My family’s DNA portrait

During a recent trip to the zoo, this silverback gorilla walked up to an observation window, leaned forward, stared into my son’s eyes and struck a pose remarkably similar to that of my son’s. They were frozen in this state for a good 5-10 seconds. Long enough to fire up some neurons and remind me of our early relationship to primates.

Last year, I met Lynn Fellman, a talented artist who creates portraits based on a person’s DNA (as an extension to National Geographic’s Genographic Project which traces a  participant’s genetic lineage). She’s fascinating and has a unique ability to help one visualize mankind’s historic and scientific place in this world. I asked Lynn to produce a DNA portrait of my family based on my kids’ DNA data.

Here’s the final product (even prettier in “real life”).

And here is Lynn’s detailed description of what this all mean and how the information was gathered (yes, I swabbed by kids’ inner cheeks to collect DNA samples).

Farmers in the fertile crescent: Haplogroup J2 The Men
Haplogroup J2, the paternal line, lands her son’s ancestors smack dab in Italy. Aligning with family history, once the Y chromosome arrived they stayed in the neighborhood. See the blue route coming out of Africa? The northern branch ends close to what would become 15,000 years later — Rome, Italy (the boot is highlighted). Notes from the Genographic Project say that “J2″ pioneered the shift from gathering to farming, kick starting the Neolithic Revolution. Very impressive but mere youngsters compared to the DNA lineage of the female line.

Amazing global travelers: Haplogroup X The Women
Her daughter’s lineage is one of the rare groups that traveled the furthest across the globe — Hap Group X. There are three female and two male groups that eventually crossed the ancient, now submerged continent of Beringa, to North America. Haplogroup X is one of them. When I first saw the results I double triple checked, thinking I made an error. But no, there was a small branch of the route curving to left. That group decided to stay, in what would become about 30,000 years later, the Hungarian empire. So the family story in current time matched the deep ancestry. How interesting though, that some family members broke away to travel across Asia and into the New World. People who survived to found the Native American tribes such as the Ojibwa, Sioux and Navajo. See the image at the top to see how the route continues.

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