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review of scientific and news articles on dna testing and popular genetics

Back to Basics: Genetic Genealogy and French Kings

Thursday, April 17, 2014

An article in the European Journal of Human Genetics uses all the tools of a by-now mature genetic genealogy field to disprove that a blood sample and a head tested several years ago belonged respectively to King Louis XVI and his paternal ancestor King Henry IV. Based at the Laboratory of Forensic Genetics and Moledular Archaeology at Louvain, Belgium, the authors Maarten H.D. Larmuseau et al.
collected DNA samples from three living males of the House of Bourbon in a classic Y chromosome relationship study.

The three Bourbon males—two of whom are relatively young, which suggests royal aversion to cooperation in DNA studies is slowly dying out—proved to have a matching R1b haplogroup, contradicting the G haplogroup proposed for the blood powder sample preserved in a reliquary, which only problematically matched the head. The three living Bourbons were Axel Prince of Bourbon-Parma, born 1968, a scion of the ill-fated Kingdom of Tuscany, Sixte Henri Prince of Bourbon-Parma, a claimant to the Spanish throne noted for his quixotic lawsuit to prevent Japanese art from being exhibited at the Palace of Versailles because it "denatured" French culture, and João Prince of Orléans-Braganza, born 1954, an obscure member of a Portuguese branch that claims the abolished imperial throne of Brazil. According to royal genealogies, they are cousins descended in the strict male line from Henry IV King of France (1553-1610), a Huguenot and the first French monarch of the House of Bourbon. DNA strongly confirmed these descents.

Mitochondrial comparison was also exercised as a control to test whether rumors of infidelity and non-paternity events in the early Bourbons might have any credence.

Among the interesting new research for us was the claim that "the frequency of paternal discrepancy in the Western European populations is at most 3% and is probably <1% of human births." This surprising figure is based on:  

  1. Anderson KG: How well does paternity confidence match actual paternity? Evidence from worldwide nonpaternity rates. Curr Anthropol 2006; 47: 513–520. | Article |
  2. Voracek M, Hauber T, Fisher ML: Recent decline in nonpaternity rates: a cross-temporal meta-analysis. Psychol Rep 2008; 103: 799–811. 

Genetic genealogists will want to pore over this article for its standard citations on nomenclature, mutation rates and fast-moving hotspots among Y-STRs. It bids well to be a classic article of its sort.

A side observation may also be in order here. Often seen as living in the past, perhaps European noble houses are beginning to step into a new role to assist modern science in solving historical mysteries. That is a form of noblesse oblige, we think. And like any paternity test, it takes confidence.

Photo above:  Prince Sixte Henri Hugues François Xavier of Parma, Duke of Aranjuez, Pretender to the Spanish Throne and Knight of Malta, age 73. 


European Journal of Human Genetics (2014) 22, 681–687; doi:10.1038/ejhg.2013.211; published online 9 October 2013

Genetic genealogy reveals true Y haplogroup of House of Bourbon contradicting recent identification of the presumed remains of two French Kings

Maarten H D Larmuseau1,2,3, Philippe Delorme4, Patrick Germain5, Nancy Vanderheyden1, Anja Gilissen1, Anneleen Van Geystelen1,6, Jean-Jacques Cassiman1 and Ronny Decorte1,2

  1. 1Laboratory of Forensic Genetics and Molecular Archaeology, UZ Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
  2. 2Forensic Biomedical Sciences, Department of Imaging and Pathology, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
  3. 3Laboratory of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Genomics, Department of Biology, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
  4. 4Independent researcher, Versailles, France
  5. 5Independent researcher; Saint-Lary, France
  6. 6Laboratory of Socioecology and Social Evolution, Department of Biology, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

Correspondence: Dr MHD Larmuseau, Laboratory of Forensic Genetics and Molecular Archaeology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Forensic Medicine, Kapucijnenvoer 33, B–3000, Leuven, 3000 Belgium. Tel: +32 16 33 66 63; Fax: +32 16 32 45 75; E-mail: maarten.larmuseau@bio.kuleuven.be

Received 14 May 2013; Revised 12 August 2013; Accepted 15 August 2013
Advance online publication 9 October 2013


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Bering Land Bridge Research from the Kankakee Swamp in Indiana and Illinois

Monday, March 10, 2014

Research by a Valparaiso University geography professor and his students on the creation of Kankakee Sand Islands of Northwest Indiana is lending support to evidence that the first humans to settle the Americas came from Europe, a discovery that overturns decades of classroom lessons that nomadic tribes from Asia crossed a Bering Strait land-ice bridge. Valparaiso is a member of the Council on Undergraduate Research.

 Dr. Ron Janke began studying the origins of the Kankakee Sand Islands – a series of hundreds of small, moon-shaped dunes that stretch from the southern tips of Lake and Porter counties in Northwest Indiana into northeastern Illinois – about 12 years ago. Over the past few years, approximately a dozen Valparaiso undergraduates have worked with Dr. Janke to create the first detailed maps of the Kankakee Sand Islands, study their composition and survey wildlife and plants inhabiting the islands.

Based upon the long-held belief that most of the upper Midwest was covered by a vast ice sheet up until about 10,000 years ago, Dr. Janke said he and other scientists surmised the Kankakee Sand Islands were created by sand in meltwater from the receding glacier.

 That belief was challenged, however, when he and his students discovered a year and a half ago that the islands were composed of sand that had come from Lake Michigan – something that should have been impossible with the Valparaiso Moraine standing between the lake and the Kankakee Sand Islands.

“That created a lot of problems with what we had previously believed about ice covering this entire area,” Dr. Janke said. “How could it get over the Valparaiso Moraine and be deposited there?”

Figuring out that puzzle required taking core samples from some of the remaining islands and the development of a new test by one of Dr. Janke’s colleagues to determine when sunlight last shone on the sand.

The answer that came back – the Kankakee Sand Islands were born between 14,500 and 15,000 years ago from Lake Michigan sand – was startling.

