All the posts about results from 23andme in the last few months reminded me of a DNA analysis project by the National Geographic Society. The Genographic project is collecting data about the migratory history of the human species. It tries to determine how people ended up where they currently are from their origins in Africa (the ancestry of every human on earth can be traced back to Africa, according to the project). They had invited the general public to participate by buying a kit, and sending their DNA sample. In return, they would provide details about the origins of the participants and details of their haplogroup. Ever the willing participant in such experiments, my father had sent his DNA sample sometime in 2006 and received the results. I went back to the site to look at the results again recently in light of the renewed interest in DNA analysis.
The most interesting data obviously is the migration path from Africa, which is illustrated by the image below:
I’ll just quote from the Genographic Project report for more details about the haplogroup itself.
Your Y-chromosome results identify you as a member of haplogroup J2.
The genetic markers that define your ancestral history reach back roughly 60,000 years to the first common marker of all non-African men, M168, and follow your lineage to present day, ending with M172, the defining marker of haplogroup J2, and also with the markers M47 (J2a), M12 (J2e), M67 (J2f), and M92 (J2f1).
From what I understand, haplogroups are a way of identifying branches in the human family tree, going all the way back to Africa 60,000 years ago, based on the mutations of the Y-chromosome that is passed from father to son. More details about the haplogroup J2 from Wikipedia. So, how did my ancestors migrate to south India?
If you look at the map highlighting your ancestors’ route, you will see that members of haplogroup J2 carry the following Y-chromosome markers:
M168 > M89 > M304 > M172
Today, descendants of this line appear in the highest frequencies in the Middle East, North Africa, and Ethiopia, and at a much lower frequency in Europe, where it is observed exclusively in the Mediterranean area. Approximately 20 percent of the males in southern Italy carry the marker, along with ten percent of men in southern Spain.
So, most members of the haplogroup J2 migrated to the middle-east, Northern Africa and Southern Europe, but one of my ancestors separated from them at some point (maybe he was banished from the tribe ). Or, maybe many of them headed in a different direction.
One thing I’ve realised from what I’ve been reading is that genetics is a fascinating area of science, with the prospects for the future being both scary and very interesting.