No Longer Separated by Oceans and Centuries
Going Beyond the Records:
'Deep Ancestry' for Both Genders and
'Whole Ancestry' for Males
By James Wallace Liddell
While scientists have known for years that the sexual DNA (DeoxyriboNucleric Acid, in case you're curious) of both genders gradually mutates over long periods of time, it is only recently that they have been able to figure out the mutation rates for these sex chromosomes.
Genealogy Genetics science--which is distinctly different from the far more exacting Forensic Genetics used for determining paternity and other legal issues--dates only from 2000 when scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin were able to calculate the mutation rates for each of the second group of 25 markers on the male Y-chromosome (Y-DNA). Prior to this, they had been able to calculate male kinship ancestry only in a very approximate manner on the basis of the first 11 or 12 markers (a bit of controversy remains about including the twelfth marker in this set), and even this only a few years earlier.
Work is still proceeding but enough has been learned that this new science is now practical and useful to both genders interested in family genealogy.
For women, these very minor chromosomal twitches occur on the average once every 5,000 years (some believe it occurs on the average once only every 10,000 years), while for men it is once every 330 years--again, on the average--and only when viewed as a set since mutation rates differ among the 45 "markers" present in the male sex chromosome, with some markers mutating faster and some slower than the others and some hardly at all.
The Y-DNA test for the first 12 markers is not satisfactory for calculating a Most Recent Common (male) Ancestor (MRCA)--the question of most interest to family genealogists--simply because there aren't enough data present.
Instead, these initial markers--the most stable that males have in their genetic makeup--are better used for figuring out male prehistoric ethnic or tribal origins--what is now termed Deep Ancestry for males--and which is something the next 25 markers can't address at all because of their more rapid mutation rates.
But the more rapid mutation rates of this second set of 25 markers on the Y-chromosome allow both scientists and the public--for the first time and only since 2000--to calculate in a far more accurate manner the number of years likely to have passed since two related males share a MRCA.
The remaining eight Y-DNA markers (38 through 45) are now known to have extremely slow mutation rates, even though the actual rates are not yet known, and, thus, are genealogically uninteresting.
Gender DNA-test differences:
It is critically important to understand that most of the males' Y-DNA mutates on a genealogical basis--that is, is linkable to kinship events occurring within recorded history, three--six--ten--even 20 or more generations earlier. Using these now-confirmed mutation rates, family genealogists can easily calculate the Most Recent Common Ancestor for surname-similar males for hundreds of years back, even a thousand years ago--and continue to do this repeatedly further and further back for the same line provided that increasingly distantly kin test-participants are available!
There is an eventual boundary to this male-linking process which is still being explored but which certainly falls far short of the much greater age of the genetic records present in mtDNA.
But still, it is this more rapid mutation rates for males which allow family genealogists to test kinships between lines both near and far despite confusing, unlinkable, and even non-existent records--for which Scotland as well as much of the rest of the British Isles is infamous prior to the 1500s.
On the other hand, the X-DNA of females mutates on an archaeological basis, and the females' Deep Ancestry tests easily reach back to a time before writing of any type existed--even to a time before the birth of myth and legend. For females, a MRCA could possibly have lived 5,000 years ago--but which more likely will be found in the range of 10,000 years ago and even more.
Unlike the male sex chromosome, there are no markers in a female's mitochondria, which is constructed wholly differently from Y-DNA. Instead of markers, the female's X-chromosome is divided into two parts, each called a HyperVariable Region and labeled by scientists as HVR1 and HVR2. Each region has a large number of "bases"--HVR1 has 540 and HVR2 has 500--and each base has a variety of protein-like "nucleotides" labeled A, T, C or G.
This is why the females' genetic test results at, say, www.oocities.org/teamliddelldna/ or at any of dozens of other well-developed genetic websites, are displayed in two complex charts for each participant. Each chart reveals the test results for one of the two mtDNA regions and its bases and nucleotide array.
On the other hand, the males' Y-DNA chart at this website has only a simple single row of 37 cells to report each male's test results which can be easily and advantageously displayed in full detail immediately alongside other male test results.
