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  • Curious about your genealogical origins? UA can help trace them

    Curious about your genealogical origins? UA can help trace them
    http://www.azstarnet.com/dailystar/161891
    By Dan Sorenson - Arizona Daily Star
    Tucson, Arizona | Published: 12.26.2006

    Season's greetings, African-Americans!

    Human history is unfolding one cheek swab at a time in a cluttered, windowless laboratory deep in the University of Arizona's Biological Sciences West Building.

    Although geneticists and anthropologists long ago determined that we all have origins in Africa, there is much to be learned from our DNA about where we went from there.

    A cast of about 30 undergraduate UA biology students, technicians and the lab manager deftly dance around one another in the cramped space, like waiters and chefs in a busy kitchen, processing the DNA to do just that — for participants in National Geographic Society's Genographic Project.

    After extracting DNA from participants' samples and putting it into a usable form it is analyzed, using special software. The software looks for mutations, essentially "spelling errors" in DNA. These markers are repeated — along with others picked up later — in descendants' DNA, creating a trail.

    For that reason, "deep time is easier to figure than recent," says project lead Matt Kaplan.

    The lab, part of the UA Arizona Research Laboratories' Human Origins Genotyping Laboratory, has already processed more than 211,000 DNA samples for people who want to know whence they came. It's a gene research factory, a "high-throughput genomics operation," in genetic jargon.

    Looked at another way, "It's, basically, a dating service for genealogists," says Kaplan. He's quick to point out that genealogy researchers only get access to data from participants who agree to release their information.

    But, he says, many people do because it opens them up to getting even more information about their pasts as genealogists often connect their genetic information with others and create a more complete past.

    Better yet, the "resolution" — the detail — of DNA-derived histories is increasing all the time as more people put their information into genealogical databases, says Kaplan.

    Technological advances also make the information more telling. Kaplan says developments in genomics outstrip nearly every other branch of science.

    "I have a friend, a researcher in the Netherlands, getting DNA from ice core samples from 10,000-year-old wooly mammoths. One year ago," admits Kaplan, "I would have said, 'Bull****!' "

    Stranger still, he says, the DNA didn't come from wooly mammoth tissue; it came from urine in the ice core.

    What this and other developments that increase the ability of researchers to retrieve DNA mean is that there will be more information to put into databases that can be linked to tell history — whether about wooly mammoths or humans.

    Kaplan, a "lizard malaria guy," in terms of his academic passions, didn't think he would be interested in human origins.

    "I didn't think I'd care at all," says Kaplan. Not so. Since working on the Genographic Project, Kaplan says he has looked into his own past, finding that he came from Eastern European Jewish roots and routes.

    It was something much more than that for Arlynn Bottomley, a 54-year-old grandmother of two and mother of six who was born at St. Mary's Hospital in 1952 and adopted.

    Bottomley says she went to a "loving home" but, even so, "there was always a sense of loss, of incompleteness, of not knowing anything about my family background. An uncle once told me I 'didn't count' … because I was adopted."

    She had tried, but learned nothing of her birth parents' or lineage because her records are sealed under Arizona law.

    So, when she heard about the Genographic Project, she signed up.

    "The Genographic Project offered me a chance to know a little about my background, even though that background stretches back into the mists of prehistory and doesn't include the recent past."
    She said the project gave her a "tenuous identity" but at least "made me feel I didn't just land here from outer space."

    Bottomley, who now lives in California, says the project report on her maternal (mitochondrial) DNA revealed that she had a maternal ancestor who "150,000 years ago trod the African plains; 50,000 years ago my maternal ancestors migrated to Turkey, and eventually concentrated in the Caucasus, Russia and regions of the Baltic Sea. They were among the first Neolithic farmers. It's not quite the same as knowing your family background, but it's something."

    It's hard to find a square foot of open space on the lab's long rows of countertop.

    Robots hum and whir, extracting DNA from cheek swab samples sent in by people who buy the Genographic Project Participation Kit ($99.95).

    Next month the lab is scheduled to move into the UA BIO5 Institute's new Thomas W. Keating Bioresearch Building.

    Kaplan says the UA's involvement grew out of its earlier work on Family Tree DNA dot com — www.FamilyTreeDNA.com — a public genealogy project that predates National Geographic's project.

    He says the funniest moment came several years ago after geneticists connected with the earlier project published a paper in a prestigious scientific journal that said Jews and Arabs were genetically indistinguishable.

