I received what I think will be the last email from my Finnish relative (at least for now), but also the most definitive and the one that provided all the answers I need. She wrote it in Finnish, so I am hoping I’ve made no errors in translation. She said “Pahoittelen, etten voi auttaa” [I’m sorry that I cannot help] and “Toivomaasi sukupuuta ei minulta löydy” [I can’t find the tree you want].

I didn’t expect that she would be able to, really.

She did talk about our family being “puolimustalainen” which I think means “half-Gypsy” and “tattare”, which I think is an offensive name for Finnish Romany, but she used them to mean the same thing –  “valkolaisen näköiset mustalainen”…light-skinned ‘Gypsies’.  The way she’s talking about this, clearly she finds this part of our heritage distasteful (and I honestly find the way she’s talking about it a bit offensive). I already knew this was a possibility. She seems to want nothing to do with either the Saami or Romany heritage that we have (the reason I can tell this, is because she said at least her grandmother married a “proper” Finn and she signed off with “En ole syvällisemmin perehtynyt sukuuni ainakaan” [I’m not deeper acquainted with my family, anyway], which I took to mean this was an end to the discussion).

Apparently, my female relative married a second time after her first husband died (she was supposedly the “tattare/mustalainen”), but because the second husband had the same name as the first, they took the name of the farm where they moved to as a surname (it also sounded a bit like this was looked down on or wasn’t an approved second marriage). This would explain why my search (and in turn their search) is so difficult. The names we both have stop at the same place – either right before or right after they left the country and they become, almost literally, different people. My relative says she thinks they moved just over to Sweden and that they maybe became “Lindi” there [“ottivat yhteiseksi sukunimekseen ostamansa tilan nimen, ehkä se oli Lindi”] before moving to the UK. This could make sense, as I have a great aunt called Lindis (an uncommon name in the UK) which could be a nod to our Finnish heritage (it’s a Fennoscandian name), as well as the preservation of the family name of Lindi/Lind.

It seems like the mixture of Saami and Finnish Kale Romany is something that she doesn’t want to talk about. I think she’s ashamed of it and now I have to try and find the answers on my own.

But, I finally have an answer of where they are from – Näkkäläjärvi, Enontekiö, Finland. Their surname was also either Näkkälä or Näkkäläjärvi, at least until it was changed. I don’t know for sure what they changed it to [Lindi seems like a guess (a pretty good one, considering many Finnish Kale Romany have Swedish surnames, anyway) from my cousin]. The other names I was given (Isak and Apollonia Suontajärvi) are names related to her family, but not to me. I don’t know the name of my female relative, yet.

I guess I have a lot of questions about everything:

What happened to Finland and the lands where my family lived during the wars between Sweden and Russia and the resulting depopulation/colonization? Where did the Saami and Kale go during those times? Were any of my family forced into the mines in Karelia? Did they flee into Sweden and then to the UK because of the conditions they faced?

I have other questions too: can I learn about Saami and Finnish Kale language and history? Are there Finnish Saami or Kale who will talk to me about their history and lives? If I want to say my heritage is part-Saami or part-Kale, can I?

I guess I will keep learning Finnish, so then I can at least read information in Finnish and maybe speak with some Saami and Kale.

I tried looking up stuff about the area, but honestly I can’t find much. I think everything is in Finnish, of course (why would it be otherwise?) and I am not good at reading it yet.

I don’t really know what to do now…

Where, oh where?!

I know it seems as if all my posts are about DNA and genetic research these days – and while I do post about that a lot on my blog, there are plenty of other posts around (like the one I just added about flowers, here), so please just keep checking out all my pages!

Using the new Genesis Gedmatch website, I was able to do a comparison match with my two different raw data sets and people who match both or only one of them (and which one). I’ll list the top results that match both (and their closest oracle 2 population results) for both kits here:

OI (4th cousin range). The oracle states they are:

64.7% Mexican_CV ( ) + 35.3% Swede_Saami ( )

AN (5th cousin). 60% Finnish_East + 40% Tatar-Siberian or similarly Finnish + Saami-Kola (the 4 gives me Icelandic + Karakalpak (Uzbek) + Latvian + Saami_Kola)

EG (4th cousin). 80% Frisian + 20% Italian_Bergamo

KMM (4th cousin). 85% Icelandic + 15% Sardinian

JL (5th Cousin). 91% Danish + 9% Portuguese or similarly Dutch + Spanish

KH (4th cousin). 55% Spanish + 45% Belarusian

RB (4th cousin).

