St David’s Day DNA

Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus. Happy St David’s Day

This is a day to celebrate Wales and Welshness. I am Welsh. I’ve always known that — being descended from two west Wales farming families there has never been much doubt. But how Welsh am I? And do we have a north Wales Tudor connection as family legend claims? And how and when did we get here? These are questions documented paper research cannot answer, so the only way I could even begin to find out is to do a Genealogy DNA test.

I know very little about Genetic genealogy and there are a bewildering number companies out there seemingly offering different things and all claiming to be unique.

I was fascinated by the findings of the study published in Nature magazine in 2015 by the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in Oxford that found that the Welsh were genetically distinct from the rest of Britain. Or should I say that a sample of people living in Wales today, who had known grandparents living in Wales, were genetically distinct.

The researchers identified four “Wales” groups — North Wales, North Pembrokeshire, South Pembrokeshire and Welsh Borders. The study also suggested the North Wales and Pembrokeshire groups were distinct from each other having separated genetically over 1000 years ago.

When I learnt that a new genetic testing company — LivingDNA — was analysing DNA on a GB regional basis and using the data from the Oxford study, the decision as to which company to use was now easily made. I immediately sent away for a test for myself, my brother, my husband and my maternal uncle.

I was also impressed with the company’s anti- racism message, emphasising that DNA genetic testing proves that we are ALL fundamentally the same and if we go back 5000 years or so we are all related. They work with the charity Show Racism the Red Card. Being Welsh doesn’t make me better or worse than anyone else, I believe that to my very core. I just enjoy knowing that I belong to the Welsh family and am fascinated by the history of our journey to west Wales over thousands of years.

It was no exaggeration to admit that I was very excited to get hold of the results. I had to wait a very long 14 weeks but I think is standard most Genetic testing companies.

Living DNA regional breakdown.

LivingDNA provides a fair amount of detail but I will concentrate here on the GB regional breakdown. It seems that I share 71% of my ancestry with south Wales (see above map) and my brother 67%. This data assumes the situation for recent times (about 10 generations). It’s a surprise to see no North Wales ancestry and a bit of a disappointment as this hints at the north Wales Tudor connection possibility being more myth and legend than fact. Also a surprise to see the significant level of shared English ancestry — 16% for me and 22% for my brother considering our known ancestry which is 100% west Wales going back 5 generations. See below.

Birth location in west Wales of all my known 5th generation ancestors.

My husband considers his ancestry to be 75% Welsh and 25% Devon. His results came back 20.8% South Wales, 20.4% South Wales Borders and 18.7% Devon. He was delighted to find that he shared 9.4% with Tuscany. He hasn’t taken his nose out of the Italian Holiday Villa brochure since!

There is much more to discover and the company will update the interpretation of the results as more information becomes available over the years.

But I want to know more now, so I ordered a testing kit for my mother and mother in law. Sadly, it’s too late to establish the DNA map of my father’s generation.

I am still waiting for my uncle’s results. My uncle died last month. He had been living with us for the last 7 years. It doesn’t feel at all mawkish receiving his results posthumously. In fact, I find it a comfort to know that we now have a permanent record of his life.

Cysgwch yn dawel Iorwerth, your memory lives on.


The author has no connection with LivingDNA and all tests were paid for by the family.

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