Moment Magazine's great (Jewish) DNA experiment

In September, Moment Magazine got all nerdy and wrote about their Great DNA Experiment, in which they look at the 23andMe results of 15 notable Americans of Jewish ancestry and make some interesting genetic connections. It’s a good illustration of how our DNA can tell us about our interconnectedness.

The piece shows it’s not “six degrees” that separates these individuals from each other, but, in all but one case, no degrees of separation. This means that these individuals are all directly related to one another, albeit in most cases distantly. This was also news to the 15 participants.

All but one of the individuals has Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry. The one exception is Linda Chavez, the political commentator, who descended from Conversos, indivduals of Jewish and Muslim ancestry who converted to Catholicism during the Inquisition. Her ancestors eventually settled in New Mexico. But even in her case, although she isn’t directly related to any of the group, she is connected to each of the others individuals focused on in the piece by just one other individual in the 23andMe database.

The connections shown in the article are what prompted The New York Times columnist David Brooks and NPR “All Things Considered” host Robert Siegel to joke about learning they were distant cousins, sharing a common ancestor several generations back. Brooks kidded that he was “most surprised that our ancestors worked together on National Schetl Radio, on a program called ‘All Pogroms Considered.’” (Maybe the line needs a drum roll to work.)

The article shows the genetic connections between people like Mayim Bialik, the actress on the Big Bang Theory, and Stephen Dubner, co-author of Freakonomics. Or the connections between NPR’s Siegel, and Harvard Law professor, Alan Dershowitz, or his connections to 23andMe’s CEO’s mother Esther Wojcicki, a journalist and teacher. The magazine shows the connections and the amount of shared DNA, measured in centimorgans (cMs), to illustrate the “relatedness” of any two individuals. More closely related individuals share more DNA.

In the full article at the Moment Magazine website we also learn, for example, that Stephen Dubner's "first cousin once removed was Ethel Greenglass, wife of Julius Rosenberg", or that "Esther Wojicki's maternal-grandparents gave each of the boys among their 13 children a different surname in order to help them avoid conscription in the Russian army".
Our findings are typical of what geneticists would expect from a group of people of mostly Ashkenazi Jewish origin, says 23andMe's Mike Macpherson. Today's Ashkenazi Jews descend from approximately 25,000 ancestors who survived plagues and massacres in the 12th and 13th centuries. Survivors of these "bottlenecks" and other similar occurrences then married one another, sharing their DNA with millions of descendants.

Miscellaneous links

Mangan's is back.

New video depicts human migration across generations

A new video created by Whitehead Institute in collaboration with the genealogical website shows the births of millions people, from the Middle Ages through the early 20th Century, as single dots on a black background. As time advances, those births define the coastlines and countries of Europe and Great Britain, then the Pilgrims’ voyage to the New World, the migration to Australia, the overland expansion of the United States through the Oregon Trail and Gold Rush, and the founding of Johannesburg, South Africa. [. . .]

In the future, Erlich and Daniel MacArthur, a Group Leader in Genetics at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Broad Institute, will be partnering with Geni to delve even deeper into the information submitted to the world’s largest collaborative genealogical website.

Richard III skeleton reveals 'hunchback king'

DNA tests are expected to take 12 weeks. The team will compare samples from the skeletal remains with the DNA of a direct descendant of the king's sister, Michael Ibsen, 55, a Canadian furniture maker who lives in London.

Biology and ideology: The anatomy of politics / From genes to hormone levels, biology may help to shape political behaviour.

Four Species of Homo You’ve Never Heard Of (not a profile of the writers and editors Counter Currents)

Kennewick Man update

Kennewick Man bones not from Columbia Valley, scientist tells tribes

The skeleton, more than 9,500 years old, has long been at the center of a rift between tribal members and scientists, led by Doug Owsley, a physical anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History who spearheaded the legal challenge to gain access to the skeleton for scientific study.

Owsley says study shows that not only wasn't Kennewick Man Indian, he wasn't even from the Columbia Valley, which was inhabited by prehistoric Plateau tribes. [. . .]

