Project Genesis, Background, and Introduction

By: Charles F. Kerchner, Jr.
Date: 14 March 2003

In February 2003 I ordered a newly available DNAPrint(tm) Version 2.0 BioGeographical Ancestry (BGA) test which examines one's genome to assay genetic content into four major population groups defined by this company. The test determines the dominant BioGeographic Ancestry group percentage of the four major population groups assayed by this test: (I) - Native American, (II) - Sub-Saharan African, (III) - Indo-European and (IV) - East Asian and also determines the percentage admixture if any from the groups which were not the test subject's dominant group. I took the DNAPrint BGA test as a curiosity since I am very interested in exploring the use of any new genetics tools to aide one in genealogical research. I was already leading another Genealogy by Genetics
Y-DNA surname project using the Y Chromosome test for the prior two years. I took the BGA test in early February and received my results in early March at which time I unexpectedly learned that according to this test my genome is 79% Indo-European (IE) and 21% East Asian (EA), which in later more advanced testing in 2004 the estimate was lowered to 93% IE and 7% EA, instead of the 100% Indo-European I expected. A second lab test in April 2003 to check for possible lab error using new cheek cell specimens from me resulted in the exact same results. Since genealogy is my major hobby and I have been researching my genealogy for about 30 years at that point in time and I had my ancestry chart traced back 8-15 generations on the various branches leading back to German immigrants, German speaking Swiss immigrants, and German speaking French Huguenot immigrants (with one English Quaker lady way back in early PA in my chart), i.e., a typical PA German, aka PA Dutch, ancestry chart, this 21% East Asian content (later reduced to an estimate of 7% EA) was a surprising result. Thus, I was at first puzzled by this significant percentage of estimated East Asian content. I shared this surprising, unexpected result for myself in an online Genealogy and DNA forum. At times some in the online forum tried to assert that because of the percentages involved that the source was probably "genealogically recent" and that I had previously unknown East Asian content, possibly in my grandparent's or great-grandparent's generation, and as population group IV is described in the test company's website it would have to be "Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, or Pacific Islanders" ancestry which was not being revealed to me by traditional research. This was a recurring explanation and argument offered to me by some in the online discussion group. I am not a novice at genealogical research. And I do have an open mind to new information. But I also require more than one source of supporting evidence, even if the supporting evidence is just circumstantial or anecdotal, before I will accept unquestioningly any new information which contradicts all prior information. The hidden "genealogically recent" Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, or Pacific Islander ancestry argument did not make any sense to me, given all the other evidence I have, traditional research and prior genetics testing information, i.e., Y-DNA and mtDNA tests and my Phenotype (picture of me), and also pictures of my parents and grandparents all of which are European, which contradicted the genealogically recent admixture argument. And this newly introduced test data, even though scientific in source, in the absence of some other supporting evidence, did not meet the multiple sources of supporting evidence criteria for me. While the underlying allele values of the genotype data obtained from this new type test are solid scientific facts, the interpretation of what that data means is being provided by the test designers and creators, and that interpretation has been the subject of much debate in the online forum. In my particular results case, if I also had even a hint or whispered rumor in my years of research into my personal genealogy of some recent East Asian admixture such as an oral history or other indicator of possible recent East Asian content that would support this new data, I would not have questioned my results of this newly introduced test as much in regards to the argument that the content was "genealogically recent" because of the large significant percentage of East Asian content. But knowing of no such hints or rumors and knowing my genealogy work was solid and well documented from my years of research, using both traditional research and genetic Y-DNA and mtDNA tests, and growing up in this area, and knowing this area and the history, culture, local population group mixture of the area prior to WWII, and the customs of the PA Germans (aka PA Dutch) I knew that the genealogically recent admixture explanation was probably not likely at all. It would have been extremely unlikely for my parents or grandparents or great-grandparents or gg-grandparents to have had some hidden Japanese, Chinese, Korean, or Pacific Islander relationships and/or hidden adoption, etc., as the people online not familiar with this area and the PA German (aka PA Dutch) tried to assert. Also, intuitively, since there were very, very few people of Japanese, Chinese, Korean, or Pacific Islander ancestry in this area prior to WWII it was circumstantially and statistically very unlikely. In fact, in the 1900 census of Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, I found no persons listed as being of Chinese, Japanese, or Asian ancestry. My PA German grandparents were all born prior to 1880 and my parents were born prior to 1915. Thus there was little to no opportunity for any admixture between the PA Germans and peoples of Asian ancestry. In addition there were other Germanic families other than myself reporting Asian minority admixture. Thus based on my extensive personal genealogical evidence for my personal ancestry and my knowledge of the history of the PA German people, I knew the source had to be old in a genealogical time frame and not recent. But yet the percentage of East Asian content indicated by the DNAPrint test was fairly high and definitely not insignificant. From the genetic's law of random assortment if the content was old and on just one old branch of my ancestry it would be reduced with each intermixing generation and would not show up as a significant percentage in my generation. Therefore, if it is an old or ancient source it would have to be present on average in a large percentage of the PA German population group living in my area and present in many people in my genealogical Pedigree Chart. So how would a significant East Asian content get into the PA German population group and be maintained, and present itself in my generation of PA Germans. If the source is old or ancient it would have to be present in a large percentage of the Germanic people who came here from Europe prior to the Revolutionary War for it to survive to modern times. For a large percentage of southern European germanic people to have a significant average percentage of East Asian genetic content it would require a large influx of East Asian people into what is now southern Germany to make such a large average percentage impact on the total genome of the germanic people of the upper Rhine River basin and the headwaters of the Danube River in southern Germany. Then I remembered my high school European history classes and the invasions of Europe by various hordes of Huns and Mongol tribes at various times 1600-700 years ago. These invasions certainly had a huge impact on the people of Europe when these barbaric tribes descended on them in very large numbers conquering and overwhelming the local people as they went west into Europe. Some of these eastern tribes such as the Huns made it into the Rhine River basin and what is now eastern France. They probably followed the Danube River valley from southern Eastern Europe up into southern Germany and from there to the upper Rhine River basin. And they most certainly left some of their genes along the way via admixing with the local people. I thought that maybe this significant East Asian content in me, and maybe other PA Germans, is remaining genetic content from 100's and 100's of years ago from these large scale Asian invasions. Maybe the genetic impact of these asian tribes invasions of these southern germanic areas was greater in some particular local areas of southern German areas then previously noted. In addition to the massive invasions theory, another possibility is long-term "gene flow" from east to west in that area. Since the Danube, Main, and Rhine River valleys were probably ancient trade routes and river highways between southern eastern Europe and southern Western Europe then "gene flow" also probably occured over time along these routes from the normal travel and migration of traders and people relocating along this route over the centuries. However the Asian content was introduced, once this Asian content was introduced into those areas, and the genetic admixers were gone, maybe this significant East Asian content was preserved to modern times by the self-imposed cultural isolation and geographic isolation of the indigenous people of the upper Rhine, Main, and Danube rivers basins. These people in Europe had a propensity to marry within there own kind, within their own religion and culture and they continued it when they came to PA.

