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My Viking Group

I received an email from Living DNA, a site that I have used for general ancestry results, that claimed: "Now, using the latest academic and scientific research, we are able to tell you how similar your DNA is to those ancient Norsemen and which Viking group you are the most similar to." I thought, sure! It did not cost that much and I would not have to submit another sample.

The result was: You are most closely associated with the Vikings of Norway

So, with that result, I went and looked at what they had originally provided as my ancestry results. When I compared the above above result with my prior DNA map on the site, I was a little confused.

My Living Data DNA Map

There was no indication of any percentage of DNA being in Scandinavia. How could this be? I decided to send an email to Living DNA and ask them. I wrote:

"Per my Viking Upgrade, I am related to the Vikings of Norway. How come on my Ancestry Results I do not have any percentages of my DNA in that region? Just curious."

They did respond quickly, within about 6 hours which did surprise me. Here is their response to my question:

"Thanks for getting in touch. The results of your Viking upgrade are generated in a very different way to the results from your Recent Ancestry and Deep (Maternal and Paternal) ancestry. The ancient Viking DNA we have used is around 1,000 years old (the end of the Viking era is usually counted as being around 1066 when the Norman invasion took place in the British Isles). Your Recent Ancestry results will only cover up to 10 generations of your ancestry (and is most accurate over 5-6 generations) which is far less than 1,000 years. Your Maternal and Paternal ancestry will show you where in the world you have people who share your haplogroup - either from the mitochondrial (Maternal) or the Y-DNA (Paternal). This piece of DNA is passed down unchanged over hundreds of generations which is far older than the Viking era, and so you may not see the regions matching either the Recent Ancestry or the Viking upgrade results."

With that information I looked at those maps for the haplogroups again. For my paternal haplogroup, it did have 5% in Norway, but my maternal haplogroup had a whopping 47% in Sámi and 18% in Finland, followed by 1.7% in Norway and 0.8% in Sweden. Of course I did not know exactly what areas Sámi covered, so I investigated. The Sámi have historically been known in English as Lapps or Laplanders, but these terms are regarded as offensive by the Sámi, who prefer the area's name in their own languages, e.g. Northern Sámi Sápmi. Their traditional languages are the Sámi languages, which are classified as a branch of the Uralic language family. Traditionally, the Sámi have pursued a variety of livelihoods, including coastal fishing, fur trapping and sheep herding. Their best-known means of livelihood is semi-nomadic reindeer herding. Currently about 10% of the Sámi are connected to reindeer herding, which provides them with meat, fur, and transportation. 2,800 Sámi people are actively involved in reindeer herding on a full-time basis in Norway.

Now back to my Viking group. While all Vikings were Norsemen, not all Norsemen were Vikings. These raiders were in fact only a subgroup of the Norse population; they all desired the opportunities and wealth that foreign lands could offer, whether through conquest or through trade and settlements for better farming and fishing. The Viking era lasted from 789 AD to approximately 1066 AD and had an enduring impact upon the peoples of Europe.

Living DNA identified 4 distinct Viking populations from our the analysis of ancient DNA; Norwegian Vikings, Swedish and Danish Vikings, British and North Atlantic Vikings, and Eastern European Vikings. A total of 446 Viking samples were used for our analysis. Ancient human remains from the Viking Age were excavated in a diverse set of 80 archaeological sites within the current borders of the United Kingdom (including mainland Great Britain and the Orkney Islands), Ireland, Iceland, Denmark (mainland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland), Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Ukraine, Poland and Russia.

The Vikings of coastal Norway were among the most adventurous. They were the best sailors and boat builders, sailing and plundering to the north and west. They settled the Faroe Islands, Orkney, the Shetlands Islands, and Ireland. In 841 it was Norwegian Vikings who founded the city of Dublin. The first known permanent Norwegian settler in Iceland was Ingólfr Arnarson. In 874 he settled and built a homestead in Reykjavík. This became the origin for the colonization of Greenland, and later North America. The remains of a Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland have been carbon dated to one millennia ago.

Gokstad ship, Viking Ship Museum, Oslo, Norway.

In 947, a new wave of Norwegian Vikings appeared in England when Erik Bloodaxe captured York. In the 8th century and onwards, Norwegian and Danish Vikings also settled in Normandy, most famously those led by Rollo, a Scandinavian Viking leader, agreed to swear fealty to King Charles III of West Francia following the siege of Chartres in 911. Thus began the tradition of the Normans (meaning "men from the north" or "Northmen", aka "Viking"), who expanded to England, Sicily, and other Mediterranean islands.

The Norwegian Vikings were utterly crazed warriors. Almost all Vikings who used axes in combat were from the Norwegian part, as far as the archeological evidence allows. The Norwegians are said to be arguably the bravest of the three types of Vikings.

Now what does this all mean? Well, based upon where the Norwegian Vikings travelled and settled, they would have at some point intermarried with the locals. In following their adventures and looking at my ancestry results, it is a good chance that their DNA came down to me from Ireland. Scotland, England, and Normandy. It also could have then come over to England during the Norman invasion in 1066. But then, who really knows? In my opinion, tracking and determining DNA results is basically a crapshoot, which is one of the reasons why I get periodic DNA ethnicity estimate updates from several sites. Regardless, I think it is still fun and interesting to explore the past and thinking about all of my forebears who are lost to history.


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