Monday, February 17, 2014

Book Review: Deep Ancestry by Spencer Wells

Today's genetic genealogy reading is Deep Ancestry, by Spencer Wells.  I wanted to read this one after watching his RootsTech presentation.

This book isn't exactly about genetic genealogy; rather, it's about the ancestral migration of humans out of Africa and throughout the rest of the world.  This is the book to read to understand what it means to get a mtDNA haplogroup result of, say, J.  Wells covers both the history of the science and the history of the migrations, tying in archaeology and anthropology where appropriate.  He also discusses the Genographic Project, which he directs; its purpose is to significantly increase the number of DNA tests done by members of population groups that can provide more depth to the samples used to track those migrations, including indigenous groups throughout the world.

The good: Nicely written, good balance between science and humanities, very clear explanations of the science and the history.  I feel much clearer on topics like genetic drift and why genetic Eve lived so much longer ago than genetic Adam.

The bad: Written in 2006 (published in 2007), still early in the project, so there weren't any results to describe.  Presumably, there are lots of very cool stories to be told now.

My takeaways: This would be a good base for understanding all those news articles about genetic discoveries.  But check it out from the library -- save your money for the new book I hope Wells is writing.

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