“Butherus? That’s an odd name. What are its origins?”
I get asked that a lot. There’s not a lot of us Butheruses here in America.
The origins of my family name from my father’s side are relatively easy to trace. Butherus is an orthodox Jewish surname with origins in Western Russia. According to my own research, my Butherian ancestors emigrated from the Urals to America around the turn of the century as tensions in the area were rising on the verge of World War I.
After my great grandparents settled down in the American Midwest, my grandfather, William Butherus, met my grandmother, Margaret Whitley. Bill, the “Fat Man” as he was lovingly called, was a beast of a man, a boxer and football player, with jet black hair and distinctly Polish features. The Whitley family, one of the original founders of colonial America after coming over from England in the early 1700’s, was full of interesting characters including a frontiersman senator, William Whitley, who founded the first sanctioned horse track in the country and reportedly killed Tecumseh.
While tracing my family roots was fascinating, it could never really tell me who I was as a person. It didn’t explain why my hair was dirty blond with a hint of amber on top yet my eyebrows and beard were jet black.
My dad was adopted, so, genetically speaking, that lineage didn’t matter much.
My mother’s side didn’t help much to explain things. The Holmes’ side of the family was what she would commonly refer to as “slop-bucket Dutch,” with a random mix of German, Irish and Scottish. While that partially explains the reddish blond hair and height (myself and most of my uncles and cousins are well over 6-feet tall), it didn’t explain anything else. Why I had gaunt features, dark black eyes and olive-ish skin was a mystery.
The only thing I could tell from my genetics is that my kid looks exactly like me when I was his age.
I was given a chance to unravel some of that mystery thanks to GPS Origins. Using your collected DNA, they compare your sample against 36 analyzed genetic pools and over 800 reference populations.
According to the company:
As humans traversed the globe and colonized different continents, each group accumulated small differences in their DNA. Most of these differences or mutations occurred in the X-chromosome and autosomal chromosomes that are inherited from both parents and allows us to follow the particular journeys made by each human group.
Some genetic roads diverged, not meeting again until modern times, while others led back to one another as genetically distinct groups. The accumulations of mutations in people from different areas of the world are what allow us today to distinguish various groups from one another.
The process was simple, just swab the inside of your cheeks and place them inside their prepaid mailing envelope. The results came back in about two weeks. The genetic breakdown is given to you in percentages and each matching population,its origins, timeframe and migration patterns are explained.
My results were quite surprising. I’m 2 percent Eskimo!
According to the results, I am one-fifth Fennoscandian which fits in with what I already knew about my mother’s side of the family. This population is centered in the Scandinavian peninsula and the Baltics and according to the report, was the center of the vikings’ empire. I’m a viking, yo!
The second highest match is where things become muddled. According to the test, a little over 16 percent of my DNA matches up with the populations of southern France. This possibly unlocks some of the mystery of my father’s maternal side. Although he only briefly met his biological mother, he really had no clue as to her genetic ancestry. According to the report, this part of France “appears to share many common features in appearance with their Mediterranean neighbors” and is an amalgamation of several waves of immigrants.
This is reflected by the fact that, according to my genetics, I also have roots in the Basque (8.5%), Sardinia (8.3%) and Southeastern India, including Pakistan (7%), and traces of Northwest African, which includes Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria (3%). This might explain the darker-than-viking skintone, why I am able to grow an epic beard and also frequently get asked to go through additional screening when I go into airports and Disney World.
I have a 13 percent match with populations found in the Orkney Islands, which are located off the coast of Scotland and were originally a mix of Scots and Norse settlers. This fits into what I already knew about my mom’s side of the family.
The last major part of my genetic makeup was also probably the most pleasant surprise. Remember how I was telling you the Butherus name had its roots in Jewish regions of Russia? Turns out a good portion of my genes come from there as well. I was a 12 percent match for populations in Western Siberia in the Krasnoyarsk Krai region that stretches to Belarus and Poland with a a little bit of Tuvinian, or southern Siberia (5.5%), thrown in.
It was always sort of an inside family joke that my grandfather was secretly my dad’s biological father and that was how he came to adopt him. While the results don’t necessarily confirm that is the case, and, of course, we’ll never know for certain since anyone who would know the real answer have long since passed, it is interesting to know that at some point my genetic heritage and the lineage of the Butherus surname coincide.
Now when my kid gets a little older and wonders about where his ancestors came from, I’ll tell him he is a Butherus and he comes from a long line of Greco-Siberian Viking Highlander Eskimos.
This post was made possible by GPS Origins. No compensation, outside of testing services, was received for this post. All opinions are my own.