Females also have side-by-side chart comparisons but only as an third-chart extraction taken from each individual's full test results and which shows only the places where each females differs from the Cambridge Reference Sequence (CRS) provided on the same website page. For these test participants, the comparisons hopefully reveal matches with ancestral sisters since most of the bases and nucleotides are found in the sex chromosome of every female but varies very slightly among all females according to their Deep Ancestry lines.
In short, a lot of work remains to understand mitochondria, but as in the early years of research into the first 11 or 12 markers of the Y-chromosome, a useful framework is already in hand for sorting out the various female matriarchal lines.
These far more remote genetic memories that females carry in their genes are useful in reaching back into the dawn of humanity when tribes and ethnic groups as we know them did not exist, and even into truly ancient times when Homo sapiens sapiens first walked on the Earth. This is why archaeologists and anthropologists are beginning to pay attention to Genealogy Genetics-based mtDNA tests.
For an increasing number of male and female family genealogists, it is these ancient records we carry in our bodies that is the latest fascinating facet to be learned from DNA-tests--through the first 12-markers of the full 37-marker Y-chromosome test, and the entirety of the female X-chromosome by means of the advanced mtDNAPlus test and the Whole Ancestry Y-DNA/mtDNA test of FamilyTreeDNA, or their equivalents with other genetic testing companies.
Ladies First--or, the Daughters of Eve
If you can regard Darwin's Theory of Evolution as nothing more than science's way of restating what the Bible explains, then you won't have any trouble with the following text. But you can with equal justification view the following as the scientists' current "best interpretation" of their studies' data--and nothing more, for there is still considerable controversy about what actually happened and which will probably always remain debatable.
According to many scientists' current best understanding of the data they read from the mutations present in mitochondria, there was once an "Eve"--the mother of all living women--and she lived in the remote past in Africa, perhaps 150,000 years ago, and from her they can trace the mutation trails of her 18 daughters.
Dr. Douglas C. Wallace of Emery University near Atlanta has established a genetic tree for these women. According to Wallace, American Indians are descended from Eve's Daughters A, B, C and D; Europeans from her Daughters H-K and T-X (I, J and K in the Mediterranean Basin: T, U, V and W in Central Europe and H, U and X in Scandia), Asians from Daughter M; and all Black Africans from Daughter L.
Daughter L--an Eve's Eve after a fashion--has an interesting family line according to Wallace since he believes that her Northeast African descendants come from her Daughters L1, L2 and L3, with Daughter L3's two daughters, M and N leaving Africa to become the ancestors of Europeans and Asians, and eventually, the Indians of the Americas as well.
Wallace also believes that he has found traces of L3's Daughter X (a child of the Caucasus) in a few northwestern North America Indians and, possibly, again in the lower Amazon Basin. --How or why, nobody knows and may never know, but this is what the tests indicate.
A British scholar, Dr. Bryan Sykes, along with researchers at Oxford University, have named the seven female matriarchal descendants of Daughter N and relate brief histories of their clans and their importance to European history. This is the daughter that Wallace believes the record shows as leaving Africa with her sister Daughter M for the Middle East about 50,000 years ago.
Matriarch cal descendants of Daughter N
Helena--Settled in the Pyrenees, moved into England at the end of the last Ice Age and then across Europe.
Jasmine--Developed agriculture and domesticated animals in Syria, later moved into Europe.
Katrine--Early Veniceans--10,000 years later, her descendants are now in the Alps.
Tara--Moved into Tuscany north of Rome 17,000 years ago, now found in England.
Ursula--Stone-age people who settled across the face of Europe.
Valda--In Spain 17,000 years ago, now also found in Finland and Norway.
Xenia--In the Caucasus 25,000 years ago and later found across Europe and in the northwest of North America and possibly in the Amazon Basin.
It's important to remember that mtDNA mutates extremely slowly and that each matriarchal strain passes to future generations, other than to immediate sons, only through daughters. The immensely slow mutation rates mean that 10,000s of modern women are mtDNA identical and are, both technically and in fact, actually sisters, and can trace back to one of the seven daughters of Daughter N.