Isotopes in the bones told scientists Kennewick Man was a hunter of marine mammals, such as seals, Owsley said. "They are not what you would expect for someone from the Columbia Valley," he said. "You would have to eat salmon 24 hours a day and you would not reach these values.

"This is a man from the coast, not a man from here. I think he is a coastal man." [. . .]

Pressed by Armand Minthorn of the Umatilla Board of Trustees, who asked Owsley directly, "Is Kennewick Man Native American?" Owsley said no. "There is not any clear genetic relationship to Native American peoples," Owsley said. "I do not look at him as Native American ... I can't see any kind of continuity. He is a representative of a very different people."

His skull, Owsley said, was most similar to an Asian Coastal people whose characteristics are shared with people, later, of Polynesian descent.

And, while tribes want the remains returned for reburial, Owsley said there is still much more to learn from the skeleton, which has largely been inaccessible but for two instances, in which a team of about 15 scientists could study it for a total of about two weeks.

Note: my own understanding is that Kennewick Man is broadly similar to other Paleoindians, and that historical Amerindians probably derive most of their ancestry from Paleoindians (with some later Asian gene flow and evolution in a more Mongoloid direction). On the other hand, it appears W. Eurasian-affiliated ancient Central Asians did contribute significantly to the ancestry of Paleoindians (and, to a lesser extent, to the ancestry of modern E. Eurasians in general), which is what I expect most of the heightened affinity between Northern Europeans and Amerindians found by Reich et al. is attributable to.

Testosterone Administration Reduces Lying in Men

From the Plos ONE article:
Testosterone is known to influence brain development and reproductive physiology but also plays an important role in social behavior [4]–[9]. While most studies have investigated a potential association between testosterone and aggressive behavior, two recent studies suggest that testosterone may also increase prosocial behavior or lead to less selfish behavior in certain situations [6], [9]. We therefore investigate a link between testosterone and self-serving lying. A prominent interpretation of the existing evidence on the role of testosterone in social behavior is that the hormone enhances dominance behavior, i.e., behavior intended to gain high social status [6]–[8], [10]–[14], which in humans can be aggressive or prosocial depending on the context. Recent research suggests that pride may have evolved as an affective mechanism for motivating such status seeking behavior [15]. Pride is indirectly linked to status seeking because it is an inward directed emotion that signals high status or ego. It has been speculated that testosterone helps translate such motivation into action, for example, in acts of heroic altruism [16], [17]. Importantly, an effect of testosterone on behavior via pride should also work if behavior cannot be observed by others and an individual’s status in the eyes of the others may therefore not be directly affected. [. . .]

Our main finding is a lower incidence of self-serving lies in the testosterone group. [. . .]

While we can rule out a belief effect we cannot ultimately conclude whether our findings are driven by a direct influence of testosterone on prosocial preferences or via increased status concerns. A potential interpretation for our findings is that testosterone administration affects a concern for self-image [25], or pride [16], i.e., enhances behavior which will make a subject feel proud and leads to the avoidance of behavior considered “cheap” or dishonorable. Subjects in our testosterone group may therefore lie less. This is intriguing because pride could be an affective mechanism underlying a link between testosterone and dominance behavior. An interpretation of our findings in terms of pride is in line with anecdotal and correlational evidence indicating that testosterone plays a positive part in heroic altruism [17]. It is also in line with reports that high testosterone individuals display more disobedient behavior in prison environments where proud individuals may be less willing to follow the strict rules and comply with orders [26], [27]. Finally, a relation between pride, testosterone, and the willingness to engage in “cheap” behavior also fits the observation that the five inmates with the lowest testosterone levels in a sample of 87 female prison inmates were characterized as “sneaky” and “treacherous” by prison staff members [27]. Further experiments manipulating whether lying is an honorable action (e.g., lying for charity) or not (lying for self) are needed to clarify the role of pride in the effect of testosterone on human social behavior. An alternative interpretation of our results, which we cannot rule out, is that testosterone has a direct effect on prosocial behavior, making people more honest per se.

