Guest Authors

MY EXCURSION INTO DNA

By Bernadette Inclan

“Every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.”

—Ralph Waldo Emerson—

Recently, I bought the kit from Ancestry.com, to evaluate my DNA. To say that it included many surprises is an understatement. However, the more I study it, the more I realize it possesses a phenomenal rich source of underlying information about me, and my heritage. John D. Inclan, my brother, has ample documentation from his extensive research corroborating the genealogy history that confirms our piece of history as descendants of the Conquistadors (see http://www.somosprimos.com/inclan/inclan.htm). However, I wanted to see if there is much more to the story. I prefer to write essays pertaining to personal history and I wanted to find information about me, my family, and my ancestors. Here is the analysis of my DNA profile.

A.  North Africa

North Africa is found in the DNA of groups living in Spain, Portugal and the Middle East. Although not surprising, I found the Viking connection interesting. The Germanic Vandals, in 409 AD, were pushed by the Huns into the Pyrenees in the Iberian Peninsula. When the Visigoths invaded Iberia, the Vandals entered North Africa ruling portions from 435 AD until 534 AD. I always was told that the Inclan surname was Visigoth. The 10 most common Spanish surnames today cover about 20 percent of the population in Spain. Some originated from Germanic first names that were introduced in the country by the Visigoths during the 5th to 7th centuries, while others have Latin roots. The first Europeans to explore the West African coast were the Portuguese. The earliest recorded French voyage to West Africa didn’t take place until 1483.

The DNA summary has a statement to note “that genetic ethnicity estimates are based on individuals living in this region today. While a prediction of genetic ethnicity from this region suggest a connection to the groups occupying this location, it is not conclusive evidence of membership to any particular tribe or ethnic group.” Nevertheless, this African connection is fascinating and provokes enough curiosity toward research into the backgrounds of the people in this area.

B.  Native American

Native Americans are primarily located in North America, Central America, and South American.

This part of the DNA was a surprise and, just maybe, it shouldn’t have been. While I have always taken my European heritage for granted, it never occurred to me (nor my brother) that 1/3 of my DNA would be that of Native Americans.

(BBC- History- Hernando Cortés. Google image)

However, our first ancestor, Hernán Cortés, Marquís del Valle de Oaxaca, in 1521, was the Spanish conquistador who overthrew Moctzuma’s Aztec empire and won Mexico for the crown of Spain. Cortés forms a marriage between Moctzuma’s daughter, which generates a daughter, who marries into the Oñate -Zaldivar family, our paternal ancestors, with cousins from this line.

(Google images de Oñate)

Don Cristobal de Oñate was born in 1504 in Vitoria or Oñate, in the Spanish side of the Basque Country. His father was Juan Pérez de Narriahondo who changed his name in later life to Juan de Oñate. His mother was Osana Gonzélez de San Llorente. He was born into the House of Haro, whose origins go back to the Middle Ages. He was a grandson of Pedro de Baeza, Señor de Narrihondo, one of Spain’s last feudal lords. He is considered the founder of Guadalajara in 1531, as well as other places in New Spain. He settled at the Pánuco mine in Zacatecas, where five of his six children were born. A son, Juan de Oñate, married Isabel de Tolosa Cortes-Moctezuma, granddaughter of conquistador Hernan Cortés and great-granddaughter of the last Aztec Emperor Moctezuma Xocoyotzin.

(Expeditions and Their Family Stories. Google images)

Juan de Oñate was born in Mexico around 1550. His parents, aristocrats Cristóbal de Oñate and Catalina de Salazar, were Spanish colonists and owners of a prosperous silver mine in Zacatecas, in what is now northern central Mexico. In his twenties, he worked to defend and expand Spanish settlements in northern Mexico by helping subdue or conquer Indian communities. In 1595, King Philip II of Spain chose Oñate to lead an expedition north into what is now New Mexico. In 1542, a series of new laws, called Leyes Nuevas, were put into effect, preventing colonizers from promoting feudalism by way of enslaving American Indians. Oñate was obliged to these laws. However, they were often broken rather than observed. Though Oñate’s primary mission was to spread Roman Catholicism, the discovery of new sources of silver, with the potential for personal enrichment, was also a significant motive for him to participate in the expedition.

In 2006, John and I went to see the Oñate statue in El Paso. The city’s officials erected this enormous statue of Oñate at the entrance to the El Paso International Airport. It initially drew approval because Oñate was known for celebrating the first Thanksgiving in The New World, near present-day El Paso, a good twenty years before the Pilgrims did the same in New England. However, controversy erupted when Oñate’s history included, among other atrocities, taking local Indians who didn’t obey his rules (like celebrating Thanksgiving) and having their feet cut off. Even though it was still a statue of Don Juan de Oñate, it became the generic “The Equestrian.”

