DNA in Genealogy
In 2007 at the encouragement of a relative on my mother’s side of my family, I decided to have my DNA tested through one of the companies that helps people use their DNA in genealogy research. This concept was in its infancy as a tool for family history research when I began my Yinger family history project in 2002. Since that time a number of companies have joined the rush to offer these services.
My maternal relative that encouraged me to have my DNA tested used http://www.genebase.com to have his DNA tested for research he was doing on my mother’s side of my family. Therefore, he suggested that company to me. From that web site the following summary statements are excerpted which give a brief overview of how DNA research on the male Y-chromosome offers possibilities toward revealing family connections in family history research:
Raw Y-DNA Data
“Only male individuals carry Y-DNA. Unlike all of the other DNA types in your cells, Y-DNA is unique because it is inherited along the paternal line and remains relatively unchanged as it is passed down from generation to generation, making it an excellent candidate for paternal ancestral studies.
An individual's Y-DNA is the same as his father's Y-DNA and it is also the same as the Y-DNA of all paternal ancestors along the paternal line (father's father's father's father…..). This means that by testing an individual's Y-DNA, we are actually testing the same DNA type as an individual's paternal ancestors from thousands of years ago, thus allowing the investigation of an individual's paternal ancestral roots.”
“The Y-DNA contains two main types of ancestral markers: SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) and
STRs (short tandem repeats, aka microsatellites).
are a change in a single nucleotide in the DNA and occur infrequently; once they
occur they are stable and typically define a whole chromosome and become its
By testing the combination of SNPs and STRs in our Y-DNA, we can gain information on our paternal ancestry, ranging from ancient history (thousands and tens of thousands of years ago) with the much slower mutating SNPs, to recent history (100-1000 years ago) with faster mutating STRs.
More simply, SNPs allow us to track ancient or deep ancestry, while STRs allow us to track recent ancestry in the range of immediate family history over several generations…”
During the past several years I have been alert for insightful articles to help me understand the possibilities of using DNA in family history research. Just recently an article on this subject appeared in the December/January 2009 issue of German Life magazine which I have been a subscriber to for several years. This brief article appeared in the “Family Research” section of the magazine which regularly appears on the final page of each issue:
A New Angle in Researching Ancestors
BY James M. Beidler
“A few issues ago, this column focused on some of the basic methodologies for finding the hometown of a German ancestor. There are genealogical challenges, however, that require going beyond the basics.
One thing I have said to fellow researchers upon occasion is that sometimes you need to stop staring at a problem ‘straight on’ and, instead, look at it from a different angle.
A continuing goal of mine is to find the hometown in Germany for my surname immigrant ancestor, Johannes Beydeler (originally, Beutler in Germany and Switzerland). I have tried any number of ‘straight on’ methodologies and have spent hours upon hours working at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, poring through microfilms of church records from what seems to be half the villages in Germany.
The relatively new technology of using DNA as a genealogical tool has fascinated me and led me to think through a project that might help me with the Beutler hometown conundrum.
It would involve using the Y chromosome test, which is based on the fact that, except for rare mutations, a father passes down his identical Y chromosome to his sons.
As a result, a Y-DNA test not only proves a father-son relationship, but, because its mutations are rare, it can show that cousins come from a common ancestor. Here is how this project would go and what potential it has: I would be tested and would test a close cousin or two, just to make sure that our Y-DNA was the same (thereby assuring that none of us was the result of what DNA genealogists gently call a ‘non-paternity event’).
Then I would also do enough research to find a couple of more distant cousins (but still descendants of Johannes Beydeler) and have them tested to firmly establish his Y-DNA profile. After that comes the fun part: I would attempt to solicit several German and Swiss Beutlers to be tested so that the results could be compared.
If I found a match, then I would need to trace their genealogy to the early 1700’s (the time period of Johannes Beydeler) especially to find out in what villages their ancestors were living. My money is that Johannes Beydeler’s birth would be found in one of those villages.”
