One quarter of my genealogy, my maternal grandmother’s line, comes from the Lake Vattern area in Sweden: Ulricehamn, Fiskeback, Liared. Not being able to read Swedish, it’s easier to assume that people didn’t move much in that region before 1860 and my ancestors came from there oh, approximately forever. Another eighth looks Scots-Irish via SE New Hampshire, with some Puritans thrown in at times. The rest seems to be solidly Massachusetts Puritan, though some by way of Nova Scotia.
Until the 1980’s I just thought of that as “English,” from god-knows-where in the UK. I may have known that the surname “Wyman” suggested a remote Anglian or Saxon origin. But not until I read David Hackett Fisher’s Albion’s Seed did the larger picture come clear for me. East Anglia was the white-hot center of Puritan migration to New England, and by the very name of this area (the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, sometimes Cambridge and Essex) one can tell it absorbed most of the Anglo-Saxon invasions beginning around 400AD.
Thus I pretty much assumed that most of my English lines would eventually run to ground in East Anglia, and more than half of those genes would at some point have transited what is now Schleswig-Holstein in Germany and the rest of the Danish peninsula (if any of the Jutes had worked their way into the mix). That’s not all that far from the Swedish bunch, if they were indeed in the area 1500 years ago, and so I came to regard those corners of the world –from London to The Wash for a millenium, from Vattern to Hamburg farther back – as being my regions of origin.
The actual genealogy, when we could trace it back to the UK at all, wasn’t cooperating with this theory. Counties like Bedfordshire, Lincoln, and Hertfordshire were bad enough. They were at least close. But Isle of Wight and Bristol showed up as well. Quakers on Cape Cod. I knew that a number of factors - non-paternity events, the odd Australian moving to Londonderry in the 1800’s, families up and moving miles away for reasons no longer known – made any one line vulnerable. Yet with gaps of the same type throughout the family tree, I reasoned most of them would fit the dominant pattern. Massachusetts Puritans equals Norfolk and Suffolk equals 50% Anglo-Saxon and Danes, the rest being Britons, and the occasional Frisian.
This theory has very little chance of being true, I find. Where I can’t find an immigrant ancestor on any line I check the surname prevalence and find that all those Crowells, Whittemores, Spinneys, Neats, Eatons, Doanes, and Larkins don’t tend to come from East Anglia. Any of them might have, but the trend is against it. The southern coast of England, from Cornwall to Kent seems to have the highest concentration of those names. As Hampshire and Wiltshire are also represented, some connection to my favorite areas of Avebury and Watership Down are also possible. Those areas had their Saxons – Wessex and all that – but not nearly so many.
One teeny line way back goes through Norfolk, another through Suffolk. A few around Cambridge. That’s the whole East Anglian DNA census at present.
Furthermore, I learn from Bryan Sykes Saxons, Vikings, and Celts that the tribes which gave us our language, the Normans and the Anglo-Saxons, didn’t give us their genes as well. Less than 25%, actually, and a lot of that on the East coast of England. The rest are from the original Britons, who like the Picts and Gaels, were Celts and had been in the UK for thousands of years.
It’s a theory much more boring, but at least more likely.