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MercurialCannibal

Who Are We Anyway: Tracing Our History

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I realize that everyone is a mix of pretty much everything, but broad groups have to be defined and cut off at some point. My surprise wasn't that she had the GB markers, it's that she only had 2%. One of her grandparents (great-grandparent?) came from a mostly English family, and there is a stray Scot or two in the mix. Surely she should have more GB than 2%. It makes me even more curious as to how they define it.

eta: and more on my search. This site has haplogroup breakdowns for European countries. I am not even going to try to decipher exactly what the groups mean, but I compared Ireland, England, Scotland and Czech Republic. In the British Isles, the main group (Italo-Celtic, Germanic ...) is near or over 70%. In Czechia the second highest percentage was this same group - only 22%, but it is a major influence.

That table doesn't look correct. I am by no means an expert on this but from what I know all of those big markers like R1a and R1b, I2 and so on are a lot older than the ethnic groups listed there. For example R1a is often connected to the Proto Indo-Europeans who probably started expanding from present day southern Russia/Ukraine during the late Neolithic or "copper age". Whereas I1 and I2 might be remnants of old hunter gatherer groups that had survived in Europe during the Ice Age.

So while some haplogroups are a lot more common in some ethnic groups than others today, which might show that these groups in question have more ancestry from some people than others and so on, it doesn't mean that the mixture happened in historic times. It could be way older than that.

So as far as I know, what they do when they try to trace more "recent" ancestry, is that they look at various subgroups for those paternal markers. So for example there is a certain kind of R1a that is prevalent in Scandinavia, so if a British or Irish person has that then they might be Viking descendants. That site doesn't list anything like this though.

Edited by Khaleesi did nothing wrong

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I have always wondered about the accuracy of DNA testing to trace back your ancestry. Looking back at recent history only, 19th century, I am surprised at the surprising blandness of the ancestors that turn up. This is not a rigorous examination but I once had a real interest in 19th century English literature. One thing that always struck me was the description of London streets during that period. The streets were regularly described as teeming with people from every corner of the Empire. The question is, where did they go? Let us go back to Roman times. The Romans had slaves from every corner of their empire, and spread them to everywhere else in their empire. That genetic heritage is still there in Italy, England, France, Northern Africa, Asia Minor, etc. The wonder of it is that there is such a thing as Dutch or French DNA. Take the Celts. Nobody knows exactly where they came from, but where they went is well documented. They probably did come from Asia, but they fought with the ancient Greeks, sacked Rome while it was still a small city, moved into Spain, and had two waves of occupation into Great Britain. In the end I suspect that DNA testing is a bit of a tossup as to determining ancestry unless your ancestors came from a place that nobody else wanted to bother with, and did not intermarry much.


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I have always wondered about the accuracy of DNA testing to trace back your ancestry. Looking back at recent history only, 19th century, I am surprised at the surprising blandness of the ancestors that turn up. This is not a rigorous examination but I once had a real interest in 19th century English literature. One thing that always struck me was the description of London streets during that period. The streets were regularly described as teeming with people from every corner of the Empire. The question is, where did they go? Let us go back to Roman times. The Romans had slaves from every corner of their empire, and spread them to everywhere else in their empire. That genetic heritage is still there in Italy, England, France, Northern Africa, Asia Minor, etc. The wonder of it is that there is such a thing as Dutch or French DNA. Take the Celts. Nobody knows exactly where they came from, but where they went is well documented. They probably did come from Asia, but they fought with the ancient Greeks, sacked Rome while it was still a small city, moved into Spain, and had two waves of occupation into Great Britain. In the end I suspect that DNA testing is a bit of a tossup as to determining ancestry unless your ancestors came from a place that nobody else wanted to bother with, and did not intermarry much.

Don't know about 19th century London, but as for the Roman slaves one pretty common characteristic of historical slavery AFAIK is that they didn't tend to reproduce, or at least not close to the degree needed to break even. Hence the necessity for continuous import of new slaves for the states that were reliant on them.

