Royal Flush

I continue to be rather embarrassed by my possible blood relationships to the kings and queens of several European countries. As I can now imagine, though I never previously thought about it, once one is a king one hands out largesse in the form of land, property and sometimes daughters to supporters. The daughters forge blood ties with “nobles” – so it is no surprise that I have successions of earls and dukes in my pedigree.

I am dutifully putting the exalted into RootsMagic and happening on a surprise or two each day. Yesterday I reached my fourteenth great grandmother Mary Boleyn (L5BC-D1G). Surely not! Alas ‘tis so, my great grandaunt times 14 died in the Tower of London.


Today I decided to move down in the world, back to my early ancestors. GEDmatch offers a tool that, in just a few seconds, compares autosomal DNA with that of “archaic” individuals found 1,200 to 50,000 years ago, in Europe and Asia mostly but with a couple from Brazil, a “Polar Eskimo” from Greenland and the Clovis child from the USA. The first two on the list are the granddaddy of them all – a Neanderthal from the Altai Mountains and that other very senior citizen, a Denisovan from Siberia.

I still know very little about ancient DNA but I was hoping to have a small percentage of both Neanderthal and Denisovan in me. Here’s the indication on the first four chromosomes:-


I seem to match two ancients from present day Hungary most closely and this makes My Heritage’s suggestion of an East European ethnicity, which had initially taken me by surprise, seem more plausible.

What I really wanted to know though was whether I am a hunter gatherer or a farmer. GEDmatch’s answer was unequivocal. On every chromosome I was majorly Baltic Hunter Gatherer (averaging 54% over the 22) admixed with 35% Mediterranean Farmer. There were surprises in the traces. I would never in 50,000 years have expected I harboured Bantu Farmer DNA (I didn’t) but on 6 chromosomes I averaged 2% Pygmy Hunter Gatherer. The largest trace contribution has come from Middle Eastern Herder, which might explain Shem, Ham and Japheth, though I take that part of my pedigree with a pillar of salt. HGs from Oceania and South America will have to be explained by someone much cleverer than I will ever be.

This afternoon I watched a YouTube Video in which David Reich explained recent projects that are taking us Towards a New History and Geography of Human Genes informed by Ancient DNA. My earlier session at GEDmatch began to make more sense. My rough takeaway from his talk is that there were three major migrations of archaic people into Europe where previously the models favoured just two – the farmers and hunter gatherers. The third peoples are the Ancient North Eurasians. After much DNA sequencing and number crunching an estimate has been made of the share of DNA from the archaic populations that will be expected in various European groups today. Overall the combined proportions of farmer and hunter gatherer are only a little below my results, though my “traces” obviously are not Ancient North Eurasian. Leaving that aside as a puzzle, my admixture of the Big Two is quite close to Estonian, then Lithuanian and Icelandic. Norwegian, my chief suspect for the 50.7% Scandinavian ethnicity from My Heritage comes in about fourth.

English, which is what I thought I was, has an estimated admixture of 50% farmer, 36% hunter gather and 14% Ancient North Eurasian. Hmm, interesting; I hope you think so too. If you haven’t already, get testing and GEDmatching!

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