Equilibrium is

The best day of your life

Followed by the worst

When nothing can go wrong

And then, ironically, everything does

It’s the maintenance of balance

On the scales of life

A tug-o-war over your fate

In which equilibrium always wins.

Ancestry’s Genetic Communities

When I first heard about Ancestry’s Genetic Communities feature (due to be released next week on the 28th March 2017) I thought it was primarily aimed at Americans as the academic paper and advertisements seemed to point to as much. However, to my delight, it includes Europeans as well! And, to add to my excitement even further, I was invited to beta test the Genetic Community results.

To begin with, I’ve already spoken about my paper trail here, if anything I write in this post about my ancestry is confusing then please refer to this post as it may resolve that confusion.

For those who don’t know, the Genetic Communities feature was created to represent an individual’s recent family history as opposed to the ethnicity feature which reflects ancient ancestry. AncestryDNA created the new feature by comparing members’ family trees and DNA results; doing this at such a number as to avoid potential errors in individual family trees.

AncestryDNA offer Genetic Communities in the following regions:



  • Finns
  • Eastern Norwegians
  • Swedes
  • Western Norwegians
  • Central Norwegians

United Kingdom & Ireland

  • English Newfoundlanders
  • Southern English
  • Northern English
  • Scots
  • English Midlanders & Northerners
  • The Welsh & English West Midlanders
  • Ulster Irish
  • Connacht Irish
  • Munster Irish

Western Europe

  • Jews in Central Europe
  • Germans, Netherlanders, Belgians & Luxembourgians
  • Germans in the Midwest
  • Portuguese

Southern Europe

  • South Slaves
  • Southeastern Europeans
  • Northern Italians
  • Southern Italians
  • Sicilians
  • Portuguese
  • Spaniards, Cubans, Dominicans & Venezuelans

Eastern & Central Europe

  • Jews in Central Europe
  • Jews in the Russian Empire
  • South Slavs
  • Eastern Europeans
  • Central Europeans

Western Russia

  • Germans from Russia

North America

United States

  • Northeastern United States

–New England

–Mid-Atlantic States

  • Southern United States

–Gulf States

–Southeastern States


–Southern Atlantic States

  • Midwestern United States

–Early Settlers of the Lower Midwest & Virginia

–Germans in the Midwest

–Early Settlers of the Ohio River Valley, Indiana, Illinois & Iowa

–Early Settlers of Pennsylvania, Ohio & Indiana

–Germans from Russia

  • Western United States

–Early Settlers of New Mexico

–Mormon Pioneers of the Mountain West

–Mexicans in Chihuahua & Durango


  • English Newfoundlanders
  • French Settlers Along the St. Lawrence
  • Acadians
  • French Settlers of Gaspe, New Brunswick & Maine


  • Mexicans in Northeastern Mexico & South Texas
  • Mexicans in Chihuahua & Durango
  • Mexicans in Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon & South Texas

South & Central America


  • African Caribbeans
  • Spaniards, Cubans, Dominicans & Venezuelans
  • Puerto Ricans

South America

  • Colombians
  • Colombians & Ecuadorians
  • Portuguese

*These regions usually also have a few branches within each of them that Ancestry attempt to identify. I will further explore this when explaining my results.

Genetic Community Results

The beta was released to all the kits I manage (mine, my parents, and my brother’s) and I was very impressed by the accuracy of the results. However, I would have liked to have seen more than 1-2 communities in the results (I’m hoping more genetic communities will be attributed to my kits once the feature is fully released).

My mum’s results correctly identified the area that correlated with the largest part of her DNA: Yorkshire & The Pennines. As you may have noticed, Yorkshire & The Pennines wasn’t on my list of communities above… This is because it is a branch within the English Midlanders & Northerners region. While my mum’s DNA is mostly from the English Midlanders & Northerners community on the paper trail, her great-granddad was from Middlesex, which would make up approximately 12.5% of her DNA. This should, in my opinion, be significant enough to show as a genetic community, which would be represented as one of the Southern English communities. Nonetheless, I was pleased to see Ancestry identify my mum’s Yorkshire-ness, since it’s so prevalent I would have been upset if it wasn’t identified.

