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A Conversation About Genetic Genealogy

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to speak with Michael Leclerc at Mocavo about DNA, our genealogical beginnings, and so much more. Michael recorded our conversation, and it’s now available as this week’s Mocavo Fireside Chat!

If you’re curious about Y-DNA, mtDNA, or autosomal DNA, or have questions about DNA in general, I think you’ll enjoy this Fireside Chat. And be sure to check out the previous chats, it’s a lineup full of great guests!

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  … Click to read more!

11

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!

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Visualizing Your Genetic Genealogy

In my genealogical research, I have sometimes found myself missing the trees by focusing on the forest.  I think it happens to many genealogists – we get caught up in the research, the dates, the places, and we forget that there was so much more to people than their vital statistics.

This can happen to genetic genealogists as well.  The connection between the results of a DNA test and the individuals in our tree can be easy to forget and difficult to visualize.  Take the results of an mtDNA test, for example.  The results are obtained from a tiny piece of DNA that has traveled thousands of years (and often thousands of miles) through hundreds of individuals to end up in your cheek cells and on the tip of a swab.  Everyone’s mtDNA is the … Click to read more!

11

Where Was My Y-DNA and mtDNA in 1808?

A few days ago I wrote about John Reid’s “Where Has Your DNA Been” post at Anglo-Connections a few days ago. This is similar to another meme which has been circulating the genealogy blogosphere for a few weeks now, including “Where was your family in 1908?” at 100 Years in America and “Where was your family 200 years ago?” at What’s Past is Prologue. Steve at Steve’s Genealogy Blog has also given the ‘Map Your DNA’ meme a try. I thought it was a fun idea, and had a number of potentially interesting applications, if I were a programmer and if I had any free time. Absent that, I thought I would at least try to replicate John’s idea by mapping my location in 2008 versus the locations of my Y-DNA and mtDNA in 1808, 200 years ago.

First, my Y-DNA. The blue dot on the following map of New York State is the location of my … Click to read more!

32

Carnival of Genealogy, 35th Edition


Welcome to the November 4, 2007 edition of the Carnival of Genealogy. The topic for this edition was actually more of a question… Do you have a family mystery that might be solved by DNA? I offered to analyze a submitted post for questions or family mysteries that might be solved using genetic genealogy. There were a number of interesting and challenging articles, and everyone kept me very busy! If you’ve ever considered using DNA to analyze your ancestry, you’ll want to read all the way through this Carnival!

I wanted to start off with a post from the footnoteMaven entitled “Ask The Genetic Genealogist.” In the post, she refers to me as “Dr. DNA” – I could really get used to that! The footnoteMaven has a cousin on her father’s side who was recently diagnosed as having sickle cell trait. Sickle cell is caused by any one of a number of identified mutations of the hemoglobin gene on chromosome 11. Sickle cell trait means that the cousin has one good copy of the hemoglobin gene … Click to read more!

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A Lonely Surname


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I have a very lonely surname – according to estimates, there are only about 1000 to 2000 Bettingers in the United States. In the 1930 census, the most recent census which is indexed and available to genealogists, there were just 1,300 Bettingers. Therefore, not surprisingly, I was the first Bettinger to experiment with genetic genealogy and had the opportunity to start a Bettinger surname project, which I did. Sadly, however, my project still has just one member. I originally tried to email some potential relatives, but only a few seemed interested, and none decided to take the plunge.
My particular Y-DNA has an interesting story (I think that everyone’s Y-DNA has an interesting story, it’s just that I’ve … Click to read more!

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Genetic Genealogy and Non-Paternal Events


There is a certain occurrence in genetic genealogy called a Non-Paternal or Non Paternity Event. This is a break in the ancestry of a person’s Y chromosome and surname. A person named “Smith,” for instance, might have a Y chromosome that is clearly “Johnson.”
A non paternal event can occur when an adopted male takes the surname of his adoptive family, or a male child takes his step-father’s surname, or a male child takes his mother’s surname (undoubtedly there are other circumstances as well).
When a break in the Y chromosome is suspected or confirmed, it is possible that the break might have occurred 1,000 years ago, 100 years ago, or with the testee’s birth.
… Click to read more!

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The Biggest Family Reunion Ever Based on Genetic Genealogy?


Yesterday The Jewish Press announced the “Kohen and Levi Conference: A Gathering of the Tribe.” The conference, to be held on July 15-19, 2007, is hosted in Jerusalem by The Center for Kohanim. The Center was founded in 1985 to “promote identity and knowledge among Kohanim the world over, and increase their feelings of awareness and commitment to their heritage as Kohanim.” The conference has a main page, a press release, and a brochure (pdf). According to the press release:

Recent scientific research and DNA testing has proven that today’s descendents of the biblical Kohanim are genetically related. Molecular geneticists have discovered the “Cohen Modal Haplotype” which is a Y- chromosome DNA lineage signature shared by a majority of both Ashkenazi and Sephardi Kohanim. This indicates a direct patrilineal descent of present-day Kohanim from a single ancient ancestor, genetically dated to have lived approximately 3,300 years ago, a time corresponding to the Exodus from Egypt.

Now, the members of this “extended family” are being invited to participate in a ‘family” reunion that will take place in Jerusalem, July 15-19, 2007. These dates coincide with the biblically noted date of the passing of Aharon, the High Priest, on the first day of the Hebrew month of Av.

“This is not only the first family reunion of the Jewish priestly dynasty in nearly 2,000 years, it is an important conference which will inform, inspire and motivate,” stated conference organizer Rabbi Yaakov Kleiman, director of The Center for Kohanim in Jerusalem and author of the book, DNA & Tradition. “The research and information we will share will play an important role in appreciating and maintaining our unique and precious heritage.”

Genetic Genealogy has always been somewhat controversial because it raises issues of social science. For instance, what is race and how is race defined?  How does science define any group of people?  Should genetics be part of that definition? The topic of a “Jewish gene” is no exception, … Click to read more!

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Famous DNA Review, Part II – Genghis Khan


In 2003, researchers from around the world released a paper that suggested that 8% of all Mongolian males have a common Y chromosome because they are the descendants of Genghis Khan (See “The Genetic Legacy of the Mongols,” 2003, Zerjal, et. al., American Journal of Human Genetics, 72: 717-721). The researchers examined the Y chromosome variability of over 2000 people from different regions in Asia and discovered a grouping of closely related lines. The cluster is believed to have originated about 1,000 years ago in Mongolia and its distribution coincides with the boundaries of the Mongol Empire.
Genghis Khan’s empire (he ruled from 1206 – 1227) stretched across Asia from the Pacific Ocean to the Caspian Sea and was reportedly extremely … Click to read more!

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Are aboriginal Australians and New Guineans the modern-day descendants of the extinct species Homo erectus?

Some scientists have hypothesized that Australian aboriginals received a portion of their DNA from an ancient hominid species called Homo erectus, which for a short time was contemporaneous with modern man. A recent study published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences) set out to answer this question by analyzing mtDNA and Y-chromosome samples from aboriginals.

A total of 172 mtDNA and 522 Y-chromosome previously published and new sequences from aboriginal Australians and New Guineans were analyzed for mtDNA and Y-chromosome variation and were compared to the current world haplogroup tree. All of the mtDNA sequences were members of the M and N founder branches, and all of the Y-chromosome sequences fell into the C and F founder … Click to read more!