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....
1% 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.