My Ancestry

  This memorable photo was taken more than 70 years ago on January 1, 1942, when Taiwan was under the Japanese rule.  My father, born on March 17, 1910, was almost 32 years old at that time.  I, born on February 19, 1938, was almost 4 years old, sitting between my father and my paternal grandmother.  My mother, sitting on the right, was born on April 10, 1912, but her registered birthday was June 5, 1912.  My parents have six children.  I am their oldest child. Their two other children died when they were still in childhood.  My younger sister, standing in front of my father, died about one and a half years after the photo was taken.  My father 徐復增 was a Presbyterian minister.  My younger brother 徐頌仁 (Sung-Jen Hsu), in my mother's arms in the photo, is a retired well-known music professor in Taiwan, teaching piano, composition, and orchestra conducting after studying music in Germany.  It is hard to believe that I am living in the United States, near Washington, DC., at the age of 75 in 2013.

On the "Science and Religion" webpage, I have discussed several important topics related to religion and science.  While learning about DNA, I became exceedingly fascinated with my ancestry.  Inspired by Dr. Spencer Well’s Genographic Project, I started to participate in the project in March of 2011, hoping to find out my paternal and maternal lineages as well as human origins and migrations with my samples of Y-chromosome DNA (Y-DNA) and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) .

The question about my ancestry is tied to one of the six basic religious questions I have discussed here and there in this website, namely about human beings.  I have decided to create this webpage devoted to my ancestry.  The abstract question has suddenly become deeply personal.

Is it possible that all religions started, to a great degree, with human beings' quest for their "ancestry" in some broad sense?  If they trace their ancestry further back, not just a few generations in the past, they could be forced to ask the questions about biological evolution, physical evolution, and in the end the general question about ultimate reality.  It may not be an accident that the Old Testament (Torah) started with creation stories and the creation of Adam and Eve, and the first book of the New Testament, Matthew, started with a long narrative, tracing Jesus' ancestors.  The modern sciences have provided very different narratives, but the motivation behind them could be same or similar.

A Short History of my DNA Tests

Since March of 2011, I have taken several DNA tests, two from Genographic Project, one from Family Tree DNA, one from Dr. Marie Lin's (林媽利) company (Taiwan Environmental Medicine), and another test when the Genographic Project offered a new version known as Geno 2.0.  The results of the Geno 2.0 test came back on October 19, 2012.  

After several months of digesting the Geno 2.0 test result, I revised the earlier webpage "My Ancestry" and wrote this new report in May of 2013.  This new report also includes considerable discussion of Dr. Lin's report in light of the Geno 2.0 report (through a link provided at the end of this webpage). 

If you are interested in basic concepts in genetics and my earlier tests, please also go to the appropriate links given at the end of this webpage.

My Ancestry According to Geno 2.0

The purpose of the Genographic Project is to search for human ancestors and their migrations with the samples taken from inside the mouth with a swab.  The latest Geno 2.0 test includes advanced genetic technology to analyze nearly 150,000 DNA identifiers, instead of just a few dozens of genetic markers as in the earlier tests.  In addition to finding paternal and maternal ancestors with Y-chromosome DNA and mitochondrial DNA, the new test also attempts to find other ancestors not included in the direct paternal and maternal lineages.  The markers include not only those of our ancestors tens of thousands of years ago but also our ancestors of last six generations.

For example, if we are interested in our ancestors within the last 20 generations, there are only 20 direct ancestors on the paternal side and 20 direct ancestors on the maternal side.  But there can be 1,048,576 (2 to the power of 20) ancestors in 20 generations for each of us if we include our father's parents and our mother's parents, as well their parents and grandparents, and so on.  Our DNA includes some DNA from our 1,048.576 ancestors in some way.  Since our ancestry is many times more than 20 generations, the genetic mix in our DNA becomes extremely complicated.

To simplify the investigation, geneticists have identified many "genetic markers" that represent the major "mutations" in the transmission of DNA from our ancient ancestors to us.  Scientists are still trying to figure out how the transmissions and mutations of our DNA actual work.  In any case, without the breakthroughs in genetics in the last ten years, the technology used in Geno 2.0 would be impossible.

For more information about Genographic Project Geno 2.0, please click:

    Geno 2.0

For the full report about my Geno 2.0 test result as of March 2013, please click the following link.  I am supposed to check the website once a while for update.

