IMG_0504Above: San Diego, 2015 by Wendy.

The family had planned to visit Spain this July, because grandson Jacob wanted to see the place he was born.  Although his parents lived in Chipiona, Spain, technically, Jacob was born in Germany, a premie who required special care. However, he thinks of his birthplace as Spain.

When she went into labor prematurely Jacob’s mother was taken by medevac helicopter across the Alps and Jacob was delivered at the Landstuhl military medical facility.   My son went along for the helicopter ride, but he was too preoccupied with his wife and soon to be born son to be amazed with the view.

The family doesn’t talk about the experience very much, and Jacob continues to insist he was born in Spain.  Jacob has Spanish great-grandparents on his mom’s side and thanks to living in very Spanish California and his maternal cousins he is enamored with all things Spanish.

I’ve done my best to inform him that he was born a few kilometers from the places where several of my ancestors were born, and that he has plenty of English and German antecedents on both sides of his family.  However, we believe what we believe.

I think about this a lot because the mixing of cultures and ethnicities is such an ancient phenomena, and yet many people insist they are this or that, when they can’t possibly be. Exciting new research in the fields of genetics, linguistics and archeology is turning up all kinds of new information.

In the West, there is no “pure” anything.  We are all mongrels.  And the West includes Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

Asia has a similar mixture owing to years of struggle and strife between and among various ethnic groups, to say nothing of ancient migrations. And the West and the rest have interacted for millennia. Nothing new under the sun, the saying goes.

This week I completed Barry Cunliff’s Britain Begins which covers 12,000 years of history from the end of the last ice age to the Norman invasion in 1066, a truly comprehensive work. Cunliff ends his book with the comment…the British are a mongrel race.  He says the invasion of migrants at the end of the twentieth century (and continuing this week) is the largest invasion in a thousand years. Before 1066, there were many invasions by many groups of people.

Mostly the invaders were males so the Y chromosomes are much more mixed than the mtDNA female chromosomes. However, the mtDNA chromosomes suggest two ancient groups, one originating in Iberia and western France and the other in Central Europe (Germany and the Benelux areas) were the first groups to enter Britain after the last ice age. This must make them the native people…right?

Problem is, the people who migrated later were also from those areas as well as North Africa and the Middle East (particularly under the Romans) and the later Viking raids brought many more migrants from central Europe.  Cunliff gives the example of the grave marker found at Bath England of a thirty year old woman from Palmyra (Syria). Her husband, a Roman soldier from Spain placed the marker on her remains.

Cunliff ends his book with 1066, however, from other reading I know that the explorations of the Europeans in the thirteenth through the sixteenth centuries as well as the Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries (as well as other revolutions) did much to stir up the world’s masses.

So if you think you are a pure anything, get over it.  You probably aren’t, and neither is anyone else.  I know I am not and therefore neither are any of my progeny.

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20 thoughts on “Inheritance

  1. Lots of soldiers, sailors, and engineers in my family. All those generations of my forebarers have traced there genealogy. What I did was go to and update everything. That’s enough to keep me happy.

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  2. I know I’m a mongrel and am fine with that. 🙂 There is French, Italian, German, and American Indian in my blood, but I like to claim I’m Italian. For some reason I identify more closely with that culture.


  3. My father-in-law had his gene pool checked out when National Geographic was offering this service several years ago. It was interesting but not absolute. My Dad used to say he was 100 percent Anglo Saxon. I’m sure if he thought about that statement nowadays he would do a double take of his ancestral lines. Great photos!

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    • Your dad could be Anglo-Saxon of the early kind (i.e., Brought over to England as a Roman soldier! Or earlier still as one who migrated before the Bronze Age).

      On the other hand he could be descended from those ‘Anglo-Saxons’ who migrated to England after the Romans withdrew and before the Normans ( themselves descended from Danish Viking raiders and French women) came.

      Cunliff’s main point is that people descended from German tribes migrated into Britan over the millennia (since the end of the last ice age). And they did not replace the ‘Celts as some have claimed.

      BTW Anglo-Saxon is a made up phase. These days they are referred to as Saxons and the phase includes many tribes, not unlike the phrase used to describe ‘Asians.’


  4. I had Art send in his spit to and it was actually a waste of time. It came out as he expected that he was all Asian. They don’t have enough of a data base I guess to tell where in Asia he came from. I thought it would tell more about Neanderthal, Homo Sapiens or whatever… or Mongolian, Chinese, Korean, etc. Nope, just 100% Asian or something like that.

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  5. There are adopted kids in our family, marriage, divorce, remarriage….. I never thought of being pure, but I feel badly that my Korean step-daughters will have a tough time trying to find any relatives being left and found on a street corner as an infant and toddler

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    • I had a young Korean girl as a co-worker when I was at the Census Bureau. She was quite bitter that her Korean mother gave her up for adoption and that a ‘white couple’ had adopted her. I hope she gets over her bitterness. Someday.


  6. We have adopted grand-girls of Guatemalan and American-Mexican heritage. The oldest, now 15, identifies herself as Guatemalan and Norwegian (their dad’s dad is Norwegian). She likes him a lot. No amount of arguing by her sisters has changed her mind. OK by me. While we were married we belonged to the Sons of Norway. At the time you had to be “Norwegian” to join. Hubby was listed as Norwegian born and me as Norwegian by choice. LOL.

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    • So American! And English, and etc. Yes, people love their heritage real or imagined. I can’t imagine no Saint Patrick’s day, although he was really Englih and taken by Irish raiders. He escaped and returned years later to proselytize them. Those raiders who took Patrick were probably half-Norwegian BTW! .

      Sounds like the fifteen year old could join the daughters of Norway!


  7. I have never had any desire to trace my lineage as I’m sure that there are a whole bunch of bad apples in the bunch, you know, horse thieves and such. I am only interested in the here and now and what I’m doing to make it a better place.

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