Genetics & Genealogy


Article #1 "Mitochondrial DNA and human evolution" [January 1987]

"Mitochondrial DNA from 147 people, drawn from five geographic populations, have been analyzed by restriction mapping. All these mitochondrial DNAs stem from one woman who is postulated to have lived about 200,000 years ago … "This article explains that the authors - Rebecca L Cann, Mark Stoneking and Allan C Wilson - in analyzing DNA from the energy producing compartments of the human cell known as the mitochondria, have discovered that this genetic material, inherited through the ages, provides "new perspectives on how, where, and when the human gene pool arose and grew."

Article #2 "Genes reveal Adam came out of Africa" [November 1995]

"Adam was black and lived in Africa 50,000 to 100,000 years ago, according to scientists who have detected traces of his genes in the DNA of modern man."

Article #3 "Humans began in Africa, study suggests" [April 1997]

University of Utah researchers today published the strongest genetic evidence yet that modern humans originated in Africa and spread around the world rather than arising in several regions. By analyzing DNA from Asians, Europeans and Africans, "we found greater [genetic] diversity in African populations," said Lynn Jorde, the U.'s associate chairman of human genetics. "That's consistent with Africa containing the source population from which modern humans arose 100,000 or so years ago."

Article #4 "Is Out-of-Africa going out the door ?" [August 1999]

Re-analysis of gene studies and new fossil evidence cast doubts on a popular theory of human origins. Anthropologists have long debated the origins of modern humanity, and by the mid-1980s two main competing theories emerged. One, Multiregional evolution, posits that humans arose in Africa some two million years ago, evolved as a single species spread across the Old World and were linked through interbreeding and cultural exchange. The Out-of-Africa hypothesis, in contrast, proposes a much more recent African origin for modern humans - a new species, distinct from Neanderthals and other archaic humans, whom they then replaced. Emphatic support for Out-of-Africa came in 1987, when molecular biologists declared that all living peoples could trace a piece of their genetic legacy back to a woman dubbed "Eve," who lived in Africa 200,000 years ago. Although that original Eve study was later shown to contain fatal flaws, Out-of-Africa has continued to enjoy much molecular affirmation, as researchers have increasingly turned to DNA to decipher the history of our species.

Article #5 "Genes and genealogy" [December 1999]

A model of the chemical structure of DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) was first revealed in 1953 by the research work of Jim Watson and Francis Crick at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge. They showed that DNA was made from four "bases" arranged in a long chain and twisted into the shape of a double helix. Each different sequence of the four bases along the chain formed the blueprint, or code, for the manufacture of a particular protein in the body. These sequences of DNA bases, capable of instigating the production of proteins, are the body's genes and they are themselves contained within 23 paired chromosomes. Every child that is born receives 23 chromosomes from each parent, carrying within them the genetic information that will give that child inherited characteristics from both parents.

Article #6 "The Secret Garden" [October 1998]

In the beginning, the Bible describes a fruitful paradise and an ideal man and woman. Now archaeologist David Rohl says he has found the real Garden of Eden, in Iran. Peter Martin joined him on a journey through Old Testament country to trace the steps of Adam's descendants back to their original home.

Article #7 "The human family tree: 10 Adams and 18 Eves" [May 2000]

The book of Genesis mentions three of Adam and Eve's children: Cain, Abel and Seth. But geneticists, by tracing the DNA patterns found in people throughout the world, have now identified lineages descended from 10 sons of a genetic Adam and 18 daughters of Eve.

Article #8 "The great DNA hunt" [1996]

DNA can be used to understand the evolution of modern humans, trace migrations of people, identify individuals, and determine the origins of domestic plants and animals. DNA analysis, as one scholar put it, is "the greatest archaeological excavation of all time." Because ancient DNA molecules are normally so few and fragmented, and preserved soft tissues so rare, scientists had little hope of finding and analyzing it. But two breakthroughs have made this possible: the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a method for copying any fragment of DNA, and the successful recovery of DNA from preserved hard tissues, bones and teeth, that are durable and relatively abundant.

Article #9 "Genetics and genealogy - Y polymorphism and mtDNA analyses" [May 2000]

"What is a genealogist to do once he or she has traced her ancestors as far back as possible; that is, as far as the written records go? Let's talk genetics for a moment … I have gone back in the records as far as I can for ancestors with my surname. I want science to take over now. It may be an expensive solution, but maybe in time that cost would decrease. I would like to be able to test genetically myself and LIVING members of other clans with the same or variant surname to see if we are related, and to find out how long ago our most recent common ancestor lived. Since I am tracing my paternal line, naturally I would use the y polymorphism method instead of the mtDNA method."

Article #10 "Genetics and human migration patterns" [May 2000]

"Much discourse is emerging from scientific circles detailing the results of genetic testing in relation to human migration patterns. These studies attempt to show the distribution of ethnic genetic codes over certain geographic areas in relation to time. This article attempts to explain some of this research. Scientists have now identified the human lineages of the world descended from 10 sons of a genetic Adam and 18 daughters of Eve. This ancestral human population lived in Africa and started to split up 144,000 years ago. This time period is when both the mitochondrial and Y chromosome trees first branch out."

