Chapter 2 – Early Origins
The advent of DNA testing has opened exciting new possibilities in genealogical research. Certain DNA markers in the Y-chromosome are passed unaltered from father to son, so through analyzing these markers it is possible to determine if two males have a common male ancestor. Part of the DNA code, called halplotype, is used as part of a current research project to trace the migration of people over thousands of years.
I participated in DNA testing in 2007, and got enlightening results. First, our halplotype is R1b1b2, also called R-M 269. Based on that, our ancestors lived in the Caucasus about 10,000 years ago. This area is bordered to the South by Turkey and Iran, East by the Black Sea, West by the Caspian Sea, and to the North by Russia. Our ancestors were Celts, a civilization called “Keltoi” by the ancient Greeks who describeded them as barbarians.
(NOTE to self – order these paragraphs logically)
The Celts were an early people who spoke a group of languages (not one single language) and were not dominated by a single leader. They were organized primarily as family units aligned with local tribal leaders / chieftains. They were a proud and independent tribal people occupied as warriors, hunters and farmers. They never united as a nation due to their independent nature, which prevented them from successfully establishing a national identity. They used iron to make their weapons. Their horsemanship skill was high, and they used horses for battle. They primarily stayed north of the Alps in Western Europe. Some historians say that calling all these various tribal units by the term Celts is a misnomer, because they never were a unified group.
The Celts emigrated to the British Isles as early as 4,000 years ago. Many ended up living in what is today Scotland and Ireland, with smaller groups including our ancestors the Silures settling in Wales. This move to Wales occurred as early as 2,000 BC, but perhaps closer to 400 BC. Other descendents of our early ancestors did move to the British Isles, but instead remained in Germany, Austria, Sweden, France and other countries.
The particular Celtic tribe that settled across Southeast Wales was the Silures. If you are searching on the internet for family history, you will eventually come across references to our ancestors being the Votadini tribe, but since that tribe settled in what is today Southern Scotland and Northern England, and the Silures settled in the land our ancestors lived in, it seems unlikely that we descend from the Votadini.
In 300 BC, the Celts were the most powerful people in Europe. The Celts attacked Rome in 390 BC, Delphi in 280 BC. They left their mark on Europe – Rhone, Rhine, Danube, London, Paris, Vienna are all Celtic names.
By 52 BC, the Celts were essentially conquered by the Romans. Having never developed a centralized state, they were defeated by a combination of organization and attrition.
The Celts were a heroic and a hierarchical society. They had a lot of pride, were quick to defend their homes and were described as infatuated with war. Feasting was central to their lives, and they enjoyed wine. The warriors took great pride in their ancestry. Priests and warriors were free men, the rest lived in some measure of servitude.
Another feature of the Celts was the absence of a written language. Unlike the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, they left no written record of their history. Instead of written history, the Celts had Bards, or storytellers, who recounted their history and exploits. These stories were finally recorded around 1,000 years ago, and provide insight into Celtic history.
The Celts were a religious people, but were not Christians. They had Druid priests and believed in magical powers of nature – sacred groves of trees (especially Yew trees), glades, speaking stones, healing waters and holy animals. The names of over 400 Celtic gods have been recorded. The Isle of Anglesey in Northwest Wales was chief center of druidical religion in Britain.
Several languages descending from the Celts are still spoken today – Irish, Welsh, Scots, Gaelic, Breton, Manx and Cornish. There is a recent revival of Celtic languages and Celtic identity, particularly in the British Isles.