    Kaplan says "Saturday Night Live's" spoof news segment, "Update," reported the published findings and followed it with a deadpan related development that fighting in the Mideast had tripled following the announcement.

    Tucsonan Doug Loy still has hope that the Genographic Project and genomics work in general may open people's eyes, make them question bigotry and xenophobia.

    "I think it is absolutely fantastic," says Loy, a UA associate professor of materials science engineering and chemistry. He has nothing to do with the project or DNA research, but says he was interested in learning about his past.

    "There were always these familial myths about different histories, or background. I've heard many families say that they were part Cherokee."

    Loy says if all the people in this country who claim to have Cherokee blood do, "There must be 100 million Cherokees."

    In the case of his own family, he says there was also a belief that there was some "Black Irish," Moorish, blood in the past.

    He found that amusing because that branch of the family probably wasn't terribly enamored of having American Indian or African-American roots, yet they persisted in repeating this "dark secret" as gospel.

    So, Loy bought a Genographic Project kit and learned that the family myths were "absolute rubbish."

    Like all others, if you go back far enough, there were African roots. He learned one of his paternal ancestors left what is now Kenya around 30,000 to 80,000 years ago, crossed Asia Minor, headed east to Kazakhstan, north to the Urals and then into Europe.

    "That was a surprise," Loy says of the indirect route.

    "I think it was a blast. I've talked quite a few people into doing it," says Loy.

    Tucsonan Chris Asher, who was raised in Switzerland, says her Genographic Project report confirmed some hunches she had about her ancestors, but couldn't prove.

    She suspected she had some ties to the Middle East, particularly Israel, and Italy.

    "I did archaeology in the Middle East, about 20 years ago," says Asher. "And every time I hit certain towns, like Jerusalem, you feel like you belong. And another place is Italy. I can go to Rome and feel at home. Don't ask me."

    But, when she got her report she learned that she had ancestors who lived, or passed through, those areas.

    "A million dollars couldn't pay for the enjoyment I got out of it," Asher said of the Genographic Project report. "I'm in touch with a lot of people, way back relatives in Australia, in Scotland.

    "It's history."

    Her history.

    Contact reporter Dan Sorenson at 573-4185 or [email protected].

  • #2
    Originally posted by Dan Draghici
    Curious about your genealogical origins? UA can help trace them
    http://www.azstarnet.com/dailystar/161891
    Tucsonan Chris Asher, who was raised in Switzerland, says her Genographic Project report confirmed some hunches she had about her ancestors, but couldn't prove.

    She suspected she had some ties to the Middle East, particularly Israel, and Italy.

    "I did archaeology in the Middle East, about 20 years ago," says Asher. "And every time I hit certain towns, like Jerusalem, you feel like you belong. And another place is Italy. I can go to Rome and feel at home. Don't ask me."

    But, when she got her report she learned that she had ancestors who lived, or passed through, those areas.

    "A million dollars couldn't pay for the enjoyment I got out of it," Asher said of the Genographic Project report. "I'm in touch with a lot of people, way back relatives in Australia, in Scotland.
    I think this is actually quite an interesting phenomen. Before I had any DNA-tests made, when I first visited Norway and Poland, I had a feeling both times that I was sort of at home in those countries. Then later I found out that my Y-DNA points to Norway, my mtDNA points to Poland and my autosomal DNA points to both countries. I have thought about it and became to the conclusion that it's more to do with meeting people who look like you and behave like you than to some strange "genetic memory". Maybe I'm wrong.

    Comment


    • #3
      Thing that they do not tell you.

      But it is in the fine print. Every person has four grandparents, of which only half of those are detectable in a male dna sample and one quarter in a female. So if you are a male looking to figure out your maternal grandfather's haplogroup, you're s.o.l.! And if you are a female trying to prove paternity, you're s.o.l.!

      I am living proof of this unfortunately.

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      • #4
        It depends upon whom you have available. I was able to obtain my maternal grandfather's (maternal grandmother's father) haplogroup because he fortunately had one son who had sons and a male cousin was willing to test. The same could be accomplished if the greatgrandfather had brothers or there were other males in that direct male line.

