Irish Again

A few months ago, when Ancestry DNA informed me that I was no longer predominantly Irish, I felt a huge sense of relief. It was before St. Patrick’s Day and the denouement of the “fact” that I’m predominantly Scots meant I didn’t have to worry about wearing green, cooking and eating corned beef and cabbage (yuck), or any of the rest of it. But then…

Ancestry updated its update and wouldn’t you know it? I’m Irish again and hardly Scots at all. That said, I can return again to screaming like a banshee when I’m hurt, walking the narrow trail wit me Shillelagh and weeping over the poetry of William Butler Yeats.

It’s very cool that now that Ancestry can also let me know what DNA came from which parent. Parent 2 in my chart is obviously me da’ whose ma was Swedish, 100%, and Parent 1 is obviously me ma as me gran had ancestors from Switzerland.

They also offer an explanation about why the DNA of siblings might be different. I’d talk that over wit’ me brother, but obviously… Another good thing about being Irish again is I can continue to have a dark, acerbic sense of humor.

I’m just slightly more than mildly curious about this stuff, so I haven’t followed the progress in DNA research, etc. These developments are new to me, interesting, but not important. The most interesting bit of my ancestry came from another test I took that gave me my Haplogroup which, it happens, is the very close to that of Ötzi, the Ice Man from the Tyrol. Even if it’s not true, I’m going with it because I can’t think of any place I would rather have my maternal family originate. It’s likely, though, as they have been traced to that very region of the world. So, in Ötzi’s honor, I’m now riding the bike-to-nowhere on the Ötzal road. Family matters, right?

The Otzal road is amazingly beautiful on the Bike the World video I am watching. And why am I doing that? Well, I have a dream. I wrote about it a couple of weeks ago in “Meandering, Zoomorphic Post.” Although I still haven’t found anyone willing to join me, I’m not giving up. The Mineral Belt Trail is an 11 mile loop trail at an elevation somewhat higher than here. I am not daunted by the distance, but I’m a bit daunted by the altitude. In any case, I’m training.

Erin Go Bragh!

For a long time I was Irish, so Irish that people in Irish pubs in San Diego — Irish people — would ask me, “When were you last home?” in their lilting brogue. They didn’t mean Descanso, where I lived, a small town 50 miles to the east of San Diego, in the mountains. They meant the Emerald Isle.

Me ma and da were tellin’ me from birth that I’m Irish, and I suffered through the obligatory corned beef and cabbage for many years. The only time I was ever pinched for not wearing green was at a supermarket in LA when I was attending fresco school. I was so wrapped up in school, I had forgotten what day it was. “You look Irish enough,” said the woman who pinched me, “where’s your green?”

Well, thanks to Ancestry DNA I’ve since learned that I’m not so Irish after all — a smidgeon — but (gotta go check those dilithium crystals) I’m a feckin’ Scot. The fact of the matter is me paternal great-grandah’ was a pure Irishman, and then, dontcha’ know, it started being watered down by all and sundry, OK, just some and sundry, but as I understand DNA if you’re a female much of what you can learn about your DNA comes from yer’ ma’s side, and that is born out by what Ancestry is telling me. Luckily (or irrelevantly) I pretty much know where my family came from with a few bits here and there lost in the mists of time. And the term “Scotti” was the name given the Gaels by the Romans — Irish and Scots alike.

Lots of Europeans wonder why Americans are so fascinated by their ancestry. I can’t answer that other than to say that if you’re German, you probably KNOW it. EVERY human on this continent — even the “natives” — came from somewhere else. It’s just an intriguing mystery. Not very important to me, but kind of cool to learn about.

All this to say I’m wearing my green underwear today. It’s too cold for my green t-shirt.

Yesterday I took the dogs for a walk to see the day and the cranes — thousands of them flew above me. Easily fifty cars were making their way around the Refuge. It’s a big year for both cranes and tourists who come out mainly for the photo opportunities. How do I feel about that? Mixed, but generally positive and, anyway, my feelings are irrelevant. The dogs and I have our walk that is apart from all the action and since I’m not armed with a fancy camera, I am liberated to watch and, living here, I have the liberty to watch in slow motion. I’m not (overly) charged with carpeing the diem. I thought I’d share this photo story — I don’t like the guy’s captions much, but he and his long lens got a very cool — dramatic — narrative of the type I see often and cannot possibly report so vividly. Don’t miss this!

