Where do I Come From? Some DNA Adventures 1

Although I am far from being a DNA expert, I jumped on the DNA bandwagon and submitted to a DNA test with Living DNA*. Having ancestry that is, at least on paper, 100% English, I was particularly interested to see what their regional analysis would reveal. I am sharing my experiences to encourage others to look at their own DNA results in a similar manner.

I am now in my fifth decade of family history research and have an extensive pedigree based on documentary research. I am fortunate to know the names and geographical origins of 31 of my 32 3 x great grand-parents and 75% of the generation before that. This takes me back to the mid-eighteenth century, well before the point at which my ancestors converged on Greater London.

In preparation for the results, I used my research to work out what I might expect. I am aware that the DNA that I have inherited does not come equally from all my 3 x great-grandparents and that some of them may have left no trace in my profile but I had no way of taking account of this.

Based on my knowledge my expectation was that my genetic make-up would reveal:

Cornwall 20%
Devon 5%
Northumberland 12.5%
South Eastern England 37.5%
South Central England 19%
East Anglia 6%

So how did my genes reflect this?

Let us look at a portion at a time. Firstly the south-west, Devon and Cornwall, by my reckoning 25% of my ancestry. Living DNA’s percentages were 7.4% Cornish and 11.7% from Devon. As my south-west ancestors lived very close to the Devon-Cornwall border, on one side or another, this looked to be very accurate, with just a few percentage points not being reflected in my results.
Turning to the other end of the country, my estimated 12.5% for Northumberland became 5.8% according to Living DNA. As my ancestors were from parishes in the north of the county, I was interested to see that, according to my DNA, none had strayed south from Scotland. Living DNA also suggested 7.2% of my origins were from Cumbria, which, when added to the Northumbrian percentage, comes close to my estimate.

The bulk of my ancestry (37.3%) is from the south-east and Living DNA agreed, with 35.3%. I calculated 19% of my ancestry was from the South Central region. Living DNA put this at 3.9% but also identified 5.8% from Southern England and 2.7% from Central England, which redressed the balance.

What appeared to be missing was the 6% that I believe came from East Anglia but this could be accounted for by the 5.6% that Living DNA attributed to Scandanavia. Well one of the surnames involved was Daines! Interestingly my test with Family Tree DNA  does not acknowledge this, making my origins 100% British Isles.

What was harder to explain was Living DNAs 11.1% from North Yorkshire and 1.2% from Lincolnshire – or was it? North Yorkshire might be linked to the Northumbrian lines or may be something I have yet to discover. What of that trace of Lincolnshire? My maiden name, Braund is firmly rooted in Devon and is found there back to the mid 1400s. Prior to that (11th-14th centuries) there are instances of the name in Lincolnshire but no connection has been found between the Braunds of Lincolnshire and those of Devon; could this minute trace in my DNA be attributable to this? The theory and it is just a theory, is that these were prominent areas in the Medieval wool trade and that the drovers following the established routes between the two counties may have been how the name moved to Devon from Lincolnshire. The Lincolnshire Braunds were believed to have come from Scandinavia.
I still have to explain the random 2.1% from Chechnya! I feel this may be an anomaly that will be ironed out when more data becomes available as several others I know have a similar Chechnyan trace. To think that as a teenager, I longed for Spanish ancestry!


* My only connection with Living DNA, or any other DNA testing company, is as a customer. I have received no concessions, free gifts or financial inducements from any of them.

About Janet Few

Janet Few is an experienced family, social and community historian who writes and lectures regularly on these subjects throughout the English speaking world. She is well known for her appearances as her alter ego ‘Mistress Agnes’ who aids Janet’s work as an historical interpreter. Janet is the manager of Swords and Spindles https://swordsandspindles.wordpress.com, a company providing living history presentations for history groups and schools. For further information see http://thehistoryinterpreter.wordpress.com

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