The Extraordinary Geographic Heritage in My DNA

Oh my!  I have been busily tracing a particular line of my ancestry and what I find most astonishing is not that I have been able to trace them back to the late 1400’s… (and to the left is the family crest)

What astonished me – and, if I’m honest, touched my soul – was that my entire lineage is at most within around a 60 mile journey from the place on the planet I finally feel “HOME“!

To put that into perspective…

I grew up in Australia but never felt at home there and, while the country is quite amazing, I never liked living there.

While I felt very at home for many of the years I lived in America – and Charleston South Carolina felt most ‘home’, it was still not “it”.

I didn’t even set foot in England until last year and I had leased an apartment in St. Leonards on Sea (near Hastings in West Sussex).  While I loved it there, it still wasn’t ‘home’ – but…

One night I woke up around 02:00am with “Torquay – you have to move to Torquay” repeating in my head.

Now, for those of you who know me, you know I call the voices we all have in our head (if we are honest!) my Hamsters.  Anyway, my Hamsters were going ape about the fact I needed to up-stakes and move to Torquay for the remainder of my stay six-month in England.

I didn’t even know where Torquay was!

They would not let up – and since I couldn’t go back to sleep, I was curled up under the covers researching this place called ‘Torquay’.

Finally, I told the Hamsters to be quiet, that I needed some sleep.

Move forward to the morning – and upon waking, within the space of 18 minutes, I had cancelled my lease on the apartment in Torquay – leased an apartment at the marina in Torquay – and arranged for my luggage to be sent from one to the other.

Now, that in itself might sound – well – ‘interesting’ (some might suggest a less kind word) – but the moment I arrived in Torquay, I literally cried.

“I’m HOME!”

For the first time in my life of now over fifty years – I knew what “home” felt like!

Now, at that time, I knew several of my ancestors came from Exeter – which is around 22 miles from Torquay – but apart from that, I had no other connection to the place…  that I knew at the time!

My ancestors are my neighbours!

Going right back to the late 1400’s, the ancestral line with whom I felt the strongest connection out of all my various branches on the ‘family’ tree, all lived in one of four places – and almost all within 22 miles of where I call ‘home’ in England (there are a small handful going back to the 1500’s who were from Trewen):

Torquay to Paignton = 3 miles

Torquay to Brixham = 8 miles

Torquay to Exeter = 22 miles

Torquay to Trewen = 66 miles

To give you some visuals…

The X below is my home in Torquay (cfor six months of the year at present) and the other yellow spots are Exeter, Brixham and Trewen (and you can see Paignton)

To zoom out to see how small that space is on the map of England (and actually, my box is way too large)…

…and in this map below, the tiny yellow dot covers basically the whole of England!

Furthermore, this is the geographic name distribution for the family surname:

I managed to find the tiniest spot on the map that after a half a century of searching finally felt like “HOME” and then discovered that my ancestors going all the way back to the 1400’s lived mostly within 20 miles of this tiny spot on the planet that I absolutely adore!

…and for the first time in my life, I have a sense of what it feels like to have such a sense of belonging that you would fight if needed to protect your homeland.

Of an evening lately, I have been watching some episodes of the BBC production, “Who Do You Think You Are?” and have been fascinated by how many people going back through one’s lineage share traits, or occupations, or characteristics…

Without knowing it, in the middle of the night in West Sussex, my ancestral geographic DNA called me ‘home’ – and I feel more blessed than I can ever express…

~ Bella

Post Script:  Tonight after posting this, I have been watching a documentary called, “Faces of Britain” hosted by Neil Oliver, and what I found fascinating was the genetic research that is being undertaken by people such as Sir Walter Bodmer, including tracing ancestral lines genetically to certain geographic areas in Britain.

As Neil Oliver said in the opening –

“Who were they, where were they from, what were they like – and we try and answer those questions by the things our ancestors left behind – but that never gets us the the people themselves, and that’s why the science of DNA is so fascinating … it’s looking at something else our ancestors left behind, but that they left behind inside us!

PPS:  I emailed Sir Walter Bodmer and he has been kind enough to provide me with a summary of the findings of his work that he wrote following the publication of the major publication on their work in the science journal Nature  in March 2015:  Faces-Britain-POBInewsletter06_March2015 copy reduced

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  1. Pingback: The Extraordinary Geographic Heritage in My DNA | Leigh (Bella) St John – Leigh St John

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