Mexican Women’s Mitochondrial DNA Primarily Native American

Amy Tilden

 Mitatwe’eptes (aka Amy Tilden) – Nez Perce – circa 1910

In the paper, “Large scale mitochondrial sequencing in Mexican Americans suggests a reappraisal of Native American origins,” Kumar et al provide a piece of information I find extremely interesting.

“For mtDNA variation, some studies have measured Native American, European and African contributions to Mexican and Mexican American populations, revealing 85 to 90% of mtDNA lineages are of Native American origin, with the remainder having European (5-7%) or African ancestry (3-5%). Thus the observed frequency of Native American mtDNA in Mexican/Mexican Americans is higher than was expected on the basis of autosomal estimates of Native American admixture for these populations i.e. ~ 30-46%. The difference is indicative of directional mating involving preferentially immigrant men and Native American women. This type of genetic asymmetry has been observed in other populations, including Brazilian individuals of African ancestry, as the analysis of sex specific and autosomal markers has revealed evidence for substantial European admixture that was mediated mostly through men. In our 384 completely sequenced Mexican American mitochondrial genomes, 12 (3.1%) are of African ancestry belonging to haplogroups L0a1a’3’, L2a1, L3b, L3d and U6a7; 52 (13.6%) belong to European haplogroups HV, JT, U1, U4, U5; and K and the majority (320, 83.3%) are of Native American ancestry.”

You Might Be A Pict If….

…if what Dr. Jim Wilson, announced via press release instead of the more standard academic publication, is true.

Pict Daughter

“A Young Daughter of the Picts” attributed to Jacques le Moyne de Morgues, circa 1585.

Dr. Wilson indicates that he, in conjunction with Scotland’s DNA, an ancestry testing company that he is affiliated with, a new SNP, S530 has been discovered and it is a Pict marker.  He says that this marker is evidence that the Picts are living among us today and can be identified genetically.  As proof, he offers that 10% of the 1000 Scottish men tested carry this marker, while it is found in only .8% of English men and about 3% of the men in Northern Ireland.  Dr. Wilson indicates that this marker is 10 times more prevalent in men with Scottish grandfathers than men with English grandfathers.  You can read the articles in “The Scotsman” and “The Telegraph and the press release by Scotland’s DNA here.”

The Picts were Scotland’s earliest known people.  It’s unknown what the Picts called themselves, but the Roman’s gave them the name Picts, meaning “painted ones.”  They were Celts, but their early history in the British Isles is unclear.  By the time they entered recorded history, they were in Scotland, north of the Forth and Clyde, beyond the stronghold of the Roman empire with whom they fought bitterly on their borders.  Their kingdoms in about 800 and 900 CE are shown on the map below.

pict map

Eventually, in about the 1100s, and rather gradually, the Picts disappeared from the records as a separate people, having assimilated as fully Gaelic Scots, their Pictish heritage forgotten, into the mainstream of the British Isles, along with other Celts, Angles, Saxons and Vikings.

Dr. Wilson says that S530, the newly discovered Pictish marker parallels the Pictish locations, in Fife, Perthshire, Tayside and the Northeast and around Moray Firth coastlands.

Normally, this kind of an announcement would be met with an extremely positive reaction in the genetic genealogy community, but in this case, not so much.  It seems that Dr. Wilson along with Britain’s DNA and Scotland’s DNA have been involved in some less than reputable actions recently, and one has to wonder if this is legitimate.

By legitimate, I mean whether, if provided with the same data and opportunities, another independent academic researcher could reproduce the same results and if unbiased, would come to the same conclusions.  This, of course, is part of the purpose of peer review during the academic publication process.  This isn’t the first time this has happened, either.  For more information about these companies, their issues, their scientific announcements via the media and resulting scuttlebutt, check the following links.

Be sure to read the comments by Debbie Kennett on the link above, and the article below, on Debbie’s blog.

