Wednesday, 7 January 2009

My Venezuelan roots: out of Africa the brutal way

As I have mentioned in some other posts (1, 2, 3 and 4), I am taking part in the Genographic Project. To my surprise I turned out to have as marker J2 from my dad's side. Now I got my results for my mother and it turned out to be L1c3. The first one is a paternal marker originating from the Middle East with also a lot of representation in the Mediterranean. The second comes from black Africa.

I thought other haplogroups were much more likely based on the stories I had from my family plus the phenotypes I could see: the most common Western European haplogroup from my dad's side (R1b) or perhaps an Indian or an African one from him and an European or Indian from my mother's: she looked very European, my grandmother looked more Indian and her grandmother came from an area with fewer slaves than the one from which my dad's grandfather came from. I see more African traits from my dad's side. I knew all the time I had about all the typical mixes from both sides, one way or the other, my family is like a Benetton picture. Anything was possible.

So, in any case, if this is correct, one of my female ancestors (my mother's mother's mother's...mother) definitely came from Black Africa just some centuries ago (i.d. not way back during the Out of Africa migrations). That gives 2 possibilities:

1) the most likely case is that there was a poor lady, born in Western Africa or Mozambique, who some time between 1528 and 1810 was kidnapped and placed in chains into a slave ship heading to the Americas.
2) the least likely case is that a female descendant of black Africans but integrated into the Moor culture came to Spain with the Muslim expansion and her female descendants assimilated into the Spanish society.

I want to do some experiments with trying to cluster the genetic profiles, specially the J2 (as there is much more data on it) to see if I can find out more about specific migrations. Specially, I want to develop a simulator to try to recreate the possible ways in which the different ethnic groups interacted.

Here an interesting article (the abstract at least) about a recent study of Venezuelans and genetic background.


  1. You might find this interesting in relation to your Y Chromosome.

  2. Thanks, Dragon Horse. I'll try to find out the full text.

    I also read the one from the Pompeu Fabreu university (from where the map comes, as referred to in That one had very good data but I reckon it has very weak conclusions (to put it mildly): assuming all or most J2 in Spain are of Jewish origin, even if the J1/J2 ratio in Spain is so completely different from the J1/J2 ratio of known Jewish populations.
    Some of the J2 is of Jewish background, but it does not make sense that suddenly J2 seemed to be much more represented in Spain than J1 if it was just Jews.

    I want to do some little experiments with their data and some data I have got somewhere else to see what comes up with clustering considering mutation rates and a couple of other factors. I am just a computer scientist, not a geneticist, so I want to learn about different methods for calculating genetic distance.

    There is little known from the African DNA I got from my mom, but I hope to get more. In the future I think an aunt and an uncle will take part in the study and they can provide other paths to the past. In Venezuela those paths were very diverse, as you can see. I actually did not expect that one from my mother, perhaps from my dad, but all were possible (I am not aware of one specific to Madagaskar or Tibet and I know there was no Madagaskar or Tibetan immigration to Venezuela)

    Do you know your haplogroups?

  3. A cousin of mine born in Valencia also did the mtdna test and he was L3e3 also from Africa. I was different with haplogroup B.Did you get many matches with your group? I have a few with my Y dna test but zero with the mtdna.
    Here is a site with a bit of interesting reading matter.

  4. There were like 12 instances of that haplogroup in an open database and just half with a distance of 1 mutational difference in the HVR1 part.
    The people in there are from the US, from Bahamas, Brazil, Chile.

    In the private databank there were 2 from Africa.

    I guess the by far greatest chance is L13c to have been transmitted via slave trade between 1548 and 1810, even if there are some Europeans who could have brought it indirectly (perhaps some Middle age slave or the like), but there are much less of that.

    How many matches did you get?

    An article on the mixing in the US and elsewhere in America:
    (a bit on the one drop rule in the US)

  5. I got 18 matches on my Y dna test but none with the same surname or any surname of known family.

  6. By matches you mean total match on the 12 marker sequence or on a larger one?

    I did see something I found interesting: almost half the people with my Spanish surname have my haplogroup and J2 is not that common (less than 15% in the areas with the biggest percentage in Spain). It seems J2 is overrepresented within that surname but it is just a hint as the sample is small.
    As I wrote before, the J2 may come from several groups like first farmers in the Neolithic expansion, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans or Jews, but most are probably not from Jews as the J1/J2 ratio in Spain is completely different from the Jewish J1/J2 ratio. So, perhaps my paternal surname was transmitted for some time in the traditional fashion.
    I know for sure my mom's surname was not from her dad's and my maternal grandmother's not from hers, typical in Venezuela.


