Not a week goes by when a German reader doesn't ask: Werte Volksgenosse! How can I trust the things you say on this blog without knowing your precise racial heritage?
It's a fair question, so I had 23andme perform a complete genetic profile of me. I found out lots of fascinating things: I have no alcohol flush response, can taste bitterness, am likely to go bald (already have), have 'wet' earwax, above average risks for thrombosis and gallstones, below average risk for Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, and my ancestry is >99% European.
The most interesting result, though, was my father's haplogroup, which 23andme explains as follows:
R1b1b2a1a2f2 reaches its peak in Ireland, where the vast majority of men carry Y-chromosomes belonging to the haplogroup. Researchers have recently discovered that a large subset of men assigned to the haplogroup may be direct male descendants of an Irish king who ruled during the 4th and early 5th centuries. According to Irish history, a king named Niall of the Nine Hostages established the Ui Neill dynasty that ruled the island country for the next millennium.
Northwestern Ireland is said to have been the core of Niall's kingdom; and that is exactly where men bearing the genetic signature associated with him are most common. About 17% of men in northwestern Ireland have Y-chromosomes that are exact matches to the signature, and another few percent vary from it only slightly. In New York City, a magnet for Irish immigrants during the 19th and early 20th century, 2% of men have Y-chromosomes matching the Ui Neill signature. Genetic analysis suggests that all these men share a common ancestor who lived about 1,700 years ago. Among men living in northwestern Ireland today that date is closer to 1,000 years ago. Those dates neatly bracket the era when Niall is supposed to have reigned.
Outside Ireland, R1b1b2a1a2f2 is relatively common only along the west coast of Britain.
Now, my father's last name was Hammel, and his father's last name was Hammel, etc. Family lore, which as we all know is notoriously unreliable, has our forebears coming to America as Hessian mercenaries in the late 1800s. The Hessians were hired by the British to fight the Americans, but the Americans offered the mercenaries land if they switched sides, and apparently about 5,000 of the Hessians ended up settling in the United States.
I have no idea whether there's anything to this, but it does seem a bit odd that an American family with a last name Hammel should have a haplogroup that's so closely tied to Ireland. Does anyone have any informed guess as to how this might have occurred?