Monday, June 19, 2006

fun with DNA

As you may have read a few posts down, I'm doing a genetic geneology project mainly to satisfy my own curiousity, and to put together a family tree.

The test results came back on Friday and boy did I nearly fall out of my chair.

My results can be seen at Genebase.

Now, this test only tests direct paternal ancestry. Meaning it goes something like this: Me-Dad-Granpa-GGranpa-GGGranpa-GGGGranpa-GGGGGranpa and so on. Lots of people in the past contributed to your genetic make up of course. But this is just for direct ancestry only. And it is only for males only. Women can test their mitochondrial DNA only. Men can test both. (Yes, I'm in the process of having the mitochondrial DNA tested, which goes something like this: me--mom--grandma-ggrandma-gggrandma-ggggrandma--and so on.)

Now when they send you your results, you get a bunch of numbers that look like nonsense. I'm not going to even try to explain them because they're nonsense to me. But they are markers that you carry, and everyone else carries, and sometimes you can get a match. These little numbers also allow geneticists to determine the direct path of your genes that ended up in you. They break the various paths up into haplotypes, or a nice fancy way of saying group of men who have similar DNA markers to you. Because humans tend to be tribal creatures who stick together while raping and pillaging in their path to wherever they end up, it's easy to trace the path of the genes back to their source which of course is East Africa. For the Record, all men on Earth have a common ancestor who lived roughly 60,000 to 70,000 years ago. This common ancestor also happens to coincide with a curious bottleneck in the human population that may have been caused by a massive volcanic eruption in Sumatra at Lake Toba. It's all very intriguing stuff, and it'll drive fundies crazy. For more information though, go to National Geographic study on this very subject.

Now on to me.

Most men of African descent in America are usually haplotype E3a or E3b. This lineage is present in East African and West African populations, particuarly the Bantu peoples who made up the bulk of those kidnapped and sent along the Middle Passage. This is what I expected.

This is what I am not. I am I1c. (M170, at the National Geographic site.) It is common in Northwest Europe. A geneticist I'm emailing back and forth believes my distant ancestor who gave rise to the Pinder direct DNA line was a Viking.

I'm fraking half-Viking.

Yeah, I nearly fell over!

The surname Pinder, very common in the Bahamas where that side of the family originates, and also very common in Yorkshire in Great Britain (also at Kingston-at-Hull), was birthed by Vikings, likely Normans based in France. The researcher at the Bahamian DNA project was puzzled as to how this particular signiture got into Britain and then into the Bahamas (as he found links to Swiss and German populations, while it appears I'm much more Norman and/or Viking.) My puzzlement is how the heck did this get into me?!

Here's what I've conjectured. Some of this is based on research.

I believe that my ancestor I found in the Bahamas was white, and his wife was too. They lived in the 1840s. Their kids were but one of the sons married a Colored (mixed race) woman or married a black woman. This apparently was common in the West Indies, as they were slightly more evolved on race relations then we were in the United States. Eventually the Bahamian economy collasped, sending thousands of Bahamians white and black into the United States, a reverse immigration as after the Revolution thousands of Loyalists flooded the Bahamas (with their slaves.) Many settled in the southeast, mainly Florida, and mainly Monroe County (the Keys). In the 1910 Florida Census I found for my Great-Great-Great grandfather and his offspring (he only had one son as far as I can tell), they were listed as not black but not white, but mulatto. In the 1920 Census they're listed as black. (although a woman living with them with the name of an ancestor of mine is listed as both white AND black in three different censuses.) So somewhere between the 1840s and 1930s my branch of the family turned African. But not really. As my markers are CLEARLY Viking. Yes I'm descended from a fraking Viking! Kinky...

Now I knew I had white ancestry. My lips are fairly thin, as is my nose, and my hair is somewhat straight. I also grow body hair where I shouldn't be growing body hair. I did not expect, however, that ancestry to be a direct ancestor. I expected that my ancestor would be a slave or descendent of one who merely acuqired the surname, as is the case in much of the United States and in the West Indies too.

This of course means I'm going to spend much more money on fleshing this out. And a trip to the Bahamian National Archives may be in order too.

And I can't wait to see what fun stuff comes up from my MOM's DNA.


Jonathan said...

Freaking awesome! I know a viking!

Your Sis Jen said...

you are just awesome in every way!Can I put this in my myspace blog? Im going to and if you mind let me know and I will take it down!!

Cumberland said...

Have fun! My mother did all the genealogy for her ancestry and my father's after she retired from "the State," so there's nothing left I could do except a few very difficult lines.

She's been trying to get the only son of her only (late) brother to take this test you just did, in the hopes of clearing up an old mystery. Supposedly, my great-great grandfather along that line was black; a neighbor told my grandmother before her wedding that her groom was a wonderful man, smart and hardworking and handsome, "but aren't you worried that your children will all turn out coal black?" (the old Dinah Shore analogy). "Not especially," she answered. This kind of makes sense because my mother can't find the surname anywhere.

According to some variations of the tale, my female ancestor was pregnant by a married man, and this black man offered to marry her, in that his matrimonial prospects in a rural white area were otherwise not good and she was pretty good wife material except for the otherwise out-of-wedlock child. This also kind of makes sense because this particular great-grandfather was blue-eyed, pale, and pasty.

Then again, maybe it's all nonsense.

catherine said...

hi there,

my mom was a pindar (long ago pinders... from gainsborough lincolnshire)...

there's some pinder/pindar info at


Have fun researching!