DNA-for-genealogy, along with family history and herstory, became the focus of my research. And I came to realize we are all made up of multiple people. Even folks in remote places, whose ancestors have long been all in one place, turn out to be an intricate mixture of a few or many peoples.
All of us have our roots in Africa, but now we see the amazing palette of people who make up our DNA. And the current studies are showing that even those who stayed in the mother continent are a mixture of many peoples — even including Neanderthals and Denisovans.
In Asia, Europe, North and South America, we are a jumble of peoples. Yet none of these “ancestors” were so different from ourselves at the time when we all co-existed. The idea that “species interbred” perhaps stems from an arrogant notion that we today are somehow superior to those long-ago ancestors, that the elders were so very much “less than” we are today.
Now we are learning that a Neanderthal or Denisovan would hardly be noticed if she walked down the street in modern clothing. And reaching farther back in time, it is not about some dirty mating of animals; it was hominins pairing and grouping and surviving and doing what we still do best – living in family and clan groups.
I remind all the people I help with genealogy that it is important to think first about pedigree collapse because it shows us we are everybody. All of one person’s ancestors over the past 1,000 years would add up to more people than inhabited the earth. The explanation is that cousins married cousins, so we are descended from the same people more than once. But it also means we all are descended from just about everybody. Yes, it is true there are isolated populations who are less “mixed.” But even they are descended from the countless migrants who have been on the move around the globe for eons.
I always hope one day there will be large studies of African DNA in the East. From about 1300 AD — from the beginning of the modern Muslim human trade — countless peoples were taken far to the East. This went on for more than 300 years before people were taken west – to North and South America. We also need loads of DNA from South America and the Caribbean in order to reunite many families through genetic ancestry. With the spoken and unspoken caste systems in these far- off places, there is joy to be had in learning about our ancestors and newfound cousins and families. From Asia to the Middle East, from Siberia to Tierra del Fuego, all peoples are migrants or have cousins who have been migrating for eons.
When we move, we leave behind the memories of cultures and cherished traditions — a heritage that was difficult to recapture before the age of DNA-for-genealogy and the internet. Genealogical records can be limited for any culture and can only take us so far. But DNA is beginning to give all people clues to their histories and herstories. It is still limited, and I caution about the so-called reading of “admixture” or “ethnicity.” These tests are limited by the reference populations used by the companies. And there are many places where the DNA, in some ways, is almost indistinguishable across wide regions. The ethnic DNA signature for people from much of Western Europe and the British Isles “looks” very much alike.
Many folks long to know their homelands – the songs, the stories, the traditions, and Mamma’s cooking. There is no better way to recapture a place and time than a meal of old home cooking, eaten to the tunes of the ancestors. Between YouTube and internet security – with their safe-search aids — we can all find recipes for our heritages – all of them. But be careful in searching for obscure information on the internet; read a URL before clicking on it. If the words in the URL do not resemble what you searched for, you might be seeing a fake link. Only click on safe websites.
Let genealogical records take you as far as they can, and let DNA take you the rest of the way. By using ancestral y-DNA, mt-DNA and autosomal DNA, many of us can find and visit our ancestral homelands.
We learn about places our ancestors might have lived, and where cousins wound up, by learning where our DNA matches lived and live today. My maternal DNA mothers are from Thuringia and my maternal DNA matches are in the Tyrol, Moldova, Croatia and Sicily as well as Germany. The ancestor I share with these matches may have lived 500 years ago or 5,000 tears ago, but they are still mine.
Now scientists are sequencing DNA from human remains found in archaeological digs. So far I have not read about anyone found with my own mt-DNA, which is H10a1. But her close sister, H10e, has been found in a 6,000-year-old grave in Latvia. Instead of throwing darts at a map to decide where to visit, we can let our DNA lead us on a personal world tour.
All the DNA testing companies are getting in on the genealogy tourism act, but you can build your own itinerary from your DNA-for-genealogy test results and your documented family history. Let your ancestors be your guide.
Once you have identified your locations, check for places within the region that might have towns and cities which are well preserved. A street or neighborhood or cultural center might have recreated the local history and herstory. Learn the cultural heritages that your families were part of, and try to see them. The most famous church in a town might be a Protestant church, but if your ancestors were Catholic when they lived in London, then visit the old Catholic cathedral as well.
My husband’s G2a y-DNA has been found in ancient remains in both Greece and Germany, two good places to visit. My mt-DNA is in Eastern Europe and Germany. Our genealogy tours might cross paths in more ways than one.
I read about a water tour of the Croatian coastline a couple of years ago, with archaeological visits around the area, but in the end it was canceled. That year we toured the ice-age cave paintings in southern France and northern Spain. You can see the links to the places and how-tos for visiting below.
Croatia still calls. I began to follow a great page on Facebook — Croatia Week — and through that I found a great writer who is interested in the two things I most love to research – cooking and anthropology.
I broke into the journalism business 35 years ago as a cookery writer. Almost 10 years before, I had sat in front of a school counselor who told me “one has to be rich to be an anthropologist.” She suggested getting a B.A and marrying an anthropologist. A year or so later, I got a copy of National Geographic magazine with the wonderful story about our ancestor Lucy, and anthropology has remained my first love for almost 50 years. But I did not quit my day job.
That brings me back to Croatia, and a wonderful expert who loves cooking but is also an anthropologist. Andrea Pisac, who shares great info for tourism, has now published a wonderful book on Croatian Desserts. It is the go-to site for planning dessert AND Croatian travel! 🙂
What better than an anthropologist who knows how and where to eat as a guide for touring!
You can order your own copy and learn how to follow Andrea Pisac’s writing about Croatia and the surrounding areas.
Do you know your ancestries and their stories? Their DNA and their histories and herstories? There are so many ways to learn now, don’t fail to enjoy your own.
More tours to follow – we are still planning our trip for this year, but the DNA of a virus has gotten in the way.
Our 2019 tour of the prehistoric cave art in southern France and northern Spain was a bucket-list must. You can see several blogs about this trip in the indexes and added links at the end of most of my blog pages.
Be sure travelling to the United Kingdom you begin with advice from the wonderful Guiding Angels Agency. They will advise for your planning. when and where there are tours and delight you while you are there. They also are happy to help you create a tour for your own ancestral travels based on your genealogy research and DNA testing.
If you have not tested and do not know where to go, we can help you with that.
Contact through these pages or email: heirsandheirlooms AT gmail DOT com
And to see 23andme, which offers both ancestry and health information, go here. (My link is not monetized.) If you are on a tight budget, you might begin with 23. They will not only give you your autosomal DNA; they will also give the estimated haplogroup(s).