A fine figure of a genetic mix
I had a DNA test done. It was a spur of the moment thing, out of curiosity more than anything else, and I’ve got the results back. I used a new company called Living DNA and the process was simple: buy the kit, take a couple of mouth swabs, post them off, and wait.
Do you want to know the genetic make up of the fine figure of a chap pictured to the right? No harm in that.
My autosomal DNA is 100% Great Britain and Ireland in the last 5 or 6 generations. I already knew that, but it’s nice to have that extra piece of the story. That’s what LivingDNA call the “standard” results and I believe the “cautious” and “complete” results, which are more detailed, are due soon, though I don’t know when.
The test indicates 78.8% of my DNA is from 4 of 21 GB and Ireland regions:
- NW England (22.6%)
- Northumbria (20.6%)
- Central England (19.6%)
- Cumbria (16%)
Trace levels are from SE England, S Wales, Sth Yorkshire, Aberdeenshire, and SW Scotland/N Ireland. You can find the regional definitions on the site. Note the labels are fairly broad–Northumberland stretches from Durham to Southern Fife; Cumbria includes Dumfries and Galloway. My friend Cath Ingham will note that South Yorkshire includes West Yorkshire. Perhaps, then, I’m genetically disposed to Timothy Taylor’s beers? That would explain a great deal, frankly.
More generally, that mix looks about right given what I know of my family history back to 1745. I’m not sure where that Aberdeenshire (Aberdeenshire, Angus, Fife, Moray) comes from, though, so maybe there is something there to have a look at.
My Y-DNA puts me in Haplogroup R-L21, subclade R-DF13. As far as I can tell this makes my Burdon side about as British as British could be, and I can now tell all sorts of fairy stories about the Celtic Twilight (as long as there’s no Enya. Please: no Enya. Really.)
My mtDNA is somewhat more exotic (thanks Mam): Haplogroup V. Apparently this is uncommon in the UK and may, or may not, have origins in Spain around the end of the last ice age. My mam was pleased to know this means she shares a genetic heritage with the Sami people of Lapland and folks from the Basque country.
Where does this get me? To be honest, aside from that trace of Aberdeenshire, probably not very far. One way or another we are all out of Africa, though we took different routes to get here. There is a certain interest in knowing how those routes led to me, but not much more. I see a lot of activity online by people (mostly men, actually; why is it always men?) trying to hone their genetic heritage to prove a link to some Clan or other, which seems to me to detract from the greater message: we are more similar than we are different.
On my Dad’s side, we were only ever one 18th or 19th century mining accident away from non-existence. My Dad told me once that, of those with whom he did his basic Naval training on National Service towards the end of WW2, half stayed in Europe, but half were posted to the Pacific and most of them died when their ship was torpedoed. My sisters and I, and our children, are here because of the accident of having a name at the beginning of the alphabet. And no doubt my ancestors managed to survive the Black Death, famine, drought, wars and skirmishes and goodness knows what other horrors going back into pre-history. That’s more interesting to me, more viscerally real, than my genetics.
The exception, I suppose, is in the context of the British political scene: I’m from everywhere.
My genes don’t make me special, they just prove I’m human. And if you want to know what that means, I recommend a read of Adam Rutherford’s A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived