LivingDNA Results

LivingDNA is a smaller testing company than or 23AndMe. Their analysis is primarily focused on ancestral groups in the British Isles. If your ethnic mix is mostly English or “Scotch Irish”, LivingDNA can map your genetic signature to specific regions in the area now known as the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.

I submitted my testing sample to LivingDNA to get a better idea of geographic origins of my earliest immigrant ancestors. Autosomal DNA typically only identifies ethnic markers within the past 5-7 generations (approximately 200 years). My Sutherland ancestors immigrated to North America over 350 years ago so I was not surprised that LivingDNA shows no recent ancestors from Scotland.


LivingDNA Autosomal DNA results

Ireland (16.9%)

Irish immigrants have been coming to North America from the earliest years of colonization. The Potato Famine (1845-1852) forced a mass exodus from Ireland.  Roughly 12% of the population left and 12% died from starvation. In some areas, population declined by over 50%. The only ancestor that I have positively identified as an Irish immigrant is John McCullough (1793-1840). Since he immigrated before 1817, fortunately he missed the famine. John McCullough was Ellen Powell‘s maternal grandfather.

There is a red haired child in every other generation of Sutherlands going back as far as anyone remembers. We always joked that it was from the Scots but it might be Irish DNA at work.

The tribes in Scotland and Ireland in the Iron Age (often referred to as Germanic and Celtic) were described by Roman writers as having fiery red hair (BBC History, 2014). Red hair and pale skin only occurs in around 1% of the human population but is high in frequency in Scotland and Ireland.

Approximately 13% of people in Scotland have red hair and 10% in Ireland, and the gene is thought to have evolved in reaction to the cold European climate from as early as 50,000 years ago (Martinez-Cadenas, et al., 2013).

from LivingDNA

South Central England (15.4%)

This area encompasses Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, and Somerset. Includes the Cotswolds. Still largely rural with rolling hills and meadows.

Cumbria (14.2%)

Cumbria may be as close as we get to Scotland (at least in recent history). These counties form the western border with Scotland. Largest region in Great Britain and last populated. The Lake District is a popular tourist destination. If you want to take a look at the Cumbrian countryside, check out a few of the movies and TV shows that have used it in filming locations.

I was expecting to see a bigger contribution of DNA from western Europe, particularly France. There are a number of French Canadian and Acadian ancestors from my maternal grandmother’s side. Many of these individuals immigrated to Louisiana before 1800 so their genetic influence is well beyond the 5-7 generation boundary of autosomal DNA analysis.

Family tradition says that one of our French ancestors walked from Nova Scotia to central Louisiana in the early 1800’s. There is also a suggestion that he was not from France but Belgium. The LivingDNA profile may have confirmed the Belgium connection (South Germanic 10.8%). Unfortunately, I have not been able to pin down the individual who walked nearly 4,000 miles to find his family. When I have a little more time, I will research the French surnames on Grandma’s side.