Apr 26, 2013

Make way for the farmers --

So here we are in the Mesolithic Age, approximately 6350 years BP (before the present).  Archaeologists and anthropologists know a fair amount about this time, based on excavations of burial sites, carbon dating, DNA testing, analyzing the artifacts buried with the people, and so on.  A museum in the Netherlands has recreated a European Mesolithic hut, in which our distant ancestors might have lived:

These people not only hunted but fished as well, setting up traps to capture large numbers of fish.  And they loved shellfish, if the number of shells in their trash heaps is any indication.  (Wouldn't it be fun to be an anthropologist and have your job consist of going through the trash of people who lived thousands of years ago?  It sounds pretty interesting to me -- )  When a burial place is discovered, the researchers very carefully remove the dirt and uncover the skeletons, and they find and catalog every little piece of something they find.  Here's what one site in France looked like when uncovered:

As you can see, these two ladies were buried with deer antlers, shells of various kinds, and jewelry.  By looking at all these things, researchers can make good guesses about what the lives of these ancient people were like.

Anthropologists have long speculated about how Europe went from a hunter-gatherer culture to a farming-herding culture, which is what characterizes the Neolithic (late Stone Age) period, when people made lots of progress in manufacturing tools and so on.  They came up from the south and spread all over Europe, eventually.

Did the hunter-gatherers learn from the farmers to plant seeds and domesticate animals?  Did they intermingle and mix their DNA together, leading the hunter-gatherers to eventually die out?  Well, the DNA analysis of different populations has shown that for many years they simply existed side-by-side, without much intermingling, and over time the hunter-gatherers became fewer and the farmers more successful, taking over more and more land over time.  But the hunter-gatherer way of life did not disappear completely -- in places in Northeastern Europe where farming was impractical, hunter-gatherers continued their way of life into the Middle Ages.

That's all for today -- I'll keep going on the Neolithic research, and after that comes the Bronze Age, which means we're coming closer to the present day -- see you next time --

Apr 24, 2013

I joined a society!

I just became a member of the Sacramento German Genealogical Society, and a week from Friday I'm going to head up there for a workshop.  They're having experts come from Salt Lake City and give workshops on such exciting topics as "Finding the Parish Locations for German Family History Research," or "Form and Content in German Church Records."  Now, this may sound kind of dry to you, but I'm really looking forward to it, especially to connecting with people who have a lot of experience and who maybe can help me get past the brick wall on the Ortmanns, for example.

They put out a publication, Der Blumenbaum (The Flowering Tree), four times a year, and I just got my first copy.  There's an interesting article about German beliefs and practices concerning death (some houses had small windows that were only opened when someone passed away, so their soul could go out), another one on how Germans celebrate Muttertag (Mother's Day -- it involves a lot of flowers and tasty treats, take note!), and a very interesting column in which a man gives people information on their family's surnames.  Surprisingly, I found an entry that includes one of our names:  someone asked about the name Haucke, and he responded that Haucke is a variant of Hugo, which is of course connected to our family name, Hug (Grandpa Bill Ortman's grandmother was Matilda Hug).  So here's what he says:

        "HUGO is an old Germanic name.  In Old High German (ca. 750-1050), the word hugu meant     thought, reason, spirit, sense.  At the time when family names formed, Hugo was a wide-spread name and produced a number of variations . . . "  [Of which Hug is one]   --Michael Mayer-Kielmann

Interesting, no?  Since I've only gotten back to the 1700's, I wonder how far back it goes?  I am in contact with a very nice man who may be connected to our Hugs -- he has a relative in the 1600's in an area not far from the place our earliest relative was born (Blasius Hug, Wolfach, Germany).  I'm hoping he'll get some information that will allow us to connect up; so far I haven't found anyone who can give me information on birth records in Wolfach.  I may have to make a trip to Salt Lake City (or Germany) one of these days . . . . . . . . anyone want to go with me??

I found some interesting information via the SGGS website on the distribution of some of our family names.  You can put in a name, and it will give you a map with the areas marked where those names are/were common.  Here are a couple of ours:

Distribution of Berneburg

As you can see, it's a pretty uncommon name.  Our grandfather Gustav Berneburg (EDCM) came from the medium orange color that is north of the very dark ones -- Hannover.   Here's another one:

Distribution of Ortmann

As you can see, there were way more Ortmanns than Berneburgs, they are spread all over the place, so it's hard to know where to start.   The only information I have at this point on Joseph Ortmann, Grandpa Bill Ortman's grandfather, is that he was from "Pommern," which is no help at all.  "Pommern," or Prussia, would have been to the north and to the east, even off the edge of the map to the east.  Without any more specific information, I'm going to have a hard time getting past the brick wall on the Ortmann side -- which is why I'm happy I'm going to the workshop in Sacramento!
One thing they ask you to bring to the workshop are "surname cards," index cards with your last name and the location and so on.  In that way, hopefully people with the same names can connect with each other.  Here's hoping I get some leads that weekend!

