Friday, February 12, 2021

What the Hell? Who am I?

Months ago I spit into a small, screw-topped vial
containing a preservative solution and sealed it in a small box.
Then I chased down the receding mail truck and handed it to our mail lady.
It took a long time for Ancestry to analyze my results,
and when they arrived, I was shocked.

Let me tell you right up front that I'm not adopted, illegitimate, or have unexpected siblings,
but my results convulsed my cherished family tree and made me question who I am.

The Double Helix Structure of DNA

This wasn't the first time I had my DNA analyzed.
Since I couldn't contribute to the gene pool by having children,
I thought the least I could do was participate in Phase Two
of National Geographic's Genographic Project, Geno 2.0.

The Genographic project was an exciting and ambitious attempt
to determine our human origins and to trace our migrations as we populated the earth.
How could I not contribute my DNA to the effort to map humankind's genetic history?

Almost half a million people from more than 130 countries
participated in the first phase of the  Genographic Project.
This provided an unprecedented look into humankind's journey.

The second phase, Geno 2.0, provided deeper insight into our genetic history
by examining DNA samples for nearly 150,000 DNA identifiers or markers.
These markers revealed rich ancestry-relevant information.
(Source:  National Geographic booklet Geno 2.0:  Your Story.  Our Story.  The Human Story.)
By the time National Geographic retired its Genographic Project,
1,006,542 individuals in over 140 countries had participated in the project.
Individuals were classified by "assessing their proportions
of genomic ancestry related to nine ancestral regions: 
East Asian, Mediterranean, Southern African,
Southwest Asian, Oceanian, Southeast Asian,
Northern European, Sub-Saharan African, and Native American."  (Wikipedia)

I'll bet many people like me were most curious about their individual origins.

Joining the Human Story
Myrtle Louise MacBeath
with her parents, Sara and Don MacBeath
March 1950
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

National Geographic's results were less surprising to me
than Ancestry's, but none-the-less fascinating.
National Geographic compared my DNA affiliations with those of the nine world regions.
They used my entire genome and could see
my mother and father's information going back six generations.

The data showed recent and ancient genetic patterns in my DNA
due to human migrations and mixing over thousands of years.
National Geographic pointed out that the results 
didn't necessarily mean that I belonged to these groups,
but that these groups were a similar genetic match.

So here goes!

My Regional Ancestry (500-10,000 years ago):
First Reference Population:  German
Second Reference Population:  British (England)

German                                     British                                       Me 
46% Northern European           49% Northern European           44% Northern European
36% Mediterranean                  33% Mediterranean                   37% Mediterranean
17 % Southwest Asian             17% Southwest Asian               17% Southwest Asian

My dominant Northern European component likely reflects
the earliest settlers in Europe, hunter-gathers who arrived over 35,000 years ago,
while the Mediterranean and Southwest Asian components reflect early farmers moving
into Europe from the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East over the past 10,000 years.

Perhaps this explains my strange affinity for the Assyrian Collection in the British Museum. 
Ancient Nimrod calls to me every time I set foot in London.

Ancient Nimrod in Assyria Beckons
British Museum, London, UK
September 10, 2018
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

As you may know, all living women have a direct maternal ancestor
who was born some 180,000 years ago in East Africa.
Mitochondrial Eve is the root of the human family tree,
and she generated two lineages known as L0 and L1'2'3'4'5'6.
Each lineage has a different set of genetic mutations that its members carry.

Eventually the L1'2'3'4'5'6 lineage produced the L3 Branch
on our common family tree about 67,000 years ago.
While many L3 members stayed in Africa, some dispersed in different directions.
My distant L3 ancestors migrated north and were the first modern humans to leave Africa.
They created two macro-haplogroups (M and N) that populated the rest of the world.

Basically a haplogroup is an ancestral clan that tells
where your ancestors came from deep in time.
At the risk of over-simplifying very complicated
and sometimes controversial migration patterns,
I'll generalize that the Macro-haplogroup M Branch wandered east throughout Asia
and the Macro-haplogroup N Branch wandered north into Europe.

