Is there trace Iberian results in your British DNA? This might be why

I’m fast on the genealogy trail of my Welsh ancestors. This involves families like Cadwal(l)ader, Evans, Jones, Matthews, Price and Pugh.

celtic_nations_lg_nationalgeographic_900w

Map showing the geography of the northern part of the Iberian Peninsula with Cornwall and Wales in western and southwestern Britain. 

Looking at my DNA matches for others with these families, I kept seeing trace DNA from the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal). I made a mental note of this, but it certainly wasn’t anything in the forefront of my mind.

My own Iberian results are minuscule. AncestryDNA doesn’t show it all. Genebase puts it at 0.7%. FamilyTreeDNA estimates it at 0.5%. And various Gedmatch DNA analytic tools puts it between 0.3% to 0.9%. Let’s agree on one thing: it’s tiny. Really, really tiny. I wrote it off as being part of my ancient DNA. It may not be quite as ancient as I assumed.

I’ve come across some interesting articles and books about the genetic composition of the Welsh. Needless to say I learned something new about the Welsh.

I’d always thought that the Welsh were a Celtic people. That’s what I’d heard for the 30 years I’d lived in England. The story goes something like this: the Welsh were the original inhabitants of the British Isles. They were pushed back into present days Wales after a steady stream of invaders: the Anglo Saxons, followed by the Normans. However, there was an even older arrival that had a direct impact on the original Welsh. The Celts.

The first article I came across is an antiquarian piece. And I should caveat this by saying that there is some ethno-centric language and prejudices expressed within it. Long story short, the Anglo-Saxons believed themselves to be superior to the Celtic-Iberian Welsh. This superiority was used to justify their dominance over the Welsh. It’s more than a little racist when it comes to speaking about the Welsh and their Iberian forefathers. Some things never change. Nevertheless, it’s worth reading to gain a basic insight into the geographical movements of older Welsh peoples within Wales as different conquering groups came to occupy their lands: The Athenaeum: Journal of Literature, Science, the Fine Arts, Music and the Drama, Volume 2866:

https://books.google.com/books?id=dJFUAAAAcAAJ&dq=celts%20displaced%20iberians%20south%20in%20wales&pg=PA125&output=embed
https://books.google.com/books?id=dJFUAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA125&dq=celts+displaced+iberians+south+in+wales&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiGzYvw_LzRAhWDMSYKHXtxCcAQ6AEIGjAA#v=onepage&q=celts%20displaced%20iberians%20south%20in%20wales&f=false

There’s also The British Quarterly Review, Volumes 55-56:
https://books.google.com/books?id=67BHAQAAMAAJ&dq=celts%20displaced%20iberians%20south%20in%20wales&pg=RA1-PA250&output=embed
https://books.google.com/books?id=67BHAQAAMAAJ&pg=RA1-PA250&dq=celts+displaced+iberians+south+in+wales&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiGzYvw_LzRAhWDMSYKHXtxCcAQ6AEIOzAG#v=onepage&q=celts%20displaced%20iberians%20south%20in%20wales&f=false

The last article I’ll reference is a contemporary one: DNA of the nation revealed…and we’re not as ‘British’ as we think (Ancestry.com): https://www.ancestry.com/corporate/international/press-releases/DNA-of-the-nation-revealedand-were-not-as-British-as-we-think

There’s plenty of sound, primary sources that cover this topic. If you’re interested, Google “Iberian settlement of Wales” in either Google or Google Books.

This is one potential explanation for the trace amounts of Iberian in my own DNA. It comes via my Welsh ancestry. Another route will be via my Cornish ancestry, with a slight twist.

The indigenous Cornish are proud of their connection to the Saracens, a Semitic people, who traded goods with the Cornish for much-needed tin.

The town symbol for Penryn, the first Cornish village I lived in? A Saracen. It’s also the logo for the village rugby team, also named for the Saracens.l

The Saracens left more than just goods and currency. They left their DNA among the Cornish too – a source of pride for the indigenous Cornish to this day.

https://books.google.com/books?id=y8c2AQAAMAAJ&dq=saracens%20in%20cornwall&pg=PA55&output=embed
https://books.google.com/books?id=y8c2AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA55&dq=saracens+in+cornwall&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiXkNbv_7zRAhVGNiYKHc03D04Q6AEIHzAB#v=onepage&q=saracens%20in%20cornwall&f=false

Again, there are plenty of respected primary sources online which provide a history of the Saracens and the Cornish.

I mention this because the Saracen’s trade wasn’t limited to Cornwall or neighbouring Devon. They traded with the Welsh…and the Iberians, introducing their DNA to southwest England and to Wales. The article Genomic signals of migration and continuity in Britain before the Anglo-Saxons (via Nature Communications via http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms10326) touches on ancient Middle Eastern DNA within the British population.

