Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Our Ancient Ancestors

We’re nearing harvest time in the Northeast. I have already plucked handfuls of green and purple beans from our small garden and am readying for the plump green tomatoes that will ripen red and yellow soon. The land is rich and verdant with life at this time of year and the whispering voices of my ancestors find me more easily as centuries of lives overlay across each other in a shared body memory of readying for harvest.
Knowing so much of my genealogy has been a blessing for which I am grateful. I understand now that even if I was not gifted the ability to trace my line back through documented lives, I would feel the tug and pull in my blood back to a time when man lived off the land, before houses, before settling in a fixed spot. I would feel it as surely as a body cannot help but feel the pull of the tide as the water carries it out to sea.
There are many times in my adult days that I have felt an internal emotion of being lost or feeling adrift. A buoy lost in the ocean. It’s the gravity that opened my mind up to wanting to know my place in the world and motivated me to find my place in the world by quieting myself and discovering what was happening in the world around me, right now.
            It has often made me wonder what it would feel like to not be able to trace any of my ancestry. What if I was adopted? What if there simply weren’t any names or clues? In some of my research into the lesser-known side of my family tree I discovered that another descendant of one of my ancestors, one more directly descended, participated in a DNA research program produced by National Geographic that traced Captain Samuel Walker’s genetic ancestry.
            According to the Genographic Project, descendants of Samuel Walker belong to a specific genetic Haplogroup based on a Y-chromosome test. The Haplogroup is I2b1 (M223+). According to other information they have acquired, this specific Haplogroup originated in northern France 14,000 to 18,000 years ago and is found most commonly within Viking and/or Scandanavian populations in northwest Europe.
            This Haplogroup could be further separated into three subclades. For example, I21b1a (M284+) originated specifically in the Bristish Isles, between 3,120 and 3,700 years ago. Unfortunately, Samuel Walker tested negatively against the three known subclades so any further tailoring won’t occur without more samples, though the known information posits that the line is of Viking origin.

            What does that mean? Per the test results, if this were my direct line, I would know that the M223+ strain was a genetic mutation that occurred in a single man living in what we now know as southern France. As the glaciers retreated north, so did the animal herds and so did the hunters with this strain. Their descendants founded the Gravettian culture known for their voluptuous Venus figurines. Which would give me a visual group of humans to reach backwards into history to connect to.

The National Geographic Genographic Project
The National Geographic Society began the Genographic Project in 2005 with the purpose of working collaboratively with different indigenous groups around the globe to collect DNA samples with the intention of learning more depth as to where we came from in our evolutionary migrations. This project allowed the Society to open it up to the general public as well, as a means of supporting the Genographic Legacy Fund.
The Public Participation Kits are expensive at $99 per kit, but are completely inclusive and cover the cost of processing the lab results and the proceeds go towards the Legacy Fund to help indigenous people revitalize their cultures. It is “directed primarily toward education initiatives, cultural conservation, and linguistic preservation and revitalization efforts” per the project director, Dr. Spencer Wells.
There are two separate kits, for two separate tests. If you are a woman you can only take the mitochondrial DNA test which traces your direct maternal ancestry. Men can take the mitochondrial DNA test or the Y-chromosome test, which traces your direct paternal ancestry. If you are a woman, and you have a close relative in your paternal line, like a father or brother, you can swab their DNA and get results that would be accurate for you as well.
It’s not going to tell you who you’re related to or who your ancestors were. It is going to tell you where your DNA links to groups and where they were and when they were there, like a general migration story back into history, with a professional portfolio detailing al of the information for you. And your results are constantly updated with more information as more samples are collected. The project samples are being collected until the end of 2011, but the Public Participation Kits will be available long-term, with the purpose of collecting more data and continuing to finance the Legacy Fund.

If you are someone who has no information with which to seek out personal ancestry, and it feels important to you to have a picture of your bloodline to help you tap into those energies, the Genographic Project might be a worthy investment to give yourself some tangible information to meditate with. The mysteries of our past live in our blood and are no longer so far out of reach.

Link: For more information, visit the National Geographic Genographic Project page...

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