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Friday, April 12, 2019

DNA, Genealogy, and Political Entities

Millions of people around the world have now taken a genealogically sponsored DNA test. The most recognized results of these tests is an Ethnicity Estimate. If you were one of those early adapters whose test results came to you a few years ago, you have probably seen your original Ethnicity Estimate change a number of times. Here is a copy of my first Ethnicity Estimate that I published in May of 2017.

Here is the latest estimate from the same test. 

There is really no way to compare the two results. The reason for this is that the "ethnicity" from these reports is defined as a politically established country. Here is a graph showing the results of a study published by back in 2016 showing the UK's ethnicity dating back from 500 years. See "The British Are Less British Than We Think."

So how do you separate my British/Scandinavian ethnicity from my Scandinavian (Norway, Sweden) ethnicity? Also, all of my research shows that the only ancestral lines that I have from Scandinavia are from Denmark and what happened to my Iberian ancestors?

Ethnicity is not defined by political boundaries. Governments do not determine ethnicity or genetics. Not yet anyway. The most common definition of "ethnicity" is the fact or state of belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural tradition. What is there about DNA testing that has anything to do with social, national, or cultural traditions? There is little agreement anywhere online between "race" and "ethnicity." 

One thing missing from these ethnicity reports is a time frame. For example, Ireland is listed as a place for my ethnicity. Here is one problem with that evaluation. What is Irish? If we look at a timeline of "Irish" history we can see some of the following dates:
  • AD 1 to 500 AD: Romans occupied England and Christianity was introduced into Ireland, i.e. St. Patrick came to Ireland. 
  • Around 700 AD the Vikings began to raid Ireland and by 837 the Vikings (whoever they were) began to establish long-term settlements beginning in 841.
  • Around 900 to 911, the Irish and the Norse went to Cumberland, Lancashire, and Cheshire in England.
  • 923 the Vikings founded Limerick.
  • 1155 Henry II of England got permission from the Pope to invade Ireland and England conquered Ireland by about 1177.
  • 1315 Edward Bruce of Scotland became King of Ireland.
  • 1366 Richard II of England became King over Ireland.
  • 1541 Henry VIII was made King of Ireland by the Irish Parliament.
  • 1610 Settlers from England and Scotland began to arrive in Ulster, Ireland. 
  • 1801 the Union of Great Britain and Ireland came into law.
  • 1923 the Irish Free State was admitted to the League of Nations
  • 1948 the Republic of Ireland Act created the Republic.
So, if I am 12% Irish and Scotland ethnicity, what does that mean? What do Ireland and Scotland have in common that makes them comparable ethnicities? 

How many different ethnicities are there in Northwestern Europe? Am I Danish, Dutch, German, or what?

Finally, what conceivable help is this changing ethnicity estimate to my genealogical research?

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