So why is there only a trace amount of DNA? I have a few hypotheses. I’m doing a fair bit of reading to see how accurate or not this theory is. My Welsh ancestors tended to marry within the same families. Yep – a whole new batch of cousin marriages. These cousin marriages go right back to the 1100’s. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that half of these ancestors carried small amounts of Iberian DNA. That DNA continued to be passed back and forth, just enough being preserved through 20 or so generations to come down to descendants as trace amounts of Iberian DNA.

9e3940c9542600d489d1482e9643416d

An illustrative example showing how inherited DNA segments become shorter as they are passed down from generation to generation. In this example, let’s say the pink regions in the image above are Saracen. Let the 100% Saracen segment represent a Saracen ancestor.  Working from left to right, let’s say this ancestor married a Welsh Celt (illustrated by the blue). His or her descendants would be 50% Saracen and 50% Celtic Welsh. The Saracen reduces over time within each subsequent generation.

As for the Saracen? This could explain the trace amounts of Middle Eastern DNA results that pop up in my Welsh DNA cousins’ test results. Probably for the same reason as Saracen DNA does. This too requires more reading and research.

Those trace amounts of Iberian is beginning to make sense.

13 thoughts on “Is there trace Iberian results in your British DNA? This might be why

    • I have just received my ancestry.com results and My DNA is 64% Northern Ireland, 18% Great Britain and 9% Iberian. My father, who was born in Ulster, always said that he was descended from a shipwrecked Spanish sailor from the Spanish Armada and we always laughed at him! However, I have read that they were mostly captured and killed or deported. The Welsh connection is interesting as my mother’s maiden name was Welsh and her father’s family came from Shropshire.

  1. I sent samples to two different DNA analysis services. Both agreed on my heritage except for 8-10 per cent. One called it British; the other called it Iberian. I’m trying to reconcile these results.

  2. I am about a quarter English when taken from both sides of my family, which is mostly from Southwest England, e.g., Somerset, Dorset, Devonshire, and Cornwall, and am also a little bit Welsh. Ancestry.com’s DNA test says I am 3% Iberian Peninsula. Both my parents are about a quarter English too and my dad got 3% like me, but my mom got 9%! No Spanish/Portugese that we know of really. And for some reason our Great Britain is barely showing, but said we all have a bunch of Irish though, despite having very little Irish. I think the Ancestry.com calculator thinks our Cornish & Welsh ancestry is Irish or something, as it seems like the Irish and GB numbers should be flipped. But yea, I always assumed all the Iberian we got, was due to our ancestors from Cornwall having intermarried with some Iberian merchant sailor’s, probably trading for tin and stuff with the Cornish and other people along their coastal trade routes.

  3. I am 27% Scandinavian & 6% Iberian! I was astonished! That’s huge proportions & I consider myself as Yorkshire & as English as they come! I also was really surprised at how little Irish I had, 4%.

    Essentially I am over a quarter Viking! I also got 1% Russian/Finnish & 1% Italy/Greece. Small traces of southern Europe too.

    GB 46% & western Europe 17% etc

  4. My great grandmother was half Cherokee and my great great grandmother was full blood Cherokee of Fox tribe.But why did my DNA not mention it.

  5. The Spanish were mostly Germanic from the Visigoths. The DNA that they’re claiming is Iberian is more likely German DNA that is shared among English and Spanish.

  6. Kent,

    Yes, Germanic peoples ruled parts of the Iberian peninsula for a time. However, it doesn’t make Germanic dna the principal dna of that peninsula. Much older cultures were there long before the Visigoths rocked up.

    It’s like saying the Scots are Vikings while ignoring the Picts.

    I’d invite you to read the sources listed in this article found via https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_history_of_the_Iberian_Peninsula

    We’re talking admixtures here. The peopling of the Iberian peninsula is what it distinctive from either France or Germany.

  7. It looks to me more like the Celts from Britannia settled in the Peninsula of what’s now Brittany and in Galicia in North West Spain. Or Otherwise the Celtic DNA would be more widespread in Spain then just one North Western region Galicia which is known as Green Spain because its topography and climate resemble Cornwall and Ireland and the Celtic Fringe more then it resembles Spain

  8. My ancestry DNA tracked about what I would have thought, although it has varied a bit from company to company. 1/2 Celtic, 1/4 Scandinavian, and 1/4 Iberian. Another company shows me as 3/4 Iberian and 1/4 Fino-Russo/Scandinavian, which leads me to believe they considered all my Celtic ancestry as Iberian and in some ways, it may be. Northern Spaniards are largely Celtic, thus the name Galicia. Most Irish and Western (Welsh) Brits probably COME from Iberian roots, way back, not from some shipwrecked sailor–although that might be too.

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