Thursday, September 18, 2014

Your Irish Ancestry May in Fact be Spanish

When someone talks about ancestry they know 2 to 3 generations back the actual names/dates/places for their family and maybe a few stories their parents or grandparents told and the oral tradition that we are "fill in the blank heritage".

If someone or a family member has done a bit of genealogical work--traced a paper trail, documenting their family's history through legal documents and records, then you can either prove or disprove what information has been passed down through the family.

And if you are lucky and determined/patient/skilled that paper trail may extend back for many centuries and tell quite the tale itself and add another dimension to all those photographs and stories and legends in your family's past.

But even with all that, there is a step you can take that will add even more insight into your heritage, the genetic DNA tests.
And sometimes that information will be a game changer.

When I had my DNA tested(mitochondrial and autosomal tests)I wasn't too surprised to see that my admixture(my ethnic makeup) was 100% European(mostly Northern, Western and Central).
My father's lines came from Ireland and my mother's lines came from England/Scotland/Wales/Ireland at least in the last 10 generations or so.

My admixture currently reads--

100% European which breaks down into--

90% Britich Isles
9% Central and Western Europe
1% Finland and Northern Siberia

When I saw the names of the people who matched me genetically who have also tested at the website, I read names like Magnessønn, Sköld and Fagerström located in Sweden, Finland and Norway.
Clearly Scandinavian surnames all, and after reading up on the history of this area and the trade routes and how civilizations moved about and blended, those ethnic surnames and my 1% of genes helped to explained this piece of the puzzle.

But then I didn't know what to do with finding genetic matches with people named Vicente, de Marchena and Ferreira Lopes located in places like Spain, Portugal and Brazil(someone's family that migrated from the Iberian Peninsula).
The furthest South in Europe my admixture shows is France.

These ethnic groups were not on my radar.

Then when my brother's admixture came back it read thusly....

99% European
1% Middle Eastern

Middle Eastern?!?

The break down of the 99% European being--
92% British Isles
6% Finland and Northern Siberia
1% Southern Europe

And the other 1% Middle Eastern of his ethnic makeup?
The break down of this was 1% North African.

Now even though we are siblings there are variations in where our DNA is located on our chromosome chains.  And DNA testing only takes samples from certain parts of your chain.  This means that 2 people with the same DNA(like full siblings except if only one is male, then the Y DNA won't match as the female does not carry Y chromosomes)will show differences in their results, as the places on their chains that are tested don't always hold the same genetic material. 

This explains why I come up as 100% European and my brother comes up as 99% European/1% Middle Eastern.

So this means I have a minute amount of genetic material found in people who originated in the Middle East even though my test results didn't unearth it.

My Haplogroup J(which comes from my mitochondrial DNA), is said to have originated about 45,000 years ago in the Near East or the Caucasus.
This would go a long way to explain this Middle Eastern gene finding(since my brother and I share the same mitochondrial genes)but if the Middle Eastern gene is in fact specific to Northern Africa this explains nothing.

The fact that a number of people from modern day Spain and Portugal were exact genetic matches to me has been a head scratcher for me. 
Under the assumption that their ancestry is Spanish and/or Portuguese, how could we be such a close match if I possess so little Middle Eastern/North African material?

And also, where did this 1% Middle Eastern genetic material come from?  In all the paper trail research I've undertaken I have never found any ancestor that led me back to this part of the world.

And then I found an article that blew my mind and turned my thinking around.

If you go back in history.....back before the Celts.....back before the English conquest of Ireland, Ireland was invaded and ruled by stone age settlers who migrated from Spain.

There was a Kingdom called Dál Riata (or Dalriada).  Shown in the drawing in green.

People from the Iberian Peninsula invaded into Ireland and Scotland between 400-800 AD.  This kingdom ruled over by stone age settles from Northern Spain extended from modern day Spain across the sea into western Ireland and into Scotland.  During this time the Picts ruled the eastern part of Scotland(shown in yellow), but not the western region, as well as the northeastern chunk of Ireland.

To quote the article....."The latest research into Irish DNA has confirmed that the early inhabitants of Ireland were not directly descended from the Keltoi of central Europe. In fact the closest genetic relatives of the Irish in Europe are to be found in the north of Spain in the region known as the Basque Country."

You can read the article yourself HERE.

DNA testing in Ireland and Scotland has confirmed this long held mythology of an dark invading race during the Stone Age and has gone a long way to explain the physical and cultural similarities in people from those two countries.  Genetic propensity for freckles with fair skin and red hair are both quite prominent in Irish and Scottish peoples.

Here's a Youtube video that goes into some of this.

So if your family tree takes you back to Ireland or Scotland, you most certainly have a little Spanish in your genes too.