As for the Celts the mainstream idea seems to be that they came from somewhere around present day Austria or Switzerland originally.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celts

Edited by Khaleesi did nothing wrong

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Celtic is a linguistic term, with possible cultural connotations. Not an ethnicity as we would understand it. There's also a competing hypothesis for the introduction of Celtic languages and culture into Europe: the Atlantic hypothesis, generally supported by Cunliffe and Koch. Generally speaking, it looks at the commonalities in what is called the Atlantic Bronze Age in the British Isles, and the coasts of France and Spain, and sees those as the progenitors for Celtic culture. Attractive in part because there is no real evidence for the Celts ever moving west in the British Isles or Iberia, yet we know they were there for a rather long time. So instead of conceiving them as descendants of the Hallstatt or La Tene cultures of Central Europe, Cunliffe and co. theorize that what we recognize as "Celtic" originated in the Atlantic Bronze age, and then moved east.



Also, things like a divide between the "Celtic" Irish and others, with supposed differences in physical appearance, are bunkum. Red hair was not introduced, as far as we know, into Ireland or Britain by the Vikings. Was always there, more or less. Red hair and blond hair was recorded among people as diverse as the Gauls, the Romans, the Thracians, the Macedonians, and various others. Blond hair was often mentioned in early medieval Irish sources as the hair color of various heroes, alongside red hair, and dark brown or black hair. Later Anglo-Norman and English commentators characterized the Irish as all having long blond or red hair, but weren't typically interested in...well, anything approaching truth.



DNA ethnicity tests are also mostly bunkum, if I'm not mistaken. Didn't stop me from getting one taken mind you, but it's mostly just for fun.


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Don't know about 19th century London, but as for the Roman slaves one pretty common characteristic of historical slavery AFAIK is that they didn't tend to reproduce, or at least not close to the degree needed to break even. Hence the necessity for continuous import of new slaves for the states that were reliant on them.

Many urban Roman slaves were freed and created their own families. The promise of freedom was used to encourage them to work more efficiently, and later you could still count on them working for you or giving you money so they could free their mates and children.

And many female slaves were impregnated and gave birth ot their master's children, and those children in turn had a higher chance of being freed.

The rural slaves, who were of the unskilled, cheap, low-profit-per-head sort, on the other hand, received a much worse treatment, usually didn't have mates or children of their own, and weren't expected to become free, but to work until death or to be "released" (meaning, "dumped") once they were too old and weak to work anymore.

The Romans also recruited soldiers in many corners of the Empire, and those usually were recruited while very young, served for 20 years and then settled in another part of the Empire, usually in colonies where they received a house and land.

So yes, there was genetic exchange between the roman provinces.

As for the Celts the mainstream idea seems to be that they came from somewhere around present day Austria or Switzerland originally.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celts

About the Celts, they are connected to the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures, whose original core was in Central Europe, but those people came in turn from somewhere else. The Celts spoke Indo-european languages, and it is thought that the Indo-european languages were brought to Europe by people who migrated from Central Asia.

That doesn't mean that the people who came from Central Asia were already Celt. Those people contributed genetically and culturally to most cultures in Europe to some extent, and the Celts were just one of those.

Edited by Ser Lepus

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Celtic is a linguistic term, with possible cultural connotations. Not an ethnicity as we would understand it. There's also a competing hypothesis for the introduction of Celtic languages and culture into Europe: the Atlantic hypothesis, generally supported by Cunliffe and Koch. Generally speaking, it looks at the commonalities in what is called the Atlantic Bronze Age in the British Isles, and the coasts of France and Spain, and sees those as the progenitors for Celtic culture. Attractive in part because there is no real evidence for the Celts ever moving west in the British Isles or Iberia, yet we know they were there for a rather long time. So instead of conceiving them as descendants of the Hallstatt or La Tene cultures of Central Europe, Cunliffe and co. theorize that what we recognize as "Celtic" originated in the Atlantic Bronze age, and then moved east.

