By Edgar "Bill" Wilson Nye (1850–1896) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
It's true, I'll swear it. You go on any online genetics, ancestry, or history forum, every other American, Canadian, or Australian of mainly European heritage, wants to have Irish ancestors. Failing Irish, Scottish or maybe "Welch" will do. People just don't want to be of English ancestry. If a DNA test suggests British & Irish ancestry, then they pray that it's Irish or Scottish. If it turns out to be English, well.... Let's keep that one locked in the wardrobe shall we?
We are just so out of favour, so misunderstood. No wonder the English have a long running identity crisis. I blame Hollywood for it, particularly that nameless Australian (now American) film maker with a chip on his shoulder about us. Always portraying the English either as cruel, arrogant, evil upper class tyrants, or as bumbling, stupid peasants. It's not completely true you know. well, not about the latter.
The English are watered down Celts
Recent genetic studies suggest we are actually pretty admixed, and may actually have more "Celtic" British ancestry than we have Anglo-Saxon. Sort of watered down Celts. The POBI (Peopling of the British Isles) Study 2015, using quantitative sampling, suggested that the present day ethnic English have only 10% to 40% Anglo-Saxon ancestry, with the majority of our ancient heritage being in the British Isles much longer. The Haak etal Study 2016 using qualitative evidence from ancient cemeteries in the Cambridge area, suggested that there indeed was admixture, and that the present day English are only around 38% Anglo Saxon in their ancestry. A correlation.
A reconstructed Anglo Saxon
Don't take this one serious, but my DNA tests for ancestry are always atypical for a Brit, even an extreme for an Englishman. I usually get only around 34% British on autosome tests. Yet my genealogy is all South East English, and heavily rural local in East Anglia. My DNA flavour is heavily Continental in it's flavour, with pulls towards Northern France, Germany, Scandinavia, and for some reason, Southern Europe. I swear, I really am English! My DNA confounds these tests. The most logical answer is that it is population background, heavily localised in East Anglia. Here is my mother's recorded ancestry:
Disgustingly local. The last admixture was probably when the Danes beached at nearby Flegg. On top of that, a fluke of genetic recombination. Phasing suggests that I inherited from my mother, almost all of her DNA that 23andMe identifies as like French & German. On top of that, a heap from my late father. I might be sort of an accidental biologically reconstructed Anglo Saxon, with an embarrassingly low percentage of British Celtic ancestry! I don't think that I'd make a good Anglo Saxon. Crap at woodwork and farming. Maybe I should grow back my beard?
Nah! I look more like I'm homeless than a sword swinging warrior.
Anyway, it has put me into an Anglo-Saxon sort of mood of recent, and I feel like defending my humble immigrant ancestors. As I've said before, I'm quite a fan of the perspective, that the Anglo Saxons were a real and significant migration event to Southern and Eastern Britain, but rather than the traditionalist view that they were a murderous army of invasion and genocide, that they were as often as not, simply farmers from around the North Sea, that were looking for opportunity. They wanted land to farm. They wanted to be free of their fealties on the Continent. The collapse of Roman administration in Britain, gave them the opportunity. The British elites were in disarray, and running in all sorts of directions. British society was in crisis, a free fall.
I'm not saying that there was no violent conflict! At times it would have been like this:
By Anon. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
But alternatively, there could have been much more to their success. They appear to have been incredibly successful farmers, with a culture that had adapted outside of the Roman Empire, in a very rural, illiterate, and non-monetary economy. With the collapse of the state, they could have been incredibly successful in South East Britain. Not because they had bigger swords to wave (something that I didn't inherit), but because they could sustain themselves well and prosper.
These guys could grow food, and pay their rent. They knew how to work. They provided the basis to Early English Culture and identity.
Now some photos that I took several years ago at the West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village in nearby Suffolk: