Thursday, October 31, 2019

Counting my DNA before it’s hatched



There was a story my Aunt Jane told me that my father Joe had some French blood, which he denied. He said he was pure Corkonian Irish by way of San Francisco. We never knew what to believe. But a DNA test revealed that the family rumor to be partially true at 3%. But upon closer inspection, it looks like it could be from Brittany, which was settled by the Welsh.

See, here's the problem, Joe's grandfather Michael Hurley, an Irish speaker, came from Cork, and settled in Weymouth, MA, where Joe’s father was born. That left slim possibility that Michael's wife, Joe's grandmother was of mixed blood. And Joe's mother Viola Mae Heaney was born in San Francisco, but her family was said to be from Boston, via Ireland. What was Viola's mother's maiden name? One way or another, we're back to an unaccounted for great-grandmother again. There's a Canadian in the woodpile somewhere.

Viola Mae Heaney, b. SF, 1906, died ca. 1936 -1940.

But the DNA math doesn't add up. If I were to go back 3 generations to a great-grandparent, that would be 12.5%, and 4 generations (100 years), or my great-great-grandparent, that would be 6.25%. Seven generations would be 1.56%, and eight generations (200 years) would be a mere 0.39%. All this is compounded by the fact that in France it is illegal to collect DNA, I suspect that Ancestry plugs the gap with the closest connection. Also, my DNA math doesn't add up, 9% is not 12.5 %, ergo, it's no a great-grandparent.

Someone said DNA doesn’t work like fractions. It’s more like soup ladle with holes. You get what you get. All I know, is that this is the third time my DNA sequence has been updated, and each time, the French percentage diminishes. It went from 8% to 3%. Unreliable French!

Whatever, the math, I might or might not have had a stray French-Acadian ancestor from Nova Scotia, who had a Native ancestor sometime in the 18th c. That got me looking at various possibilities. The rest of me, all 94% is pure Irish ( first estimate was 91%). No Viking, no Anglo blood on my maternal grandmother's side, at least. So that part of the ancestral story holds true. Recently that French DNA was split to include an odd 2% English/Welsh/NW Europe (Belgium/Finisterre) splash—well, our family name is Walsh, after all.  So that’s up for grabs.

Then again, I found this on the Ancestry page: approximately 40 sequences are taken, and averaged out the results, which might account for my odd numbers. Furthermore,
The next level includes Low Confidence Regions. For each of these regions, the possible range includes 0% and does not exceed 15%. Since there is only a small amount of evidence of genetic ethnicity from these regions, it is possible that you may not have genetic ethnicity from them at all.
According to The Untold Story: The Irish in Canada, the Irish were among the first settlers in the Canadian Maritime provinces, and that the Irish language predated that of French and English. I think this odd bit of flotsam sheds some light on my mysterious DNA results uncovered 3% French (it was 8% which in my bones, I knew it was wrong.) I suspect some Cape Breton/Acadian ancestry, and a stray 1% Native American ancestry—probably Micmac, given that the Acadian DNA was from Cape Breton Island.

 My maternal grandmother, who came from the small fishing village of Bantry, used to tell me a story of how the Irish and the Micmac/Mi'kmaq and the Morimac peoples joined forces. She insisted that there were Irish loan words in the Mi'kmaq language, not that she even spoke Mi'kmaq, an Eastern Algonquian language. The equivalent of yes in Irish is ach, and aqq in Mi'kmaq. (How on earth did she manage to find that in the pre-internet days?) But I found no other words that were similar. She said some of the Micmacs had blue eyes and red hair. But suddenly, with this post, her story, from the oral tradition, gains some credence, however slim the DNA record is.


NOTES—The Megumawaach, or the People of the Red Earth, as the Miꞌkmaq (singular Miꞌkmaw) called themselves, developed a form of hieroglyphic writing. I'm sure it helped to cement the connection in my grandmother's mind that they were also bear worshippers. They also played hockey, and are credited with inventing the hockey stick...except that the Irish had already invented a form of hill hockey, called hurling, or shinty. It could be a shared tradition. The Miꞌkmaq also built what is often referred to as root cellars, but they seem to be more akin to cromlechs. My grandmother liked to speculate that the Miꞌkmaq/Irish connection was far older than the 16th. C., citing the Voyage of St. Brendan (who sailed from Bantry to the New World.)
The Miꞌkmaq referred to themselves as Lnu, but used the term níkmaq (my kin) as a greeting. The French referred to the Miꞌkmaq as Souriquois, and later as Gaspesiens, or (transliterated through English) Mickmakis. The British referred to them as Tarrantines. —Wiki
As it turns out, there was a strong connection with the Miꞌkmaq and the Acadians, and the Miꞌkmaq were also sometimes referred to as Acadians. Toss in the Irish. For 75 years, the Miꞌkmaq and the Acadians fought to keep the British from taking over the region during the French and Indian Wars. The Miꞌkmaq also assisted the Acadians in resisting the British during the Expulsion.  —AccessGenealogy, Micmac Tribe

The Acadians had also settled in Nantes, Brittany before fleeing France, so there's another deeper Celtic connection to explore.

I stumbled upon a blog, The Untold Story: The Irish in Canada which states that "One of the clichés of Newfoundland history is that it is the oldest British colony overseas.... It is ironic, that the oldest British colony overseas, Newfoundland, can also lay claim to be the oldest Irish colony. Indeed, it was through the Irish colony in Newfoundland that the Irish spread into the other British North American colonies.

The first Irish who settled Newfoundland arrived after the Cabots at the end of the 15th century. "They did so as part of the Irish South-East Thalassocracy which went back into the Middle Ages. The ports of Bristol, Appledorre, Dublin, Wexford and Waterford represent a continuum of trade and social intercourse which defy any simplistic analysis. Merchants, seamen, fishermen, traders and adventurers were in and out of ports on both sides of the Irish sea for centuries—it is possible to find numerous surnames of obvious "English" origin scattered through the South-Eastern counties of Ireland and similarly, numerous "Irish" ones located in ports on the English side of the Irish sea.

...The port of Wexford had an extensive commercial relationship with a number of ports in France: Irish merchants had a foothold in St. Malo, Bordeax and Nantes and a number of Irish traders and fishermen engaged in the very large French fishery conducted in Newfoundland and Acadia....

The Irish in Newfoundland spread to other parts of British North America. Before the French were forced to relinquish Acadia, there were Irishmen among the Acadian population....

By the end of the 18th century, an Irish population was prominent in the Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland, in St. John's, the southern shore, Placentia and the larger settlements in Conception Bay. Until the 1820's, the dominant language on the Avalon Peninsula was not English but Irish. Byrne notes they carried it to Nova Scotia. Jonathan Belcher, a Judge in Halifax in the 1760's, mentions the common speech of the city as being "wild Irish". In Cape Berton, the emigrants from Newfoundland were so strongly Irish that Fr. McKegney, the missionary at New Waterford, asked the Bishop of Quebec in 1826 to ensure that his successor be someone capable of speaking Irish, since he would of otherwise be of little use....

Irish was spoken in all (these) settlements and in some of them, it was the dominant language before yielding to English at the same time as Irish was declining in Ireland. Thus, it is no exaggeration to refer to the Irish settlements of Atlantic Canada as the earliest anywhere on this continent." —from The Untold Story: The Irish in Canada
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