Woodley; a strange name. It’s funny, you never put much stock into your last name, or “SURNAME.” It’s just a name that follows you through your years, and never holds that much consequence. Sadly, for people that have a last name that begins with a letter near the tail end of the alphabet, you run the risk of being picked last sometimes. Of course you have your family lineage. Then your customs, beliefs, core values, and maybe even legends that can be linked to your last name. Then one day, I decided to figure out where my last name, and/or my DNA as a WOODLEY comes from. If you’re one of those people that can trace their DNA back to infinity, and have a full family tree that looks more like a rainforest–Peachy. I am not, (well I wasn’t) so let’s talk some shit.
When I was just a young fellow, I had heard a rumor that our last name was somehow linked to VIKINGS. However, like I mentioned before, it holds little merit when you’re seven, and having good ole fashion rock fights with your brothers outside. It wasn’t until recently that I decided to chase the rabbit down the hole, and really embark on a journey, in regards to where my blood comes from. Let me first state my gratitude for the internet. Sweet mother of pearl; I dread the idea of researching with actual paper/books, and talking to…You know…Actual people…Weird. Jokes aside, I found way more than I bargained for. A key note to remember, is that the entirety of the internet is not on the FIRST PAGE OF GOOGLE. Let that damn fancy piece of technology take you off the beaten path, you won’t regret it.
What really started my fire on this genealogy adventure was a “present” that my mother got me a few years ago. That present was the “Ancestry DNA” kit. I had a few preconceived notions going into it. My grandfather always believed very strongly that we were VERY ENGLISH, and that’s it. So one would think my results would come back with a high percentage of “British Isles” DNA? The results were quite surprising.
Pretty cool eh? What I really found surprising was my absolute lack of “British DNA.” The Irish was surprising too, and I had my rumored “Viking” blood. My brothers did this as well, along with my mother. Their results were surprising (my mom was like, 50% Scandinavian.) All would seem fair and my journey was complete. I knew where my blood came from, as best as a non-geneticist could comprehend, and the sky was still blue. Only–I need to understand more. Why did my grandfather think we were “British?” More digging had to be done. I had a literal map to guide me, so it was time to crack my knuckles, and start stabbing my keyboard like I was Norman Bates.
It didn’t take long for my grandfather’s thesis on our British heritage to hold more than enough water. The Woodley name is easy enough to find in the British Isles to say the least. There’s a Woodley FC (soccer club) and a small town in Berkshire, England; called Woodley.
That is all fine and dandy, but it poses yet, another question. Why is it that I can trace my last name to Great Britain, but I share almost zero DNA with said region? (Play cliche suspense music) It took a bit more digging, and It ironically brought me back to the beginning; the Vikings.
You see, my grandfather wasn’t wrong when he said the Woodley name can be traced back to Great Britain, that much is certain, and let me just be clear about the next part of this writing—(This is all MY OWN PERSONAL HYPOTHESIS) If a geneticist or expert in family lineage wants to stand up and call me wrong; please do. Until then, grab my hand, because the next part gets pretty rad. When I looked at my DNA map the first thing that went through my mind was, “Where’s the correlation between these zones?” So like a venn-diagram, I pretty much traced where the circle zones overlapped, and it pointed towards northern Germany/Denmark. Neither of these countries were ever mentioned during family conversations. There had to be more to it. Before anyone takes the microphone, and says, “Dude, your DNA is a mix of your parents” or “DNA is random,” yes I realize this. I explained earlier my mother’s results yielded an almost 50% link to Scandinavia, and we have to follow that lead.
By definition Scandinavia is described as, “A historical and cultural region in Northern Europe characterized by a common ethnocultural North Germanic heritage and mutually intelligible North Germanic languages.” North Germanic huh? Ok, so we’re onto something here. This would explain my “West Europe” and “Scandinavian” DNA, but lets keep going. (This is where it gets fun.) I’m not sure if anyone reading this has watched the show “VIKINGS” on the History Channel, but Ragnar (main character) is from Denmark. It is often overlooked in the history books, but the Danes were responsible for many settlements in ancient Europe. Ironically enough, one such place was (drum roll please) Devonshire, Great Britain. Where the Woodleys originated. The Danish Vikings settled and named Devonshire, and would go on to conquer many other locations, around the year 800AD. To make things in even more peculiar, remember my newly found “Irish DNA” mentioned earlier? Well–Take a wild guess who founded the capital Dublin? Yeah, the Danish Vikings–they called it “Duiblinn.”
So what does it all mean? Well, like I said before, this is my own hypothesis, and furthermore; my own personal DNA story. What is FACT though, is the name WOODLEY can be derived from Old English, meaning: A flat clearing. “Woodleys” were what the Vikings would camp in/near, after they docked their ships on the coast of the places they were exploring, in Great Britain. So to bring this puppy full circle let’s go over what what we’ve learned. The last name Woodley is derived from ancient Great Britain. The implications of that location may or may not connect someone with that last name to either ENGLISH DNA, or in my case, Viking/Scandinavian DNA. I’m guessing there were some cold and lonely nights back in the day, and some Viking raiders/farmers may have mingled with some local Britains. Again, this is partly conjecture on my part, but it’s a fun story, and who doesn’t like a good story? I am (we are?) a Viking…Hear me (us) roar!