A few months back, a few of my great aunts came to visit for a mini family reunion and we all got to talking about our family history and genetics. I knew that the actual origins of my four surnames (each of my grandparents surnames or maiden names) were all British Isles. Two of the four are English, one is Scottish and one is Irish. The Scottish one is the one associated with the family tartan that I wore in Scotland for my wedding. But, those are just names and truly, there could have been adoptions, theft, slave trade, illegitimacy, many things that led to us having the names we do. I know for some branches of my family there were questions about if we really are who we say we are generations later. This just got me extra curious. I have an aunt (Ma Père’s sister) that is the family historian. She takes care of a lot of that but there were questions unanswered.
Then, there was this thing called Melungeon. According to Wikipedia: “Melungeon is a term traditionally applied to one of numerous “tri-racial isolate” groups of the Southeastern United States. Historically, Melungeons were associated with the Cumberland Gap area of central Appalachia, which includes portions of East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and eastern Kentucky. Tri-racial describes populations thought to be of mixed European, African and Native American ancestry. Although there is no consensus on how many such groups exist, estimates range as high as 200. Melungeons were often referred to by other settlers as of Portuguese or Native American origin.” If you don’t know by now, I’m from West Virginia. My family’s roots can be traced to NC somewhere but we were from WV. That’s probably around the time of WV still being part of VA so there is/was a chance that I could have been part of this. However, it would have been relatively recent, I’d think (within the last 250 years or so). So, whether or not I was any part of that, I also wanted to know.
I was told about this company, 23andMe, by Tommy Priest, purveyor of fine coffees and owner of Coffee Park, Coffee Park ARTS and Krankie’s Airstream. 23andMe provides a service: linking you to your genetic data. So, I decided to do it. I paid my money, they sent the kit, I spit in the tube, shook it up and sent it off. Wait 4-6 weeks and bam! We have info. So, you may ask yourself, Dear Reader, who am I? What makes me who I am? Well, I’m going to tell you.
Ok, so this is how I’m broken down: I’m 99% European (not really surprised since I’ve explained my grand-parental surnames), .7% Sub-Saharan African, .1% Native American, .1% South Asian and .1% unassigned. But, I’m going to go even deeper.
Of the European, I’m 52.6% British and Irish (again, bingo!), 9.4% French/German (my last name is Norman/English, so the French makes sense), 3.5% Scandinavian, .4% Finnish and 31.1% Broadly Northern European (this means that there are several countries that show patterns of this DNA’s movement and mutation so instead of arbitrarily picking one and perhaps being incorrect, they call it “broadly” for categorizing purposes). But, wait, there’s more! I’m also .6% Iberian (Spanish/Portuguese) and .1% Broadly Southern European. Also, I’m 1.4% Broadly European.
Of the Sub-Saharan African (.7%), I am .5% West African and .2% Central and South African. I’m also less than .1% Broadly Sub-Saharan African. The Native American kind of befuddles me because Ma Mère’s side definitely has some in the line so to only come up .1% is confusing. And the South Asian (.1%) thing? I have no idea.
So, adding all this up, the .6% Iberian, and the .7% Sub-Saharan African could mean that I’m possibly Melungeon but I’d think with the relatively short time ago this could have happened, just prior to 1900 the best I can tell, that it’s not highly likely. However, as Shirley Price wrote in the Kingsport Times-News in 1968: “Most modern-day descendants of Appalachian families traditionally regarded as Melungeon are generally European American in appearance, often (though not always) with dark hair and eyes, and a swarthy or olive complexion.” That does somewhat fit me, although I’m not “dark skinned,” I do have an olive complexion and can get fairly dark when in the sun. I guess the jury is still out on that part. I, however, don’t think that I fit in the Melungeon category.
Here’s the funny part, or unfortunate part, you choose which… of all the 23andMe European users the average percentage of Neanderthal is 2.7%. I came in at 2.9%. That means that 2.9% of my genetic make up is Neanderthal. I’m 84th percentile. That’s pretty up there, I guess. The BCPF now lovingly calls me her “knuckle dragger.” If anyone calls me “Caveman,” from now on, I can say, “why, yes! Yes, I am!”
I hope you enjoyed finding this out about me. If not, sorry-not-sorry. I find my genetics quite fascinating and will continue to find out more about my history and I’ll probably continue to write about it. Have you had your genetic makeup measured? How did it turn out? Was it what you thought it was? Were you surprised? Let me know, I’ve become very interested in this subject. Thanks for reading.
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“It’s good to know where you come from. It makes you what you are today. It’s DNA, it’s in your blood.” – Alexander McQueen