“We thought the area was completely covered by ice at that time,” Dr. Janke said. “That was a really earth-shattering result for us.”

Yet it also supports research showing that North American Clovis points – a particular type of arrowhead that represents the oldest manmade object on the continent –identically match arrowheads found in Europe and made by humans at approximately the same time.

And just within the last year, new research has provided strong evidence that a large meteorite struck the ice sheet covering North American and melted much of the ice shortly before the formation of the Kankakee Sand Islands.

“Our research at Valparaiso supports this other recent research because it indicates there wasn’t a massive ice sheet covering North America that would have allowed tribes to cross over from Asia via a Bering Strait land-ice bridge,” Dr. Janke said.

Dr. Janke’s research on the formation of the Kankakee Sand Islands is continuing this summer, with a focus on determining whether the islands closest to Lake Michigan are younger than the southernmost islands.

At one time, approximately 1,200 of the islands stretched out in a series of curved bands north and and south of the Kankakee River that are separated by a few miles and mirror the southern tip of Lake Michigan. Though many were destroyed by human settlement, about 700 still exist today.

Dr. Janke and his students also have been active in the Woodland Savanna Land Conservancy, an organization working to protect the Kankakee Sand Islands.

Scott Osthus, a recent graduate who worked with Dr. Janke to map the Kankakee Sand Islands and support their preservation, enjoyed being involved in the research effort.

“During my four years at Valparaiso, I saw how interesting and significant the Kankakee Sand Islands landscape is,” Osthus said. “I want to see this area preserved because it is so historically significant.”

Landowners have donated a handful of islands to the trust for preservation, and Dr. Janke is hopeful that others will follow their lead and perhaps eventually build enough support for some of the islands to be incorporated into Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore or their own state park.

“The Kankakee Sand Islands are archaeologically significant, with numerous Native American artifacts and burial grounds still present in the surviving islands, and they provide crucial habitat for native wildlife and plant species,” Dr. Janke said. “I’m hopefully the sand islands can be protected so we can continue to learn about and appreciate them.”

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by Valparaiso University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Jim Coyle commented on 19-Mar-2014 08:33 AM

An idea if not already considered is that the indiana sands were laid down before the Valpo Moraine. I'am of the opinion that there were 3 impact sites down the length of lake Michigan. This will need research to confirm. But check the outline of the lake and you see 3 rounded indents in the shoreline and in checking the depth charts there are 3 "holes" at the same sites.

Johari Sheared commented on 08-Apr-2014 04:26 PM

I have been tested several years ago and I recently looked at my test results again. DNA consultants was able to find that I have Native American ancestry and also Jewish ancestry. I am an african american women and I have been researching my family tree for a number of years and DNA consultants is very detailed. I checked my african american matches listed and it showed Equitorial Guinea. I looked up the information on this and discovered that it was settled by the Spanish and Portugese. I took the 18 marker test as well and discovered that I have 2 markers for Jewish and one for Native American. I thank DNA consultants for these results. This gives me a good idea where my ancestors came from.

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White People Behaving Badly and Ancient Giants

Thursday, February 06, 2014
By Teresa A. Panther-Yates

What if there once really were giants? We are familiar with tales of giants in fairy tales, like those in Jack and the Bean Stalk, or in tall-tales in movies like Big Fish. Giants are also mentioned in the Bible in several places: ” There were giants in those days” (Genesis 6:4). They have become part of our popular culture. But now that we have grown up, we no longer believe in giants. We no longer believe they could have ever existed, just as we no longer believe in the existence of Cinderella or Santa Claus.

What if we are wrong? According to the author of a new book on the subject of giant humanoids in Earth's past, "We live in an age where we are hypnotized by our own ignorance." The book is titled The Ancient Giants Who Ruled America:  The Missing Skeletons and the Great Smithsonian Cover-Up, and the author is Richard J. Dewhurst. It appeared last month from Bear & Company, a Rochester, Vermont publisher.

Spoiler alert:  if you swallow without reflection what the U.S. Government and the American public education system tell you about Native Americans, you won't like this book. You will probably throw it down in disgust and go on Wikipedia to be reassured that giants don't exist. Similarly, if you think it is an act akin to madness to suggest that not only was there a race of  eight-foot-tall people who dominated North America from as early as 20,000 BCE but also they were superior to white Europeans in strength, intelligence, health, diet, family life, government, religion and the arts, stop right here and read no farther. It goes against all right-thinking Darwinists, doesn't it?

The Cherokee called them the Moon People.The Utes and Paiutes spoke of a hideous race of cannibals ten feet tall living in caves. And the Choctaw also have an account of the race of giants that first colonized the Ohio Valley. Ancient oral history predates our modern history textbooks. It was important to relay information down, as in any culture, so it was not always storytelling. Could there have been giants? If so, could they have been Denisovan Hybrids and ancient cousins on our family tree? This is but conjecture. There is no conclusive evidence of the size of the Denisovans since thus far we only have a finger bone, two teeth, and a toe bone ( Anne Gibbons Science Magazine article, ” Genome Brings Ancient Girl to Life.”).

Even if there were giants, we don’t know who they were or the rest of the story. We only have clues. But if they were an ancient human or human cousin at some point there must have been some hot hanky- panky and some bizarre rendezvous as some have suggested ancient humans had with Denisovans, like Ileana Llorens does in her Huffington Post article, “Denisovans Mated with Humans.” If that is the case, some of us might have the ancestry of giants, or as the Cherokee called them, the Moon People.

According to Cherokee and Choctaw traditions and confirmed by excavations of bones in Tennessee, there was a “race of white giants” that once inhabited Tennessee, and “with whom their ancestors fought when they arrived in Mississippi in their migration from the west, doubtless Old Mexico.” Their tradition tells of the Nahullo (a race of giants who were wizards of amazing stature). This was considered to be but a “foolish fable, the creature of a wild imagination” but … “their exhumed bones again prove the truth of the Choctaws’ tradition.” (Donald N. Yates, Old World Roots of the Cherokee, p. 150).

