Monday, December 21, 2015

How Much Do We Alter Our Own DNA?

      My paternal-side biological relatives have done a lot of excellent research to discover where our family lived in Herefordshire, back into the 1600s. Although the family surname implies the family paternal lines originally came from the Netherlands, and we all seem to be as stubborn as Dutchmen, we have been so far unable to determine when or where. Was the original ancestor a seafaring trader, was he Frisian, Dutch, Scandinavian, or Jewish?
     British history is filled with many waves of immigration from the Netherlands, generation after generation. See for examples. Weavers, tradesmen, sailors, intermarrying royalty, Hugeonots, and refugees from the Netherlands. See .
     So I tried to discover family connections by taking a forty-six marker yDNA test that offered, when I worked there. I found that the yDNA test matches that were closest, if not very close, had ancestors that came from Flanders. In my search for an original ancestor, when I have compared the yDNA test results with other test results, I have found one close match who has a Welsh surname, whose first name spelling leads me to believe he's African-American, and has no information about his paternal ancestry, other than the DNA marker. and have established family trees posted. This means the family line from which I am descended, stemming originally from north Holland, or thereabouts, has had no other members, who tested their DNA, that I was able to discover.
     When I discussed this with friends, they told me that they, too, were unable to find any close matches, even though the tests they took were much more specific. Why are we struggling with this? Don't the DNA test results fall well into the different classifications indicated?
Apparently not. The differences arise, because families' DNA mutates and changes. Considering that the people of every branch of any family can and do have very different lives, is it any wonder mutations occur? Duke University posted the following: .
     So different diets, lifestyles, diseases, and addictions can change the patterns of DNA expressed in different branches of the same families. I know that the descendants of alcoholics, for example, need to supplement more of the amino acid Taurine. And researchers at the Babraham Institute found that changes in environment alters genetic markers in mice, again, you basically are what you eat and experience. See .
     Basically, your markers state that what your ancestors did, experienced, and ate changed the DNA they passed on to you. I remember landing at the Heathrow Airport in London as a nineteen-year-old. I had left Eugene, Oregon, where I had lived for the past seven years, and felt like home. I missed it. Then I subsequently left Salt Lake City in the state of Utah where I was born, and where quite a large number of my ancestors had lived, and that seemed like home to me. But Heathrow, sixteen miles outside of London, England?  That just didn't make sense to me, a nineteen-year-old who knew everything.
     Sure enough, twenty-five years later, there were my English ancestors, at least two lines of them, who were born and resided. One family had the Welsh surname Jenkins, which turned up in London, for at least two, probably more generations. I've been back to London since that time, and wasn't particularly impressed, but it feels like home, even now. Here's a surname distribution map for the name Jenkins, in case you're interested:
     Trauma definitely transmits from generation to generation, as the descendants of our Jewish Holocaust friends, neighbors, and relatives have found. See So the many, many experiences our ancestors had accumulate in us, and explain why we have so many interesting health and emotional strengths and challenges.