    My Ancestry According to Geno 2.0

The following is a summary of the Geno 2.0 results.  For more details, please go to the link above.  There are three main sections in the report.

Section 1:  Who Am I?

According to the report, I am 69% Northeast Asian and 31% Southeast Asian.  The classification of "Northeast Asian" and "Southeast Asian" cannot be very precise, but it generally means that a larger component of my DNA is associated with people in Northeast Asia than with people in Southeast Asia, with the proportion of 69 to 31.  This is based on the general mix of my DNA, including but going beyond the direct paternal genetic markers found in Y-chromosome DNA and maternal genetic markers found in mitochondria DNA.

According to genetics, both Northeast Asians and Southeast Asians, indeed all humans, are the descendants of the people who originated in Africa about 200,000 years ago.  In this sense, all humans are cousins in one way or another.

Modern humans are known as "Homo sapiens."  There were other humans or hominids living before or during the times Homo sapiens showed up on earth.  Two of the hominid species are Neanderthals and Denisovans.  One big surprise is that the Geno 2.0 test indicates that I am 1.3% Neanderthal and 2.7% Denisovan!!!  In general, Europeans have more component of Neanderthal than Asians, and Asians have more component of Denisovan than Europeans. 

Section 2:  My Paternal Lineage: M122 and O-F871

Heatmap for M122

According to Geno 2.0, my earliest paternal ancestor who migrated out of Africa about 50,000 years ago belonged to the haplogroup known as M89.  He was the common ancestor of both Asians and Europeans.  There have been many descendant haplogroups and I belong to one of them known as M122.  There are also many subgroups of M122, and I belong to O-F871.  Scientists are still trying to figure out how these different groups migrated during the 50,000 years since they left Africa.  Some of M122 migrated as far north as Siberia.  It is very likely that my ancient paternal ancestors moved from Africa through Central Asia to southern China and then to northern China and Southeast Asia.  I have to wait for further research to find out what the haplogroup O-F871 actually means and how this smaller group of people might have migrated and how some of them ended up in Taiwan.

It is one thing to know the genetic group one belongs to, it is a very different issue to figure out how members of any group might have spread out across the globe.  We can imagine that two twins might be separated and their descendants might end up living many hundreds or thousands miles away after tens of thousands of years.

The Heatmap above shows how the people of M122 are found in the world today, mainly in Asia.  The arrows represent the possible migration paths of M122.  The color of yellow is about 10% and red about 80% of frequency or percentage of M122 people in a given area.

Section 3:  My Maternal Lineage: M7 and M7b5

Heatmap for M7

According to Geno 2.0, my earliest maternal ancestor who might have migrated out of Africa, about 50,000 years ago, belonged to the haplogroup known as M.  She is considered the start of the east Eurasian lineage.  I belong to M7, which has many subgroups, and I belong to the subgroup of M7b5.  A large group of M7 migrated along the coast of India and reached Southeast Asia and then to southern China.  It is very likely that my ancient maternal ancestors were among this group.  Some of this group went as far as Australia and Polynesia.

I have to wait for further research to find out what the haplogroup M7b5 actually means and how this smaller group of people actually migrated and how some of them ended up in Taiwan.

As with the paternal lineage, it is one thing to know the genetic group one belongs to, it is a very different issue to figure out how members of any group might have spread out across the globe.  Similarly, we can imagine that two twins might be separated and their descendants might end up living many hundreds or thousands miles away after tens of thousands of years later.  

The Heatmap above shows how the people of M7 spread out in the world today, mainly in Asia. The arrows represent the possible migration paths of M7. The color of yellow is about 10% and red about 80% of frequency or percentage of the M7 people in a given area.  It is interesting to note that some people of M7 migrated north from the Middle East through Eurasia to China rather than through India and Southeast Asia.

More on Who I AM

The family photo taken on December 27, 2012, in Maryland, part of the Washington DC Metropolitan area, with my wife, our daughter and son, their spouses, and our four grandchildren

In spite of some issues about how my paternal and maternal ancestors actually migrated, I am totally surprised that I am a product of the first two great human migrations out of Africa.  My Y-DNA belongs to the northern migration from Africa through Eurasia to East Asia, and my mtDNA belongs to the southern migration from Africa through India to East Asia.  In a sense, I am a combination of the north and the south.  Somehow, the two different groups got hooked up as my father and mother in Taiwan!!!