The press release:
The researchers compared the results from the testosterone group to those from the control group. "This showed that the test subjects with the higher testosterone levels had clearly lied less frequently than untreated test subjects," reports the economist Prof. Dr. Armin Falk, who is one of the CENS co-directors with Prof. Weber. "This result clearly contradicts the one-dimensional approach that testosterone results in anti-social behavior." He added that it is likely that the hormone increases pride and the need to develop a positive self-image. "Against this background, a few euros are obviously not a sufficient incentive to jeopardize one's feeling of self-worth," Prof. Falk reckons.

Dutch ancestry - two NYT articles

The Van Dusens of New Amsterdam:
As with the Old Testament patriarch who gave birth to a nation, it all began with Abraham, whose forebears were from the town of Duersen in northern Brabant. Known in official documents as “Abraham the miller,” or “Abraham Pieterszen,” as in son of Peter, he landed on the island of “Manatus” some time before February 1627. Nearly 400 years later, he has more than 200,000 descendants over 15 generations scattered across the Americas, according to several genealogical experts who have built on intensive studies of the family over the centuries. In the 1880 census, there were 3,000 heads of household with the name Van Dusen — or Van Deusen, Van Deursen, Van Duzer and other common variants — all, the experts say, traceable back to Abraham the miller.

Theirs is among a small cohort of large, long-running Dutch families — including under-the-radar Rapeljes, with more than a million descendants, and the more prominent Kips and Rikers, with their names on neighborhoods and institutions — whose well-documented histories provide a compelling window into the development of what would become New York and, later, the United States.

Two of Abraham’s progeny — Martin Van Buren, a great-great-great-grandson; and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (add four more greats) — served as presidents of the United States. A third, Eliza Kortright (Generation 7), married one, James Monroe. Egbert Benson (Generation 6) was the first attorney general of postcolonial New York. The Rev. Dr. Henry Pitney Van Dusen, a theologian (Generation 10), made the cover of Time magazine in 1954.

There were family members on both sides of the early border wars between New York and Massachusetts, the War of Independence and the Civil War. At the Battle of Gettysburg, Pvt. William Jackson Raburn of Indiana’s “Fighting 300” died of a gunshot wound on July 2, 1863; a day later, Matthew Henry Van Dusen — Raburn’s fourth cousin twice removed (by marriage) — a “reb” with the fabled Hood’s Texas Brigade, was sidelined with a head injury.

Cornelis Kortright (Generation 5) owned slaves accused of participating in a “Negro plot” in 1741. Jan Van Deusen Jr., Kortright’s second cousin, saved New York’s historical records when the British burned the state’s first capital to the ground in 1777. [. . .]

Phoebe shares her father’s fascination with the family, particularly since she read some of the excerpts from her great-great-great-great-grandfather’s Civil War diary. “It kind of amazed me that I knew someone who was part of what I was studying in school in textbooks,” she said. “A lot of my friends’ parents just came here and don’t speak English yet. And some came here two generations ago. The one who has been here the longest came from Scotland, and that’s only a hundred years.”

Jets’ Tebow Can Trace His Lineage to New Jersey:
Tim Tebow arrives in New Jersey, where the Jets practice and play, as the world’s most famous backup quarterback. It is a homecoming, of sorts, centuries in the making, because Tebow appears to be the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson of a man from Hackensack.

MetLife Stadium, home of the Jets and the Giants in East Rutherford, is about 10 miles from where an immigrant, Andries Tebow (spelled variously as Thybaut, Tibout, TeBow and other derivations), settled down after landing from Europe in the late 1600s. One of his children was Pieter, born in Hackensack and baptized there in 1696, records show.

More than 300 years and 10 generations later, Tim Tebow brings the family name full circle, according to the amateur genealogist — and Tebow’s fourth cousin, once removed — Dean Enderlin. [. . .]

