Early last summer, I received an email from Dan Manley, who works for a UK-based DNA testing firm, asking me if I would like to receive a free test kit and write about the results of the DNA test on my blog. I agreed to do so, but I explained to Manley that I would like to have a family member tested instead, since I had already been tested by two other companies. With this understanding in place, I chose to have one of my adult sons participate. Surprisingly, my son eagerly submitted the necessary cheek swabs when I received the free test kit.
DNAme, it seems, is a fairly new company. The following is an excerpt from the company's website:
"Just like footprints on wet sand, the journey of our ancestors to populate the world left trails within us. These trails are carried in all of our cells and laid within our genes. We offer you a way to analyse your DNA and to find out the journey of your ancestors from Africa, 150,000 years ago, up to the present time...."
Although the company itself is based in the UK, my son's DNA sample was processed in the U.S. in a lab in Virginia. The test kit looked very much like those used by other genetic DNA testing companies. The swabs, shaped like mini-toothbrushes, were sealed inside plastic tubes with what appeared to be "twist-off" tops. These "tops" turned out to be rather difficult to "twist" off, however, and I actually damaged one tube container so much that I used heavy duty tape to re-seal the tube. My son and I were each concerned that this particular sample would be contaminated. So I emailed Manley before we mailed the tubes to the lab and explained what had happened, and he seemed surprised by the apparent difficulty and possible defect. But he assured me the difficulty I encountered opening and resealing the tubes was not an everyday occurrence, and he felt certain the sample should arrive intact at the lab. So we dropped the return kit in the U. S. mail and hoped for the best.
We waited several weeks with no confirmation of receipt by email from the lab or from the company, so I sent an email off to Manley. He quickly responded that the test had indeed reached the lab. It seemed as if it took much longer to receive test results from DNAme than what I anticipated, since the longest period of time I had waited for a previous test with another company (U.S. based) was about four weeks.
Several weeks after the follow-up email with Manley, I received notification in the mail that DNAme test results were in and were available on the company's website, www.DNAme.co. A small cardboard "ID" type card, containing an access code for viewing the results, was included with the letter. Retrieval of the results was quick and simple, and the website allowed us to download a copy of the report in .pdf format to save for future reference. My son's test results were clear and concise. The document stated his Y-Chromosome markers were analyzed, and his paternal haplotype was identified as R1b. The R1b Haplogroup carries the mutation M343. According to an explanation contained on the first page of the report of findings is this information:
"Haplogroup R is thought to have appeared some 30,000 years ago in Central Asia and is widely spread all over the world. You carry the mutation M343 which is linked to one of the subclades of Haplogroup R called R1b which is thought to have been part of the recolonisation of Europe following the Last Glacial Maximum. The founding member of your tribe is thought to have been born in south west Asia approximately 15,000 - 20,000 years ago. That time was called the Late Glacial Maximum and the climate was very hostile. The whole world was populated by less than 500,000 inhabitants. During this period, Northern Europe was covered with ice and approximely 100 metres below the modern-day one......It has also been suggested that most European male lineages descended from Near Eastern farmers and that maternal lineages descended from hunter-gatherers. This finding suggests that there has been a reproductive advantage for male farmers over hunter-gathers during the Paleolithic to the Neolithic transition period."
My son especially focused in on the next statement:
"You belong to direct descendants of the Cro Magnon people, the modern humans who painted the "Lascaux Cave" in Dordogne in the South of France. These paintings can be regarded both as a testimony of the artistic skills of your ancestors but also as a sketch book of their life during the last glacial age." What is interesting is that he does have some undeveloped artistic skills....now we know his skills are contained in his DNA.
At this point in reading the findings of his Y-Chromosome testing, my son was ready for some simply stated results....actually, so was I. So this is the text that followed, although it is still somewhat complex:
"The journey of your ancestors started about 60,000 years ago in Africa close to the Rift Valley region. Following the herds, they migrated toward the north. At that time, the Sahara was not a desert but a hospitable area. Following a climate shift, they continued moving toward the north-east and left Africa via the Arabian Peninsula. They did not stay there but followed the coastline and finally reached Central Asia. It was some 40,000 years ago that one of your ancestors migrated towards the west of Europe while the rest of the tribe decided to aim towards India and Asia. The climate changed again and glaciers started to cover Europe. Your ancestors met the Neanderthals, but probably due to their communicating and tool building skills had an advantage over them. With the climate continuing to become harsher, your ancestors looked for refuges in the southern parts of Europe. Following the Late Glacial Maximum and the thawing of the ice, your ancestors populated and dominated the northern parts of Europe. At that time, the English Channel was mostly dry and could be crossed on foot."
Now just what does Haplogroup R1b mean for my son?
The report explains this particular Haplogroup in the following paragraph:
"The R Haplogroup and its subclades, R1a, R1b and R2 are widely spread all over the world. R1b can be found in more than 80% of the population in England, France and Spain. In western Ireland, R1b is found in nearly 100% of the population. It is also greatly found in the United States and in some parts of Africa like Cameroon. The more we move towards central and eastern Europe the more Haplogroup R1a is represented. R2 is mostly found in India."
In summary, my son's genetic ancestry is:
European (England, France, and Spain) 95.40%
American (refers to non-specified Native American ancestry) 3.70%
DNAme notes on the report the test's accuracy as + or - .5%
One finding reported by DNAme was surprising. It states that his matrilineal DNA Haplogroup is "U." This is an unusual reporting result in most genetic DNA testing of Y-Chromosomes. What I now know is that my son's maternal line, including me, according to the test results, is "part of a very large and old Haplogroup, the U group, which gave rise to a large part of the European population. (The) initial ancestor is thought to have been born in western Asia some 50,000 to 55,000 years ago during the Ice Age, about 15,000 years after modern humans started to spread from Africa. At that time, the first humans had just left their home from where we all originate. (My son's) great-great-grandmother probably came via the Middle East and crossed the Caucasus Mountains to explore new lands....Asia and Europe."
Wow, what a long and rich history we have as a people, always on the move, and it hasn't ended yet......
And yes, my son is related to John Adams, Emperor Nicholas II of Russia, and shares a common ancestor with Cheddar Man, who lived more than 9,000 years ago. According to DNAme, "Cheddar Man" lived more than 9,000 years ago and is regarded as Britain's oldest skeleton. DNA testing, also according to DNAme's report, describes how DNA testing permitted the discovery of two living descendants of the Cheddar Man still living in the town of Somerset, England, close to where his remains were found.
The story of "Cheddar Man" and where his skeleton was found is quite interesting, especially since my son's paternal ancestry can be traced back to Somerset, England in the 1600's.
Thanks, Dan Manley, for the free test kit, with the only obligation that I write about the results!