Welcome to the Y-Haplogroup A Research Project
FTDNA Haplogroup Assignments
Update (August 2014)
As Bonnie made note of back in April,FTDNA met some unexpected glitches in haplogroup assignments when switching to the most recent phylogenetic tree updates. Many of you probably saw some significant changes in your haplogroups. At current, FTDNA is still working on this issue...most of you most likely show a pending haplogroup assignment. It appears that they are making progress, and we will report back with any updated information that we may get in this regard. And to reiterate Bonnie's prior admonition, please consult with her or I before ordering any additional SNP testing, to ensure that you are ordering SNPs that are most relevant to your position within the tree.
We have a big announcement for all project members and friends! At long last, the scientific paper, based on the research initiated by and with the participation of members and supporters of this project, is being published. It's called "An African American Paternal Lineage Adds an Extremely Ancient Root to the Human Y Chromosome Phylogenetic Tree."
Here’s a link to my external Haplogroup A website, where you can download your own copy of our paper!
For those who missed some or all of the news on these developments, it's the outcome of in-depth sequencing carried out by Thomas Krahn through his Walk Through the Y program, to discover where some of our project members’ most mysterious test results would turn out to be placed on the human family tree.
You might say we've now made a first, very preliminary survey of the new territory, the 'Land Upstream.' We have some awareness now that there's not just one tiny branch, A1b, as it used to be called, but a whole robust family of ancient A0 clades, and their extraordinary, most ancient elder brother, A00. But this is only a glimpse that we've been able to catch through examining the Y-DNA of just a handful of their members who happened to join the project, and their few kinfolk in Africa who've been included in the relatively scanty DNA collections that have been undertaken there.
If you consider the kind of richly detailed knowledge that's been amassed on the subclades and STR haplotypes of haplogroups like R, I, or even J, it's apparent that these are only the very first footsteps of the exploration of the new 'continent' that beckons on the horizon. Of course, while it may seem like a new discovery to us, we have to be perfectly clear that this only means we're starting to recognize what has been there all along.
It may sound more dramatic to speak of A00 being found in just a few families that could be in danger of extinction. But I believe we'll find many more members of both A00 and A0, to the degree that we invest time, thought, energy and resources in the search. This will allow us to fill out the picture with far more detail, that we've only begun to sketch.
In the coming years, more African-Americans will be finding that they are members of these very special lineages, but what will be most meaningful to them, and at the same time, illuminate our scientific questions, will be the identification of more members of the upstream clades among contemporary Africans of known ethnic and geographical origins.
No doubt the publication of our findings will stimulate more efforts by teams of scientists who have the means to undertake expeditions to remote villages in the heart of Africa. Maybe they'll find members of even farther upstream clades, as Dr. Hammer has speculated!
But for those of us who aren't in a position to travel to Africa, there's still much we can do! My investigations -- poking around here and there -- have revealed that there are surprisingly large numbers of African expatriates living right here among us, with well-organized social networks and organizations that keep them in touch with their home villages in a way that has only become possible in the era of the Internet and mobile phones.
As a number of citizen scientists have observed, haplotypes found in the Sorenson Foundation online database, SMGF.org, are a close match to our A00 Perry haplotypes. These SMGF samples come from the Bangwa people of Fontem, Lebialem, Cameroon.
It just so happens that Lebialem is the source of a large diaspora of Bangwa immigrants who are studying, working hard, and prospering in many lands. Their organizations seek to raise and channel funds to the many needs back home for development of infrastructure, education and health. Rural Cameroonians indeed face many difficult challenges, and it would behoove us to give any support we can to these brothers and sisters who bear among them the world's oldest Y-DNA lineage.
I would suggest that those of us who look forward to greater understanding of the earliest branching human paternal lineages, would do well to try some outreach and dialogue with the members of these groups who may be found in our own communities. Perhaps, with your donations to the project, some of those $39 test kits could be distributed free of charge at social events, along with some contributions toward much-needed supplies for schools, clinics and roads.
Anyone who's interested, please get in touch, as exchange of ideas should be fruitful, and such efforts should be well-planned and coordinated. We should be careful to always collect accurate family histories and pedigrees from each person tested with a donated kit.
Media Attention to Our Project's Discoveries
The press has begun to pick up on the research findings that came directly out of this project. This week, we’re on the front page of Wikipedia, and there’s an article in The New Scientist,
And this a video on Slate:
However, despite the satisfaction of seeing that people are hearing about our research, there are definite problems with the story as told by the press. By no means are either of our A00 project members deceased; both of them are still living. Albert Perry, mentioned by the journalists, is the common ancestor of both the A00 participants. He was born sometime between 1819 and 1827 in Chester or York Co., South Carolina. Neither of our A00 project members live in South Carolina. Jacqueline Johnson, the sponsor of both kits, is a great-great granddaughter of Albert Perry from one of his sons; her two male cousins, who were tested for the research, are a great-grandson of Albert Perry from the same son, and a great-great-great-grandson of Albert Perry from another of his sons.
Here are a few blog postings discussing our research, the paper, and its implications:
Roberta Estes, DNA Explained: The New Root – Haplogroup A00
CeCe Moore, Your Genetic Genealogist: Citizen Science Helps to Rewrite the Y Chromosome Tree and Illuminate the Ancestral Roots of African American Project Members
Debbie Kennett, Cruwys News: Family Tree DNA Conference 2012 - citizen science comes of age
Dienekes’Anthropology Blog: Extremely old (237–581 kya) root of human Y-chromosome phylogeny
Until 2011, Haplogroup A was thought to be simply the first branch on the human phylogenetic tree. Work by Fulvio Cruciani showed otherwise: within the lineages that had been called “haplogroup A,” more than one branch grew from the known root of extant human lineages, and one of those “A”branches was ancestral to all other haplogroups.
Our sequencing of members of this project in 2012 discovered more of these earliest branches, from the root and before the other previously known branches, and we found that the point of their convergence to a common ancestor lay far further back in time than had been recognized by science in the past, back to the dawn of the emergence of humans as we know them.
The branch that had previously been known as A1b, which Cruciani found to be arising from the root, has been renamed A0, to emphasize its stature as an independent haplogroup branching prior to the A1 branch, which is the ancestor of all the other haplogroups. Then, when our last Walk Through the Y turned up a branch yet earlier than A0, it was decided to call it A00. Its brother branch is A0-T, which forks into A0 and A1. A1 has numerous offspring,beginning with A1a and A1b. One of the children of A1b is the ancestral BT branch, from which the rest of the world’s haplogroups descend. The naming protocol of A1, A0 and A00 avoids having to use up more letters of the alphabet, or, heaven forbid, renaming all the other haplogroups!
More information on our research and its findings is coming soon, here and at http://www.haplogroup-a.com.
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All members of Y-haplogroup A are encouraged to join, and we welcome all whose haplogroup has been estimated as A, to learn where you fit in. Welcome as well to all those interested in learning about the root of the Y-chromosome phylogenetic tree.
Haplogroup A is unique in that all other human haplogroups spring from its primal branches. Together with its brother clade, haplogroup B, its greatest concentrations and diversity are among the few peoples of Africa who have kept alive the original hunting and gathering way of life, practiced by our ancestors ever since the dawn of human history. However, we're also discovering that members of these haplogroups have been assimilated into the majority farming peoples in certain regions of Africa. Their descendants can be found among the many African Americans seeking to rediscover their lost roots. Their quest for those roots has enriched us all with greater knowledge of the African ancestors of all humans.