Saturday, May 23, 2015

Genetic Map of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland

POBI, Peter Donnelley, Genetics, DNA, Genealogy, Genetic Map
The Peopling of the British Isles Project (POBI) published the results of its study in Nature in March 2015.  Anglo-Saxons, the Vikings, and the Romans receive a fair amount of attention. Orkney and Wales appear to be the most genetically distinct. The results were widely reported in the media; most articles show the genetic map.

The official press release from the Wellcome Trust, who funded the study, is here.

A newsletter from the POBI is here (PDF) and a video on the Wellcome Trust YouTube channel is here. The video was shot while the POBI team was collecting data in Islay.

UK mapped out by genetic ancestry: a brief summary of the findings, from Nature, includes a 5 minute interview with Peter Donnelly, director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in Oxford, UK, who co-led the study .

Genetic study reveals 30% of white British DNA has German ancestry: a summary from The Guardian. There is also a 25 minute interview here Peter Donnelley here.

Britons still live in Anglo-Saxon tribal kingdoms, Oxford University finds: this summary from The Telegraph places the genetic map next to a linguistic map. Of course, it shouldn't be surprising that there is similarity between the two maps: people tend to have children with those who live near them and speak the same language.

There are two posts on the study at Dienekes' Anthropology Blog here and here. The comments are especially interesting as they are written by people who appear understand the scientific process of genetic testing. And some of the commenters were also participants in the study.

Who do you think you are? Most detailed genetic map of the British Isles reveals all: from The Conversation explains a bit about how the study was conducted.

Where Do We Come From? Britain's DNA Map: from Sky News includes the news story they aired on the project. One of the researchers featured in the story is Peter Donnelley.

And finally, Are the WELSH the truest Brits?, is a heavily illustrated piece from the Daily Mail. It also includes a video from the Natural History Museum on DNA and Migration patterns.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Scots in the American Civil War

79th, Highlanders, New York, Scots, Military, Civil War, Immigrants, Bull Run
Many immigrants to America, including Scots, fought in the American Civil War (1861-1865). In 1858, Scots associated with the New York Caledonian Club formed a state militia. At the outbreak of war in 1861 they volunteered to serve the Union. Known as the 79th New York Highland Regiment, they originally wore kilts, but found them unsuited to the American battlefield. It also seems that the US Government would not pay to outfit them in kilts, so they soon adopted Union Blue.

Learn more about the 79th New York Highland Regiment in a 2011 article from the Scotsman: American civil war: how a tartan-wearing regiment from Scotland joined the Northern cause.

See what sources regarding the unit are available at the FamilySearch Wiki page: 79th Regiment, New York Infantry.

See a timeline of battles in which the 79th Highlanders participated here.

Read The Seventy-ninth Highlanders, New York Volunteers in the War of Rebellion 1861-1865 written by William Todd in 1886. (Free from Google Books)

The New York Military Museum has a page dedicated to the 79th Infantry Unit.

See details regarding their uniform: Dress Uniform of the 79th Regiment, New York State Militia (“Cameron Highlanders”) 1859-1861.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

CFP: Scottish Records Association Annual Conference, November 2015

Scotland, Immigration, Migration, Scottish Records

This fall  the Scottish Records Association will host a day conference on Researching Immigrant and Migrants Scots. The proposed topic and focus on documentary sources suggest that this will be an event that will appeal to the academic and the family historian. The deadline for proposals in 29 May 2015. 

From the Call for Papers:

This year's Scottish Records Association Conference and AGM will be held on Friday 6th November at the A K Bell Library in Perth. The theme of the conference is: Researching the history of immigrant and migrant Scots.

Proposals for papers are invited from anyone who has undertaken research into the history of immigrants to Scotland and Scottish migrants within the UK, or who has an interest in/knowledge of archival records relating to this theme. The emphasis of the conference is on record sources and the problems and possibilities associated with researching immigrant groups and migration.

The conference is intended to appeal to a wide audience of academic and professional historians, local and family history researchers, archivists, librarians, museum curators and to the general public.  The Scottish Records Association also encourages paper proposals on aspects of research on this topic for its journal, Scottish Archives.

Abstracts of no more than 250 words are invited. These should be submitted no later than Friday 29th May 2015 and can be sent by email to enquiries @

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Gaelic Twitter Day

gaelic, twitter, scotland, language, gàidhlig
The second Gaelic Twitter Day event happened on 30 April 2015. When I did I learn about it? On 30 April. The purpose of Gaelic Twitter Day is to promote the Gaelic language and to provide an opportunity for all Gaelic speakers to, well, use Gaelic. The primary hashtag was #gàidhlig, but two others I saw were #GaelicTwitterDay and #gaelic. 

@welovehistory (aka Historic Scotland) shared a link to a post at their blog, The Chain Mail, The Outlander's Guide to Gaelic

@rtidwell730 shared a link to useful Gaelic phrases for social media.

@LearnGaelicScot had several posts, including a link to their website.

@amPiobaire shared a link to a Gaelic exhibit at St. Francis Xavier University. 

@glasgowlife shared this YouTube video of Everyday Gaelic Phrases.

@direcleit tweeted a link to his Gaelic translation of The Story of Emigration from Berneray, Harris.

@natlibscot shared an article from their news archive about their Gaelic collections. Additional links to Gaelic resources at the NLS on this page.

This is a small sampling of what was on offer during Gaelic Twitter Day 2015. Study the phrases and mark your calendars for 30 April 2016.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Approaches to DNA & Genealogy

DNA, genetics, genealogy, CeCe Moore, WRHS

Today, I attended a day conference on Genetic Genealogy with CeCe Moore, The Genetic Genealogist. She did mention Y-DNA and mtDNA, but most of the day was spent examining autosomal DNA and how to use it to break down brick walls. 

Since I couldn't record Ms. Moore's talk here is an episode of Naked Genetics in which Professor Mark Jobling, from the University of Cambridge, discusses how academic DNA sequencing intersects with genealogy research. While he understands that people want to know where their ancestors come from, the reality is that our ancestors didn't come from one specific location - they came from everywhere. The only ancestors we can trace with any confidence are those that passed down their Y chromosome and their mtDNA which represent only two individuals. This segment opens the program.

Then unless you are super keen on genetics, skip ahead to 18:07 to hear Dr. Turi King discuss her research on the Y-chromosome. She uses this chromosome in connection with surnames to trace Norse Viking migrations.

I think Dr. Jobling would be surprised at how successful autosomal DNA can be, if enough people are tested and a paper trail can be found. On the other hand, the goals of genealogists and geneticists are quite different and there is no way a geneticist could take the time to piece together autosomal DNA from all their subjects. 

nb. a version of this post appeared on The Historian's Family in August 2014.


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