86.4% Fin_Saami ( ) + 13.6% Assyrian_Iraqi ( )

[see edit note below]

WM (4th cousin) 96% Belgian + 4% Italian_Bergamo

JI (4th cousin) 88% Scottish + 12% Turk (oracle match less than 1), 90% Scottish + 10% Assyrian (match of 1)

RB2 (4th cousin) 68% Swedish + 32% Albanian

There are other 4th cousin range matches with Frisian + Finnish Saami, Frisian + Saami, Scottish + Russian, British & Ashkenazi, Southern English/German + Abkhasian (Russian)…

In researching some of these results, I’ve learned some interesting things:

Icelandic: probably just parsing out Scottish, Scandinavian, or Finnish as “excessively northern” and plopping it into that category (as most of these regions have had a lot of interaction historically with one another). I also read that a lot of Scandinavian and Finnish DNA is commonly misrepresented as being British, Scottish, or English and my heritage from those regions may be much higher. Similarly, German DNA is often misrepresented as South English DNA.

Middle Eastern: I have a feeling that Assyrian, Iraqi etc may be a confusion between any Romany DNA we have and any Jewish-specific DNA we may have. Most of those people have similar amounts of S Asian/Indian DNA as me.  It could also be an over-representation of any ME DNA, as many Romany groups travelled extensively through these regions before reaching Europe.

Russian and Russian minority groups: Many Romany and Saami spent time (forcibly so) in Karelia, which is today NW Russia. There is also a NW Russian Saami group, the Kola, who are mostly integrated, I believe (may be wrong, if so please let me know). My Siberian, Native (Amerind/Beringean/Arctic etc) DNA might affect this and lump me in with these groups.

Spanish and Italian: I am not entirely sure about this one. I could have Italian ancestry, though my results on other sites show as Spanish. I am just wondering whether this is inferred from certain admixture results (going to look at a spreadsheet and see just how much I correlate with the Spanish/Italian populations there – my guess is not very much at all). It could also be related to the French result that I consistently see. If those relatives were from the Pyrenees area they could easily have originally come from Spain or shared Spanish DNA. One tag that consistently came up for me in both French and Spanish DNA was “Basque” – which is an area of NW Spain and SW France. It could also reference Iberian Jewish heritage. Not sure about that yet, either.

I would love to know the genetic admixture common to Suomen Romanit (Finnish Roma). I think it’s probably similar to Romanichal, except mixed with more Scandinavian and Finnish. This could explain why I get Swedish and why a lot of my matches have Swedish, as well. It could also explain the Swedish surnames that I find in my tree (Lumberg/Lundberg/Algren) as I’ve found Finnish Romani tend to have Swedish surnames. I find it interesting that so far I’ve found myself or my relatives placed in general Saami, Swedish Saami, Finnish Saami, and Kola Saami groups. My guess is that the admixture calculators for these aren’t particularly well defined and different tests pick up different reference points (so in one I may just be Saami and in another I may be Swedish or Finnish Saami).

Well, back to the drawing board I guess (I think I’m going to contact the top ten on my matches and see if anyone will get back to me – so far, only one person has).

[EDIT] – RB, the 4th cousin listed above replied to my email. She was adopted in the US in the 1950s and doesn’t know any of her birth family. So, back to square one!

Follow up post

I decided to write a brief follow-up to my post from the other day. In my research I’ve discovered some important things.

Firstly: the DNA samples that most sites, but GEDmatch in particular uses are not a good match for me. When I look at their “oracles” (which match your DNA with certain populations or mixes of populations), I get very odd results. Basically, it ranks the population it thinks you’re closest to for a given calculator (such as MDLP or puntDNAL) with a score. The closer to 1 you are the closer you appear to be related to that population. A zero is a perfect match.

I ran my DNA through all of the oracles I could and the top results from the majority of them were Scandinavian or Finnish and Spanish (Basque, Andalucia, Galicia, Valencia, etc). Interestingly, a couple had me as German and Indian (Paniya, Hakki Pikki) or Icelandic and Indian (Puliyar, Punjabi, Bengali), which isn’t too surprising as I do have a decent percentage of South Asian/Indian DNA. Most of the numbers are 3 or 4 and above, which is not a very close match.

