Monday, 8 July 2013

Is there Ukrainian DNA?

While I have never been there, my mother's ancestral family in Western Ukraine originates in a tiny area - with a name that implies it was "behind the woods",  surrounded by other equally tiny settlements.  The location, the diminutive names, the "off the beaten track" route, and feeling of primitive times makes me wonder how far back the family has lived on the same territory.  What is the DNA of the soil and could there be ancestral links back thousands of years?

Intriguing opportunities now exist for technology to breakthrough the code of mitochondrial DNA and establish links through hundreds of generations, perhaps thousands of years.  Wonderful, dreamy, fairy-tale thoughts perhaps, but wouldn't it be amazing to step back into time and discover your ancestral great-great-great-great-great Baba? What would she be like, and would she recognize you?

Recognizing my weird penchant for family things,  dreamy fantasy about historical lineage questions, my family purchased a kit from National Geographic which proposes to be a start in discovering my deep ancestry.  The purpose of this Genographic Project is to chart the early stages of human history by comparing the DNA from world populations that have been genetically, and geographically stable for hundreds or thousands of years.  I may discover what different geographic regions around the world my ancestors migrated through.  I may also learn about my relationship to different human populations around the world and if there are Neanderthals or Denisovans in my ancestry.  Although I have no control over the project direction, I am excited to play an active role in this project, through my DNA!  I am excited to discover what the genetic markers might show about my ancestral lineage, before my great-grandparents migrated to the western world.

It would be exciting if such a project could take flight among the Ukrainian diaspora - wouldn't it be interesting to know how many of us are in fact family, maybe even close family - even though we may live on different continents?  If you have been paying attention to First Nations issues in Canada, a similar process is helping their community discover special pockets of deep ancestry.  It is their story.  It is our story.  It is the human story - how cool is that!
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