The Peopling of Eurasia

My "ancestral clan," the western Eurasian Branch,
migrated across the Sinai Peninsula about 60,000 years ago,
having followed the Nile basin out of Africa, 
likely because of its reliable water and food resources.
They probably co-existed with other hominids in the eastern Mediterranean region
and western Asia, such as the Neanderthals, hence my 2.0% Neanderthal DNA.

Thousands of years later, descendants of my N Branch group followed migrating herds
into unexplored territories surrounding the Middle East.
Eventually they roamed north out of the Levant, crossed the Caucasus Mountains,
arrived in southeastern Europe and the Balkans,
and went on to populate the rest of Europe.

Of course, I had to have a complication in my family tree, the R Branch.
This group, dating back to 55,000 years ago, migrated all over the place
including into areas where the N Branch roamed.
In all likelihood, the N and R lineages radiated out of the Near East together,
and geneticists are currently trying to sort out the tangled mess.

About 41,000 years ago, descendants of my R Branch formed the RO Branch,
a group that lived throughout West Asia.

Descendants of my RO Branch gave rise to my ancestors, the pre-HV Branch.
Its members lived around the Red Sea and throughout the Near East,
with its highest numbers in Arabia.

Over several thousand years, my pre-HV ancestors gave rise to
the HV Brancha west Eurasian haplogroup found in Turkey,
the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia, and the Republic of Georgia.  

Caucasus Mountains

My H Branch of ancestors descended from my HV Branch about  28,000 years ago, 
and it washed into western Europe as a wave of migration,
bringing with it significant innovations in tool making, preparing skins, and woodworking.

Around 15,000 to 20,000 years ago, my H Branch of ancestors 
retreated into the Iberian Peninsula, Italy, and the Balkans
because colder temperatures and a drier global climate caused the last Ice Age.
After the ice sheets began their retreat about 15,000 years ago,
my ancestors quickly moved north again and recolonized western Europe.

National Geographic indicated that the highest percentage of the H Branch
currently found in Europe is in Ireland where the line makes up 61% of the population.

Heatmap for H ~ National Geographic Genographic Project.

Somewhere among my rambling deep ancestors, I picked up 1.4% Denisovan DNA.
According to, "Modern humans and Denisovans likely met
for the first time in Eurasia some 40,000 to 60,000 years ago,
after Homo sapiens began their own migration out of Africa."

As for those shocking Ancestry DNA results?
Throughout my life I have proudly proclaimed my Scottish ancestry
on both sides of my family, MacBeath and MacDonald.
My family's clan connections could people a Roll Call of the Clans
at the Antigonish Highland Games in Nova Scotia,
the oldest continuous highland games outside of Scotland.
Somewhere a smidgen of French and Dutch snuck in.

The ancient home of my MacBeath ancestors
is the western coast of Scotland and the Hebrides Islands. 

Motto: Conjuncta virtuti fortuna
Motto Translation: Good fortune is allied to bravery

The ancient home of my MacDonald ancestors
is the west highlands of Scotland and the Hebrides Islands.

Motto: Per mer per terras
Motto Translation: By land by sea

I'll spare you the rest of my Roll Call of the Clans!

Well, my shock is that I'm only 49% Scottish!
Those ancestors DO hail from the Scottish Highlands and Islands,
the outer Hebrides, and the Isle of Skye.

But Ancestry indicates that I'm 41% Irish!
The news convulsed my cherished family tree.
Who the hell am I?

Someone close to me has been chortling
there was a leprechaun in the woodpile somewhere in my past.  
(And that someone is definitely Irish.)

The remaining 10% of of my ethnicity includes
5% from Northwestern Europe, 3% from Germanic Europe, and 2% from Norway.

I broke the news to my siblings:
Donnie, I have shocking news...
Bertie, I have some shocking news, shocking to me, maybe surprising to you...
Barb, I have news that's going to shock you...
Roy, sit down.  I have bad news...

Wow!  It didn't rock their worlds like it rocked mine.
Not even my brother Royal Stewart MacBeath.

Barb and I got into a heated debate
over the origin of the leprechaun in the woodpile.
I'm going with our Grandfather MacDonald's line.
She's going with our Great Grandfather Pratt's line.

Barb's going to have her DNA done by Ancestry too.
She suggested that perhaps she and the rest of my siblings
have different DNA from mine, more Scottish.
I reminded her that she's the one who's been nicknamed the Milkman's Daughter.
She says she's a throwback to the Pratts and that my Scottish genes
were altered by the survivors of the shipwrecked Spanish Armada.
Aren't sisters fun?