I’ve tried to look for posts about the oracles, but honestly, they’re quite confusing. I think, particularly in my case, I’m mixed with uncommon populations. In looking for information, I found posts saying that 23andMe, Ancestry, and myFTDNA are pretty useless when it comes to Scandinavian, Finnish, and North West Russian DNA. In fact, Ancestry is pretty useless overall (I’d kind of figured that out on my own). I’m not even focusing on anything Saami at the moment (assuming that it’s a pretty tenuous connection at the moment).

I actually started going through my data and comparing it to the information in the spreadsheets and it’s so weird. I will match this and that for certain groups but then something is there in the mix that just doesn’t fit. My Asian component is too high for Norwegian (but not just South Asian, North and  East, too). My West Asian is too high for Finnish, as is my Samoedic and Siberian. If I take out, for example, the South Asian (that I know is Romany), then I am still left with a whole lot of oddities.

For example, in the puntDNAL K15 spreadsheet, my Siberian, Amerindian, and East Asian are too high for most of the European groups (though closer to North Swedish and Finnish). In the EU test, I don’t actually fit anything – I have levels in various populations, but no more than two or three approximate matches out of the eight admixture groups (such as South_Baltic, West Asia etc). I match two for Denmark, two for Austria, three for both Swedish and Finnish – but that’s not even half. Again with the EU Test K15 and all MDLP tests I am all over the place.

I guess I just need to start my family tree over and find out as much information as I can. I really want to learn Finnish (and I’ll probably start a vlog related to that), as it seems fairly certain at least I am Finnish (whether or not the Saami is being misread [even with the mtDNA group, it could easily be something else like N.W Russian] – have to confirm with relative matches for that one and will be easier to do if I know Finnish). Though, the locations I have for potential relatives in Finland are on the Swedish/Finnish border (and Finland has a long history of colonization by both Sweden and Russia).

Current ‘matches’ on the one-to-many on Gedmatch show surnames such as Sokka (Finnish), Vuorela (Finnish), Tuulikki/Palmu (Finnish), Abrahamsson (Finnish/Swedish), Vik (Norwegian/Swedish), Lindquist (Swedish), Sjödin (Swedish), Egea (Spanish), Serpa (Portuguese), Nasatir (Iberian Ashkenazi), as well as the Romanichal names Boswell, Mitchell, Cooper. The closest of these would be 4th cousin and most are located in the US, which makes me think they’re actually further out than that. Though my maternal grandmother always said we had someone come out to Birmingham, Alabama around the same time as Aunt Annie (maternal grandfather’s… aunt?) left for Australia … which is awfully specific.

GenerationRelationshipHow many?DNA %

According to this table, assuming I inherited the necessary segments of DNA from my family in order (this is a ‘perfect’ scenario), my results (let’s use wegene, first) of almost 25% Finnish, must mean that my mother was half-Finnish. So, either my grandfather or grandmother was fully-Finnish. [I’m thinking grandmother, as I know a lot about my grandfather’s family due to other family member’s research]. This begs the question, how did I not know this? Even if I assume that the DNA is inflating my results and my mother was only 25% Finnish, that still means a grandparent was half-Finnish and a great-grandparent fully so. Would they have changed their name? Would they have … I just don’t know.

I think my next steps are:

Begin learning Finnish

Look into the genetic heritage of Finnish Romani and any links between Saami, Karelian Russian, and Romani in northern Finland.

Look into finding UK immigration records to see if I can find any relatives who came to the country around the time I’m looking.

Maternal Haplogroup!

I finally got my mtDNA results back today and they came with another set of surprises, admixture estimates and matches. Of course, the main issue with all of these tests is that they are very US-centric – so comparisons and any “relative finders” for me are a little skewed and only have really distant relatives (generally 4th cousins and beyond with low level certainty). The only definite hits I’ve had, have been a 2nd cousin in Australia (my great aunt Annie sailed with her husband when one-way tickets were only £10 and our relationship is verified) and a 2nd or 3rd cousin in Finland. That one I’m still working on…

But, this is where my mtDNA comes in:


Specifically, U5b1b1a1

This is interesting to me for many reasons. Firstly, I expected to be a general “H” [H1, H3 or H5]  – which is the broad category most common in Europe. Secondly, according to information I found, this is generally found in Scandinavia and Finland/Russia, more specifically in three general populations:

Northern Finns
Karelian (north western) Russians

Generally, though, it is found in the highest concentrations among Saami (Norwegian, Finnish, and Swedish). This of course, threw me for a loop. I had already matched Saami (under one or two of the admixture “oracles” on Gedmatch where there was a sample population to correlate with), but was assuming that it was picking up something else – maybe Karelian Russian or something and maybe it still is. Because this is my mtDNA, it’s on the maternal line (which I expected, because the Romany I know for sure is through my paternal line). I’m assuming, though, that any Saami ancestry is great-great grandparent level and that I am probably more generically Finnish than anything at this point (the estimator tool believes I have a fully German and French relative, which I haven’t even thought about and a fully Finnish relative or two.

