Was our Y ancestor a Druze?

From an image published by Ashley Van Haeften and copied here under Creative Commons Licence Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Within hours of publishing my most recent hypothesis: Was our ancestor a Baloch Lascar, I receive news of an incredible rare event.  Someone else on the FTDNA Big Y tested to Y Haplogroup L L-SK1414 (L1b2c).  The sample belonged to a Druze genetics project, and was taken from a man from the Druze town of Zaroun (Matn District) in Lebanon.  The project administrator told me "his ancestors -at least for the past 1000 years- should have been either residents in Mount Lebanon or migrated as many other Druze families from the Idlib region in NW Syria (Jabal el Summaq Mountain)".

The Druze

The Druze are a Levant community, dispersed primarily through Syria, Lebanon, and Israel.  They consider themselves an Arabic culture, but they follow their own faith system, which according to Wikipedia: "The Druze faith is a monotheistic and Abrahamic religion based on the teachings of Hamza ibn-'Ali, al-Hakim, Plato, Aristotle, Socrates and Akhenaten.".


What makes the Druze particularly interesting to population geneticists, is that they stopped accepting converts one thousand years ago.  They marry within their community only.  Therefore they potentially represent a snapshot of the medieval Levant population, without more recent admixture.  A recent genetic study of the Druze confirms this history:

"The researchers also found that there is no evidence of new genes entering the Druze gene pool over the last 1,000 years. In other words, no additional groups from the outside joined this community. In addition, the researchers found evidence of genetic differences between Druze populations from different regions: Lebanon, the Golan Hights, the Upper Galilee and the Carmel Mountain. This strengthens the evidence that marriages take place only within each clan.

When they went further back in time, the researchers discovered another interesting finding. It came to light that, 500 years prior to the beginning of the Druze religion, around the 6th century AD and at the time of the birth of Islam, a genetic group began to take shape that formed the basis of the Druze community’s ancestors.

According to this study, the Druze genome is largely similar to the genome of other Arab populations in the Middle East. They also found a few genetic elements in the Druze genome that originated from Europe, Central and South Asia (the Iran region) and Africa.".

Source.

Studies have found that although a variety of both Y and mt haplogroups can be found in the Druze community, they appear to have been isolated for that time period.  So a haplotype found within the Druze, would have been in the region of North-West Syria and Lebanon, during the 11th Century AD.

Druze Clerics During the Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate era (late 19th Century AD). See page for author [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

How does this change my perspective on my Y origins into Europe?

L-SK1414 now looks more dispersed across Western Asia, from the Levant, to Pakistan.  That might mean that my medieval Y migrant from Asia to England didn't take a Lascar route from the Persian Gulf / Arabian Sea after all.  It could be that they traveled from the Levant along the Mediterranean, or even across Europe?  They may not have a Balochi connection - they could have been of many Asian ethnicities.  It's a good example of how easy it is to develop a hypothesis based on too little evidence.

As for the origins of L-SK1414, I'm now looking a little more south, and a little more central.  Favourite suggestion now is Tigris and Euphrates Valleys, and the Zagros Mountains, in Iraq and Iran.  L-SK1414 could have dispersed westwards to the Levant, and eastwards to Makran, SW Pakistan.

Here is the distribution of recorded Y haplotype L-SK1414 so far in Western Asia:

Note the centralised nature of the Iran / Iraq "Cradle of Civilisation" to L-SK1414.  Could our Y ancestors have passed through Ancient Mesopotamia?  Now there's an interesting thought!

My Family and Abraham Lincoln

Okay, honesty time.  I have (not yet) found any proven connection between myself and the 16th President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln.  The title is a little tongue in cheek, but it's my blog, and I have a serious dearth of famous ancestors in my recorded family tree.  What I have recently discovered though, is that the Norfolk village of Swanton Morley is an ancestral hot spot on my father's side, and that the paternal ancestors of Abraham Lincoln, did indeed also hail from that village.  Therefore it is not unreasonable to speculate, that at some point since the Medieval, we do indeed share ancestry with the 16th President of the USA.  Lincolns did indeed remain in the parish until modern times, along with my Harris and Barber ancestors.

Lets start with my Reginald John Brooker, paternal grandfather's pedigree:

My grandfather's parents separated while he was young, and he was brought up at Northall Green Farm by his maternal grandparents William and Harriet Baxter.  When he was a boy, he would play by hanging by his arms from the nearby railway bridge.  His older sister Gladys would sometimes be allowed to visit.  She remembered happy times and yellow flowers on that farm.  Northall Green Farm is technically in (East) Dereham, but is actually located nearer to the village of Swanton Morley.  Many of his genes from his mother's side really had not travelled far.  He had some very old ancestral associations with his home - both in East Dereham, and in Swanton Morley.

Reginald as a boy in 1920.  He is on the second row from back, on our far left.  Standing, plain dark top, round spectacles.

His mother's side of the family also had an undesired association with the nearby Mitford & Launditch Union Workhouse at Gressenhall.  His grandparent's that reared him, had both been born in that workhouse.  They had both been born illegitimate of unmarried mothers.  However, I recently discovered that they both claimed to know and to name their biological father's on their marriage registration.  His grandparents married at the church in Swanton Morley.  As I was to discover, many of the bride's ancestors at least, had previously processed through the same building over the centuries.

Harriet (my great great grandmother) claimed at her wedding that a William Barker was her biological father.  He was from a Dereham family.  I'm not chasing up that line for now, instead, lets go up her mother's line.  Her mother was Harriet Barber, born 1826 in ... Swanton Morley.  Harriet disappears after the birth of her daughter.  Hopefully she went on well in life, perhaps married and changed surname.  In 1847, she would have had to wear a yellow jacket of shame in Gressenhall Workhouse.

Harriet's father in turn had also been born illegitimate - a feature of incredible frequency in this particular line of our family tree.  What prompted such illegitimacy?  Was it poverty?  He (my G.G.G Grandfather), was born in Swanton Morley in 1803, the baseborn son of Sarah Barber.  His name was James Alderton Barber.  In adult life, he tolled as a farm labourer in the Swanton area.  

His mother actually had no less than six children born in the village of Swanton Morley between 1803 and 1818, whilst somehow avoiding marriage!  Neither do they all appear to have had the same father.  a Mr Alderton may have fathered two including our ancestor.  A Mr Sissons at least one other (a common custom in illegitimacy was to give the biological father's surname as a "middle" name).  Maybe I should try to chase up and eliminate which local Mr Alderton was likely to be our ancestor, but such trails are tenuous.  I really don't know how she survived in this early 19th Century rural community.  I sniff a fantastic story, if only I could dig it up.

However, lets go back down to her son, James Alderton Barber of Swanton Morley.  He married at least three times.  Perhaps making up for his mother.  His second marriage in 1825 was at Swanton Morley church to our ancestor Jemima Harris.  

James and Jemima Barber were to go on to have no less than eight children baptised at Swanton Morley Church between 1826 and 1842.  Jemima herself, my G.G.G Grandmother, was born ... you guessed it, illegitimately ... the daughter of Elizabeth Harris of Swanton Morley.  I really find it fascinating, the level of illegitimacy on this line.  A local socio-economic history would be very interesting.  This family is full of mothers, rather than fathers.  They may have been strong and independent.  Or they may have been victims.

G.G.G.G Grandmother Elizabeth Harris herself was baptised in that same church in Swanton Morley in 1768.  Her parents had narrowly avoided yet an earlier illegitimacy event themselves by marrying a few months earlier - at Swanton Morley of course, in 1767.  They were Solomon Harris and Elizabeth Bradfield.  We're going back now aren't we.  Swanton Morley is starting to feel as one of our many genealogical homes.  Hey, I still live only around 15 miles away from there today.

Here she is today.  All Saints Church, Swanton Morley, Norfolk.

I only know of two children of Solomon and Elizabeth Harris.  Our ancestor Elizabeth, and her sister Martha.  I hope their parents had a successful life.  Back then, life was far more precarious than it is today.  Okay let us step back another few generations.  Elizabeth was baptised in nearby East Dereham in 1745.  The daughter of an Allen and Rachel Bradfield.  What great names!  As for Solomon, he turns out to be a Solomon Junior.  He was the son of Solomon Harris and a Mary Aimes? of Swanton Morley.  Solomon Senior married Mary at Swanton Morley in 1725.  I'm not sure of her maiden name.  The hand ascribed registers are so poor - Aitkjens?  I've gone for Aimes.  They had at least three children baptised at All Saints, Swanton Morley between 1725 and 1736.

The view today from Swanton Morley Church.

Solomon (senior) was himself baptised at this same church in 1702.  He was the son of my G.G.G.G.G.G Grandparents Francis Harris and Thomasin Sniss?.  They were married at Swanton Morley in 1701.  Francis must have been pushing it a little, as it appears that he had married a Susan Thirston in Swanton Morley in 1682.  He was recorded as a wiidower at the marriage to our ancestor Thomasin.