The DNAPrint staff said that these theories as to ancient sources and methodology for preserving a significant and average East Asian content to modern times was plausible. The website and test results report materials of the testing company originally did not specifically mention the inland country of Mongolia as being identified by them in their stated list of countries in the East Asian population group IV. Also, Ancestryby DNA and other sites marketing their test emphasized too much the recent 6 generation model as a source of admixture and did not provide enough information as to the possible ancient source mechanism for also getting significant minority admixture results. But in regards to Mongolia after some research and discussion with DNAPrint staff they agreed that Mongolia was indeed considered part of East Asia and that they would add that fact, and more clearly indicate that in their website materials and graphics and reports. So a significant East Asian content being introduced into the European population by the Hun and Mongol hordes invasions of 1600-700 years ago and/or long-term gene flow from the east is a plausible explanation as to the source. And if a significant East Asian content was brought to Pennsylvania with these early Germanic immigrants and they maintained that self-imposed and geographic and cultural isolation and their custom of marrying within their own kind, and thus continued this self-imposed isolation in the inland counties of Pennsylvania these PA Germans/PA Dutch (which behaviour they did for the most part up until very recent times, i.e., up to roughly my generation) then this East Asian content brought from Europe would have been preserved to my generation and the present day.

Some people I discussed this with in an online forum at first disputed this theory. Some agreed with my ancient Asian hordes invasion of Europe theory and some did not. Some kept wanting me to accept genealogically recent hidden East Asian ancestry sources as the probable cause for my significant East Asian content. In hindsight, the emphasis placed on the last 6 generations when using this test in the marketing of this test for genealogical purposes and the emphasis placed in the test company's graphics and reports on the more "far eastern" coastal countries, i.e., Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Pacific Islander population groups, and the omission of the inland country of Mongolia from the list of East Asian countries and population groups in the list of countries in the company's website and reports and graphics provided to the customers, and the lack of even mentioning the possible inland Mongolian region as a possible source of the East Asian content, is probably what led to the initial confusion as to the possible source of the results being very recent, since from what we know of human migration over time there were no major large migrations of people from Japan, China, Korea, or the Pacific Islands into Europe until much more recent times. This probably led customers and readers of the graphics and report information to infer genealogically recent sources were being attributed for the East Asian admixture being found in caucasians of European ancestry being born in the USA. But all the caucasian Europeans who were being tested in the USA and who were getting the East Asian admixture results and who were asking all the questions to the testing company knew intuitively a genealogically recent source was probably not correct. All these people reporting these surprising, significant East Asian results didn't have hidden Chinese grandparents. DNAPrint's explanations as to the various possible sources, scenarios, and methods of maintaining a significant East Asian admixture from older times until today in a large percentage of the current caucasian European population being tested was mostly absent and/or not clear enough in their reports to their customers. Thus all the questions.

