… but, it was just four years…

Posted on January 18, 2022 by


There were more than a couple of times that I brought this up in the course of the blog.

The American Civil War was only four years long.

Sure, there are a string of events (many years) that are fascinating, both before and after the war, which led to, or were because of the war. How indelible is that mark on American memory? How does it grow less with each passing generation? Do issues suddenly balloon, periodically, having less to do with the complex history and people, and more about the people within the vacuum of today?

I present these merely as rhetorical questions. I’m really not looking for an answer. At least, not so much anymore.

There were (and still are) those who can approach the subject of the American Civil War with an open mind, and can discuss it without the blame and/or denial game. Those who are able to take a nuanced approach, appreciating the complexities in human nature… then, no less than now. Yet, in an open, online forum, what… is it 80%… 70%… of readers, who really don’t care about full-on intelligent discussion in a social media platform? Rather (at least it seems), many take what they want from different ideas in nuanced approaches, only to reinforce an existing, non-nuanced opinion… continuing to ignore the greater picture. At least that is my take on it. This is part of what paints the picture of my frustration in continuing work in that field. It’s simply no longer enjoyable to me. Maybe it will be again, some day, or maybe it won’t.

While I grappled with how or if I would continue work in the field, I also began engaging more in another study… Autosomal DNA…. Ancestry, 23andMe, Family Tree DNA, and others… trying to find how each company assigned ethnicities (based on their respective data pools) became a science experiment for me. After a while, I began to appreciate the fact that there are inconsistencies in the way in which different companies calculate ethnicity (not to mention, how some autosomal DNA seems to disappear in one generation and appear in the next).

By 2017/2018, I began dabbling in the science of Y DNA a little more (that DNA passed exclusively from father to son, over the generations, without impact by any maternal lines), and less on the autosomal DNA (it’s really about being more precise with respect to a surnamed line… but a much more expensive endeavor). After a trip to Ireland in the summer of 2019, something clicked, and I began making sense of the Y DNA. I could actually interpret what I was looking at, and over the past three years, I’ve become even more proficient, especially with the story of Y DNA in Ireland and the British Isles. This is also when I decided to look down a different road when it comes to history… at least my curiosity with history hadn’t vanished. Inevitably, this new focus in history not only dwarfs the story of the American Civil War, but also the history of the United States… and, to ground my work a little, I remain focused on following history as it relates to the path of my Y DNA.

No, this isn’t about the “oh, I’m ??% Irish, ??% Scots, etc, etc”. Really… what’s the benefit of limiting yourself to that? Flags and countries are really short-lived. Using DNA, even if you’re able to bridge that gap between the US and the “Old World”, has its limits, and frankly, the end product, depending on the person delivering it, can get kind of cheesy (the castles, the tartans, the coats of arms, etc. etc… blah. blah, blah). In my case, courtesy of the Y DNA, I’m able to identify my Moore line as originating in the Muirs of Glasgow, Ayrshire, Renfrewshire, Lanarkshire area. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve tied into a line of 16th century Muirs who were active in the Glasgow Merchants Guild. Pretty darn precise. Fortunately, because the haplogroups for my line are easily dated (approximate dates that each haplogroup in the sequence under a haplotree), I’m also able to identify to a significant grouping of Moore and Muir test-takers, and the emergence of the Muir (and variations) surname in SW Scotland, in the late 12th/early 13th century.

Sure, these folks were there for the dawning of the story of what we know as Scotland (and my people were there for 500+ years before looking to the new world across the Atlantic), but there’s a whole lot more. In fact, thanks to remains found on Rathlin Island just over a decade ago, I can actually up that by identifying to that locale… lands in SW Scotland and what is now Northern Ireland… straddling the North Channel and Irish Sea… to ca. 2000 BC. So, I know we were in the Isles by the Bronze Age. Further, the Y has my line in mainland Europe maybe as far back as 18,000 years, significantly predating the story of the people known as Israelites, much further to the south… err, south by southeast (that’s me being jusr a little salty over a comment made by someone who said to me “it all goes back to the Bible, doesn’t it?” Knowing the story behind DNA, I held myself in reserve and didn’t respond with something snarky. It’s difficult when you have an appreciation for the fact that there’s a whole lot to think about before the arrival of Christianity among the M269 people, and others).


Though it’s not clear whether it’s Rathlin 1, 2, or 3, the link above is a 3D profile of a skull and mandible of one of the three. Posted by Archaeology @ Queen’s University Belfast on Sketchfab

So, where does it end? I guess I decided to “drop anchor” in the Bronze Age, with occasional excursions into the Neolithic, and forward into the era of pre-Scotland kingdoms. What sucks (and, yet, is exciting) is making this trek into a field in which I’m green… again… and essentially putting aside (maybe only for a while… maybe longer) decades of study into the American Civil War. While I felt super confident in my understanding of things like Southern Unionism in the American Civil War, I’m a newby in this new field of study. At the very least, I’m armed with knowledge of process, and historiography. So, I like to think I’m a little more at the stronger end of the green side, rather than totally starting from scratch. It also helps to knowing I’ve become proficient enough with the Y DNA to attain the project administrator role in at least two Y DNA projects (so far).

So, with nearly 45 years+ of studying the Civil War, even I’m surprised to say that I’ve never been as uninterested in the subject as I am now… or maybe it’s simply the distance I feel from any desire to engage on the topic. That’s not to detract, however, from the significance of work in the Y DNA field as it impacts the larger study of history. There’s a lot to think about when you climb up places like Knocknarea, finally reaching the cairn at the top, which predates the Egyptian pyramids.

Looking up from Carrowmore Megalithic Site (County Sligo), toward Queen Maeve’s Grave (that stone mound you see at the top… just over 1,000 feet up). Summer of 2021.

Another thing that is a bummer is that my road trips to history aren’t as easy these days. Now, they require international flights… but they are a heck of a lot of fun once I touch down in the Old World.

Posted in: Uncategorized