Adam: A Quiver Full of Sons
According to one group of scientists, there was once an African "Adam" who had three sons--I, II, and III--and their descendants are the modern Black residents of that continent.
But in the same manner as Eve's daughters M and N, the scientists say that the sons of Adam's Son III moved into the Middle East where they sired Sons IV-X.
They believe the data reveal that Sons VI and IX settled in the South Caspian area while Son IV went to the Sea of Japan.
The ultimate distribution of the remaining Son III descendants currently is unclear although one scientist holds that all European males are descended from one of ten sons who later entered Europe in three waves 40,000, 22,000 and 8,000 years ago and that 80 percent of modern male Europeans are the descendants of Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) hunter-gather ancestors who entered the continent some 25,000 years ago.
Most of the remaining males, it is held, can trace back to Neolithic (New Stone Age) ancestors who brought agriculture and husbandry with them 10,000 years ago. This work is being combined with archaeological studies to see which group of ancestors--hunters or farmers--passed the most genes to modern men. It is interesting that the breaks in the genetic calculations fall within eras previously established by archaeological field studies.
Another ancestry-calculating approach is to set up haplogroups, which are the sum of all 12 Y-DNA markers. A few examples of "Deep Ancestry" haplogroups for males are R1b (western Europe, Germany and southeast Europe), R1a (Scandia to central Asia), J/J2 (Middle East, central Asia and Mediterranean), E3a (African) and E3b (North Africa and Mediterranean). There are dozens more. Genealogically, a shared surname but an unshared haplogroup means no kinship.
And since males carry both mtDNA identical to that of their mothers and the Y-DNA of their fathers, it is a simple matter to tell a testing company to run both types of laboratory tests concurrently, frequently at discounted prices because of the convenience. The combined results provides each tested male a "Whole Ancestry" reading of his forebears.
Whole Ancestry tests are not useful for females, however, since they carry no Y-DNA chromosomal material whatsoever.
While Genealogy Genetics science often can break through the brick wall of absent or incomplete records and keep a research effort alive, or else, assist to focus searches to better understand those confusing indications stacked dustily in some drawer, there is also the really enjoyable possibility that males and females can learn what their most remote ancestors were doing and where, respectively, thousands and tens of thousands of years ago.
Still, this new science is still evolving even while it increasingly reveals what our sexy chromosomes really are up to! One scientist at the University of Edinburgh has held, for example, that the mitochondria a male inherits from his mother may--just may--sometimes have an effect on the female mtDNA of his own generation during conception, and that female mutation rates need to be recalibrated closer in time.
Others say he is completely wrong. The answer to this controversy is not clear at present, and it is best to wait to hear from the jury on this.
Even the Out-Of-Africa theory, itself, is still disputed. For example, one current scientist's somewhat eerie opinion is that modern male and female humans do not share common ancestors genetically and that there is no discernable genetic evidence that the Adam and the Eve discussed above were mates. He believes that modern humans descend from homo sapiens sapiens who first appeared in groups that evolved independently of each other from more primitive Homo species outside of Africa and then met and mated only after thousands of years had passed and with all their other kinship lines died out.
He is among a group of academics who in general argue that our most remote ancestors left Africa as a species less developed than Homo sapiens sapiens--among the leading candidates is Homo erectus--and then evolved into our species somewhere in Near or Central Asia and later reentered Africa while otherwise spreading out over our planet.
These issues are not material to the average family genealogist but, still, need to be noted while calculating Deep and Whole Ancestry.
While the scientists fight for publication, don't fear launching a DNA/mtDNA genealogical study, but first, visit the Web to see if a study with surnames similar to your own is already under way. If there is, the best response then is to send an email and ask: "Where do I sign up?"
(This article was reviewed for accuracy by James V. Elliott [Principal, Reivers Study] and edited for submission to this journal by Jack Wardlaw [Editor, Team Liddell et al].)
Team Liddell et al is a worldwide group of family
Illustrations: Courtesy of AmericanTreeDNA Corporation
Related Websites Selection
(and also same at: http://www.duerinck.com/migrate.html )
Anthrotech's Virtual Library (Anthropology)