Article #11 Oxford Ancestors [May 2000]

… is (i) a new venture, backed by Oxford University to harness the power and precision of modern genetics in the service of genealogy, (ii) building on over a decade of research into human populations and their origins carried out by Professor Bryan Sykes, Professor of Human Genetics,and his team in the world-renowned Institute of Molecular Medicine at Oxford, and (iii) the first organisation in the world to offer these DNA-based services in genealogy …

Article #12 "Human population genetics and evolution" [December 1999]

Different demographic histories, such as constant population size or expansion, create differently shaped genealogies, and we can (a) estimate the shape of the genealogy by drawing phylogenetic trees using the variation in DNA at the locus, and (b) date parts of the tree using the molecular clock. The first major example of this kind of approach was set out in a paper that came out on the 1st of January 1987 in the journal Nature, which used an analysis of the gene tree of human mitochondrial DNA to test, and support, the Out-of-Africa (OOA) theory of modern human origins.

Article #13 "DNA's evolutionary dilemma" [February 1999]

Just a few years ago, genetic researchers assumed the status of a scientific Supreme Court in the debate over humanity's prehistoric roots. The coils of human DNA appeared to have hardened into a molecular gavel with which these scientists could issue a final ruling on how best to explain the evolution of modern Homo sapiens.

Article #14 "The Y chromosome in the study of human evolution, migration and prehistory" [1998]

Genesis, chapter 5, records "the generations of Adam": Adam begat Seth, Seth begat Enosh, Enosh begat Kenan … down to Noah of the flood. Translated into modern genetic terms, the account could read "Adam passed a copy of his Y chromosome to Seth, Seth passed a copy of his Y chromosome to Enosh, Enosh passed a copy of his Y chromosome to Kenan" … and so on until Noah was born carrying a copy of Adam's Y chromosome. The Y chromosome is paternally inherited; human males have one while females have none. What is more, the Y chromosome a father passes to his son is, in large measure, an unchanged copy of his own.

Article #15 "Genetic anthropology" [1998]

It is often easy to sort people into broad geographic categories simply by looking at them. Recognising parental and sibling relationships may be equally easy but determining more distant or tenuous connections demands detailed analysis which nowadays can come by looking at peoples' genes. Genes are the "instructions" we all have for making each of us just the way we are - instructions not only for major features like sex, arms and legs, but also for all our more subtle characteristics. Although in the laboratory the analysis is complicated, retrieving a gene sample from an individual is simplicity itself: just gently scrape the inside of the cheek with a clean swab. The scientists do the rest.

Article #16 "Surnames found in DNA" [April 2000]

A randomly ascertained sample of males with the surname "Sykes" was typed with four Y-chromosome microsatellites. Almost half the sample shared the same Y-chromosome haplotype, which has not been observed in control samples either from the same geographic region or from the United Kingdom as a whole. This points to a single surname founder for extant Sykes males, even though written sources had predicted multiple origins. The distribution of other Sykes Y-chromosome haplotypes were not significantly different from those in controls and may be accounted for by the historical accumulation of nonpaternity during the past 700 years, in which case the average rate estimate is 1.3% per generation. If this pattern is reproduced with other surnames, it may have important forensic and genealogical applications.

Article #18 "New evidence on the origin of the human species" [August 2000]

Neanderthal man was one of our ancestors after all, a Portuguese archaeologist claims. DNA studies which claimed that Neanderthals were too genetically different to have been part of our family tree failed to take account of primate variability, and although there was a long period of separate development, the two human types came back together in Western Europe some 25,000 years ago.

Article #20 "Evolution: Out of Africa and the Eve hypothesis" [May 2000]

Most palaeoanthropologists recognize the existence of two human species during the last million years - Homo erectus, now extinct, and Homo sapiens, the species which includes recent or "modern" humans. In general, they believe that Homo erectus was the ancestor of Homo sapiens. How did the transition occur ?

Article #21 "Redheads are neanderthal" [April 2001]

Red hair may be the genetic legacy of Neanderthals, scientists believe. Researchers at the John Radcliffe Institute of Molecular Medicine in Oxford say that the so-called "ginger gene" which gives people red hair, fair skin and freckles could be up to 100,000 years old.

Article #25 "Neanderthal man had ginger hair and freckles" [December 2008]

Neanderthals living in Europe were fair-skinned, freckled and had ginger hair, a study has found.

Article #26 "Caveman attitudes are all in the genes" [May 2010]

Modern man has an excuse for acting like Neanderthals because our species shares their genes, scientists have found.

Article #22 "Scouse code to Norse code" [September 2001]

Derek Mellor's family has fished off the Wirral coast for centuries. The keen local historian has traced his family tree back to the mid-18th century through at least six generations of fishermen. But painstaking research by Derek Mellor could soon be upstaged by more modern techniques. He is one of 300 Wirral people to be DNA-tested to discover if they have Viking ancestry.

Article #23 "English and Welsh are races apart" [June 2002]

Gene scientists claim to have found proof that the Welsh are the "true" Britons. The research supports the idea that Celtic Britain underwent a form of ethnic cleansing by Anglo-Saxons invaders following the Roman withdrawal in the fifth century. It suggests that between 50% and 100% of the indigenous population of what was to become England was wiped out, with Offa's Dyke acting as a "genetic barrier" protecting those on the Welsh side. And the upheaval can be traced to this day through genetic differences between the English and the Welsh.

Article #24 "Aborigines came out of Africa, study shows" [May 2007]

Australia's Aborigines were formed from a single group of migrants who left Africa about 55,000 years ago, DNA evidence suggests. Once there the settlers evolved in relative isolation, developing genetic characteristics not found anywhere else and leading to unusual fossil finds that threatened the "out of Africa" hypothesis of human origins.