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For my Dad’s birthday in February, we all pitched in and got him National Geographic’s “Geno 2.0 – Genographic Project Participation and DNA Ancestry Kit.” For $200 USD, you get a Geno ID number and a couple of cheek swabs in the mail. My Dad swabbed his cheeks, plopped them in the prepackaged return envelope and stuck it back in the mail. He then went to the Geno 2.0 website and logged in with his ID number. That is where the results would end up once they lab had analyzed his DNA.

Our family history is deeply rooted in Chicago. We know that one set of my father’s great-grandparents, Joseph and Christina, were both born in Chicago in 1855 and 1864 respectively. We know that another of his great-grandfathers, Charles, was born in Germany in 1849 and came to Chicago in 1872 on the S.S. Baltimore when he was 23 years old. (I found out this info, including the name and photos of the actual ship, on Ancestry.com, something I highly recommend for anyone interested in tracing their family tree). So we expected to see this reflected in the DNA testing at some point.

Over the next few weeks we were emailed updates as to where they were in the process. And finally, TAH DUH! We were emailed that the results were in! We logged in to take a look.

The first thing you see is your “Your Story” tab. There, you can see your “Who Am I?” overview.

Super Overall

Apparently, my father’s maternal lineage is U5a1a1 and his paternal lineage is R-Z381. Neat! Whatever that means! It sounds very scientificy.

Maternal Line

Next, you can click through the map of each lineage to trace their migration patterns. For my father’s maternal U5a1a1 line, the first image is described as haplogroup L3, showing evidence of the DNA’s roots in East Africa 70,000 years ago:

M1More information is given. “The common direct maternal ancestor to all women alive today was born in East Africa around 180,000 years ago. Dubbed “Mitochondrial Eve” by the popular press, she represents the root of the human family tree. Eve gave rise to two descendant lineages known as L0 and L1’2’3’4’5’6, characterized by a different set of genetic mutations their members carry.”

We then move on to haplogroup N which were made up of one of the two groups created by the descendants of L3. These people started heading up out of Africa and into the Middle East and Asia about 60,000 years ago:M2Then about 5,000 years later, some of their descendants making up the R branch kept on going West. Look at these arrows going West!

M3From there, their ancestors, Branch U, started heading North about 8,000 years later to reach further into Asia and Western Europe:

M4And then branch U5 continues throughout Europe:

M5Some more details: “U5 is quite restricted in its variation to Scandinavia, and particularly to Finland. This is likely the result of the significant geographical, linguistic, and cultural isolation of the Finnish populations, which would have restricted geographic distribution of this subgroup and kept it fairly isolated genetically. The Saami, reindeer hunters who follow the herds from Siberia to Scandinavia each season, have the U5 lineage at a very high frequency of around 50 percent, indicating that it may have been introduced during their movements into these northern territories.”

And finally, U5A:

M6“Some from this line traveled west to Europe while others moved north and east to South Asia.

Today, this lineage has its highest frequencies in Europe: Slovenia (17 percent), Bulgaria (13 percent), and, Luxembourg (9 percent). It is present in West Asia in Lebanon (9 percent). It is a significant part of Indian maternal lineages, being about 5 percent of those lines. It and a subtype are represented in the Ashkenazi Jewish population.

Note: This branch is not accompanied by a major movement on the map, and research on this branch is continuing.”

Paternal Line

Flipping back, we can go through the same mapping migration for my father’s paternal lineage, R-Z381. Where the maternal lineage had six branches, the paternal line had eleven. Starting again in Africa about 75,000 years ago, “The M42 branch is shared by almost all men alive today, both in Africa and around the world.” Map:

Moving on, about 5,000 years later, we started to move North. “The man who gave rise to the first genetic marker in your lineage probably lived in northeast Africa in the region of the Rift Valley, perhaps in present-day Ethiopia, Kenya, or Tanzania.  Scientists put the most likely date for when he lived at around 70,000 years ago. His descendants became the only lineage to survive outside of Africa, making him the common ancestor of every non-African man living today. For male lineages, the M168 branch was one of the first to leave the African homeland.” Map:

P2About 20,000 years later, M89 was like, “Oh hell no, I’m tired of this place and climate shift! We’re gonna follow this here coastal route that will eventually end up in Australia. We’re gonna follow the expanding grasslands and plentiful game to the Middle East and beyond, yo.” Map:

P3Next, P128 went East. Wayyy East:

P4“The next male ancestor in your ancestral lineage is the man who gave rise to P128, a marker found in more than half of all non-Africans alive today. This man was born around 45,000 years ago in the Middle East or Central Asia.”

