History is in Your Genes

Joseph Hall has an article, History is in your genes, about the Genographic Project – the ambitious 5-year plan to use DNA and map out global migration patterns, that is being sponsored/handled by National Geographic and IBM.

Excerpts from the article:

As part of the worldwide Genographic Project — the largest-ever attempt to trace genetic ancestries across the globe — Royyuru and his colleagues are trying to map the entire scope of human migration throughout history.

“This is probably the most ambitious and fantastic population genetics study ever attempted,” says Royyuru, who spoke at a Toronto computer conference yesterday about the project, which is sponsored by the National Geographic Society and IBM. “Genetic evidence is the strongest evidence — it’s the history book that we all carry,” he says.

Royyuru says genealogical, anthropological and historical data can currently trace human ancestries back no further than a few thousand years.

“So if you want to infer ancestry and geography going back, let’s say, 40,000 or 50,000 years, genetic evidence is the only evidence you can bank on,” he said in an interview.

I disagree about the genealogy tracking back to a few thousand years, although I’ve ran into people who claim they are descended from this or that Roman emperor or whatever. In my opinion, and this is not meant to offend anybody – unless your ancestors were in one spot for very long lengths of time, and you have direct evidence, perhaps DNA even, anything past 500-700 years gets real dicey. I’m not saying that it can’t be proven or documented, but the evidence can get very slim at that point, especially when you look at all of the wars/upheavals/plagues/etc. over that timespan.

It’s not that I don’t think it can be done, I just think that a lot of people use evidence that wouldn’t hold up too well under scrutiny – basically evidence that wouldn’t be accepted by many genealogy professionals.

But I digress, this is a very interesting project, and it’s already causing some heads to turn – especially when it comes to North American migration patterns (Africa/Europe vs Asia).

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