Monday, October 29, 2012

DNA Testing Tainted by Haplogroup Hybridization

With the advent of DNA testing proponents of European Ancestry adamantly deny that European haplogroups could be an admixture of the 16th century Aboriginal gene pool(1). Numerous websites advocate DNA testing of living individuals as a foolproof device to determine and “prove” ancestral origin. The problem with this view is that it cannot consider any proposal that the early indigenous DNA gene pool was tainted(2) with multiple European Haplogroups,  pointing only to European origins without any sign of Native markers. The “tainting effect” in hybrid reproduction provides DNA tests with a less than accurate result when applied to genealogical studies. This anomaly may only be significant in Canada due to the large number of people seeking Metis status. Since the Metis people are entrenched in the Constitution of Canada and given preference in the charter of rights a new formidable hybrid class is emerging.

The “tainting effect” paradigm begins with the very first social contact between two genetically distinct groups. The first people of North America developed gene mutations in isolation over thousands of years that are now uniquely identified. Those markers exist today and are scientifically accepted as “proof” that at least one ancestor can be indigenous but that is only half the story. If a European marker is found, the test results are often misread as “European origin”. Though technically correct the marker does not identify if the haplogroup is European or hybrid(3) (European and Native).

The “tainting effect” is created as follows: If “Ba”(4) represents all (plural) aboriginal male haplogroups(5) and “A” represents all (plural) aboriginal female haplogroups, then all aboriginals before European contact would have “Ba” for males and “A” for females(6). Similarly, if “H” represents all (plural) European male haplogroups and “U” represents all (plural) European female haplogroups, then Europeans would be categorized as “Hu” for males and “U” for females. There are, of course many more haplogroups of which this is an example. The Pre-Columbian reproduction unit (man and women) in any native village or nomadic camp would result in Ba^A. The European reproduction unit would be Hu^U. When Europeans and Aboriginals interacted for the first time the  paradigm would look like this: Ba^A<>Hu^U . This assumes that there were both males and  females available to inter-marry in each group at the same time.

Historically, the first Europeans making contact with aboriginal peoples were the Vikings. There is a great deal of controversy concerning Viking influence on the aboriginal gene pool(7). The fact still remains, however, that contact was made with the Viking families estimated to be during a period spanning 300 years, approximately 500 years before Columbus(8).  Through the centuries there were many encounters with aboriginal people living on the upper St Lawrence, the Maritimes, Baffin Island and Greenland(9).

The next major European group to encounter Aboriginal populations in North America were the Basque fishermen of Spain, though other European ships were present. They began their excursions to the maritime shores (of Canada) as early as the 13th century(10). These yearly fishing junkets eventually involved several thousand men in hundreds of ships who built a great number of coastal villages to process their catches(11). If accounts are accurate concerning Basque ships an estimated 3000 men (and very likely a number of women and children) lived 6 months, or more, on and off shore-----each and every year for two centuries! The Aboriginal gene pool was significantly affected and all hybrid combinations must have occurred regularly, though some historians seem to think that young Basque men did not have time for indigenous women(12).

The last major group were the French in Acadia and New France(13) in the 16th and 17th century. The tainting effect would have also occurred and produced an array of hybrid combinations.

Historical evidence suggests that the paradigm “Ba^A<>Hu^U” is valid(14). What this means is that every possible combination probably now exists somewhere in present day populations in the Americas. Expanding this paradigm using the DNA inheritance rules the aboriginal population and the European population would have each added four hybrids to their predominate haplogroups, namely, “Au”, “U” “Ba” and “A”. But present DNA testing can only “partly” detect the origins of  these new hybrids.

Expanded, the result would be:
1. “Bu” a son from an aboriginal male and European female.
2. “U” a daughter from an aboriginal male and European female.
3. “Ha” a son from an aboriginal female and European male.
4. “A” a daughter from an aboriginal female and European male.

