I’ve recently participated in National Geographic’s Genographic Project after wanting to participate for many years. I was lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it) enough to have bought the first phase of the test before the price doubled. To be fair, phase two looks very promising.
What do you remember about genetics? Do you remember that crazy little gem of information about how mitochondria have their own, circular (like bacteria) DNA?
We all inherit this directly from our mothers. Even if you are male, your mitochondrial DNA comes from yo mama. This mode of inheritance has also fueled some speculation as to why some paternal grandmothers aren’t very keen on their grandchildren, particularly male children. While this DNA recombines, it does so very differently from that of nucleic extraction and its mutation rate make it ideal for tracing ancestry through hundreds of generations. The Y-chromosome is used analogously to test deep ancestry in males. Since I don’t have a Y-chromosome and I wanted to do the swab test myself instead of having my father swabbed, I did the matrilineal mitochondrial DNA test (mtDNA for short).
And holy shit it wasn’t quite what I expected. Ok, when I was a kid other kids liked to tease me about how my mom wasn’t my “real” mom because she looks white. Whatever, I was told by everyone I hatched from an egg anyway, so who cared? She identified strongly as Mexican-American despite her skin color so I never really questioned it.
In retrospect I should have known something was up. But look at Grandma!
Well, our haplogroup is currently classified as Haplogroup V which was thought to have originated in Iberia. That’s not a far stretch to imagine, but now the highest frequency of this haplogroup is about 50% in the Skolt Saami of Scandinavia. It is also found in about 10% of the Basque people and in 12% of Matmata Berbers. I don’t think we are Saami or Berbers (though it would be really cool if we were); when I ran a match search on Family Tree DNA I only had two matches. One match’s furthest known maternal relative was from Netherlands and about 1,100 people tested there have the same HVR1 results as I do. The other match’s relative was from Germany, where about 8,900 people have the same result. I also have this strange difference at 16488 where a cytosine turned into a thymine. This doesn’t match anyone else in Haplogroup V yet, but I am sure it is because more people need to be tested.
I’m still not really sure what to think about my results yet. It seems easier to cancel out what I think we’re not rather than speculate as to what we might be. For example, I think if we were very Spanish we would likely have been from Haplogroup H which occurs in 61% of Basque people and 54% of Spaniards. Haplogroup V occurs in 6% of Basque and 5% of Spanish people. But over all, Haplogroup V doesn’t boast large percentages of Europe as H does. I plan on eventually upgrading my sequence on FTDNA for more information.