I checked the Scotland’s DNA website, and fully expected to find a new “Pict” test, but it’s not there yet.  Unless I’m terribly off the mark, I’m betting it will be soon, which might have something to do with circumventing the academic publication process, aside from the minor details of peer review and accuracy.  Academic publication takes about 18 months to write the paper and shepherd it through the peer review process.  Not trivial, and there is no “big splash” so to speak about an academic paper appearing in a little known scientific journal.  Much bigger splash this way and one can offer a product immediately, no waiting.  The problem is that science isn’t a “trust me” type of field and this type of science-in-the-media announcement with no documentation flies against all of the safeguards built into the scientific publication process.

So, you just might be a Pict if Jim Wilson is correct and you carry S530….but until an academic paper is published, there is no way to know for sure unless of course, you’re into “trust me.”

However, if you’re dying to know, and can’t wait, I have a hint for you, this SNP was discovered earlier this year, at Family Tree DNA.  It’s also called SNP L1335, and is equivalent to S530.  Kind of sheds a different light on the big announcement doesn’t it.  If you need to know, and you’re a haplogroup R1b male, just order this SNP for $39 from Family Tree DNA and you’ll know if you carry this marker, or not.  However, until Dr. Wilson publishes a paper and makes his data available for review, you won’t know if you are a Pict or just another L1335 Scottish male.

Acadian Maryland Historical Marker Unveiling

Fort Royal

Acadians, as we know, are a French-Canadian people who settled at Port Royal, Nova Scotia, in 1605 (replica above) and intermarried with the Native people, primarily Mi’kmaq. They were expelled from Canada by the British in 1755 and set adrift, winding up literally dispersed to the winds, landing in various places in the US, Europe and in the Caribbean, before they congregated in Louisiana and became known as Cajuns.

A group of about 900 of these displaced people, now refugees with nothing to their name, arrived in Maryland, a Catholic colony, and spent several years living there, many trying to make their way back to Canada.  With the end of the war in 1763, these Acadians desperately wanted to settle among their own people.  Some did return to Canada, but the rest found their way to Louisiana, the last group leaving in 1769.

Marie Rundquist, an Acadian descendant and founder of the Amerindian – Ancestry Out of Acadia DNA project, lobbied for 2 years for a sign commemorating this forgotten episode in Acadian and Maryland history.

Marie says, “One of my personal goals is to assign dignity to the heritage that I have learned is truly mine.  To have a sign like this brings an Acadian history into the mainstream, and recognizes a people whose ancestry has not always been held in the highest esteem, and whose integral role in early American history has been largely dismissed by traditional scholars.

That the DNA of Native Americans of Canada rolled into Louisiana, and other parts of the United States, by way of this diaspora is at the heart of the Amerindian Ancestry out of Acadia project.  The British didn’t pick and choose among whom they would toss into the Ocean…all went; it mattered not if your family had been in the area 150 years or 18,000!”

On July 28th, 2013, on the day of the Acadian Memorial and Remembrance, when Acadians around the world recall the expulsion of 11,000+ Acadians from Nova Scotia in 1755, Marie celebrated by unveiling the sign in Princess Anne, Maryland.  Way to go Marie!!!

To read more about Marie’s activities, DNA projects and Acadian research, click here.

British Royal DNA

In an article recently published, Bradley Larkin has done an excellent job of sorting through the various DNA results from different companies and locations and assembling them together for a paper on British Royal DNA titled Y-DNA of the British Monarchy, A Review on the occasion of the birth of the Prince of Cambridge.

Paper Abstract

A review was made of existing genetic genealogy findings that infer characteristics of the Y-DNA of members of the British Monarchy. Nine sustained Y-DNA lineages since the year 927 CE were noted as dynastic groups. Haplogroup and haplotype characteristics of three of the dynasties were presented with two more dynasties noted as testable but unpublished. Cultural and geographical origins of these dynasties were considered as context for their DNA haplogroups. Specimen candidates for further testing were identified noting that some will require Ancient DNA (aDNA) recovery and analysis.