Also, things like a divide between the "Celtic" Irish and others, with supposed differences in physical appearance, are bunkum. Red hair was not introduced, as far as we know, into Ireland or Britain by the Vikings. Was always there, more or less. Red hair and blond hair was recorded among people as diverse as the Gauls, the Romans, the Thracians, the Macedonians, and various others. Blond hair was often mentioned in early medieval Irish sources as the hair color of various heroes, alongside red hair, and dark brown or black hair. Later Anglo-Norman and English commentators characterized the Irish as all having long blond or red hair, but weren't typically interested in...well, anything approaching truth.

DNA ethnicity tests are also mostly bunkum, if I'm not mistaken. Didn't stop me from getting one taken mind you, but it's mostly just for fun.

It is prehistory so it is hard to know for sure at this point I guess. Though Italic and Celtic languages tend to be grouped together as Italo-Celtic since they have many similarities, and I wonder how that would have happened with the Celts arising on the Atlantic coast.

As for the hair color thing it should also be said that the Romans wrote that the Gauls at least liked bleaching their hair, which might also explain why they were so often referred to as blonde even though it is not the majority color among modern French people. Maybe the Celts on the British Islands were similar.

Many urban Roman slaves were freed and created their own families. The promise of freedom was used to encourage them to work more efficiently, and later you could still count on them working for you or giving you money so they could free their mates and children.

And many female slaves were impregnated and gave birth ot their master's children, and those children in turn had a higher chance of being freed.

The rural slaves, who were of the unskilled, cheap, low-profit-per-head sort, on the other hand, received a much worse treatment, usually didn't have mates or children of their own, and weren't expected to become free, but to work until death or to be "released" (meaning, "dumped") once they were too old and weak to work anymore.

The Romans also recruited soldiers in many corners of the Empire, and those usually were recruited while very young, served for 20 years and then settled in another part of the Empire, usually in colonies where they received a house and land.

So yes, there was genetic exchange between the roman provinces.

About the Celts, they are connected to the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures, whose original core was in Central Europe, but those people came in turn from somewhere else. The Celts spoke Indo-european languages, and it is thought that the Indo-european languages were brought to Europe by people who migrated from Central Asia.

That doesn't mean that the people who came from Central Asia were already Celt. Those people contributed genetically and culturally to most cultures in Europe to some extent, and the Celts were just one of those.

Yes. But the bulk of the slaves that Rome had were never freed. The lucky or privileged (for example skilled craftsmen or personal tutors) were, but not most.

I'm not denying that there was some genetic exchange, but it doesn't need to have been super massive either.

It is also not thought that the Indo-Europeans came from Central Asia any longer. The most accepted hypothesis by academia today is that they came from the Pontic Caspian steppe (that is, around present day Ukraine and southern Russia) and probably spread like they did because they were the first people to domesticate the horse. The main competing hypothesis is that they came from Anatolia and spread through introducing farming. But this doesn't have as much support.

Either way this was thousands of years before the Celts.

Edit: Text became bold for some reason and it doesn't go away. :dunce:

Edited by Khaleesi did nothing wrong

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It is prehistory so it is hard to know for sure at this point I guess. Though Italic and Celtic languages tend to be grouped together as Italo-Celtic since they have many similarities, and I wonder how that would have happened with the Celts arising on the Atlantic coast.

As for the hair color thing it should also be said that the Romans wrote that the Gauls at least liked bleaching their hair, which might also explain why they were so often referred to as blonde even though it is not the majority color among modern French people. Maybe the Celts on the British Islands were similar.

I'm not a linguist, so I can't answer there. Cunliffe and Koch are linguists, and their theory is still fairly controversial among Celtic Studies folks, so it's not a cut-and-dry thing. Hell, the term "Celt" is pretty controversial on its own; Celtoskeptics (that's a real word) have a fair amount of pull in certain academic circles.

