Thursday, 11 February 2010

So who exactly are we? part 5

Please remember this was done for a bit of fun, to try and break down the silly thing we have about being "English", "Scottish", "Irish" or "Welsh"

Im going to give you some little clues if you want to try and work out who really is in your blood.

Now, I suppose that you could "guess" to give you the desired outcome, and argue in every single direction until you reach the conclusion of your choice - I personally would be horrifed if I suddenly found out I was decended from a Welsh/French/Roman horse eating raider.

Blood Types

In the UK (and Eire) the predominant blood types are O+ and A+

O+
This blood group carries the genetic imprint of the very first humans, the Cro-Magnon hunter-gatherers. So the very first people who came into this country, well, everyone would have very probably been type O. And this can be picked up by countries such as Ireland, with a very dense "Celtic" population. Roughly half of the current population carry this blood type


In Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Germany (basically all the countries where our other invaders came from, so that means "Anglo-Saxons" "Vikings" and "Normans") - the predominant bloody type is A+.

A+
This is the second oldest blood group and dates back roughly 25,000 years.

So we will say (for the sake of arguement as Im not a geneticist) that Celts and Picts were highly likely to have had O+ blood types. And the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Vikings and Normans would have been predominantly A+

Im going to leave the Romans out of this one, as the current figures are misleading. So Im going to make a very sweeping statement and say "They probably wouldnt have mixed with the locals anyway as they would have thought we were far too inferior" (thats my way of saying - ermmmm)

So, if you know for a fact that you have got no other "foreign" blood in your family in recent history, do you fit into either of those blood types?

Thats your first clue.

Secondly - look to where your family came from. Im not talking about your mum and dad - because in the last 40 years, people have moved about more and more, entering new communities. Whereas in the times of our great-grandparents, this was comparitively rare. People were born, raised and died in the same local area. If they moved at all, it was generally within a 20 mile radius.

One slight variation to all of this is those who had relations who came from Ireland in the mid to late 1800's. Although, those people tended to marry within the same communities once they had settled in this country, so there wasnt a great deal of "marrying out", at least not for the first 50 years or so.

Did your family originate from somewhere inside "The Danelaw" in England? Were they from an area of Scotland that was occupied by the Norsemen? Did they come from somewhere like Dublin that was a massive Viking settlement? Or did they come from a very remote area, inland (such as central southern Ireland or the Scottish Highlands), that would have been harder to get to 1000 years ago? Well, as far as this last example goes - if you have a type O blood, and your family were living in that community for generations, then you could brag and say that you're likely to be decended from the original inhabitants of that local area. You might have something else thrown in, but you are predominantly British.
Well done!!!

Now skin and hair colouring is a whole other ball game.

We all have the image of Vikings and Saxons as being tall with blond flowing hair. And when we think of Celts we either think of the Irish or Scots, and we put a nice mop of ginger hair on their heads.

So if you have Scandinavian ancestors you will have blonde hair? And if you are Celtic you will have red hair???

NOT strictly true.

I'll use myself as a little example of this.
My mum was blonde and her family history would say to us all "Irish/Scottish" as although we know that they came from Ireland, they have a Scottish surname, which would probably indicate crossing between northern Ireland and South West Scotland one or more times in the distant past. Which is ok in itself, as both peoples would have probably had the O+ blood group, and had very strong Celtic links to each other.

My dad is ginger and his family originate from the far north west of Scotland.

My younger sister is blonde and taller than I am with fair skin.

I am dark and short (at 5ft 2) with a slightly more olive look to my skin.

Both of my mums sisters and her brother are dark haired and fair skinned.

So either my mum brought the wrong baby home from the hospital, or Im just a bit of a throwback. I also have a different blood type to my sister - who is O+.
Im actually A+ and have since found out I have the same type as my dad.

So to break that down, I cant use my skin or hair colouring to determine my origins. If I go off my blood type, it would maybe give me the excuse to say Ive got Scandinavian ancestors. Which would stand to reason as my dads family were from a coastal region in NW Scotland - and one that was occupied by the Vikings.
So my sister got the colouring and I just got the blood type :-)


One other little pointer (although this is on a much more sinister, and sadder, note), is the predisposition of certain races to particular illnesses, conditions or diseases. Below are details of two of them.

