I’d often thought about submitting my genes for analysis to establish and/or verify my ethnic origins. Genetic testing has become a very popular thing to do in the genealogical world. The impetus to act, finally came in the form of an email I received a few months ago. It was from a relative of the WINTER clan still living in Ireland—my mother’s paternal line. The relative informed me that she’d done the test and she was ‘95% Irish’. This was interesting, as it basically put to bed the theory that the WINTERs had migrated from Germany to Ireland, possibly, to escape religious persecution. It meant that the WINTERs were, in fact, ‘natives’ of Ireland.
The genetic line this relative carried had been passed down, in Ireland, for many generations. I, however, was a mixture. From what I knew of my heritage, I was 75% Irish, and 25% English. Three quarters of my great-great-grandparents, 12 out of 16 in fact, were born in Ireland: Luke COGHLAN, Ellen NEVIN, Martin QUINLAN, Ellen DUNN, Alexander CAMERON, Catherine RICE, Edward WINTER, Honoria TANCRED, Susanna FITZPATRICK, Jane BLAIR, Edward BOWES and Catherine KEEGAN. The other four were born in England: Edward LEE, Jemima WILLIAMS, George MILLETT and William SELLERS. I wondered, if I did the test, would it show this mix as I had calculated it or, would there be surprises? A Viking, perhaps?
My results arrived via email, two months after my little vial of spittle had flown over the Pacific to the AncestryDNA lab in America. The results were exciting… and surprising.
Here they are:
And in a little more detail:
Yes. I am 75% Irish. Not surprising. But what about those other bits and pieces? And the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal). 9%! That’s quite a chunk of my DNA. Strangely, I’ve never had the desire to dance the fandango or tease a bull with my red cape, so, what’s the story?
Ancestry.com has a lot of information about the different ethnic groups it tests for and after much reading it appears that my Iberian genes and all the other European bits and pieces I’m made up of are the result of the Celtic tribes moving across Europe. As it states on Ancestry.com:
Originating in central Europe, they [the Celts] spread to dominate most of western Europe, the British Isles and the Iberian Peninsula.
Admittedly, testing autosomal DNA (AncestryDNA test), that is, the hotchpotch of DNA inherited from both parents, is going to result in ‘mixtures’ of ethnic origins unless, of course, the parents have lived in the same place and married within the same group for generations. In that case, they may be considered ‘natives’ of the area. It is a fairly crude analysis, at best. There are other DNA tests available which will give more particular information: the Y-DNA test analyzes the DNA passed down on the patrilineal line, that is, from father to son, and the mitochondrial DNA test analyzes the DNA passed down on the matrilineal line, that is, from mother to her children. The latter test is interesting in that the mitochondrial DNA inherited by a daughter from her mother is in turn passed on to her daughter, and so on. Results from this testing may provide valuable historical information about the origins of the maternal line. This information is often hard to find or sometimes impossible to find as women were not often mentioned in records or newspapers.
So far, Ancestry has ‘matched’ my test results with 37 4th cousins and another 60, or so, distant cousins. A few of them have contacted me and no doubt we’ll be swapping facts and stories in the future.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, I didn’t score highly in the Viking stakes but I’m very happy to be a Celt…I think.