Where did they find bones of the Moon People? Cushman, an Indian historian in his early work, History of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Cherokee Indians, (1898), recounts the discovery in 1880 at a burial mound site near Plano, Texas, of human bones “of enormous size . . . the femoral bones being five inches longer than the ordinary length, and the jaw bones . . . so large as to slip over the face of a man with ease.” Cushman goes on to identify them with the older occupants of North America called Allegewi or Taligewi (Talegans). Many historians, moreover, speculate they were the builders of the Adena mounds.

According to Rolling Thunder, a story was told by the Comanches in 1857 about the Moon people:

Innumerable moons ago, there was a race of white men, ten feet high, and far more rich and powerful than any white people now living, who inhabited a large range of country, extending from the rising to the setting sun. Their fortifications crowned the summits of the mountains, protecting their populous cities situated in the intervening valleys. They excelled every other nation which was flourished, either before or since, in all manner of cunning handicraft—were brave and warlike—ruling over the land they had wrested from its ancient possessors with a high and haughty hand. Compared with them the palefaces of the present day were pygmies, in both art and arms. They drove the Indians from their homes, putting them to the sword, and occupying the valleys in which their fathers had dwelt before them since the world began. At length, in the height of their power and glory, when they remembered justice and mercy no more and became proud and lifted up, the Great Spirit descended from above, sweeping them with fire and deluge from the face of the earth. The mounds we [i.e. the speaker Chief Rolling Thunder and his Spanish listener] had seen on the tablelands were the remnants of their fortresses, and the crumbling ruins that surrounded us all that remained of a mighty city. 

Could the words Nahoolo or Nahullo be a reference to these Moon people? The word Nahoolo or Nahullo “is now emphatically applied to the white race and no other . . . The Nahullo were of white complexion, according to Choctaw tradition, and were still an existing people at the time of the advent of the Choctaws to Mississippi,” concludes Cushman (153). And the Indian trader and historian, James Adair, often makes a reference to the Nahoolo or Nahullo in his History of the American Indians (1775).

There are other accounts of giants in this country and elsewhere. Fritz Zimmerman’s book, The Nephilim Chronicles, reproduces over 300 historical accounts of giant skeletons. Many are associated with the earliest mound sites in America, but Zimmerman’s survey of this worldwide phenomenon ranges from the Hunter-Fisher People of northeast Europe and Red Paint People whose movements were circumpolar to the giants of the Bible, noted by the Babylonian Talmud as having double rows of teeth, and “Giants’ Remains in the British Isles.” And Navajo legends speak of the Starnake People, a regal race of white giants endowed with mining technology who dominated the West, enslaved lesser tribes and had strongholds all through the Americas. They were either extinguished or “went back to the heavens.” The name may be a corruption of the Biblical race known as Anakim (Num. 13:33, Deut. 1:28).

The name Og (Hebrew “chief”) appears to be characteristic (see Zimmerman, pp. 188-91). The ogham alphabet is attributed to this cultural founder. Certainly, if these Moon people existed, they did not live peacefully with their neighbors. Many of the mound sites uncovered in the nineteenth century tell a story of constant warfare by incoming Asiatic tribes against the giants occupying the land. One grisly scene showed thousands of skeletons, male, female and young heaped in a mass grave, with warriors’ skulls pierced by arrows. It would appear that as these aboriginal inhabitants of the Ohio Valley were gradually displaced, some members of their society went over into the ranks of the new conquerors, bequeathing a strain of great stature still noticeable, for instance, in the Mobilian chief Tuscaloosa and DeSoto’s Indian queen Cofitachiqui, both of whom were said to be seven feet tall.

When Denisovan Man was first discovered, we had just a fingerbone to go on. We can only imagine the look of the skull. Geneticists conjecture an Austronesian type. Will a geneticist in the future derive ancient DNA from the bones of a giant?  According to reliable investigative sources, there are thousands of full skeletons available at the Smithsonian, Carnegie Instistute and other repositories, who have routinely swept the subject under the carpet for 150 years.

Perhaps at some point, DNA testing companies will have a test to see if you have Moon people in your ancestry. Not yet. But I do have some very tall Tennesseans in my ancestry.


Charles Stegiel commented on 14-Feb-2014 05:31 PM

The thought I have is that these are not Genus Homo. The second thought I have is that they might be descendants of Meganthropus. Meganthropus has been the target of numerous extreme claims, none of which are supported by recent peer-reviewed authors. Perhaps the most common claim is that Meganthropus was a giant, one unsourced claim put them at 9 feet (2.75 m) tall and 750 to 1000 pounds (340 to 450 kilograms). No exact height has been published in a peer reviewed journal recently, and none give an indication of Meganthropus being substantially larger than H. erectus. However, earlier estimates from the 1940s and 1950's based primarily on the very large Sangiran No. 6 jaw fragment led Prof. Franz Weidenreich, and several other anthropologists to conclude Meganthropus was indeed a giant, and substantially larger than any H. erectus, perhaps on the order of 2 to 4 times the body mass. This fact seems to be born out in Von Koenigswald's and Weidenreich's decision to name the taxon in 1942, "Meganthropus palaeojavanicus" which in Neo-Latin translates to "great or large man of ancient Java." The text is from Wiki.

C A Beverforden commented on 03-Mar-2014 01:33 PM

Since I have heard so much about the giant skeletons, I decided to search historic newspapers. Within a few miles of where I was born in Indiana a 10 foot skeleton was unearthed. My Tennessee inlaws are quite tall also.

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Top DNA Stories of the Year

Thursday, January 02, 2014

DNA Rocks the News 


This was definitely the year that was in DNA news. Here are, we propose, the top three stories.

