Wednesday, 29 October 2008

My Venezuelan DNA Part I

Last month I ordered a genetic kit of the Genographic Project from National Geographic. I got my kit in less than two weeks together. The package included a video about genetic research on human expansion and migration. You can use the kit to order either a test on your paternal ancestry or your maternal one. I chose to check out first thing the paternal part because I thought that could give more details.

I scrapped slightly in my mouth with two buccal swabs and sent them back to the Genographic project. On their site I can see the samples have been analysed and they are now being re-checked by two analylists. In a couple of weeks I hope to get basically the haplogroup as indicated in my Y-chromosome.

I would probably not have done this test if I were not Venezuelan: I am the average mixed person. I know who the parents of my grandparents were, but most of the rest in the past is difficult to find out. I know some came to Venezuela from the Canary Islands. I know one probably came from Northern Spain. I know another one was perhaps Central European. I certainly know my grandmother on my mother's side had Indian blood as she looked very Indian, as my sister. Perhaps her ancestors were the Indians that populated the Tacarigua Lake, from where a lot of my people came. Unfortunately, records in Venezuela have been mostly destroyed. I know one of my ancestors from my dad's side was called a "zambo", a mixture of a Black with an Indian. I just don't know where the maternal or paternal ancestors came from.
My guess is that the paternal line will turn out to be West European and the maternal one Native American, but it could be anything: African and African, African and West European, etc.
That is why this test will bring me something really new.

I was thinking it would be very interesting if National Geographic or other groups could carry out a comprehensive research among Venezuelan Indians. We know some things about the Indian migrations that took place in what would become Venezuela, but nothing very sure. We know more or less where the Arawacs were and how the Carib groups were expanding when the Spanish invasion arrived. It would be interesting to find out the genetic distance between Arawaks as still represented by the Wayúu and a couple of other minor groups and the Caribs, as still represented by the Pemones and the Yeq'wana. It would be very interesting to find out how related Warao Indians - with a language considered an isolate - are with the other groups still present in Venezuela. But then: scientists hav had difficulties getting permission from Indian groups, who were afraid - with good reason - of being cheated again. Now, with a government that sees everything coming from the United States and Europe as "evil", such a project would be less likely to happen. It is a pity. We could find out interesting information about how our history.

After I am done with the paternal ancestry, I will check out the maternal one. Did I come from I? J? X? Something else?


  1. There are several clues in some of their legends. There are actually, 3 Pemon dialects and at least two Ye'kwana.
    The Yanomami have many sub groups and language divisions.
    The story of how the Ye'kwana's defeated the Yanomamis is quite interesting and surely based on fact.

  2. I know a bit about the Pemon dialects, :-),
    I was doing actually some stuff in Wikipedia about Venezuelan Indian tribes
    (I am Periergeia)

    By the way, would you like to contribute to Wikipedia with a wee article on the Yek'wana? Or at least with making some picture available for the project?

    I am sure their myths are a very valuable source of information. Still, I am also for genetic research. It would allow us to get back further in time. Still, I know they are extremely suspicious because they are afraid their DNA may be used for something else, some pharmaceutical concern or for claims against them.
    Has someone written down and published Yekwanas' stories? I know a lot of Pemon and Warao traditions have been published.

  3. I think the study would be wonderful. I doubt it would be well accepted by the tribes, as you say, with good reason.
    I am actually trying to write a book. I need a good editor to fix my butchered grammar!!
    We do have access to of Ye'kwana legends but no funds for publishing.

  4. I know. Bundling both things you said (on distrust and your book):

    I remember once I was talking to a Pemon close to Yuruaní and he said some anthropologist (forgot his name) had gone there, listened to their stories and gone to Caracas where he "published a book without paying them".

    I am sure the guy who published those stories did not become rich by that, but then some Indians thought so. My German friend wants to publish a book on Warao stories but she hasn't found financing and if she gets the financing the most she will get is some points for her CV. I suggested her to go to Polar. Anyway, Indians are distrustful and with good reason and yet that distrust is sometimes either not enough or not convenient for their cause.
    Hard thing.

  5. Kepler,the idea is interesting and be prepared for some surprises. I did it,as you know, and there are forums and projects that you can join for follow ups and ask questions. I am also mixed but never realised the european genes on my father's side. Many Irish fought with Simon Bolivar so maybe that accounts for it.

  6. Hi, Alejandro. I got a message saying I have to wait as the analysis was inconclusive and they would have to do an SNP test.
    So I would have to wait STILL TWO TO THREE MORE WEEKS! So much patience!

    There is one thing I find fascinating and that is how one way or the other, this test will show just the path some of my ancestors took one way or the other as everybody else from the same pool of people.

