My Genetic Link to Britain’s “Cheddar Man”…

Many years ago I became interested in the research my mother had completed, over many years, pre-internet assisted ancestral research. The photographs, stories and mysteries were captivating. Learning more of my mother’s family history and my own resonated with me in an unexpected way, it helped me understand me.

I became so hooked I began to further research my mother’s side of the family further and in simultaneously began the research for my father’s side of the family which had not been documented.

FTBookSo I started with the basics, limited names and information and a subscription to Ancestry.com.au and off I went.

All of these years later I have a rather full family history on both sides, many ancestors to be very proud of, living family members I never knew and many more mysteries yet to solve.

That brick wall you often hear referred too in research, I have come to know it well and way to often with several what seem unmovable brick walls blocking my progress to go further back in time. With my research not seemingly able to get me past these walls, I turned to a different method of ancestral research, the fascinating world of genetics.

DNAHaving ordered my test kit, I eagerly awaited its arrival so I could provide the sample and send it off for those magical results. Well, one test lead to another and another, my appetite for more information, deep, detailed information meant that I had to go through a particular order and process as one test enables the next and so on.

I knew before doing the DNA tests that my paternal ancestors left the UK and arrived in Australia in 1860, my maternal ancestors left the UK and arrived in Australia in 1911.

I knew of both lineages being linked to the Bristol Region, particularly Winterbourne and Stoke Gifford being the heartland of my Paternal Ancestors with detailed histories on my ancestors back to the 1600’s, but there it stops.

What I didn’t know was that both my paternal and maternal ancestors have been in the UK for many thousands of years before deciding to again take a long, challenging and risky journey to come to Australia [of their own will] and that on my maternal side, that I had an ancestor who had made headlines around the world on more than occasion, “Cheddar Man”, considered Britain’s oldest complete skeleton, whose stone-age remains were found in Cheddar Gorge and excavated in 1903.

So what’s my ancient ancestor story?

My [maternal] mtDNA revealed that I share a common female ancestor with England’s oldest complete human skeleton, discovered in 1903 in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, England. Testing has found that he was 23 years of age at the time of his violent death and that he lived an estimated 12,700 years ago.

GoughsCavewithCheddarManThe Cheddar Man was discovered “20 meters inside Gough’s cave, which is the largest of 100 caverns in Cheddar Gorge – Britain’s prime site for Paleolithic human remains. He had been buried alone in a chamber near the mouth of a deep cave” said Charles Arthur from England’s Independent Newspaper.

In 1996 Dr Brian Sykes tested the skeleton’s mtDNA and it confirmed this male belonged to the clan of Helena.

Sykes says in his book the Seven Daughters of Eve that “Helena’s clan has grown to become the most widespread and successful of the Seven Daughters of Eve. Her children have reached every shore, settled every forest and crossed every mountain range. Helena’s descendants can be found from the Alps in the South to the Scottish Highlands and the Norwegian fjords in the North, and as far east as the Urals and the Russian steppes”.

 “Helena lived twenty thousand years ago at a time when the last Ice Age was at its most severe. Glaciers and permanent ice fields covered all of Scandinavia and stretched as far south as the present-day cities of Berlin and Warsaw. The Baltic Sea was permanently frozen, as was the North Sea from Denmark to the Humber”.

“In the winter the Atlantic froze and there was pack ice as far south as Bordeaux”.

“Britain, still joined to continental Europe by dry land, was buried under ice down to what are now the English midlands, central Wales an southern Ireland”.

goughThis month I will visit Gough’s Cave in Cheddar Gorge and with thanks to 192.com for their help in contacting distant relatives who also share this genetic connection with the Cheddar Man.

What started as an interest in family history has become much more, not the least of which it has become a method of rejuvenation and has enabled me to become a more authentic leader.

Do you know who your ancestors are?

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  1. 'He's one of us': modern neighbours welcome Cheddar Man | Science | Android Lover
  2. 'He's one of us': modern neighbours welcome Cheddar Man - UK News
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