First, last June came the U.S. Supreme Court decision that police officers can now legally take DNA from anyone they arrest. Yes, and they then then enter your DNA profile into a database where they can match it with existing samples (Dan Noswolitiz, “It’s Now Legal for the Police to Collect DNA,” Popular Science). Since we live in a rather scary world since 9/11, I thought that might be constructive, at first glance, until I realized that the key word is “arrest” not “charged.” What is the difference? People are falsely framed and arrested every day as well as arrested for minor offenses. Consequently, there are any number of ways this could be abused. Even if someone is declared innocent, guess what? They still have your DNA.

Do you want others to have your personal genomic data? That is a question you might want to ask of any DNA testing company you use. What do you do with my DNA? Do you keep it and put it in a database or share it with others? In the same month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that human genes cannot be patented, except for synthetic genes. This was in response to a lawsuit between “Myriad Genetics, a medical diagnostics company, and the Association for Molecular Pathology” (Young). Many saw this as a win for women with an elevated genetic risk of breast and ovarian cancers as well as researchers and scientists (Richard Wolf, “Justices Rule Human Genes Cannot Be Patented,” USA TODAY) Why? Myriad had a monopoly on the gene; as a result, no one else could produce or manufacture it, and the genetic test was inordinately expensive.

23 and Me vs. Nearly Everybody Else 
Not every woman has a bank account matching Angelina Jolie’s. Her decision to first take the genetic test and then have a preventive double mastectomy because of her high risk of breast cancer brought this case to the forefront. But the breast cancer issue also played into the biggest and most controversial story of the year concerning genetics testing for disease and the battle between the FDA and 23&me. The FDA told them to stop selling health and medical related information with their genetic tests. Some see this as the FDA stealing their right to their own personal genetic information. Since there is no genetic destiny for disease because of other lifestyle and epigenetic factors (Carl Zimmer, “Hope, Hype, and Genetic Breakthroughs” Wall Street Journal), others see this as part of a process to ensure that these tests are accurate and not misinterpreted. However, knowing you have a high genetic risk for a disease might mean you make better lifestyle choices. I think in the end it will not spell the end for direct-to-consumer genetic health services. Hopefully, the industry will not only be resurrected, but there will also be better guidelines for the field as well as the consumer spurring a wider market so consumers have more choices. I am looking for that silver lining in the New Year.

So that's three stories that spell continuing interest in DNA testing everywhere. Watch for headlines on personal genomics, medical tests and Denisovans/Neanderthals in the coming year.


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DNA: Storage Medium of the Future

Friday, December 27, 2013

One strand would hold libraries of digital information

The next decade's version of Facebook, Twitter, or Pandora could be digitally encoded on DNA. How? The next app? A card in one’s wallet? Who knows?

This is not a new idea. It has been suggested before that entire libraries of information could be encoded on DNA and others have tried it without success. But no one thought it was possible until, according to an article in Nature by Monya Baker, “DNA Data Storage Breaks Records,” reported that a team of Harvard researchers encoded a book on DNA and said there was plenty of room for more. A lot more. The possibilities could be limitless.

Cells die and replicate, so using cells is not a very secure system.  The team, led by George Church, a synthetic biologist from the Medical School in Boston, devised a new system using ink to convert the data onto glass chips instead of cells. It worked. Of course, we’re a long way from understanding this completely. And there are problems. It isn’t feasible at the moment to encode an entire library onto DNA. It is far too costly.

You can’t use DNA to drive your computer instead of your hard drive. But it could happen. At first, many thought no one would want to drive a car, fly in an airplane, or even use a computer. In a similar manner, this could be the first glimpse of ushering in a new era just as all those were. How exciting!

But what would be the advantages? Durability and security of limitless information. Imagine what we would know if we could still go to the Library of Alexandria. Even today, beyond the everyday virus, there are talks of cyber-wars and cyber threats that could potentially shut down vast data and threaten the security not just of your personal computer but of nations. What if we no longer had to worry about those things? How would that change our world?

Also, if DNA can store this much information, what is being stored on it now that we don’t even know about? What libraries of information are on our own DNA that we have yet to read? What will it tell us about ourselves in the future that we have yet to discover?


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Studies Confirm There's Such a Thing As Genetic Memory

Friday, December 06, 2013

Undying Memories

The next time you experience déjà vu think about this. It might be more than a trick of the brain. Scientists have recently confirmed that genes can pass down the memories of our ancestors to us. 

It sounds like something out of "Lord of the Rings," but medical researchers at the University of Cambridge have determined with experiments that DNA might pass down some genetic markers from generations ago ( David Cornish, Wired Science, “ Study: Genes Could retain ‘Memory’ When Passed to Offspring”).

This means that if you have a phobia about boarding an airplane it might be because your great grandfather had a fear of flying. It also might mean that if you have a certain condition or disease, it could be because someone in your family history had that disease. We have had the latter idea of genetic inheritance being linked to disease for some time. That is why, with women, doctors might ask who in their family had breast cancer. Doctors even know that it is a greater risk if it is on the mother’s side of the family.

Until now scientists did not understand this process of passing epigenetic markers on, piggy-back style, through generations. Epigenetics was the mystery person in the room no one wanted to question or talk about, whether out of politeness or ignorance. 

First, what do epigenetic markers do? They are like the managers in a factory telling the cells to either “use or ignore a particular gene.” For this reason, although it should not be ignored, it is not the entire story if you discover with genetic testing that you, or someone you know, have a genetically high risk for a certain disease like breast cancer. It is possible to get lucky and have an epigenetic marker that is telling a gene to just sleep a few decades and not turn into cancer (Carl Zimmer, “Hope, Hype, and Genetic Breakthroughs”).

But how are epigenetic markers passed down through generations? Most of them are erased from one generation to the next (Cornish). However, James Gallagher, in his article, “‘Memories Pass Between Generations,’” says that traumatic events can alter DNA and affect both the “brains and behavior of subsequent generations.” Reputable publications now suggest that genetic memory is not science fiction. Genetic memory is stored in your DNA. Both genetic memory and epigenetics are now considered mainstream science.

