Of course you were always there; I still see those dark eyes like warm pools of love, such intimacy poisoning nearby attention. And whilst jealousy and estrangement have enmeshed silence around us ever since — family is everything, it’s all we have to fall back on, to stand up to those moving to destroy us. So mother, I honour you, archetype in my mind, fulcrum of my heart: And may siblings forgive each other.
A few days ago I received my long awaited DNA results from 23andme.com.
The process was relatively easy; they kept me up to date with how it was going with regular emails. In total it took around five weeks from ordering the kit to receiving the results.
So it was with a little excitement, and a some trepidation, when my finger finally clicked the email link which took me to the website login.
It has long been contended within my family that there might be some more, shall we say, far flung genes within our pool. What might they be?
All of the family I’ve known have been British, mostly, though not exclusively, English. My Geordie (Newcastle area born) Grandmother, for instance, had a Scottish maiden name, which nevertheless did not prevent her from occasionally casting one or two harsh words aimed at her genetic cousins just a short distance north of the border. Borders are always areas of contention.
My mother’s side of the family were largely dark haired, often with dark eyes too. I myself have dark brown hair with hazel-green eyes, which appear to come from my father.
On top of this there was some speculation that there might be Irish, or perhaps Romany blood. I don’t know where such speculation might have started though.
To put it another way though, I would not have been surprised to find some such significant traces in our family history.
Imagine my surprise then when I read down the composition of my ancestry according to the research based on my sample of saliva. Here it is in basic terms:
97.9% Northwest European.
59.8% British and Irish – the strongest hits being Greater London and Glasgow, with lesser ones in the north midlands, north west and north eastern England, perhaps Cornwall. In Ireland it was found that Limerick, Dublin, Roscommon and County Wexford also represent some significance.
The above is to be found mostly within the last 1-3 generations, down to my great grandparents.
12.1% French and German. No actual place name hits could be found here, though looking at some of those within 23andme.com (my ‘relatives’ or possible distant cousins) with small percentages of similar DNA, Germany seems to come up quite often, whereas France does not. This may be misleading, however.
This DNA would most likely be found in generations 4-7, from my great great grandparents backwards.
3.6% Scandinavian. No actual place name hits here either, though once more this is a large area, with the best chance of finding it within generations 4-7.
22.5% Broadly Northwestern European. This generality is explained by significant migrations over longer periods of time which might ‘smooth over’ more specific areas of placement.
Maybe these ancestors tended to live in or around seaports (where there’s more influx of people – my speculation), anywhere from Germany to Iceland, from Norway to France. This is a significant percentage, almost a quarter of my DNA, so it would be nice to narrow this down, if possible.
1.6% Southern European. Another generality.
0.5% Broadly European.
All the other tested populations came up with zero percentages.
I knew of the Scottish connection, though not of Glasgow, I assumed it was more to do with Edinburgh, the Lothians or the Borders. I had speculated about the Irish. It would be great to follow up both of these with more investigation.
The London connection is a great surprise, however. I know of only one family member, a great grandmother on my father’s side, who was born anywhere near London, South Weald in Essex. I don’t think this would be enough to score the highest hit. So there might be one or two things to investigate here – maybe the London connection is indeed stronger than I think.
And as for the French, German, Scandinavian, and southern European links I simply have no idea, so that’s exciting in itself. It’s at times like this I wish I’d asked my parents or grandparents more questions about family related matters.
However, one of the great things you can do with 23andme is link up with others of similar DNA strands and share information, if both parties are willing to do so. You can display as much or as little information as you wish. This can and does often lead to revelation, I am told.
Is It Worth It?
So is it worth around the ninety pounds I paid in all? If you are seriously interested in family history, then yes, definitely.
And don’t think these results are the end – this is only the beginning. They are continually updated; if you’re prepared to participate with other members, plus also to join up for further research, such as in health, then this process should keep you intrigued and consumed for many years to come.
In the future, I hope to visit some of the places my DNA has been linked to, to visit Scotland and Ireland again, to go to parts of France, Germany and Scandinavia I’ve never seen.
My father has been dead a long time now, but I’ve never stopped missing him.
I was brought up in an agricultural community of intensive farming, but with just enough ‘real nature’ around us to appreciate the clean air (usually), the silence, the freedom. I virtually grew up on a bike and cars were relatively rare down our road.
Through all that time my father seemed to be in the background, always there, but quiet, shy. He’d had various jobs before retirement, a butcher, farm labourer mainly, but he was an intelligent man of few words.
And I feel I never really knew or understood him.
I wish I’d asked more questions, about his early life, his family. But we never know or ask enough, do we? We take it for granted that our family are there. For us.
Then one day, one of them is not. It’s too late. Yes, of course, I’m stating the obvious, but most often we ignore the obvious all around us, don’t we?
My abiding memory is of my father on his piece land at the back of our house, digging, simply digging the rich soil, surrounded by the vast fertile fields and eyed by hungry, inquisitive birds.