Who Am I? (The Genographic Project)

“The greatest history book ever written is the one hidden in our DNA.”

                     Dr. Spencer Wells

The analysis of my DNA, as a participant in National Geographic’s Genographic Projectwas published today and, as you would imagine, makes for fascinating reading – well, it does for me.

The story of humanity, our journey out of Africa, is becoming clearer than ever most of us would imagined just a few years ago and this project – which is “anonymous, nonmedical, and nonprofit, (with) all results placed in the public domain following scientific peer publication” – is quite amazing. I love how all of us can be citizen scientists, contributing to a shared understanding of our collective and personal past.

I was adopted as a child and do not have a great deal of information about my ancestry making this project extremely interesting on multiple levels. Without going into much personal detail, the results match with what I do know. Sitting this afternoon with my family and examining the story revealed, via a simple cheek swab, has been very stimulating and led to much discussion about our shared human story.

Before sharing the detail with you watch this video explanation from Dr Wells, the lead scientist on the project. Also, these videos from the National Geographic Youtube channel will help those who are truly enthusiastic understand the project from scientific (and other perspectives).

Who am I?

We compared your DNA results to the reference populations we currently have in our database and estimated which of these were most similar to you in terms of the genetic markers you carry. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you belong to these groups or are directly from these regions, but that these groups were a similar genetic match and can be used as a guide to help determine why you have a certain result. Remember, this is a mixture of both recent (past six generations) and ancient patterns established over thousands of years, so you may see surprising regional percentages.

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The briefest summary of the feedback follows:

My maternal ancestors took part in the early out of Africa migrations. They traveled across northeast Africa to Asia. In Asia, they lived a nomadic lifestyle on open grass savannas. Considered modern humans, my ancestors met and mixed with earlier hominids like the Neanderthals. My maternal branch is U4a1b

My paternal ancestors left Africa and settled around southeastern Europe. They then expanded north into the rest of Europe. They survived by hunting and finding wild food sources. In Europe, they met with those who were already there and formed new cultures that are reflected in the archaeological record. Thus, my cousins played an important role in the history of Europe. My paternal branch is I-M26

My story

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For friends and colleagues who know me well the above ‘reference’ group is fascinating. Maybe my appreciation of Denmark, when we lived in Viborg on exchange, was more than just an appreciation of the fine Danish people who we met and their sound democratic tradition. I am trying to understand more about the data but it is certainly an amusing and interesting part of the feedback from my simple cheek swab. I am happy to talk or privately discuss how both these reference groups fit my (limited) understanding of my heritage. Both make a great deal of sense and confirm some snippets of information on both maternal and paternal sides.

You will find it illuminating to read more about the reference populations. These case studies are particularly interesting.

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What now?

If you would like to join this inspiring project, I highly recommend you read more about it and if interested, participate as a citizen scientist and buy the kit. You should read about the science behind this project and here is a really useful glossary. You can follow Dr Wells and Genographic on twitter.

The following video is helpful for understanding what is entailed.

Who else has participated in this citizen science project? What did you discover?

Feature image: screenshot from the Genographic Project website.

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The views expressed at this site are my own and do not necessarily represent those of my employer.

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