My Finnish relative said that we have a shared familial connection with people born in Northern Finland, in a place called Enontekiö. Her great-great-grandmother (I think) was Appollonia Kätkäsuando Suontajärvi (not sure of her husband’s first name). I am not 100% sure of this and do not have a direct connection worked out (so if you know that’s impossible, please let me know and I’ll revise my search, as this would be our connection). I have had limited contact with my relative in Finland and though her English is good, it’s still confusing. It’s hard to do research from over here in the US (Ancestry charges a fortune for access to their “World” files… of course… and most of the files are in Finnish (and other genealogy research sites I’ve found are all in Finnish, too). She said that “they” (not sure who exactly that is…) left Finland and moved to Scotland (don’t know their journey… did they go through Sweden or Norway on their way or did they leave from a Finnish port? Did they stay long in the UK or did they continue on to the US? (or did other children leave, that could explain why I have a ton of potential 4th/5th cousins here). I’m also interested in whether Appollonia was Finnish Romani (Many Finnish Romani came from Scotland in the early 16th century because they were declared outlaws who could be hung without trial. At the time, they were only permitted to live in the north eastern areas of Sweden, corresponding to today’s Finland. Some were condemned to work in the mines of Karelia under extremely impoverished conditions and their children were often taken forcibly into care). This would also make sense if Appollonia’s family originally came through Scotland – especially as conditions for Romani and Travellers had marginally improved in Scotland in the 17-1800s and were certainly better than in Finland and Sweden, where women were often forcibly sterilized or had their children removed. So, it would make sense if they left the deplorable conditions in Finland to come back to the UK. I’m looking at trying to find immigration records either into or out of the UK… it’s hard though.

I also decided to download the raw data from this batch of tests (which is from a different testing service) and upload it to GEDmatch and several of the other sites I originally used. Interestingly, it provides completely different results. On GEDmatch, It ups the Siberian and South Asian components almost across the board, as well as Amerind in certain tests and changes the admixture makeup quite a bit. I’m not sure what this means, other than my DNA is probably not a good match with their reference populations as I’m a bit of an odd mixture.

What I can say at the moment:

I am paternally Romany (and possibly French/German)
I am maternally Finnish (with some Saami ancestry)

I ran my new raw DNA through the same wegene filters as before (I felt that was the most accurate), and it comes out with mostly the same results – French, Finnish/Russian, but instead of Hungarian it has me as Spanish (wondering if that’s misread Ashkenazi or something that it just can’t handle yet) and this one picks up my South Asian (Indian) DNA (of 6.49%).

I’m waiting for a couple of other sites to process my new data (I’ll update if they give me anything different or weird), but overall things look the same. I do want to learn Finnish so that I can at least dig into genealogy myself and find out exactly WHO I am related to! But, I won’t be claiming anything other than Finnish and Romany (my Ashkenazi and Saami ancestry is only based on these tests at the moment. Unless I can find concrete genealogical relationships, I won’t be taking things any further).

Thoughts on DNA

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently did my DNA and found out some surprising information. Although I don’t hold much stock in the results, especially as they can vary between calculators, I do use it to verify information I’ve received and to gather information about the general areas that my family is from.

My main break down is (in order):

Northern European (French, Scottish/Orcadian, North Norwegian, North Eastern Swedish, and North Western Russian).

Northern Finnish.

Mediterranean (primarily Greek), Ashkenazi.

(with smaller amounts of South Asian/Indian and Siberian depending on the test).

There are various different calculators available to find your “admixture”, and although results vary between each calculator, it can help in affirming suspicions about ancestry. This is the first time I’ve really sat down to compare and contrast results, as well as compile all the results in one place. One of the most useful things I’ve encountered is the ability to use the results for health analysis (we’ll get into that later!)

