Dan Draghici is a Canadian with ancestry in Romania. He is an administrator of the Romania project and is involved in research of the origins of modern and historic peoples of Romania.
Question: Please tell me about yourself. What do you do for a living? What are your other hobbies and interests apart from genealogy?
Answer: I work in the public service in Canada, in international trade, supporting Canadian companies in clean technology to expand internationally. This area has become a government priority since Oct 2015. It is interesting and innovative!
When I have some spare time, I also like to read, in particular history and sometimes use Google Books to download really old books, some quite unique. Also love to travel, cook, make wine, watch movies, swim…
Question: What brought you to genealogy? What is your favorite part?
Answer: I believe it started with the fact that I grew up under communism back in Romania. Anything old was different and valued. A baptism candle for my Mom’s christening wrapped in a 1944 newspaper brought to life pre-communism news and language.
My maternal grandparents also kept an old candy box filled with old family documents, such as baptism or marriage records for my great-grandparents. So I wanted to go further back in time and know who my other ancestors were, what language they spoke etc.
Question: How did you become involved in genetic genealogy?
Answer: It all started in the fall of 2005 when I read a CBC article about a company in Texas that does DNA genealogy testing. I googled the company name, found FTDNA and then ordered the first test in Nov 2005. My first 12 markers and the HVR1 for mtDNA. Then things started to progress, I ended up testing also at Ethnoancestry, 23andme, decodeme, and the National Genographic Project. A lot of money and a lot of patience, as any serious hobby would require!
Question: The need for consumer genetic testing standards has been a topic for years now. To what extent do you think government regulation is needed?
Answer: The government needs to make sure that customers are well informed and aware of any potential consequences of them making rush interpretations of results or from sharing their results with others. Beyond that, allow people to be curious and find out more about the past.
We all know what nationalism and racial purity theories (and policies) had led to. Government propaganda is still influencing people’s minds and at some point people need to realize that we are all cousins and not really so different from each other.
Question: Do you feel that the responsibility for consumer education lies with the testing companies, the citizen science community, or the consumer?
Answer: Each one has rights and responsibilities. It just becomes a matter of how much and how far, for each.
Question: What DNA tests have you taken?
Answer: I (almost) fully tested my paternal line (BigY test at FTDNA), but also previous tests with Ethnoancestry (who found me U106/S21+), 23andme, decodeme, and the National Genographic Project (Y-DNA refinement, for Z331+).
On my mtDNA side I tested for FGS with FTDNA, but also at 23andme, decodeme, and the National Genographic Project, depending on coverage.
As for autosomal DNA I tested the Family Finder at FTDNA, 23andme and decodeme. However, not much spectacular is found on this side (J1/J1c) other than some potential deep Balkan source – Greek, Albanian, Serbian.
Question: Have you tested your family?
Answer: I tested myself and also a second cousin since my maternal grandfather and his brother died in 1992 and 1997 respectively. The results for my grandfather’s line show affinity with Poles, Silesians and Vends, which is interesting.
Question: Have your or your family’s test results ever been a surprise?
Answer: Yes, I mentioned some above. In my case I seem to have some pre-Germanic or Celtic connections. Lots of options, but who knows? The lineage stops about 3,000 years ago, but hopefully more people testing and new BigY matches (FGC12346+) would bring me closer to present times. Based on current matches, my lineage is a Central-European or Western-European transplant into SW Romania, sometimes between 3,000 YBP and 1800s.
Question: Has genetic genealogy helped you break through any of your brick walls or solve a family mystery?
Answer: Nothing yet, the mystery continues…
Question: Do you have advice for someone starting out in genealogy or genetic genealogy DNA?
Answer: Yes, make sure to do your genealogy first, paper trail is important. But once you do DNA testing forget about names since adoptions, nicknames or non-paternal events can skew our knowledge of who we think we are. Always keep an open mind and let yourself be surprised. Only trust DNA in the end.
Question: What do you think the future holds for genetic genealogy?
Answer: It will become increasingly popular, with declining prices and increased coverage. But with any increase in the volume of data connected to results, interpretation of these results will become more important.
Currently, there are few services that can do a thorough job explaining the results. at FTDNA project administrators aim to do a good/great job, but it depends on the amount of knowledge they have and time since they are volunteers. For geographic projects things are less focused and more difficult as they deal with various lineages and haplogroups.
For example, in the Romania project I administer, new members join because their paternal line had someone from/in Romania at some point (e.g., Ashkenazi Jews), or someone on their maternal side (usually less known), or due to some matches in their autosomal results.
Finally, we are going to get a much better understanding of who we are, who our ancestors were, where they lived, where they left to and maybe why. We are also going to learn more about high mobility for multiple groups of people, even in ancient times.
Records indicate that the Romans would move whole populations for some reason – being defeated, to recolonize deserted areas etc. But it remains unknown how much of this had altered our DNA composition today.
Then we have repeated back migrations (such as to Africa), interbreeding with the Neanderthals.
One big unknowns for me, for example, is the whole formation of the Romanian people. Where did it happen mostly? And who were the Dacians that once lived in what is now Romania before 106 AD? There are many inscriptions in Scotland and northern England about Roman auxiliary troops formed of Dacians that helped build the Hadrian Wall. Many became Roman citizens and stayed in Britain after they became veterans. Could it be possible that some Romanians and Brits today are actually related no further back than 2,000 years ago and their ancestors come from Transylvania? This is just an example… In general, any such mystery might be solved when ample ancient DNA testing is conducted. But either DNA is scarce, funding availability, or the local interest…