One of the things National Geographic does really well is science for the sake of science. Of course there is more to the science than just science but National Geographic’s Geno 2.0 is great for giving you interesting information on your ancient DNA. It just isn’t so great on the recent stuff that you want to rely on for genealogical purposes, i.e. verifying a paper trail or confirming that you are 3rd or 4th cousins with someone. But no matter what testing company you go with you do need to be prepared for potential surprises no matter what shape they come in. Case in point? My dad.
Geno 2.0 gives testers more than just their maternal and/or paternal haplogroups. The first part of the results page shows you how much Neanderthal and Denisovian DNA you carry. As you can see from the image below my dad carries slightly less than average Neadnderthal DNA but slightly more Denisovian. The Neanderthal was completely expected as almost everyone born outside Africa will carry some Neanderthal DNA.
The Denisovian was a complete surprise. In my family’s case this must go way back as we have absolutely no paper trail or suspected relationship with places like Indonesia (such as through trade) where someone could have picked this up. National Geograhpic states that these tests, especially Denisovian, are still under development. As the tests become more refined the numbers might change. But one important thing to remember is that if you think you have absolutely no connection to populations outside Africa and your results show Neanderthal DNA then your ancestors met up with some non-Africans somewhere in the past. In my dad’s case calling him a Neanderthal wouldn’t really be an insult. 🙂
The next section of results deals with direct maternal and paternal haplogroups. Males can test for both as they inherit both the mitochondrial DNA from their mothers and the Y DNA from their fathers. Men will pass on the Y DNA to their sons but they cannot pass on the mitochondrial DNA to their daughters. This is where my dad’s results start to get interesting.
Given what we know from the paper trail I expected common haplogroup results. My paternal grandmother’s direct maternal line is from the area of Speyer, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany, one of the very few lines in my family that did not originate in Nordrhein-Westfalen. My dad’s mtDNA Haplogroup is H11. I was wondering when H would show up in our family and would have been really surprised if both of my parents’ mtDNA haplogroups weren’t H. (We already established that my mom’s is T2.) H is by far the most common mtDNA haplogroup in Europe and there are now so many subclades I can’t keep up. H11 is most common in the Netherlands which isn’t that far from Rheinland-Pfalz.
As you can see from the image above Haplogroups H and V broke off from the R root a long time ago. H and V formed their own branches. H continued into Europe and what we think of as Russia as well as other areas. From there many subclades, all identified by H followed by a number, were created when genetic mutations occurred in mitochondrial DNA.
As you can see from the image above my dad’s haplogroup originated thousands of years ago. H11 is considered a European haplogroup. The image below shows you where H11 is found in and near Europe.
Now, here is where things start to get interesting.
Again, my dad’s mtDNA Haplogroup isn’t a surprise. But his Y DNA Haplogroup E-L241 certainly is. My dad is Haplogroup E subclade L241. Up until a couple years ago Y DNA haplogrups were designated in the same way as mtDNA, a letter signifying the main haplogroup followed by an alternating series of numbers and letters. This started getting way too confusing. I think my dad’s designation would have been E1b1b1a1b6. So it was decided by the powers that be that Y DNA haplogroups should be designated by the main group (E) and by the last known mutation (L241).
Haplogroup E isn’t uncommon in Europe but given what we know about our direct paternal line the family is ethnically German. More specifically we’re Prussian and our family became one of many known as German Russians as they moved to the Black Sea area after Catherine the Great invited them. We don’t have any documented evidence to show our family anywhere before 1819 so they may have originated in what is now Poland or they may have moved from elsewhere. However, based on my dad’s Y DNA haplogroup results I now suspect the former. The map below will show you why.
Look at all the preceeding known genetic mutations on this branch of the Y DNA tree. Look at how little the branch moved over tens of thousands of years. The white arrows show the movement of E-V13, the parent group of E-L241. Does it look like it originated in what is now Turkey? Yes, it does. Here is what National Geographic says about it.
The parent group of E-L241, E-V13, originated 10-20,000 years ago in what we think of as Turkey or West Asia. from there it spread into Europe and a few subgroups including L241 were created. L241 is definitely a European sublcade of E but it is definitely not generally associated with the Germans. Nope. Look at the populations in that image: the Druze, Turkish Cypriots, Greeks, and Albanians. Say what?
Look at these maps:
This map is about four years old and some of the small details might be outdated but the general information is not. Do you see where Y DNA Haplogroup E is most common? North Africa, the Sinai Peninsula, Greece, and Italy. What? As far as this part of my dad’s DNA is concerned he has more in common with Italians, Greeks and north Africans. Our family always joked about a Roman soldier leaving behind his DNA on my dad’s side of the family but we had no idea how close to reality that might be.
My dad is a great example of how haplogroups are not equal to ethnicity. After further research some sublcades might be associated with certain ethnicities, but DNA does not make your ethnicity.
My dad’s haplogroup results also show just how old this part of the test really is. There were many intervening centuries between the mutation that created L241 and 1819 when Peter Still and his family were issued visas to move to the Black Sea region of the Russian Empire. It is completely useless for genealogical research but it is really interesting information to know. It definitely raises a number of questions that we’ll likely never get the answers to because that would require time travel. 🙂 It certainly makes me very curious to know who my dad might match on an autosomal test. I suspect he’d match with people of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and North African background far more than people on my mom’s side of the family even though both sides are as ethnically German as you can get.
The next post will focus on the basic autosomal test results generated by Geno 2.0. There was a little surprise in there too.