"For the first time people all around the world can learn about their genetic ancestry," said Hammer, a population geneticist. One of his specialties is deciphering prehistoric human relationships using genetics.
By comparing the genetic markers, the UA scientists' work will unveil new aspects of people's family trees, ones that are almost impossible to discover through traditional genealogical methods. In contrast to written historical records that can be lost or oral histories that can fall into disuse, the information stored in people's genes persists.
Cusanovich had his own DNA analyzed, which helped him trace his family to a time "when the crusaders were rolling through the Middle East." Many people conduct genealogical research, said Cusanovich, a UA professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics and a professor in BIO5. "If you ask around here, you find that every tenth person is building a little family tree at home. They go to all the records and they're using Web sites to trace back their history."
The UA scientists will analyze a tiny fraction of the participants' genetic material: the y-chromosome, which is passed on from father to son, and mitochondrial DNA, which is passed on from mothers to their sons and daughters. This enables the researchers to decipher the characteristic genetic markers of both parental lineages.
UA is collaborating in a joint venture with Family Tree DNA, a company specializing in tracing ancestry using genetics. The company has been contracted to process the samples in the Genographic Project. Hammer is a consultant for and holds stock in the company. UA will not generate profits from the proje
Source:University of Arizona