    I would be interested in finding out the genetic closeness of Jews and the descendants of the Phoenicians. Recently the media reported about a piece of ceramic with some text found just on what was Israel's border with Phoenicia according to the records and some Jew archeologist and the US religious right rushed to say that was the oldest proof of written Hebrew. The thing is that Hebrews used the same alphabet Phoenicians used and their languages were incredibly similar. Israel Finkelstein, a very well-known archeologist, but one who is more cautious, said people would have to wait to see if the piece of text was really one or the other.
    Perhaps a massive study of many Lebanese and Jews and Palestinians DNA would give more clues. We know already Jews and Arabs are closely related (also according to the Bible, but also according to genetics to much more over 5000 years ago). It would be interesting to find out more precisely when and which other groups split when there.

    Anyway, I think we are living exciting times for science.

  7. Exciting times, for sure.When your test is done ,you will get the names and emails of your genetic cousins,which means that you share a common ancestor,which could be hundreds of years ago. The names come from the people who did the test and opted to put their names public.If you have the same surname would be great. I have not come across any with mine.
    The site below always has the latest developments.

  8. Alejandro, you mentioned probably Danish ancestors and then Irish. So no Indian there, I assume.

    My family name is the one of my real grandfather, but before that I am not sure. If I see other people from those times: lots of Venezuelan men were fathering around without marrying.

  9. "lots of Venezuelan men were fathering around without marrying." LOL! that hasn't changed much these days, has it?

  10. My dad has a bit of Indian,the Danish is from longer ago as no one in my family knew about that part , English and Irish are more predominant but not sure from when. You will see what I mean when you receive your info. My maternal side has from africa and indian which is more local.
    If you are not certain of the names,there is a deeper test,37 marker which shows more recent relations, if they were tested.

  11. Alejandro, but who did the test? You or your parents? As far as I can see, you can only get for yourself the paternal line (dad's dad's dad's) or maternal line (mum's mum's mum's etc).
    I think one can get a probability figure of, say, 90% Scandinavian, 50% Irish or the like, but that does not mean one is mostly Scandinavian and a bit Irish, but rather chances are Scandinavians are 90% likely to be that haplogroup and Irish 50% (but one either came from a descendant from one or the other)

    Y-Chromosomes and mDNA do not contain information from anyone but the father of the father of the father...(and so on) or the mother of the mother...(and so on), they do not get mixed, only suffer mutations. So the only way you can know about your mother's other sides is if you get your motherly grandfather or your her brother tested and the only way to get information about the father's other sides is to get the information from your aunt or grandmother on his side or further up, which is kind of hard.

    Unlike hair, eye colour, nose shape, sexual markers are not mixed.
    I will see. 2 to 3 weeks I have to wait now! As for foreigners: nobody in my family was born outside Venezuela in the XX century, only in the XIX or earlier.

    Can I ask: if your mother is Venezuelan-born and she has a typical "Indian" haplogroup, which is it? A, B, C, D or X?
    What part of Venezuela? My family comes from Carabobo.

    I doubt many Venezuelans did these tests. Any idea?

    Indeed lots of people are still procreating around, but my impression is that in previous times that was more widespread even beyond the poorest groups.

  12. My mom is Venezuelan born ,haplogroup B..,my family is also from Carabobo,Valencia,they were there for quite a while as far as I know.They had a business in Guyana close to the border....where I started learning english and where I spent most of my time,as I prefer the open spaces. I will be there again on Tuesday,going for a month.

  13. Group B? Interesting. I think I will order another kit now for the maternal line. I wanted to wait for the first results, for the paternal one, I shouldn't have, as I missed then the discount (at the beginning I was not sure if I should try one or the other).
    I have the hunch a lot of Venezuelans have above all blood of Indian women, more than we think.

    Then nice trip to the open spaces. You mean Santa Elena or somewhere there? Gran Sabana is great. I also would always "escapar al monte", do it as far as I can in Europe, mountaineering or just trekking (althought the montes are a different notion here)

  14. You two are making me quite home sick!

  15. Way cool, I am tempted to order one kit as well,


  16. Angela, are you also Venezuelan? It would be nice if you then could let us know about your haplogroup. Remember: women can only find out about their maternal line.
    If you want to find about your paternal line, you need a brother or your dad or someone from your dad's paternal line (grandfather, another son of your fatherly grandfather)


  17. Kepler, I am very curious to know your YDNA. You said you match above all Italians and Jews. Being your paternal line, as you said, probably from Spain, there is the possibility that your ancestors were Jews converted but with a YDNA taken from Romans during the First Jewish War or after. Usually they are genetically close to me. Spain lacks all the subclades between R1b1* and R-P312 and I have explained why.


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