Friday, December 15, 2017

It’s all in the Genes

My mother’s people came from somewhere in the Sahara Desert. They were nomads who lived around 16,500 years ago, moving from place to place, carrying all their possessions with them. My DNA test results have helped to throw some light on my ancestors, and perhaps yours, and the journey they made to reach the West of Ireland
Ireland's remote geographical position has meant that the Irish gene-pool has been less susceptible to change, and the same genes have been passed down from parents to children for thousands of years. Research into both British and Irish DNA indicate the people of both islands have much in common genetically. The closest genetic relatives of the Irish in Europe are to be found in the north of Spain in what is now known as the Basque Country. We share this common ancestry with the people of Britain and with the people of Scotland.

The following quote comes from the general preamble to my results.

 “It is important to consider, understand and perhaps deeply appreciate the fact that the very concept of race is man made. We live on one planet. Borders and modern day political countries are purely created by man and do not resemble genetics.
There is no such thing as a French, British or German person, as, in fact, people, from what is today called Germany, and people, from what is today called Syria, are more closely related genetically than two people from Uganda living in adjoining villages.
Genetic blueprints are very much shaped by:
Immigration – Warfare – Migration – Intermarriage – Conquest – Choices
Therefore, our DNA is a unique combination of genetic markers that are found all over the world.
We are all made up of all of us.”

Quote from ‘The story of your ancestry as never told before’

William Murphy
Famine (1997) on the Custom House Quay in Dublin
Photo; Flickr

The test looked at three areas of my genetic code: Fatherline (Y-DNA) History, Motherline (mtDNA) History and Family Ancestry (autosomal DNA) and the results are summarised in the table below. The test results provide a genetic code or a ‘genetic signature’ which is then compared with various populations providing a percentage frequency by geographic area. We can then see where people with our code originated and migrated.

Summary of my DNA test results

Fatherline (Y-DNA) History

Motherline (mtDNA) History

Haplogroup: R-M222
Haplogroup: H1
Subclade: R-DF109

A predominantly Irish branch of the R-L21 fatherline.

Haplogroup H is predominantly European, originating around 16,500 years ago.

My fatherline signature belongs to the R-M222 group.

H1 is found as far as Africa, Central Asia, and Siberia
Ireland – 25%
Scotland – 10%
England – 10%
Wales – 5%

Norway, Sweden, France, and Orkney Islands – 1% each

Populations from southwest France, Sardinia and the Iberian Peninsula show the highest levels of H1 within Europe

Tuareg (Fezzan) – 61%
Basque – 27%
Portugal – 25%
Ireland – 16%
United Kingdom – 16%

Ireland – 25%
Scotland – 10%
England – 10%
Wales – 5%

Norway, Sweden, France, and Orkney Islands – 1% each

Fatherline (Y-DNA) History

The Y chromosome (YDNA) is passed down from father to son, which is referred to as the ‘fatherline’. It is the sex chromosome that determines you are male. So only sons inherit the Y chromosome from their father.
The haplogroup is a collection of related family lines we are connected to through the Y chromosome (YDNA). Apparently, I share a common ancient ancestor with all the people who share my haplogroup. Haplogroups can be associated with geographic regions, and are also used to trace the ancient migrations of early humans.

R-M222 is a branch of the larger R-L21 fatherline, which is itself a branch of the much larger R1b fatherline which was carried by waves of Indo-European expansions, and which is very common throughout Western Europe. R-L21 is associated with the northern Atlantic shores of Europe today, especially in parts of Britain and Brittany. The R-M222 branch of this fatherline is most frequently found in Ireland.
Subclade R-DF109 is a predominantly Irish branch of the R-L21 fatherline and examples of its distribution in modern society include: Ireland (25%), Scotland (10%), England (10%) and Wales (5%).