Painting:  Marsden Hartley, Himmel (1914-1915), Nelson Atkins Museum, Kansas City.

Related Blog Posts

"Epigenetics and the Environment" (Aug. 4, 2012)
"Why Genetics Is So Last Century" (Feb. 14, 2012)
"Panel at Vancouver Diversity Conference…" (Jan. 29, 2012)


Matt commented on 19-Feb-2014 12:43 PM

Interesting. Deja Vu is an intriguing thing - but it's not necessary for 'memories' to be transferred to us genetically, is it?
All human activity is repetitive; cyclical. Nobody can do something completely 'new' that has never been done before. It's the reason Taoism is such a powerful philosophy - Sometimes we are the peasant, sometimes the prince, sometimes in the Spring, sometimes in the Fall and the faces may change but the choices remain the same.

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Too Big to Feel

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

We don't often write editorials in this space. Normally, you will see nothing but news in the DNA Consultants Blog. Some sparse marketing messages may appear whenever we have a new product or study. But the FDA's "stop and desist" letter last Friday to personal genomics giant 23&me has sent shock waves through the industry. Although we are not in the business of providing medical information to customers, only ancestral background analyses, we feel compelled to weigh in on the FDA's warning, which we think is overdue.

First, it is important to note that the FDA took action against 23&me because the company has been selling an unapproved diagnostic device and medical service. The FDA demanded 23&me "immediately discontinue marketing the Personal Genome Service" after years of protracted and unsuccessful requests for proof of safety and efficacy to back up the company's marketing claims.

A check of 23&me's website on November 26 showed little change in the promises it makes to consumers. Splashed across the welcome page in large letters was "Get to know you." The site boasted having "Reports on 240+ health conditions." In language that sure sounds medical to us, it speaks of carrier status, health risks and drug response. 

An appeal to parents suggests, "Find out if your children are at risk for inherited conditions, so you can plan for the health of your family." Under "drug response," the company advises that you can take "information on how you might respond to certain medications" from your $99 DNA test to your next doctor's visit.

The FDA found "some of the uses for which Personal Genomic Service is intended are particularly concerning." A false positive result for the BRCA gene, for instance, could cause a patient to remove breasts or ovaries to avoid getting cancer. A false negative could lead patients into an unfounded sense of security and make them ignore that an actual risk exists. An inaccurate result for warfarin drug response could lead a patient to self-manage their dosage or skip it altogether, leading to "illness, injury, or death."

Some pretty dire concerns.

DNA Consultants simply does not do DNA testing for medical information. If a customer calls and asks for such a service we explain that is something they should discuss with their healthcare provider. Neither our marketing nor fulfillment of tests contains any medical language.

We specialize in ancestry analysis exclusively and believe we do that better than anybody else.

Of course, the field of genetic screening has made enormous progress over the past ten years. We monitor many of those advances in our blog. But we do not believe the field is by any means "there" yet, certainly not ready to be packaged and hawked to consumers. We doubt it ever will be. Or at least we hope not.

Despite popular anthems of genetic determinism, your health is not all in your genes. But your ancestry certainly is. Find out what your ancestry is and you will be able to form an idea of what your ancestral medical history might look like, going beyond the two generations of family medical history covered by standard questionnaires at the doctor's office. But that part is entirely up to you and your healthcare providers.

No company is too big to fail. Even the largest are subject to oversight by the government as well as consumer pressure and the natural forces of the market. Nor is any company too big to feel. We hope 23&me will respond both to the FDA and the public with understanding and responsibility, not indifference and arrogance.

Related Posts

How Secure Is Your DNA

The Sins of Science

How Good is Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Screening:  Not Very, According to Study

Regulation Unlikely in Europe

Should the DNA Marketspace Be Regulated by the Government?


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Where Do I Come From: James Shoemaker

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Where Do I Come From: James Shoemaker

Real People's DNA Stories

Bible Studies, DNA Tests, Mother's Nursing-Home Confessions Lead to New Life

NOVEMBER 16, 2013 — Until he took an autosomal ancestry test, James T. Shoemaker had little concept of his heritage. He assumed he was just an average white European American like his Appalachian neighbors.

Although raised in a Pentecostal Church, Shoemaker always felt a strong pull toward Jewish culture. So last year he went to his doctor and asked for a DNA test. "I wanted to see if there were any Jewish lines in my ancestry," he said.

He ended up taking a DNA Fingerprint Plus, a complete analysis of one's genetic ancestry that includes ethnic markers and megapopulation admixture matches.

Fast forward from that first eye-opener and today the 53-year-old Waynesboro, Pa. resident is halfway through a conversion process to Judaism at B'nai Abraham, a Reform congregation in Hagerstown, Md., where he is being mentored by youngish Rabbi Ari Plost.

"I got all three ancestral markers for Jewish I, II and III," Shoemaker recalls, “so I went to see my mother, Jacqueline Rose, at the nursing home in Hagerstown, and she admitted, ‘Well, yeah, my parents, uh, they were both Jewish."

It was the first he had heard of it. “Mom never said a word about having Jewish ancestors. It turned my life around.”

The fact that he got a "double dose" of Jewish alleles in his marker results confirmed the truth of his mother's admission that both she and his father came from Jewish families.

Shoemaker next took a Premium Male DNA Ancestry Test to determine whether his father's Y chromosome line was perhaps Jewish. The results were delivered to him in mid-November.

His particular haplotype did indeed match several other Jewish men, including those with the surnames Brown, Hendrix, Shepard, Getz, Phillips, Lewetag and Sequeira. "The subject’s specific male haplotype (surname line) probably came from Southwest Germany or the Low Lands, to judge from the modal matches and patterns of distribution," according to the report.

As for the surname itself, the Surname History section (included in every Premium Male report, cost $325.00), had some valuable clues for Shoemaker's genealogy.