  7. I read some preliminary studies about American mtDNA haplogroups
    being associated already with some major American ethnic groups.

    I think D is mostly found in Eastern and Central South America (a lot of Caribs?), A mostly in North America and Central America and B and C elsewhere. Perhaps this is a hint your grand-grand-grand-grand-grand...mother was Arawak?
    When I have time I will look for the article.

    Current Carabobo was a kind of border point, as far as I know, between Arawaks and Caribs.
    I wonder if they have done DNA tests on Indian skeletons from around the Tacarigua lake.

  8. Something I find fascinating about Venezuela: I am sure if there were a study about haplogroup divergence between cousins we would have that Venezuela would have a huge variance, much higher than in many others countries that are considered typical immigration countries.

  9. On my 25 marker I have 2 matches with genetic distance 1 and 3 matches on genetic distance 2. The rest were on 12 marker.
    Since you have the same surname as some of your matches, does that mean you are related in not too distant past? I should spend some more time on this.

  10. No, I am afraid, I am talking about haplogroup + surname only. It just may imply the surname does seem to show a South Spanish "shade" (taken by people with a haplotype).
    Still, it is a pity the database is still too biased (due to money and language): there are more people there who give as living place Germany or Eastern Europe than Lebanon or Iraq or Israel, even if J2
    is more present in these last countries.


    An interesting group to join,discussions way over my head.

  12. Thanks for that pdf. It is very very interesting.

    I wish Venezuelan children would get a little bit more information (for their age) about what it meant to people the Americas, what Indians had to deal with.
    That together with some discussion about this,_Germs,_and_Steel
    would make for a better understanding of where we came from and even what we can do with that now.

  13. You should upgrade your markers tested to 67. Twelve markers, even 25 markers are not very conclusive.

    I am J1, known as the Semitic marker as many Arab men and a large minority of Jewish men have this haplogroup. It is found in European, mostly in the Mediterranean, North African, NE Africa, the Levant, Arabia proper, countries from Turkey eastwards towards India, and in some Central Asian populations. So it is well found on three continents with a high in the Middle East and in peoples who speak a number of languages and hold a number of religions. I belong to the J project of FTDNA. On first glance most of the J haplogroups' markers look the same, but the administrator has them grouped into clusters, some are Cohen Jews, others Arabians, others mostly European with no known Jewish or Arabian ancestors or any passed down belief of those ancestors. My haplogroup's markers do not match those of the Jewish groups, there are more than one, nor the "Arabian" groups but is clustered with other Europeans, mostly, it is the named the big cluster. I have four matches on 12, two are men who are cousins and have a variant of my surname. Their male ancestor comes from another European country not far from mine. I have no paper connection with those two genetic cousins. One of the genetic cousins has tested to 67 markers, and we match 63/67. FTDNA reckons we are related from 12 to 20 generations, but I have checked my male line ancestry through marriage records held in Catholic churches, and I have found no connection with my genetic cousin going back 14 generations, the early 1500s, from me.

    You can't work out much on 12 markers. Neither who you are possibly related to or from where your paternal line originated. In the Mediterranean, the Neolithic goes from 7,500 to 9,000 years. Long before any Jewish, Christian or Muslim religion or ethnic groups like Jews or Arabs.

    Good luck. Your mtDNA is definitely African. Haplogroup L is very rare in Europe, and wholly due to slaves from sub Saharan Africa. North Africans mostly have European type haplogroups and haplogroup U6 which is specific to them and no other Africans.

  14. Thanks for the information. I ordered a deep clade test now.
    Anyway: I about listed all possible ways of getting a J2 from Spain based in history: neolithic, Phoenician, Greek, Roman, Jew or Syrian-Lebanese during Islamic times. My bet so far is neolithic.

    They have classified me as J2a4h so far although some test results are due in the next days. I suppose to do the deep analysis they needed to find out about more markers, but FTDNA being a company, they probably won't tell me about them, just confirm I am J2a4h(a|b or c). As I was born in Venezuela and so was my great-grandfather and we have a very Spanish name, I know that line had to come from Spain or through Spain. One of the few full 12-matches is an English speaker with a rare Spanish name who wrote as oldest ancestor someone in Portugal, so someone coming from Spain. Two others are US Americans with German names.

    It is a pity there are so few people in the data base from the Mediterranean.

    I suppose your ancestors on that line may have been also neolithic farmers migrating to Europe.

  15. For all those who belong to J2a4h, they can join a reserach project dedicated to this Haplogroup.

  16. Thanks. I am already part of that group.


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