Taking Genealogy to the Extreme:

Genographic Project: Family Tree DNA

Haplogroup K

The Ashkenazi Jew Connection

Our DNA Haplogroup K status is very significant because its members constitute three of the four major Ashkenazi Jewish founder lineages.

The term “Ashkenazi” refers to Jews of mainly central and eastern European ancestry.  Most historical records indicate that the founding of Ashkenazi Jewry took place in theRhine Basin where it subsequently underwent vast population expansions.  In more recent times, the Ashkenazi population was estimated at approximately 25,000 individuals around 1300 AD, whereas that number has increased to about 8.5 million individuals by the turn of the 20th century.

Around half of all Ashkenazi Jews trace their mitochondrial lineage back to one of four women, and our Haplogroup K represents a lineage that gave rise to three of them.  While this lineage is found at a small frequency in non-Ashkenazi Jews, the three K lineages that helped found the Ashkenazi population are seldom found in other populations.  While virtually absent in Europeans, they appear at frequencies of three percent or higher in groups from the Levant, Arabia, andEgypt.  This indicates a strong genetic role in the Ashkenazi founder event, which likely occurred in the near East.

I hope that this information is mildly of interest to the direct female descendants of our family which includes Catherine Krider, Eliza Ann Rangler, Carrie Catherine Dempsey, Alma Mary O’Harra, Ellen Jane Bartelle, Dianne Bartelle Shullaw, Jennifer Ellen O’Connell, Jessica Dianne O’Connell, and Myah Mathilda Schmitz.

This and the following material has been excerpted from the National Geographic Genographic Project Report for the DNA of  Dianne Bartelle Shullaw,May 6, 2006.

Mitochondrial Eve: The Mother of Us All

The Human Story begins inAfrica sometime between 150,000 and 170,000 years ago, with a woman whom anthropologists have nicknamed “Mitochondrial Eve.”  She was awarded this mythic epithet in 1987 when population geneticists discovered that all people alive on the planet today can trace their maternal lineage back to her.

Mitochondrial Eve was not the first female human.  Homo sapiens evolved inAfrica around 200,000 years ago.  Eve is exceptional because hers is the only lineage from that distant time to survive to the present day.  A maternal line can become extinct for a number of reasons.  A woman may not have children, or she may bear only sons (who do not pass her mtDNA to the next generation.).  She may fall victim to a catastrophic event such as a volcanic eruption, flood, or famine, but none of these extinction events happened to eve’s line.

The Haplogroups

Mitochondrial Eve represents the root of the human family tree.  Her descendants, moving around withinAfrica, eventually split into two distinct groups, characterized by a different set of mutations their members carry.  Descendants belong to Haplogroups L1 and L0 and are found inEast Africa’s indigenous populations.  A third Haplogroup, L2, broke off with descendants living predominantly inWest Africa.  African Americans will likely be in the L2 Haplogroup as a result of their ancestors being brought toAmerica fromWest Africa in the slave trade.

The next group is L3, whose common ancestor is a woman who was born around 80,000 years ago.  While L3 individuals are found all overAfrica, including the southern reaches of sub-Sahara, L3 is important for its movements north. Some L3 individuals left Africa completely and current make up around ten percent of the Middle Eastern population, giving rise to two important haplogroups that went on to populate the rest of the world.

Out of Africa

Next came Haplogroup M.  These people left the continent across the Horn of Africa nearEthiopia, and their descendants followed a coastal route eastward, eventually making it all the way toAustralia andPolynesia. The next group was N. These people left the African continent across the Sinai Peninsula, into present dayEgypt. Early members of this group lived in the eastern Mediterranean region and westernAsia, where they like coexisted for a time with other hominids such as Neanderthals.  Excavations inIsrael’s Kevbara Cave (Mount Carmel) have unearthed Neatherthal skeletons as recent as 60,000 years old, indicating that there were both geographic and temporal overlap of these two hominids.

After several thousand years in theNear East, individuals belonging to a new group called Haplogroup R began to move out and explore the surrounding areas.  Some moved south, migrating back into northernAfrica.  Others went west across Anatolia (present-day Turkey) and north across the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia and southernRussia.  Still others headed east into the Middle East and on toCentral Asia.  Our Branch of the Tree

We finally arrive at our own clan, a group of individuals who descend from a woman in the R branch of the tree.  Because of the great genetic diversity found in Haplogroup K, it is likely that she lived around 50,000 years ago.

Her descendants gave rise to several subgroups, with wide distribution:  today they harbor specific European, northern African, and Indian components, and are found in Arabia, the northern Caucasus Mountains, and throughout theNear East. 

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