And if you get your DNA tested be prepared to find a small bit of Spanish in your ethnic makeup, or people with Spanish surnames genetically matching you.




  1. Awesome stuff... How do you get the DNA test? So... I used to tell people, stupidly "I'm Irish!" (maiden name Kelley.) Later my dad told me there's surprisingly little Irish... later still I found out that the name is not Irish at all; there are plenty of Kelleys - the "ey" spelling is important, by the way - who are English, and in fact, that spelling is from the Ulster province, if anywhere in Ireland at all. In other words, Scotch-Irish (which is really not Irish, just English... and most certainly not Catholic Irish which is what people generally mean when they say "Irish.")

    I realize I just stepped on about 1,000 toes for anyone sensitive to the issues herein (I'm not even sure what all the issues are, except that Irish and English have tons to argue about, all the time, forever in the past, present and future, and I probably offended someone.)

    Those are some interesting facts, nevertheless. There are small amounts of Dutch and Frenchyman in my past, as well.

    1. I got my dna tests at family tree dna(just add dotcom to it to find the website). There are 3 tests you can have-males can have y, mitochondrial and autosomal, females can have mitochondrial and autosomal(since women don't carry y chromosomes). For women to get their Y results, have a brother(full or half-if you share the same father only), father or paternal uncle or grandfather take the Y test.
      And wait for a sale as this gets pricey. Other big names in the genetic testing for genealogy are 23 and me, National Geogrpahic and now Ancestry dotcom has also jumped into this market.

      And the proper term for Scotch-Irish...the non Irish who took over parts of Ireland, is ULSTER SCOTS. The Plantation of Ulster was the plan by the English to take over part of Ireland from the Irish during the reign of James I and turn the country Protestant. The thieves who confiscated the lands or the new "owners" of these lands were wealthy English but most of those who actually went to northern Ireland to work the farms were Scottish who were English-speaking and Protestant.....thus the term Scotch-Irish. (James I had been King of Scotland before becoming ruler of England too and opening up Irish lands to settlement was his way of appeasing/rewarding his Scottish constituents too. There's more to it but that's a quick overview.)

      Because everyone has/had 126 DIRECT ancestors, just going back 6 generations(and it grows exponentially from there) it's very common for someone to have only a small sliver of actually ancestral information passed down to them. Most people know only a very narrow amount of their heritage because of this.

  2. With regards to Middle Eastern DNA and Spain or rather the whole of the Iberian Penninsula don't forget that it was ruled by the Moors (remember El Cid) for well over 700 years.

    Here in a very Celtic heartland, Cornwall, there has been much influence over the years from trading nations in particular the Phonecians and in more recent history, 3-400 years the Portugese.

    When I was growing up my blood group was quite rare but now in the UK it ismuch more common with an influx of folk from the Indian sub-continent and Eastern Europe. Regretfully my parents are no longer with us as so I would only be able to use my own DNA for testing purposes. However I would like to know where that blood group has come from.

    1. Yes, the Romans conquered parts of Mauretania, from which the Moors sprang. I was surprised to see no Moorish influences in my Hubs dna since his paternal line at least goes far back into Sicilian history.

      Blood type is another fascinating arena.
      There is a nice discussion of it here..... Dr. Peter D'Adamo and his blood type diet.
      My Hubs has a rare blood type but I am just the very old and unmutated plain boring O+.

  3. That would explain my "go to" meals of spaghetti, keilbasa and spanish rice...

    1. So you are Italy(or Chinese), German/Polish and Spanish?lolz

  4. I have been identified as every dark-haired group in the world. Okay, not all. But, a man told me I looked like the women from Greece, where he had spent two years. Italian and native American, Jewish, etc is what people think I am. I do know a g-grandfather came from the Ukraine. I would love to really know. My platinum blond mother said we were Scots-Irish. My dark father said his uncle was called a dago because he had an accent. .

    I suppose all this genealogy is great until they uncover long ago infidelities. My cousin said his closest match is a man who lives nowhere near his family. He suspects his father was wandering.

    Do these things every throw a monkey wrench in the works?

    Good job on the research. I still say this could be a side income.

    1. "long ago infidelities" in the genetic genealogy game are referred to as NPEs aka Non-Paternity Events. Those always throw a monkey wrench into things and cause problems when relatives don't want to uncover the truth of the past. I had dealings with a woman who is descended from my great grandmother's brother.....I had to break the news to her gently that her grandmother was a bastard as there is no record of the parents marrying or even living in the same household....ever. She didn't want to hear that. lol

      Now don't forget that your dark hair is most probably a result of your Huguenot genes too.

  5. Hi, I have my great grandfathers immigration papers and birth certificates and the family bible…. its fun to read all this.


  6. Interesting! My grandfather was born in Scotland and immigrated here when he was 4 years old.


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