Friday, July 25, 2008

TGG Interview Series IX - Ana Oquendo Pabón

The ninth and final edition of the TGG Interview Series is with Dr. Ana Oquendo Pabón. Dr. Oquendo Pabón is DNA and Historical advisor to the Lost Colony DNA and Research Group, and is an Administrator or Co-Administrator to numerous DNA projects. Her bio is can be seen here.

In the following interview, Dr. Oquendo Pabón discusses her introduction to the field of genetic genealogy, her own experiences with genetic testing, and her thoughts about the future of genetic genealogy. It’s a terrific interview, so read on.

TGG: How long have you been actively involved in genetic genealogy, and how did you become interested in the field?

Ana Oquendo Pabón: I have been involved in genetic genealogy since very early in 2003. My brother and I have been traditional genealogists for about 28 years. Due to the excellent records on the island and hard research, we had long known all of our 64 grandparents except for one and all except 4 or 5 couples of our 128 ancestors. I had been keeping track of the news online concerning the “new science” and unique way of tracing your ancestral roots. I think everyone had heard about the Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings story by that time. I had also read about a particular genealogist named Bennett Greenspan’s own amazing quest to confirm his paternal DNA with an individual in Argentina and how he had started a genetic testing company to help others accomplish what he had done using yDNA. In 2003, I decided to give my brother a DNA kit as a combined birthday and anniversary present. We were among the first ten thousand genetic genealogy pioneers to take advantage of this new way of research. This spurred the idea of helping others in our field of expertise which was the genealogy of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican Project (Proyecto ADN de Apellidos Puertorriqueños) was born.

TGG: Have you undergone genetic genealogy testing?

AP: I initially had the mtDNA HVR1 + HVR2 in 2003 as well as the biogeographic test. Since then, I have had the complete mtDNA and all autosomal markers available. My brother has had 67 markers and SNP testing. My son, daughter, grandson and I also have had testing through SMGF.

TGG: Were you surprised with the results?

AP: Yes and no. As an admixed individual of European (mainly Spaniard), Taino and African cultures, I expected to find a tri-cultural diversity in my personal DNA. Yet, where one test did find African heritage, another found none despite a known slave in the fifth generation and in others. The test did however find that I was 24% East Indian which could only mean my indigenous ancestry. The indigenous fact was definitely not a surprise since my ancestors had been on the island since the colonization but the high percentage was. Without a doubt, DNA can broaden our perspectives as to our ancestral origins and where to look further but it must go hand in hand with the traditional genealogy.

The greatest personal satisfaction to me is that by emphasizing mtDNA which was not even considered relevant to genetic testing as paternal yDNA Surname Projects of that time, we were able to make it an important aspect of our own project from the outset in 2003. Through mtDNA testing, we were able to dispel, one member Native American result after another, any notion of the complete extinction of the people who first greeted Columbus to the New World. After five years of intense recruiting, we have proven through our project that our Taino and indigenous ancestry is very much present in our people in a very large way. In fact, we have one of the highest frequencies of indigenous ancestry ~62% of Haplogroups A, C, B and D for such a small geographic area. We have also been able to determine the DNA of many of the first Colonos and Criollos, the first Spanish Colonists and their descendants who intermarried with Taíno or indigenous women and of other European colonists and immigrants from the 16th century forward.

TGG: Did the results help you break through any of your brick walls or solve a family mystery?

AP: Through my personal mtDNA or my brother’s yDNA, we have not. Neither of us has any exact high resolution matches. Since our mother was an orphan, and our father lost his father when he was three, our personal quest has been to determine the DNA signatures of our other lines through close relatives. In that way, we have been able to confirm our traditional genealogy and determine many of our other great great plus grandparents’ DNA. In fact, of the 300 members in our Puerto Rican DNA Project, we are probably related to ~75 % either on the paternal or maternal side due to our island’s geographic isolation during large periods of history and the high level of consanguinity and endogamy.

To date, we have confirmed through both traditional genealogy and DNA, our maternal mtDNA: L1c1a, paternal yDNA: E1b1a*, maternal grandfather: J2, mother’s paternal grandmother: Haplogroup C, another maternal ggg grandmother: Haplogroup A, our 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th maternal great grandfathers: E1b1b1 (E3b1), R1b1b2 (R1b1c), J1, R1b1, T (K2), J2a2 and our paternal great grandfather’s R1b1. However, it takes time, knowledge of the history and connections between families of the period, the genealogy of surnames of the period and not just your own and recruiting the correct individuals who themselves have well documented records.

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