I spent a little time yesterday listening to an archeologist on Zoom talk about one of the caves that ring the ancient lake that is the San Luis Valley. Since I lose focus in lecture, I abandoned it, but not before I learned that there is no pottery (*cruse) until 2000 years ago. This is the interesting thing — how and why? No pottery, no bows and arrows until the upper layers — that’s 2000 years out of a 14,000 year history of human culture throughout the region. I wonder what caused the change. It is, apparently, pretty universal around the Americas. The little shard in my featured photo is Anasazi? Very likely.

A dear friend found it one day on a walk near her home in Arizona. She picked it up, put it in her pocket, and, at some point, stuck it to a post-it note and put it on my desk at San Diego State University. The post-it is still there. Her note has long faded, but the shard persists. I think that is a beautiful metaphor for the whole mystery surrounding the sudden appearance of pottery. The words explaining it are gone, but the pottery remains.

*cruse/kro͞oz/ noun ARCHAIC: an earthenware pot or jar.


Long long ago in a faraway land (that I’ve visited and love) lived a minor knight in the service of the Habsburgs who lived not far away. The Habsburgs were not yet that jaw-jutting mega-ruling family they became, but a little conclave of Austrian immigrants who had a castle (see photo above) on a hill looking over the Reuss river valley in what is now the Canton of Aare. In a few hundred years, they’d be chased out of Switzerland, but for now they were busy protecting their interests.

The castle-fortress belonging to the (very minor) knight, Heinrich von Lunkhofen, was on a hillside, somewhat south and east from the Habsburg’s headquarters. It was a tower with a few attached buildings and a courtyard. Its main jobs were to house the minor knight’s family, provide protection to anyone who needed it in times of attack, and protect the Habsburg’s interests. Heinrich’s brother, Hugo, had a similar castle between the Habsburg’s fortress and Heinrich’s. Near the town named for the family, Unter-Lunkhofen, are ruins of Hugo’s castle-fortress, but nothing remains of Heinrich’s.

Of course, the minor knight’s family had a flag which was carried into the crusades (presumably) and whenever there was a battle locally (it was the feudal period, key word, FEUD), and a kind of address marker for mail delivery (You made that up, Martha). Years and years later, a tiny bit of Heinrich’s DNA made it’s way to Monte Vista, Colorado.

So, without further ado (what’s ado?) here’s my family’s flag (crest). It is also the “wappen” for the village of Zwillikon in the area of Affoltern am Albis.

Lunkhofen Wappen


My family has another crest, too, for the other side, the Schneebelis. Their name started out as “Schnew” (snow) and then “Snewli” and then (no one knows why) Schneebeli (little snowballs). German evolved just like English so spellings changed and stuff like that, but “beli”? It’s a red background with three snowballs on it. There’s a lot of dispute (well a “lot” is relative…) over why the Lunkhofen name vanished and the family became Schneebeli. My theory is that it got very inconvenient at a certain point to be connected to the Habsburgs.

My other theory is that there is a genetic predisposition to love snow.

Retroactive DNA Specificity (What?)

A few years ago I wanted to know my pedigree. When Groupon offered a discount on a fly-by-night-marginally-accurate DNA test, I jumped at the chance.

I learned from it that I am 18% Native American. Because I’m a research kind of person, I had to figure that out. It seemed that the similarity between Northern, Northern, Northern Scandinavian DNA and Native American DNA sometimes yielded this result. Reindeer or Wapiti? I’m good with chasing ungulates across ANY region of the frozen north.

Left with more questions than answers about my pedigree, I forked out MORE money, this time to Ancestry, to get a clearer picture. Why? Because, at the time, it seemed to matter. Now?

Well there are just those times in life you want that $100 back.

Having invested the money in order to get pretty maps and charts explaining what I already knew, it has been kind of fun watching the whole DNA/ancestry thing evolve. Since I went into this looking for Swiss ancestry in particular (because of my novels) I was a little disappointed when, originally, all I got was a vague gesture toward Southern Europe. Ancestry keeps updating its ancestry stuff as they learn more. Today (in my relentless search for a compelling featured photo) I saw the latest changes and they pleased me. Switzerland is now on the map as is the migration of the Schneebelis which is, ultimately, all that matters. 😉

Hip Replacement Update: Doc ordered muscle relaxer for spasms, but the pharmacy didn’t get the prescription yesterday. Still, last night went much better thanks to Percocet. There is a lot of swelling with this surgery, mostly on the operated leg, but all over. It has been slowing diminishing. The best thing is that every single day, something is better than the day before. I think I might actually be able to drive to my staple-removing doc appt. next week.