Francis himself?  I can see earlier Harris's in the Swanton Morley registers - but just when I think that they just might record Francis's baptism - they fade and blur.  So I can speculate - but not link. They were in the Swanton Morley area at the same time, at least for a few centuries, as Abraham Lincoln's ancestors.  Hey - there are those undeclared paternities.  I don't want to spread rumours.  But did our family play a part in the making of the USA?

The Southern European DNA enigma. Option 3. Autosomal DNA Analysis does not work

Here I'm considering the third option to my enigma.  My known ancestry is 100% English.  However, autosomal DNA tests for Ancestry, by commercial companies, and by third party analysis, suggest that I have a mixture of European ancestries, including varying percentages of Southern European.  I'm trying to best explain this phenomena.  In previous posts, I considered 1) that my paper record is incomplete, or biologically incorrect.  2) that something ancient is picked up in analysis of present day English testers - that maybe reflect shared algorithms with ancient admixture, perhaps prehistoric, or Roman.

Now in this post, I consider the third option.  That commercial DNA companies exaggerate their claims to be able to differentiate to any successful degree, between different regions of Europe in my ancestry.  If this is indeed the case, it has significant repercussions for testers for example, in the USA, Canada, Australia, etc.  If they have a poor paper trail, and poorly known ancestry, maybe it's all too easy for them to regard such DNA tests for ancestry, as indisputable and accurate truths.

Commercial DNA companies for Ancestry, are under pressure to supply to market demands.  Their markets have been dominated particularly by USA customers.  Some of them seasoned genealogists with good quality paper trails.  Others, attracted by the easy option to know their ancestry before the, as 23andMe puts it, the Age of Migration before the past few centuries.  Instead of spending a lifetime chasing documents, they can simply send a DNA sample to a company, and know their roots.  People trust the science of DNA testing for ancestry.  That is the demand that commercial companies can cater for.

But what if their abilities to accurately detect ancestry from Autosomal DNA is exaggerated?

Lack of agreement between analysis.

As one evidence.  Test autosomal DNA with three different companies, and you will receive three different results.  That is well known in genetic genealogy circles.  Some apologists excuse it away by pointing to the different companies claims, to be focusing on different periods.  23andMe say that they zoom in on 500 years ago, by rejecting short chains.  Is it really, really possible yet, to be able to zoom in on one particular period?  I'm not convinced.  Is it even possible to securely locate all ancestry from the past 500 years?  I'd expect genetic recombination to wash away an awful lot of ancestral DNA long before that.  The truth is that beyond our great great grandparent's generation, there is less and less chance of us carrying any surviving DNA from any one particular ancestor! Especially from the autosomal DNA passed down on your father's side.  You might have a Balkan g.g.g.g grandfather, but chances are, there will be no evidence of their existence remaining in your autosomes.  His DNA, and all that belonged to his Balkan ancestry, will be lucky to survive the following 250 years, never mind 500 years.  My Y-DNA has strong evidence that I had an Asian ancestor on my paternal line, arrive in Southern England between 1,800 and 500 years ago.  However, nothing remains in my autosomal DNA analysis that suggests Asia.  Washed away.

Getting back to those three companies giving three different ancestries. My South European percentages have varied from 2% (with a hint at Iberia), to 19% (with a hint at Balkans), to FT-DNA's claim of 32%!  Eurogenes K13 hints at Iberia in it's admixture programs on GEDmatch.

Population References

One more thing.  Autosomal DNA tests for ancestry do not use ancient DNA references.  Not yet anyway.  They instead use present-day references, often from their own customer client bases, based on what ancestry they claim.  This is not necessarily the DNA that existed in past populations.  Populations and genes shuffle, genetic drift forms.  I recently read a report that FT-DNA Y data for NW Europe heavily biases to Irish ancestry.  Therefore, references from Americans of Irish and / or British descent, will bias to the West.  The quality of a reference is critical.

Is it all Bunk?

Am I saying that autosomal DNA testing for Ancestry is all a waste of time?  Actually no, not yet.  The tests DO find me to be pretty much 100% European.  That is a success.  Some tests even find me with a degree of confidence, to be NW European.  That is awesome.  However, beyond such regional level, should we be trusting such tests to be providing concrete results, infallible "truths" with a high degree of accuracy?  Shouldn't we be cautious, and regard such speculations as just that - speculations, to be assessed by other forms of evidence?  Some of my ancestors might have lived in Southern Europe.  Maybe Option 1 was correct - one of my Norfolk ancestors brought a Portuguese wife home from the Peninsular Wars.  Perhaps.  Maybe Option 2 was correct - the patterns that DNA companies pick up as Southern European, are ancient, related to Neolithic, Iron Age, or Roman admixture from the South, or sharing ancient ancestry with Southern Europeans.  Maybe.