35,000 years ago, Branch M45 spread through Central and South Asia. “These big game hunters were the parents to two of the most widespread male lineages in modern populations, one that is responsible for the majority of pre-Columbian lineages in the Americas (haplogroup Q) and many others from Asia and Europe. Another one that spread farther into Asia produced the highest frequency lineages in European populations (haplogroup R).” Map:

P65,000 years ago, M207 started moving Northweast. Boy there are a lot of slides, aren’t there? Map:

P7A few thousand years later, BOOM! P231 began migrating into Europe, as noted by this swooping arching arrow. Swoop!

P8Branch M343 were hunter-gathered that rocked the savannahs from Central Europe all the way to Korea. “When the Earth entered a cooling phase, most from this line sheltered in refugia to the southeast of Europe and in West Asia. It was from these refugia that their populations rapidly expanded when the ice once more receded. Some traveled west across Europe. Others moved back toward their distant ancestors’ homelands in Africa, passing through the Levant region. Through these movements and the population boom triggered by the Neolithic Revolution, this lineage and its descendant lineages came to dominate Europe.” Map:


There is not a lot of movement geographically for the next three slides that represent L278, P310 and U106, but we are given some more individualized detail about their ancestors.

L278: “While some from this group traveled west into Central Asia, others moved south toward the Levant region. Today, they are present in trace frequencies of less than 1 percent in Italy, the Ukraine, and the region of the Pannonian Basin.”

P310: “Members of this lineage have traveled to Central Asia, Europe, and the Levant region. One descendant branch has the highest frequency of any male line in Western Europe. However, rather than a single movement across Europe, this lineage’s branches may represent many simultaneous and successive waves of migration.”

U106: “Members of this lineage have expanded into the rest of Europe and back into parts of West Asia in the last 10,000 years. Today, geneticists have found it and its descendant branches at moderate to high frequencies throughout Europe and occasionally in West Asia. The highest frequencies are in the Netherlands (14 percent), Luxembourg (13 percent), and Belgium (12 percent). In the British Isles, it is between 6 and 9 percent of the male population. It is about 5 percent of male lineages in Oman. It is 4 to 5 percent of the male population in Cyprus. It is 1 to 2 percent of male lineages in Italy and Spain.”

Who Am I?

The next tab is called “Who Am I?” and it gives a breakdown of your ancestry make-up by percentage:

Your resultsI wasn’t surprised that my father’s side was 43% Northern European, given our German background. “This component of your ancestry is found at highest frequency in northern European populations—people from the UK, Denmark, Finland, Russia and Germany in our reference populations.”

37% is Mediterranean ancestry. “This component of your ancestry is found at highest frequencies in southern Europe and the Levant—people from Sardinia, Italy, Greece, Lebanon, Egypt and Tunisia in our reference populations. While not limited to these groups, it is found at lower frequencies throughout the rest of Europe, the Middle East, Central and South Asia. This component is likely the signal of the Neolithic population expansion from the Middle East, beginning around 8,000 years ago, likely from the western part of the Fertile Crescent.”

19% of my father’s genetic make-up is Southwest Asian. “This component of your ancestry is found at highest frequencies in India and neighboring populations, including Tajikistan and Iran in our reference dataset. It is also found at lower frequencies in Europe and North Africa. As with the Mediterranean component, it was likely spread during the Neolithic expansion, perhaps from the eastern part of the Fertile Crescent. Individuals with heavy European influence in their ancestry will show traces of this because all Europeans have mixed with people from Southwest Asia over tens of thousands of years.”

It’s hard sometimes to remember that we’re not talking about great-great-great grandparents here. We’re talking thousands of years ago. I can’t even really wrap my mind around that. The reference populations help. Our first reference population was, SURPRISE! German! No surprise there.

1 GermanI was surprised at our second reference population. Greek!?

2 GreekMy mother’s family (not tested here) is as much Polish-Chicago as my father is German-Chicago. I have never considered any sort of Greek heritage. But again, we’re talking thousands of years here.

For reference, they give a breakdown of what different ethnic groups’ reference groups look like. Here is the one for African-Americans:

AAAnd Mexican-American:

Screen shot 2013-05-14 at 2.59.46 PMLast but not least, we were given a breakdown of our hominid ancestry. In other words, at some point a long time ago, we got it on with our hominid cousins, the Neanderthals and the Denisovans. Awww yeah.

NeanderthalThere is a ton of other more general information that I haven’t included, as well as places for you to share your family history. Your stories and DNA are included in the broader genome studies being conducted by the National Geographic Project, which is pretty cool.

Like I said, I have a hard time wrapping my brain around a lot of this. But I’m left with this sense of connectivity, for lack of a better term. It takes looking at what makes us who we are on the most microscopic of levels to realize that a lot of our issues at the macro-level are, well, pretty stupid overall. We all are fundamentally the same. We all came from the same place, migrating to new lands with our tribes of parents and babies, trying to find something a little bit more ok. We really are all in this together.

And we all probably got it on with our cousins at some point, too, so really, who are we to judge?