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My DNA

image Published: Nov 07, 2013

Since our retirement my husband and I have become members of the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow. The Society meets fortnightly with a programme of excellent speakers. One of the lectures last year was by Dr. Jim Wilson on Scotland’s DNA. I found myself fascinated by the idea that from a bit of spit it was possible to find out about my biological heritage. Wilson did explain that as a female I would only find out about my female heritage and it would be limited as it is based on the little bit of DNA in the mitochondria.

Mitochondrial DNA comes from the ovum at fertilization. This is a generous gift from the mother that is carried by us all.  The idea that this fragment tells me my history stuck in my mind. My sister-in-law is a keen searcher of our family history. I have enjoyed hearing about her researches but the idea I could go back to the origins in Africa was overwhelming and I sent my bit of spit off to the Scotland’s DNA project.

When I got my results I was amazed. I have been a doubter about the first chapter of Genesis.  It works well for me as a traditional folk story but not as science. I have had to revise my views as my DNA tells me that it all started in Africa from a limited number of women about 70000 BC after a large volcanic eruption in Indonesia. I could see how Eve came into the story. My story starts in Africa and then there was migration across the continent northwards to the Horn of Africa.  The small group crossed the Red Sea to southern Arabia.

The group I am descended from (N super-cluster and U mother-group) stopped at the Gulf of Persia. This group settled here for a time but some moved to the Near East and the Mediterranean. At that point a marker (K) – a mutation – became established in the population. This marker is described as Levantine. This happened at the time of the last Ice Age. This held the human migration to the south of the Alps and Pyrenees and only moved further north as the climate changed and the glaciers melted.

But that K marker tells a story. This marker (Levantine) is most frequent in Ashkenazi Jews and Palestinians.  So back to Genesis when were the Jews dispersed and where did they go so the Bible story has become part of my story.

When my ancestors were hunter-gatherers they were in Israel-Palestine. They then migrated to Turkey and up through the Alps into Europe. There is a high possibility that I am descended from people who crossed to Britain overland across Doggerland.  My maternal line goes all the way west to Ireland and that is when my sister-in-law’s research begins to complete the story.

Since the lecture and my results I have read more in Alistair Moffat’s book The Scots: a Genetic Journey. I feel a better sense of my ancestry and my story that works well with my knowledge of biological sciences.

October 2013 

Dr Sheena Wurthmann, SRT Committee Member

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