"Shoemaker is probably a translation of the Dutch or German equivalent Schuhmacher or Shumacher meaning "shoemaker." It is noted as a Jewish family name in Southwest Germany and the Saarland in France, including Lörrach in Baden (Lars Menk, A Dictionary of German Jewish Surnames, Bergenfield: Avotaynu, 2005, pp. 673-74). It could also come from Schuster, a more common Jewish German surname (p. 675)."

A Mason since 1990, and flirting at one time with Messianic Judaism, Shoemaker feels as though his earlier attempts to connect with his Jewish heritage were blind and unguided without the hard testimony of DNA. "All these things I've been interested in with my studies and religious life now fall into place," he said. "I'm finding out why."

What lies in the future? This Pesach, Shoemaker will have an official bar mitzvah, complete with ritual bath and reading from the Torah. He then plans to attend Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. "What I am really looking forward to," he says, "is making aliyah to the Land of Israel."


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Native Americans Have Deep Ancestry in Europe: Yes, It's Official

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Shocking, Long Overdue Revision to American Indian Genetics

By Donald N. Yates

The ecstatic waters . . .

Through their ancestral patterns dance.

—William Butler Yeats, "News for the Delphic Oracle"

We've been saying it all along but it looks as though geneticists may be forced by new findings in ancient DNA to admit that early Siberian people and present-day Native Americans both have strong roots in Europe, only secondarily in Asia. The nuclear genetic bomb was dropped by Danish geneticist Eske Willerslev at a conference on "First Americans Archeology," held October 16-19, 2013, at Santa Fe, N.M. The city that gave birth to the original atom bomb hosted a glittering roster of speakers in a venue better known for its turquoise jewelry, fry bread and avante garde art, including big draws Achilli, Adovasio, Dillehay, Gonzalez and Schurr.

The paradigm-shifting conference program will be commemorated with a book Paleoamerican Odyssey ($56) to be published by Texas A&M Press later this year.

Leaked reports in the news media focused on Willerslev's paper, "Genetics as a Means for Understanding Early Peopling of the Americas," which concerned the genetic sequencing of two ancient Siberians' bones discovered in the 1920s and now in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. Analysis of a bone in one of the arms of a boy found near the village of Mal'ta close to Lake Baikal yielded the oldest complete genome of a modern human sequenced to date.

Of the 24,000 year-old skeleton that was Exhibit A, Willerslev was quoted in The Siberian Times, as saying, "His DNA shows close ties to those of today's Native Americans. Yet he apparently descended not from East Asians, but from people who had lived in Europe or western Asia." He added, "The finding suggests that about a third of the ancestry of today's Native Americans can be traced to 'western Eurasia.'"

The 4-year-old boy, who died 24,000 years ago in a homeland previously assumed to account for all the Indians who crossed a theoretical Bering land-bridge and founded the First Americans, had a male Y-chromosomal haplogroup of R1b, the most common lineage in modern Europe, and a female mitochondrial lineage of U, the dominant prototype in pre-historic Europe. As it happens, I am the same combination, R1b for male and U for female, as are innumerable others in our in-house study on Cherokee DNA, published, lo, some five years ago.

Whereas previous "peopling of the Americas" stuff has clung to and recycled haplogroup studies (sex-lines), the new shock research relies on autosomal DNA, total genomic contributions from all ancestral lines, not just male-only, not just female-only descent. The title of a blog from Eurogenes rightly emphasizes this:  "Surprising aDNA [autosomal] results from Paleolithic Siberia (including Y DNA R)."  

When we introduced the 18-Marker Ethnic Panel as an enhancement for our main autosomal product, DNA Fingerprint Plus, lo, again, these five years now and counting, we presented a map of prehistoric human migrations showing without any equivocation that "Native Americans," even as Cavalli-Sforza demonstrated two decades ago, were closer in genetic distance to Europeans than Asians. In fact, we claimed, on the basis of autosomal DNA, that having Native American I or Native American II was a result discrete and separate from East Asian, since Native Americans obtained frequencies of its occurrence as high as 80% and Asians were on the polar opposite of the scale, at the bottom for carrying it. Other methods frequently confused Native American and East Asian to the point of invalidity, particularly those products claiming to arrive at racial or ethnic percentages.

The moral is that autosomal DNA trumps Y chromosome and mitochondrial evidence, and only ancient autosomal DNA can truly explain modern DNA. Even one of the most antipathetic students of American Indian DNA, Theodore G. Schurr, seems to rethinking the rigid definitions that have built careers and won tenure for geneticists and anthropologists for decades. For the fanatics who have been toeing the party line on haplogroup Q, as set down by Schurr's company, Family Tree DNA, and its followers, we note the following statement of recantation or at least qualification, taken from the Santa Fe program:

"Tracing Human Movements across Siberia and into the Americas: New

Insights from Mitochondrial DNA and Y-Chromosome Data."

In this paper, I present genetic data from native Siberian and indigenous

populations of North America that help to address questions

about the process and timing of the peopling of the Americas. These

new genetic data indicate that Eskimoan- and Athapaskan-speaking

populations are genetically distinct from one another, as well as each

to Amerindian groups, and that the formation of these circumarctic

populations was the result of two population expansions that occurred

after the initial expansion of settlement of the Americas. Our high-resolution

analysis of Y chromosome haplogroup Q has also reshaped the

organization of this lineage, making connections between New World

and Old World populations more apparent and demonstrating that

southern Altaians and Native Americans share a recent common ancestor.

The data also make clear that Y-chromosomal diversity among the

first Native Americans was greater than previously recognized. Overall,

these results greatly enhance our understanding of the peopling of

Siberia and the Americas from both mtDNA and Y-chromosome


"Genetic genealogy" has become a fashionable buzzword, but to my knowledge few research studies or blogs and hardly any commercial tests authentically combine the two concepts. According to genealogy, I myself am about one-quarter Choctaw-Cherokee and three-quarters European. But genetics says my mitochondrial line (U2e) is Eurasian, even though I have traced it to a Cherokee woman who married the Indian trader Enoch Jordan about 1790 in north Georgia.  Estimates from other "genetic genealogy" companies for my Native American ancestry, and I've taken them all, range from 0% (23&me) to 8% (Family Tree DNA, AncestryByDNA). 