The tainting effect begins with lineage #2 “U” and lineage #3 “Ha”. Though #2 is a hybrid, she will only show haplogroup “U” European in a modern DNA test. If hybrid #3 marries a European female their children will only show a European haplotype(15). Essentially half of the combinations will not support aboriginal origin, yet aboriginal origin is certainly intrinsic.

Proponents of European ancestry might argue that intercourse between a European women and an aboriginal man did not occur. Maybe, but lets look at the next generation of Basque (or French) hybrids: See the chart below illustrating the “tainting effect”.

#3 is a hybrid male. He speaks a European language as well as his mother’s Native tongue. While in Spain with his father he meets and marries a European girl. They both return to his people while still retaining kinship ties on shore each year when the Basque fleet returns. DNA testing of this couple’s living, direct descendants would only point to European ancestry despite family oral tradition that did (or not) suggest aboriginal roots. A daughter from this couple who marries, for example, hybrid #3 will have offsprings pointing to European ancestry as well----despite the fact that they are both hybrids. The same result would occur with the union of #2 and #3.

These scenarios are certainly true in all eras of European excursion and migrations into the Americas. Unfortunately the “tainting effect” of the Native gene pool might forever disqualify both men and women today from registering as  a “hybrid  person”(16) in Canadian (and US) communities. Many women in Acadia and New France without documented origins are identified as “proven European” using DNA to support genealogical research, despite circumstantial evidence pointing to Native ancestry(17).

This article is intended to bring to light the inadequacies of DNA testing applied to  genealogical research. Based on the “tainting affect”, Acadia and New France also had a substantial number of aboriginal hybrids called “Indians” who would have been unable to prove that they belonged to their aboriginal communities----if present DNA testing was a requirement. To get an Amerindian view of DNA testing in genealogy go to: .

As DNA science improves and full genome(18) testing becomes available, it is possible that DNA testing might “prove” a great deal more about the historical haplotype mixtures and migration of ancestors. At present DNA testing to “prove” or even “suggest” European origin is scientifically invalid and prejudicial.

June 27, 2013.
I have  been following with interest DNA Companies who are attempting to isolate Native markers through an autosomal evaluation.  This involves genes from parents and grandparents. While no company will admit that this is proof of aboriginal ancestry it is a brave new approach to expand the science to include indirect native ancestry!

November 30, 2013
The autosomal DNA test uses thousands of snp markers, some of which are attributed to Native ancestry. Companies will give you a percentage. Some will only provide this result if markers are over 2%, though others will provide any percentage however small. This can only improve over time! Having said this, the result must be considered a personal one. DNA results of any kind used to determine membership is legally and socially unacceptable!

© Roland E. Belanger BA BEd      2012

See also:

Can DNA Tell What “Race” You Are?


  1. Interesting and very well explained. Helpful for those that have strong family oral histories but testing did not show expected results. I'd wondered at times if my Grandparents were telling lies, but could not accept that.

  2. Direct lineage is not more legitimate than an indirect one. A Native grandfather or grandmother in one's early lineage is a Native grandfather or grandmother whether direct or indirect. Some people seem to think that they are MORE aboriginal because they have a direct Native marker in their DNA!

  3. For those who would like to affirm their deep Aboriginal ancestry several companies are now evaluating an all ancestry autosomal test that will suggest an indigenous, Native percentage. National Geographic will report Native ancestry if it is above 2% @ $200. 23&Me will report any percentage found for $99. Do not expect great results. These tests are new (and unique to each company) and will improve as time passes.

  4. Good Afternoon Elder, I have been looking into some research with regard to Haplogroup X (mtDNA). According to they are now seeing time estimates for the arrival of X in North America are 12,000–36,000 years ago. There is further information on this in wikipedia . It is my understanding that Haplogroup X was the piece of proof that the deniers were using to convince descendants of Edmee, Catherine ETC that they were not natives to Canada. Do you think Henri Membertou had Haplogroup X as part of his DNA; as he was remembered for his facial hair?

