Monday, July 20, 2009

Paternal Haplogroup: I

My brother ended up doing the Y-chromosome genetic test to determine our direct patrilinear descent (and I thank him dearly for that). The answer that came back a few days ago from GenoMed, the Lisbon-based company which carried out the test, was: haplogroup I (defined by a single mutation called M170).

The GenoMed site explains:

The first populations belonging to group I originated in Southern Europe, immediately before the last Ice Age. Their ancestors arrived in Europe through a migration route starting in the Middle East and ending in the present-day region of the Balkans. (…) During the Ice Age (20 to 12 thousand years ago), these populations remained confined to climatic refuges predominantly situated on the shores of the Dead Sea and in the Balkans. Later, when climatic conditions improved, (…) they started reclaiming the land and spreading their offspring all over Europe.


Today, group I represents nearly one fifth of the European genetic pool. (…) Group I lineages predominate in Scandinavia and in the Balkans. The highest frequencies (nearly 40%) are detected in the populations of Herzegovina, Croatia, Bosnia, Sardinia and Scandinavia.

And finally:

The genetic group I is not usually associated to Jewish ancestrality.

This last sentence reminded me of a memorable scene in the Woody Allen classic Annie Hall. In it, the main character, Alvy Singer, makes the following remark during a flashback to his childhood: “My grammy never gave gifts. She was too busy getting raped by Cossacks.”

I apologize to all those who might be shocked by the very bad taste of this joke, by its political incorrectness, etc., etc.. But the truth is that the idea Allen was playing with in that sentence undoubtedly corresponds to the tragic reality experienced by many Jewish families during the blood-shedding pogroms that took place in Ukraine and Poland during the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth (and forced so many Jews to emigrate to the Americas).

As far as I know, luckily nothing of the sort happened to any of my grand-mothers, great-grandmothers and great-great-grandmothers – but before that, I can’t guarantee it didn’t.

My family’s genes might thus be telling a story of persecution and violence.

Image: DNA Root Tester


  1. Ana, thank you for the interesting posting!
    Could you please answer to my message to you on Facebook.
    -- Leon

  2. There's no need to be so melodramatic.

    The Jewish cluster of haplogroup I is not necessarily Slavic in origin, and seems to be more related to ancient groups from Armenia and Turkey. While rape is always a possible explanation for any family's genetics, there's no reason to rule out peaceful conversion.

  3. Haplogroup I has two major divisions; I1 and I2. I1 is considered to be classically northern European and the statement that its not generally associated with Jews is true, as it is found in greatest concentration in Scandinavia. I2's "homeland" is centered today in Croatia, and parts throughout southern and eastern Europe- but it too is not traditionally associated with Jews.

    There are a few oddballs within I2 however that are all being tested. Of particular interest is what is (or was), called I2*. It contains the asterisk because it has many of the same features as I2 but it is positive for certain markers which "traditional" I2 doesn't have.

    Currently (and I may be slightly out of date), there are roughly 170-175 men worldwide with this designation, and split into three smaller groups (A, B and C), and the odd ball thing about it is unlike other subclades I2* has no specific "homeland" so to speak. It doesn't come from anywhere...its "nomadic"- basically spread from Scotland to Turkmenistan in a wide but very sparse crescent of highly-related individuals. Part of one group (Group B)- are known Jews. There is speculation that the other portions of the group may actually represent one family which interbred over the eons and which may have set up a familial trade route across the crescent. If so, it is highly likely this group were also Jews way back when but aren't today because of assimilation. I am I2*-A myself.