Looking back now over the past 12 or 13 years since I had my mitochondrial DNA first tested and discovered I was a member of haplogroup J, I’ve realized what a journey of discovery I’ve been on. Literally. I was immediately interested in the ancestral journey of J, Jasmine, my ancestor, and as the tests became more refined, I learned more about Jasmine through her subgroups.
I’m now classified as J1c2f which is 4 subgroups downstream of haplogroup J, the original Jasmine, each one more refined and more geographically specific that the previous haplogroup. Looking at the maps for J, J1, J1c, J1c2 and J1c2f side by side shows the migration path of my ancestor rather clearly.
We know that haplogroup J was born in the Middle East some 30,000-50,000 years ago. Many subclades of J were also born there, but eventually, some began the slow migration to Europe. They probably had no destination in mind at that time, but were simply searching for something – fresh water, unsettled land, better hunting…something. My ancestor was among one of those groups, that long ago day. I can’t help but wonder what she saw, or thought, or if she even realized she was embarking on any kind of a journey. Did she have an inkling or was she simply moving next door?
Above, the haplogroup J map from the haplogroup J project at Family Tree DNA.
The subgroup J1c map is shown above. You can see it is somewhat smaller and the geography is not quite as widely dispersed.
The haplogroup J project doesn’t group in more refined haplogroup subgroups than J1c, but on the map above you can see the most distant ancestor locations of my full sequence matches, all haplogroup J1c2f. I’m surprised as how widely spread the ancestors of these participants are, given that by the time you’re 4 or 5 haplogroup generations downstream of a founding mother, J in this case, you’re often looking at distinctive regional clusters. I find the marker in the Caucasus, north of Turkey, quite interesting.
There are only a limited number of ways to get to Europe if you are coming from the Middle East: over the Caucasus through Russia, the sea route via the Mediterranean or the combined land and sea route, through Turkey, crossing between Europe and Asia at present day Istanbul, or old Constantinople, shown on the map below.
Learning about my haplogroup pushed the genealogical clock back further than I had ever imagined possible – from about 200 years to tens of thousands. That information fueled within me a vagabond I didn’t know existed, and at a depth I never imagined.
So, a few years later, I went on the “Journey of Jasmine,” at least part of it. I retraced some of her footsteps and cruised the Mediterranean coastline where many haplogroup J descendants are found today. I journaled about Jasmine daily and titled the trip, “The Journey of Jasmine.” I spent a day in Istanbul, Turkey and another day in the majestic ruins of Ephesus near the coast, shown below, and I knew that either my direct descendant or her relatives had stood where I stood, thousands of years ago.
When I crossed the Bosphorus River, or rather, sailed up and down the Bosphorus, which forms the border within the city of Istanbul between Europe and Asia, I knew that my ancestor, if she traveled from the Middle East to Europe using that route, had indeed crossed at or near that point. Constantinople is a very old trade route, established where it was because of its location. It moved me deeply to know I was likely standing in her footsteps, some thousands of years later.
Of course, it would have looked very different then. I imagined it without contemporary buildings.
Above, both the European and Asian sides of Istanbul, with Asia across the River. Below, the top photograph shows the European side of the bridge that connects the two halves of the city, and the lower photo shows the Asian side.
I have not been to Jasmine’s birthplace, the Middle East, but I’d surely love to visit, nor have I been to where my oldest ancestor whose name I know, Elizabetha Mehlheimer, was found in Goppmannsbuhl, Bayern, Germany around 1800, but I’m working on that too.
I have walked in the footsteps of other ancestors that I’ve found through DNA testing and I’m planning two trips within the next two years to do just that again.
This fall I will be visiting the location in Lancashire, England, discovered through a DNA match, where my Speake family originated, and as a bonus, down the road another 25 miles, where my Bowling line, who married into the Speak line, originated as well. I’ll be sharing that with you as I connect with the past.
I’m also visiting Kent where my Estes line originated, also proven through DNA testing, and then next year, visiting the Frisian roots of my Estes line that was only discovered through DNA testing.
I’m Not the Only One
Recently, I saw a couple of other people comment about how their genetic discoveries have inspired them to connect with their distant, or maybe not so distant, past.
One person posted this video of the Tuvan throat singers who have genetic connections to Native American people.
Another client who also tested Native visited Lake Baikal, the “home” of the Native people in Asia and sent me a photo of him standing on the shores of Lake Baikal to use in his DNA Report. Below, Shaman Rock in Lake Baikal.
Someone else mentioned that they are attending a Hungarian heritage festival near where they live after discovering their Hungarian heritage.
Opportunities to connect with our ancestors and their culture, our heritage, are all around us.
What About You?
So, I’d like to know – how have your DNA results inspired you? Have they changed or influenced the journey of your life? What kind of experiences have you had that you would never have had without DNA testing? DNA has influenced my life dramatically and provided me with amazing opportunities and adventures – like the Lost Colony archaeology digs, for example.
As my good friend, Anne Poole, who I met through DNA testing, co-founder of the Lost Colony Research Group, pictured at left beside me below, reminds me every time we are on a hot, sweaty, poison ivy and tick-infested archaeology dig together, “it’s all about the journey.” Indeed it is. Tell me about yours.