I too have spent untold hours poring over microfilms of German, Swiss and Alsace church records obtained from the Mormon archives in Salt Lake City, Utah. Those microfilm church records I have searched were from villages where I had detected the existence of the Jünger family name back to the 1600s and 1700s. So far this tedious, time-consuming and increasingly costly approach has not yielded the hoped for success.
In September 2007 I submitted my DNA to http://www.genebase.com for the Y-DNA STR 44 marker test. This test established my DNA STR profile which makes it possible for other male descendants to connect to our Yinger immigrant patriarch ancestor, Johann Paul Jünger, by submitting to just the basic level of Y-DNA STR testing at http://www.genebase.com/store/product.php?spId=2. Genebase compares all newly submitted Y-DNA against previously submitted DNA sample results including my results which are now a part of this genetic testing company’s database.
This potential as observed in the article excerpted above from German Life magazine extends to males with the family name of Jünger who still live in Europe today. Yinger as discussed elsewhere in this web site is the English language adaptation of the original German family name of Jünger.
In summary regarding the Y-DNA STR test, because my DNA has been tested, the potential exists for male descendants of Johann Paul Jünger and/or his male ancestors to be positively genetically connected to by males with the Yinger or Jünger surname living today. This is true whether they live in America or Europe or, for that matter, anywhere in the world that they may have migrated to. All that is necessary is to submit to the basic level of Y-DNA STR testing at http://www.genebase.com where I was tested and where my results are a part of their database.
Beyond the Y-DNA STR test I later decided to have my submitted DNA test extended to SNP testing as well. I hoped to obtain a confirmation of the ancient origins of my Y chromosome DNA as revealed in such a test. I wondered what geographic area might be associated with my DNA.
The initial step in testing SNP markers was called a “Y-DNA SNP Backbone Test”. Based on the results of that test, my DNA was confirmed as being from Haplogroup I. The following narrative is excerpted from the Genebase web site regarding haplogroups:
“Haplogroups are groups or a population derived from a common ancestor. Y-DNA haplogroups are defined by slowly evolving SNPs, and each SNP characterizes or identifies a particular paternal haplogroup or branch of the Y-DNA phylogenetic tree…
There are 20 major Y-DNA haplogroups (designated by the letters A through T) stemming in a branching fashion from the Y-chromosome prototype, aka “Y-DNA Adam” (haplogroup A), which may be seen as the root or trunk of the tree… Each branch and haplogroup after “Y-DNA Adam” is defined by a novel SNP or genetic change. The Genebase Y-DNA backbone SNP Test Panel is used to determine Y-DNA haplogroups and additional panels are available to further resolve Y-DNA lineage into sub-haplogroups or subclades.”
The Genebase web site further discusses Haplogroup I giving a broad geographic area of ancient location with the following narrative:
Y-DNA Haplogroup I, “EUROPE’S NATIVE SONS”
The frequency of haplogroup I varies regionally and in a few notable areas, such as Scandinavia and the Balkans, this frequency reaches 40-70% making it the dominant Y-haplogroup in these regions. A distinguishing feature of haplogroup I is its almost complete absence outside of Europe. Haplogroup I is not found in Africa and is at marginal levels in regions of the Middle East and Asia, with borders juxtaposed to Europe.
The estimated frequency of haplogroup I in the United States is near 10%, a consequence of relatively recent European explorations, colonizations and emigrations over the last 300-400 years. Alexander Hamilton, a founding father of the U.S. is a famous representative of this clade. The frequency of haplogroup I in Americans identified with a European background in the U.S. is ~19% - the same as its overall frequency in Europe. It is clear that Haplogroup I has contributed significantly to the paternal ancestry for much of modern Western Civilization.
Clearly, the determination that my DNA indicated I was from haplogroup I which verifies a European origin was not a major revelation. What I really wanted to know was “Where in Europe?” did my ancient male ancestors come from.
