Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My DNA Journey


A few weeks ago, I took the Ancestry DNA test.   It is a “Autosomal” test which means that it analyzes the entire genome rather than just the Y-DNA or mitochondrial DNA.  This means that it tests both sides of your family tree.  Since I am an Ancestry.com member I was able to get the test fairly inexpensively as compared to other outlets.  We’ll see soon enough if it is money well spent.

I’ve had a little experience with DNA tests.  My father was tested several years ago on the Johnson family line.  Family Tree DNA tested him for free because he was closely related to Pres. Andrew Johnson.  My father was a good person to test because he had a male line that traced directly back to the grandfather of Pres. Andrew Johnson.  For the Y-DNA test, you can only test the male line.  If you are adopted or if your male ancestor isn’t one thinks it is…the test isn’t terribly helpful.  Unless it puts you in a whole new family J.  My great uncle also was tested but those results won’t probably be all that helpful until several years down the road when other Gage’s get tested.  There are five known Gage lines in the United States.  My great uncle is of the William Gage of Freetown, MA line.  As of yet, there is no one else who has tested from that line who we can compare my uncle’s results with.  On the other hand, my father’s test did tell us something significant.  For many years researchers have concentrated on the Sylvanus Johnson line as the ancestral line of Pres. Andrew Johnson (and his relatives) – but as it turns out, the Sylvanus line is not at all connected – it is a separate haplogroup.

Haplogroup may be an entirely new term to some.  Essentially it s separates your ancestors by the times that they immigrated out of Africa.  They do this by looking at specific mutations in the DNA strand. My father’s Haplogroup is I2b1 which according to Family Tree DNA means “I2b1 lineage likely has its roots in northern France.  Today it is found most  frequently within Viking/Scandinavian populations in Northwest Europe and extends at low frequencies into Central and Eastern Europe. ”  According to the map, Dad’s lineage came out of Africa about 25,000 years ago and initially ended up in Scandinavia or France.  My great uncle’s Haplogroup is R1a1a which according to Family Tree DNA “is believed to have orginated in the Eurasian Steppes north of the Black and Caspian Seas.  This lineage is thought to descend from  a population of the Kurgan culture, known for the domestication of the horse (circa 3000 B.C.E) These people were also believed to the first speakers of the Indo-European language group.  This lineage is found in central & western Asia, Indian and Slavic populations of Europe)  My great uncle also took the mt-DNA test. With a result of H as his Haplogroup – this meant that his maternal line came out of Africa approximately 30,000 years ago and is considered to be one of the more dominant of European Haplogroups.    I’ve not yet discovered the real value of the mtDNA test – I’m still learning.

So back to the test that I am taking – the autosymnal DNA test.  It should tell me what percentage that I am European, African or Asian.  I suspect that I will be almost 100% European.  However, I could have a percentage of Asian in men…so you might wonder what that means.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that I am Chinese, Korean, or Japanese – but it does mean that I might have some Native American ancestry.  Remember, Native Americans immigrated across the Bering strait some 20,000 years ago from Asia, which is why Native American ancestry usually traces out to be Asian.

So you might wonder why someone might get their DNA test.  In may case, it may confirm or disprove the Native American ancestry that I am reputed to have according to family stories.  If a male is tested, it can confirm or disprove a family line.  In some cases it confirms common ancestry several generations back or it can completely disprove an ancestry that was thought to be true.  Some of the DNA studies that I have been involved with by either study or family participation are the Pennington Research Association DNA study that you can read more about at http://www.penningtonresearch.org/DNA_Study or the Johnson/Johnston/Johnstone DNA Surname project at http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~hjohnson/New%20Index/index/j-j-j_index.htm  and the Gage DNA Project at http://www.worldfamilies.net/surnames/gage/ .  When I find out my results…I’ll let everyone know.  Who knows where they will take me?