    1. I have no idea what Henri Membertou's haplogroup was! Only direct descendants might know this (maybe!). What is in contention is that the X haplogroup in question is separated by two migrations. One long ago and one more modern. Radegonde Lambert is far more modern---in the last 1000 years--- (I think X2b4). Unless one is prepared to accept the premise that the Vikings or the Basque could have introduced this DNA --there's little grounds to do further research! Edmee would also be in this category! FTDNA projects are still looking into where the modern X & U hapogroups might have been introduced into the indigenous population.


  5. I feel like way too many genealogists today (particularly in North America) rely heavily on DNA when doing genealogy. Many will draw strong or final conclusions based on the DNA result that really doesn't tell much. It is like quoting a sentence in a book and pretending that tells you the entire story - it tells you one thing, but it doesn't tell you nearly enough.
    I'm a firm believer in using every possible resource and drawing conclusions based on the facts. For example, in the case of Francoise Grenier:
    -There is a long oral history that supports her to be a Native woman.
    -There are records suggesting she is Native, and a lack of records showing her origins as French (just historian speculation, which is fine, but it's not a primary source I mean).
    -The DNA result gives her mtDNA as "J", which is generally European, however, J is found in many regions in Europe (and some in the middle east in fact) and it also surfaces in people who are supposedly 100% Native on the east coast... Based solely on DNA, it is perfectly plausible that a Viking ship landed on the eastern coast and a woman stayed behind, intermarrying with the local population (probably Mi'kmaq) and then later descendants moving westwards due to intermarriage with a different nation or band. By the time the 17th century rolls around, the woman in question is an Algonquin woman with a distant viking ancestor from 600 years prior. I see no reason why this could be untrue, given that all J tells us is that at some point down the maternal line, there was a maternal ancestor with that haplogroup. Based purely on DNA however it is also equally possible that she could be of entirely European descent, or even have a Jewish or Arab maternal ancestor that arrived in Europe in the middle ages, and eventually became Christianized. That is perfectly plausible to me as well based entirely off the DNA.
    However we cannot know, because we cannot go farther back than about 1600 in most cases.
    And based off the oral history, the records, and the DNA results that do not disprove anything but rather give possible methods of this result, I personally conclude her to be an Algonquin woman whom was largely Frenchified and married a Frenchman (some of her descendants appear to have had a French-Canadian identity, others an Algonquin one, and some Metis. We're all related, but with different cultural identities in the end).
    Some will reject my conclusions, but it is based on the available facts, and I will be willing to listen to those who disagree if they give their own theories based on the available facts as well. If however the only arguments they give me are racist and/or ahistorical and not based on fact, I will reject their analysis (example, one person said she couldn't be Algonquin because Noel wouldn't marry the first Native he saw. This appears to be based on that person's own prejudice, since they assumed that a Frenchman would not marry a Native, due to her being Native, when the historical record shows... actually this happened very often.)

  6. I believe that genetic analyses have become much better, gradually, but surely, with increasing numbers of markers, and also references (very important) to compare to.
    I see no reason why finding the composition of someone in Canada with mixed ancestry would be more complicated than the mixed ancestry of Mexicans, for instance. Genetic tests are available and have been used in Mexican individuals to determine without much ambiguity, the proportions of Caucasian, Indian and Negro; so why this could not be possible in Canadian Mestizos?

    1. Your right. Since this article a new DNA test called "autosomal" (All grandparents) has increased yDNA and mtDNA accuracy. Unfortunately it's level of accuracy is limited to maybe 6 generations. Beyond that will take new markers that remain detectable for many more generations.

  7. Hi everyone :) Henri Membertou, Sachem Chief of the Mi'kmaq First Nations (1580 - 1611)
    is your 12th great grandfather. Iam the grand daughter of Annetta May "Anita" Grenier. I have abundance of family history and was warming to see this blog :) Wela'lin