A couple of days ago, while looking at the deep ancestry thing, I become somewhat confused about whether Portuguese had Yamnaya ancestry or not (the answer is probably, but like everything about Portugal, the answer is complicated.) From the region I come from, very probably, but again…
Anyway, let me state right up front my “down” on genealogy. When Dan’s dad got older (starting at about our age) he became obsessed with family genealogy. This made a certain sense, I suppose, since until older son, and from the mid 1600s, all of Dan’s ancestors were born in Norwalk, Connecticut. So, it was one of those “we are from here. We belong here.”
Only the reason it made me snort-giggle is that of course that’s not true. Genealogy is in a way a lie, because you follow one line or at most two. But we’re not products of one line or at most two. Not even my mom’s family (where family reunions are considered great places to pick up chicks) works that way. It doesn’t mate only with itself. (Though if rumors are true there have been a lot of cousin marriages before mom’s parents who were first cousins. Hey, it’s selective breeding, right. What it selects for is the question.)
So tons of other branches fell into Dan’s ancestry while his male line stayed rooted in Norwalk, CT, from his grandmother’s relatively recent Irish ancestry to his mom’s… uh… she came from that part of West Virginia that was settled by the sweepings of London’s undesirables (quite literally. I no longer remember if it was Elizabeth or one of the James who had the less than regular inhabitants of London (yeah, street people, but also street performers, prostitutes and just people who hadn’t found a place to live yet, or a job, yet, and dumped them in a ship headed to the Americas. The past is not only a different country, it’s a scary one.) but into which and inexplicably had fallen an Amish ancestress. Anyway…
Despite all of my Father in Law’s careful accounting of the ancestry as much as he could, he missed something I found when I was researching for Plain Jane. You see, the current Earl of Seymour (who is descended from two or three generations in the American branch, as someone went back to claim the title after the mess of the Tudor years) had a thing about how his ancestor (I’ve slept since I’ve done that research. Also, had major surgery and hypothyroidism, so I can’t remember names) the youngest of Jane Seymour’s brothers, and the only one to survive the Tudor years, immigrated to America with a bunch of other puritans (which he was) having changed his name to the per-immigration to England name: St. Maur. He and six other families founded Norwalk Connecticut. The families all intermarried extensively. Btw, their plot was right next to a family named Haytte… Yes, Hoyt. Yes, one of the St. Maur daughters had married into the Hoyt Clan (I think a Sarah, who married the first Daniel who fought in the Revolutionary war with the Connecticut Volunteers.)
My father in law had completely missed this, although he’d tried very hard to find the “French family” who married into the family. Which is right, in a way, since they were Normans…
This makes Dan descended from Edward III, like something close to 70% of Americans. (The ladies liked pretty Eddie, and also he was trying to compensate for his dad.) This is only amusing, because (though I haven’t tracked very closely) I’m probably descended from one of the Bourbons on the Marques side. This puts the permanent argument between our sons (the younger looks like a prettier Louis XIII) in the form of a continuing wars between medieval England and medieval France. Never mind.
The funny thing is that the Earl of Seymour is a Mathematician, and also that the picture at the end of that book looks STARTLINGLY like my FIL, only taller. See above where I joke younger son looks like the portraits of Louis XIII, only thank heavens prettier, and it makes you wonder exactly about this heredity thing.
Because a few centuries back of shared heredity should have bloody nothing to do with how you look or who you really are, because your chances of sharing more than “casual acquaintance” level of gneetics with your great great great great great great grandthing is less than zero.
And yet we obviously do. I mean, look how many of us carry the remainders of a cross with Neanderthals they not think took place like 40k years ago.
Which brings us to why people are fascinated by genealogy. Of course they are. They’re looking for what went into making them. And things are inherited not predictably, but inherited anyway. Both mental dispositions and looks.
But the thing is that we’re really bad at understanding real genealogy and real heredity, and that family histories as such as a confused mess and completely wrong because the things you tell your kids get confabulated; people make wrong assumptions about their ancestors, and frankly your ancestors might have been hiding for all sorts of very good reasons having bloody nothing with being whores or horse thieves (though in the long history of human ancestry, yeah, we’ve probably all have whores or horse thieves as ancestors, and some I suspect have had human sacrifices and canibalistic priests. Okay, probably all of us for that last, too. Though most of our ancestry is probably dull-normal. (Well, most human ancestry. I don’t answer for the people on this blog, since Odds tend to mate and reproduce according to their kind.)
In the midst of trying to figure out if Yamnaya had replaced the paternal DNA of Portugal as well as most of Europe, I came across an… interesting blog of people trying to figure out their Portuguese ancestry.
This was highly amusing to me — I resisted leaving a comment that said “you’ll never make it on your wits alone” because as Dan pointed out to me it’s not their fault that they don’t know anything about what is a poorly recorded and frankly a bit weird culture — because most of the people were looking for names that either aren’t Portuguese or don’t in point of fact exist.
