Monday, April 04, 2011

I’m sure these numbers and letters mean something.

During my senior year of college, I saw an interesting presentation on television called Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey. Basically, it was about tracking the human migration out of Africa and into the rest of the world all those tens of thousands of years ago. How they do this is finding mutations or markers in genetic samples from populations all over the world. By identifying and comparing these markers they can find common ones that bind different groups together. …Oh just watch this.

I sent in a sample a few months ago and I just recently got my results. I don’t know much about my family tree beyond a few great grandparents on both sides. I’ve heard stories. Like my paternal grandfather’s family is descended from some Scandinavian royal house or that my maternal grandmother’s family we wealthy landowners from Spain. I’ve come to just accept that one side of my family is essentially German, and the other side is essentially Malay.

I wanted something more than just a verbal history. I wanted some evidence. Although this test wouldn’t confirm or deny the stories that I have been told, it is going to go deeper. What it would tell me is where my genetic relatives are and trace my lineage all the way back to Africa. Specifically it was going to show my paternal lineage—from me to my father, to my father’s father and so on.

The result was surprising. I was expecting a result to tell me that I was related to the peoples of northern central Europe. Turns out I have to travel further west to find my genetic relatives. I am a member of a haplogroup called R1b. According to the website where I pulled my results, the surviving members of the man whose marker is M343 live as far to the west in Europe as you can possibly go before falling into the Atlantic. Heavy concentrations of them are in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, western France, and northern Spain.
This doesn’t necessarily mean what I have been told about my family is wrong. There are, after all, men who are in the same haplogroup that I am in all over Europe and even into Asia and Africa.

This has actually fired up my imagination. I find myself wondering about the various great^N grandfathers and what their lives were like and what kind of journeys they took. Could they imagine how successful their descendants would be?

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