But we come by our vigorous discussions legitimately.
I'll never forget my mother firing a raw egg at my father,
because he was singing "The Campbells Are Coming" to tease her.
I think it was his line, "The Campbells are coming, MacDonalds are running," 
that prompted the egg splattering on her target. 
A little later we all sat down for a peaceful scrambled egg breakfast,
although my father couldn't resist humming a few provocative bars here and there.
I wonder what my parents would think about potential Irish origins? 

We Five
Louise (Me), Roy, Barb, Donnie, and Bertie 
Boar's Head Lighthouse, Tiverton, Nova Scotia
August 3, 2015
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

This ancestral setback of mine bears digging into.
I'll keep you posted (depending on what I find out ~ LOL!)

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

On the Bay of Fundy
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved



  1. I guess the Scottish and Irish mingled a bit.
    All women share a common maternal ancestor? No kidding - her name was Eve.

    1. Apparently they did in my family tree, Alex! It's amazing what current genetic research is revealing about our human history. I sometimes wonder who "Mitochondrial Eve" was as an individual, her life, her story. I love the name she was given, a shout out to the Biblical Eve. Have a relaxing weekend!

  2. That's great that you participated in the National Geographic study. And awesome that you learned more about your family history.

    1. Thanks, Natalie! I couldn't resist. I'm grateful that I live at a time when we're learning so much about human history. It's going to be fun working on the recent details. Have a happy weekend!

  3. The Denisovans were giants, weren't they?

    I know I may be beaten with shamrocks for saying this, but aren't Irish and Scottish pretty much the same thing? (Ducks and runs.)

    ๐Ÿ˜€ I hope you find your people.

    1. Haha! Beaten with shamrocks is apt, Sandi! I've been very proud of my Scottish thistles and burdocks, but I have to make room in my heart for shamrocks now. I know that the Irish and Scottish people are closely related, but I thought of every fiber of my being as Scottish. To this Scot, the Irish are different.

      Actually, I love Ireland! I have long appreciated and enjoyed its people and culture, but I'm not ready to trade my sword, whiskey, and haggis for darts, Guinness, and corned beef and cabbage. I did joke occasionally that I had an Italian soul. That must be a shout out from my H ancestors. I'm claiming the ones who sheltered in Italy during the Ice Age ~ LOL.

      Currently there is a huge hunt on for Denisovan fossil remains. We've only known about this humanoid branch for about a decade. From what I've read, they share a common origin with the Neanderthal that split away from modern humans over half a million years ago. The Denisovan had large teeth and wider jaws and skulls than the Neanderthal. But all this is based on fragmentary fossil remains and new genetic research methods that I don't begin to understand. We have much to learn!

      Have a great weekend, my friend!

  4. The leprechaun in the woodpile, hahahahahaha! Perhaps your ancestors in the 1800s obscured or covered up their Irish blood because of anti-Irish discrimination in Canada. "Scottish was best!" Hey, it happens. Keep us posted about your siblings' results -- if they come back without the same results, then "oh oh!"

    1. Oh, I just had to come back and leave ANOTHER comment! I remember an ad that Ancestry used to run in Canada a few years ago (maybe the same ad ran in the US, I don't know) about a guy in kilts and bagpipes proudly celebrating his Scottish heritage when he discovers he's half-Italian. The next scene shows him dishing up a huge bowl of spaghetti and meatballs to his confused kids while saying "Mangia, mangia, we're Italian!" I bet you'll be doing something similar soon, LOL!

    2. You may be onto something, Debra! Unfortunately the Irish have faced awful discrimination in Canada and elsewhere. I'm displaying a little discrimination myself, being Scottish proud. I definitely have to reorder my sense of self and embrace my Irish roots. Och! Yes, I have seen that funny ad where the Scot discovers he's half-Italian. It was strangely prescient when I think of it now ~ LOL! I'll have to start practicing "ร‰irinn go Brรกch," the unofficial Irish national motto. Have a lovely weekend with your Rare One!

