Pan Africanism : 80000 years old living legacy in America: The Missing Link

Discussion in 'Black History - Culture - Panafricanism' started by dustyelbow, Oct 3, 2006.

  1. dustyelbow

    dustyelbow Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Geneticists Say Lineage Of Two Family Members May Extend To Africa Nearly 80,000 Years Ago


    By PENELOPE OVERTON
    Courant Staff Writer

    September 30, 2006

    STORRS -- The descendants of slave-turned-merchant Venture Smith had hoped the recent archaeological excavation of Smith's East Haddam grave might reveal genetic information that could tell them about their own ancestral ties to Africa.

    It turns out the genetic clues they sought could not be found in Smith, whose remains had long since turned to dust, but in the descendants themselves, and possibly, in the unearthed bones of Venture Smith's wife, Meg.

    Professor Linda Strausbaugh, director of the Center for Applied Genetics and Technology at the University of Connecticut, told a group of Venture Smith scholars gathered at UConn Friday that they are still in the very early stages of testing Meg's bones.

    The bones, which Strausbaugh said were in "very, very poor shape," were carefully cleaned of debris at the Central Connecticut State University laboratory of Warren Perry. UConn scientists excised a small section of the bone to share with three DNA testing labs.

    It is too early to tell if they will find any DNA that can be tested in the sample, she said. At this time, historians don't know very much about Venture's wife, Strausbaugh said. They do not know, for example, whether she was of African or American Indian ancestry.

    While waiting for the results of those tests, however, UConn geneticists have turned their attention to Smith's living descendants. Eight have had their cheek swabbed for DNA and just last week Strausbaugh's team identified the African lineage of two.

    By comparing the mitochondrial DNA of the descendants to data compiled in the National Genographic Project, Strausbaugh has found evidence of a maternal lineage dating back almost 80,000 years, but not necessarily through Venture or Meg because the line could have been introduced in subsequent generations. That line ties Venture's descendants to one of the oldest peoples in the world, she said.

    "They were the first Africans to go out and populate the rest of the world," she said. "For a family that was looking for their African heritage, I believe this will mean the world to Venture's descendants. We were so excited to make this match."

    The modern-day descendants of this lineage now live mostly in northern Africa.

    The second maternal lineage detected in the DNA of the Smith descendants can be traced back 59,000 to 79,000 years to a people who now make their home in western and west central Africa, Strausbaugh said.

    Strausbaugh said more detailed DNA testing may reveal more details about these ties and other maternal lineages from the samples already obtained. Eventually, the scientists would like to trace the descendants' paternal lineages, although that is more difficult to do.

    Based on an in-depth family tree built by East Haddam historian Karl Stofko, Strausbaugh believes there are two direct paternal descendants of Venture Smith alive today who, if they agreed to be tested, could provide genetic clues about Venture's African roots.

    Strausbaugh said the UConn team is trying to contact these two men.

    Strausbaugh would like to test other descendants and said Friday that she expected to get some additional cheek swabs from Smith relatives attending the Venture Smith Day ceremonies today at First Church of Christ, Congregational in East Haddam.

    Contact Penelope Overton at [email protected].
    Copyright 2006, Hartford Courant
     
  2. dustyelbow

    dustyelbow Well-Known Member MEMBER

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