Friday, 1 June 2018

Back in time

Today, just for fun and for the sake of nostalgia, I want to share some of my first experiences with DNA testing and genetic genealogy. Although I'm not yet 28 years old and have had this hobby for less than eight years, there have been so many technical and scientific developments that I already feel like what we Norwegians call an "old fox".

The Genographic Project

The first DNA test I ever took was National Geographic's Genographic Project Y-DNA test ("Genographic 1.0", as we might say today). It was a Y12, and I did not take it for purposes of genetic genealogy - I wasn't even aware that such a thing existed - but simply to learn my haplogroup migration history. I ordered the test in late 2010 and got the results in early 2011. The report I received was a long and detailed story about my haplogroup, R1b, and its journey from Africa to western Europe. At this time, the mainstream view was that R1b had been in Europe since Paleolithic times, and that they might even have spoken a language ancestral to Basque. My report talked about the ancient cave paintings in Southern France which, it was claimed, were made by my R1b ancestors - the Cro-Magnon people.

Now, of course, everything has been turned upside down. R1b in Western Europe is no longer associated with the Cro-Magnon, but with Indo-European migrations during the Bronze Age. For the longest time I was uncertain what to believe, since National Geographic held on to the Cro-Magnon narrative long after it had been scrapped by most others.

The Y12 test was one of two tests that were available from NatGeo at this time; the other one was a mtDNA HVR1 test. I never took this test at NatGeo, because soon after receiving my Y12 results, I transferred my test to Family Tree DNA, and when later on I did get my HVR1 test, I ordered it through FTDNA. However, I did look online and found a version of NatGeo's haplogroup H report which I saved together with my R1b report. It was around this time that I read Bryan Sykes' book The Seven Daughters of Eve, connecting with the story of my own "clan mother", whom Sykes had given the name Helena.

Here is the map from my original Genographic Y-DNA report, showing the migrations of haplogroup R1b. Even though their European chronology for R1b was way off, the geography is still pretty spot on:

FTDNA Population Finder

When I first got involved with FTDNA, the price of their Family Finder test was $289. Gradually, the cost of autosomal testing started to decrease, making it less cost-prohibitive for the general public. In 2013, Family Finder was $99, cheap enough for me to order. I was still new to the world of DNA testing, having so far only done the Y37 (upgraded from Y12) and HVR1 tests. Autosomal added a whole new dimension to my genetic genealogy experience, and today it's so ubiquitous that people sometimes forget that Y-DNA and mtDNA testing came first.

FTDNA's first admixture analysis program was called Population Finder. Part of the Family Finder test, it was the predecessor of myOrigins which was rolled out in the spring of 2014. Below is a screenshot of my Population Finder results from 2013. Seen in hindsight, it is not too inaccurate on the continental and subregional level (at least if we view "Orcadian" as a proxy for Northwestern European including Scandinavian). The "Russian, Finnish" category captures my Finnish and Eastern European DNA and probably some of my Scandinavian as well. I remember reading this result as genetic confirmation of my Forest Finn paper trails. Note the enormous margin of error! At least they were honest.

23andMe Ancestry Composition

My Ancestry Composition results have not been recalculated since I first received them in 2015 (I know this for a fact because I check up on my change log regularly); the tiny changes that have appeared are due to rounding up and down. However, although the numbers may be more or less the same, the design of Ancestry Composition has changed quite drastically. Below is a screenshot of my original report from 2015 (Speculative view). I quite liked this design, especially the way it showed all three regional levels in a pie chart that was wide enough to let even the smallest categories show quite clearly. Then, as now, Ancestry Composition was by far the best admixture analysis on the market. There was an earlier version too, which looked very different, but I was too late to experience that.

Those are some of my first test reports, and although some of them are dated and inaccurate, I still cherish them because they opened up a new world to me and introduced me to a great hobby, a hobby which I still love as much as ever.

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