Discovering our Ancestors' Travels and Travails

Poland, the land of my ancestors, was invaded and claimed throughout history. In the 13th century, the Germanic Teutonic Knights conquered the lands inhabited by Old Prussians, the indigenous tribes that inhabited the region by the Baltic Sea.

Prussia by the Baltic Sea about 1525. My father’s ancestors came from Culmer Land.

Most famously, there were Tatars in the 13th century (the Mongol Invasion) and Swedes in the 17th century (the Swedish Deluge).

Although Poland and Lithuania were united in 1386 with the marriage of the Polish Queen Jadwiga and Lithuania’s Grand Duke Jogaila/ Władysław II Jagiełło, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was officially established in 1569.

Partitions of Poland

The Kingdom of Prussia, the Russian Empire, and Habsburg Austria took over pieces of what had been the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1772, 1793, and 1795, so when they came to America in the 1880s through the 1910s, my Polish ancestors and their relatives were identified as German, Russian, or Austrian.

Ireland and British Isles

Much of Europe was colonized by Celtic people in ancient times. My 2016 DNA ethnicity estimates from Ancestry, Family Tree DNA, and MyHeritage indicated that I had DNA in common with current day occupants of Ireland. While this reported Irish ancestry gave me a new reason to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day ☘️, further research showed many people of European descent have DNA connections with Ireland and the British Isles. Now some of it is considered background noise, and some DNA companies no longer report it in their newer ethnicity estimates.

Central Asia

My 2016 ethnicity estimate from Family Tree DNA indicated that 3% of my ancestry was from Central Asia. This is most likely a result of Mongol invasions in 1241, 1259, and 1260, or possibly it was from later incursions from the Crimean Tatars, descendants of the Mongols. My mother said she was told that in the old country, parents would look for almond shaped eyes in their children because of their Asian forebears.

2016 SMP Ethnicity Estimate, Family Tree DNA

Sweden

In the fall of 2020, my revised ethnicity estimate from Ancestry.com included Swedish DNA. This small amount of DNA in common with people from Sweden is likely an artifact from DNA shared in 1655–1660 when Sweden invaded Poland. The invaders took Polish treasures back to Sweden (many are still in Stockholm museums and private collections) and left DNA behind. It was called the Deluge (in Polish, potop szwedzki). Nobel prize winner Henryk Sienkiewicz wrote an historical novel about it called Potop, or The Deluge in English. When I visited Poland, I toured the ruins of the Krzyżtopór Castle located in the village of Ujazd, Iwaniska near Opatów. Although built approximately 1627-1647, Krzyżtopór was overrun by the Swedish invasion of 1655, a story told in James Michener’s historical novel, Poland.

September 2020 SMP Ethnicity Estimate, Ancestry DNA

Ancestry Communities

Ancestry was able to identify more specific places within Poland where they thought my family was likely from as Mazovia & Łódź, Lesser Poland, and Pomerania.

2020 SMP Ancestry Communities, marked with ancestral names and places of origin

My father’s Maciejewski, Lewandowski, Szczepański, and Kalinowski ancestors came from the historical region Chełmno Land, known in Polish as Ziemia Chełmińska, and in German as Culmer Land or Kulmerland. (See first map above.) Through its fascinating history, this area was considered part of the larger regions of Mazovia, Pomerania, or Prussia. Today it is in the Kujawsko-Pomorskie Voivodeship (Kujawy-Pomerania Province) of north-central Poland.

My mother’s Skrok, Kasprzyk, Kapuściński, and Witoń ancestors came from the area near Sandomierz in what is now Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship (Holy Cross Province). This was part of the region that was historically known as Małopolska, or Lesser Poland. (This is in contrast to the region called Wielkopolska, or Greater Poland.)

Sources

Comments on: "Adding Sweden to My DNA Ethnicity Mix" (1)

  1. This is fascinating! I knew so little of early Polish history. I really enjoyed seeing how you incorporated that with your DNA analysis!

    Like

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From Shepherds and Shoemakers

Sharing musings, insights, resources and strategies as I discover my family history.

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