Motherline (mtDNA) History

Haplogroup: H1
Haplogroup H is predominantly European, originating around 16,500 years ago. Apparently, my motherline signature belongs to the H1 group. It has been suggested that the carriers of haplogroup H were involved in the recolonisation of Europe from the Ice Age refuge locations. Examples of the distribution of H1 in present-day society are: Tuareg (61%), (The Tuareg people inhabit the Sahara Desert, in a vast area stretching from far southwestern Libya to southern Algeria, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso.), Basque (27%), Portugal (25%), Ireland (16%) and United Kingdom (16%).

Family Ancestry (autosomal DNA)

Family ancestry (autosomal DNA) – looks at ancestry over approximately 5-6 generations

Great Britain and Ireland 95.8%
Europe (North and West) 2.6%
Europe (South) 1.7%

Great Britain and Ireland – 95.8%
Southwest Scotland and Northern Ireland – 36.6%
Ireland – 20.9%
East Anglia – 13.4%
Europe (North and West) – 2.6%
Scandinavia – 2.6%
Europe (South) – 1.7%
Basque – 1.7%

Family ancestry (autosomal DNA)

Autosomal DNA is passed down from all our ancestors and the combination makes up our genetic code. A typical code provides the genetic history going back approximately 10 generations. This gives a percentage estimate against the population groups that my genetic code is compared against. For example: Great Britain and Ireland (95.8%), Southwest Scotland and Northern Ireland (36.6%) and Ireland (20.9%).

Great Britain and Ireland: Ireland

Ireland was unaffected by the Romans and Anglo Saxons who invaded and settled in neighbouring Britain but did feel the undesired impact of the Vikings from Scandinavia. The genetic influence of the Viking invasion may be much smaller than the considerable cultural influences that resulted from the settlements and raids of the Vikings from 795 AD.
Researchers can still detect the DNA of Nomadic Stone Age people that first settled Britain at the end of the last ice age – the same signature that can be found in western Germany, north western France, and Belgium today. The population of Wales is thought to be the most closely related to the earliest, most ancient settlers who migrated over after the last ice age. Not only is Wales genetically unique but North Wales is even genetically different from the south.

Modern Humans - Migration

Scientists believe that Modern humans (Homo sapiens) first appeared around 200,000 years ago in what is now known as Africa. However, a re-evaluation of early human remains and artefacts from Morocco has suggested that the advent of Homo sapiens may have to be put back by 100,000 years. Archaeologists and palaeontologists believe that the oldest of the fossils comes from 300,000 to 350,000 years ago.
Current scientific understanding shows us that no modern humans ventured outside Africa before c.120,000 years ago. The first large scale migration out of Africa happened around 65,000 years ago. Humans reached India, Australia, and New Guinea 50,000 years ago. This was followed by a wave of migration into the Middle East and then into Europe c. 45,000 years ago. Finally, migration into the Americas took place within the last 15,000 years.

Migration Map

             The direct maternal and paternal lines of all individuals living today come together in single groups of people from around 200,000 years ago.

Genetic diversity out of Africa

 Two individuals from neighbouring villages in Uganda can have greater genetic difference than two individuals living in the areas now known as Europe, India, or Asia. This shows how genetic diversity is very limited in modern human beings outside of Africa.

Our changing genes

Every movement of human beings has produced different challenges. The environment and the way that humans lived meant that the genetic code of different branches of human beings mutated. Within a population group those individuals with a certain mutation may have greater survival rates than those without. Those without the mutation would die at a faster rate and therefore the mutated gene spreads.
Researchers tell us that the reason many Africans are naturally resistant to malaria is because 33,000 years ago the genetic structure of the African population group changed (mutated). Because Europeans had already migrated out of Africa, they did not carry this mutation and therefore many are not resistant to malaria.
DNA is a powerful tool which is increasing understanding of our ancient ancestors, where they came from, how they lived, and the journeys they made over many thousands of years. My mother was born and died in the same house in Co. Roscommon, and the Sahara Desert was a distant place. She did, however, recall carrying farmyard manure on her back as a child to fertilise the land - like her ancient ancestors who carried their possession across the desert sands.

For further information you may wish to view the following YouTube videos:

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