Friday, March 9, 2007

Genealogy and genes

The Internet has changed genealogical research in both good and bad ways. First, the bad news. For me, it's summed up in the names of two money-making outfits named Ancestry.com and Genes Reunited, which pester researchers constantly with publicity, trying to trap them into becoming paid-up members. These organizations lure newcomers into believing absurdly that family-history data will fall miraculously from the heavens, like rain, as soon as they join up.

On the positive side, I'm constantly thrilled by contacts from folk who've come upon one or other of my slowly-evolving websites concerning ancestors of my father and of my mother.

I'm eagerly awaiting delivery by Amazon of a new book: Stephen Oppenheimer, Saxons, Vikings and Celts: The Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland. According to a review that appeared a few days ago, this medical geneticist from the University of Oxford claims that most present-day English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh people are highly similar from a genetic viewpoint. This leads to the interesting conclusion that Britain and Ireland have probably been inhabited for thousands of years by the same genetic stock, which would have been only marginally diluted later on by the arrivals of invaders described in history books: Celts, Romans, Angles , Saxons, Vikings and Normans. For the time being, Oppenheimer's views remain hypothetical, and other specialists in the genetic approach to genealogy have reached different conclusions.

Meanwhile, as Wednesday's votes are being counted in Northern Ireland, and Gerry Adams is waiting for a gesture of friendly conciliation from Ian Paisley, Ulster's tiny mind will no doubt find it impossible to conceive of the shocking notion that Catholics and Protestants might both be similarly-constituted human beings with identical genetic roots. Last night, French TV showed a brainwashed Belfast kid who was aghast, lost for words, when the reporter asked him if he could have friends on the other side of the wall. [Literally, the city is studded with walls to separate the communities.] We shouldn't even say it's religion that separates these two camps. It's just plain garden-variety ignorance and stupidity... of the kind that "inspired" many of our Australian bushranger "heroes".

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