  5. Maybe I should do this too, such detail from all those years ago that filters down to us today.My Mum was born in Scotland, My Dad here in NZ, but he had ancestors that originated in Germany, went to South Africa and then to England. Lovely photo of you all together, I,too, wonder what the siblings' tests will bring.

    1. Hi, Jean! My siblings and I have great fun arguing about which details are the right ones. Thanks for sharing your background. It's all fascinating, isn't it? I'm very curious about the DNA tests. We all love to tease each other. I hope you and Hugh have a happy weekend together.

  6. Most interesting to read Louise, I did my family tree years ago on line, had a few shocks, one of my father's ancestor was a preacher man.

    Enjoy your weekend.
    Take care.

    1. I guess if we make the choice to dig into the past, we will find a few shocks, Yvonne. I'm slowly adjusting to the "new" me! LOL I hope you have an enjoyable weekend! Sending you a big hug!

  7. You've gone way deeper into yours than we have (Ancestry is SO expensive & SO addictive). I first posted about our results in this blog post: Now I plan to do an update with newer results.

    1. I enjoyed reading your post, Donna! It was fun to see that your paternal grandmother was born and raised in Nova Scotia. My paternal grandmother was born and raised in Prince Edward Island. I'm an open book, like you, and I feel like I have nothing to hide and the government and private companies know more about me than I do. I've hesitated about getting into genealogy, because I know it will be addictive. Different relatives of mine have done research, so I'm looking forward to connecting it all.
      I'm coming around to making peace with my newfound self. After all the differences among us as human beings are not significant, and we woman all share a common Eve. Happy Weekend!

  8. You are definitely into your ancestry. Me, I don't want my DNA anywhere it can be found!

    1. LOL ~ My hubby thinks the same as you do. He is a closed book ~ LOL! Have a great weekend, Jacqui!

  9. That is so cool Louise! This post was so interesting!!! Irish?? So fun!!! LOL! Big Hugs my friend!

    1. Thanks, Stacy! I'm glad that you enjoyed it. I must cling to the fact that the Irish are full of fun, and the Scots are dour. LOL Have a relaxing weekend! Big hugs to you!

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. The stuff you can learn now! I like the idea of a leprechaun in the woodpile. My friend Carol (81 years old) believed until a year ago that her father was half-African American, half-Native American. No Native American. Shocker for her.


    1. Hi, Janie! Poor Carol! It's shocking to have the sense of self you've lived with throughout your life upended! I had really hoped to have Native American ancestors somewhere, and I was betting Mi' kmaq. Did not happen. I'm going to be chasing down as much ancestry information as I can. I have so many questions. I'll just have to accept what I find. That's the deal you make with yourself when you start digging. Even when I find out I'm only 49% Scottish.๐Ÿ˜ฑ I hope that you are doing well, Janie! Please take care of yourself! You've been through too much! ๐ŸŒˆ๐ŸŒˆ๐ŸŒˆ๐Ÿ€๐Ÿ€๐Ÿ€๐Ÿฅฐ๐Ÿฅฐ๐Ÿฅฐ

    2. I'm doing quite well emotionally and physically.

    3. I'm so glad to hear this, Janie!

  12. That's really interesting Louise, though some of it went over my head!!! I don't know if I'd want to have my ancestry out there. I love thinking that I am mostly of Scottish descent! :)

    1. Hi, Rain! You probably figured out long ago that I am an open book ~ LOL! My husband feels the same as you do about his ancestry. Hold on to that Scottish identity! My blog has an address of "selkie grey," because I think of myself as belonging to the seal people ~ not that I can assume a seal shape, but that I belong to the people who have those tales and traditions. Given that my Scottish ancestors come from Skye, the Hebrides, the other islands, and the west coast of Scotland, it's not hard to imagine that some Irish snuck in. The top of Ireland is pretty darn close to my Scottish Islands, and there is a tradition of seal people there too. I can handle this ~ BIG LOL! Don't worry about some of the genetic info going over your head ~ It went over mine too. I worked to understand it for hours and hours, and I stopped when I had a "storyline" that was connected by the data and made sense. The info is increasingly more detailed and complicated. ๐Ÿ˜ฑ I hope you, Alex, and the critters are warm and comfy. I know waves of nasty weather has been coming up the coast your way. We had really cold weather move in last night (-8ยบF/-22ยบC); and of course, our furnace quit. Fortunately it was something that could be fixed. Whew! Enjoy your weekend! Hugs to you!