DNA Consultants, the company I founded in 2003, does not give percentages of ancestry by policy, but half my top matches in our autosomal analysis are Native American, and North Asian/Siberian is No. 1 in my megapopulation result, followed by Central Asian and Native American (and only distantly by Northern European). On an autosomal approach, if not haplogroup basis, my genes are Native American, which is how I self-identify. If I were to be pulled over for being a brown person in the state of Arizona, where I currently reside, and Sheriff Joe ran my DNA profile numbers through the system he would find that I am 15 times more likely to be North Asian than Northern European, and twice as likely to be American Indian than East Asian, European American or Iberian American (Hispanic).

Read the whole analysis of my personal genetics, with actual reports from various companies, in the Cherokee Results pages on the DNA Consultants website. You may also find an extended study showing what autosomal DNA can do at:

Reconstructing Your Ancestry and Parentage (blog post, March 14, 2012)

If and when geneticists get serious about identifying the European sources of the American Indian gene pool, and hopefully they will round up not just one suspect (Denmark?), I would like for those who get paid and promoted to study us to please consider the following points:

—First New Cherokee Data Published in More Than Ten Years (announcement, August 1, 2012) - in-house study described numerous instances of U, findings published in Donald Yates' Old World Roots of the Cherokee.

—Stephen C. Jett, who taught geography at The Ohio State University 1963-1964 and then at the University of California, Davis, serving thrice as Geography chair and becoming emeritus in 2000, current editor of Pre-Columbiana, has frequently pointed out that just because Native American haplogroups match Siberian haplogroups doesn't mean the population of either Native America or Siberia was the same in remote history as today. He considered this a big fallacy of Big Science.

—Constantine Rafinesque, whose History of the American Indians was the first and most comprehensive treatment of the subject, believed all the early settlers of the Americas came "through the Atlantic," and only beginning about 1000 BCE did the Iztacans and Oguzians (Central Asian Turkic peoples) arrive. See our blog:  American Indian and Turkic People Share Deep Ancestry (June 6, 2012).

—Canadian environmentalist Farley Mowat, the author of thirty-seven books, has constantly challenged the conventional knowledge that Vikings were the first Europeans to reach North America. In The Farfarers he describes the Alban people of Old Europe as visitors and colonists from the time when walrus hunters discovered the sea routes to the West before the Bronze Age. America's original name of the White (or Beautiful) Land is mentioned by Rafinesque and in Hindu, Greek, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Arabic, Algonquian Indian, Irish, Norse and Chinese accounts.  See "An Interview with Farley Mowat" on YouTube.

—Cyclone Covey of Wake Forest University, among other historians, has noted that Clovis Culture appears fully formed without any antecedents in America, with the most perfect examples of Clovis points traced in a cline of occurence in archeological sites to the Atlantic Coast.

—The earliest Americans clearly practiced the same Mother Goddess religion elaborately documented in the east Mediterranean and Old Europe by Marija Gimbutas. Their ideas of matriarchy or gylany (in Riana Eisler's coinage) did not come from Asia. See Archeologist of the Goddess (webpage) and "Syncretism, Not Animism" (PPT), a presentation given at the Sandy, Utah conference, March 29, 2011.

—When customers of DNA Consultants with various degrees of Native American admixture have their European population matches analyzed, a frequent top result is Finland or Finno-Ugric or Uralic. This "false match" could be explained by shared ancestry between the present-day Finns (where U is the modal haplogroup) and ancestors of Native Americans coming from Europe. Consider taking the EURO DNA test ($99).

—John L. Sorenson and Carl L. Johannessen in World Trade and Biological Exchanges before 1492 (2009) document several plants that originated in the Eastern Hemisphere (not Asia) and traveled early by human hand to the Americas. For instance, Cannabis sativa (marijuana) moved from Western Asia or Europe to Peru by 100 CE, and mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) was brought to Mexico from across the Atlantic Ocean by 1500 BCE. Both grow in profusion in Europe and temperate parts of Central Asia. Goosefoot (an important Ohio Valley Moundbuilder staple), cotton, coconuts, bananas, turmeric and North American myrtle likely took the same route. In the opposite direction, Mexican agave spread to the Mediterranean world by 300 BCE.

Archeologists described the recent news from Santa Fe as jaw-dropping. We expect that when the definitive report on the Siberian boy's 24,000 year-old genome appears in the journal Nature, where it is at press, their hair may fall out. At any rate, the European origins of Indians is going to be a game changer not only in genetics, but anthropology, archeology, government and, perhaps most significantly, in the self-awareness of millions of Americans who count Native Americans among their ancestors.


Our standard world migration map had the story right years ago.


Don Danielson commented on 30-Oct-2013 05:36 PM

I can add no data, only my applause. There are, truly, more similarities among people than differences.

James Stritzel commented on 11-Nov-2013 03:03 PM

CONGRATULATIONS!! For vindication of what you and DNA Consultants have been in the forefront of for years. Still will be fierce resistance but the light of your leadership is starting to shine and grow in the ‘Official Establishment’.

I remember and still have a book from the early 1990’s “Giving Voice to Bear” by David Rockwell. In it he wrote of the similarity of how Bear is depicted/revered/hunted around the sub-Arctic. Briefly wrote about a circumpolar subarctic culture. That has stuck with me 20+ years.

Here with Eske Willerley’s “….genetic bombshell….” is validation of what must have been pre-Columbian peopling of Americas other than the orthodox version.

Thanks so much for your dedication, determination and achievements in the DNA Field.