The first websites I’ll introduce are the more simple ones – Ancestry (original test site), FamilyTreeDNA (myFTDNA),, and MyHeritage. I also just submitted to 23andMe for my mtDNA haplogroup (but will also get their other heritage services too. Won’t get that for a few weeks still). Many of these calculators use terms broadly (such as ‘Scandinavia’ and are not technically historically (or politically) accurate, so it’s best to check what countries they are specifically referring to when they paint with such broad strokes).

Ancestry results show Scotland, Finland/NW Russia, Eastern Europe, Jewish. The categories are quite limited. I register less than <1% South or West Asian with this one.

myFTDNA results are pretty useless. 95% European (including everywhere mentioned in all the other tests, but not broken down. Was kind of a waste of $19). But, it has provided a wealth of information from my matches, including mtDNA and family tree comparisons. includes West Europe (Northern Britain, Iceland, and Norway), Finnish (only Finnish in Finland – no minority groups), and North Slavic (which I think is mostly North Western Russia). The grouping here is slightly odd to me.. but, fairly consistent with other sites (though missing any Asian).

MyHeritage  shows British and Scandinavian, but not Finnish – though I’ve read that it’s not separated beyond (the incorrect) “Scandinavian”, plus Eastern European and Baltic, and Ashkenazi Jewish, with a teeny part South Asian. It has no Northern Russian grouping.

WeGene is another analysis site. According to this site I am French, Finnish/Russian, Hungarian, and only 5% English (and small parts of Chinese (not broken down, but includes Tungusic, Udmurt, and Komi), Ashkenazi and Indian). This actually, could be the most accurate of ALL of the tests I’ve done.

Gencove: A site where you can upload results from any major test provider. This gives me similar to all the others (but on an even broader level). It has for me “Northern Europe” and “Northeast Europe”. That’s it. NO breakdown, whatsoever. But, the site also allows plug-ins with other apps (including those for heritage and health) for small sums of money. As it gives you $3 in credits, I decided to do a couple.

I did one with the “Ancestry” app and apparently a bunch of my DNA did not match with anything in their sample files. So, that really wasn’t very helpful.

I did a second test with their “Admixture K29” app and came up as 42% French, 44% Scandinavian (Norway/Sweden), 8% Belarusian/Ukrainian, 5% South Asian, and 2% Greek-Albanian.

GedMatch (and GedMatch Genesis, which is a newer beta version and lists some admixtures slightly differently) which can be a bit confusing. They have a large number of admixture tests available and all produce different results. Many are purely for ancient DNA populations or African and Asian populations. Oracle results give an indication of their reference populations who most closely share your results. I’ll give a breakdown of the top results below in order by relevant test (the test name, top admixture results and top oracle results if provided (single, mixed x2 and x4).

For more information about each calculator go here. Those not included are not applicable or were updated versions of the same test in the list. I did not list anything below 10 percent (except S. Asian/Indian which hovers between 5-15%) and anything below 5 percent is usually considered statistical “noise”:

Continue reading “Thoughts on DNA”


I’ve been writing this post for a week now. I think it’s time to just hit “post” …

I keep thinking about heritage and culture and how our DNA is as blended as our cuisine. Last year, I did my DNA for a laugh, really. I thought that it would just reinforce what I already knew. What I didn’t expect was to find out that I’m Scandinavian, Ashkenazi Jewish, and Mediterranean. A lot of what I thought I knew about my family fell apart and it was actually spurred by people telling me “You Can’t Possibly Be That”, “Your Story Doesn’t Make Sense”.

They were right.

My family sometimes told stories. Fractured, shattered shards of stories that were woven together by thin strands of memory. Just like our meals were cobbled together from foods that were one half memory and one half availability.  No one really spoke of a past though; a solid, unshakeable history and I still have to wonder why. Through DNA testing and sharing, and reconnecting with family, I have found relatives in Finland and Poland and Germany (as well as Australia/New Zealand – my maternal great grandmother’s sister (my g-great aunt??) moved there with her husband).

I have to wonder if our meals were shared with any relatives too – did we bring or take anything with us? Are we from those places or did we just pass through? We liked to eat cabbage rolls, sauerkraut, paprikas, goulas. We also chili con carne, spaghetti bolognese, boeuf bourguignon, bangers and mash, steak and kidney, liver and onions, Sunday roast. Lots of fish and seafood, smoked, dried, fried, stewed. Our diet was as varied, it seems as our history.