Dupuytren's Contracture
Dupuytren’s disease is an ancient affliction of unknown origin. It is a shortening, thickening, and fibrosis of the palmar fascia which can cause your hand to have a clawed look, and making it impossible for you to straighten your fingers. Tradition has it that the disease originated with the Vikings, who spread it throughout Northern Europe and beyond as they traveled and intermarried. Two very famous sufferers of this disease were Ronald Regan and Maggie Thatcher. Dupuytren’s contracture is virtually confined to people of European descent. Its highest incidence is recorded in Iceland. As expected, the incidence is also high in Scandinavia.

The next disease I know very well, through bitter personal experience, as my mum was a sufferer, so maybe the Viking blood had crept into what I suspected was a pure Celtic family after all..........

Multiple Sclerosis
This was from an article in The Independant in 1998, where genetic studies had shown that Scotland had twice as many people suffering from MS as England and Wales. A Scottish newspaper also ran the story that if you have a Scottish surname, you can double that risk again.

"Scotland – the mainland around Aberdeen, the Orkney and Shetland Islands – has the highest risk (of MS]. The best explanation is that this reflects the genetic background because those are areas where there is a very high influence of Nordic genes, probably delivered by the Vikings. As I understand it they were in the habit of leaving behind their genetic material in the most generous way" Alastair Compston, professor of neurology and head of the department of clinical neurosciences at Cambridge University.

According to the Viking Hypothesis the global distribution of certain northern-European genes which appear to be present in cases of MS, may be attributed to a time of Viking expansion around 800AD when the population of Scandinavia increased rapidly. Thousands left their homeland to search for new land to feed their families, bringing their language, traditions and genetic material along with them.

So maybe my mums blonde locks were an indicator after all?

Anyway - I am not going to finish on a sad note. I hope that those of you who thought "Us Brits" were a nation of elitist pure bred snobs, can now take great satisfaction from knowing we're as confused about our ancestry as everybody else.

And I also hope my potted version of the invasions of our lands have cast some light onto an area which Im passionate about, (you probably already gathered that), and that it might have sparked an interest in at least one other person to want to learn more about their own history.

Thank you so much for reading all of this.
J x

7 comments:

  1. Love it..I'm a mongrel
    (but don't let my Mother hear me stay that or I'll be in BIG trouble...Mongrel indeed... actually my ancestors seemed to have stayed in the same 30 mile radius for the last 400 years ..which is as far back as I've got but before then who knows)


    btw the white cliffs poscard creased me up

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  2. Thanks Val

    It looks like Im one too. 400 years is a long time for your family to stay in one place, so I guess that you're in a much better position than most of us for getting a clearer idea of who you are, and what's in the mix.
    Oh and the White Cliffs photo - I laughed my head off when I saw that and just HAD to use it to make my point.
    Im glad you enjoyed it
    J :-)

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  3. Hey, J, you haven't sent me your email yet! When you do, I'll be able to give you a link to our family tree that I've been working on.
    Auntie M xx

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  4. Yo Aunty Mo

    have just emailed you x

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  5. Your aunt mentioned your blog so I came over to visit, and I find this post fascinating. DNA, geneaology, genetic links to diseases, this is of interest to me. I am in the USA and have ancestors from the UK, Belgium, France and Germany.
    Welcome to the world of blogging.

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  6. Hi Terra and thank you for the welcome. By the looks of things we're probably all related anyway ;-)
    If it is of any interest to you, some studies were done about 10 years ago in the UK and they managed to identify the "Norwegian" Viking gene, as separate from the "Danish" one (which would have been most of the rest of our invaders), and then also found the genetic marker for the Celtic Britons. Sadly they only did this through the "Y" chromosome, so could only test men, but Im hoping they get round to doing us girlies at some point as Id love to know for sure.
    :-)

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  7. Thanks for the series. It's been great fun.

    I've too much Brit ancestry and have seen too much of my family tree to think there is anything purebred about the British.

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Thank you very much for taking the time to comment on my waffle. I'll reply when Im next online.