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Discovering Deep Genetic Ancestry with DNA

A Work In Progress by Herbert Holeman, PhD.

This draft workpaper was last modified .

To borrow a phrase, to know who you are, you have to know where your story began. DNA makes this possible. DNA is a substance, a chemical called deoxyribonucleic acid, and for more than three billion years, DNA has been copying human history, science writer, Sam Kean tells us. Oxford researcher, Simon Myers, puts it this way: "DNA really has the power to tell stories and uncover details of humanity's deep past. Dr. Simon adds, the DNA approach uses only genetic data, independent from other sources.

The purpose of these workpages is to follow this DNA approach and tell the story of the world trail traveled through the ages by my genetic ancestors using geographical based DNA haplogroups.

A haplogroup traces an ancestral genetic line. Its pattern of geographical migration reflects changes in its genome in the form of ancestral admixture. In essence, admixture results from people interbreeding. It occurs when a group of people from one geographic location migrate into a new site inhabited by people of another group. As both groups have children together, their children's DNA becomes a mixture of the DNA from each admixing group. When subsequent generations repeat this process, the genomes of descendants contain pieces of DNA inherited from each admixing. Haplogroups are formed from sorting these remaining bits of DNA. They are a way of organizing where our ancestors came from based on DNA. People with ancestors in common share their DNA only with each other. That is, they share a common ancestor when they are organized into a haplogroup with others that share some of the same DNA.

The haplogroup process can be likened to that experienced by clans. One such example is a reappraisal of the Viking image, many of whom were in actuality farmers with families seeking to migrate for a better life. The study tells of the genetic legacy of modern diversity from paternal Y-DNA and maternal mtDNA in a population's gene pool. It reveals population admixture from male subjects whose patrilineal ancestry lay in Scandinavia and female subjects whose matrilineal descent lay within the British Isles. Similarly, another haplogroup study examines the genetic imprints of the Mongolian clans on global ethnic admixture.

In revealing patterns of such human migration, the Genographic Project concludes: "Your haplogroup is your branch on the human family tree. All people alive today belong to distinct haplogroups ... People belonging to the same haplogroup can trace their descent to a common ancestor and even a specific place where that ancestor may have lived." To that end, the Human Genome Project searched out indigenous populations, people who retained the link to the geography of their ancient historical past.

a For me, tracing the line of my genetic ancestors and learning something about their world is the fun part of genetics. Figure 1 shows an illustration of tracing world ancestral lines by haplogroups.

Figure 1
Ancestral Lines
by Haplogroups

My research purpose is to depict the haplogroups unique to my ancestral line with a bit of milieu to put their historical journey into context with their world.

Copyright © 2018 Herbert P. Holeman, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.


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