This is an odd one to write. I’ve always known, pretty much where I come from.
My parents are both from South Yorkshire. My father’s family primarily north Nottinghamshire/South Yorkshire border, allegedly French in origin. My mum’s similar, but with a big streak of Romany Gypsy in there, before we effectively settled down with the Gadjos (non-Romany) and diluted our blood.
As I understand it, that was some three or four generations ago, making us very much settled down – but every generation there’s a beautiful brown eyed, olive skinned baby in the family to remind us of our roots.
And then a few years ago, I began to research the family tree on my mum’s side in particular. Some elements were very muddy. Romany families aren’t exactly known for keeping records, but I could trace one section of the family around in circles in Yorkshire (the traveller gene at work) and then all the way up to Middlesborough (they followed the railways), and keep working back til we hit Norfolk and a chap called Isaac Payne who was born in 1796. Oh and he was a farm labourer.
Working class to the core.
But we’re so very England-centric. And additionally there’s a little ambiguity on my dad’s side of the family. My great grandmother, never revealed who my Nan’s father was – all we know is that he died at some point late 1918 in the First World War. Given the vagaries of the family history, what would my actual DNA show? Is there enough Romany blood in there – they’re historically known to have travelled from Egypt to India and beyond. Or were there any surprises in there?
When MyHeritageDNA got in touch to offer me a review opportunity, I was cautious. It’s a pretty big thing to let someone else handle, your very essence of being. Was it safe, what would it show, would I be what I, or even we, expected.
So let’s start at the beginning. The kit itself is pretty slick.
Inside you find two pots, two swabs, envelope and information. Simply use the swabs on the side of your cheek (no snacking etc for around an hour beforehand, so it doesn’t contaminate the samples). Pop them into the pots, then into the envelope and off they go.
You register all your information, and you wait.
And then an email arrives. They take about six weeks to process your DNA and send the results to you.
So. What am I?
I’m about as European and white as I can get. And much, much more English than I was expecting. The Scandinavian element explains the tall blondes on my dad’s side of the family (and both of my sisters).
It’s curious – I’m almost disappointed. I had hoped that more of the Romany would shine through, but I expect it’s just far too diluted now for us to claim it much. The North/Western European would support the French suggestion on my Dad’s side, but as I expected, it’s only hint.
You see, here’s the thing, DNA tests – at least as they stand now – are pretty flawed. They can only give you general areas, and there is an element of inaccuracy, and no direct visualisation of my Romany heritage, doesn’t mean it’s not there. It may just be that it’s not a DNA type identified yet, or as I suspect, it’s very dilute. Romany families didn’t like fraternisation between themselves and Gadjos, but it happened (else why would the word didicoy exist?).
Perhaps the most fascinating bit about the whole thing is how MyHeritageDNA takes your DNA percentages and matches you to others. You can then drop them a message and maybe, just maybe work out how you’re related.
So, I have genetic cousins, but as yet, no idea how they fit into my family tree – or how far back. Which is the other element of the package. You can add other members of your family to your tree and, of course, add their DNA test results too. After all, it’s possible for us to show different elements of our shared DNA history. Perhaps my brother, with his brown eyes and brown hair, might hint more at our gypsy heritage than I, my sisters more at our Scandinavian heritage?
For me, I need to figure out how a lady called Jinky from the US is second cousin….
With thanks to MyHeritageDNA who have sent me on a wild world of discovery!