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!
An article in the United Arab Emirate newspaper The National (wikipedia) does a terrific job of highlighting recent research from Family Tree DNA.Â The story – â€œDNA could illuminate Islamâ€™s lineageâ€ â€“ discusses research that has attempted to elucidate the Y-DNA signature of Mohammed.Â Although Mohammed did not have a son, he had a daughter who married her paternal second cousin, thus passing to Mohammedâ€™s grandchildren the same Y-DNA.Â From the article:
â€œFor 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.â€
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 product of an amazingly rich story that has largely been lost to history.
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.
Welcome to the November 4, 2007 edition of the Carnival of Genealogy.The topic for this edition was actually more of a questionâ€¦ 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 youâ€™ve ever considered using DNA to analyze your ancestry, youâ€™ll want to read all the way through this Carnival!
I wanted to start off with a post from the footnoteMaven entitled â€œAsk The Genetic Genealogist.â€In the post, she refers to me as â€œDr. DNAâ€ â€“ I could really get used to that!The footnoteMaven has a cousin on her fatherâ€™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 and one bad copy â€“ one from each parent.Since this is autosomal DNA, the traditional tool of genetic genealogy, Y-DNA and mtDNA tests, wonâ€™t be of much help.There are a number of DNA testing companies that will sequence the hemoglobin gene to check for mutations, but testing your cousinâ€™s siblings wonâ€™t reveal which parent had the mutated gene.It would be best to test the parents, but they have passed away.Unfortunately, answering your mystery would most likely be very expensive and time-consuming, at least at the current stage of technology.In 5 to 10 years, as whole genome sequencing becomes cheaper, it might be a much easier project.There are some autosomal genealogy tests which purport to reveal ancestral origins (such as Africa, Europe, Asia, etc..), but this would not reveal any information about the source of the mutated hemoglobin gene.
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 decided to share mine!). My most distant paternal ancestor came to America in the late 1700’s and had six sons (and 1 daughter who didn’t live long), only 5 of whom passed on their Y-DNA. I am descended from the third son, and I call our line “Branch #3.” For the next three generations of Branch #3, each of my ancestors had two boys, one who passed on Y-DNA to the present, and one that has not. In my grandfather’s generation, he was the only male. He returned to the tradition of having two boys, but only one of those boys (my father) has passed on his Y-DNA. My father, however, decided to buck the trend and have three boys, while I’ve passed on my Y-DNA to my son.
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 personâ€™s Y chromosome and surname.A person named â€œSmith,â€ for instance, might have a Y chromosome that is clearly â€œJohnson.â€
A non paternal event can occur when an adopted male takes the surname of his adoptive family, or a male child takes his step-fatherâ€™s surname, or a male child takes his motherâ€™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 testeeâ€™s birth.
Yesterday The Jewish Press announced the â€œKohen and Levi Conference: A Gathering of the Tribe.â€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 â€œpromote identity and knowledge among Kohanim the world over, and increase their feelings of awareness and commitment to their heritage as Kohanim.â€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 todayâ€™s descendents of the biblical Kohanim are genetically related. Molecular geneticists have discovered the â€œCohen Modal Haplotypeâ€ 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.
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 â€œThe Genetic Legacy of the Mongols,â€ 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 Khanâ€™s empire (he ruled from 1206 â€“ 1227) stretched across Asia from the Pacific Ocean to the Caspian Sea and was reportedly extremely prolific.Khanâ€™s son Tushi had as many as 40 sons.His grandson Kublai Khan is reported to have had as many as 22 sons, and perhaps many more.Together this family may have as many as 16 million descendants alive in Asia today.It is extremely important to note that until DNA can be extracted from Khanâ€™s bones (which have never been found), there is no definitive proof that this Y chromosome cluster is actually descended from Genghis Khan.
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 branches.