From Viking Roots to James Bay – Delving into my DNA Ancestry
By Henri van Bentum
Recently I turned eighty-eight. No, I was not given a tie, shirt, socks or sweater. Instead, my wife Natasha and her brother came up with a unique gift – a DNA test.
The test gives you both your geographic and ethnic roots, going back 2,000 years, plus any DNA matches.
There are a few of these tests around (including ones that provide health information), but the one I got focuses on your genetic code for clues about your geographic history and ethnicity origins. It looks at both the maternal and paternal line (called “Autosomal DNA”).
Before taking the test, I only knew about my family’s background going back three or four generations, all in the Netherlands, but no farther than 150 years or so.
The way it works is you get an activation code online, giving your basic contact information. Then you receive a kit in the mail; mine arrived within a week.
Inside the kit is a tube that you spit into, then you mail it inside a small, postage-paid envelope, in this case, to a laboratory in Ireland.
A month later, the results – including maps - arrived by email, and contained a few surprises.
Geographic and Ethnicity Origins
I discovered my ancestors roamed around a lot over the past two millennia. Here’s the breakdown of their geographic origins:
- 64% Western Europe (Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein)
- 20% UK (England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales)
- 14% Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, Sweden)
- 1% Spain and Portugal
- 1% Northwestern Russia and Finland
The surprise was a Northwest Russia / Finland percentage, but someone said since the findings go so far back, it’s probably from the days of the Vikings.
However the test also showed that for the last 200-300 years, my ancestors decided to stay put in the Netherlands, making me – for the last several generations – a “100% Netherlander”.
(Except now I am a Canadian citizen as of 1966 and have lived here in James Bay since 2004.)
In addition to the geographic history and ethnicity results, you also receive any DNA matches the company has in its database.
In my case, the DNA matches resulted in a dauntingly long list of cousins (starting with second cousins and going back to eighth cousin, etc.), 75 online pages in all. We haven’t even begun to look at these; that’s the next step.
No wonder I’ve been a nomad all my life. It began at age two, when I followed an organ grinder on the street with his monkey, landing me six months with a Gypsy caravan and giving my mother grey hairs.
It’s been an intriguing journey, but now I know a bit more about my ethnic origins and the roaming of my ancestors.
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