My father was known as a Hakka (客家) and my mother a Hoklo (福佬), the two main dialectic groups in Taiwan.  They identified themselves largely in terms of their own dialect, Hakka or Hoklo.  During my childhood, I always spoke in Hakka with my father and Hoklo with my mother.  I found it difficult to speak Hoklo with my father or Hakka with my mother, even though my father and my mother spoke both Hakka and Hoklo fluently.  They could also speak Japanese and later Chinese Mandarin.

According to the commonly accepted understanding, Hakkas and Hoklos migrated from central China to southern China during the past two thousand or hundreds of years because central China was frequently invaded and even conquered by other groups of people, often referred to as "barbarians," notably Mongols and Manchus.  During their long processes of migration, they also invaded and conquered the southern parts of current China, where there were many other groups of people already living there.  Intermarriages among all the different groups of people must have taken place.  Hakkas and Hoklos are found today all over the world, not just in southern China and Taiwan.

Through centuries of intermarriages, one can imagine that neither Hakkas nor Hoklos could be considered "pure" Hakkas or Hoklos in the genetical sense (if there is one).  In fact, a great number of Hakkas and Hoklos in Taiwan today also have some DNA of the native people (about a dozen tribes) in their blood.  The native tribes could have migrated from Southeast Asia or southern China many thousands or hundreds of years before Hoklos and Hakkas.

I was born in Taiwan in 1938 from a "Hakka" father and "Hoklo" mother.  When we throw in the results of my DNA tests, who am I after all?

First of all, it must be said that all humans have the same common ancestors.  One way or another, we are all related in a hierarchy of genetic tree.  If we are not related in one of the branches, we must be related on a deeper level.  Moreover, since different branches can also be connected by marriages, the relationships can become extremely complicated.

I would not be surprised if my DNA is in some way related to many groups of people in different parts of China or Southeast Asia or Taiwan.  In fact, I would be surprised if not.  As I stated earlier, each person has over one million ancestors in 20 generations, our genetic mix would be almost unimaginable if we go beyond 20 generations.  While we should treasure our individual uniqueness, we should also learn to embrace our whole humanity, indeed, the whole universe as one.

According to Geno 2.0, I am 1.3% Neanderthal and 2.7% Denisovan and about 69% Northeast Asian and 31% Southeast Asian.  The numbers may change as genetic science and technology improve, but for now, I will tentatively accept the picture of me painted by Geno 2.0. 

My father became extremely fascinated with family genealogy at his old age.  On the basis of available sources (definitely not genetics), he produced a family tree tracing my paternal ancestry to about 2000 years ago in China.  According to him, I am the 57th generation; the 52nd generation migrated to Taiwan from southern China in about 1782. 

The oral and documentary evidence of one's genealogy is very much controversial.  Through intermarriages and social and political factors, it is hard to say whether all people who claim to be Hakkas or Hoklos have good genealogical or genetic basis.  Even if the oral and documentary account is correct, it is limited to the direct paternal lineage, neglecting all the other lineages.  Even though I am supposed to have only 56 direct paternal ancestors tracing back to 2000 years ago, I could have over many billions of ancestors (2 to the power of 56 or 7.2x1016).  Just in Taiwan, I could have 32 ancestors in five generations. I could never know who were the other 27 ancestors.  Some of them could have been closely related to the native peoples in Taiwan.

Geno 2.0 goes beyond strict paternal and maternal lineages and tries to understand all the genetic mixes in our DNA.  My DNA is even traced to 200,000 years ago and to Neanderthals and Denisovans.

My paternal lineage belongs to haplogroup M122.  The Geno 2.0 test indicates that the migration out of Africa might have taken my paternal ancestors through Central Asia to southern China, very likely before 10,000 years ago when the rice agriculture was developed there.  I have to wait for further research to learn about the migration of my subgroup of O-F871.

My maternal markers of M7 (and the subgroup of M7b5) must have come from my mother and her mother, not her father.  In the patriarchal Taiwanese society, my mother's  ethnicity was identified with her father, who was known as a Hoklo.  I have not known anything about the background of my maternal grandmother.  Now I must accept the almost certain fact that my M7 and M7b5 must be traced through my mother all the way to the woman about 50,000 to 60,000 years ago who was the first one born with the marker of M7.  The Geno 2.0 test shows that my maternal ancestors could have taken the path from Africa through India to Southeast Asia, and then somehow to Taiwan. 

