Monday, July 27, 2009

Rueda y Fingerhut Family DNA (Updated 6/17/2018)

Tormented by the certainty that he was his wife's brother, Aureliano ran out to the parish house to search through the moldy and moth-eaten archives for some clue to his parentage ... lost in the labyrinths of kinship, trembling with uncertainty ...
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

"My Grandparents, My Parents, and I" (1936) by Frida Kahlo
I am Edward A. Rueda, a journalist working in New York City, and this blog covers my longest investigation — my search for my family history. This expands upon an original genealogy website I created in 2006, and the families I cover include:

Paternal Grandfather's Side: Rueda, de la Prada, Gómez Farelo, Gómez Romano, Inga, Ortíz Galeano, Ortíz de Zárate, de la Parra, de la Plata, Quijano, Sarmiento, Serrano.
Originally from: San Gil, Barichara, Galán, Zapatoca, and other towns of Santander Department, Colombia.
Immigrated to: New York City; Miami, FL. My dad, uncle, and grandmother were the first Ruedas in our immediate family to live in the United States.

Paternal Grandmother's Side: Vásquez, Cohen, Lara, Martelo, Herrera, Savignano, Noguera, Mejía, Molina, Juliao, Pacheco, Esquivia, Blanquiceth.
Originally from: the Caribbean coast of Colombia, including: 
- Barranquilla (Atlántico Department)
- San Bernardo del Viento (Córdoba Department)
Cartagena, Villanueva, Mahates, Mompox, Galerazamba (Bolívar Department)
- Remolino (Magdalena Department)
- Sincelejo (Sucre Department)
Immigrated to: New York City; Miami, FL; Germany; Switzerland.

Maternal Grandfather's Side: Fingerhut, Fischer, Niedrig, Siegel, Haspel, Goldberg, Kikenis.
Originally from: Lemberg, Austria-Hungary (now Lviv, Ukraine).
Immigrated to: Brooklyn, NY (by way of Toronto, Canada).

Maternal Grandmother's Side: Davis, Karasov, Scher, Brumer, Turner, Rayman, Zaslavsky, Axelrod, Feitlowitz.
Originally from: 
- Poltava gubernia, Ukraine (formerly Russia)
- Kiev or Cherkasy gubernia, Ukraine (formerly Russia)
- Lodz, Poland (formerly Russia)
Immigrated to: 
- New York City; Spokane, Washington; Paterson, NJ
- Liverpool, England; Wrexham, Wales; Sheffield and Manchester, England
- Vancouver, Canada; St. Paul and Minneapolis, MN; Los Angeles, CA

This first entry explores what my DNA tells me about my most remote ancestry. 

1) Family Brick Walls and Whitewash
The cliche is that DNA tests help genealogists break through "brick walls" in their family history. However, these brick walls sometimes seem deliberate rather than happenstance, designed to cover up ugly truths of prejudice and oppression. With DNA tests, we can start to recognize the ancestors whose memories were oppressively silenced or deliberately forgotten. Our particular genes also provide a way to understand our place in the larger human family. One scientific estimate says that a person who lived only a few thousand years ago is the most recent common ancestor of all 7.5 billion-plus people living today. That unknown but crucial ancestor should inspire all of us to learn more about our highly interwoven origins.  

I first wrote down my grandparents' stories more than 25 years ago, and in 1998 I found my first historical record  the Ellis Island passenger list for my Grandpa Alfred's parents, dating back to 1906. Through that record I learned my great-grandfather's Hebrew first name, and that he brought his wife, two oldest daughters, and $24 in cash to America. From the very beginning, history came alive for me through these stories and records. In 20 years, the family history resources available have ballooned from microfilm and Cyndi's List to immense online repositories like FamilySearch and Google's digitized books and newspapers. I now have a much better sense of how the brave dreams, happy accidents, and terrible sorrows that guided my ancestors through the centuries fit into the broader saga of human history. 

Galitzianer Jews in a French engraving. 
Yet despite all my gains, there are still "brick walls." On my mother's side, there are no records about our Ashkenazi Jewish ancestors before the 1790s, when the Austrian and Prussian imperial authorities tried to force Jewish assimilation. They made Jews take Germanic last names and no longer use patronyms, and started to keep secular vital records, in part to track potential military recruits. Before the 1790s, Austria and Prussia simply did not care about keeping vital records of their Jewish subjects. Jewish community records like the pinkes book were mostly lost in the wake of pogroms, mass emigration, and the Holocaust. Now, postwar yizkor books are the main source for glimpses of the vanished Ashkenazi Jewish world.  