Apr 23, 2013

The long road to Europe --

So, where we left off, the U4 clan was on the steppes of Western Siberia, alongside their cousins the Denisovans.  How did we get from there to Europe?  I’ve been doing some research, and have a bit of an idea.

The thing is, our haplogroup is fairly rare in Europe; we are only 2%, while the H-group is 50%.  The H-group came up from the south during the Neolithic period, and were farmers.  We, on the other hand, were hunter-gatherers, and were in Europe before the H-group.  How do they know this?

 We left Siberia in our reindeer sleighs --   

Well, the remains of ancient people have been found in prehistoric grave sites in various places in Europe and Asia, and anthropologists and geneticists have tested the DNA of skeletons found in ancient burial grounds in what is now Estonia and Latvia (among other places).  Here's a map, and the one we're looking at is at Yuzhnyy Oleni Ostrov, which I circled in yellow.

We U4s started in West Siberia, and somehow over the years, by approximately 7500 years ago, we had made it to an area much closer to Europe.  This environment was the "boreal forest," the way northern forests that go up to the Arctic Circle, and the area was lovely, at least I think so -- 

Isn't it beautiful?  I can just imagine living on the shores of that pond.

I'm imagining that our family took this route, but at around the same time, scientists have found our group also in places like Portugal, and somewhere else very interesting -- in a cave in Bad Duerrenberg in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, southeast of Berlin.  In this area, a cave was found that contained the remains of a female shaman, buried along with a child maybe 12 months old.   From the positions of all the jewelry and adornments they found, an artist came up with this as a possibility for what she looks like:

Isn't she amazing?  And she's a U4, just as we are.  So here we are in Europe, in the Mesolithic Age, or the Middle Stone Age, somewhere between 10,000 and 3,000 years ago. This is when the ice sheets had retreated, and the climate was much warmer and more humid.  The huge animals of the Paleolithic Age, the mammoths, sabre-toothed tigers, and so on, had disappeared, victims of the changing climate, and they were replaced by smaller animals, like red deer and hares. The Middle Stone Age people also fished a lot in the steams and lakes that were full of food.  There's even evidence that Mesolithic people in a small way domesticated animals like cattle and goats.

So stay tuned, as I do more research and let you know more about the U4 haplogroup as it moves from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic Ages -- we're getting close to recorded history, folks!

Apr 13, 2013

We're in Siberia . . . brrrrr!

Hello again, everyone!  I thought I'd continue the story of our U-mother (some have named her Ulrike, meaning "mistress of all").  

This is part of the map we looked at yesterday, so we can focus in better on the area we're talking about.  We saw the U group in the Middle East split up into various numbered U's, and our group, U4, headed northeast.  Along the way, it must have split up too, because by the time we got to Altai Krai, we were an even narrower group, U4b.   So here we are in the western steppes of Russia. 

This trip took a long, long time (with little cave man children saying, "Are we there yet??"), so that where we started in Africa maybe 200,000 years ago, we're now up to the late Pleistocene era, something like 11,000-12,000 years ago -- fairly recent, right?  Like yesterday. 

Altai Krai:  The Katun River. Photo by Jennifer Castner.

At some point, our group started wandering north, as the glaciers of the Pleistocene ice ages receded.  But there's something else we could have seen in that picture:  lions and equids and mammoths, oh my!

The animals were adapted to the very cold habitat, and likely as the ice receded, the animals followed it, and the people followed them, until our U4b group wound up in the area highlighted in yellow on the map -- the area between the Ob and Yenisei rivers in Siberia.  Imagine our U4b ancestors dining on wooly mammoth roasted on an open fire!  (At this point, Grandpa Bill would have started singing to the tune of "The Christmas Song.")

So here we are in sunny Siberia.  And we are somewhat unique! Today, only 2% of Europeans belong to this group, and only 1.6% of people in England and Wales.  (I haven't found the US figure yet.)  The highest percentages today are found among the Khanty and the Mansis people, who live in northwestern Siberia.  Here are a few pictures I think are pretty cool -- would you like to be in a reindeer race??

Khanty girls by Irina Kazanskaya

So I'll leave you with one more thing for today.  Brace yourselves -- my results show that 6.7% of my DNA is non-human, 2.9% Neanderthal and 3.8% Denisovan, to be exact.  These were "cousins" of Homo Sapiens, descended from a common ancestor about a million years ago, but they didn't survive long past the Pleistocene era.  Evidently they were close enough to humans to "get together," so to say, so we have the traces of their existence in our DNA -- isn't that incredible?  Go back and look at the map one last time -- see where the "Denisova cave" is?  Archaeologists have very recently (2008) found tiny fragments of a juvenile female Denisovan -- a tooth and a tiny fragment of a pinky finger -- and analyzed their DNA, and that DNA still exists in us.  So don't make me mad -- I'll go all cave woman on you . . . here are a couple pictures of what a Neanderthal or a Denisovan might have looked like. (Obviously not from life :) 

So isn't it interesting that our U4b group is from exactly the same place as the Denisovans?  (I'm sure they were other places, too, but they haven't found much else so far.)  

 That's all for now.   Next time, how we may have gotten to Europe . . .   

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