The test labs in response to all the questions, inputs, and suggestions from customers such as I, have recently begun adding more explanations and information in their FAQ sections of their websites as to the possibility of older and ancient sources for the East Asian content in Europeans. In addition to the genealogically recent event model, i.e., the last 6 generation exogamous event admixture model explanation, one now also needs to consider the possiblity that there exists high average levels of East Asian content in certain European descendant population groups in the USA and that that level was being preserved down through time over many, many generations by endogamous marital customs within those groups. This is a second way of a person living today to obtain significant levels of East Asian content, i.e., from an old source which precedes any time frame of typical traditional genealogical research capabilities to detect. The source of this significant East Asian content in some PA Germans, and in a significant percentage of other European descendants found in tests done by these labs, is clearly not in the last 6 generations. It is obviously much older and present in a significant percentage of the European descendants in the USA at an average level. And it is in a much larger percentage of the European descendants living in the USA, and being tested, than one would have ever predicted prior to the arrival on the scene of this new BioGeographic Ancestry DNAPrint test.

Additionally, the online group also had a lengthy discussion of the validity of this new test when it was revealed that a relatively small total number of people were sampled, about 100, to select the Ancestry Informative Markers (AIMs) used for the test, and whether the test is discerning enough to clearly separate out minority admixtures given that possibly some of the AIM markers selected and weighted to separate Europeans from Asians may have been very ancient and the frequencies observed in the parent group sampled in designing the test may have been misinterpreted and that the frequencies of these markers are much more common to some sections of both population groups than the small parent sample group tested revealed. Thus the small sample of northern Europeans used may have shown low frequencies of occurence for AIMs which were found to occur in high frequency in the East Asians tested. But other areas of Europe may have high frequency of occurence of these AIMs. Thus the AIMs may be more common in both population groups then the small parent sample group tested revealed. Some in the online forum argued that because of the small parent group size tested that the whole test was thus flawed. However, the scientific staff at DNAPrint strongly and repeatedly has stated that this new DNA test is scientically and statistically sound.

In addition to questions about the ability of the test to reliably differentiate between Asians and Europeans as to the surprising number of Europeans reporting minority Asian admixture content in those of European ancestry tested, the DNAPrint test results also seemed to raise a lot of questions from users in its ability to clearly differentiate between Native American and East Asian minority admixture content in people taking the test who were seeking answers for genealogical questions they had as to their possible Native American ancestry. The test clearly seems very good at determining a person's majority/dominant population group but there have been many questions as to its accuracy in determining the person's Asian and Native American minority admixture, if any.

Despite all the questions and surprising results, the DNAPrint company staff argued strongly in the forum at times and via private emails to its customers that the test was scientifically and statistically valid even though the population parent samples used were relatively small. I have proceeded with my ethnic group study on that basis.

On occasion some also argued that this unexpected East Asian content was being received by me as an undesirable revelation and attacked my motives for initially questioning the test results. But that was not true and is not true. I am a seeker of truth in my genealogical research no matter where the path leads. In fact I would consider this finding very interesting and a good subject for discussion at local genealogical society meetings. As I outlined before I simply needed additional information and more logical explanations and/or other evidence before I could come to more certain conclusions about what this new BGA test was telling me.

The discussions were rough and tumble at times. In addition, along the way in talking to the test company staff, I had learned of another PA German ancestry person associated with DNAPrint's lab staff who had a surprising similar high teen low twenties percentage of East Asian content. Also a significant percentage of other caucasian Europeans tested with this new version 2.0 test, who were not self-identifying themselves of PA German heritage, were also reporting East Asian content with the BGA test. The DNAPrint company was probably as surprised in regards to their seeing significant numbers of caucasian Europeans ancestry people born in the USA who their lab was reporting results with significant East Asian content as I was with my specific results. This was evidenced by the Q&A placed in the DNAPrint FAQs to address all the questions coming from caucasian European people tested. As an aside comment at this point, it should be pointed out that some Germanic ancestry exists in a significant portion of the caucasian European ancestry of the population of the U.S. Possibly many people may have some significant southern German or PA German heritage and this could be why as many as 1/3 of caucasian Europeans in the USA are showing some East Asian content. It was suggested by DNAPrint lab staff that I share my findings and surmises with Dr. Mark Shriver, the scientist at Pennsylvania State University who developed the test. My personal attempts to contact him via email and to call this to the attention of him as the geneticist and anthropologist behind the development of the test yielded no response. Some in the forum argued that was because when a few people get unusual or unexpected results it is often considered merely anecdotal by a scientist. But I thought at least a polite response of some kind by him would have been nice, especially since he worked at Pennsylvania State University, in the home state of us PA Germans. One would have thought he would have had more interest in this finding given the obvious geographic connection of the PA German Ethnic Group to the state university where he works.