(Personal Inclan Image)

Although these are only three of my ancestors, we know for sure that Juan de Oñate married an Aztec princess.

Montezuma’s Daughter, Cover of the book by H. Rider Haggard.

Doña Isabel Moctezuma (born 1509/1510 – 1550/1551) Tecuichpoch Ixcaxochitzin; was a daughter of the Aztec ruler Moctezuma II. She was the consort of the Aztec emperors Cuitlahuac (the tenth ruler of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan for 80 days during the year 1520, and Cuauhtemoc, a younger brother of Motezuma II, and as such the last Aztec empress. After the Spanish conquest, Doña Isabel was recognized as Moctezuma’s legitimate heir, and granted an encomienda, a grant by the Spanish Crown in America conferring the right to demand tribute and forced labor from the Indian inhabitants of an area. Among the others were her half-sister Marina (or Leonor) Moctezuma, and Juan Sanchez, an Indian governor in Oaxaca. Doña Isabel was married to three Aztec emperors, three Spaniards and widowed five times. She had a daughter out of wedlock with Hernan Cortes, Leonor Cortes Moctezuma, whose sons founded a line of Spanish nobility, Duke of Moctezuma de Tultengo, which still exists. Doña Isabel’s birth name was Tecuich(po)tzin, translated as “lord’s daughter” in Nahuatl and whose mother was Princess Teotlalco. Teotlalco was Moctezuma’s principal wife and, thus, among Moctezuma’s daughters Tecuichpotzin had primacy. As a small child, Tecuichpotzin was married to Atlixcatzin, who died by 1520. After her father was killed, either by his own people or the Spanish, she was quickly married to her uncle Cuitlahuac who became emperor after Moctezuma’s death. Cuitlahuac died of smallpox after only sixty days of rule and Cuauhtemoc became emperor and married Tecuichpotzin, her third marriage.

So here I have at least one explanation for my 35% Native American ethnicity. However, this is not enough Native American blood to account for such a large percentage, considering the DNA dilutions that occur over centuries. Unfortunately, the Ancestry.com analysis does not pinpoint the Native American DNA to specific tribes; it just lumps all Native American’s into one pool. I had to keep digging.

C.  Europe – Iberian Peninsula

A little over half (52%) of my DNA is comprised of regions in Europe, the highest (26%) from the Iberian Peninsula. I understand the African connection better since Gibraltar, in the Iberian Peninsula, is only a little over nine miles from the North coast of Africa. I’m a visual person, so maps give me a better understanding of how my ancestors moved around. This excellent narrative written by Angel Cervantes is the most concise history of this region.

“Here is a brief history of the Iberian Peninsula, which illustrates a few of the many people who have left descendants:

Iberian Peninsula Maps. World Atlas. Google Images

The Iberian Peninsula, or Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe. It has been inhabited for at least 500,000 years, first by Neanderthals and then by Cro-Magnon people (modern humans). The original people of the Iberian Peninsula, consisted of a number of separate tribes, were given the generic name of Iberians. This may have included the Basques, the only pre-Celtic people in Iberia surviving to the present day as a separate ethnic group.

In the early first millennium BCE, several waves of Celts invaded Iberia from central Europe and intermarried with the local Iberian people, forming the Celtiberians (with many different nations).

The seafaring Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians successively settled along the Mediterranean coast and founded trading colonies there over a period of several centuries.

Around 1100 BCE Phoenician merchants founded the trading colony of Gadir or Gades (modern day Cádiz) near Tartessos. In the 8th century BCE the first Greek colonies, such as Emporion (modern Empúries), were founded along the Mediterranean coast on the East, leaving the south coast to the Phoenicians. The Greeks are responsible for the name Iberia, after the river Iber (Ebro). In the 6th century BCE the Carthaginians arrived in Iberia while struggling with the Greeks for control of the Western Mediterranean. Their most important colony was Carthago Nova (Latin name of modern day Cartagena).

Spain – Wikitravel Google Images

Hispania supplied the Roman Empire with food, olive oil, wine and metal. The emperors Trajan, Hadrian and Theodosius I, the philosopher Seneca and the poets Martial and Lucan were born in Iberia.

In the early 5th century, Germanic tribes invaded the peninsula, namely the Suebi, the Vandals (Silingi and Hasdingi) and their allies, the Sarmatian Alans. Only the kingdom of the Suebi (Quadi and Marcomanni) would endure after the arrival of another wave of Germanic invaders, the Visigoths, who conquered all of the Iberian Peninsula and expelled or partially integrated the Vandals and the Alans. The Visigoths eventually conquered the Suebi kingdom and its capital city Bracara (modern day Braga) in 584-585.