It is unclear how much Tebow knows about his genealogy. While his own recent background is well chronicled — born to Christian missionaries in the Philippines, raised in Florida, now a preacher in a championship quarterback’s body — little has been examined about his deeper roots.

But there is no doubt that early generations of Tebows settled in what is now Bergen County, and Tim Tebow appears to be the latest link in a long chain of North Jersey arrivals. [. . .]

Enderlin said that, like many Tebows in the country, he and Tim Tebow can be traced to Andries Tebow, who sailed to the New World out of Bruges, Belgium. Enderlin is unsure where Andries lived — either Belgium or Holland — but he believes his family was Walloon, a French-speaking minority rooted in southern Belgium.

“Belgium was governed by the Catholic rulers of Spain and persecuted Protestants, forcing many to flee,” Myra Vanderpool Gormley wrote in an article for Genealogy Magazine titled, “Belgian Migrations: Walloons Arrived Early in America.”

“Many went to the northern parts of the Netherlands,” she wrote. “It was from their exile in Holland that they emigrated again.”

Dutch / English / Old American ancestry

Greg Cochran writes:

When responding to the Census, more than five million Americans claim to be of Dutch descent. And they mostly are, at least a little. Now you might wonder how they compare with the Dutch back in the Netherlands: you might wonder about the relative academic or economic success of these two groups, which presumably have a common ancestry. But you would be wrong to do so. You would be comparing apples and House of Orangemen.

There were four or five different Dutch waves of settlement in this country. The first is pretty well-known, the Dutch colony in New York. Of course, it was only about half Dutch in origin: the rest were Walloons and French Huguenots. Lots of people have some ancestry from that group, including people I know. Why, if there was any justice, Henry Harpending would own a fine farm on Manhattan Island right now.

Of course, Henry isn’t all that Dutch. His surname is. He comes from an area of New York State that really did have some Dutch settlement. The thing is, white Protestants in this country have been intermarrying rather freely for several hundred years: it is rare to find someone in that category whose ancestors all come from one ethnicity. I would be surprised if Henry is 1/8th Dutch. In much the same way, my patrilineal lineage is Ulster Scot (who fears mention the battle of the Boyne!?) but the rest includes English, Welsh, Scottish, Green Irish, and a component that, I suspect, only became Dutch in 1918, and was Bavarian before that. We’re talking about ye olde Americans, not Ellis Island types. Not that they haven’t mixed as well, but less so… [. . .]

Most of the people who self-identify as Dutch-Americans are mostly something else. Why? Sometimes a family tradition, or a surname, but more than anything else, fashion.

Fashions change. For example, the fraction of Americans who report English ancestry has dropped drastically since 1980 – so much that so that you would have to wonder about secret death camps if you took it seriously. But it’s fashion. I looked at the census numbers for my home county, and then looked at the phone book: Census result was 20% English ancestry, real number was more like 80%. Of course this means that people in the US claiming a particular ethnicity can not only have limited ancestry from that group, but be oddly unrepresentative as well.

Henry Harpending confirms:
I would probably put “Dutch” on a census form if an answer were required. I am either 1/32 or 1/64 Dutch, and worse the supposed Dutch ancestor was a Huguenot or something like that, so I am likely really 0% Dutch. No matter…….
I've commented on this phenomenon before (e.g.), but a periodic reminder is useful. I don't see a problem with someone identifying with his patrilineal national origin for census purposes while remaining aware of his overall ancestry. What I find irritating is the eagerness of some with American ancestry to identify as "Scotch-Irish" after reading a review of Albion's Seed, or "Celtic" in the name of Celtic Southronism, or "German" because they had a German great-grandfather, and then declare themselves at war with or at least safely distinct from evil/culpable "WASPs" / "Anglo-Saxons" (which appellations in reality describe the core of the breeding population from which the newly self-identified Borderer/Celt/German sprung).

Hilarious satire of Colin Laney / wintermute

Very funny take-off of CL/WM's tendency to come up with convoluted arguments in support of his view that Anglo-Saxon=bad and continental European=good.