Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Maternal Mysteries

   I recall sitting in a college class once and being instructed to write down my maternal lineage as far back as I could, including first names.  The point of the exercise was to show us how deeply paternal our culture is since few people could remember the first name of anyone beyond their maternal grandmother, and some didn't even know that.  I knew my maternal great grandmother's name because I am named after her.  So I thought I was doing pretty well at the time.  But today there is so much more that I wish I knew!
   Through the 23andme results I have learned that my maternal haplogroup is U3a1.  The maternal finding is that which comes from the unbroken line of mother to daughter and so on down the line.  U3 is an unexpectedly odd result.  According to the brief history given on the 23andme site "U3 originated in the Near East region about 45,000 years ago and later spread around the Mediterranean Sea, reaching as far as India and Spain."  That information isn't so startling; information about haplogroups concerns ancient genealogy, not the type that we usually do when on the paper trail of the elusive great great great grandparent.  But this fact was: "Haplogroup U3 is relatively rare in mainland Europe today, reaching levels above 1% in some Italian and Iberian populations."  According to 23andme, and to anything I have discovered through traditional means, my ancestry is completely Northern European.  So where did I get a maternal haplogroup that is most common among the Roma, or Gypsy, people?

   My known maternal line is not that long.  Here is the line of people I can trace who must share the U3 haplogroup:
My Daughters, Colleen Virginia Couch & Rhianna Rain Ladd (1995, 1998)
and myself, Elizabeth Annette Thomas (1969)

My Mom, Marsha Kay Blevins (1948)

My Grandma, Virginia Lucille Goff (1922)

My great grandmother, Elizabeth Jane Osborn (1885)

And last but not least,
My great great grandmother Mary Knox Paul (1851)
   Though Mary looks like a nice grandmotherly lady, she is as mysterious as any ancestor you would want to find.  How did this lady who claimed her parents were Irish on the census come to have U3 genes?  Why can't I find a marriage record for her?  These and other questions will be explored more fully in my next post.