Where I come from

A couple of months back I sent off some of my DNA to test my genetic origins. I got the results today.

It was no surprise to find that my strongest regional connection was with Europe. What was surprising that within Europe the top result – and therefore the top result of all – was Belarus, followed by Central and Eastern European countries such as Austria, Czechoslovakia, Bosnia, and so on, until we hit Ireland coming in at seven – Ireland I know I have definite ancestry. After that came Spain, Portugal, as well as the top result from the second strongest region, Morocco, from the Middle East/North Africa.

It’s fascinating to think about all the previous versions of H inhabiting a reasonably concentrated geographical area, meeting, mingling, inter-mingling. These results, I should note, are based on statistical probabilities. My DNA, for example, most closely matches those of people living in present day Belarus, and so on.

It took me a while to process and unpack this, and then I began to hypothesise. I’ve often been mistaken for German/Scandinavian, but those countries were 16/17/18 on the list. I can only imagine Belarussians – what were called White Russians – are of similar physical appearance. In case I speculated that obviously many hundreds of years one thread of my ancestors inhabited Belarus, before spreading. I know historically that some Vikings came from that area, and I would guess some long ago ancestor of mine headed off on a raiding party and ended up in Ireland, where the story is taken up. The other countries listed are false positives I would guess, reflective of the spread and influence of Belarussians into the eastern and central parts of Europe. (Interesting to note, incidentally, that England does not rate in the top 25 of possible ancestral connections – which explains my general resistance to English culture).

On the other side of it I know that my mum’s maiden surname was said to be French or Spanish, and I think we can probably presume that she is represented by those countries on this list, including Portugal and even Morocco, which is just over the straits.

Strangely enough of the remaining regional areas the Honduras is the highest rating in Central/South America – that will be the Spanish/Portuguese of my mother’s side of the family.

In Asia – the fourth ranked region – Australia itself comes out the top result. That’s no surprise given I live here and my family on both sides as far as I know have been here five generations at least. And it represents the multicultural polyglot Australia is – a bit of everything. The other Asian countries represented are those who were colonised by the west and therefore have some European DNA bred into them. Surprisingly New Zealand comes in number six in that region. It seems odd that the only real Caucasian country in the region would rank so low, until you consider that New Zealand has a strong English/Scots heritage – I have no English in my recorded DNA, and Scotland comes in at about 20.

There’s one family story, possibly apocryphal, which crosses over these different connectors.

My aunt was very dark blue-black hair, Spanish looking hair, or Irish black if you prefer. She was the anomaly in the family, the throwback. The story went that around the time of the Spanish Armada some Spanish sailor washed up on the shores of Ireland after his vessel foundered. He found some sweet Colleen and the rest is history.

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