The Seven Daughters of Eve – Helena & What She Means To Moi

April 2, 2015 — 1 Comment
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My nana and me in the South Of France in 2007. I fell in love but had no idea I was in the birthplace of Helena, the mother of my maternal haplogroup, H6a1 all those years ago.

 

Hey Lovers,

Over the past week I sat down to look further into my genealogy studies again, specifically my haplogroup. Haplogroups are defined as a genetic population group of people who share a common ancestor on the patrilineal or matrilineal line. So far I have information on my maternal haplogroup, but need to have my brother tested to get my paternal haplogroup information because the information isn’t passed from father to daughter. A little digging led me to the scientific papers on The Seven Daughters of Eve. Ever heard of them?

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Mitochondrial haplogroups in The Seven Daughters of Eve

The seven “clan mothers” mentioned by Bryan Sykes in his book, “The Seven Daughters Of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry” each correspond to one (or more) human mitochondrial haplogroups.

The website Tsakanikas states the following info:

The 36 clusters (or clans) that have so far been identified vary in frequency across locations, but there is no specific association between genetic clans and tribal structures. This is a reflection of the great antiquity of our genetic roots, which predate our modem notions of race, tribe or other ethnic classification system by more than a hundred thousand years.

Africa lays claim to 13 of the maternal clans. Although these are easily the most ancient clans in the world, a reflection of Africa’s status as the cradle of humankind, it is still possible to construct the genetic relationship between them. By doing this it is possible to show there is one maternal ancestor for all of Africa, and therefore for the rest of the world. She is referred to as ‘Mitochondrial Eve’, and is shown on your certificate.

Obviously, she would not have been the only woman alive at the time, but it is only her maternal lineage that has survived unbroken to the present day. She in turn would have had an ancestral mother, and this line reaches back millions of years to the very beginning of our species, Homo sapiens.

Although modern humans had their origins in Africa, only the descendants of one of these clans, Lara, have so far been found in the peoples of the rest of the world. Lara probably lived originally in what we now know as Ethiopia.

The vast majority of native Europeans are descendants of 12 clans, which includes the Seven Daughters of Eve. Of these dozen clans, descendants of Helena make up over 45% of the European population.

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My haplogroup is H6a1 which is the group of Helena.

 

Helena (Greek for Light)

Whether just by chance or by the guiding hand of natural selection we do not know, but Helena’s clan has grown to become the most widespread and successful of the Seven Daughters of Eve. Her children have reached every shore, settled every forest and crossed every mountain range. Helena’s descendants can be found from the Alps in the South to the Scottish Highlands and the Norwegian fjords in the North, and as far east as the Urals and the Russian steppes.

Helena was born about 20,000 years ago on the strip ofland that joins France and Spain, near what is now Perpignan. She belonged to a family of hunters, who harvested the rich oyster beds in the lagoons of the Camargue to supplement their diet of meat. Helena’s clan arrived in Europe from the Middle East, pushing their way along the Mediterranean, constrained to the narrow strip of land that was still habitable.

Not long after she was born, the glaciers that covered the Pyrenees, which Helena could see on a clear day only thirty miles from her camp, began to draw back as, little by little, the summers grew warmer. Some of her clan moved south ofthe mountains, up the valley of the Ebro to the West to reach the lands of the Basque, where they remain to this day. The most adventurous of her children took advantage of the climatic improvements and journeyed ever northwards to join the great movement of hunters across the plains of France. We know that they reached England around 12,000 years ago because DNA recovered from a young male skeleton found in Gough’s Cave in Somerset shows that he too belonged to the clan of Helena.

 

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Me in a tiny town in the South Of France called Pépieux which is just next to Perpignan, the birthplace of Helena.

 

Perpignan (French pronunciation: ​[pɛʁ.piˈɲɑ̃]CatalanPerpinyà [pərpiˈɲa]SpanishPerpiñán) is a city, a commune and the capital of the Pyrénées-Orientales department in southern France.

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Overlooking Perpignan long before I realized the personal connection.

Here is some more interesting info on Maternal Ancestry from Oxford.

A person’s maternal ancestry is traced by mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA for short. Both men and women possess mtDNA, but only women pass it on to their children..

So we all inherit our mtDNAs from our mothers, but not from our fathers. Your mother inherited it from her mother, who inherited it from hers, and so on back through time. Therefore, mtDNA traces an unbroken maternal line back through time for generation upon generation far further back than any written record.

Research at Oxford University and elsewhere over many years has shown that all of our maternal lines are connected at some time in the past and that these connections can be traced by reading mtDNA. One striking finding was that people tended to cluster into a small number of groups, which could be defined by the precise sequence of their mtDNA. In native Europeans, for example, there were seven such groups, among Native Americans there were four, among Japanese people there were nine, and so on. Each of these groups, by an astounding yet inescapable logic, traced back to just one woman, the common maternal ancestor of everyone in her group, or clan.

Everyone in the same clan is a direct maternal descendant of one of these clan mothers and carries her DNA within every cell of their body. Your mtDNA actually helps cells use oxygen – so you are using your clan mother’s mtDNA every time you breathe. However, not everyone in the same clan has exactly the same mtDNA, because DNA changes gradually over the generations. The clan mothers were not the only people alive at the time, of course, but they were the only ones to have direct maternal descendants living right through to the present day. The other women around, or their descendants, either had no children at all or had only sons, who could not pass on their mtDNA. And, of course, the clan mothers had ancestors themselves. Amazingly, their genealogies have also been discovered. They show how everyone alive on the planet today can trace their maternal ancestry back to just one woman. By all accounts, she lived in Africa about 150,000 – 200,000 years ago and is known as “Mitochondrial Eve”.

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The further I get into my genealogy studies, the more dots I am connecting. Not that long ago I wrote a post called, “Are You French?” I felt silly at the time even sharing it. But it was something that kept coming up through my travels abroad and I found it interesting. As you can see from the research above, my haplogroup has its roots in France. I knew that my haplogroup H6a1 had its roots in Europe. But after a recent conversation with my bestie who also is into genealogy I started searching for more info. In the realm of genealogy and DNA studies, the various haplogroups are connected to different “daughters” of Eve. My friend comes from the group L1c2b1‬ which is actually the group connected to mitochondrial Eve herself. She’s considered the mother of Helena and the other haplogroups.

My life has always been a series of divinely orchestrated events that seem serendipitous to the causal observer. But I have always felt the hand of God on my life and see God’s fingerprints all around me. I’m still in what I consider the beginning of my genealogy studies but I continue to be amazed at where it’s taking me. People ask me why I am so interested in studying the past and my ancestors. I think it’s because the question was planted in me daily from childhood, “What are you?”. Sometimes our hobbies and even our destines find us from simple clues like questions that present themselves repeatedly.

I’ve been a Francophile for as long as I can remember. I love the Mediterranean diet, naturally. And now I have an answer the next time some one asks me if I’m French or why I am drawn to France. I am starting to realize that our ancestors truly are a part of us. We come from them and carry pieces of them, even those who came thousands of years before us. If you are sensitive enough you can tap into their stories.

Have you heard of the seven daughters of Eve before?

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