Is construction in your DNA?

Is construction in your DNA?

© vitstudio/Adobe Stock

Jeff Howell’s Wise Howell column for Professional Builder continues, this time discussing DNA test results and professions.

Last month I asked if I was maybe destined to choose building as a profession. A more fashionable way of asking that would be to question whether building might be “in my DNA”?

Well, having just got my DNA test results back from the lab, and updated my family tree, I can answer that building certainly seems to have featured in my family history. I have great-uncles and great-great-uncles on the English side who were recorded as carpenters. Although nobody ever told me that – I only found out when I unearthed the census records and marriage certificates.

Mind you, carpentry was a common enough trade in the 18th and 19th centuries, so by the law of averages it is only to be expected that many of us will have ancestors who have sawn, planed and chiselled for a living.

What really impressed me about the DNA test was how accurately it located where some of my ancestors came from – a precise bull’s-eye on the town in Ireland where my grandfather was born. Oh yes, I have Irish DNA in me too – and a lot more than I was expecting. So maybe building really is in my blood!

The other interesting thing about DNA testing is that when you post your results on the genealogy websites, you can get contacted by other people who share your DNA. (Just make sure you un-tick the box that allows the FBI to put you on their crime database!)

So it was that I was messaged by several distant cousins, who I had no idea existed, and two of whom have sent me old photographs of our common ancestors. Quite remarkable.

The best picture is of a large family gathering on the occasion of my great-great-grandmother’s 80th birthday in 1899, which most probably includes my grandmother and great-grandmother as well, although I have no way of identifying which ones they are.

But the clothing is fascinating. The picture is in front of a Victorian house – the kind that most of us are used to working on. The house looks much the same as it will do today. But the clothes of its early inhabitants couldn’t be more different. The women are in long dresses and bonnets. The men are wearing flat caps or straw boaters. On a warm summer’s day, every single man and boy is wearing a necktie.

Were there any carpenters in this picture? Quite likely. Everyone would have dressed up for the birthday bash, for sure. But there are plenty of old photos of building workers wearing jackets and ties, too. The “Gentleman Bricklayer” might have taken off his jacket to work, but never his tie!

Fashions change, but the houses remain the same. And construction and building is definitely in my DNA.

If you have any building or tradespeople questions, E-mail Jeff via his website

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