A Clarification on My Own Ancestry

There seems to be some confusion about my own ancestry among some people who read my blog and have communicated with me on other websites. I will now attempt clear this matter up for those interested. If you are not interested, you do not need to read this. This post is not intended to brag or to manipulate, but to prevent an asymmetry of information. I previously described my parents as Anglo-Saxon, and I was using this term in a broad ethnolinguistic sense, as the Anglo-Saxons themselves are ubiquitously mixed to some degree with other Northwestern Europeans, including Brythonic Celts (Welsh), Danes, and Normans (who possessed a mixture of Danish, Norse, Frankish, and Gaulish ancestry). If you want a more complete description of my ancestry, here is a list of the places in EuropeĀ from which my ancestors come, in descending order from the most ancestry contribution to the least: England, Scotland (highlands and lowlands), Germany (Westphalia, Hesse, Palatinate), France (Alsace-Lorraine), Luxembourg, Northern Ireland, Switzerland (German Speaking), Belgium (Flanders), and the Netherlands (Frisian and Dutch).

Through Y-STR testing (which has confirmed genetic links with others who have my surname) and analysis of written records, my paternal line is traceable back to 17th century England. We do not know the exact origins of the family before this time. Surname analysis, Y-DNA testing and researching the origins of Y chromosomally related families, suggests it may originate with members of the Gaelic or Brythonic martial class who left Argyll (in Western Scotland), got on a boat with Norwegian Vikings who settled in other places in Britain and Ireland, and eventually traveled southward to Normandy. This is a likely reason why both my paternal grandfather and some of his Y chromosome STR matches (at least 33/37) have surnames traceable to Old French origins, while almost all the other Y-STR matches at this level have English and Gaelic surnames originating in specific locations in the British Isles where Norse settlements existed in the Viking period. Eventually, the Norman family from which I hypothetically descend went to England in 1066, and was given a barony in the Domesday Book.

The alternative hypothesis to the Norman one is that my paternal line traces back to a family of Gaelic merchants who were part of the municipal government of Cork, Ireland during the 13th Century. The hypothetical genealogy states that they left Ireland for England around 1580; I am guessing to avoid getting involved in the Second Desmond Rebellion. Under this scenario, they would have anglicized their surname to be the same as my current surname (which could alternatively be of Norman origin, as suggested above).

When a known ancestor in my paternal line left England in the 1600’s he settled in the Virginia Tidewater region. At this time, this family appears to be upper middle class, and it is recorded that this ancestor of mine who settled in Virginia also participated in Parliament under Richard Cromwell. Since arriving in North America, my father’s family has interbred with other English colonists in the Virgina Tidewater, and in the last two centuries with English Quakers and Scotch-Irish Presbyterians. Over time their class status seems to have declined; my paternal grandfather, born in rural North Carolina, was the only one of five siblings to go to college; he became a civil engineer (and his two daughters also became engineers). He married a Catholic woman from the Midwestern US with ancestors from the Benelux, Germany, Switzerland, England and the Scottish Highlands (my paternal grandparents ended up becoming Anglicans).

Now regarding my mother, she is mostly of English descent with a little French ancestry. However, her great, great grandfather in her paternal line came from Northern Ireland in the mid-1800’s. Upon arrival in the US, this great, great grandfather (of my mother) and his descendants moved to the Midwestern US and married French people reportedly from Alsace-Lorraine. In the early 20th century, they appear to be Protestants and intermarried with English-Americans in the Midwestern US. My maternal grandfather ended up becoming a lawyer, as did some of his nieces and nephews. He married my maternal grandmother who was of almost entirely English descent (with a little Dutch and German) from New England Puritans and Pilgrims.

Maximum extent of the Dal Riata kingdom, c. 600 AD

My mother’s original surname (maiden name) goes back to a family of Gaelic aristocratic origin, supposedly founded by Fergus Mor, a legendary king of Dal Riata who lived c. 500 AD. Somewhat to our surprise, however, the Y-STR test results of my maternal grandfather showed that his paternal line should trace back to a different king, Niall of the Nine Hostages, who founded the Ui Neill dynasty c. 400 AD. This is interesting from a historical standpoint, as it would seem to suggest that Fergus Mor’s paternal ancestry comes from the same family as that of Niall of the Nine Hostages. This may not be unlikely, given that both men were members of the Gaelic aristocracy around the same time period.

Of course, the prominent individuals from whom I descend lived such a long time ago, and at a time when the upper classes were often more fecund than the lower ones, that they now have thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of other descendants.

Now if you are one of my relatives and you are reading this post and you can figure out who I am from reading it, please do not dox me (and if you are one of my relatives and you choose to comment, do not use or mention your full name).




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