Thursday, June 9, 2011

Who I am... right down to my chromosones
 Back in April, when had a terrific sale, Mom and I took the first steps in having our DNA tested.  We have always been interested in doing this, so we couldn't pass up the opportunity.  Of course, I was excited about the genealogy angle - finding new cousins out there, finding out where my ancestors came from, and is there any chance that there is a little Native American in me somewhere?  However, I was also very interested in the health markers that 23andme tests for.  Mom was very interested in that piece herself. 

Her mother, my grandmother, Ethel Ranney Tapley, had some sort of degenerative muscular disease.  It struck in the 1940s, when my mother was a baby.  Eventually, my grandmother weakened to the point that she was in a wheelchair the rest of her life.  At the time, doctors were unable to diagnose the exact condition she had.  It resembled multiple sclerosis (MS), so I just told people that was it, to make explanation easier. 

My uncle, my mother's brother, also had some sort of similar disease.  That is, similar to MS or Lou Gehrig's in how it presents.  Also, my grandmother's first cousin had some sort of "creeping paralysis."  It began in his feet and moved up throughout his body. 

So of course, this made my mother and me nervous.  It was always in the back of my mind...could I come down with MS or something similar at some point?  Is it genetic?  I'm sure it worried Mom, also.

In addition, heart disease is rampant in the Tapley family.  I have even said that I already know, barring accident, what I will die of... a heart attack.  My father, brother, sister, uncles (all of them), my aunt, my grandparents... all had heart disease.  Yes, I meant rampant.

Thus our reasoning for wanting to find out, genetically, what our chances are for contracting diseases and/or other health conditions. 

Day before yesterday, I got my results.  (Mom's will probably arrive in a week or so.)  It was very exciting.  I poured over them for hours, not fully understanding all of it, but taking it all in anyway.  I will try to share here what is clear to me at this point:

My maternal haplogroup is U5a1a1

From the 23andme website: 

"Haplogroup U5 arose among early colonizers of Europe around 40,000 years ago; maternal descendants of those early colonizers persist in the region to this day. After the last Ice Age two subgroups of U5 expanded across Europe and into northern Africa and the Near East."  and

"U5 is one of the oldest haplogroups in Europe. It probably arose when modern humans first moved into western Eurasia from the Near East about 40,000 years ago. As the earliest members of U5 spread across the new territory they would have encountered some oddly familiar inhabitants; the Neanderthals, a close relative of Homo sapiens, had been living in the region for more than 200,000 years. But the Neanderthals proved no match for the new arrivals - by 28,000 years ago they were gone, driven extinct by either competition or outright warfare.

The 9% of Europeans who carry the U5 haplogroup today can trace their maternal ancestry directly back to those early colonizers of Europe. The haplogroup is especially common among the Basque, whose unique language is thought to be descended from that of the first Europeans.

Haplogroup U5 has two primary branches, U5a and U5b, that appear to have arisen around the time that mile-thick glaciers covered the northern half of Europe. During that period humans were confined to small enclaves in the southern part of the continent, where both U5a and U5b differentiated into even more haplogroups.

The process continued after the ice melted and allowed humans to repopulate the continent, spreading branches of U5 to widely scattered regions. The haplogroup had clearly reached Britain by 9,000 years ago; mitochondrial DNA extracted from an ancient skeleton discovered in the English town of Cheddar belonged to U5a.

Haplogroup U5a1 originated in Europe during the Ice Age, about 20,000 years ago. At the time people were confined to small refuges in the southern part of the continent. When the glaciers began receding about 15,000 years ago people began migrating northward, carrying U5a1 and other haplogroups with them. Today U5a1 is most commonly found in places such as Norway and northern Germany.

Other members of the U5a1 haplogroup moved south into the Near East, perhaps in search of a warmer, more hospitable climate than the dry, glaciated tundra of Ice Age Europe. Today their maternal descendants can be found at low levels (less than 2%) in Turkey, Iran, and Syria."

The location of my haplogroup circa 500 years ago, before the time of intercontinental travel, is in the Scandinavian region, i.e., Norway, Sweden, Finland.  This is significant to my mother and me because my great-grandmother, her grandmother Bessie Carter Ranney, was adopted and the story passed down in the family was that her birth mother was Norwegian.

Under the "Ancestry Painting" page of my results, I find the chromosome view.  "Trace the ancestry of your chromosones, one segment at a time."  Every one of my chromosomes are dark blue, which means I am 100% European.  No surprises there.  No hidden Asian or African ancestors.  There are a few grey segments mixed in with the blue, about which the site states "Grey segments indicate regions where 23andme's genotyping chips has no markers."  I do not know what THAT means; I just hope it doesn't mean I'm partially alien.

On the Global Similarity page, it states, "See your genetic similarity to groups of people from around the world."  I went to the Advanced View, and drilled down from World, to European, to Northern European, to... well, this is where the surprise comes in.  It showed I am most similar genetically to two Northern European groups.  The first is German.  Well, that's not a surprise because I have German ancestors on my mother's side... my elusive great-great-grandfather, George Schwalls, and the Hessers.  However, the other group was French!  I have never discovered a French ancestor in my tree!  What is this?! 

The dark green, larger symbol represents me.

Here's what the site said about "French (various regions)":  "The French population is a diverse one thanks to their country's wide range of landscapes, including the coastal plains of the north and west and the mountain ranges of the south and southeast.

About 2,500 years ago the region was occupied by people called Gauls, who spoke Celtic languages. Just over 2,000 years ago the Romans under Julius Caesar conquered the region, imposing their culture and language. Five hundred years later, Germanic speaking peoples, including the Franks (from whom the name France is derived), invaded the eastern part of the region controlled by the Gauls. Today French culture and genes reflect the influences of each set of peoples."

So it sounds to me as if the French people are a melting pot, much like the United States. 

I thought what was written on the site about the German people was interesting:  "The Germans are the second largest ethnic group in Europe, after the Russians. They occupy a diverse territory that stretches from the northern fringes of the Alps to the low-lying coastal regions along the North and Baltic Seas. There are also significant numbers of people with German ancestry in many North and South American countries, especially the United States, Canada, Brazil and Argentina.
Though Germany itself was only unified as a country in 1871, a common Germanic linguistic and archaeological tradition had developed in central Europe by about 2,000 years ago. The word "German" was first applied to tribes living east of the Rhine River along the Roman Empire's northern frontier. As Rome declined and fell, these tribes expanded from their homeland to merge with neighboring populations—the Jutes mixed with the Danes to the north, and the Angles migrated west to England where they encountered the Saxons. Those migrations spread Germanic languages throughout northwestern Europe."

I have many questions about my results; many of which I cannot even put into words as yet.  One question I do have about this global similarity is why "Scottish" is not listed.  English and Irish are listed (just not for me).  I know that Thomas Rany (the ancestor of all my Ranney family) was from Scotland.  But Scottish was not even listed as a global group. 

That about sums up my ancestry results from 23andme.  I know there is a glaring omission of a paternal haplogroup.  Unfortunately, my father and all my uncles are gone so I cannot ask them to do a DNA test.  I do have a first cousin that I want to work up to asking.  I am not at all sure he would agree to do it, but I need to try because soon there will be no close male relatives left to test.

While writing this post, I discovered that the Relative Finder feature, which matches you up with others in the database who might be related to you, has populated.  I will update my results in that area in a later post.  Also, since this post has become a book, I will wait and cover the health results in another post, also. 

1 comment:

  1. Great post! Aliens in your tree? I'd say so :P

    Seriously though. I need to do this.