When I first came to the internet, I wrote like I had no story. I wrote about trying to discover where I was from. I wrote about being half this and half that. I posted limited photos of myself and most of those were deliberately washed out and badly edited (I am neither as light nor as dark as I look in some of my photos). I wrote about the links I thought we had. I didn’t want to tell my truth as I didn’t know how it would be taken, how it would unfold, what it would bring. Little did I know that these things would be unearthed eight years later and passed around.

I did have another narrative though, one given to me in scattered pieces, like broken pottery. I slowly became brave enough to share what I thought was my truth, but in trying to assemble those stories, I went monstrously wrong. I added things without explicitly sharing their origins. I clung onto snippets of a language that was not mine, like it would be the end of me if I let go. I embellished my story just to have a story. My life didn’t make sense, it was like looking through one of those kiddie kaleidoscopes but the slides were all broken.

My stories were mainly fueled by a family member (no longer living) who sent memories and photos and embellished the truth in so many ways. I found out, for whatever reason, that they firmly believed the stories they told and went to their grave believing them. They lived those stories as much as they could. Some of the photos they shared were of our family and some were not. I trusted them and I deeply regret that. I don’t know what their motives were. I do know that the truth I thought was mine, is not. That was difficult for me at first (the memories I shared about things we did together, were true – the places we went, the things we did), but there were other things that I was told, second hand, that I wove in as my own (and they turned out to be false).

When someone said to me, “your story doesn’t make sense, stop writing,” it actually came as a relief. I was feeling more and more confused and more and more alone. After their death, I had drifted away from writing for almost a year and I started my own research. I started discovering glaring holes in my past. I had begun to see through my family member’s stories and lies, but their sudden death came as a surprise (in some ways and not in others). My DNA had also thrown a huge spanner in the works as it clearly pointed to a much more checkered past than I had ever believed.

My paternal grandparents are Romani/Romanichal. My grandmother’s family is originally from Slovakia (though they came to the UK much earlier than I ever knew). Some of her family lived in Europe during WWII and some of them died in the Holocaust. My paternal grandfather is Romanichal (from the Cooper line) and is originally from the south of England. They were very poor. I was ashamed of being Romanichal (for reasons I won’t elaborate on at this time) and of them being poor and this issues surrounding that.

Someone in my family is from northern Finland , Sweden, or Russia though Finland is most likely and the relative I contacted currently lives further south, in Siikainen, Finland. Perhaps this is through my grandfather. I have yet to figure these things out. I honestly don’t even know where to begin with this one – I have some suggested names (don’t know if they’re place names or people names at this point) – including Aikio, Kemi, Seppälä, Näätsaari, Turi – but these haven’t been confirmed and I haven’t had a chance to do any research or much question-asking. But, this would explain my eye colour and shape, round face, and freckles…

Someone is Ashkenazi Jewish from Poland. I think it comes through my maternal grandmother’s line, several generations back. I don’t know much about my grandmother or grandfather, except that she scrubbed floors for a rich family (I have the census information confirming this fact – the family name she worked for and the house where she worked). I remember hearing some connection to Poland – maybe this is the link.  I originally thought they were distant Romani or Romanichal too – but this definitely disproves that theory.

I don’t hold much weight to commercial DNA tests and am basing most of my research on talking to family and genealogical resources, but they have been useful in confirming some of the information I received and in helping me find several relatives (second and third cousins in Australia, thus far). Since they are confirmed, I am comparing anyone else I come across to myself, plus these other matches. For those interested, my main DNA results are (in order of percentage):

Northern European and Scandinavian – Including Northern England, Scotland, and Norway, Sweden, and North West Russia – upper Karelia/Murmansk/Kola Peninsula, basically Fennoscandia.

Finnish from Finland (with particular markers I’ll get into in a different post).

East European (including Polish and Slovak/Czech/Austrian/Russian), Ashkenazi Jewish, and Mediterranean (Iberian Peninsula, Spain, Cyprus).

And a small percentage of South and West Asian/Indian/Middle Eastern – most likely from my Romani/Romanichal background.

Confirmed matches have mtDNA pointing mostly to the upper regions of Norway, Sweden, and Finland (particularly U5b1b1a), and Ashkenazi (any Romani markers would come through my y-DNA from my father’s side). I just tested for my own mtDNA and will update this post as that comes in.

For those interested, my full DNA breakdown will be available in another post, which I’ll crosslink here.

