My Heritage

I’ve just had the results back from my DNA ‘ethnic’ test (by ‘MyHeritageDNA’. It was a Christmas present). Can you trust these outfits?

I have to say I was disappointed; mainly by the lack of detail, but also on learning that apparently I have no Scandinavian in me. Coming from a part of England that was ravaged and raped by the Vikings in the Dark Ages I was expecting at least a little bit. It would give me something in common with Kajsa, apart from mutual affection and our shared politics and sommarhus. And it might have finally convinced Migrationsverket to grant me the Swedish citizenship I’ve been waiting for. I was also hoping to have a smidgeon of Jewish; some Irish (I had a grandmother from Liverpool); and one or two even more exotic drops – maybe just ‘a touch of the tar brush’, as racists used to put it. But no. I’m 100% boring western European. As an enthusiast for multiculturalism, I feel somewhat deflated.

Of possible interest to me, however, as a convinced anti-Brexiter, is that I’m supposed to be only 14.3% English, and 85.7% continental European. They’ve sent me a little map: the 14% totally excludes Ireland, Wales and Scotland, whereas the rest – by far the biggest proportion – covers France, the Low Countries, and Germany, but not any part of the British Isles. That’s despite the fact that I’ve had the father’s side of my family traced back a couple of hundred years, showing all of them living in rural Essex (mostly as illiterate peasants) continuously. So the 85% must have entered our bloodstream before then. I supposed it could go back all the way to the ‘Anglo-Saxons’, who of course came from the Continent originally. But if so, who are the ‘English’, in contradistinction to them? (Celts?) I couldn’t be Norman, or else the Scandinavian (‘North Men’) would have shown through. That’s a bit of a relief. It was the Normans who gave us our original aristocracy. I wouldn’t like to be associated with them.

I wonder how many ‘English’ end up with DNA charts like this? And how many Brexiteers would be unsettled by the knowledge that they were less distinct from our Continental cousins than they might have thought?

MyHeritageDNA provides you with impressive documentation about its methodology, featuring lots of pictures of laboratory workers in white coats with test tubes. But I’m not convinced. This was the cheapest of the three or four companies advertising this service. (It was on ‘special offer’, of about £60.) I could waste more money on a rival outfit; it might be instructive to compare. But I’m not a great believer in ‘ethnicity’ in any case.

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