Saturday, March 18, 2017

A New Agey Post about Genes and Ancestry

A colourful scene from the chapter Pedro of the Andes from Visits in Other Lands, my fourth grade social studies textbook.


Do your genes speak to you?

In elementary school, back in the 60's, I was obsessed with all things South American.  This was likely due to the colourful portrayal of Peruvian natives in the 4th grade social studies book, Visits in Other Lands.

I've written about this book here and mounted a video on Youtube that is quite popular. Everyone remembes Bunga of Malaya best.

This highly-esteemed American textbook centered on children from around the world, but only on aboriginal children.  As I explain, this gave the impression to the children of North America that the rest of  the world was charming and backwards.


The South American children had llamas and alpacas and everyone wore brightly coloured ponchos.

What wasn't there to like?

I still like alpacas. There's an alpaca farm nearby and I always want to stop and take pictures, but it's just off the highway, so too dangerous.


At about the same time, I had another 'obsession.'  With all things Pompeiian. You see, my mother owned the book, the Last Days of Pompeii.

That book contained only black and white photos of the victims of the volcanic eruption frozen in time, so it wasn't the colour that attracted me.

(Today, of course, it is understood that Pompeii was a super colourful place. I bought a reproduction of a mural last year at the Pompeii Exhibit in Montreal (I'm clearly not the only person obsessed with this topic) and put it up in my bathroom with some other pictures I downloaded from the Web and printed out. When I stoop to spit into the sink, I have Pompeiian Venus staring you in the face.)

These weren't my major obsessions back in the 1960's. The adorable Men from UNCLE (Ilya!) and Emma Peel and her elegant kick-ass ways and Captain Kirk in his tight pants and Herman's Hermits and horses, horses, horses, were what preoccupied me most back then, but still...

The other day, I received my results from Ancestry, the autosomal test you do at Ancestry and other places.

As I wrote in my last post, I was kind of shocked at the results.  I'm half French Canadian, half British (North of England). The pie chart reveals my genes are half from Britain and the North Sea area,  but they are also Italian (Tuscany and Sicily) and Turkish and even Middle Eastern.

Well, after freaking out a bit and cursing my mother, I have figured out that, in these tests, many French Canadians come out as part Italian, Caucasian and even Middle Eastern.


DNAland claims I am part Sicilian (or Cyprus) and part Tuscan. To this I have no objection, as long as it comes from my mother's side.


We're talking French Canadians like me who go back in Quebec to the first half of the 17th century or even before that, to the first Champlain era settlers. (I already found one ancestor who was born in Quebec in 1635.

French Canadians are mostly descended from the same few thousand people (5,000?) to the tune of 90%. And, most of these people hailed from the North or Northwest areas of France.

Myself, I traced my grandfather's direct paternal line to Poitou in the Loire, where, it is written, most Acadians came from. (I visited Paris last year and wanted to visit the Loire Castles, but it was right after the floods.)

My grandmother's direct maternal line goes back to Normandy, as she always maintained.

(Familytreedna offers tests that can trace your direct maternal line MTDNA and your direct paternal line with the Y Chromosome. Only men can take the second test. Bummer! Who was to guess genes could be so patriarchal?)

Ah, Normandy.  These Ancestry tests results may go back a thousand years or more, they say on their website. "100 or even 1,000 years."



Well, the Normans held these strongholds in 1100, as well as most of Great Britain.

Naples was under their rule. Pompeii!

(Yes, I'm being airy fairy, I know, but after this crazy week hurting my brain as I studied "Genetics for Dummies" to figure out my Ancestry results, I need to wax New Agey.)

As for my early South American obsession, well, like most French Canadians, I have some native blood, but apparently it is from somewhere between Bolivia and Guatamala, not from North America. I would have expected Cree or Mohawk.

What a surprise!

Another obsession with me, back during my school days and beyond, was Pre-Columbian culture. (Obsessions, back then in elementary school, usually translated into what subjects I chose for projects.)

The Pompeii exhibit last year at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. I dragged my husband. He said, afterwards, he doesn't understand the appeal. What?


Anyway, I'm not at all surprised to have Italian blood, even if it passes through France on its way to North America.

This winter, while waiting for my test results, I amused myself by learning Italian online (Coursera) and learning about Roman Architecture (Yale Course) and by putting live scenes from mostly Italy (Genoa, Rome, Venice) on the big screen HD TV.

Before I got my Ancestry results, I assumed this was all about the food and nice weather. I want to take a trip to Italy next year or later.

The trouble is, my Isle of Lewis Scottish/British gened husband has little interest in visiting Italy.  He thinks Alaska would be a great place to visit.

Are you kidding me?

He spends his off-time watching ICE ROAD TRUCKERS - which is produced by his Isle of Lewis nephew.



My Pompeii bathroom - done on the cheap. But, I really wanted to use beautiful imported tiles.