I'll also point out that modern appearances don't really say much about how people looked thousands of years ago. Not in an area as prone to warfare, migration, and settlement as pre-modern Europe, at least. Roman and Greek ethnographies are famously sketchy, to say the least, and so what they say is often suspect on many grounds. Not the least of which being that they seemed to call people "Celt" or "German" or "Thracian" or whatever based more on where they lived then on how they acted, looked, spoke, or anything concrete like that. Live east of the Rhine? Well, that's Germania, so I guess you're a German, Boiorix. West of the Rhine? Seems you're a Gaul, Hermann. Stuff like that. But generally, they describe all the various Celtic and Germanic peoples in pretty similar terms: really tall, really pale, blond or red haired, with blue eyes. These were ethnic stereotypes, picked as much for their "otherness" as they were for accuracy, in some cases.

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As to red hair, the earliest known reference to red hair is Gilgamesh. Redheads apparently lived in Mesopotamia.


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I'm not a linguist, so I can't answer there. Cunliffe and Koch are linguists, and their theory is still fairly controversial among Celtic Studies folks, so it's not a cut-and-dry thing. Hell, the term "Celt" is pretty controversial on its own; Celtoskeptics (that's a real word) have a fair amount of pull in certain academic circles.

I'll also point out that modern appearances don't really say much about how people looked thousands of years ago. Not in an area as prone to warfare, migration, and settlement as pre-modern Europe, at least. Roman and Greek ethnographies are famously sketchy, to say the least, and so what they say is often suspect on many grounds. Not the least of which being that they seemed to call people "Celt" or "German" or "Thracian" or whatever based more on where they lived then on how they acted, looked, spoke, or anything concrete like that. Live east of the Rhine? Well, that's Germania, so I guess you're a German, Boiorix. West of the Rhine? Seems you're a Gaul, Hermann. Stuff like that. But generally, they describe all the various Celtic and Germanic peoples in pretty similar terms: really tall, really pale, blond or red haired, with blue eyes. These were ethnic stereotypes, picked as much for their "otherness" as they were for accuracy, in some cases.

I see. Well, I guess it will take a while to get real clarity on that question.

Not necessarily, no. But when the Romans also mentioned that the Gauls did dye their hair then it could be part of an explanation too.

As for height, it is known that it could vary a lot throughout history even when it came to the same people, indicating that it is heavily influenced by diet and lifestyle (People from the early middle ages were way taller on average than people from the 17th century for example). Since the Gauls and Germans probably lived on cattle herding and hunting to a much larger degree than the Romans did (who mostly ate grain), much like early medieval people compared to early modern, it is not impossible that they could have been a bit larger.

Of course the Romans as you say were in general pretty ignorant about "barbarian" peoples, and a lot of what they wrote down about them is clearly exaggerated. But there could be some kernel of truth to it.

Edited by Khaleesi did nothing wrong

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I can trace my ancestors from both my father's and my mother's sides for a few centuries. All of them northern Italian, between Piedmont and Lombardy.


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as television has told me there are many different online services that could help. who has used what? how did it work for them?

I use quite a variety of them and find you need to bounce around between all of them as you piece together the puzzle of your family history. Ancestry and Family Search have the largest variety of collections and are good places to start. Ancestry requires registration and payment. Family Search is free but you are limited in the records you can actually view online unless you are in a LDS center or related library. Then depending on where your ancestors came from there are lots of websites that cover more specialized areas for research.

But before you start looking at websites, I think the best thing to do is start with whatever oral history you can get from your father and any other family members. Get down every name, date, location, and story they can remember and write them down and chart them out. Sometimes they won't be right in their recollections but anytime anything they told you matches up with a record you find helps confirm that you are on the right path. Also see if anyone has inherited any family records. Sometimes they are quite spread out among branches of the family but naturalization records and applications, wills, baptism and marriage certificates, etc. can be quite useful with supplying names, dates, and locations.

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I use quite a variety of them and find you need to bounce around between all of them as you piece together the puzzle of your family history. Ancestry and Family Search have the largest variety of collections and are good places to start. Ancestry requires registration and payment. Family Search is free but you are limited in the records you can actually view online unless you are in a LDS center or related library. Then depending on where your ancestors came from there are lots of websites that cover more specialized areas for research.