This motivated me to go one step further and extend my SNP testing, for an additional fee of course, to a deeper level of analysis within haplogroup I. This is called a “Haplogroup I Subclade Test”. The results of this deeper analysis on my previously submitted DNA finally resulted in a little better insight as to my ancient ancestral geographic origins in Europe.
The results of my haplogroup I subclade test indicated that I belonged to subclade I2b2 (marker L38). This is a very recently established subclade of haplogroup I. The process of determining DNA markers for SNP classification into haplogroups and their subclades is a rapidly evolving activity by geneticists. My subclade of haplogroup I was only carved out as a distinct subclade in December, 2008. Accordingly it is too early to find any geographic maps which indicate areas of concentration on the internet.
However, because my subclade as determined by Genebase is a subdivision of a broader subclade, I2b (marker M436), it is possible to make some geographic observations about that larger “parent” subclade from which my subclade is a smaller branch.
The International Society of Genetic Genealogy, ISOGG, makes the following general observation about haplogroup I2b: “I2b-M436 et al reaches its highest frequency along the northwest coast of continental Europe”. Their web site address for the latest haplogroup I discussion is http://www.isogg.org/tree/ISOGG_HapgrpI09.html.
Another source of information concerning haplogroup I2 was an article on the internet at the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.org http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_I2_(Y-DNA). An excerpt from that web site makes the following observations concerning haplogroup subclade I2b:
“Haplogroup I2b* was found in the skeletal remains of Lichtenstein Cave, a Bronze Age archaeological site in central Germany associated with artifacts of the Urnfield culture . Of the 19 males represented in the cave, 15 yielded the full 12 tested STR values, with twelve showing I2b*, one R1b, and two R1a. Of the 21 females in the cave, the majority were mtDNA H, with mtDNA U5b the runner-up. No radio-carbon dating was discussed and no metrics were assigned based on the adult remains, which are thought to be about 3000 years old. The small sample and their possible familial connections do not permit drawing conclusions regarding the overall contemporary population mixture. However, the cave lies at the center of the area predicted to be high in historical I2b population density based on statistical analysis of current population DNA.”
The following map is presented as a reference link on the Wikipedia.org online article concerning the geographic location and dispersion across Europe for haplogroup subclade I2b:
Here is a modern map from the internet which indicates the location of the Lichtenstein caves near Dorste, Germany where DNA of 12 of 19 ancient male skeletons revealed a haplogroup subclade of I2b, the “parent” of my subclade which is I2b2:
A review of these two maps suggests that the probable general area of origin of Johann Paul Jünger’s ancient ancestors as well as mine is near Gottingen, Germany. This is because my Y-DNA SNP testing indicated a haplogroup subclade of I2b2 (marker L38). Perhaps future refinements will reveal a more accurate insight into I2b2 geographic origins as contrasted with its parent subclade, I2b which is represented in the maps above.
Unfortunately, not much reliance, in my opinion, can be placed on these “deep” Y-DNA SNP origin locations toward focusing a search for Johann Paul Jünger’s European village of origin from which he departed for America in 1748. As previously discussed Y-DNA SNP studies give insights into ancient (thousands of years ago) areas of concentration. Migrations no doubt occurred to other areas near and far across Europe as time moved along.
Most 17th and 18th century German speaking emigrants from Europe left from areas in or near the Rhein River and its main tributaries in southwest Germany. That was the area that had been most devastated by wars, harsh winters, etc. Nevertheless, an open mind is important when evaluating possible places to look for Johann Paul Jünger. Y-DNA testing for both STR and SNP markers may one day lead to a breakthrough clue that leads to success in finding Paul’s European village of origin.
In addition to possibly helping pinpoint Paul’s village of origin, Y-DNA test results also may help other Yinger family members establish a connection to Johann Paul Jünger by submitting their DNA samples to the same lab where my Y-DNA was tested and stored in their databases. http://www.genebase.com.
Copyright © 2009-2011 Samuel E. Yinger. All rights reserved.