Just last month the FamilyTreeDNA Ancient Connections feature, which allows Big Y customers to match their haplogroup results to those from thousands of ancient men, reached the landmark number of 5,000 individuals.

Yes, every Big Y customer can now match their own results to those of 5,000 people who lived across the world over the last 50,000 years. Now that’s a lot of ancestors to try and match, and a lot of new “great great” prefixes to add as you grow your own personal family tree.

45,000 Year Old Ancient Connections

Hublin, JJ., Sirakov, N., Aldeias, V. et al. Initial Upper Palaeolithic Homo sapiens from Bacho Kiro Cave, Bulgaria. Nature 581, 299–302 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2259-z

Among the oldest ancient connections in our database are three individuals who lived some 45,000 years ago in what is today Bacho Kiro, Bulgaria, in southeastern Europe. Bulgaria would see millions of migrants come and go for the following tens of millennia, yet these men serve as both a relic of a time when humans coexisted with Neanderthals in Europe, and a time stamp on our phylogenetic Y chromosome tree.

We can say with certainty where the haplogroup was at a specific time. The Bacho Kiro men happen to be ancient forms of haplogroups C and F, which were among the first to either leave Africa or evolve in the Middle East once humans first left Africa some 55,000 years ago.

The Ancient Ancestors of Haplogroups K, P, and R in Siberia

Prüfer K, Posth C, Yu H, Stoessel A, Spyrou MA, Deviese T, Mattonai M, Ribechini E, Higham T, Velemínský P, Brůžek J, Krause J. A genome sequence from a modern human skull over 45,000 years old from Zlatý kůň in Czechia. Nat Ecol Evol. 2021 Jun;5(6):820-825. doi: 10.1038/s41559-021-01443-x. Epub 2021 Apr 7. PMID: 33828249; PMCID: PMC8175239.

Another rare, yet crucial, evolutionary haplogroup common in our Paleolithic ancestors was haplogroup K. We first see the haplogroup in Central Asia 42,000 years ago in a man from the Ust-Ishim district of southern Siberia.

Haplogroup K eventually gave rise to haplogroup P, another rare lineage among living men. Yet P is the direct phylogenetic ancestor to haplogroup R, which, in contrast, is the most common haplogroup in Europe, the Americas, and in the FamilyTreeDNA database.

Haplogroup P was first seen in Yana, Siberia, further north, and much later, some 30,000 years ago. The oldest haplogroup R individual is the Mal’ta boy, also from northern Siberia, who lived there 22,000 years ago.

Raghavan, M., Skoglund, P., Graf, K. et al. Upper Palaeolithic Siberian genome reveals dual ancestry of Native Americans. Nature 505, 87–91 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature12736

The Ancient Ancestors of Haplogroups I and E in Southern Europe and North Africa

Teschler-Nicola, M., Fernandes, D., Händel, M. et al. Ancient DNA reveals monozygotic newborn twins from the Upper Palaeolithic. Commun Biol 3, 650 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s42003-020-01372-8

A few other highlights to come from the 5,000 ancient connections available for matching, are the Gravettian twins from Central Europe, which belong to an ancient form of Haplogroup I. The haplogroup is another high frequency haplogroup among our Big Y family. Known as the Krems twins, these identical newborns were discovered in modern day Austria and belonged to a version of I that no longer exists today.

Across the Mediterranean are the oldest members of haplogroup E ever found, at 13,000 years old, at a site called Grotte des Pigeons in Northern Morocco. Haplogroup E is still common today in north Africa and across southern Europe. Haplogroup E can also be linked to the historical Carthaginian invasion of Iberia and Italy by the infamous Hannibal and his army of war elephants. For comparison, Hora 19529 from Malawi belongs to haplogroup B and, at 14,000 years old, is the oldest sample sequenced from sub-Saharan Africa.

Late Stone Age burial from Grotte des Pigeons, Morocco | Humphrey L, Bello SM, Turner E, Bouzouggar A, Barton N. Iberomaurusian funerary behaviour: evidence from Grotte des Pigeons, Taforalt, Morocco. J Hum Evol. 2012 Feb;62(2):261-73. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2011.11.003. Epub 2011 Dec 9. PMID: 22154088.