On my father's side, "brick walls" surround many of our Colombian ancestors between the 1500s to the 1800s. The original conquistadors and subsequent Iberian settlers rarely preserved their family backgrounds for posterity, in many cases to hide low social standing, or Jewish or Arab ancestry. Genealogists like Juan Flórez de Ocáriz list conquistadors' children but often omit their mothers, implying that they were Indian women. 

Castas (mestizaje) painting
Very few records document the mixing of European, African, and Native American races that occurred in my family. On my grandfather's side, a 1726 marriage dispensation record from San Gil, Colombia, which is meant to disclose impediments to holy matrimony, notes how the bride and groom not only had mothers that were sisters, but those sisters had a great-grandmother who was "a female Indian who [the witness] did not remember how she was named and that the said Indian was from the town of Guane." What is a fascinating genealogical detail today was seen as somehow problematic three centuries ago. Both sides of my father's family shunned their multicultural past and told stories about their "pure" Spanish descent. Such whitewashing of family history begs the question raised by Puerto Rican poet Fortunato Vizcarrondo  "¿Y tu agüela, aonde ejtá?" (And your grandma, where she at?)     

2) The Footsteps In Our DNA 
I first learned my maternal DNA haplogroup through National Geographic's Genographic Project and paternal DNA haplogroup through Ancestry DNA in 2007. Then in 2017 I ordered National Geographic's Geno 2.0 kit for its completeness, as it tests the direct lineages passed down through my paternal Y-chromosomal DNA and maternal mitochondrial DNA, and scours my autosomal DNA for traces of ancestral source populations (including archaic humans like Neanderthals and Denisovans).

To me, Geno 2.0 provides more realistic answers than other competitors that spell out one's ethnicities down to the last 0.1 percentile, regardless of any margin of error. Many competitors also have genetic databases that are overwhelmingly from white and European populations, which impact the results. 

Geno 2.0 does not assign ethnicities, and instead views its subjects and larger populations around the world as having "particular blends of regional affiliations." In other words, the particular ethnicity you might put on a census form is really a composite of waves and waves of people who migrated and intermingled. Review anyone's genetic markers and mutations, and you can start to piece together which populations contributed which markers over time. Even families that stayed in one place over hundreds of years of recorded history probably have a sweeping migration story over the last few thousand years. The main migration of modern humans out of Africa began only 70,000 years ago, which means on a biological timescale we spread worldwide at a breakneck pace.
Map of modern human migration out of Africa, based on mitochondrial DNA.
The numbers/colors represent thousands of years before the present.
Our understanding of human evolution forever changed the same day that I got my DNA results back -- June 7, 2017 -- with the bombshell announcement that the oldest fossils of Homo sapiens, dating back roughly 300,000 years, were found alongside flint blades in a site in Morocco. These fossils, coupled with DNA evidence, indicate that modern humans did not just live in the Rift Valley in eastern Africa, but spread all throughout Africa long before their main migration to other continents.    

In the past decade, sequencing of ancient DNA has also provided major insights into prehistoric human ancestry and migrations. David Reich, who runs a Harvard lab at the forefront of this rapidly expanding scientific field, published in 2018 "Who We Are and How We Got Here," a pioneering book that explains how DNA evidence is rewriting our common origin story.

The ancestors of all hominins split from chimpanzees between 7 million to 5 million years ago. Our genetics also indicate that at least two archaic human populations separated from and later rejoined our ancestral line. The first group split c.1.4 million–900,000 years ago and contributed to the ancestry of Denisovans. The second group split c.700,000 years ago and then interbred with modern humans in Africa c.35,000 years ago. Since Homo erectus had reached the Caucasus by 1.8 million years ago, it is unclear whether these archaic humans lived in Africa or originated in Eurasia and migrated back to Africa.
Homo sapiens ancestry and admixture since 600,000 years ago (Wikipedia
Around 770,000–550,000 years ago, the ancestors of modern humans split from the common ancestors of Neanderthals and Denisovans. The split between Neanderthals and Denisovans came c.470,000–380,000 years ago, with Neanderthals settling west Eurasia and Denisovans further splitting into a Siberian group and a southeast Asian group. The oldest DNA evidence, dating back 430,000 years, comes from a boy found in Sima de los Huesos, a cave in Atapuerca, Spain. This boy’s genome is similar to later Neanderthals but his mitochondrial DNA is similar to Denisovans, suggesting that later Neanderthals probably got their mitochondrial DNA from modern humans in Eurasia. 

