Wednesday 4th May, 2008


Back to your roots

Hi-tech DNA test reveals ancestral path

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Indian Caribbean Museum chairman Devant Maharaj.

“I was extremely fascinated with the nature of the results. The test shows the path of human migration and shows that I have a link with my Jewish brethren.”

—Indian Caribbean Museum chairman Devant Maharaj


INTERESTED in tracing your ancestry and finding your roots?

The Indian Caribbean Museum (ICM), at Waterloo Road, Carapichaima, is offering the national population the opportunity to trace one’s ancestry, using high-tech, state-of-the-art DNA technology.

ICM chairman Devant Maharaj said the process is affordable, ranging from $600–$1,263. Maharaj said this was much cheaper than the $5,000-plus people have paid in the past to trace family trees through “traditional records.”

He said the ICM had partnered with Family Tree DNA (FTD), an organisation based in Houston, Texas, in the United States.

He said a kit is sent to the client directly from FTD in which a cheek swab sample of the client is placed in a vial and returned to FTD. He said all monies are paid to FTD and not to the museum.

Maharaj said he was tested and his results showed that he is descended from Eastern European Jews.

He said: “I was extremely fascinated with the nature of the results. The test shows the path of human migration and shows I have a link with my Jewish brethren. We have a common ancestry from the Kurgan Tribe, the first people to domesticate the horse, that moved from the Steppes of Russia to India.

“History shows that the Jews were never persecuted in India. Certain tribes in India did DNA testing that showed they had Jewish ancestry and successfully migrated to Israel.”

However, Maharaj said he has no plans to move to Israel any time soon based on the results.

Stating that results are delivered within six weeks, Maharaj added, “The advantage in using DNA testing for genealogy purposes is that it allows us to compare the DNA from other individuals in order to find common ancestors, or places of origin.

“During Indian Heritage Month the interest in tracing Indian ancestors is heightened. Many schools ask students of all ethnicities to develop a family tree. For the descendants of many Indians, due to the circumstances of history, tracing the family tree beyond three generations is simply not possible.

“Where further research is possible there is a strong likelihood that the documents to delve deeper into family history are not available at the National Archives,” he said.

“For the African community, due to the inhumanity of slavery, family research is even more difficult. DNA technology offers a scientific manner in which individuals can explore their family history.”

Maharaj also spoke of the importance of testing the Y-DNA (Y chromosome) in males to determine the paternal lines. He explained: “The Y-DNA strictly checks the paternal line, with no influence of any females along that line.

“Females do not receive the Y-DNA, and therefore females cannot be tested for the paternal line. If you are female and would like to know about your paternal line, you would need to have a brother or a male relative from that line to be tested. All Y-DNA tests allow you to identify your ethnic and geographic origins, both recent and far distant on your direct male descending line. Among others, you will be able to check your Indian, European, or African ancestry,” he said.

To check one’s maternal line the mtDNA test is done on both males and females since both genders receive the mtDNA (X chromosome) from their mother.

Maharaj said genetic information is added to the museum’s secure, private and confidential non-Web-based result database.

He added: “As other people order their genetic tests, they will either be looking for a relationship to another specific individual or they will be submitting for a comparison to the database library. If a match occurs in the future, you will be informed of this relative’s existence so that you can contact that person, if you desire.”

Maharaj said the ICM also plans on approaching the Indian High Commission in T&T to accept the results of the DNA tests for people applying for a Person of Indian Origin Card. He said PIO cards are only granted to people who can prove their ancestors came from India.Persons interested in tracing their family tree can call the Indian Caribbean Museum at 673-7007, or Devant Maharaj at 683-8233.

The Family Tree DNA test kit consists of two cheek scrapers and two collection tubes, designed for single-person use. Each tube contains a fluid designed to arrest bacteria growth, so you can scrape your cheek and return your kit in any type of weather (hot or cold). The freshness of your sample will remain intact for months. Photo :

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