killed on April 3, 1882, some theorized that his death was staged and that he in fact survived to father additional children.
In 1995, researchers set out to use relatively new DNA analysis to examine the rumors surrounding James’ death. They exhumed the body believed to be that of James from the Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Kearney, Nebraska. Although the remains were poorly preserved, the scientists were able to obtain DNA from two of four teeth. They also had DNA from two hairs that were recovered in 1978 from James’ original burial site on the James farm.
The mtDNA HVR1 sequence from the teeth and hairs were identical and belonged to Haplogroup T2, with 5 mutations relative to the CRS (16126C, 16274A, 16294T, 16296T, and 16304C).
As many as 3 million men worldwide might be directly descended from a single Irish warlord named Niall of the Nine Hostages who was the High King at Tara from 379 to 405.
In February 2006, researchers at Trinity College in Dublin released a paper that studied that Y chromosome signature of men throughout Ireland. They found that 8% of men sampled had the same Y chromosome, with a cluster in the northwest where fully 21% of men carried the signature chromosome (which fell into Haplogroup R1b1c7). The article appeared in The American Journal of Human Genetics and was titled “A Y-Chromosome Signature of Hegemony in Gaelic Ireland.”
The researchers looked at 17 STR markers on Irish Y chromosomes to determine the relatedness of samples they had obtained. They found that there was a strong association between the most common signature and surnames that were related to the most significant dynasty of early medieval Ireland – the Uí Néill. Some of the surnames included (O’)Gallacher, Boyle, O Doherty, O’Connor, Cannon, Bradley, O’Reilly, Flynn, (Mc)Kee, Devlin, Donnelly, Egan, Gormley, Hynes, McCaul, McGovern, McLoughlin, McManus, McMenamin, Molloy, O’Kane, O’Rourke and Quinn (list from Oxford Ancestors). Of course there were no surnames at the time of the earliest Uí Néill dynasty, but when the Irish took surnames around 1,000 A.D., many chose names that were associated with Uí Néill dynasties.
Update: Ugo Perego is not affiliated withh the website mentioned in the last two sentences.
Did Joseph Smith father children with any of his plural wives? The Deseret News has a lengthy article about recent efforts by a geneticist to answer the long-debated question about the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement.
Ugo Perego, the director of operations at the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, has used genetic genealogy in an attempt to identify or rule out potential descendants of Smith. In 2005, Perego showed that three males were not descendants of Smith, and new testing has shown that two more alleged descendants of Smith are not his true descendants.
In order to rule out descendants, it was first necessary to characterize the Y-DNA thought to belong to Joseph Smith. According to the article:
The 24-7 Family History Circle has an update on a story I wrote about few weeks ago (Chris and Alex Haley’s DNA). Chris Haley, the nephew of author Alex Haley, recently agreed to submit DNA for a Y-DNA test. Like his uncle, Haley is very interested in genealogy and his ancestry.
According to the article, which was written by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, the Haleys were already fairly certain of their ancestry: “to the best of the familyâ€™s knowledge, the progenitor of the Haley line was of European origin, not African.” Indeed, the results show that the Haley Y-DNA belongs to Haplogroup R1b, a traditionally European haplogroup. My favorite part of this article, and one that many of my readers might find interesting, are all the suggestions regarding future directions that Haley can take to learn more about his ‘roots’ (sorry, I had to). Interestingly, Haley already has an anonymous 46-marker match in the DNA Ancestry database.
1. Benjamin Franklin – mtDNA Haplogroup V
In addition to being one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Franklin was a politician, printer, scientist, inventor, diplomat, and author.DNA testing has elucidated the origins of Benjamin Franklin’s mitochondrial DNA through his mother Abiah Lee Folger, who had six sisters. One of those sisters, Doras Folger, passed on her mtDNA to her 9th-great granddaughter, Charlene Chambers King. Sequencing of Ms. King’s mtDNA revealed that she belonged to mtDNA Haplogroup V with the following mutations: T16298C, 315.1C, 309.1C, A263G, and T72C.Haplogroup V (known as “Velda” by Sykes) is believed to have originated in Europe about 12,000 years ago, possibly in Iberia. About 4% of Europeans contain Haplogroup V mtDNa.So far, no known source of Benjamin Franklin’s Y-DNA or autosomal DNA has been discovered (although some believe that his tooth might provide the answer).
