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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree January 2019 > boundaries & borders of the British Isles

boundaries & borders of the British Isles

As the UK heads towards Brexit, Chris Paton looks at the changing nature of the borders within the British Isles…

Exploring the

Above: A map of Britain with Anglo- Saxon era rulers and kingdoms

To say that we are living in astonishing times is perhaps the understatement of the 21st century so far. In 2014, Scotland very nearly seceded from the United Kingdom after three centuries of membership, whilst the United Kingdom itself will soon be leaving the European Union.

Whatever the perceived rights and wrongs of such developments, they do flag up one key issue that every one of us will have questioned at one stage or another – and that is the nature of our identity.

Within Britain and Ireland are a range of complex identities, and we can relate to one or many at the same time, whether that be English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish, Northern Irish, British or European, or more locally as a Geordie, a Scouser, a Glaswegian, or any other number of possibilities.

Today my own self-defined identity is a complicated mix of being Irish, Northern Irish, Scottish and European, and one which is flexible enough for me to hold two passports, from both Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Despite how we may view our current identity, or how others may seek to define us, our ancestors had equally complex issues of identity to contend with, living in contemporary landscapes and societies which regularly changed their borders.

Where would our ancestors have thought they were from?

A thousand years ago, they would not have recognised Britain or Ireland as it is structured today, with the evolution of the two islands over the last millenium affected by a number of factors, including invasion, religion, and imperial ambition.

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Kick-start your research with the January issue of Family Tree - packed with ideas to help you plan for a great year of family history and inspire you to new discoveries. Get the latest! Our crop of experts talk about upcoming and breakthrough projects they're looking forward to in 2019. Plan your research month by month! Read a genealogist's diary of the past 12 months, and decide what you want to accomplish in the year to come. Hone your research skills! Join in with part 1 in the brand new series of the Family Tree Academy. Each month through the year to come the Academy will give you the chance to get better and understanding and using those all-important family history records. Read Family Tree and become the best genealogist you can be!