Archives for : February2016

Ireland – 18%

Primarily located in: Ireland, Wales, Scotland

Also found in: France, England

Ireland is located directly west of Great Britain in the eastern part of the North Atlantic Ocean. A variety of internal and external influences have shaped Ireland as we know it. Ireland’s modern cultural remains deeply rooted in the Celtic culture that spread across much of Central Europe and into the British Isles. Along with Wales, Scotland, and a handful of other isolated communities within the British Isles, Ireland remains one of the last holdouts of the ancient Celtic languages that were once spoken throughout much of Western Europe. And though closely tied to Great Britain, both geographically and historically, the Irish have fiercely maintained their unique character through the centuries.


Prehistoric Ireland & Scotland

After the Ice Age glaciers retreated from Northern Europe more than 9,000 years ago, hunter-gatherers spread north into what is now Great Britain and Ireland, during the Middle Stone Age. Some 3,000 years later, during the New Stone Age, the first farming communities appeared in Ireland. The Bronze Age began 4,500 years ago and brought with it new skills linked to metalworking and pottery. During the late Bronze Age, Iron was discovered in mainland Europe and a new cultural phenomenon began to evolve.

Around 500 B.C., the Bronze Age gave way to an early Iron Age culture that spread across all of Western Europe, including the British Isles. These new people originated in central Europe, near what is Austria today. They were divided into many different tribes, but were collectively known as the Celts.

The Celts

From around 400 B.C. to 275 B.C., various tribes expanded to the Iberian Peninsula, France, England, Scotland and Ireland—even as far east as Turkey. Today we refer to these tribes as ‘Celtic,’ although it is a modern term which only came into use in the 18th century. As the Roman Empire expanded beyond the Italian peninsula, it began to come into increasing contact with the Celts of France, whom the Romans called “Gauls.”



The Romans

The Romans eventually conquered the Gauls and began an invasion of the British Isles in 43 A.D. Most of southern Britain was conquered and occupied in a few decades. As the Roman Empire advanced, the Celtic tribes were forced to retreat to other areas that remained under Celtic control, chiefly Wales, Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man, and Brittany. The Roman presence largely wiped out most traces of Celtic culture in England—even replacing the language. Since the Romans never occupied Ireland or Scotland, they are among the few places where Celtic languages have survived to this day.

The Vikings

Beginning in the late 8th century, Viking raiders began attacking the east coast of England and the northern islands off Scotland. The first recorded Viking raid in Ireland was in 795 A.D. on the island of Lambay, off the coast of Dublin. During the next few centuries, they controlled parts of the islands, exacting tribute, and pillaging villages and monasteries.

During the 9th century, the Vikings established trading ports in Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Wexford, and Limerick. As they settled in Ireland, Vikings intermarried and assimilated with the native population.


The Normans

During the 12th century, Ireland consisted of a number of small warring kingdoms, and England was ruled by Norman kings (the Normans originated in Northern France where they gave their name to the region of Normandy). When Diarmait Mac Murchada, the King of Leinster, was deposed by the Irish High King, he turned to Henry II of England for help. Henry sent Norman mercenaries to assist, and Mac Murchada regained control of Leinster, though he died shortly thereafter. Then, in 1171, Henry II seized control of Ireland, and with the support of Pope Adrian IV, he took the title, “Lord of Ireland,” and the Norman lords established a presence in Ireland.

The Norman invasion brought many changes to Ireland – among them walled towns and the building of castles and churches. Like the Vikings before them, the Normans assimilated with the native Irish population. The Norman influence in Ireland lives on in surnames such as Butler, French, Roche, and Burke. Irish surnames beginning with “Fitz” are also Norman. Fitz is the equivalent of the Gaelic “Mac” meaning “son of.” For example, the name Fitzpatrick indicates a descendant of a Patrick.

English Rule

As Norman influence declined in Ireland, the English monarchs took a more direct role in the governance of Ireland. In 1542 after a failed Irish rebellion, Henry VIII created the Kingdom of Ireland, bringing the area under direct English rule.

Around this time Henry made another decision that had far reaching consequences for Ireland. In 1527, after the Pope refused to annul Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Henry broke away from the Roman Catholic Church and created the Church of England, with the English monarch as its head. This English Reformation resulted in a rise in Protestantism across England, Scotland, and Wales.

Ireland was resistant to Protestantism, and when England attempted to force it upon them—and failed—the Crown replaced Irish landowners with thousands of Protestant colonists from England and Scotland. These colonies became known as the Plantations of Ireland, whose long term effect was to replace the Catholic ruling classes with Protestants. In the 1600’s, Penal Laws were introduced which denied Catholics many land-owning and political rights. The repression of Catholics in Ireland continued until the 1830s, when Daniel O’Connell led the campaign for Catholic Emancipation.

Irish Emigration

Ireland has a history of emigration that goes back centuries. Plantations and Penal Laws created harsh conditions for Catholics and Dissenters (Protestants who were separate from the Church of England). For many, emigration was the only option for survival. In the 1600s, Irish migrated to the Caribbean and Virginia Colony. In the 1700s, many Irish Quakers and Presbyterians departed for North America. Although the “Great Famine” of the 1840s is mentioned as the time of mass migration out of Ireland, the decades after the famine saw even greater numbers of people leaving its shores.