All the genes in the 22 autosomal chromosomes of present-day humans point back to common ancestors no older than c.320,000 years ago, according to Reich. Around this time anatomically modern humans emerged in Africa, and Reich says during this period our ancestors probably lived in multiple, disparate populations. The two people who happen to be the most recent common patrilineal ancestor and matrilineal ancestor of all humans living today seem to have been spread out in time and location. Scientists believe "Y-chromosomal Adam" lived maybe 200,000 years ago in possibly west-central Africa, and "Mitchondrial Eve" lived maybe 160,000 years ago in possibly east Africa. 

"Reconstructed Eve" by Stephen Oppenheimer
from the Bradshaw Foundation
Our Y-chromosomal and mitochondrial DNA do not explain the total story of human migration, but these two direct genetic lineages richly illustrate the "Out of Africa" theory of how we spread worldwide. Like everyone whose direct maternal ancestors left Africa in prehistoric times, my maternal line survived a population bottleneck c.90,000-50,000 years ago. My maternal ancestor was among the fewer than 1,000 people with the mitochondrial haplogroup L3 who left Africa c.70,000 years ago and (amusingly) crossed the Red Sea. An interesting but controversial theory says these humans migrated due to climate change brought on by the Toba supervolcanic eruption in Indonesia a few thousand years before. This small group of modern humans was not the first population to enter Eurasia, but it was the most prolific, eventually spreading worldwide.

Around the start of the Upper Paleolithic period, c.54,000-44,000 years ago, humans had major genetic admixtures. Modern humans first interbred with Neanderthals in probably the Near East, then west Eurasian hunter-gatherers separated from east Eurasian hunter-gatherers, and then the east Eurasian hunter-gatherers split again, with one portion interbreeding with Denisovans and becoming the ancestors of native Papuans and Australians. While archaic human populations died off either through indirect competition or direct conflict, prehistoric admixture ensures that almost every person today has some percentage of ancient human DNA.

David Reich's lab and other projects like the Genetic Atlas of Human Admixture History are trying to connect genetic evidence of populations intermingling with archaeological and historical evidence, and even infer some historical interactions that were previously unknown. Some major migrations resulting in admixture (the interbreeding of populations) include: 

• 37,000 to 19,000 years ago: Three successive hunter-gatherer cultures (Aurignacian, Gravettian, Magdalenian) settled westward in Europe. 

• c.8000 BC: Agriculturalists from the Fertile Crescent spread the raising of crops like wheat and barley throughout Europe, Asia, and northern Africa. Over the next 6,000 years, these Levantine farmers intermingled with Iranian farmers and western and eastern European hunter-gatherers, forming a single western Eurasian population during the Bronze Age that was very genetically similar. This was the first major migration in the Neolithic Revolution (c.10000 BC to 1000 BC), during which agriculture developed and spread through separate parts of the world.  

• c.3000 BC: The Yamnaya herding culture of the Pontic-Caspian steppe in central Eurasia began migrating, which led to the R1a and R1b paternal haplogroups of a few powerful Yamnaya men becoming extremely common in western, central, and southern Eurasia. The Yamnaya descended from eastern European hunter-gatherers and Iranian farmers, and their wheels, carts, and distinctive kurgans (burial mounds) were derived from the Maykop culture in southern Russia. With their horses and wheels, the Yamnaya brought along their warring culture, Indo-European languages, and probably Yersinia pestis (pneumonic plague). In David Reich's words, the Yamnaya "were extraordinarily successful, largely displacing the farmers of northern Europe in the west and the hunter-gatherers of central Asia in the east." Central Europe's Corded Ware culture (2900 BC) and Great Britain's Bell Beaker culture (2500 BC) had substantial Yamnaya ancestry, as did the ancestral northern Indian population, which mixed with southern Indians from c.2000 BC to AD 0.   

• c.3000 BC: Chinese agriculture that separately developed by the Yellow River and Yangtze River spread independently to southeast Asia and Taiwan. 

• c.3000 BC: Sahel cattle herders spread their Nilo-Saharan languages through northern and eastern Africa. 

• c.3000 BC: Paleo-Eskimos spread the Arctic small tool tradition through Arctic Canada and Greenland and eventually contributed to the ancestry of North America's Na-Dene speakers. 

• c.2000 BC to AD 1300: The Austronesian expansion, in which people from southeast Asia settled islands along the Pacific and Indian Oceans and spread the practice of farming rice and Austronesian languages. The initial migrant population was East Asian, but after 400 BC there were two separate waves of Papuan migration.  

• c.2000 BC to AD 1000: The Bantu expansion, in which farmers who spoke Bantu-related languages and developed ironmaking spread from west Africa to nearly all of central and southern Africa. 