I guess, the point of this post is: if someone you respect tells you, “this doesn’t make sense,” listen. Don’t get offended. Don’t get angry. Listen and ask yourself, why?? Then go back and start your story over.

Memories without Food

It’s always around this time of year that I start thinking about my grandparents. Their lives and pasts were very different and it made me feel sometimes that I was living across a huge divide between the two polar opposites of the sides of our family.

Today’s story is about my Nanna (Doll or “Babka”). She never cooked. She couldn’t use the gas cooker in her council house and whenever she tried, she never failed to set her hair or eyebrows on fire. She would never use the pilot light, but always tried to use a piece of paper lit from her cigarette, a lighter, or something else. Once she tried to make toast under the grill and almost set the house on fire! Come to think of it, I don’t even know what they ate? I know her sister lived down the street, so maybe she came with food? I just know that we’d have bread and butter or cheese and tea or pop. The stodgy kind of white bread that kept the fingerprints from your fingers and tasted like play dough. Nanna always had whisky or vodka in her tea, to chase the demons, she said.

I do remember going for walks with her, up to the “moors” – a wild piece of land behind the last housing estate of the town, next to the protected park land. Sometimes we’d look for mushrooms or elderberries. Sometimes we’d make a small fire and make ‘stick bread’ – which was basically unleavened bread wrapped around a cleaned stick and set over the fire. Sometimes, we took pop with us – lemonade or fanta – in those glass bottles that you got 10p for returning to the shop. We’d wash them and return them for money to put in Nanna’s electric meter. It sat in a wee cupboard in the kitchen and you had to put 50p in at a time. I remember often the power would run out and we’d have to run down the corner shop (Saunder’s, which wasn’t actually on a corner and is now some kind of pizza shop) to change money or take a load of washed bottles to get money.

The white building with the blue frontage was where Saunder’s shop was. They were dark inside, had iron bars covering the windows, but sold cigarettes, pop, basic necessities and most importantly, sweets and ice-cream. Many the time I went by to get a “ten-penny mix-up” where they’d randomly select ten penny items from the sweets – usually flying saucers, coke bottles, jaw breakers, milk bottles, candy cigarettes…

I don’t have memories of food or recipes, really, from Nanna, except things we picked together or the basic things we made in the kitchen, which really wasn’t very much. She told a lot of half-stories, unfinished, forgotten, in front of her fire. Hunched in her chair, cigarette dangling. Neither her or Granda really spoke about their families or pasts. I know some of their history, which I’ll get into later. But, for now, we’ll leave it here!

The old town marketplace with the market cross and the cattle market. It happened every week, I think. The farmers would bring their cows and sheep and chickens to sell and the local “Gypsies” and “Tinkers” (Romanichal and Travellers) would bring their flowers, pot-mending, and wood-working skills to sell.

Happy Halloween!

I don’t really remember celebrating Halloween growing up, but I do remember one year, when I was about eight or nine, dressing up as a witch – complete with homemade black hat (a black paper cone on a black paper donut that was a little big for my head) and cape and my grannies “besom broom” (one of the ones with the twigs tied together for sweeping leaves and dirt outside). We walked around the neighbourhood reciting little poems. We didn’t get many sweets, but it was still fun.

We did make lanterns every year, though. They were seen as positive things, frightening away the spirits of the dead. Growing up in England, we would carve turnips and not pumpkins. It was quite difficult, as turnips tend to be a lot smaller than pumpkins, but it was still a lot of fun. I do remember I loved the smell as the turnip warmed up from the candle inside. We would string them up and carry them around with us. Usually, the faces weren’t very intricate… just two triangle eyes and an ugly slit for a mouth. Granny Edíta would always stew up the turnip for lunch the next day – nothing ever went to waste!

Sometimes, we’d even make little dudud lights from potatoes and set them along the path to our house or in the windows. They were much, MUCH harder to make than the turnips and didn’t really last as long either. Often we wouldn’t even put faces in them, just hollow them out and set small candles inside (usually the ends of taller candles).

We didn’t usually make any kind of special food. For Halloween we played dookin (ducking/bobbing for apples) and drank Lamb’s Wool (Lamasool – warm stewed apples mixed with milk, cinnamon, and ginger – though adults often mixed it with more whisky or rum than milk!)

It’s become so much more commercialized now, even in my old hometown, with pumpkins, pie, and decorations becoming ubiquitous. I do miss those simple old days when we’d light our turnips and dudud to keep the spirits at bay.