Brad covers 8 major dynasties dating from 1603-2013, the Mountbatten, Hanover, Windsor and Stuart.

dynasties 2

After discussing each dynasty, Brad ends his article with a summary table of the dynasties, monarchs from that dynasty, the Patriarch, origin and known DNA.  It’s a great paper and an interesting read.  Take a look.  Who knows, this just might be relevant to you!  Good job Brad!!!

Black, White or Red – Changing Colors

henry finding your roots

The Root recently published the article, “Did My White Ancestor Become Black?”, written by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Eileen Pironti.  We all know who Henry is from his PBS Series, Finding Your Roots.

America is the great mixing bowl of the world, with Native American, European and African people living in very close proximity for the past 400 years.  Needless to say, on the subject of admixture and race, things are not always what they seem.

Henry Gates sums it up quite well in his article, regardless of what your ancestor looked like, or your family looks like today, “the only way to ascertain the ethnic mixture of your own ancestry is to take an admixture test from Family Tree DNA, 23andMe or”

Interestingly enough, in an earlier issue of The Root, Henry talks about how black are Black Americans.

In that article, Henry provides this information.

* According to, the average African American is 65 percent sub-Saharan African, 29 percent European and 2 percent Native American.

* According to, the average African American is 75 percent sub-Saharan African, 22 percent European and only 0.6 percent Native American.

* According to Family Tree, the average African American is 72.95 percent sub-Saharan African, 22.83 percent European and 1.7 percent Native American.

* According to National Geographic’s Genographic Project, the average African American is 80 percent sub-Saharan African, 19 percent European and 1 percent Native American.

The message is, of course, that you never know.  Jack Goins, Hawkins County, Tennessee archivist,  is the perfect example.  Jack is the patriarch of Melungeon research.  His Goins family was Melungeon, from Hawkins County, Tennessee.  Jack founded the Melungeon DNA projects several years ago which resulted in a paper, co-authored by Jack (along with me, Janet Lewis Crain and Penny Ferguson), cited by Henry Louis Gates in his above article along with an associated NPR interview, titled “Melungeons, A Multiethnic Population.”

jack goins melungeon

Jack, shown above with the photo of his Melungeon ancestors, looks white today.  His family claimed both Portuguese and Indian heritage.  His ancestors and family members in the 1840s were prosecuted for voting, given that they were “people of color.”

But Jack’s Y DNA, providing us with his paternal link to his Goins male lineage, is African.  No one was more shocked at this information than Jack.  Jack’s autosomal DNA testing confirms his African heritage, along with lots of European and a smidgen of Native in some tests.

When in doubt, test your DNA and that of selected relatives to document your various lines, creating your own DNA pedigree chart.  For a broad spectrum picture of your DNA and ethnicity across of all of your heritage, autosomal DNA testing is the way to go.  Without all of these tools, neither Jack nor Henry would ever have known their own personal truth.

NGS Series on DNA Basics – All 4 Parts

DNA for blogFor those who might have missed the series I wrote for the National Genealogical Society, titled  “DNA Testing For Genealogy 101 – What Can It Do For You?,” here are the links to all 4 parts.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

In this series, I covered the following topics:

  • DNA – The Basics? – How does all this work anyway?  This covers Y DNA and mitochondrial.
  • How Can Unrecombined DNA Help Us With Genealogy?
  • What About Mutations?
  • What Do Results Look Like?
  • What Can We Tell From Results?
  • How Can I Test My Family?
  • Autosomal, The Third Kind of DNA Testing
  • Summary, Who Can Test for What?
  • What About The Test Itself?
  • Receiving the Results

Gene By Gene Acquires Arpeggi

gene by gene logoGene by Gene Acquires Arpeggi, a StartUp Health- and GE-Backed Company, to Build World’s Leading Genetic Testing and Genome Diagnostics Company

— Merger will make DNA testing more accessible and affordable for consumers, researchers and healthcare providers —

HOUSTON–Aug. 7, 2013 ­­ Gene by Gene, Ltd., the world’s first company to develop consumer DNA testing products for ancestry and genealogy applications, announced today the acquisition of Arpeggi, Inc., a StartUp Health- and GE-backed company that develops solutions for genome sequencing, data management and computational analysis.

The combined company will enable the acceleration of an innovative suite of more affordable genetics testing and diagnostics services available to consumers, researchers and healthcare providers.

“The acquisition of Arpeggi’s technology and world­-class team of data and technology experts will enable us to accelerate Gene by Gene’s plan to make next­-generation DNA sequencing and clinical genomics accessible and affordable to all,” said Max Blankfeld, Managing Partner of Gene by Gene. “We are on a mission to transform healthcare by dramatically speeding up the process, and reducing the costs, of genetic tests, which today are often far too expensive for the average consumer.”

Founded in 2012, Arpeggi develops solutions for genome sequencing, data management and computational analysis. In April, the company released GCAT ­ Genome Comparison and Analytic Testing, a free community driven platform for evaluating the performance of next­-generation sequencing (NGS) data analysis methods. The platform has gained tremendous traction and was recently showcased at Bio­IT World and the Clinical Genome Conference. Arpeggi has developed proprietary sequencing tools, designed for scale, that enable accurate, fast, and cost-­effective analysis of genomes. This year, Arpeggi was selected as one of 14 startups, out of 400 applicants, to join the StartUp Health and GE Entrepreneurship Program to help grow, commercialize and scale new innovative healthcare technologies.

“We are thrilled by the acquisition of Arpeggi and excited to continue to help Gene by Gene on its mission to lead the rapidly advancing genetics testing and sequencing market,” said Unity Stoakes, co­founder and President of StartUp Health. “This acquisition represents a significant combination of technologies, expertise and infrastructure that we believe will make an important impact on the future of the genomics sector and how many people have access to these innovations.”

Rafael Torres, Senior Managing Director, GE Ventures- Healthcare said, “The deluge of data generated from genomic testing and the ability to store, analyze and interpret it efficiently has been a bottleneck for organizations focused on large scale sequencing. Arpeggi’s solution provides an infrastructure that helps human genomic and bioinformatics companies get the most out of their data. We’re proud to have Arpeggi involved with our Entrepreneurship Program with StartUp Health and cannot wait to see them further advance DNA testing through the marriage of science and technology.”

The entire Arpeggi team and technology platform will be incorporated into Gene by Gene. Additionally, Arpeggi’s founders will join Gene by Gene’s management team, effective immediately. Arpeggi’s Nir Leibovich was named Gene by Gene’s Chief Business Officer, Jason Wang was named Chief Technology Officer and David Mittelman, Ph.D was named Chief Scientific Officer.

Gene by Gene’s Doron Behar, M.D., Ph.D. was also named Chief Medical Officer.  Gene by Gene’s Blankfeld and Bennett Greenspan continue to serve as the company’s Managing Partners.

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

About Gene by Gene Ltd.

Founded in 2000, Gene By Gene, Ltd. provides reliable DNA testing to a wide range of consumer and institutional customers through its four divisions focusing on ancestry, health, research and paternity. Gene By Gene provides DNA tests through its Family Tree DNA division, which pioneered the concept of direct-­to­-consumer testing in the field of genetic genealogy more than a decade ago. Gene by Gene is CLIA registered and through its clinical­-health division DNA Traits offers regulated diagnostic tests. DNA DTC is the Research Use Only (RUO) division serving both direct­-to­-consumer and institutional clients worldwide. Gene By Gene offers AABB certified relationship tests through its paternity testing division, DNA Findings. The privately held company is headquartered in Houston, which is also home to its state­-of-­the­-art Genomics Research Center.


Media Contacts:

For Gene By Gene, Ltd. and Arpeggi, Inc.:

Kate Croft

Casteel Schoenborn


For StartUp Health:

Unity Stoakes


StartUp Health