Sunday, 3 April 2016

Doing the DNA and pondering on who I am related to ..................... 7,000 years of migrations, invasions and assimilation

Now I have yet to take that DNA test which I suspect is not for the faint hearted.

A shed load of ancestors
Each time I look at the ad from ancestry I am reminded of that warning “be careful what you wish for.”

In my case I guess it will offer up few surprises.  We are basically drawn from the Celtic fringes of these islands with a big bit of Anglo Saxon and because grandmother was German more than a dollop of Northern European.

All of which went west across the Atlantic to Canada with great uncle Roger who was migrated in the care of Middlemore on behalf of the Derby Poor Law Guardians in 1914, followed by his sister nine years later.

And while great uncle Roger disappeared off the scene around 1925, his sister my great aunt married, and had children which is how we now have a Canadian family.

But that DNA test sits there not least because Nana’s maiden name was Bux, which mother always maintained linked us to the sub continent.  I with that foolish arrogance thought this unlikely but Bux is not a common German name and the shipping records from the late 19th century reveal that some of the seaman working the ships from India carry the name Bux which offers up a fascinating possibility for that test.

The valley, 5,000 BCE
In the meantime I will reflect that being British opens you up to a complicated mix of possible ancestors.

After all long before the waters released by the end of the Ice Age cut us off from mainland Europe there were those nomadic hunters who wandered in followed by a shed load of others from Neolithic farmer gathers to Bronze Age metal smiths topped off by Romans Saxons, Vikings and a smattering of Normans who were really only Vikings who  learnt to speak French.

The valley, 250 Ad, looking for my Roman ancestor
Now for me I would love to think that somewhere lurking deep down is a link to a Syrian archer who was part of the Roman army on Hadrian’s Wall or the daughter of a Jewish trader who had chanced his luck in the new bustling city of Roman Londinium.

And that in a convoluted way takes me all the way to the children’s book A Valley Grows Up by Edward Osmond.*

It was published by the O.U.P and sold for 12s 6d. The magic of the book is that it told the story of an imaginary valley from 5000 BCE to 1900.

The valley 1170 AD a century after the Normans arrived
This it did through ten colour plates plenty of fine line drawings and a clear simple text. Here was the development of the valley’s landscape from prehistoric to Victorian taking in changes from an uninhabited forest through to tree clearing and early settlements.

All are here, from the Celts and Romans through to the Saxons, Normans and beyond.

His wife Laurie Osmond, produced a companion book, The Thames Flows Down, O.U.P., 1957.

The valley, 1900 AD, all steam and modern things
Like A Valley Grows Up, it gives that wonderful sense of historical sequence but carefully does not fall into the trap of describing change which is always progressive, always for the best and which seeks to show how the past is just a prelude to the achievements of today.

All the more a pity because it has long gone out of print.

I did however get a lovely letter from Laurie Osmond who I had written to in the 1980s.

She thanked me for writing was pleased I still enjoyed both books and kindly gave me permission to use the colour plates in a slide presentation I did for students which took the magic to a new generation.

And now those DNA test have made me think again about that procession of people who visited and came to stay.

There is a link there with BHC but I leave you all to find it.

Location Britain over 7,000 years

Pictures; cover of A Valley Grows Up and the valley at moments in the story

*A Valley Grows Up,

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