Sunday, March 19, 2017

When your DNA Divides You.

The place where some of my English ancestors (dissenters) worshipped. Alston, Cumberland (Cumbria) from a document by Lucy Jessop and Mathew Whitfield for English Heritage.

What do the little towns of Alston, Cumberland, England and Terrebonne, des Moulins, Quebec have in common?

Well, nothing much, until you look at it through my eyes.

Alston is where my British father's mother's parents lived and worked in the 1700 and 1800's.  It was a mining town, back then, amid the beautiful Pennines.  At its peak the town had a population of 7,000, according to Wikipedia.

Apparently, Alston was the scene of a wonderful social experiment led by the Quakers. They built a library, surgeon's house, and a laundry, for the workers' health of mind and body.  (My grandmother, Dorothy Forster born in Durham in 1895, but with a father from Northumberland, went to a  Quaker school with boys and girls! Her father was an intinerant Primitive Methodist Minister.)

Today, Alston is a small town of 1,000 surviving on tourist dollars.

A while back, I tracked one of my ancestors, a Cowen, back to a 18th century lead mining job. Ugh! 

Terrebonne is a town of about 100,000 north of Montreal, where many, many of my French Canadian grandfather's and grandmother's people come from. Years ago, again according to Wikipedia, it was a very important place.  It was referred to as Lachenaie in the Drouin marriage records, and that place name comes up a lot in my personal genealogical research.

As a teenager at Rosemere High School in the 1960s and 70s, Terrebonne, in our huge catchment area, was where the tough kids came from, the  boys who escaped a pimply puberty, the wild early-to-mature girls. Well, of course. These Terrebonne kids came from a real town with a history, whereas we lived in a sleepy 50's era suburb.

(Still, Terrebonne was much, much smaller back in the 60's, I'm sure.)

My French Canadian mother didn't tell me she had roots in that nearby historic town.

As I've explained  on this blog, I had my DNA tested at Ancestry. When you do this you are connected with potential cousins, in my case 4th to 8th cousins, that is if you pay for a subscription of five dollars a month.

This exercise had me crazy because, for the first few days, because I seem to have only French Canadian cousins on the long list.

I immediately found seven people connected to both my Grandfather's Crepeau side and my Grandmother's Roy side through their trees.

No British ancestors, though, until I had a brainstrom and entered Alston, Cumberland in the search engine. Three names came up (out of hundreds and hundreds) and, yes, their trees suggest that two of them have no connection  to any French Canadians.

The other name, well, that person's tree is connected to both Terrebonne, Quebec and Alston, Cumberland, England.

How weird is that?

French Canadians in the past didn't inter-marry much. An online figure I read claims French Canadian are genetically from France  to the tune of 90%. And, if French Canadian did marry outside the clan, it was usually with Irish Catholics.

I visited Paris last year, just after the floods. I wanted to go to Italy on this trip, but my travelling companion didn't want to.  According to Ancestry DNA ethnicity report, I am more Italian (Sicilian and Tuscan) than French. This has something to do with the Normans. See my last post.

My British father, a Yorkshire Nixon, met my mother, a Crepeau, because he was  posted in Dorval in WWII, as part of the ferry command.  With no connections at home in England to help him find work after the war, because his parents were British colonials in Malaya, he married my mother after a foreshortened war-era stint at Oxford.

My mother had been well-educated by the nuns of Sacred Heart Convent because her father was Director of Montreal City Services, a big job in the 1920's. She took pride in the fact she could ace the English Word Power exercise at the back of Reader's Digest Magazine.

And she was the one who told me what novels to read in my teens. She loved Sinclair Lewis, Carson McCullers and Pearl Buck.

Years later, I realized that the novels she recommended were the bestsellers of the 1930 and 1940 era. But, of course.