In this debut guide to tracing family and cultural history, a genealogy enthusiast looks beyond the limits of the family tree to show what readers can learn about their ancestry through DNA analysis, with a particular focus on the ethnic communities of India.
Mahal’s book begins by examining the work of early historians, addressing the strengths and limitations of their reliance on hearsay and demonstrating how the works of Herodotus and Megasthenes have influenced Western understanding of India. Mahal then moves farther back in history with an overview of the predecessors of Homo sapiens and the migrations of early humans into the subcontinent. A high-level summary of several thousand years of Indian history traces the varied groups, from the Indus Valley settlers to the Greeks and the Xiongnu to the British, who have moved into and out of the area over several millennia. Mahal then shifts from history to science, explaining how DNA patterns can be used to trace relationships throughout populations. The book focuses on the major genetic markers among people of Indian ancestry, with color images of ancient artifacts and charts depicting the distribution of particular genes throughout India’s ethnic and geographic communities. Mahal concludes with a list of suggestions for readers interested in their own family history, encouraging them to undergo genetic testing, make use of online genealogy resources and develop a family tree that can be added to by future generations. With his focus on population genetics and migration trends, Mahal has chosen to focus on a wider approach to genealogy that doesn’t incorporate individual stories, which are often the impetuses behind genealogical research. Readers looking for a how-to guide to sorting through archives or tips for getting the most out of ancestry websites will find the book of limited use. Rather, it is likely to appeal to those looking to contextualize their experience within broader population trends.
A broad approach to genealogy that focuses on genetics and migrations rather than individuals and their stories.