Genetic Ancestry Tracing : What Makes it Popular Among Americans

In a world that is now forward thinking, what makes the concept of genetic ancestry tracing, popular, especially among Americans? Even 2020 presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren had her ancestral genealogy traced, to support her claim that some roots in her family tree came from Native American ancestors.

How the information gave her political advantage or disadvantage is another story; with Trump calling her Pocahontas and a prominent leader of the Cherokee Nation saying that the results of genetic testing do not reflect genuine affiliation with a tribe.

In an interview by Live Science, Beverly I. Strassmann, a professor of Anthropology and Faculty Associate at the Institute for Social Research of the University of Michigan, said that genealogy has become the second-most popular hobby in America. She explained that the deep-rooted interest in ancestry-tracing is in part influenced by evolutionary forces, which stem from how humans care for family members because of shared genes.

Individuals who feel closer to their family because of genetic ties are more likely to participate in helping out and in increasing the survival odds of one’s own genes. It is a phenomenon that Professor Strassman refers to as “kin selection.” She further explained that in helping relatives, and not necessarily limiting the scope to offsprings, people can forward their lineage through genetic fitness.

A Cursory Look at the Concept of Genetic Testing

An article from the National Institute of Health (NIH) defines and explains the concept of genetic ancestry testing, which is also referred to as genetic genealogy. It is a method that examines DNA variations, to which the analyses involve looking for clues pertaining to where a subject’s ancestors came from and about the connections between families.

What is DNA

DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid, which is the self-replicating material mainly constituting the threadlike chromosomes forming the nucleus of every living cell; posing as carriers of genetic information.

In genetic ancestry testing, patterns of DNA variations are compared, to which the greater the patterns of DNA variations shared by families or even by populations, the closer the genealogical relationship between individuals and families under study.

According to the NIH article, there are three types of genetic ancestry testing used for genealogy:

The Y Chromosome Testing

This method analyzes the variations of the Y chromosome exclusively passed on by a father to a son. It is used in exploring ancestry in the direct male line. Take note that only males have Y chromosomes; but women can harness this type of genetic testing by having a male family member DNA tested.

The Mitochondrial DNA Testing

In this type of genetic testing, cell structures known as mitochondria that contain a small amount of DNA, are used in identifying genetic variations. This type of testing can be used by either sex, since both male and female offsprings receive mitochondrial DNA.from their mothers.

The Single Nucleotide Polymorphism Testing

These types of tests analyze large numbers of DNA variations referred to as “single nucleotide polymorphisms” found across a person’s specific genome or the total set of DNA variations for a specific species. The results of these genetic testing methods are then compared with the results of others who have taken the tests, to establish an estimated percentage of a person’s ethnicity.

German Chemical Research Study Draws Conclusion that Prebiotic DNA Existed Parallel to Prebiotic RNA

Chemical researchers at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMO) München, led by Dr. Oliver Trapp of the  Department Chemie at the university, conducted chemical tests that show how a simple chain of chemical evolution could have served as pathway that gave rise to the existence of DNA on Earth, earlier than what was previously believed.

Their findings contradict a generally accepted model in which the RNA was the first to have been synthesized from precursor organic compounds that existed during the prebiotic stage. Based on their findings, the LMU researchers now contend that DNA molecules may have existed parallel to RNA and therefore came to be by 400 million years earlier than first established.

Understanding the Significance of DNA and RNA in the Chemical Evolution of Organic Compounds During the Prebiotic Stage

DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid. It is a self-replicating material possessed by nearly all living organisms. DNA strands constitute chromosomes that carry genetic information. However, in some viruses, RNA instead of DNA carries genetic information.

RNA on the other hand, stands for ribonucleic acid. It is a nucleic acid found in all living cells, whose primary role is to carry out instructions coming from DNA strands for purposes of controlling the synthesis of proteins.

Mankind through different scientific studies has since tried to determine how life first came to be on Earth. While others simply accepted God, being the supreme being over all creations as solely responsible for the universe and everything found in it, scientists take interest in establishing the mechanisms and processes of how God began life naturally; not as an instant occurrence but through long periods of evolution.

Actually the researchers’ explanation of their discovery is a complex narration of chemical reactions of organic compounds believed to have been present in a prebiotic environment. Understand that by prebiotic, the condition referred to is life before it came to be on Earth. Professor Trapp conducted experiments of prebiotic organic compounds using only water with mild acidity, and temperatures ranging between 40 to 70 degrees Centigrade.

As a result, and through various tests, researchers at LMU have identified a second set of possible precursors or substance from which DNA was formed by chemical reaction in prebiotic conditions The information gathered suggests that the earliest molecules of DNA may have appeared some 4 billion years ago, parallel with the RNA.

Constantinople : Ancient Seat of the Glorious Byzantine Empire

Constantinople was the ancient city named after Constantine the Great (a.k.a. Constantine 1), who made the site the capital of the Byzantine Empire from 330 to 1453 CE (Common Era). Today, the ancient city of Constantinople is known as Istanbul, the most populous metropolis in modern-day Turkey, and the cradle of the country’s cultural and historical heritage.

The earliest known settlement in the location came in 7th century BC, and was called Byzantium. The settlement went on to develop as a burgeoning port because of its strategic geographic location. It straddled the border between Asia and Europe, allowing control over ships passing through a narrow, natural strait called Bosphorus. Moreover, a natural harbor on the inlet of Golden Horn permitted lucrative trading between east and west.

When the seat of the Roman Empire shifted to Byzantium, Emperor Constantine called the port haven as the “New Rome.” Some time later, the city was renamed as Constantinople, and much later, into Istanbul.

Although the citizens were known as Byzantines, they preferred to call themselves Romans, in light of the city’s “New Rome” title. Yet the common language spoken was Greek, and in cultural and historical terms, the influence was also mostly Greek.

The Rise of the Byzantine Empire

The transformation of Byzantium as the new seat of the Roman Empire was a turning point in the history of Rome, as it marked the beginnings of the Byzantine Empire.

The Byzantine Empire or the Eastern Roman Empire covered territories located in Asia Minor, in the Balkans, in Greece, Italy, Levant and in North Africa. The Byzantine rule was the longest enduring sovereign, spanning more than 1,100 years of power wielded across regions, whilst instilling Byzantine influence in the fields of architecture, art, economy, literature and laws.

The empire was distinctively built, not as an extension of the ancient Roman rule, but as medieval sovereign that developed its own religious beliefs, traditional practices, political systems and cultural heritage. When Constantine the Great became the first Roman emperor to convert into Christianity, the Byzantine Empire had evolved into becoming a Christian sovereign with distinctively Christian culture combined with medieval Western and Byzantine influences.

The Byzantine Empire flourished through a thousand and one hundred years, turning the capital city of Constantinople into a cosmopolitan center regarded as the wealthiest and most important Christian city throughout the globe.

The glory and grandeur though came with a price, as Constantinople became the object of many horrific sieges. In 413 BC, massive Theodosian Walls were built around the capital city, giving the empire protection against marauders attacking from both land and sea.

However, the Byzantine Empire fell in 1453, when the City of Constantinople was overrun by Mehmed II a.k.a. Mehmed the Conqueror, a sultan of the Ottoman Empire.