  13. if you're from the islands of Scotland, having Irish blood is a given since there was a lot of travel in the pre-Viking days from Ireland to the islands. Of course, there's probably a good deal of Viking blood, too. Interesting history. You ancestors did a lot of traveling in the days before Moving Vans :)

    Main blog:

    1. Hey, Sage! Thanks for the info! I'm coming to terms with the Irish side of me ~ LOL! I'm quite happy to come from such hardy stock as the people who lived on the islands of Scotland, paternal and maternal. Since I wrote this post I have read that the earliest MacDonalds were from the "kingdom" of Dalriada which included the western seaboard of Scotland and the north-eastern corner of Ireland, on each side of the North Channel. Since I have a bit of Norwegian in me, I claim Viking until I learn differently. I can't wait to dig up more! I'm really glad that I contributed to the National Geographic geographic project. Tracing all that was really fun. Have a great week, Jeff!

  14. Wow! That is a lot of detail. Do you have the traditional Irish gift of the gab?
    I came here from Debra's blog - no, wait, someone else's who had made banana bread and forgotten to put in the choc chips. Your comment re they are good on their own, reminded me I have some in the cupboard and I am in dire need of a choc fix. So thank you.

    1. Haha, Liz! Thank goodness for chocolate chips ~ Now I'm going to have to raid the fridge. Yes, I went overboard with the info ~ LOL I never thought of the Irish gift of the gab. I'm certainly not taciturn like many Scots, so maybe that's my Irish coming through. Take care!

  15. I did the ancestry DNA a few years back

    1. I hope you enjoyed finding out your roots! Take care!

  16. lmao been a while since I heard the old "leprechaun in the woodpile" I guess you had one there at some point. Interesting how it all goes back to one woman, although that seems kinda weird too. If not enough partners to go around things could get rather umm incesty.

    1. Your comment made me curious, Pat. So I looked a little more. The lineage from Mitochondrial Eve is a matrilineal line; so since I was female NG traced me back to her. It turns out there is also a Y-chromosomal Adam that is a patrilineal line. Wikipedia says: As of 2015, estimates of the age of the Y-MRCA (Y-chromosomal Adam) range around 200,000 to 300,000 years ago, roughly consistent with the emergence of anatomically modern humans. Genetics had advanced so much since I studied it at Acadia that it makes my brain hurt. Seriously! Have a good one, my friend. I like your new icon with the Westies.

  17. dear Louise this post sounds precious and beautiful though i will return to read it later ,now here to say thank you so much for kind comment on my previous post "necromancy vs God" i just saw ,read and replied to it and wanted to let you know if you are interested to check response
    hugs and blessings!

    1. Hugs and blessings to you, Baili! Thank you for your encouraging words!

  18. wow what an intriguing read ,i was consumed by all the thick ,heavy information about ancestor migrations wow there must be lots and lots of effort geographic putting into it ,i am impressed and overwhelmed lol

    your discussion with siblings made me laugh ,oh yes sisters are amazing when it come to tangle in opposing during discussions lol ,i feel bit bad about mine to whom i have to stay away for reasons though i love her so much and want her to live happy life .
    this all knowledge is new to me ,how nice if i can participate in this and track down my ancestors.

    thank you for such interesting ,wonderful and exquisite posting ,it broadened my horizons for sure .
    best wishes to you and yours my lovely sweet dear friend!

    1. Hi, Baili!
      I know my post was a lot to wade through ~ LOL. Human genetics is really complicated. National Geographic has completed its genographic mapping project, and I'm thrilled to have taken part in the study into the deep past of human history. did my modern DNA analysis with the results of 49% Scottish, 41% Irish, 5% from Northwestern Europe, 3% from Germanic Europe, and 2% from Norway. I don't know if you have access to or not where you live. Based on the National Geographic study, your deep ancestors would have followed the same path out of Africa until the N Branch (toward Europe) and the M Branch (toward Asia) spilt as mine did. Maybe! That's where things get really complicated. LOL

      I shall start focusing on my inner worlds, as you suggested. Hugs to you, Baili!


Thank you for your comments! I appreciate them very much.