In 711 CE, a Moorish Umayyad army from North Africa invaded Visigoth Christian Spain. Under their leader Taric Bin Zeyad also known as “Taric El Tuerto,” they landed at Gibraltar and brought most of the Iberian Peninsula under Islamic rule in an eight-year campaign. Al-Andalus was the Arabic name given to the Iberian Peninsula by its Muslim conquerors.

From the 8th to the 15th centuries, parts of the Iberian Peninsula were ruled by the Moors (mainly Berber with some Arab) who had crossed over from North Africa. Many of the ousted Gothic nobles took refuge in the unconquered north Asturian highlands. From there they aimed to reconquer their lands from the Moors: this war of reconquest is known as the Reconquista. Christian and Muslim kingdoms fought and allied among themselves. The Muslim taifa kings competed in patronage of the arts, the Way of Saint James attracted pilgrims from all Western Europe and the Jewish population of Iberia set the basis of Sephardic culture.

Large Old Map of Gibraltar with relief. Creative Commons Attribution-SharaAlike 3.0 License

In medieval times the peninsula housed many small states including Castille, Aragon, Navarre, León and Portugal. The peninsula was part of the Islamic Almohad Empire until they were finally uprooted. The last major Muslim stronghold was Granada which was eliminated by a combined Castilian and Aragonese force in 1492. The small states gradually amalgamated over time, and for a brief period (1580-1640) the whole peninsula was united politically under the Iberian Union. Today, Spain, Portugal, and Andorra encompass the entire peninsula of Iberia.”

Basque Country shaded pale green

I know that my descendants are Basque. What is so fascinating, is a report from UTube Haplogroup X Explained – Genetic Origins that states that mitochondrial DNA discoveries show that the Basque population is related to the North American Indian population. Since these results were obtained from 6,000 to 8,000 year old cemeteries in the Basque area and since they were also ancient in North America, they were not caused by activities occurring after Columbus. Instead they reveal an ancient connection. Wow! Another explanation for my Native American DNA!

D. Europe – Great Britain

The other significant part of my European DNA (21%) is Great Britain. How in the world did this happen? Well, upon doing research on the history of Great Britain, in “Life Before the Romans,” I found a number of interesting facts that draws light on this part of my DNA. My brother, John, well documents our genealogy that shows our direct link to the First Families of Bexar County-Texas, the Canary Islanders, fifty-five persons, who immigrated to Texas from the Spanish Canary Islands near Africa, by order of King Philip V.

Initially home to an indigenous population known as the Guanches, over the years the Canary Islands were visited by Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and the Greeks. The ancient Romans knew the Canary Islands as the Fortunate Islands. The Canary Islands were named after the large dogs (Canes) found living on the islands.

World Atlas Google Images
World Atlas Google Images

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One can see from these map the proximities of the countries that may be the sources of my DNA. I recently listened to a UC Berkeley Graduate Council lecture “Why White People are Called Caucasian” by Dr. Nell Painter. The lecture mentions the racial mixture of Great Britain being varied because women were often used as a bargaining tool to enhance wealth and standing in a marriage. However, women were also negotiated in trade agreements or sold as slaves. This also takes into account women being the spoils of war.

Let me complicate things even more. John, did the research on the Family Tree DNA-L19 Project E1b1b1c1, the Haplogroup of my paternal ancestor, Don Ignacio Gonzalez de Inclán. Now this is where things get really interesting, if I can plow through the scientific analysis, (Remember, being female, my DNA analysis is from my maternal line, the X chromosome), the paternal line is the Y chromosome, or the male line. Since my paternal line is already substantiated, I’ll try to decipher the results. Don Ignacio’s Haplogroup has a number of markers (21 listed) of which the top four include the following:

Théodore Chassériau, Othello and Desdemona in Venice, 1850, in the Louvre, Paris, (inspired by Shakespeare).

“Western orientation as exemplified by the Basques of Europe (Spain), Anglo-Saxon Visigoth (Germanic Tribe), Pre-Roman native of British origin or elsewhere in Northern Europe; 9 Haplotypes found in France and the Sardinia Island (Italy). The other markers suggests origins from Iberia (Spain), rare haplogroup found in Italy, Bavaria and Syria, and Poland. An update on Don Ignacio’s Haplogroup reveals that ‘Modern carriers of haplogroup E1b1b1c1 are the descendants of the ancient Levantines, descendants of Europeans who settled in the coastal cities of the Ottoman Empire in order to be engaged with trade especially after the Tanzimat Era.’”

It appears that this substantiates my Muslim Moorish connection (7% North Africa).

In conclusion, I found this exercise very illuminating, informational, and instructional. Although I had a pretty good idea of my background, this analysis made me look deeper and further. As a writer, I find it exciting to research topics in areas that I never considered. More fun stories to write.