Take the person who was looking for an ancestor named Guan or Juan…. Heaven help us. If he was Portuguese he was neither of those, though he might have been trying desperately to get people to pronounce his name semi-right. You see, João is pronounced… well, J in portuguese is pronounced like a soft g as in George (so not at all like the Spanish J) and oão might best be transcribed as ooahoon. Which I’m sure no one can read in the US because I wanted to climb through the headphones and strangle the reader of MHI who consistently pronounced it Jooawow. Though to be fair the “teaching people to speak Portuguese” videos do too. But anyway, there it is.
There are other names that people get consistently wrong from the Portuguese. One of them was my birth name and the reason I changed to “something completely different.”
You see, Portugal was not, until about 40 years ago one of those places where you gave your kids English names because you’d heard them in a movie. Unlike all the Latin countries in America, we didn’t have Johns and Wandas running around. This is because in Portugal, until about 40 years ago, it was illegal to give your kid a foreign name. Immigrants with kids born abroad had to find a similar Portuguese name for the Portuguese birth registry. So, my kids, if we’d gone back would be Roberto and Eurico (he goes by his middle name. I don’t even know what Marshall would have been in Portuguese. I don’t think there’s an equivalent. Probably they’d just go for “Starts with same letter” and he’d end up as Maximiliano or something. I had a student who was Martine in France and they named her Martinha in Portuguese, which has no connection whatsoever. My annoying aunt insists on calling younger son Henrique, which has nothing to do with Eric. It’s the translation of Henry. Rolls eyes.)
Anyway, so my name was Alice, from either the Roman Alix (and if I were changing today I’d probably go with that, as closer, but you know, you make the decisions you make with what you have on hand at the time. Um…. pen name.) or the same German root as Adelaide, i.e. “Daughter of someone important.” I.e. Princess.
It was supposed to be pronounced Uh-lease. But you couldn’t get through people’s heads that a name spelled like an English name wasn’t in fact the same name. And I dislike Alice in English more than I dislike Alice (Uh-lease) in Portuguese, which is to say an enormous amount. Also, most people on hearing it heard Elise, which I don’t …. exactly dislike, just didn’t want to be called because the only Elise I ever met was over 80 and couldn’t eat by herself when I met her.
So… I changed to Sarah which was my pen name. But look above at the confusion. I’m rather amused at the idea of a ggggg child looking for Sarah D’Almeida in Portugal and coming up blank.
To make things worse, I never found it necessary to spend the 4k and time to have my marriage recognized in Portugal. So, even though we were married in the church there, and there’s a record, my civil registry says I’m single. Yep, my descendants are going to have so much fun if they get bitten by the genealogy bug. Serves them right!
Anyway, other interesting Portuguese names lead people to be called King and their descendants can’t find them. That’s because the name Americans hear as King is Quim, (pronounced Kin) which is a diminutive of Joaquim, which is pronounced with that soft g sound joakin. And I found when I was an exchange student that Portuguese Rs can cause problems too. I didn’t realize it till my host parents sent gifts back for Christmas, including for my then best friend Rosa and wrote it Kosa. Yeah….
All of which adds up to the past being another country and… well… other countries being other countries too.
Sure, you might be the spit and image of some ancestor or ancestress (I know I am the image and probably mental image, too, from things I’ve heard) of my paternal grandfather’s mother, except for being considerably shorter, probably because premature, and small pox and TB and G-d knows what.)
Does it really make a difference to you? It’s fun, of course, in a way. but one thing you can be sure of, it’s that over the years and the permutations of fate we’re all descended from kings and beggars, from noble people (in the moral sense) and utter bastards.
I’m not going to say how you raise your kid counts for more than anything else. There is that genetic mix. But it’s so haphazard that your kid might take after your ggggggg uncle whom you never heard of. So instead of searching for answers in the past, it’s best to just take your kid as an individual, learn his limitations and abilities and work with those.
Working with those is important, because the one thing that seems to be true is that trauma (the sins of the fathers) takes seven generations or so to work itself out. But since we’re not Lisenkoists, that must by force be because of how traumatized people raise their kids, not because of genetics.
And yeah, each of us is probably carrying some load from those “sins of the fathers.” (To put this in perspective, older son is the tenth generation born in this country, and the second fought in the revolutionary war and husband’s family immigrated early.) You probably have no clue where the trauma occurred, but it’s passed on, and shows up in the form of “born owing money and must justify my existence.”
So, let’s leave our behinds in our past. I.e. leave our pasts behind, which is one of the great things about being American. It’s interesting, but it’s just interesting.
Yes, some Yamnaya invaders probably put all the male EEFs to the sword, and yep, we’re descended from both populations. That trauma, HOPEFULLY is long forgotten and not echoing itself in bad upbringing for new babies. Though, who knows? Humans being humans sometimes I think if the equivalent of Atlantis ever existed, we’re probably still passing on the trauma of that fall.
You’re descended from kings and slaves, raped women and their rapists, entrepeneurs and serfs, trobadours and merchants. You’re descended from horse thieves and pirates, scientists and churchmen.
And none of it matters. You are you. Go create yourself and your world anew.