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Beyond the DNA Hype: Unveiling the Complexities of Celtic Ancestry


Beyond the DNA Hype: Unveiling the Complexities of Celtic Ancestry

Model of a celtic warrior on a horse


Years ago, a friendly man with the surname Maxwell noted that we shared similar YDNA on Y-Seq, a genetic testing company. We both held an interest in each others family history. My paper trail reached its limit and strongly points toward involvement in the Welsh Wars: generations of my Pages seemed to serve the noble families therein. Through the Norman era Baron Corbet and some of his men showed up in records near the location of Clan Maxwell in Dumfries, Scotland, bordering England. This Norman actually died in Roxburgh near Kelso; the Corbet family occupied both the Scottish and Welsh borders. My ancestral grandfather, William Page, lived along the Welsh borders on Thomas Corbets land in the 1240s-1250s in a place called Aston Rogers. 

Out of the blue, during one of my less common explorations of Family Tree DNA, I found information again, confirming my genetic similarity shared between myself and 'The Clan Maxwell,' as the site put it. With numerous Scottish and Irish surnames in my matches, sharing subclades on the Scottish cluster and being of the Western Atlantic Modal type: a picture easily started to form in my head. This is where people begin to invest money into DNA, and to be honest, I did. I wanted to know where to understand the original where-abouts of my forefathers, and, as you'd expect, from which tribe or culture they belonged. The cost can be anything from £20 to £500, depending on the service you have. I spent conservatively on my tests and was finally given my answer, which was: BY113677 a subclade of R-L21. 

I heard theories from armchair genealogists and professional genetic wizards alike, but a theory is like an arse; we all have one. I left it at that, returning to check up on progress every year or so, for curiosities sake. This time, I got sucked into it again. You see, L-21 is called 'Celtic' because it dates to the time when these Brythonic and Gaelic languages were spoken by tribes who enjoyed Hallstatt and La Téne cultures in certain lands, especially western Europe, Britain and Ireland. So, with this circling in my mind, I digested some history about the Brythonic Selgovae tribe who settled on the land now called Dumfries, where the Clan Maxwell later emerged! This tribe had close ties to the Brigantes, and they were both hostile toward Rome! How spectacular. My dark age obsessed detective brain is fully aware that many of my finer genealogical lists and circles have a sort of Western British/Gaelic flavour, and consequently, I started to get fleeting desires to learn Scottish Gaelic!

Before I knew what's going on, I was consudering a Celtic tattoo, admittedly, the idea of buying a kilt was sobering! It might sound wrong, because it sort of is wrong, isn't it? That FTDNA statistic information was clear; Z16502 exists in Scotland but also Ireland and England, as well as a tad in Germany and also Wales. Living in the West Midlands of England, my inner voice of sensibility says to me: "You're not a Celt, you're a twat!" 

Cartoon caricature of author dressed as a celt

No doubt, I promise, all this pondering leaves the brain somewhat fishy. Every upturned coincidence wants to reinforce that confirmation bias you treasure, which, in all honesty; is just a dopamine hit! Many Brits today identify as Viking, we've seen the cool viking mass-media mania; Thor, The North-man, Vikings, Vinland Saga, The Last Kingdom—it's all easy viewing. Just to be more realist here, if the 1881 census records prove someones London based ancestry, they don't tend to identify as Victorian and grow 'Bob Cratchit' pork chops, do they? 

Likewise, I don't think I've noticed many teenage 'Mods and Rockers' in my time or Tricorn hat wearing shoppers in town. So, I wonder, how does my little strand of so-called, 'Celtic' DNA compares with all those microplastics I've absorbed into my system after eating all that contaminated sea fish—I'm more plastic than Highlander! 

These 'Celtic People' were never a genetically defined nation of 'Celts,' but put simply, they're people first. This haplogroup, L21 is a huge net that only takes Tuna. However, it is Tuna, which some fish and their historians have ascribe bygone diverse tribalism and cultural themes—still Tuna, nonetheless. However, certain historical peoples such as the Yamnaya, for example, were genetically homogeneous.

Throughout the ages, ancient Briton saw genetic and culturally diversity which shows in genealogy. Consider all those cultures: The Dal Raida, Picts, Britons, Bell Beaker People, Neolithic people, The Irish settlers across Wales. It must be said, Rome introduced YDNA from far and wide; this list comes centuries before the Anglo-Saxon, Viking and Norman period!

Genealogy has unfairly been accused of racism by the hard left or the overly Liberal, but it's merely a tool to help family historians confuse themselves. Tuna.



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