Thursday, February 02, 2006

The DNA Proof is at Hand!

This week's Newsweek (February 6, 2006) carries a cover story on an evolving use of DNA technology.
Simply put, there are companies that will test your DNA, look for specific markers and then send you a report, like most DNA tests would be done. The report however, is something completely new and different.
The report tells you were your ancestry lies by country and by race. And it goes back 10,000 years. that's right, 10,000 Years!
Might seem like a stretch. It is but only to the extent that there is no direct lineage involved only percentages of likelihood.

National Geographic has launched a massive effort to gather the unique DNA from all of the indigenous peoples of the world before some of these unique people lose their identities into the masses. The goal of the study is to trace human roots from today back to the origin of the species. Adam and Eve have already been traced to Africa.

In short, a father's Y chromosome passes down from father to son unchanged. Likewise a mother's mitochondrial DNA passes down from mother to daughter unchanged. 99% of DNA is completely shuffled around in each person, but the other 1% provides a wealth of information. Certain mutations occurred at specific places and times and through these mutations DNA can be tested back ad infinitum through your father's side and your mother's side.

I was stopped in my shoes reading the Newsweek when it referred to two case studies, one involving "Otzi the Iceman". You may remember that a frozen man was found in the Italian Alps in 1991. He was dated to be 5300 years old. Well, enough people have been tested now that it seems there have been three matches to Otzi from people living today. The most intriguing connection was to Edmund Schofield, 67, of Boylston Massachusetts. Schofield, a Botanist, has felt that call of the wild, and traveled to the Antartic three times.
Makes me wonder about the many people who move south in retirement like my Cousin Donny. Is there a warm culture in our family tree? I decided to check the geology of County Waterford and what I found is very interesting. County Waterford did not freeze during the last Ice Age. It was where many animals migrated. Woolly Mammoths have been found there as well as giant deer. There are substantial finds but only a small amount of archaeology has been done there. Our ancestors moved south to stay warm and we're still doing it!

The other case that caught my eye was that of a man who believed he was related to the Puritans who settled in around Plymouth Massachusetts. This is intriguing because that legend is also in the Foley family. So, I wondered, why not get tested?
I ordered the DNA kit last night online from Family Tree DNA. There are several companies to choose from but Family Tree also has a Foley surname project. Anyone who wishes to share their results with other Foleys, may find long lost relatives.

And the mtochondrial DNA tests will give you the likelihood of your mothers lineage back 50 generations. FIFTY!

I am fascinated by what this might tell me about our family tree and will blog all the way through the process.


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