I’m fast on the genealogy trail of my Welsh ancestors. This involves families like Cadwal(l)ader, Evans, Jones, Matthews, Price and Pugh.
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:
There’s also The British Quarterly Review, Volumes 55-56:
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 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.
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.
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.