In case you didn’t know, DNA tests are booming right now. Between companies like AncestryDNA and 23andme, the average person is learning about where they come from and validating (or debunking) family stories passed down through the years.
For the holidays, I was gifted a DNA kit for Ancestry. Members of my maternal family had done it already so it would be intriguing to see which regions showed up on my paternal side. Both sides being quite blonde and rumors of family from Germany and the Netherlands, we expected my DNA to be primarily German with a little bit of British. I was surprised to find that I’m (approximately, of course) 79% English, Wales, and Northwestern Europe, 11% Irish, and 10% Germanic Europe. I also seemed to have a significant connection to Portugal. Funny how topsy turvy that turned out. Though Irish coffee has always been a favorite of mine...
While all the regions are pretty vague and by collection of countries, the Irish heritage was quite specific. With the whole of America running through the streets with a green beer in hand, I thought it fitting to research a little deeper into my Irish heritage.
Ancestry.com offers a snazzy presentation on the history of regions. Starting in 1700, it tracks where your DNA originally strands from, and then the city’s relevant history in chunks of time. This suggests when and why my family may have migrated where they did. Pretty cool, huh?
Munster, Ireland - even more specifically North Kerry and West Limerick - was home for a pretty rough crowd in the late 1700s. Many outlaws sought refuge there after rebelling against their British rulers. They had a strong sense of culture in their religious practices, Gaelic language, literature, song, and dance.
Throughout the 1800s, poverty and starvation struck everywhere. The Irish contributed to Britain’s rapid economic development by producing grains, meat, and linens. Despite their influence, Munster families were living solely on potatoes and milk. To get creative, they combined cow blood with grains and seasonings to create protein-packed black pudding in order to stay full longer.
In the latter half of the 19th century, the Great Famine eradicated potatoes from the country’s land. Their main source of food and economics, mass starvation and death drove the stubborn Irishmen to emigrate from their native land to North America. Ancestry.com suggests that they most likely traveled to Chicago or Boston. Since much of my family lived (and still lives) in New England, Boston’s a pretty safe bet. If they hadn’t migrated by then, the turn of the 20th century brought many of the Irish to the United States.
We are not tied down to our past. We have the power to create our future. However, I do believe it is important to know where you come from. It helps you appreciate where you are now. Not to mention, it’s fascinating! It’s neat to know that my ancestors were amongst such strong-willed, independent people. Resources like Ancestry.com are also providing access to finding distant relatives. What a cool way to find family and potentially reunite. Relish in the family stories. You definitely start that first conversation with something in common.
May the road rise up to meet you,
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