• c.1000 BC: Admixture in Somalia and Ethiopia of sub-Saharan Africans and western Eurasian farmers. 

• c.1000 BC to AD 1500: Arawak tribes spread from South America throughout the Caribbean, and then Carib tribes migrated from the Orinoco River area and conquered much of the Antilles after AD 1200. 

• 586 BC to present: The Jewish diaspora spread worldwide from the Middle East, especially following the Roman destruction of Jerusalem's Second Temple in AD 70. Sephardic Jews, who had been in Iberia since Roman times, fled to Mediterreanean lands, the Levant, Holland, and the Americas following their expulsion from Spain in 1492 and Portugal in 1497. Ashkenazi Jews first settled in central Europe in the 800s, and then by the mid-1500s had mainly settled in the Kingdom of Poland, an area that remained a major center of world Jewry until the Holocaust.  

• 264 BC to AD 476: Roman conquests, followed by the Roman Empire, which controlled the entire Mediterranean Sea ("Mare Nostrum"). 

• c.100 BC to AD 1450: The Silk Road, a trade network that stretched from China to the Mediterranean. 

• AD 0 to 1000: Na-Dene speakers spread through western North America. 

• 200 to 1100: Cattle herders speaking Khoe-Kawdi languages spread from eastern Africa to southern Africa. 

• 622 to 750: The early Muslim conquests of the Middle East, central Asia, north Africa, and Iberia, which led to the development of: 
• 700s to 1800s: The Arab slave trade, which mainly enslaved Africans, Eastern Europeans, and Turkic peoples.

• 700s to 1000s: The Viking invasions and then tamer trading across Europe.

• 1000: Ancestors of Eskimo-Aleut speakers spread from Asia to Arctic America, displacing the Paleo-Eskimos.  

• 1206 to 1337: The Mongol conquests in Asia and Eastern Europe.

• 1492 to 1600s: The Spanish conquest and colonization of the Americas, which led to the development of: 
• 1500s to 1800s: The Transatlantic slave trade, which brought an estimated 12 million Africans to the Americas. 

• c.1950 to present: Global migration, especially with the rise of air travel, has had an "omnipresent yet overlooked" impact on our world and the future world of our descendants. In the United States alone, post-1965 immigration (including my father) has accounted for over half the country's population growth in the last half-century. 

3) What Stories Are In My Genes? 

Ancient hominin DNA: Geno 2.0 says I am 1.4% Neanderthal, a slightly higher percentage than the average non-African person. Insitome says I am 1.8% Neanderthal, toward the middle of the average range of 1.3% to 2.1%. 

Around 765,000 to 550,000 years ago lived the most recent common ancestor of modern humans, Neanderthals, and Denisovans. The lineage that led to modern humans spun off c.460,000 years ago. The ancestors of Neanderthals and Denisovans entered Eurasia, with Neanderthals mostly heading to Europe and the Levant and Denisovans mostly spreading through Asia. As seen above, modern humans were living in Morocco and probably many other parts of Africa by 300,000 years ago. 

A recent genetic study has shown how admixture played a large part in the Neanderthals' evolution. Scientists believe that some modern humans (or a population very closely related to Homo sapiens) crossed into Europe and interbred with the Neanderthals. By 270,000 years ago there lived a hybrid daughter of a male Neanderthal and a female modern human who eventually became the common matrilineal ancestor of all Neanderthals. In other words, the mitochrondrial DNA of later Neanderthals reflect a hybridity not seen in earlier Neanderthals.  

Modern humans and Neanderthals both lived in the Near East and probably interbred c.130,000-100,000 years ago, but the main period of admixture took place in the Levant c.54,000-49,000 years ago. Neanderthals became extinct c.39,000 years ago, but the cause is still a mystery. Possible reasons include climate change from a supervolcano eruption in Italy, or the alliance between dogs and modern humans taking the upper hand in hunting. 

Nevertheless, Neanderthal genes, including some beneficial ancient African gene variants, live on in modern humans like myself. An app by Insitome shares which particular Neanderthal genes I have in my genome, like genes associated with visual learning and memory, genes aiding the skin's repair process for UV damage, and a modified dystrophin (DMD) gene for muscle development. This Neanderthal version of the DMD gene is found in about 20% of Native Americans and about 10% of Europeans, so it potentially came from either part of my ancestry.     
"The Feathered Neanderthal," by Fabio Fogliazza. Neanderthals harvested bird feathers, probably for personal adornment.