I'd just like to add that some college and university libraries have subscriptions to Ancestry Library that allow anyone who has library privileges to access it for free through the library's online databases. Some libraries give free access to all alumni as well as to present faculty and students.

Edited by Ormond

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I've used Family Search and within an hour was able to trace my paternal grandmother's family back to 1843 within an hour or so.

Edited by Arch-MaesterPhilip

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Making my second forray into ancestry.com this weekend I found a lot more information. From the records I have been able to check (birth & marriage records) I have been able to trace my mom's family back pretty far (but I can't verify or even check the British records :( ) I knew the family was once fairly well off and well connected, and owned a fairly large plantation in 1630's Virginia, fought in the French & Indian War, the Revolutionary War & the Civil War (for the South) and the children of an great (x5) uncle were part of the Luis and Clark expedition. (last name Fields)

I have found a lot of connections to the lesser branches of well known families in England as well (but no links to actual major branches, of course. cracks me up to see families of generations ago cousins that go on to spawn many famous descendants, while my family were literally poor dirt farmers :lol: )

In a most unusual twist, I have found another famous ancestor...famous for how & why he died (and for trying to stand up against the beliefs of the time)

John Proctor
BIRTH 09 OCT 1631 • Assington, Suffolk, England
DEATH 19 AUG 1692 • On Gallows Hill, Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, USA
9th great-grandfather

Yes, it is THAT John Proctor of the Crucible. Accused & convicted of witchcraft & hung on Gallows Hill

My 8th great grandfather was a son from his second wife. It was his third wife that had been originally charged with witchcraft and he was defending her when he too was charged (a large number of his family and extended family were charged)

anyway, I am enjoying this a great deal.

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I am my own family history and my only biological relative. Fortunately I am sufficient unto myself.



One of my aunts does genealogy for my (adoptive) father's family and I've found that I don't care beyond relatives that my father can directly remember and tell stories about. And even then, I care because it was part of the life of someone I care about and not because I feel like those people have any connection to me.



I feel like if I were going to have any interest at all in my ethnic background, which I do not, it would have manifested itself in interest in what I already know. I don't see how finding out that I'm exactly 83.6% would make that any different.


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I grew up with stories of how my grandfather on my father's side was a Native American and my grandmother on my mother's side was half Apache.



It was what I really wanted to find out about when I started this a few years ago. I was very disappointed to find it is nearly 100% British on both sides :lol:



Got to love the stories families tell :)


Edited by Lany Strangeways

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I am my own family history and my only biological relative. Fortunately I am sufficient unto myself.

One of my aunts does genealogy for my (adoptive) father's family and I've found that I don't care beyond relatives that my father can directly remember and tell stories about. And even then, I care because it was part of the life of someone I care about and not because I feel like those people have any connection to me.

I feel like if I were going to have any interest at all in my ethnic background, which I do not, it would have manifested itself in interest in what I already know. I don't see how finding out that I'm exactly 83.6% would make that any different.

This is pretty much how I feel.about genealogy- my grandma spent a decade doibg a detailed family tree.and wheni look at it I can appreciate it, but I'm mostly thinking..... Who gives a shit? Probably makes me an ass but I can't seem to muster up.any interest in it. And I love history, but I'm just not that into caring at all about someone I've never met.

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For me it's not the end result neccessarily, it's the digging. Once you get a little ways back, records become harder to find and verify, you have to make some educated guesses on where to look or what leads to follow. It can be very rewarding to finally verify something you've suspected was right for years but could never quite find something to confirm it.

I admit, I do get a little invested in the stories of my ancestors, but that's because I spend a lot of time with these names and find hints and snippets of their lives in documents like wills, birth and death records, newspapers, etc. If you're just looking at a final list of names that someone else put together, I understand why it's not that compelling.

Lany - my mom always believed she had Cherokee blood a few generations back. Turns out not to be true in the least.

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