Following our family history has become a bit of a passion. Perhaps it is because the exploration of the family past is an excuse for travel. Perhaps it is because my father was so proud of his Oregon heritage. I found it sad that I did not take up this exploration earlier as the family story has continued to become more and more interesting. I really think he would have liked his ancestor George Layporte, the Ohio bear hunter and Revolutionary War soldier. Unfortunately, Dad passed away before I could show him the records and tell him the stories. This probably one of the key reasons that I hope to fill in the blanks for my children before I get too feeble minded. With that preamble, let me go back a ways. Back to the very beginnings some 200,000 years ago.
Another preamble is necessary. I am a believing Christian who belongs to a conservative Evangelical church. I enjoy being a believer who works to live in ways that Jesus would endorse. I am also a Christian who believes that God gave us brains in order to use them. As a believer, I chose to see the Bible as God’s word as written by inspired authors. God revealed his desires for his creation in terms that the authors and readers of the time could understand. After all, there are still plenty of mysteries about God’s creation and our place in it that remain to be revealed. Therefore, I agree with many liberal theologians and Bible scholars that the Bible shares God’s vision of our purpose and his desires for us. I do not think it helps to insist on a literal interpretation of the Bible. I see the lessons of Genesis as reflecting human past and God’s desires. the more I study, the more I understand the connection between the Genesis lessons and the record of human existence revealed in our blood.
Without getting too theological, remember the importance of blood. It is life. The story in our blood reveals our past. With the unraveling of the human genome and genetic research, we can trace our origins as humans in a way that I find consistent with the teachings of the Bible. My fellow Christians who use the literal Biblical time frame are probably appalled but I am not writing to try to change their minds. Instead my purpose is make sure my children know my reasoning and its consistency with my beliefs.
Humans have 46 chromosomes. Monkeys and other apes have 48. There is no possibility of monkey business leading to a inter species pregnancy. What needed to happen was for two mutations in the same generation to result in a male and a female with 46 chromosomes and somehow to find each other an mate. When this occurred is a lively matter of debate. What is clear that the odds of this happening without divine intervention are extremely remote. This couple could have produce offspring. Their children may have even looked like their neighbors with 48 chromosomes, but they were definitely humans. We will never find their unique bones to differentiate them from their contemporaries as they probably were physically the same. Looking for the missing link is an exercise in futility.
Sometime around 200,000 BC, the first humans with the genetics that are in every drop of blood in every human in the world today were born. They had the 46 chromosomes of their ancestors but their genes are the same as ours. This Adam and Eve carried with them the original, unadulterated, unmodified blood that every living human today carries. However, over time we have picked up our own modifications to the original genes. The changes have allowed us to adapt to our environmental and social conditions as our history will reveal. How these modifications or mutations occurred is where beliefs come into play. I believe the changes in our genetic makeup were part of God’s plan for mankind.
Around 70,000 BC, there was a near extinction event for humans. A volcano erupted in Indonesia that brought upon an Ice Age in the northern hemisphere and extreme drought in the southern hemisphere. For our hunter gatherer ancestors, it was a time to be an endangered species. Most geneticists use the number of 2,000 human survivors. Some believe the number of bewildered, starving survivors was around 40. I know families with that many. The 46 chromosome Adam and Eve descendants seemed to do well and became the surviving human gene pool. I find this disastrous event in human history to be compatible with the “flood story” in the Bible.
My plan is to trace my maternal and paternal bloodlines from a genetic record that goes back to the Adam and Eve. Along the way my ancestors journeyed and changed their appearance but not their humanity. My narrative is based upon the genetic results from the National Geographic Genigraphics Project. The small changes in my DNA are known as markers. These markers enable us to see who are our distant relatives and where they lived. I will start with my Mom or the maternal side of my DNA.