My mtDNA haplogroup is H26c. 
This is my matrilineal line of descent, according to mutations in my mitochondrial DNA: 

• Mitochondrial Eve - lived around 150,000 years ago in Africa. 
• L3 haplogroup - around 67,000 years ago in East Africa.
• N haplogroup - around 60,000 years ago in East Africa or Asia.
• R haplogroup - around 55,000 years ago in West Asia.
• HV haplogroup - around 30,000-15,000 years ago in West Asia. 
• H haplogroup - around 28,000 years ago in West Asia.

Haplogroup H is found today in 40-60% of all European populations, 20% of people in southwest Asia, 15% of people in Central Asia, and about 5% of people in northern Asia, according to Geno 2.0. This probably reflects the first migration wave of farmers from the Levant around 10,000 years ago. Studies suggest that Ashkenazi Jewish matrilineal lines with Haplogroup H either stem from women in Southern Europe or possibly Levantine women.

Geno 2.0 notes my "Genius Matches," or degrees to which I am maternally related to certain historical figures: 
• 65,000-45,000 years ago: last common maternal ancestor with Petrarch, Abraham Lincoln.
• 25,000-8,000 years ago: last common maternal ancestor with Nicolas Coperincus, Benjamin Franklin, Queen Maria Theresa, Queen Marie Antoinette, Napoleon Bonaparte, Queen Victoria. 
My Mom was most thrilled to learn that she is related to Queen Victoria.

My Y-DNA haplogroup is R-CTS4065
This is my patrilineal line of descent, according to mutations in my Y-chromosomal DNA:

• Y-Chromosomal Adam - lived over 180,000 years ago in Africa.
 P305 branch - over 100,000 years ago in Africa. 
• M42 branch - around 80,000 years ago in East Africa. 
• M168 branch - around 70,000 years ago in East Africa. 
• P143 branch - around 60,000 years ago in Southwest Asia. 
• M89 branch - around 55,000 years ago in Southwest Asia. 
• M578 branch - around 50,000 years ago in Southwest Asia. 
• P128 branch - around 45,000 years ago in South Asia. 
• M526 branch - around 42,000 years ago in South or Southeast Asia.
• M45 branch - around 35,000 years ago in Central Asia or South Asia. 
• M207 branch - around 30,000 years ago in Central Asia. 
• P231 branch - around 30,000-25,000 years ago in Central Asia. 
• M343 branch - around 22,000-17,000 years ago in South Asia or West Asia. The R1b [M343] haplogroup was especially fruitful, first living as hunter-gatherers on grasslands spanning from Korea to central Europe, and then after the Ice Age dispersing their genes throughout Europe, the Middle East, northern Africa, and even South and East Asia. Geno 2.0 says about 55% of Western European men, 43% of Central Asian men, and 23% of men in Africa's central Sahel belong to this haplogroup and its many branches. 
• M269 branch - around 15,000-6,500 years ago in West Asia. 
• P310 branch - originated in West Asia in a still undetermined time. 
• P312 branch - around 14,000-5,500 years ago in West Asia. Geno 2.0 says P312 includes about 1-2% of men in Lebanon, Iraq, and Kazakhstan, about 16% of men in France, and about 15-17% of men in Spain and Portugal.
• Z40481 branch
• ZZ11 branch
• DF27 branch - c.2200 BC in northeast Iberia, according to a recent genetic study (Solé-Morata et. al, 2017). DF27, according to this study and 1000 Genomes Project, is found in 49% percent of Iberian men, 70% of Basque men, 40% of Colombian men, 36% of Puerto Rican men, 10% of Mexican men, 8% of Peruvian men, and 6-20% of French men
• Z195 branch
• Z272 branch 
• Z220 branch - c.1300 BC in north-central Iberia
• Z295 branch
• S25783 branch
• R-CTS4065 is my particular R1b subclade, also known as R1b1a1a2a1a2a1a1a2. It's interesting to note that my male genetic line probably lived in Spain for nearly 4,000 years, stemming from the notably Celtic region of north-central Spain. My direct male ancestors settled in Andalucía at some point before the late 1500s, and by 1593 my forebear Cristóbal de Rueda had settled in Colombia.

Geno 2.0 notes my "Genius Matches," or degrees to which I am paternally related to certain historical figures: 
• 120,000-65,000 years ago: last common paternal ancestor with Napoleon Bonaparte. 
• 65,000-45,000 years ago: last common paternal ancestor with Genghis Khan, Thomas Jefferson, Leo Tolstoy, Nikola Tesla. 
• 45,000-25,000 years ago: last common paternal ancestor with Sir Francis Drake, Abraham Lincoln. 
• 25,000-8,000 years ago: last common paternal ancestor with Pharaoh Tutankhamun, Nicolas Copernicus, Charles Darwin. 
My Dad was most amazed to learn that he and King Tut are distant relatives. 