Even though I got my haplogroup M7 from my mother, my children will not inherit my M7, because only mothers can pass their mtDNA markers to their children (boy and girl).  Therefore, my mother's M7 has been passed on through my sisters, and my children have gotten their mtDNA markers from my wife, not from me.  At this point, I do not know my wife's haplogroup of her mtDNA.  Only my son (I have only one son) has inherited my Y-chromosome markers, and only his son could pass my Y-DNA markers to my future descendents.

Looking to the future, since my daughter is married to a person who has Caucasian father and Korean mother, her children would have very different genetic mix.  My son's wife is a Korean, so his children (only one son now) will have another genetic mix.  It is hard to imagine how the future would look like with modern form of life and technology.

Y-chromosomal Adam and Mitochondrial Eve

Anthropologists and geneticists have coined the phrases "Mitochondrial Eve" and "Y-chromosomal Adam" for the first mother and the first father that could be traced with our current genetic technology.  There are many different estimates.  According to the Geno 2.0 report, the earliest Eve could be traced to about 180.000 years ago and the earliest Adam to about 140,000 years ago.  Scientists are still trying to explain why there is such wide difference between the estimates about "Ave" and "Adam."   Some of the reasons could be the different workings of mtDNA and Y-DNA and the different life-styles of females and males.  For example, if a scientist finds a living woman or a remain of a female body, geneticists could find her mtDNA but could not find any Y-DNA.  If the person is male, they can find both his mtDNA and Y-DNA.  There is more probability of finding continuity of the maternal lineage (from both male and female) than the paternal lineage (from only male).  It is also true that males have lived much shorter lives than females, especially in the ancient times.  In the hunting-gathering societies anywhere, men could lose their lives in wars, fighting against wild animals, or hunting expeditions, but women might find other males to protect them and have more children through them after their husbands died.  Many genetic, more likely paternal, lineages have disappeared in the past, especially when human population was small, as small as 10,000 people 50,000 years ago.  It is possible that the disappearance of genetic lineages were caused more by the disappearance of males.  We may say that females are better survivors than males.

Continuing Search for our Common Ancestors


With further understanding of our DNA and development of related technology, there could be better ways to solve the mysteries of my ancestry, human origins, and human migrations.

From all the things I have learned about our DNA, I marvel at the uniqueness of all human individuals, how they are so different, how they are so intricately interrelated, and how DNA can be used to trace to the common ancestors of all human beings in Africa.

Here are some of my conclusions: (1) genetically, every human being is unique; (2) genetically, there is no such thing as "Pure Chinese," "Pure Taiwanese," "Pure Hakka," "Pure Hoklo," or "Pure American."  They are simply social/cultural/political identities or even myths when absolutized; (3) all humans are related as one.  They live on the same earth and share the same ancestors who very likely emerged in Africa about 200,000 years ago.  For non-Africans, they share the same ancestors who migrated out of Africa about 50,000 or 60,000 years ago.  

It would be equally fascinating to find out how we evolve and develop through the interactions of our DNA with our environment.  An important subject I would like to pursue is the evolution of our brain in the interactions between our DNA and our environment.  

All of them are deeply fascinating scientific, philosophical, and religious questions.

My Earlier Tests and Related Writings

I am not ready to erase the records of my earlier tests and earlier writings about my ancestry.  They may be useful for tracing the development of this field of research.  If you are interested, please click one of the following links:

My earlier PowerPoint Presentation covering some basic concepts about genetics and the first result about my paternal lineage from Genographic Project:

    PowerPoint Presentation

The original report about my paternal lineage based on the first test from Genographic Project:

    My Paternal Ancestry (Haplogroup O)

The original report about my maternal lineage based on the test from Genographic Project:

    My Maternal Ancestry (Haplogroup M)

The report about my paternal subgroup from Family Tree DNA:

    My Paternal Ancestry (Haplogroup O3a3)

Then there is the report about my paternal and maternal lineages from Dr. Marie Lin's (林媽利) company in Taiwan, Taiwan Environmental Medicine (

    Dr. Marie Lin's Report

For my father's compilation of the Hsu family genealogy on the basis of available oral and documentary sources, go to:

    The Hsu Family Genealogy

© Sung-Peng Hsu 2011