Sunset at Gowanus Bay

Sunset at Gowanus Bay
Sunset at Gowanus Bay, Henry Gritten, 1851

Thursday, February 21, 2013

GENO 2.0 Results with Regards to Hannah Thomas, wife of Jeremiah Brower

What is known of Hannah Thomas' origins (as well as some speculation) was presented in the post of February 13, 2013 (Jeremiah Brower Part IV). It was mentioned in the post that there was speculation among descendants that suggested that Hannah Thomas may have been Native American, probably a member of the Mohawk or Oneida tribes. My wife is a direct descendant of Jeremiah Brower and Hannah Thomas. They are 5-great-grandparents in relation to my wife, meaning that my wife is seven generations removed from Jeremiah Brower and Hannah Thomas.

This past fall the GENOGRAPHIC 2.0 Project was launched by the National Geographic Society. The Project offers a DNA test that analyzes Y-DNA, mtDNA and Autosomal DNA, then presents the participant with a regional makeup of his or her ancestry. The project presents the test results to the participant in three categories: "Who Am I," "Your Maternal Line," and "Your Paternal Line." The third, "Your Paternal Line," analyzes the results of Y-DNA testing and therefore is only available to males. In the case of my wife's results, the other two categories, "Who Am I," and "Your Maternal Line," both fell in line with what we had expected. Her matrilineal ancestry can be traced to Ireland, and the test results gleaned from her mtDNA test confirmed that she belongs to a sub-clade of  mtHaplogroup H that is found in it's highest frequency among people from Northern Ireland. The results we were most interested in were those found under "Who Am I."

"Who Am I" takes into account the entire genetic make up of the individual. This means that the mtDNA and Y-DNA (males only) results are considered along with the test results of the participants Autosomal DNA. After years of compiling my wife's ancestry, we know that the majority of her ancestors have roots in the British Isles, and in the northern European countries of Germany, France (northern), and the Netherlands. And true to form, here the results pointed to a primarily Northern European ancestry (44%). Specifically, she had the most similarity with the populations of Great Britain and Germany. Coming in second and third among the defined regions (the GENO2.0 project breaks the world's population into nine regions), were Mediterranean (38%) and Southwest Asian (17%). Having a similarity with these two groups help to describe the path her ancestors took before arriving in Northern Europe. We were hoping to see a small percentage of Native American ancestry, as this could add some credence to the belief that Hannah Thomas was a Native American. But here, nothing registered. There was nothing in the final results as presented by GENO2.0 that would indicate a Native American ancestor.

There is, however, a caveat that must be considered. Everyone of us inherits 50% of our DNA from each of our two parents, who are one generation in the past. From each of our four grandparents, two generations back, we inherit 25%. Eight great-grandparents each provide 12.5%, while sixteen great-great-grandparents each contribute 6.25%. From our thirty-two great-great-great-grandparents we receive 3.125%. And from sixty-four great-great-great-great-grandparents, who are six generations in the past, we receive 1.5625% of our DNA. The caveat is, GENO2.0 does not report amounts below 2%. (They state that they do not have enough data, at this time, to report lower frequency results). Everyone's DNA make up is most influenced by the most current generations, and beyond six generations the amount contributed to anyone's DNA make up is relatively insignificant. In our case, the ancestor we were interested in, Hannah Thomas, is seven generations in the past (great-great-great-great-great-grandmother). The percentage of DNA inherited from Hannah Thomas, and found in my wife, would be only .78125%. If we consider the possibility that Hannah Thomas was less then "full-blooded" Native American, the amount of Native American DNA that would be found in her great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter could be as little as .390625% (or less) of her total DNA make up. These percentages are just too low for GENO2.0 to report on at this time. (This may change as more participants join the wider project and more data can be collected and analyzed).

In conclusion, we participated in the GENO2.0 project with the hope that we might get a hint as to whether or not my wife had a small percentage of Native American ancestry. Since Hannah Thomas is the only one of her hundreds of ancestors who has raised any suspicion of Native American ancestry, we had hoped the results would be conclusive one way or the other as to whether or not Hannah was a Native American. But, we did not get our wish. While the test results cannot support a Native American ancestry in Hannah, the fact that the percentage of her (potential) Native American DNA, surviving today in her 5great-granddaughter, is too small to measure with confidence, prevents us from stating that it is not possible that Hannah Thomas was Native American. In short, the results for this specific question are inconclusive.

While testing another descendant who has a shorter interval between themselves and Hannah Thomas (six or fewer generations) could work, the more certain method to implement would be to find a direct matrilineal descendant (which could even mean a son of a female direct matrilineal descendant) to take a mt-DNA test. Results of such a test of a subject who meets this description should be more conclusive. 

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