I’ve written before about getting my Y-chromosome DNA analysed, and finding my ancestors were among the early inhabitants of Britain. I’ve now had it done in more detail, and my Y-chromosome group is R1b-M269, subgroup S145. My fatherline (as the report says) is Pretani, Pytheas’s old Greek name for the people who inhabited Britain. I don’t have any of the S145 sub-types, so on my father’s side I’m probably a descendant of the Picts and whoever came before them, which ties in with the known family history from rural Aberdeenshire.
When my mother died last year I had the wish to look into my maternal ancestry, so I recently had my mitochondrial DNA analysed to check her line, and I’ve got the report on that now. The results have surprised me. My mtDNA markers belong to the H7 sub-type, the pioneering women who recolonised Europe after the last ice age. It’s a possibility that my maternal ancestors were among those to leave the Basque refugia around 9,000 BC. Quite how they got from there to Fodderty, near Dingwall, as family history says they must have, is a little less clear.
Both lines are common, both are very old. The Pretani, or Pretannikoi, as Pytheas described them, owed their name to practice of tattooing with plant dyes such as woad. Briton and Britain came from the Roman latinization of the Greek words. Picti has the same derivation. The language they spoke is related to P-Celtic, a group which included Old Welsh, Cornish, Galician and Breton. I’m afraid my own attitude to tattooing is a negative one, so there’s no chance I will sprout blue designs on my body.
As an interesting side-issue, I asked for an analysis of my red-hair gene and it turns out I’m a carrier of the Cysteine variant (R151C) of the MC1R gene. I had an uncle on my mother’s side who had red hair, so it probably came from my maternal side. I don’t recall any of my father’s side of the family having red hair. It correlates with pale skin and freckles.
I’ve found the science absolutely fascinating, and the field is still developing rapidly.