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 12.04.30 pm

My dad’s DNA, on the other hand, according to the paper trail consists of about 38% Scottish, 12% Irish, and the rest English. Ancestry, however, only identified his Scottish DNA (even though his English is much more prevalent). Don’t get me wrong, I’m probably most proud of the Scottish heritage and I’m so glad Ancestry did identify it, but I’m again a little disappointed they didn’t pick his English or Irish. If they had identified his English and Irish I think he would’ve been placed in the following Genetic Communities: The Welsh & English West Midlanders, Ulster Irish, and maybe English Midlanders & Northerners.

Dad’s placement in the community ‘Scots in Northeast & Central Scotland’ accurately fits in with the Scottish on our family tree, which shows ancestors from Ayrshire, West Lothian, Elginshire, and Lanarkshire.

(N.B: John Peters is a pseudonym, which my dad goes by for privacy reasons):

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 12.03.38 pm

For comparison, the following are mine and my brother’s results:

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 12.03.16 pmScreen Shot 2017-03-20 at 12.04.10 pm

A Review of Genetic Communities

As I’ve already said I love the accuracy of the Genetic Communities feature. I wish Ancestry identified more communities, although, perhaps that’s a possibility for the actual release of Genetic Communities next week or another time in the future. Furthermore, once you click into the genetic communities Ancestry offers an overview of the area and a timeline of its history. I haven’t yet explored this in much depth but I look forward to it and I love that this is included.

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 1.29.38 pm.png

I also love that when you zoom in on the area, they show circles over the main genetic clusters.

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 1.33.34 pm

Though the maps show the capital cities, I think it would be helpful to customers if Ancestry included a list of counties included within these circles since not everyone is familiar with the geography of certain areas.

On the other hand, I noticed that there are no genetic communities for Africa or Asia and I’m assuming this is due to there being less test-takers from these areas. I feel like this is a massive gap in the system, which I hope will be updated as more people test.

All in all, I love this new feature! I think it’s going to be very beneficial to adoptees and to people with many brick walls in their research. I love how easy it is to use. And, I think it’s great that Ancestry are keeping up with their competition since the release of this feature is in lieu with the release of LivingDNA’s new test. I think the Genetic Communities feature has added to the benefits of test-taking with AncestryDNA over other companies and I would definitely recommend AncestryDNA.

Edit: 18/04/2017 Updated information and terminology to be more accurate.

Heritage by County: Paper Trail Data

In lieu of AncestryDNA releasing their ‘genetic communities’ feature as well as the new LivingAncestors test I have mapped the specific counties from which my ancestors were born (all ancestors born within UK and Ireland). I have drawn the information from my ggg-grandparents. I explain the process I followed and show the final result.

Charting Ancestors

If you were to complete this exercise you should have sixty-four ancestors (I have sixty-two due to a couple of my ancestors engaging in consanguinity). We inherit approximately x 1.56% of DNA from each of our sixty-four ancestors (where my ancestors’ consanguine relationship was I attributed x 2.38 % to all four affected individuals). Using this data, I made a chart including the ancestors name, their county and country of birth (where unknown I entered the county and country of their child and indicated the uncertainty with the word ‘probably’- which will later place these percentages into another table), their family line within my pedigree, and their score (since not all of my ancestors received a x 1.56% score).

Here is a snippet of my chart showing how all of this looks:

Name County, Country Ancestry 1.56% score
1 Alexander Sneddon Stirlingshire, Scotland Sneddon paternal line 1.56
15 John Clarke Unkown, probably County Down, Ireland Roberts maternal line 1.56
27 Unknown Proudlove Probably Staffordshire, England Perkins paternal line 1.56
49 John Chambers Unknown, probably Yorkshire, England Chambers paternal line 2.38


Calculating County Percentages

I then used the data above to calculate how much of each county would contribute to my DNA. I counted how many ancestors belonged to each county (know and estimated) and multiplied those numbers by 1.56 to arrive at the percentage I would then attribute to that county. Here is a snippet of how this looks in the format I used:

Location: Stirlingshire, Scotland Percentage
Known 5
Estimated 0
Total 7.8%
Location: Lanarkshire, Scotland Percentage
Known 3
Estimated 0
Total 4.68%
Location: County Down, Ireland Percentage
Known 1
Estimated 3
Total 6.24%
Location: Forest of Dean, England Percentage
Known 0
Estimated 4
Total 6.24%
Location: Yorkshire, England Percentage
Known 11 + 1(x2.38)
Estimated 4 + 2(x2.38)
Total 30.53%
Location: Middlesex, England Percentage
Known 0
Estimated 4
Total 6.24%
Location: Derbyshire, England Percentage
Known 5
Estimated 0
Total 7.8%