At the 2007 Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in August, Alex Haley, the nephew of the Chris Haley – the author of “Roots”, joined the many people who have tested their DNA for ancestral information.Â It turns out that his Y-DNA is of European origin.
There’s a post at Megan’s Roots World, a news report at KUTV.com, and the video of Alex swabbing his cheeks for DNA from Roots Television:
The article at KUTV also contains what MUST be a mistake:
“Next week, The Sorenson Cos. plans to roll out a separate DNA-based Web site called jeantree.com. Chief Executive James L. Sorenson declined to discuss details Tuesday, although it will rely on a larger DNA database.”
Either Sorenson is planning to sell denim-related products, or the journalist misunderstood “Genetree.com”. Stay tuned for further details about the re-launch of this site.
Here they are, the “First 10″, the first ten volunteers of the Personal Genome Project, announced today:
- Misha Angrist, Ph.D. is Senior Science Editor at the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy in Durham, N.C. His work has appeared in The Michigan Quarterly Review and the Best New American Voices anthology, among other places. Dr. Angrist is also an independent consultant to the life sciences industry. He earned his M.S. in biology from the University of Cincinnati and his Ph.D. in genetics from Case Western Reserve University. His doctoral work focused on the complex inheritance of Hirschsprung disease. Following completion of his post-doctoral in 1998, Dr. Angrist covered the life sciences industry as an analyst for The Freedonia Group and was portfolio manager for the hedge fund Biotech Horizons Fund, LP. Dr. Angrist also holds a M.F.A. from the Bennington Writing Seminars. His firm, Ars Vita Consulting, Inc., provides insight to clients in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and broader healthcare arenas. For recent news by or about Dr. Angrist, see The New Atlantis and Future Medicine.
- Keith Batchelder, M.D. is the founder and CEO of Genomic Healthcare Strategies. Dr. Batchelder received an MD from Hahnemann University School of Medicine, an MS in Materials Science from New York University, a DMD from the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine, and a BA in physics from Middlebury College. Dr. Batchelder has been a consultant for personalized health and wellness companies such as Lineagen and an officer in several health-care organizations. He was chief technical officer of Worldcare Clinical Trials, and was a core member of the team that created Harvard Salud Integral, a new HMO in Mexico City, where he helped secure angel funding in a newly privatized healthcare environment and helped to grow the plan to cover 150,000 patients. He was also an early principal with Amicas, a company that was successfully sold for approximately $30 million cash and stock equivalents. For recent news about Dr. Batchelder, see Nature, Mass High Tech, and an interview with our own EyeonDNA!
- George M. Church, Ph.D. is a Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Professor of Health Sciences & Technology at Harvard and MIT. With Walter Gilbert he developed the first direct genomic sequencing method in 1984 and helped initiate the Human Genome Project in 1984 while he was a Research Scientist at newly-formed Biogen Inc. He invented the broadly-applied concepts of molecular multiplexing and tags, homologous recombination methods, and DNA array synthesizers. Technology transfer of automated sequencing & software to Genome Therapeutics Corp. resulted in the first commercial genome sequence, (the human pathogen, Helicobacter pylori) in 1994. He initiated the Personal Genome Project (PGP) in 2005 and research on synthetic biology. He is director of the U.S. Department of Energy Center on Bioenergy at Harvard & MIT and director of the National Institutes of Health (NHGRI) Center of Excellence in Genomic Science at Harvard, MIT & Washington University. He has been advisor to 22 companies, most recently co-founding (with Joseph Jacobson, Jay Keasling, and Drew Endy) Codon Devices, a biotech startup dedicated to synthetic biology and (with Chris Somerville) founding LS9, which is focused on biofuels. He is a senior editor for Nature EMBO Molecular Systems Biology. See the Boston Globe, Technology Review, his departmental page, his lab webpage, and our very own PersonalGenome.
