As a history-lover and firm advocate of the supremacy of the scientific method, DNA is one of my favorite things. I’ve spent time unraveling my ancestry from human-maintained records, but being able to see the science of my past is very exciting.
At the time of this writing, I’m roughly 47% Germanic and 53% Celtic, in the terms of cultural and linguistic divides. Of course it’s hard to account for the impact of Viking influence upon Scotland, but these are hairs not worth splitting. One of my favorite books (by one of my favorite authors) is Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe: Early Scandinavian and Celtic Religions by Hilda Roderick Ellis Davidson, a book which delves deeply into the similarities of the pre-Christian northwestern European people.
I think it’s an important thing to know where we came from and to learn the names of our ancestors. Each and every one of your nameless ancestors was a real human, with hopes, desires, fears, and who most likely loved and was loved. And, without a doubt, without each and everyone one of them, neither you nor I would be here today.
(Unfortunately, there are many who place the wrong emphasis on their ancestry, using their pigmentation as a tool of hate. If being born a certain color is your proudest accomplishment in life, you might want to embark on a period of serious self-examination and get your own shit together before judging others.)
History is a wondrous thing; it is the foundation of all that we currently know, are, and have, as well as a chance for all of us to see things in a much broader perspective. I’ve spent a lot of time learning about who my ancestors were, both in specific and general terms, and I feel that it has enriched my life. We’ve all heard that history is written by the victors and that has too often been the case; many today rely on the revisionist histories from their own groups to form their thoughts of who we are and how we came to be.
This brings me back to science. While some consider it a badge of honor to reject science, the fact is that the scientific method is the best thing we humans have developed to date to provide us with an honest picture of ourselves and our universe.
Science tells me that I’m mostly Celtic and Germanic. If and when new information is available, science will update itself to tell the best truth that it can, given what it knows. This information wasn’t exactly shocking to me; it seemed pretty obvious that I was probably from UK migrants. However, I never pegged myself as being so high on the Scottish scale and it has led me to learn more about that part of the world and its people.
Ultimately, my genes match up with a lot of the history that I’ve studied; I have an affinity for all things English (as in the country) and a fondness for the landscapes of continental Europe. Attending the real Oktoberfest is on my bucket list (could this be the year?!) and when I look at landscapes like the Bavarian Alps I get a warm feeling like I’m seeing a far-distant homeland.
“Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion.”Edward Abbey
Those who know me well know that I’m not into religion and that I don’t think that “belief” is profitable. If there is evidence, follow the evidence; if there isn’t, then file it away as “needs more evidence.” I know the names of many an Indo-European god and goddess and I respect the history; I see them as the sacred archetypes of a culture from which I descended.
My ancestors, however – and yours – are unequivocally real. Without them, neither you nor I would be here. I believe that they deserve our respect and our remembrance. All ancestors, from all peoples, all races, all cultures.
As a technologist, I love new inventions and I look forward to the emergence of new technologies; I embrace such changes voraciously. But I give away DNA kits (and no, I’m sorry, I can’t afford to give one to all of my visitors!) because I believe we should know and understand the past. All of these people, these long-dead among the ranks of humanity, were just as real as you and I; they had hopes, dreams, fears, and they loved.
Hail to the ancestors; yours, mine, all who lived and died to move humanity forward. Let’s respect their efforts, their sacrifices, their humanity, and do our best to make good on the inheritance of life that they passed down to us.