George mtDNA

The George family females carry the genetic signature of mtDNA haplogroup H2.

While it is easy to associate family surnames with Y-DNA since they both are passed down through our fathers, it makes it harder to describe the mtDNA in terms of a family line, even though the relationships are equivalent, just feminine. For ease of communication we use the surname of Christopher Bretz's mother's family, George.

Christopher Bretz's mtDNA marker value:

HVR-1 Mutation

The mtDNA HVR-1 has only one mutation making it almost identical to the Cambridge Reference Sequence (rCRS), haplogroup H2a2. However, the testing of Christopher Bretz focused on only HVR-1 region of the mitichondrial DNA, and in order to get a more accurate reading on which subgroup the family line might belong, a modern followup test which looks at at HVR-2 would have to be done.

Oxford Ancestors calls haplogroup H the Clan of Helena and provides these visualizations of it's relationship to other groups.

National Geographic also has this wonderful graphic on genetic migrations.


History of H2

The H haplogroup is believed to have originated during the ice age about 30,000 years ago among nomadic peoples who moved north into Asia from the middle east. Today it is the most common mtDNA group in Europe. About one half of Europeans belong broadly to haplogroup H, and of those, most are predominately are of subgroup H1. Interestingly, the H2 subgroup to which the George females belong is a relatively rare subgroup for western Europeans and is found more commonly in Slavic peoples of eastern Europe and Asia. In western Europe it is found in its highest frequency in Germany, Scotland, and Finland.

H2 is thought to have come from western Asia near the Caspian sea region, and is one of the oldest, least modified branches. However this does not mean its members stayed put. In 2008, for example, a 28,000 year old skeleton was discovered in a cave in Italy which was found to belong to H2a2.

Groups of H were clearly moving into Europe by around 25,000 years ago, using a period of relative climate warmth. They spread rapidly to the southwest of the continent near modern France and Spain. This would make their arrival roughly contemporary with Gravettian stone culture, or possibly even its source.

But increasingly colder temperatures and a drier global climate made living conditions nearly impossible for much of the northern hemisphere, and these early Europeans retreated south to warm refuges in modern Spain, Italy, and the Balkans. Various subgroups like H1 and H3 likely formed as these repeated migrations were cut off by the changing margins of the glacial ice sheets. It wasn't until after 15,000 years ago, when the ice had begun their retreat, that people moved north again to recolonize western Europe. Populations of H2 in western Europe might in fact be remnants of the earliest migrations out of central Asia.

But clouding our view is what is possible over the vastness of time. Archaeologists now recognize a variety of inter-related and relatively mobile cultures having lived on the eurasian steppe for millennia. There have likely been many migrations westward which could have brought H2 individuals with it. A vast soup of DNA. The Kurgan cultural expansion of 3,000-6,000 years ago reached all over europe from central asia, and is just one notable possibility. There are many researchers working to identify the genetic signatures of various ancient cultures like the Picts and Celts, and map their migrations over time. Someday this research will hopfully help answer these questions.

We have looked through the results of several online DNA databases and found there to be no exact matches to the George mtDNA among Scottish individuals yet, but it will require further testing of the HVR-2 portion of the sequence to refine the research.

This graphic shows a detailed breakdown of the relationships within haplogroup H by mutation. As the H group is so populous and ancient, the relationships are quite complicated.

The George H2a branch is at the 7 o'clock position from the center. It's mutation is the blue outlier circle on the left.



So what does this mean?

Our branch of the George matrilineal line can reliably trace its ancestry back to Scottish farmers in the early 1700s. Records for female ancestors before this are incomplete, and will depend on further cross referenced research with other families to extend.

Given the higher concentration of haplogroup H2 in Scotland relative to other parts of western Europe, this points to a number of families having been present for a signifigant time. But just how members of this rarer group found their way here is still a mystery.

An ancestor could have been swept west with the Kurgan expansion from Asia several thosand years ago. But just as easily they could have been already present in populations dating from the first migrations into Europe.

Before 30,000 years ago our ancestors were likely in western Asia near the grasslands of the Caspian sea. They were nomadic hunter-gatherers who depended upon the mammoth, bison, reindeer, and horse, and may have been part of the Gravettian stone age culture. Their children would move west into Europe following a warming climate.

To think about these timescale's another way let's put them interms of generations. The original mother of haplogroup H2 would have lived about 1,250 generations ago, and her descendants would have followed woolly mammoths into Europe around 1,100 generations ago. That man in the Italian cave was part of a H2 generation which lived 1,120 generations ago. The great ice sheets started melting 600 generations ago after which our ancestors helped recolonize Europe. The Kurgan expansion from central Asia started 240 generations ago, and reached France 120 generations ago. The Norman conquest of England, and the Viking invasions were just 38 generations ago.


Christopher Bretz Matriline