One of my first clients for a DNA Portrait was Darlene Cavalier, a passionate advocate for science. Darlene is known as the Science Cheerleader and her efforts promoting intelligent science policy. She loves the science-art connection and thought a combined portrait of her son and daughter would make a unique family story. DNA from her daughter would show the mother to daughter link and her son’s Y chromosome would show father to son — a generational family portrait. Brilliant!
Getting Started on the portrait
I sent two lab kits to Darlene with instructions to note which kit had the female sample and which had the male. Once the kits were mailed, Darlene’s task was done and I took it from there. I checked online to make sure the kits entered the lab and kept tabs on the progress. It took about 4 weeks to complete the sequencing.
Meanwhile I asked Darlene what she knew about previous generations — their village or country of origin before traveling to the new world. I planned to highlight locations in “current time” as well as the prehistoric migration routes. She told me her mother’s family was from Hungary and her husband’s paternal line from Italy. We talked about selecting a design but decided to wait for the DNA results. A good thing! Because when the data came back, the results showed haplogroup routes that required a brand new image to show them off.
Farmers in the fertile crescent: Haplogroup J2
J2, the paternal line, lands her son’s ancestors smack dab in Italy. Aligning with family history, once the Y chromosome arrived they stayed in the neighborhood. See the blue route coming out of Africa? The northern branch ends close to what would become 15,000 years later — Rome, Italy (the boot is highlighted). Notes from the Genographic Project say that “J2” pioneered the shift from gathering to farming, kick starting the Neolithic Revolution. Very impressive but mere youngsters compared to the DNA lineage of the female line.
Amazing global travelers: Haplogroup X
Her daughter’s lineage is one of the rare groups that traveled the furthest across the globe — Hap Group X. There are three female and two male groups that eventually crossed the ancient, now submerged continent of Beringa, to North America. Haplogroup X is one of them. When I first saw the results I double triple checked, thinking I made an error. But no, there was a small branch of the route curving to left. That group decided to stay, in what would become about 30,000 years later, the Hungarian empire. So the family story in current time matched the deep ancestry. How interesting though, that some family members broke away to travel across Asia and into the New World. People who survived to found the Native American tribes such as the Ojibwa, Sioux and Navajo. See the image at the top to see how the route continues.
Completing the portrait
Once Darlene and I had seen the data and the routes, we talked about a design and color scheme for the unusual portrait. After reviewing the preliminary art and double checking for typos, it was ready to print. Using 100% rag paper and pigment inks on my large format giclee printer, the art is archival — a keepsake that will last for generations. See Darlene’s portrait here.
At the dawn of understanding who we are
Darlene’s portrait in addition to being a work of art, is also is a historical document. It shows our knowledge at a point in time — at the beginning of understanding who we are. There is so much more complexity in our ancestral lineages than what current genetic tests reveal. Other areas of our genomes hold clues to a much deeper mix of diversity. As we gather more data, perhaps we will begin to will refer to our ancestral lineage rather than our ethnic heritage. We are all a very diverse mix of many ancestors who lived over a long period of time. We are all related and all connected.
About the image shown above
The image is a close up of the DNA Portrait created for Darlene Cavalier showing her family story from prehistory to current time.