I'm not at all disenchanted with DNA testing for ancestry though.  I've commissioned five so far this year, including three autosomal DNA tests.  This leads me to my most recent commission.  Perhaps this one will convince me more.  It's a very new test.  I'll post on that next.



The Chandler-Brooker Y haplogroup L1b (L-M317)

Link to STR data for Southern English L M20 (Brooker / Chandler)

My Family Tree DNA Y111 STR test results are in.  Only yesterday, I predicted that ftDNA kit number 29369 could be of particular interest.  That prediction has now been proven correct.  Here is what I have learned since yesterday.

The 12 marker STR kit belonged to a descendant of a Thomas Chandler, that lived 1728 to 1782 at Basingstoke, Hampshire.  Although only 12 markers - it proved a perfect match for my first 12.  100%.  Family Tree DNA rated it's genetic distance as zero.

Basingstoke, Hampshire by modern road is only 32 miles (51 km) from Long Wittenham, Berkshire (now Oxon), where my surname ancestor, John Brooker lived, at the same time.  Based on the limitation of a 12 marker comparison, FTDNA give 71% confidence to the testers sharing a common Y ancestor within 12 generations, and 91% confidence of us sharing a common Y ancestor within 24 generations.  I'd say that suggests that myself and the present day descendant of Thomas Chandler, shared a common Y ancestral lineage until between circa 1500 and 1700.

So most likely, between the 16th and 17th centuries inclusive, the Y chromosome moved between two surnames, what we call an NPE (non parental event).  Usually either illegitimacy, where the Y-DNA detached from the surname of the biological father, or simply, the biological father of an ancestor, was not the husband of their mother.  This event most probably occurred in England, somewhere in the Hampshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire area.  Both my Brooker lineage record, and the Chandler record, merge somewhere in that area.

It gets better.  Searches on FT-DNA, ySearch, and an email trail, revealed more Chandler Y cousins with an L haplogroup. All together, I have today found two 12 marker STR tests, that match my first 12 markers perfectly, with a prediction of zero genetic distance.  I have found another 12 marker with  slight difference, and a genetic distance of 1.  I have found a 37 marker test with some differences, but that still gives a genetic distance of 3.  A comparison with the Y37 test result, predicts 78% confidence of sharing a most recent common ancestor with me within 12 generations, and a 99% confidence of us sharing common Y descent within 24 generations.  This correlates quite nicely with the two perfect 12 marker testers.  All four testers are descended on the paternal line from Chandlers in the Basingstoke area.

The Chandlers of Basingstoke

The FT-DNA Chandler Surname Project is very well managed through the Chandler Family Association.  The three Y12 test kits, that hail from a Basingstoke ancestor, and have proven to belong to the exclusive L M20 Y-DNA haplogroup, have been clustered together as Chandler Group 10.  If our surname was Chandler, rather than Brooker, my Y111 results would fit perfectly into this cluster.  This is because we shared a common paternal lineage, until between 500 and 320 years ago.

Origins of the Chandler-Brooker L1b Y haplogroup

That one has still to be answered.  I'll be consulting others, the Y haplogroup L project administrator, and looking forward to my Big Y test, which is scheduled to take place soon.  However, judging by how very few L-M317 Y haplogroup carriers have so far been recorded in the British Isles, or in North West Europe; I'd dare to propose that the common paternal ancestor of both lines, most likely had not been in England for very long.  Perhaps they could for have example, have carried the Y-DNA here as a 16th or 17th century protestant refugee?  Maybe not, they could have equally been a merchant, an artisan, a servant, a mercenary, or have arrived in another capacity - if indeed they did arrive here that recently.  There is no indication in neither the Brooker or Chandler surname of anything but a medieval English origin (unless originally Bruche, or Chandelier?).

If the common ancestor did arrive that late, where did he come from?  What modern population elsewhere most resembles his Y-DNA?  Hopefully, the Big Y test will help to answer that.  Meanwhile my untrained eyes see correlations within many of the STR markers of people that descend from the Pontic Greek community, that once lived in Eastern Anatolia, and around the Black Sea area of Western Asia.  Of course, the Y-DNA might not have been carried to Southern England from such a homeland within one generation.  It could have been?  There is no sign of any West Asian, Balkan, or Caucasus ancestry within my autosomal DNA.  However, even six to eight generations ago - that could be washed out through recombination - leaving only the Y-DNA to tell what would have otherwise remained a lost untold story.  However, it could have moved across via a number of generations.  It will be worth looking out for any evidence of this on results across the Continent.

See also my earlier posts: