Sunday, November 6, 2011

Genealogic Success with DNA Testing

We will continue the discussion about genealogy and DNA describing a few remarkable successes. 

Genghis Khan’s Gen

In 2,003 scientists identified an Y-chromosomal lineage present in about 8% of the men in a large region of Asia (about 0.5% of the men in the whole world).  This haplotype seems to have expanded rapidly and recently (in the last 1,000 years) and it descends by direct male-line from an individual who live approximately 10 centuries ago.
Such a rapid spread of this lineage originated in Mongolia cannot have occurred by chance, but has spread through social selection. In summary, it has been carried by male-line descendants of Genghis Khan.

Mongolian society allowed one man to have many children through having multiple wives. In addition it was a practice among the Mongols to reserve the most beautiful women of a conquered town for their tribal chief as war booty. Finally widespread rape was common in conquered cities. Mongolians built an empire which spanned from China to Central Europe and Genghis Khan’s gen followed the expansion of this empire.

If we give 30 years to each generation, we would count 26 generations between the year 1,182 that Genghis Khan turned 20 and our current times.  The number of generations sounds about right if we compare them with the Spanish kingdom. There are 28 generations from Genghis Khan’s contemporary Alfonso VIII King of Castile to his descendant Felipe de Borbon (Prince of Asturias and son of the happily-reigning King of Spain, Juan Carlos I).
If we give each generation four male descendants, we would count an incredible number of descendants (4,503,599,627,370,500).  Of course, this is not a correct number, because after the first few generations the rate of four male descendants by generation decreases because of the continuous marriages between the descendants of the same ancestor. We find “repeated descendants”, that means that some descendants will have Genghis Khan’s blood by many lines, diminishing dramatically the number of real physical people in the count.

Therefore, the estimates provided by scientist of one every 200 men, or 16 million men, listed as descendants of Genghis Khan sounds quite possible from the genealogical analysis.  

Niall Noigiallach’s Gen

In Ireland we find another example of such “super-Y” lineage. Niall of the Nine Hostages was one of the greatest Irish kings and died around 455 AD. Niall reportedly had 12 sons, many of whom became powerful kings.  He was the founder of the dynasty Ui Neill "descendants of Niall", a dynasty of powerful chieftains that dominated Ireland for 600 years until the XI century.

DNA testing has demonstrated that one in every five males in Northwestern Ireland share the same Y-chromosome. Even outside of Ireland, approximately one in 10 men in western and central Scotland also carry the same gene. We can apply the same logic we used in the Genghis Khan analysis, this cannot happen by chance.

Prior to the genetic evidence, there had been doubts that Niall actually existed and was often considered a mythological figure. However, the genetic evidence confirms ancient oral traditions about Niall and suggests that he may be the forefather of approximately 3 million men in the world today.

Castilla lastname

Closer to us in the Spanish Peninsula an interesting test was completed on volunteers with the Castilla surname. This is an uncommon surname and there are there are only 9,000 people with that surname in Spain (0.02% of the population).

Oral tradition stated that people with Castilla surname descended from Pedro I King of Castile. The genetic analysis allowed the identification of two main branches for this surname: the southern branch with several lineages in Andalucía that do not seem to have any relationship between them and the Northern branch includes several lineages that appear to be related.
Genetic testing also provided confirmation that some of Pedro I descendants have the Castilla surname, but not all the Castilla are descendants of that King.

Are you related to Genghis Khan or Niall ?

These genealogic/genetic tests are available in United States and Spain at an affordable price. Unfortunately genealogists in Latin America have told me that they are still not available in most countries in the region.