Here's a website for a fascinating project on deep ancestry research which
was reported in the 13 April edition of the WSJ.
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The National Geographic Society, IBM, geneticist Spencer Wells, and the
Waitt Family Foundation have launched the Genographic Project, a five-year
effort to understand the human journey—where we came from and how we got to where
we live today. This unprecedented effort will map humanity's genetic journey
through the ages. The fossil record fixes human origins in Africa, but little
is known about the great journey that took Homo sapiens to the far reaches of
the Earth. How did we, each of us, end up where we are? Why do we appear in
such a wide array of different colors and features? Such questions are even more
amazing in light of genetic evidence that we are all related—descended from a
common African ancestor who lived only 60,000 years ago. Though eons have
passed, the full story remains clearly written in our genes—if only we can read
it. With your help, we can. When DNA is passed from one generation to the next,
most of it is recombined by the processes that give each of us our
individuality. But some parts of the DNA chain remain largely intact through the
generations, altered only occasionally by mutations which become "genetic markers."
These markers allow geneticists like Spencer Wells to trace our common
evolutionary timeline back through the ages. "The greatest history book ever written,"
Wells says, "is the one hidden in our DNA." Different populations carry
distinct markers. Following them through the generations reveals a genetic tree on
which today's many diverse branches may be followed ever backward to their
common African root. Our genes allow us to chart the ancient human migrations from
Africa across the continents. Through one path, we can see living evidence of
an ancient African trek, through India, to populate even isolated Australia.
But to fully complete the picture we must greatly expand the pool of genetic
samples available from around the world. Time is short. In a shrinking world,
mixing populations are scrambling genetic signals. The key to this puzzle is
acquiring genetic samples from the world's remaining indigenous peoples whose
ethnic and genetic identities are isolated. But such distinct peoples,
languages, and cultures are quickly vanishing into a 21st century global melting pot.
That's why the Genographic Project has established ten research laboratories
around the globe. Scientists are visiting Earth's remote regions in a
comprehensive effort to complete the planet's genetic atlas. But we don't just need
genetic information from Inuit and San Bushmen—we need yours as well. If you
choose to participate and add your data to the global research database, you'll
help to delineate our common genetic tree, giving detailed shape to its many
twigs and branches. Together we can tell the ancient story of our shared human
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