Final Results

This is the pie chart I produced using those percentages as a way of visualising all the data nicely:

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 3.43.31 pm.png

I then placed colour-coded stars (corresponding to the pie chart) over a map to help see where all the places are:

Genealogical Geography Chart:Map.png

How important a part of Spartan society was the hoplite army, in the seventh and sixth centuries BC?

The emergence of the hoplite army in the early seventh century BC was piecemeal rather than en bloc as the ‘Spartan mirage’ portrays. However, once adopted, the hoplite army became an integral aspect of Spartan society through the seventh and sixth centuries BC and remained, as Cartledge describes, the doyenne of developed hoplite warfare.[1] The endurance of Sparta’s hoplite army was due to its success in maintaining eunomia (good order) after the stasis (civil disturbance) caused by their defeat at the Battle of Hysiae during the Second Messenian War in the early seventh century BC.[2] Moreover, this success was arguably fed by a constant state of fear that was not only caused by external threats but also from internal threats such as those posed by the overwhelming population size of the helots (serfs). The consequential popularisation of the phalanx reshaped societal structure by introducing poorer Spartan to a style of fighting previously dominated by aristocrats.[3] This inclusion of the poor resulted in the flattening of the hierarchal structure within Spartan society and the development of the homoioi (equals).[4] Finley’s ideas about the ‘sixth-century revolution’ view the reformation of Sparta in becoming a martial society as fulfilled by the sixth century. This reformation is attributed to the legendary lawgiver Lycurgus and, through the approach of the polis’ (city-state) to features such as child rearing, religion, and economics, the importance of the hoplite army to Spartan society at this time was thus reflected.

Xenophon, Plutarch, and Plato all describe the reformed Spartans as ‘technitai ton polemikon’ (professionals of war).[5] This imagery is depicted in an ivory seal excavated from the sanctuary of Artemis Orthia, which portrays three hoplites, as characterized by their hopla (shields).[6] Hopla were vital to the operation of the phalanx and the word hoplon led to the etymology of the term ‘hoplite’.[7] Hoplite warfare developed through the introduction of heavier armour with hand-to-hand combat developing soon after in the late seventh century.

The Spartans were able to achieve their reputation as ‘professionals of war’ through their approach to rearing offspring. Foremost was the practice of eugenics in order to produce sons who would become fit soldiers.[8] This was achieved through both priming a woman to be fit for childbearing and the practice of infanticide. Another technique the Spartans employed was their unique education system, the agoge (‘raising’), which Finley defines as “[a] common, formalized, compulsory upbringing designed to inculcate obedience, valour, discipline and professional military skills.”[9] Similarly, Plutarch states that the agoge “made citizens obedient to the laws and tractable, like horses are broken in while colts.”[10] The manipulation of citizens from birth, through infanticide and education, truly highlights the depth of militaristic influence on the society during this period.

The integration of martial practices in the religious sphere also reflects the importance of the hoplite army on Spartan society. Xenophon reports that at the festival of Artemis Orthia, as a rite de passage, boys would attempt to steal cheese off the altar and, if caught, were whipped as punishment.[11] The purpose of this religious exercise was to teach boys the traits necessary for a militaristic lifestyle. Martial traits were also honed through marching songs and energetic dances performed at annual religious festivals, such as the festival of Karneia. [12] These performances were often in the form of an agon (contest).[13] This encouraged athleticism as well as reinforcing rhythm. Another aspect of military life, as Plutarch records, was that only men who died in war and women who died as priestesses or in childbirth received an inscription on their tomb.[14] For example, inscription IG V.1 714 reading “Agippia [died] in childbirth”.[15] The Spartan poet Tyrtaios writes of this honour, “…He is immortal in the grave, that man whom the furious Ares destroys as he defends his land and his children.”[16]

The sixth-century revolutionised Spartan polis emphasized homoioi in order to reinforce the equality of Spartans to the effect of encouraging comradeship. At birth, every Spartiate was supposedly assigned an equal kleros (an allotment of land).[17] Upon graduation from the agoge, Spartiates joined a syssitia (mess) and would dine and sleep with their messmates as they would in battle. Spartiates were capable of such a life due to chrematismos, the prohibition of business activity, which was made possible due to all necessities being provided by either the helots or perioikoi (dwellers-around).[18] A sense of fraternity within society correlated with the realism of military life and so was emulated in everyday life.