- Esther Dyson is an active member of a number of non-profit and advisory organizations. From 1998 to 2000, she was the founding chairman of ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. She has followed closely the post-Soviet transition of Eastern Europe, and is a member of the Bulgarian President’s IT Advisory Council, along with Vint Cerf, George Sadowsky, and Veni Markovski, among others. She has served as a trustee of, and helped fund, emerging organizations such as Glasses for Humanity, Bridges.org, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the Eurasia Foundation. She is also a member of the board for The Long Now Foundation, trustee for the Santa Fe Institute, the Advisory Board of the Stockholm Challenge Award and is a part-owner of the First Monday journal. She is a member of the President’s Export Council Subcommittee on Encryption and sits on the boards of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Scala Business Solutions, Poland Online, Cygnus Solution, E-Pub Services, Trustworks (Amsterdam), IBS (Moscow), iCat, New World Publishing and the Global Business Network. She is on the advisory boards of Perot Systems and the Internet Capital Group, and a limited partner of the Mayfield Software Fund. She has also been a board member or early investor in tech startups, among them Flickr, PowerSet.com, ZEDO, Medscape, Medstory, XCOR, Constellation Services, Zero-G,Icon Aircraft and Space Adventures. Ms. Dyson is the daughter of Freeman Dyson, a physicist, and Verana Huber-Dyson, a mathematician. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard University (1972). For recent news about Ms. Dyson, see The Huffington Post, Media Visions, MediaPost, and The Wall Street Journal.
Esther Dyson is a prominent force in the digital world, and is considered to be a member of the â€˜digeratiâ€™ (a term for people who are the movers and shakers of everything technological).She is the daughter of the famous physicist Freeman Dyson and the mathematician Verana Huber-Dyson.
According to Wikipedia, the company that Ms. Dyson founded, EDventure Holdings, analyzes the impact of emerging technologies and markets on economies and societies.In addition, Ms. Dyson is on the board of the genetics company 23andme.Her interest in genetics and emerging technology is undoubtedly one of the main reasons she has decided to become one of the â€œFirst 10.â€
The â€œFirst 10â€
The â€œFirst 10â€ (or â€œFirst Tenâ€) references ten volunteers who are part of the Personal Genome Project, or the PGP.The PGP, headed by Dr. George M. Church of Harvard, aims to develop affordable personal genome sequences as well as user-friendly data applications.Initially, the project will start by releasing the sequencing and complete medical records of 10 individuals.Because of issues of risk versus benefit and informed consent, the first set of ten volunteers will be people who have a â€œmasterâ€™s level or equivalent training in genetics or equivalent understanding of genetics research.â€According to the PGP website, â€œ[p]roduction costs per subject range from $8K for a limited subset of the genome to over $200K per subject to cover a significant fraction of their DNA.â€According to a recent New York Times article, the â€œprojectâ€™s volunteers will receive the one percent of their genome currently deemed most useful at a cost of $1,000.â€This conflicts with the PGPâ€™s description of the cost, and Iâ€™m not sure what the discrepancy is about.
A recent paper in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology examined mtDNA extracted from the hair and nails of eight Inuit mummies. These essentially freeze-dried mummies were discovered in 1972 in a natural tomb at Qilakitsoq in the Uummannaq Municipality of Greenland. Using C14 analysis, the mummies have been dated to approximately 1460.
The bodies were found in two separate positions about 1 meter apart. In Grave I, there were five bodies:
- I/1 = Male Infant #1 – about 6 months of age
- I/2 = Male Infant #2 – about 4 to 4.5 years of age
- I/3 = Female #1 – about 20-25 years of age
- I/4 = Female #2 – about 25-30 years of age
- I/5 = Female #3 – about 40-50 years of age
In Grave II, there were 3 bodies:
- I/6 = Female #4 – about 50 years of age
- I/7 = Female #5 – about 18-21 years of age
- I/8 = Female #6 – about 50 years of age
The researcher’s primary goals were to sequence the HVR1 region of each individual’s mtDNA, and then to compare the results to determine possible relatedness of the remains. All 8 individuals fell into Haplogroup A2, but belonged to three different maternal lineages which were mixed between the two grave sites:
The BBC has an article about genetic genealogy testing of nine celebrities in Brazil for a project called Afro-Brazilian Roots by the Brazilian Service of the BBC. These lucky individuals received Y-DNA, mtDNA, and autosomal testing, and most were surprised with the large proportion of European genealogy revealed by the tests.
“Brazil has more people with black ancestry than any other nation outside Africa, and its mix of Indians, Africans and Europeans gave rise in the past to the claim that the country was a ‘racial democracy.’ ”
“No one is pure in Brazil. That’s why the country has the face of the future,” said Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., coordinator of a similar project in the U.S.”