Because of the several stories told me over the years as to who my real father is when my then teenaged birth mother became pregnant with me, I have always wondered at core who I really am in terms of my heritage and “birth right.”
Well, the answers are in. Surprisingly, they are pretty much in line with what I had been told about my birth mother’s side of the family: my ancestors came primarily from Great Britain (64% of my DNA composition hails from there); 15 % Scandinavian (that was a surprise-I am guessing there were some Viking raiders in Britain contributing to this strain); and 7 % Western European with a ring on the Ancestry DNA map around France and Germany (hello great-grandma Blanche Huntsberger!)
Originally my ancestors may have arrived in the 1700-1750 era when there was a huge influx of English, Scots-Irish and Germans coming here to settle. In the years 1750-1755 the British Colonial government encouraged many of these settlers – old and new – to migrate west to Pennsylvania and the Shenandoah Valley to act as a buffer against the French in the Ohio Valley and the Native Americans. These were supposedly grueling years because of the amount of work needed to clear lands and grow crops. I am envisioning old episodes of Daniel Boone at this point in my ancestry.
Between 1775 and 1800, with the Revolutionary War and Indian wars against the Delaware and Ohio tribes fought and won, settlers such as veterans with land grants and land speculators poured into the Ohio River territory, seen as fertile, “Western” lands. Pittsburgh became a gateway for people using flat boats to relocate along the Ohio River to other open lands.
Between 1800-1850, steamboats, canals and railway transportation increased the influx of settlers and added to migration. Towns sprang up where before there had been sparse settlements and places like Cincinnati and Columbus became commercial hubs. Manufactured goods became prevalent, including furniture and rope, processed pork and tobacco. Shipping and commerce thrived.
During the Civil War era, the Corn Belt states of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio sent hundreds of thousands of men to become Union soldiers. After the war, railroads and cheap land caused further westward migration. Around 1900, those who stayed behind in the Ohio Valley area turned to industrial cities like Chicago with its meat-packing industries and Michigan with its new automotive plants as places to live and work. This latter fits with my family history, as I know the grandfather who raised me (I called him Daddy) was born and raised as part of a large farm family in the Kalamazoo, Michigan area.
I don’t know how Great-grandpa Robert Johnston hooked up with Great-grandma Blanche Hunsberger, who was referred to as being “Pennsylvania Dutch” in background. Evidently her family moved westward from Pennsylvania to Michigan at some point.
But when all is said and done I am your garden variety, Anglo Saxon Indiana bred girl who was raised on sugar bread and butter sandwiches made on Wonder Bread, plenty of milk and lots of sweet corn fresh from the fields of my father’s farmer friends.
I was so hoping to find out I was related to Mary Queen of Scots. More likely I had a relative somewhere along the way who emptied chamber pots for Elizabeth I – if they were even that exalted.
Still, there is that Scandinavian wild card in there. Was one of my forebears ravaged by a Viking during one of their periodic invasions of Britain’s shores? Dare I hope that the blood of Ragnar Lothbrok rages somewhere in my veins? Do old Norse Gods sing down to me from Valhalla, telling me of roving raiders who traveled as far west as Newfoundland and around France and Italy to the Iberian Peninsula, Central Asia and even Eastern Europe? Does that account for the 4% Caucasus also found in my DNA?
If so, I do hope I have some of the fire and grit of Lagertha in me. It would almost make up for not being related to Mary Queen of Scots.
*Note: Historical information on migration patterns taken from Ancestry.com website; other information found on Wikipedia