“The greatest history book ever written is the one hidden in our DNA.” Spencer Wells.
By Betsy Cross Thorpe
Disclosure: Although my full DNA story is available to me on Ancstry.com, I am using my Mother’s DNA story for the purpose of this blog post. Tales of our Family is a blog that is dedicated to preserving a record of the genealogy of my maternal lineage. My Mother’s DNA story presents the most accurate account of my maternal DNA story and of where our shared ancestors traveled over time.
When I use the phrase my DNA in the post below, I am referring only to DNA from the Isaacs/Roe family line.
My DNA has been on the move for ages. I can track its early travels back to the beginning of the Viking Age in 793 when my Norse and Viking ancestors rowed away from what is now Norway and Sweden and then later from Iceland and Greenland to sail across the North Sea. They set sail from their homelands in longships, They sailed all the way to the continent we now call Europe.
For a period of two hundred and seventy-three years my Norsemen and Viking forebears voyaged out of Scandinavia to Europe where they settled. They settled in places we know as England, Wales, Germany, and France and in the regions known now as Ireland and Scotland.
While Vikings were warriors who raided and plundered the countries they sailed to they also traded with the people who lived there. Some Vikings were settlers who chose to stay behind. They claimed land, married into local families, converted to Christianity, and adopted the customs and attitudes of the communities they joined. They assimilated into the existing societies of the different countries they settled in.
The age of the Vikings ended in 1066. Then came the Plantagenets, a line of Norman rulers from France who consolidated and modernized the Kingdom of England. They ruled for almost five hundred years. After that, wars, and more wars. The houses of Lancaster, York, and Richard II battled for the throne.
My British ancestors survived the wars.
Then arrived the reign of Henry the VII. Tudor rule, Henry VIII, King Edward, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth I. My long-gone relatives endured them all.
One result of Tudor rule was The English Reformation. Catholicism was banned, Protestantism was on the rise.
After staying in place for more than five centuries my ancestors went back on the move.
In 1586, during the rule of Queen Elizabeth I the Crown established Protestant plantations in Northern Ireland. For years the Catholics living there had resisted the Reformation. Their land was confiscated, turned over to the thousands of Protestant colonists who arrived there from England and Scotland.
Some of my ancestors were among those colonists. They brought their Protestant belief system to an unwelcoming land. The Irish people refused to accept them. Within the span of a few short years many of them turned their eyes toward the distant shores of the New World. For the next hundred years my relatives arrived in the Colony of Virginia. It was at this time that some of the surnames on my family tree began to emerge. Dawson, Elkins, Manus, Booker and Fowler. English names one and all. They share branches on the tree with the names of my Scottish forebears like Rhea, McKibben and McCormick.
Some of those colonists arrived in the New World with elements of their Viking heritage preserved within the structure their DNA—traces of which have been passed down through the generations to me.
After arriving in Virginia my ancestors and relatives refused to stay put, North Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas, Missouri, Mississippi, Oregon, California, Nevada and Alaska. They forever move westward.
The DNA in my direct family line continues to travel. One example is my brother Randy and his direct family line. Starting with our grandparents, Ruby Isaacs Roe and Henry David Roe. They were born, respectively, in Kentucky and Louisiana, our Mother, Nannie Elizabeth Roe Cross, was born in Mississippi, my brother Randy Cross was born in Oregon, his daughters Roxie Leigh Cross and Jodi Cross Calnan was born in Wyoming, and his grandchildren Roxie Ann Calnan and Dean Hudson Calnan were born in Colorado.
Sometime in the 1980’s one cousin, Debbie Russell Warner, returned to where it all began. She married an Englishman and moved to England. She now lives in the area of Bedfordshire, about thirty miles northwest of London.
All these years later, our DNA is still on the move. One cannot help but wonder where it will land next.