Results of DNA Tests for Lynn Edwin Garn

Neanderthal, Denisovan and American Indian Ancestry

Neanderthals were a species similar to modern humans. They are believed to have become extinct about 30,000 years ago.

Immediately after Neanderthal bones were first discovered in Europe in 1829, it was concluded that Homosapiens, our modern human ancestors, probably killed off the Neanderthals and that the two species never mated. The advent of DNA testing and the discovery in the 1990s of intact DNA in Neanderthal bones changed this view.

My Neanderthal DNA

Comparison of the Neanderthal DNA with the DNA of modern humans revealed that modern Europeans have between 1% and 4% DNA in common with Neanderthal DNA. This means that if your ancestry comes through Europe, you have between 1% and 4% Neanderthal DNA. In my case the tests revealed that I have 2.7% Neanderthal DNA. Incidentally, modern Africans seem to be the only group that has very little or no DNA in common with Neanderthals.

My Denisovan DNA

Up until 2008 it was thought that the only two hominid groups for which DNA was available were modern humans and Neanderthals. However, in 2008 bones were discovered in Siberia which had DNA. Tests on this DNA revealed another unique species of hominid which were called Denisovans. The bones of this now extinct species were around 40,000 years old. Research on Denisovans is relatively new. However, it appears that modern humans share DNA with them also. In my case, my DNA is about 1.7% Denisovan.

Evidence of American Indian Ancestry

Another reason that I took the test was to find evidence to support claims that some of my mother's ancestors were American Indians. My mother and her mother always claimed that they had an American Indian ancestor. The Indian ancestor was reported to have come through my Grandma Nixon's Grandma Elizabeth Bridges (Butterfield) Hunt.

In 1985, nine years after my Grandma Nixon died, I visited Grandma Nixon's cousins Freda (Will) Brown and Alegra Will, who lived near Markle, Indiana, near where their Grandma Elizabeth Bridges (Butterfield) Hunt had lived. Freda and Alegra corroborated Mother's and Grandma Nixon's claims, telling me that when they were children, their Grandma Hunt had lived with them and that she always claimed to be "half Indian and half Yankee." Although I never believed that she was actually 50% American Indian, this seemed to be quite credible evidence that she was part Indian.

Within the past couple of years I heard a claim that there was another American Indian on my mother's side of the family. My attempts to prove this have been unsuccessful. The person making the claim has not been forthcoming with evidence. And I have not uncovered evidence on my own. The claim is that my ancestor, Hubbard Henderson, had a grandmother or great-grandmother who was part American Indian. Until I find evidence, I will not consider this to be credible. And you shouldn't either. I only mention it so that others can help search for real evidence to prove or disprove the claim. Incidentally, Mother's descent from Hubbard Henderson is as follows: Helen (Nixon) Garn, daughter of Frank Harlan Nixon, son of Lucy Frances (Rose) Nixon, daughter of Frances (Henderson) Rose, daughter of Hubbard Henderson.

If my mother's ancestor, Elizabeth Bridges (Butterfield) Hunt, was actually half American Indian, as reported by Freda (Will) Brown and Allegra Will, then the fraction of my DNA that should be American Indian would be 1/32 or about 3.1%. If Elizabeth Bridges (Butterfield) Hunt's Indian ancestor was one of her grandparents instead of a parent, then the ratio would have been 1/64 or about 1.6%.

As of today, the technology for DNA testing and the databases of known ethnic groups do not allow the testing company to resolve ethnic groups comprising less than 2% of a person's DNA. My DNA did not have enough American Indian DNA to be resolved. This suggests that Elizabeth Bridges (Butterfield) Hunt was not actually 50% American Indian as I always assumed from long before DNA tests were able to confirm the assumption. An Indian grandparent of Elizabeth Bridges (Butterfield) Hunt would have passed only about 1.6% Indian DNA to me, which is below the threshold resolution of the test, which could explain why American Indian ethnicity was not discovered or resolved in my DNA.

Ancestors of Unexpected Ethnicity

As noted earlier, one of the reasons that I wanted to take the DNA test was to determine if any of my ancestors could be proven to have come from an unexpected ethnic group, such as African or Chinese ethnic groups. Based on the results of the test, no unexpected ethnic groups were discovered in my DNA. This may be because there really are no unexpected ethnic groups in my ancestry. Or it could be because they were so far back in my ancestry that they comprise less than 2% of my DNA and were not detected.

Comments on DNA Test Resolution

Finally, a few comments may be in order for those who wonder how the testing company could resolve my Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA to a resolution of a tenth of a percent (2.7% Neanderthal DNA and 1.7% Denisovan DNA) when the DNA test is unable to resolve ethnic groups that comprise less than 2%. I have not seen an explanation of this. However, it probably has something to do with the fact that Neanderthals and Denisovans are not ethnic groups. They are another subgroup of homonids just as modern humans or Homosapiens are. Strands of DNA received from Neanderthals and Denisovans are common to multiple ethnic groups including the three ethnic groups that are present in the greatest quantities in my DNA.

Since the Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA is spread across the entire genome of modern humans, not just within a single ethnic group, there may be more comparison sites for comparing the DNA of Neanderthals/Denisovans with modern humans than there are when trying to resolve ethnic groups. Increasing the number of comparison sites would increase the precision of the test, which would allow for greater resolution when assessing the fraction of Neanderthal or Denisovan DNA in the sample of DNA from a modern human. It is also possible that the DNA tests are "tuned" to examine DNA strands that make it easier to resolve Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA in the DNA of modern humans.