Jim Stritzel

Anonymous commented on 14-Nov-2013 09:18 PM

I have a lot of Siberian DNA as well as a lot of Greek and Iranian DNA, but come from Black Sea area/Georgia. But look European. MtDNA is H1b. Mom's dad's Y chromo is R1b. We were supposed to have come from the Caucasus in ancestral times. Lots of redheads in the family. Curious.

Bill Hucks commented on 20-Nov-2013 05:15 PM

This is one of many articles I've read on the Siberian boy. You mention that his Ydna is R1b, however it is not mentioned in any other articles. I'm very curious to know if R1b has indeed, been confirmed. --That was reported in the full version of the scientific paper.

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Rise and Fall of the Melungeons

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Few people today actually claim to be Melungeons, rather perhaps Melungeon descendants. The reasons have more to do with the abortive Melungeon Movement and various dysfunctional online Melungeon discussion boards than with the fact that "Melungeon" is an ethnic or racial slur. 

Just in time for Halloween, a new collection of Melungeon material has been published by Panther's Lodge. The new book is titled Ancestors and Enemies:  Essays on Melungeons and is written by Phyllis E. Starnes and Donald N. Yates. Read about the hopeful beginnings, cyberwars and inglorious petering out of Melungeon self-awareness in this new critical review of the subject.  

Ancestors and Enemies will be of particular interest to customers who have received a Melungeon match on their autosomal DNA test results, as well as anyone who believes they may have ancestry from this fascinating Appalachian ethnic group. And of course, just because politically correct notions have appeared to wipe out the modern-day Melungeons doesn't take away your Melungeon ancestry!

As the twentieth century was ending and the millennium approached, a new ethnic category was invented in the South. The Melungeons were born thrashing and squawling into the American consciousness. They were a tri-racial clan hidden away in the hills and hollers of Lower Appalachia with a genetic predisposition to six fingers and Mediterranean diseases and an unsavory reputation for moonshining, counterfeiting and secret cults. DNA studies showed they were probably descended from Portuguese colonists and had connections with Jews, Muslims, Africans, Native Americans and Romani (Gypsies). Were they the country's oldest indigenous people? They soon got on the radar of the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Office of Recognition, which fought the nascent identity movement tooth and nail. This collection by two researchers involved in the explosive controversy tells the story of the Melungeon Movement in a coherent, chronological fashion for the first time. Fourteen original illlustrations, ranging from Granny Dollar, the last Cherokee Indian in Northeast Alabama, to Luis Gomez, builder of the oldest standing Jewish residence in the United States, add interest to the portrayal of this mysterious and exotic ethnic community.

It is available from Amazon in print and Kindle versions:

$14.23 Print edition
$9.99 Kindle edition

It is also available in a pdf download from Panther's Lodge for $8.95.

About the Authors

Phyllis E. Starnes was born in Fort Blackmore, in Scott County, Virginia. She is a genealogist and works as an investigator for DNA Consultants. Her family belongs to the original Stony Creek Primitive Baptist Church, where "them Melungeons" made their first appearance in history (now Pine Grove). Donald N. Yates is a native of Cedartown, Georgia. He earned a Ph.D. in classical studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel. His latest book is Old Souls in a New World: The Secret History of the Cherokee Indians.


Kari Carpenter commented on 11-Nov-2013 03:01 PM

I just downloaded Ancestors & Enemies . . . Thank you so very much for publishing a few of my You Might be Melungeon if quips in your first chapter – my mother, my sister and myself are honored that you chose to do so. I read the first couple chapters before I felt I had to put my Kindle aside and send you this thanks and a bit of an update.

If my conventional genealogical efforts can be described as a gentle, slow stroll of discovery through my family tree, then the DNA Fingerprint test results we (myself, my mother and my paternal aunt) have received have catapulted us through a veritable wormhole and into entire new worlds of identity and self-discovery! I particularly like the Elizabeth Hirschman quote: “A whole new generation had gone to bed white and woke to find themselves brown”. Selah, Sister Hirschman!

And now on to “new business”:

1. Goins, Goin, (illusions of purely Caucasian ancestry) - Gone! I’m so glad that my Aunt Cindy is a really beautiful and cool person who has embraced her Fingerprint test results with great interest and a good sense of humor. Prior to her test, I had briefed her that our Goins line was likely to be tri-racial, but frankly neither of us expected that her African/black genetics would present so strongly. My (neophyte) interpretation of her results is that it is likely that we do have some colonial era slave ancestry, as well as some deep-seated African lineage (possibly from Moorish-era lines).

2. We were very happy to see both the Native American II marker, as well as the Lumbee Indian population match. It’s so gratifying to finally get substantial evidence that backs up oral family lore.

3. My Dad was often fond of quoting the television sitcom character Gomer Pyle: “Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!” If Dad were still with us today – his sister’s results would have definitely elicited Gomer’s oft-repeated phrase.
Surprise #1 – Cindy inherited Jewish Marker III from both her Reamy mother and her Carpenter father (Jack Carpenter). Jack’s mother was Della Burks. I am now more confirmed in the opinion/possibility that my/our Burks were originally surnamed Burgos and were of Sephardic Jewish ancestry.

Surprise #2 – Cindy seemed to exhibit very little English/Welsh ancestry. This is a surprise, because the only information any of us ever knew about our emigrant ancestor, James William Carpenter (1833 – 1909) is that he came from England(!)

Hmmmm – could I speculate the following formula:
my aunt’s genetics + prior British residency + hidden origins + love of draft horses = Romanichal origins?

James William Carpenter’s wife’s name was Eliza Jane Bailey – another possibly Romanichal surname. It looks like I’ll be trying to get a couple more Carpenter cousins to test.

So – that’s my “summary progress report” to y’all. I really enjoyed your 30 October 2013 article about the findings re the deep European Siberian ancestry of Native Americans (congratulations!) You’ve certainly got my family’s attention and have piqued our collective interest. I’m really looking forward to hearing about my mtDNA results . . .

I hope you have a great time celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday (in whatever manner and perspective that is most meaningful to you and yours!)

With Fond Affection and Respect –


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