What Do DNA Kits Tell Us about Celtic Heritage?
DNA kits have changed what we know about ourselves. We can, with important limitations, learn about our genetic propensity for diseases and discover distant relatives. These kits can fill in blanks in family trees… and add some branches we never knew existed. They can be both fun and unnerving. An individual taking a test can learn about their own personal ancestry, but when many of us take them we start to get a fuller understanding of not only our personal heritage but the history of human migration.
While many of us believe we are “100%” Irish or Scottish or Welsh, our genes can surprise us. And what does it even mean to be “100%” Celtic? These islands have a history rich with migration, people arriving and departing. The Vikings came in waves beginning in the late 700s AD. Invaders from different parts of Scandinavia arrived at different times, and many of them stayed and made themselves at home. Vikings and locals married, and our heritage throughout Ireland and Great Britain includes the genes of people from Norway, Denmark and other parts of Scandinavia. Studies over the last few years have suggested genetic links between the Irish and people in the west and north coasts of Norway.
The Celts have always been distinct from the English, but after centuries of travel back and forth our cultures are more distinct than our genes. British history is a story of centuries of interaction between England, Scotland and Wales with invasions of Ireland. Different DNA kits will have different levels of distinguishing these groups. Irish, Scottish and Welsh people should not be too surprised to find they had some English ancestors too. Many of Ireland’s great patriots had some English roots in their family tree.
Ireland’s Scandinavian Connection
Ireland’s population was gradually declining before the Vikings arrived. No single cause was
responsible, but While they were invaders and their arrival was far from peaceful, the Vikings did integrate and contribute to Ireland. They brought fresh blood in more ways than one.
Vikings founded cities along the east coast of Ireland. Dublin, the nation’s capital city as well as Waterford, Wexford and Cork all have Viking roots. The Norse invaders established significant trade relationships with other nations around the world, and they built Dublin into a major trade center. It was the Norse king Sitriuc who built Christ Church in Dublin in 1030. Tourism in Dublin and Waterford owes a lot to the Vikings.
In addition to trade links, the Vikings also brought new technologies. They were skilled woodworkers and iron smiths. Thor and his hammer had a lot of company. Viking finds in Ireland have included tongs, knives, saws and chisels as well as hammers. Vikings also produced locks and keys, further evidence that they had small items to protect. They loved jewelry, and Viking hoards found around Ireland have included broaches, necklaces and rings. Their influence is still seen in the beautiful, intricate motifs that characterize Celtic jewelry today.