Regardless of this scientist's lack of expressed interest, I considered this "discovery" of significant East Asian content in my genome and the genome of another person of PA German ancestry, who also happened to be associated with one of DNAPrint's lab staff, to be a signal. I believed this signal was worthy of further research into the PA German (aka PA Dutch) Ethnic Group to see if more of them harbor a significant percentage of East Asian genetic content. Therefore, to further pursue this Asian content in some PA Germans and to gather more evidence to prove or disprove my surmises, and to possibly make an interesting new "discovery" about the PA German people, and since I was not able to get the PA State University anthropologist to respond to my queries to him and to take a look at my surmise, I decided to start this PA German (aka PA Dutch) Ethnic Group DNA Project by myself to gather more information from other self-identified PA Germans (aka PA Dutch) who have genealogical research evidence to support that claimed identity, in order to prove or disprove this possible interesting "discovery" about the PA Germans, aka the PA Dutch.

Interestingly, after starting this project, and then reviewing my Y-DNA surname project I found in that data that one of my participants in that project has a Y Chromosome Haplogroup of "N" which according to the information in the Y Chromosome testing company's website probably originated in Mongolia or Northern China, and is the most common Haplogroup in present day Finland and Hungary! It is appropriate to note that a large number of the Huns permanently settled in the area of Europe which is now the country of Hungary, which is how some say that country eventually got it's present name. This particular participant in my Y-DNA surname project has traced his direct male ancestry back to Oberlustadt, Palatinate, Germany, in the early 1700's. And despite his spelling his surname exactly the same as mine we have found no connection between our two Kerchner clans using traditional research or the Y-DNA tests. But the East Asian Y-DNA haplotype in him does add more evidence, independent of the DNAPrint results, to support my surmise that a significant number of PA Germans are carrying old Asian genetic content.

As to why only certain PA Deutsch families have these Asian markers, one of my theories is that it could have something to do with the founding populations for each area of PA Deutsch areas in PA. Various religious sects came to PA such as the Moravians and Schwenkfelders whose origins are futher east in Europe. The Moravians came from Moravia. And the Schwenkfelders came from Silesia which is now part of southern Poland. Those more eastern German speaking areas were affected more heavily and more repeatedly by Asian tribal invasions including that of the earlier Huns in circa 400 a.d. and the more recent Mongol army invasions in circa 1500 a.d. These heavily persecuted religious sects of the Moravians and Schwenkfelders sought refuge for a period of time in s.w. Germany and subsequently emigrated in mass to Pennsylvania where they set up isolated and self contained religious communal communties. Thus, in addition to the founders from these areas likely having more Asian genetic influence since they came from farther east, they also would have more strongly preserved the markers to modern time since these two sects practiced communal type living and endogamous marital customs. And interestingly, I live in Emmaus PA, right in the heart of Moravian settled areas of Pennsylvania. Another interesting aspect of the Moravians too is that they were active missionaries with the Native Americans in Pennsylvania and accepted them into full fellowship in their churches and even intermarried with the Native Americans which other Europeans looked at with much chagrin. I have several Moravians in my ancestry but none with Native American intermarriages, per my 30 years of research.

To learn more about Attila the Hun and the invasions of Europe and his entry into the upper Rhine River basin and on into what is now France, circa 451 A.D., and how they sacked the city of Mainz (which is located at the confluence of the Main River and the Rhine River) and other major cities in the upper Rhine River basin area in what is now modern southern Germany. The Main River valley route topographically connects the Rhine River basin of western Europe to the Danube River basin of eastern Europe and is a canal route in modern times and has been a trade and invasion route for centuries, if not millenniums. See the website links found after the data and information tables below. To learn more about "gene flow" read the book Reflections of Our Past: How Human History is Revealed in Our Genes". A link to that book (and my list of other recommended books) is found below the data and information tables and is also found in the table of contents frame in the left side of this website home page.

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Charles F. Kerchner, Jr.
3765 Chris Drive
Emmaus PA 18049-1544 USA
Email: Contact Me

Copyright ©2003-2015
Charles F. Kerchner, Jr.
All Rights Reserved
Project Started - 14 Mar 2003
Webpage Created - 22 Apr 2003
Last Edited - 03 Jan 2015