Finley’s idea of a ‘sixth-century revolution’ saw the full integration of hoplite warfare into Spartan society. While Cartledge opposes a similar view, as posed by Snodgrass, his arguments are flawed, as can be seen where he suggests that the development of the hoplite army could not be piecemeal, as panoply was too expensive. [19] Conversely, if Cartledge’s view is correct then how did the Spartan army acquire panoply so suddenly? Furthermore, if the hoplite army was inferior to other styles, as Cartledge goes on to suggest, then why does the style prevail from the seventh and sixth centuries to 371BC? It is only through the importance the hoplite army held in society that it was capable of its legendary successes including: the formation of the Peloponnesian League in 550BC of which Sparta established its hegemony, The Battle of Champions in 546BC, the annual defeat of the Messenians, as well as Sparta’s continued oppression of the helots ensuring there were no revolts. Hence, it is clear from the evidence that the hoplite army was inextricably tied with Spartan society in the seventh and sixth centuries BC.

[1] Cartledge (1977: 11).

[2] Cartledge (1977:27); Holladay (1982: 97).

[3] Snodgrass (1965: 122).

[4] García & de Quiroga (2012: 133); Cartledge (1977: 27).

[5] Xenophon in Cartledge (1977: 16?)

[6] Fig. 1 in Cartledge (1977: 26).

[7] Cartledge (1977:13).

[8] Pomeroy (2002: 34).

[9] Finley (1981: 27).

[10] Plutarch, Life of Agesilaos 1.2.

[11] Xenophon, Constitution of the Lacedaimonians, 2.9).

[12] Cartledge (1977:17).

[13] Burket (1985: 234).

[14] Plutarch, Life of Lykourgos, 27.3 in Dillon (2007: 151).

[15] Bradford (1977: 16).

[16] Tyrtaios, Fr. 12.23-24.

[17] Pomeroy (2002: 35).

[18] Finley (1981: 27); Finley (1981: 31).

[19] Cartledge (1977: 19-20).


Bradford, A.S. (1977), A Prosopography of Lacedaemonians from the Death of Alexander the Great, 323 B.C., to the Sack of Sparta by Alaric, A.D. 396, Part 396, vol. 27 of Vestigia, Munich.

Burket, W. (1985), ‘The Rhythm of the Festivals’ in Greek Religion, Massachusetts, 225-245.

Cartledge, P. (1977), “Hoplites and Heroes”, JHS 97, 11-27.

Finley, M.I, (1981), ‘Sparta and Spartan Society’ in M.I. Finley (ed.), Economy and Society in Ancient Greece, London, 24-40 and 253-255.

García, F.J.G & P.L.B de Quiroga (2012), “Neocon Greece: V.D. Hanson’s War on History”, International Journal of the Classical Tradition 19, 129-151.

Holladay, A.J. (1982), “Hoplites and Heresies”, JHS 102, 94-103.

Plutarch, Life of Agesilaos in Perrin, B., trans. (1917), The Loeb Classical Library, vol. 5, Cambridge.

Plutarch, Life of Lykourgos in Dillon, M. (2007), “Were Spartan women who died in childbirth honoured with grave inscriptions?”, Hermes 135, 149-165.

Pomeroy, S.B., (2002), ‘Becoming a Wife’ in S.B. Pomeroy Spartan Women, Oxford, 33-49.

Snodgrass, A.M. (1965), “The Hoplite Reform and History”, JHS 85, 110-122.

Tyrtaios, Fragment 12.23-24 in Lattimore, R. trans. (1960), Greek Lyrics, Chicago.

van Wees, H., (2004), ‘The Archaic Phalanx’ in H. van Wees (ed.), Greek Warfare: Myths and Realities, London, 166-298.

Xenophon, Constitution of the Lacedaimonians in Marchant, E.C. trans. (1914), Xenophon: Scripta minora, vol. 7, Cambridge.