Academics consider the Pashtun to be an East Iranian people. Ironically for hundreds of years there have been claims with interesting evidence to support them that the Afghan Pashtun, a faction of today’s Taliban, are at least in part one of the ten lost tribes of Israel from more than 2700 years ago. Please see, for example: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/jan/17/israel-lost-tribes-pashtun After more than two decades of genealogical research I recently learned that I have 3.8% “Asia (South) – Pashtun-related” ancestry, according to the genealogical DNA-testing company LivingDNA. “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!” or descent from the Pashtun.

I deduce by the process of elimination that one of my maternal grandmother’s eight great grandparents may have been “South Asian.” The specific identity of any of Grandmother’s antecedents, an orphan born in 1882, are largely unknown to me. This ancestral DNA probably comes from an unknown great great great grandparent, about 1/(2 ^ 5) ≈ 3% of my genetic inheritance, probably on my mother’s mother’s side. Many of my mother’s relatives had unusually broad noses. The few surviving photographs of Grandmother reveal that she had what were to me slightly exotic facial features, including a broad nose. See, for example: https://www.flickr.com/photos/28384322@N05/29215996923/in/photostream/lightbox/ A Google-image search for Pashtun faces shows that the Pashtun do tend to have broad aboriginal noses.

Regardless of how many genetic markers on your chromosomes are tested by a company, if certain pieces of your DNA aren’t in one of their reference populations, their origin won’t be identified. E.g., if one of your recent ancestors were an extraterrestrial and if there is none of that particular species of extraterrestrial’s DNA in any of the company’s reference populations, your alien-hybrid nature will not be indicated in the test results. LivingDNA has 80 reference populations at present. Most other genealogical-DNA testing companies supposedly have about 40.

I think that the description “Pashtun-related” does not precisely equate to Pashtun ancestry per se. Living DNA also uses both the terms “Irish-related ancestry” and “Irish ancestry.” The former includes much of Scotland geographically. The latter does not. So the term “X-related” appears to include a wider geographic area than the term it refers to. The reference populations this company has for Asia (South) are Balochistan; Burusho; Indian subcontinent; Kalash; Pashtun; Sindh; and Southern Central Asia. 

There are very many ethnicities within the Indian subcontinent. Many ethnically mixed marriages, some polygamous, occurred between Europeans, especially the British, and the people of India in the 18th and 19th centuries. At some point in the past the Chinese also intermarried with the people of India. This contrasts markedly with the traditional tribal endogamy of the people of Afghanistan, including the Pashtun.

One of the “South Asia – Pashtun-related” possible ancestral areas indicated on a LivingDNA map is the southern border of Pakistan along the northwest border of the India. The ancestry maps indicate up to 10 generations back. But, of course, Pakistan did not exist as a country before 1947. Therefore, this area was a part of India in the 19th. century. The people of northwest India are more genetically admixtured with Europeans than those of other areas of India.

It’s far more probable historically that a European male would have married a South Asian female in the early 19th century, than vice versa. It’s also more likely that she would have been a female from what was then northern India, than an Afghan female of the Pashtun tribe. I conclude that my South Asian ancestor was probably a woman from northern India who married a Brit in the early 19th century. Maybe …

May-Tzu

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