        For a female, paternity can be tested via the X tests.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Eki
          I think this is actually quite an interesting phenomen. Before I had any DNA-tests made, when I first visited Norway and Poland, I had a feeling both times that I was sort of at home in those countries. Then later I found out that my Y-DNA points to Norway, my mtDNA points to Poland and my autosomal DNA points to both countries. I have thought about it and became to the conclusion that it's more to do with meeting people who look like you and behave like you than to some strange "genetic memory". Maybe I'm wrong.
          Same with me,like you Eki.I felt like what I was.It's kind of Haunting.I'm sort of an Anglophile,I knew all things British,I read Scandanavian fairytales,when no one else was reading any such thing,and I had visions of a Danish or Germanic-type Dieter Guy right before I got DNA tested and was confirmed to be MtK which is from various regions in North Europe(Germany is called N. Europe).All this is rather natural, but no one can confirm it except through DNA testing.Everyone would tell me I was crazy, or just dreaming,conjuring up stuff-but that was my roots calling me I'm sure.

          Comment


          • #6
            What are X tests?

            Originally posted by kaybee930
            It depends upon whom you have available. I was able to obtain my maternal grandfather's (maternal grandmother's father) haplogroup because he fortunately had one son who had sons and a male cousin was willing to test. The same could be accomplished if the greatgrandfather had brothers or there were other males in that direct male line.

            For a female, paternity can be tested via the X tests.
            What are X tests and where do you get them?? I've never heard of those.Does FamilyTree offer them?

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Jambalaia32
              What are X tests and where do you get them?? I've never heard of those.Does FamilyTree offer them?
              Yes, FTDNA has just started offering x testing, which is testing the x chromosome in much the same way the y chromosome is tested. Meaning they count the number of "short tandem repeats" (SRTs) at various locations on the chromosome.

              My understanding is that the genealogical value of x testing is not as great as yDNA testing. This is because the x chromosome undergoes a lot of recombination since women get one from their mother and the second one from their father and then pass on the recombined x to their children. And the father passes on his x, which is the x of his mother (recombined from her parents), to the daughters. However, there are "blocks" on the x chromosome which are passed intact across generations, so it seems that there may be some use for x testing. The other problem is that right now there aren't extensive databases of x STR results to compare results to. But that should change as more people do it.

              Thomas Krahn has brought this new form of genetic genealogy testing with him from DNA Fingerprint, after they merged with FTDNA. You can find the various markers and panels offered for x testing when you click on the link to order tests on your FTDNA personal page. That brings you to a page where you can choose "Standard Orders" or "Advanced Orders." Click on Advanced Orders and that shows you the various tests for y, x and autosomal markers that are now offered.

              Mike

              Comment


              • #8
                I feel close to lots of places,too

                Originally posted by Eki
                I think this is actually quite an interesting phenomen. Before I had any DNA-tests made, when I first visited Norway and Poland, I had a feeling both times that I was sort of at home in those countries. Then later I found out that my Y-DNA points to Norway, my mtDNA points to Poland and my autosomal DNA points to both countries. I have thought about it and became to the conclusion that it's more to do with meeting people who look like you and behave like you than to some strange "genetic memory". Maybe I'm wrong.
                Years ago I felt close to Rome ,but not anymore.I didn't feel ROMAN per se but I felt like hanging out there and I always feel like I could live in the desert in Egypt-not as an authentic Egyptian,but as a dweller.I haven't any Egyptian mutations Maucaulay's haplogroup chart showed,.But you know the saying-all roads lead to Rome and I guess to Egypt too.I also liked Hong Kong and Japan years ago and I still like China,but I don't have that Asian Mutation and I always picture myself scaring the Hell out of them when I walk off the plane ha ha. All roads lead to everywhere???
                Last edited by Jambalaia32; 29 December 2006, 12:18 PM. Reason: left out a word

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Jambalaia32
                  Same with me,like you Eki.I felt like what I was.It's kind of Haunting.I'm sort of an Anglophile,I knew all things British,I read Scandanavian fairytales,when no one else was reading any such thing,and I had visions of a Danish or Germanic-type Dieter Guy right before I got DNA tested and was confirmed to be MtK which is from various regions in North Europe(Germany is called N. Europe).All this is rather natural, but no one can confirm it except through DNA testing.Everyone would tell me I was crazy, or just dreaming,conjuring up stuff-but that was my roots calling me I'm sure.

                  Same here. I was adopted but always gravitated to groups that reflected my birth heritage. I was stunned when I found my maternal side about ten years ago and found out that how similar we were in lifestyle and attitude.


                  scot

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