The 20th century saw several waves of Irish emigration. During the 1940s, 1950s, and 1980s, a great many Irish left Ireland for a new life abroad – mainly Great Britain, America, and Australia. Today, up to 100 million people around the world can claim Irish heritage.

Great Britain – 46%

Primarily located in: England, Scotland, Wales

Also found in: Ireland, France, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Italy

The history of Great Britain is rooted in the invasions of different groups of people displacing the native population. Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, and Normans all left their mark on Great Britain, both politically and culturally. The story of Great Britain, however, is far more complex than the traditional view of invaders displacing existing populations – modern studies of British people suggest the earliest populations continued to exist and adapted to absorb the new arrivals.

great britain dna

Prehistoric Britain

At the end of the Last Glacial Maximum 12,000 years ago, sea levels around northern Europe were low enough for Stone Age hunter-gatherers to cross on foot into what is now the British Isles. Farming spread to the islands by about 4000 B.C., and the Neolithic inhabitants erected their remarkable and puzzling stone monuments, including the famed Stonehenge.

Beginning about 2500 B.C., successive waves of tribes settled in the region. These tribes, often called ‘Celts’,  were not a nation but, rather, a widespread group of tribes that shared a common culture and similar languages. Originating in Central Europe, they spread to dominate most of Western Europe, the British Isles and the Iberian Peninsula, ultimately settling as far away as Anatolia, in modern-day Turkey. They could not withstand the rise of the Roman Empire, however.

After defeating the Celts of Gaul (modern-day France, Luxembourg, Belgium and western areas of Germany and Switzerland), the Romans invaded the British Isles in 43 A.D. Most of Southern Britain was conquered and occupied over the course of a few decades and became the Roman province of Britannia. Hadrian’s Wall, in the north of England, marked the approximate extent of Roman control. Those tribes who were not assimilated into the Roman Empire were forced to retreat to other areas that remained Celtic, such as Wales, Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man and Brittany. The Romans wiped out most traces of pre-existing culture in England—even replacing the language with Latin.

Germanic tribes invade

With the decline of its Western Empire, Rome largely withdrew from Britannia in 410 A.D. As the Romans left, tribes from Northern Germany and Denmark seized the opportunity to step in. The Angles and Saxons from Germany soon controlled much of the territory that had been under Roman rule, while the Jutes from Denmark occupied smaller areas in the south. The new settlers imposed their language and customs on the local inhabitants in much the same way the Romans had. The Germanic language spoken by the Angles would eventually develop into English.

The region was divided into several kingdoms, with the more powerful kings sometimes exerting influence or control over the smaller kingdoms. There was no single, unified English kingdom, however, until the early 10th century and the rise of the House of Wessex.

Viking invasions

During the 8th Century, seafaring Scandinavians began raiding coastal areas in Europe. The Vikings were not just warriors and pillagers, however. They also established numerous trade ports and settlements throughout the British Isles, Russia, Iceland, and the Iberian Peninsula. Vikings who settled in Northern France became known as the Normans and, by the early 11th Century, ruled a powerful region sanctioned by the French crown.

Danish Vikings invaded Northern and Eastern England in 876 and came to control a third of the country, defeating several smaller Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. The rulers fought for nearly 80 years with the remaining English kings over the region. The balance of power swung back and forth a number of times, with an English king, Edward the Elder, gaining the upper hand in the early 900s and a Danish king, Cnut the Great, ruling England, Norway and Denmark from 1016 to 1035.

After the deaths of Cnut’s sons, the throne returned to Anglo-Saxon control, but it was short-lived, as Edward the Confessor died leaving no male heir. The Normans in France, led by William the Conqueror, sailed across the English Channel and claimed the throne of England, defeating the only other rival, Harold Godwinson, at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. In 1067, William extended his control to Scotland and Wales.

(Information adapted from Ancestry DNA website that accompanied test results)

DNA Test Results Are IN!!

all regions dna closeup dna

The results from the AncestryDNA test I took after Christmas just arrived. I’ve been looking at the results for several reasons: 1) Do the results generally match the information in my database? (YES); 2) Do the most significant regions tend to match where most of my ancestors were from? (YES); 3) Has the test identified any “close” relations I might be able to work with? (SOME – 63 to start, 4th cousins or closer, more coming in the future); and, finally, what types of support information are available on the site to explain the results and how they were obtained? (YES).

My results will be the main emphasis in this blog moving forward for a while, mainly from the standpoint of how the information can be interpreted, based on the ethnicity estimates above. The site will explain the process in far more detail than I intend to explain it.

How the ethnicity estimates are determined –

“We create estimates for your genetic ethnicity by comparing your DNA to the DNA of other people who are native to a region. The AncestryDNA reference panel (version 2.0) contains 3,000 DNA samples from people in 26 global regions.

We build the reference panel from a larger reference collection of 4,245 DNA samples collected from people whose genealogy suggests they are native to one region. Many of these samples were originally collected by the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation.

In future installments, I will examine each region above and how my results fit in. Stay tuned….