My prehistoric ancestry is also your prehistoric ancestry
If we move beyond our direct maternal and paternal lines and consider all of our genealogy, we find an interesting pattern. Go back 800 or 900 years, and our family trees have more ancestors than there were people living at the time. This is due to pedigree collapsewhere the same ancestors appear and reappear in our family tree, and human migration ensures that those few common ancestors had a broader and broader spread of descendants. 

Examples of pedigree collapse are easy to find, especially if your ancestors lived in isolated areas. My paternal grandfather's entire family came from the mountainous, remote region of Santander, Colombia. All of my grandfather's great-great-grandparents, who were living around 1750, could trace their ancestry back five or six generations to Juan Sarmiento de Olvera, a Spaniard who settled in Santander around 1590 and took a local mestiza bride, Francisca González de la Nava. Juan and Francisca had five daughters and two sons. One son became a priest, but the other siblings married and had families, and almost all santandereanos who can trace their ancestry back to the 17th century have at least one of the Sarmiento siblings in their family tree. So far, I've found that (hoo boy) five of the seven Sarmiento siblings are my direct ancestors. 

Humanity's "identical ancestors" have always been a subject of mythology, but a 2004 study by Douglas Rohde and other MIT researchers used computer simulations to determine the reality. Up until around 5400 BC, every person "was either an ancestor of all of humanity, or of nobody alive today." By 5400 BC humans had migrated to every continent except Antarctica, domesticated the cat, cultivated silk in China, and spread agriculture from the Levant to the entire Mediterranean coast and from Iran to the Indus Valley. The invention of proto-writing and the wheel would follow a few centuries later. 
The seated woman of Çatalhöyük (c.6000 BC), a remnant of the time of our "identical ancestors."  
Rohde's team estimates that the most recent common ancestor of everyone living today probably lived around 1500 BC, potentially in East Asia. In the Book of Genesis, God gives Abraham the poetic promise that in return for their covenant: "I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky." Abraham's saga has inspired people for millennia, but there's the blasphemous possibility that Abraham's anonymous idol-worshipping neighbor has just as many descendants living today. 

Other genealogy experts, following this line of logic, believe that all Eurasians probably have common ancestors from the era "after Christ," and all Europeans may have common ancestors through AD 1000 or even later. Historical figures with known lines of descent -- Egypt's pharaohs, Abraham, Confucius, Muhammad, Charlemagne -- are probably ancestors of a majority of humanity, along with many more unknown common ancestors. 

Rohde's paper concludes with this beautiful sentence: "But to the extent that ancestry is considered in genealogical rather than genetic terms, our findings suggest a remarkable proposition: no matter the languages we speak or the colour of our skin, we share ancestors who planted rice on the banks of the Yangtze, who first domesticated horses on the steppes of the Ukraine, who hunted giant sloths in the forests of North and South America, and who laboured to build the Great Pyramid of Khufu."

Since Rohde's team theorized about our common ancestry, the expanding study of ancient DNA has demonstrated how our prehistoric ancestors bridged the gap between genetically disparate peoples. David Reich writes that the four populations living in West Eurasia 10,000 years ago -- hunter-gatherers in Western Europe and Eastern Europe, and farmers in the Levant and Iran -- were as genetically separate as modern-day Europeans and East Asians. Yet by 5,000 years ago, these four populations had combined, producing blended Bronze Age descendants that are genetically similar to modern people in West Eurasia. There are also now DNA tests that determine which of your genetic markers match the genomes from ancient hunter-gatherer populations and early civilizations, and I would like to eventually learn that aspect of my own DNA. 

My regional ancestry, Geno 2.0 results: 
My ancestral regions, according to The Genographic Project. North and South America are considered one region. 
Humanity's prehistoric "identical ancestors" are fascinating but untraceable, and our individual, historical genealogy is selective and truncated. Somewhere in the middle is our individual autosomal DNA admixture, which can be compared to global sample populations. This provides a broad overview of our ancestry, rather than our exact pedigree. 

It's frankly impossible to understand all our ancestors' precise geographies and ethinicities. If a single ancestor from more than seven generations ago came from a particular region, it's unlikely that I have inherited a detectable number of genetic markers from that person. 

