I chose to participate in the National Geographic, "Genographic Project" for several reasons. First, I was and am curious about everything, so this was just one more THING to wonder about and learn about, both how the process would work and what information about myself I may uncover. Secondly, while I was pretty certain that my pre-American ancestors were from Germany (paternally) and South Eastern Europe (maternally), there were some inconsistent stories and even interesting physical attributes that brought some of this vague understanding into question. People in America, often talk about their European, Asian or African heritage (even if their family immigrated to the US generations ago) as part of their personal identity. When these guessing games would start, many people would guess that I was either "Italian", "Greek" or "Jewish" due in part I suppose to certain stereotypical physical characteristics. (My large nose and ease with which I tan included) Lastly, most non-Africans have some non-human DNA remnants from either or both the Neanderthal or Denisovan species, due to inbreeding during the largest waves of human emigration from Africa and into Asia and Europe between 50,000 and 70,000 years ago. I was therefore curious as to how "human" I am.
It is very important to understand the verbiage of this analysis. Nowhere can or does this DNA analysis say that a person is X% one or another ethnicity, but rather it compares my DNA samples to those of sample found in migrating groups and in current world populations and is an active and ongoing project to determine how patterns in DNA changed as humans migrated out of Africa and spread across the world. The language used to describe specific points of understand is precise and is meant to be so.
So anyway, here is what I learned:
(1) The average person with European migratory ancestry has about 2.1% Neanderthal DNA. I happen to have 1.6%. The average Euro-Asian has about 2% Denisovan DNA and I have 1.0%. Oddly, that makes me slightly more "human" than most of the people reading this blog post, other than Africans or direct disendants of Africans who happen to be the only people on the planet that are in fact 100% human.
(2) When compared to samples gathered from around the globe, my DNA fits a pattern of migration that includes 41% Northern Europe (density center in Northern Germany), 40% Mediterranean (density center in Northern Greece and Serbia), 18% South West Asian (density center in Persia a.k.a. Iran).
(3) The modern country with the most people with similar Paternal DNA patterns is Germany (no suprise there, given what I've been told). The modern country with the most people with similar Maternal DNA patterns is Romania. Not far off from what I have been told, but a bit more Southern and Asiatic than I was led to believe (no worries).
(4) Weirdly, the country with the most people who have the same combination of my Paternal and Maternal DNA pattern is Ireland even though no one in my family has ever claimed to have relatives in Ireland. I guess many of my German-Romanian ancestors got stuck in a pub in Ireland on their way to the US and never left. Probably due to the Guinness.
In the end this little experiment both added to the library of migratory knowledge about our species and gave me something interesting to read. The fact is, that ALL of our ancestors can be genetically traced to a very small, common group of people in Africa who were the very first "us". The rest of the migratory stories are just as interesting and varied as is eye, skin and hair color.
Personally, I found it interesting that my grand parents, great-grandparents and great-great grandparents were able to pass along both an oral history of "where we were from" as well as a chemical history and in my case the two matched pretty closely.
6 months ago