Category: Ancestry

What’s in a Name: Surnames and the Y-Chromosome

My surname — Holden — has gone through many incarnations since it originated in England nearly 700 years ago.  Letters were added, then dropped.  Some branches of my family added an extra "u" in the middle, while others changed the pronunciation entirely.  Then, when my ancestors arrived in America over 200 ...

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Hidden in Plain Sight: New Genetic Discoveries Shed Light on the Spread of Farming in Eastern Europe

Before genetics came into the picture, researchers interested in the introduction of agriculture to Europe had only the archaeological record to go on — a limited collection of primarily stone and bone artifacts that left much room for interpretation. But as researchers began applying population genetics to ...

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X Marks the Spot: New Study Reveals Value of X-Chromosome in Tracing Prehistoric Human Migrations

In the world of genetic anthropology, mitochondrial DNA and the Y-chromosome are the major players.  They are regions of our genome scientists use most frequently when tracing both ancient and historical human migrations, and are an important tool for genealogists using DNA to piece together their family ...

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Where Today Meets Yesterday: A New Approach to Studying the Genetic History of Southeast Asia

Archaeologists rarely agree on anything.  So it's no surprise that for years two groups of scholars have drawn completely opposite conclusions about the relationship between the ancient people of Thailand and China. Some experts argue that, thousands of years ago, people from Thailand migrated into East ...

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An Unexpected Result: Genetics Sheds Light on the Spanish Inquisition

With the return of Christian rule to Spain in 1492 after nearly 800 years of Muslim rule, hundreds of thousands of people — both Muslim and Jewish — were faced with the choice of exile, conversion or occasionally even death. Historical accounts estimate that nearly 400,000 Jews and Muslims were expelled from ...

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A Family that Lived Together and Died Together

About 4,600 years ago, in northern Germany, a small village buried 13 of its residents.  The deceased ranged in age from less than a year to nearly 60 years old and were buried in pairs or small groups. And virtually all of them had suffered violent, probably painful deaths.  Because the majority of the ...

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African American Roots: What Genetics Can Reveal

Because their ancestors often were slaves during the 18th and 19th centuries, and therefore usually lacked birth or death certificates, it is very difficult for African American genealogists to trace their ancestors further than a few generations. Even when they can trace their ancestry to the slavery era, it ...

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Building Roots from the Ground Up: Genealogy 2.0

Like many Americans, Vincent Vizachero knew only bits and pieces about his family history.  He knew, for instance, that his paternal grandfather emigrated to America from Italy in 1914. But because his grandfather died long before he was born, Vincent did not hear a lot of family stories growing up.  So he ...

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Ripples in the Mediterranean: Tracing the Genetic Origins of the Phoenicians

About 3,500 years ago the Phoenicians expanded from their homeland in present-day Syria and Lebanon, using their superior maritime technology to establish trading posts across southern Europe and North Africa. They traded silver from Iberia, copper from Cyprus, and textiles from Morocco. They built cities ...

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Not So Close Neighbors: The Genetically Isolated People of Finland

Even though European populations have been studied for years, there are still many lingering questions as to the continent’s population history – especially with regards to isolated peoples.  Understanding the history of the Basque of northern Spain has long been a topic of interest among geneticists, as has ...

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