Yet I now have a "general understanding" of which continents my ancestors came from. My autosomal DNA admixture results are mostly pleasing validation, with some mild surprises. It was a joy to see confirmation of my majority Jewish ancestry, and my Native American and West African heritage. My non-Jewish European side is smaller than I expected, with the majority coming from Eastern Europe, and my non-Jewish West Asian side is larger than I expected.

I won't give Geno 2.0's exact percentages, since they are subject to margin of error anyway. Instead, picture 128 of my ancestors, the same number as my 5th-great-grandparents (who in reality were likely racially mixed). If these hypothetical 128 ancestors were representative of my ethnic admixture, there would be roughly: 

68 ancestors of Jewish Diaspora descent. This amount of Jewish ancestry shows that my Ashkenazi Jewish ancestors had a low level of interbreeding with other populations. 

24 ancestors of Eastern European descent. Geno 2.0 says this group, representing the area from Germany to Western Russia, has genetic ties to the earliest hunter-gatherers who came to northern Russia and Finland, the early farmers who came from the Middle East and southern Europe, and central Asian nomads.   

10 ancestors of Native American descent. A recent genetic study found that the ancestors of Native Americans diverged from East Asian peoples c.36,000 years ago and from ancient northern Eurasians c.23,000 years ago, long before they crossed into the Americas. A coastal route from Asia to the Americas first appeared c.16,000 years ago and an ice-free inland corridor appeared c.13,000 years ago. Around 15,700 years ago the ancestors of Native Americans split into northern and southern branches, with the southern branch dispersing through what is now the United States, Central America, and South America. Geno 2.0 notes that indigenous groups first settled in Colombia around 12,000 years ago. 

9 ancestors of Asia Minor descent. Geno 2.0 says this area includes Greece, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, and the northern Middle East. It was the center of land trade routes, drawing people from Europe, Africa, and Asia, and was later the center of the Ottoman Empire. Turks, the Druze, and Assyrians are among the peoples with strong Asia Minor descent.

6 ancestors of West Mediterranean descent. Geno 2.0 calls this area the Mediterranean coast of Spain, southern France, parts of Italy, and Sardinia and Corsica. It also notes that farmers from the Middle East first settled the area around 8,000 years ago, and the region was isolated from mainland Italy and Europe for most of human history. 

3 ancestors of Western African descent. These are my bloodties to the survivors of Transatlantic slavery and the Middle Passage. But this region's peoples have a rich cultural legacy, having spread throughout Africa their use of agriculture, iron smelting, and Bantu languages. Their trading routes eventually reached across the Sahara and Mediterranean and gave rise to large empires and great centers of Islamic learning like Timbuktu

3 ancestors of Southwest Asian / Persian Gulf descent. Geno 2.0 says this was where humans first arrived after leaving Africa, and this is also the region of early empires (Babylonian, Assyrian, Persian), and the center of Islamic culture.

5 ancestors of indeterminate origin. They represent various backgrounds with too little data to accurately identify.

My regional ancestry, Insitome results: 
This messy map with hand-drawn lines highlights the areas found in my Insitome Regional Ancestry results returned in January 2018. The messiness reflects the murkiness of admixture tests, as continent-level admixture results tend to be accurate, but the percentages from regions within continents can vary depending on which DNA test we take. 

Nevertheless, I wanted more specific details of the broad geographic regions found by my Geno 2.0 test. I appreciate how Insitome does not equate its population clusters with modern countries, and also provides clear explanations of the science, like this chart below on how human population clusters are related
So, once again imagining my 128 hypothetical ancestors, Insitome suggests my ethnic admixture could be broken down into: 

58 ancestors of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. Insitome says the Ashkenazi Jews' forebears "emerged out of the cities of the Roman Empire," with ancestry derived equally from Middle Eastern and European sources. The Ashkenazi Jews were in northern France and the Rhineland by AD 1000 and eventually settled in the kingdom of Poland-Lithuania, which later became the Pale of Settlement. Following a population bottleneck in medieval times (probably due to anti-Semitic violence), the Ashkenazi Jews had a low level of admixture with northern or Eastern Europeans. Insitome calls the Ashkenazi a "classic middleman minority," with niche roles like tax collectors, money-lenders, and peasants in non-profitable areas. My documented Jewish ancestors were of majority Ashkenazi descent, but Insitome's percentages suggest a higher level of interbreeding with gentiles than my Geno 2.0 results.  

