Genographic Update: WOAH!!!

Yes, folks, this is my map and I’m rather baffled by it to say the least. We have documented family history on my mother’s side that goes back at least 500 years which clearly points at Great Britain. Yet, looking at this map, it would appear my most recent ancestral markers (at 15,0000 years), from haplogroup X, were possible Ojibwa or Sioux. Hmmmm…

So there are four possible reasons for the confusion…that I can think of. One, is that I got someone else’s DNA results. Two, is that someone on my mom’s side came to the America’s, married a First Nation’s person, and took them back to England. Three, my mom is completely unaware of her background (possibly the milkman was involved – which actually doesn’t make any sense because we can only follow the X chromosome). Or four, the DNA in my cheek was from something I ate rather than my own, possibly a cow who’s DNA markers lead directly back to the Great Lakes Region of North America. (just kidding)

What am I going to do? Well, I’m going to do the test again or ask my sister to. I can’t just let this one drop. My jaw already dropped and hit the floor so I have to pick it up and look further into this. I mean, seriously, I thought my map would be very basic – out of Africa, through Europe, and stopping at Britain. But NOOOOO! Of course, I’m pretty sure I still have roots that are very ingrained in Britain – just look at me – but it’s rather thrilling to see this new information because it’s so different from what I imagined. Shall keep you posted (whether you care or not). :D

Genographic Update

My DNA kit was received, a batch created, and DNA isolation is done!! Here’s what’s involved in DNA Isolation:

The cells are broken open by incubation with a protein-cutting enzyme overnight. Chemicals and the samples are transferred into deep well blocks for robotic DNA isolation. The blocks of chemicals and samples are placed on the extraction robot. The robotic DNA isolation uses silica-coated iron beads. In the presence of the appropriate chemicals DNA will bind to silica. The robot then uses magnetic probes to collect the beads (and DNA) and transfer them through several chemical washes and finally into a storage buffer, which allows the beads to release the DNA. At this point the beads are collected and discarded.

Not long now for the map!! Stay tuned!

Related post: Tracing Our Human Journey

National Geographic and Whale Songs

Photograph by Harikrishna Katragadda

When I was growing up, for many years, my parents had a subscription to National Geographic magazine. I remember piles of the yellow spines on the bottoms of bookcases and in boxes in the basement. I would spend my time flipping through the articles, sometimes reading but often just looking at the amazing and sometimes eye-opening photographs. I remember articles about aborigines in some of the remotest parts of the world, photos of women with their necks stretched by golden braces (for lack of a better word), children in Peruvian mountain villages in pretty sweaters and surrounded by goats, adventurers in deep, dark, icy caves standing amongst enormous stelactites, and mummies…oh the mummies. I would study their faces as they looked back at me…some friendlily, some desperately, some eerily and others with a trace of hostility…these people from places I had never heard of. I admired or was horrified by their surroundings. Their homes interested me, the mountains behind them caught my eye, the colours, the devastation, the perils all captured my imagination. Many of the photos I can still see in my head today; photos from (I hate to admit it) 30 years ago. To me if an adult magazine can generate that much interest in a 10 year old, it’s pretty powerful.

Photograph courtesy Dr. Louis M. Herman/NOAA

What reminded me of this? My daughter was asking me about whales, about the different kinds, what they eat (sharks?), if they kill people, how big they are, etc. One of my favourite issues of National Geographic was about whales, Humpback Whales in particular. In that issue they included a vinyl 45…it was very thin, like a sheet of plastic, and when I first removed it from the magazine I worried it wouldn’t play on the record player. But it did and I listened to it endlessly. Whale songs. One of the most eerily beautiful, natural sounds on earth. I wish I still had it to play for my kids…but now I guess there’s YouTube. So without further ado, I will leave you with a video which captures the Humpback songs really nicely. Enjoy. While you’re listening, I’ll be subscribing to National Geographic for my kids (well, and for me too)! Why didn’t I think of this before? (Oh, and by the way, National Geographic is not paying me to say this…I’m just enthusiastic!)

This is an interesting video about Blue Whales that I found while looking for the Humpback songs. You may want to check it out too.

For more on whales see (there’s audio here too):
Humpback Whales
Blue Whales

Tracing Our Human Journey

Have you ever wondered where you came from? I don’t mean in your recent past, I mean the route your ancestors walked as they left Africa – if they ever left Africa – tens of thousands of years ago. How thrilling and eyeopening would it be to see an actual map of the footsteps taken by your forefathers – possibly across the expanse of the globe? Well, I’m going to see mine and I’m telling you about it because you might want to do the same thing.

Lead by researcher Spencer Wells, the Genographic Project is a collaboration between National Geographic researchers, renowned international scientists, and IBM technology. By analyzing participants’ DNA, they are able to locate where that DNA has been since the “first human” who lived some 60,000 years ago in Africa. The first human is believed to be “the single Aftrican ancestor” from whom all humans developed. All humans since that time have left genetic markers along their migration routes and these markers enable researchers to produce the maps.

So how do you participate? Well, for $100 you can buy a DNA collecting kit from National Geographic (here) which is specifically for this project. Inside there are two swabbing kits (think CSI), instructions, and a mail-back envelope. You take two swabs, 8 hours apart, of the insides of your cheeks, plop them into the tubes and mail them back to the project. I just did my first swabbing this morning. So I’ll do another tonight…and then off it goes.

If you’re worried about sending off your DNA, don’t be. The test is totally anonymous. You just have to hold on to the ID number they provide you with so that you can check your results online. Also, they are only using the DNA for this specific study and not to look at genetic health problems or anything of the sort. The only draw back is for women…sorry gals…we have only an X chromosome so we can’t do our paternal ancestry. You can ask your brother or your father to do one to complete both sides of the family. Also, please note that this study does not get as specific as names.

So after I send in my DNA, I’ll keep checking for my map. When I get it I’ll post it here for all to see. I’m so curious to see the results. If you try it, let me know how it turns out for you! If you’d like to read further about the project try these links:

My Human Lineage – Pharyngula
Genographic Test Reveals Darwin’s Ancestry – National Geographic
Human Genome Project – U.S. Department of Energy