The Ancient Ancestors of Haplogroup Q in the Americas

Figure 1 from The genome of a Late Pleistocene human from a Clovis burial site in western Montana. Nature. 2014 Feb 13;506(7487):225-9. doi: 10.1038/nature13025. PMID: 24522598; PMCID: PMC4878442. Geographic and C14 dating overview, and examples of artefacts from the site. a, Location of the Anzick site relative to continental glacial positions from 16,000 to 13,000 calendar years before present. b, Photograph of the Anzick site. Site is located at the base of the slope at the far left. c, Age of the human remains and osseous tools relative to other Clovis sites. d, Clovis fluted projectile point from the site. e, Clovis osseous rod from the site. Rasmussen M, Anzick SL, et. al.

Across the pond in the Americas, the boy known today as Anzick 1, who lived 11,000 years ago, is the oldest member of haplogroup Q in all of the new world. Los Rieles 11974 from Chile is also from Haplogroup Q and, at 9,000 years old, is the oldest man sequenced from South America.

This individual from the site in Los Rieles in Chile is the oldest in the study Bernardita Ladrón de Guevara, 2008

Ancient Connections From Every Corner of the World

Geographically speaking, also in the Americas and among the 5,000 ancient connections, is Saatut 126, the most northern individual in the database. Saatut 126 lived 900 years ago on Baffin Island in Canada. Caleta Falsa 12360, from Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, is the most southern individual currently in our database. Both of these ancient Americans also belonged to the geographically-dispersed haplogroup Q.

Picture of a Fuegian (possibly a Yaghan) by ship's artist Conrad Martens during a visit of HMS Beagle.

Ancient Haplogroups Through Time

For a more historical perspective of the database, we can look at what haplogroups were most common during major moments in human history.

Haplogroup E 12,000 years ago

A flint arrowhead from the Neolithic period that was created by the Yarmukian culture that was discovered in the Sha'ar HaGolan area. The Yarmukian Culture is a Neolithic culture of the ancient Levant. It was the first culture in Prehistoric Israel and one of the oldest in the Levant to make use of pottery. The Yarmukian derives its name from the Yarmouk River, which flows near its type site at Sha'ar HaGolan, a kibbutz at the foot of the Golan Heights. The pictures are from Yosef Garfinkel excavations taken between 1989-1990 & 1998-2004

For instance, haplogroup E was most common in the Levant region of the Middle East, while humans first became farmers by domesticating wheat some 12,000 years ago.

Haplogroups C, G, and J 8,000 years ago

Model of the neolithic settlement ( 7300 BC ) of Catal Höyük By Wolfgang Sauber - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Just north of there, in the famous Turkish site of Çatalhöyük, where some of the earliest known settlements formed 8,000 years ago, haplogroups C, G, and J were among the most commonly found among ancient villagers.

Haplogroups I, N, and R in the Viking Age

Viking Ships setting sail

Fast forward to the Viking age, and we see a rapid dominance and spread of haplogroups I1, R1a, R1b, and N1a from Scandinavia to all regions of northern, central, and even eastern Europe.

Haplogroups E, G, J, and R

Religion and politics are often closely allied, and this was especially the case in the sixteenth century. In this famous map, the Spanish flag flies prominently in the West Indies, while the Portuguese flag dominates the south Atlantic – reflecting pronouncements by Pope Alexander VI in 1493 and the Treaty of Tordesillas between Spain and Portugal of 1494. These declarations divided the non-Christian world between the two countries and charged the Portuguese and Spanish rulers with the responsibility of bringing the non-Christian inhabitants into the Catholic faith.

By 1492, as Columbus sailed across the Atlantic Ocean, haplogroups E, G, J, and once again R1b accounted for the demographic majority of late medieval Iberian men. Those haplogroups are now found in their eventual descendants across much of Latin America.

Who Is Your Ancient Connection?

Having analyzed 5,000 ancient individuals allows for an unprecedented breadth of genealogical and historical knowledge, spanning tens of thousands of years and nearly every continent in the world. We can finally pinpoint historical migrations and accurately trace human migration. We can now know exactly where and when these 5,000 men lived and died and where they fit in the human family tree.

We can then use that information to better understand human history. Which of these 5,000 ancient men do you most closely match? Is it Ötzi or Cheddar Man? And who knows—maybe that individual was your ancestor, and that great-grandaddy may have also played an important role in our human history.

Privacy Preference Center