Eleven years ago, I created a Facebook group called ‘Parlett’ in the hope, partly, of filling the massive gaps in my ancestry, but also of meeting some distant family who weren’t as distant as my close one.
A couple hundred people ended up joining. There were a lot of stories, photos and chats along the way. It was – and remains – a pleasant space (although it has kind of stagnated due to, I’m guessing, Gen Z not being much on the Facebook.)
In 2013, an American posted that he was looking to confirm a familial connection to England, so would pay for people to be sequenced on ancestry.com.
Sending strangers saliva in the mail was very 2013.
Nothing came of it though. No connection, but I did learn my paternal haplotype indicated I was long descended from Kurgans, or Proto-Indo-Europeans doing their thing, broadly speaking, around the Caucasus.
All my childlike brain could think of was The Kurgan – MacLeod’s brutal nemesis in Highlander (1986) and also, that this was perhaps the reason people in temporary jobs would always want to know where I was from originally.
My 2013 sequence didn’t show maternal haplotype and half a job done is no job done at all. My mum tells me I look like a terrorist and I accuse her of stealing me from the bin behind the hospital where they throw all the foreskins, placentas and abortions.
The jury’s still out on what she went home with.
So, when Black (no pun intended) Friday came around this year, I decided to go for 23andMe’s half-price offer on their Health + Ancestry plan. I’d discover how far into the desert I’d need to ride my motorcycle to find my brethren, plus I’d learn how long I had before the ticking time-bomb of colorectal cancer and dementia stopped me having all this fun.
Long story short, I spat on America via a transatlantic flight. It’s the most like an eco-warrior Hollywood star I’ve ever felt.
I got my results last night. Ten years is a long time in DNA, apparently, as these are way more comprehensive. I skimmed through them on my phone in bed before I slept, then had a manic fever dream.
You see, I was at a gig with an old friend last month. He bumped into a colleague of his, who mistook me for his brother. My friend is half-Iranian. That’s not the first time this has happened.
A Danish girl I met in a bar in a small town once refused to believe I was English, saying to her friend, “But look at him, he’s Turkish,” then walking away with her laughter echoing in the underpass.
All I’d done was grow a small moustache.
I don’t want to harp on about this. It’s just that my Auntie once said something about us having Romanian and/or Jewish ancestry, but then became defensive when I brought it up again. She had been drinking but still I started wondering if there was something to that hospital bin hypothesis.
My father, his brother and my half-brother all appear like peas in a pod. I appear to be a bean.
As it turns out, I have less than 2% Neanderthal DNA; which is still more than my 1.3% Scandinavian (which could just be their DNA left festering under my tongue); leading me to posit that if the Neanderthals hadn’t died out 40,000 years ago, my twenties might not have been spent in so many Danish bars.
1.4% Spanish and Portuguese. That’s the moustache.
8.1% Broadly North-western European. Which is a big old mixture of migration and invasion that we can, probably, blame on the Germans (Middle Ages).
15.7% French and German. Explains the inner conflict.
73.5% British and Irish.
Yep. You read that right. 100% European.
0% Iranian or Turkish.
0% Greek, Italian or Balkan.
No African. No Asian. No First Nation, Native or Aboriginal.
Not even any Russian.
I’m sorry, but this doesn’t make any bloody sense.
Sure, we can all trace our maternal haplogroup to a single African woman living around 200,000 years ago and our paternal haplogroup further still, to 275,000 years ago, but going back to that genetic Adam and Eve is hardly specific. Going back to the era of taming horses ‘n’ shit and ‘my people’ are still fucking European.
23andMe shows you data in various ways. There’s a nice map. I can click on the British Isles and see the concentration of where my people are from.
Oh, for fuck’s sake.
How can we be predominantly from London and not have had any Indian, Pakistani or African in us?
This racism dies with me.
I thought I had to travel to the foothills of some forbidden mountain and learn the dark ways of my ancestors from an enchanted goat, but it turns out I can get a bus up to London for a tenner and talk to any cunt in a pub.
I imagined I’d need to learn a new language. Turns out it’s all bubble and squeak, me old china.
At 2 and 3 on the podium are Glasgow and Manchester. It’s all The North really. Living down here is a betrayal of my ancestors. There’s some Irish in me: West Coast and Belfast. That’ll be a nice family reunion. But it’s not just about divine right – they do also look at your genetic predispositions.
Not nuffink though. Not nuffink at all, really.
A Typical Likelihood of Anxiety. No risk. Super. So, my condition is nurture, rather than nature.
No, if I don’t kill myself with street drugs or coquettish Neanderthals before that, it looks like the good Lady Alzheimer will be laying down with me.
I have to say, I’m disappointed.
I’ve found a cousin in Canada that I may contact, as well as a mysterious Great Uncle, but other than that, it’s a whole bunch of very distant relatives.
Would I recommend this? Absolutely. My Mum couldn’t give less of a shit about any of it but fuck her, she steals from hospitals.
There’s a line in one of Sue Townsend’s early Adrian Mole diaries, where his mum is talking about some racial purity nutter. She says something like, “If everyone not 100% Anglo Saxon is deported, then the population of Britain will reduce to 1.”
Well, ladies. I am that Anglo Saxon. Forged in the inferno of micro-aggression yet pure as the snow driven by God herself.
I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble three-quarter Briton; but I have the heart and stomach of an Anglo-Saxon lion. The filthy Irish, French and German does indeed run hard in my veins; but I can control it, ride its horror, bend it to my will – and to yours.
Now show me your 70% British license or get on the fucking boat, cunt.