• 46 ancestors of other European descentInsitome breaks down this group into, in decreasing order: 
1. Western European - This probably represents my Celtic ancestry, which probably stems from the early European farmers of the early Neolithic and the Indo-European Yamnaya who settled in Europe in the 3rd millennium BC.    
2. Basque - My grandmother's maiden name is Vásquez, a surname that derives from Vasco/Velasco, which like the name "Basque" all reference the Vascones, a pre-Roman tribe that lived in the western Pyrenees, an area the Romans called "Vasconia." There are several Basque surnames on my grandfather's family tree: Wandurraga, Orejarena, Uribe Salazar, Ortíz de Zárate. Insitome says the Basques (or as they call themselves, the "Euskara") have a language that predates the Indo-Europeans, and their DNA stems from the Cardial culture that spread agriculture from the Middle East to Europe 7,500 years ago, as well as native European hunter-gatherers.   
3. Northern Mediterranean - This covers Italy, Greece, and the coasts of Spain and France. Again, this population's DNA derives from the native European hunter-gatherers, Middle Eastern farmers who migrated in the early Holocene, and the Bronze Age proto-Indo-Europeans. 
4. Finnish - This population, including the Sami people, is connected genetically to Siberians and other northern peoples and has a long legacy of semi-nomadic herding.  

• 12 ancestors of Native American and East Asian descentI am combining these areas, assuming that East Asian ancestry is reflective of my Native American ancestry. Geno 2.0 found a nearly equivalent amount of Native American markers. Insitome found the following groups:  
1. Central and South American - Insitome says this is the only population that settled what is now Latin America, forming 20,000 years ago from "two strains of Pleistocene Siberian heritage" and crossing from Eurasia to the Americas around 15,000 years ago. The larger part of this Native American ancestry is Northeast Asian but there is a small Siberian component as well. Around 10,000 years ago these Native Americans started the domestication and cultivation of maize and potatoes.  
2. North American - Around 8,000 years ago this population migrated from Asia to Alaska, and then spread through the uppermost part of North America, forming the Na-Dene and Inuit peoples
3. Northeast Asian - Insitome says this region was home to many hunter-gathering tribes around 15,000 years ago. A few groups domesticated rice and built the civilizations of China, Korea, and Japan, but my ancestors from this region crossed into the Americas during the last Ice Age.  
4. Siberian - This popuation, including many nomadic peoples like the Samoyed, Chukchi, and Nenet, shares genetic connections to the Finns and Native Americans. 
A note on Colombia's Indians - A major study of Colombian indigenous mitochondrial DNA suggests at least two major migration waves to northern Colombia. Ancient mummy DNA from Muisca and Guane Indians -- the two documented tribes on my grandfather's family tree -- indicate that an older non-Chibchan-speaking population with mtDNA haplogroup B first came to the Andes. Then in the first millennium AD, Central American Indians with mtDNA haplogroup A who spoke Chibchan languages settled in the region. My own Native American and East Asian DNA markers probably reflect this admixture. I also do not seem to have Amazonian DNA markers, which shows how Colombia's geographic barriers were probably insurmountable.  

• 7 ancestors of Central Asian descent. This probably indicates my nomadic proto-Indo-European ancestry, which as noted above likely brought my direct male lineage from the Pontic-Caspian Steppe to Spain around 4,500 years ago. It could also reflect ancestry from later steppe empires (Huns, Mongols, etc.)

• 5 ancestors of African descent. This reflects both my oldest human legacy, dating back to the Lower Paleolithic, as well as my ancestors who survived the genocidal Transatlantic slave trade several centuries ago. Insitome breaks down this group into, in decreasing order: 
1. Nilotic - This group of Eastern African pastoral peoples, which diverged from other African groups over 100,000 years ago, includes the Somalis, Luo (whose descendants include the Obamas), and Maasai. However, East Africans were generally not sent by slavers to the Americas. Insitome's Razib Khan suggests that my "Nilotic" markers might stem from Spanish Moorish ancestry, which includes conquering Arabs and Berbers from the Maghreb. 
2. West African - West Africans separated from San hunter-gatherers c.300,000 years ago and East African hunter-gatherers c.70,000 years ago. The region began farming c.5,000 years ago and making iron around 500 BC. Later, they established extensive trading networks that crossed the Sahara Desert to the Middle East and Europe. Islam came to the region in the 10th century AD. The area became home to many empires, including the Ghana Empire (c.800s?-c.1240), the Ife kingdom (1100s-1400s), the Benin kingdom (1100s-1897), the Mali Empire (1230-1600), the Songhai Empire (1464-1591), the Oyo Empire (1500s-1896), the Dahomey kingdom (1600s-1894), and the Ashanti Empire (1670-1957).   

Questions? Comments? Please email me at ruedafingerhut [at]

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