Tas Valley - Local Day Trip

Another day off from work. I didn't want to go far today, the weather has turned pretty poor for photography and travel. So a couple of very close sites here in Norfolk. According to current genetic studies of the British Isles, the Roman period doesn't seem to have had any noticeable impact on the population genetics of the British Isles. I think that they are missing something.

Venta Icenorum

First of all, on the Roman front, I visited the site of the Roman town Venta Icenorum, at Caister St Edmund. A display at the site displays this geophysical display, and the following relief:

Entering the field, this is what it looks like:

Heritage groups have preserved the current site by protecting it from cultivation - hence the sheep. The town sat in the valley of a very small river called the Tas. The site is several miles to the south of it's medieval equivalent, Norwich. Questions are being asked, why was it here? The Romans of course were urban people, that controlled from towns, but why here? It was first laid out as a grand plan some decades after the local Boadiccan Rebellion. No sign of significant Iron Age on the site, but some suggestion of a nearby Roman military encampment.

The town has gone, and is best viewed with geophysical maps or by aerial reconnaissance photos. However, it's "defenses" or boundaries are still clearly visible.

The below is a nice feature. A clear perspex panel showing proposed building outlines over the field:

Years ago as I've said before here, I was a very keen voluntary field-walker, or as I'd have preferred "surface collection surveyor". So as I walk across the field, I can't help spotting Roman tile in the mole hills:

The area of Venta Icenorum is very rich in later Anglo-Saxon finds. They do seem to have been attracted to this site, even though the town had long been abandoned before they arrived from the Continent.

As is very common in both prehistoric, and Roman sites, a medieval church stands within the limits of the site. As a sign of continuity, as a scavenge of building material - but also in order to claim dominion over older beliefs, and a return to civilisation:

I hope that you enjoyed Caister St Edmunds. I still had some time to spare, so I decided to visit a site a few miles to the south in the same Norfolk river valley, that I hadn't visited before:

Tasburgh Enclosure

This one is an enigma. An enclosure in Norfolk. I always understood it as an Iron Age Hillfort. The word "hillfort" might not be appropriate in lowland Norfolk, especially as our iron Age enclosures were often in lowland river valleys. Norfolk has a long tradition of "doing different". Excavations have not found Iron Age finds! They have found some evidence of Anglo-Saxon activity, and an opposing hypothesis is that it was a prehistoric enclosure re-used during the wars with the Danes. My personal feeling is that it is late prehistoric, but wait and see - a sign that I found there today seems to suggest some fresh and local based communal research:

A local, rather mucky information board mapping the enclosure:

Outside the northern bank:

Once again, a medieval church sits inside the enclosure. This one, St Mary's, a classic Norfolk round tower job. I can also boast here, that this is one (there are many) of my own personal ancestral churches on my recorded ancestry. Two of my recorded direct ancestors married there in 1794:

I hope that someone out there enjoys my photo-reports.

DNA.land - raw file comparison

Comparing the ancestry results of two raw files from the same tester (myself) uploaded to DNA.land.

Paper trail and family history 100% SE English, mainly East Anglian. 249 direct ancestors named in documentary research.

23andMe result before phasing (spec mode):
100% European broken into
94% Northwestern Europe
3% Southern Europe
3% unassigned European

Broken down further to:
32% British & Irish
27% French & German
7% Scandinavian
29% Broadly NW European
0.5% Iberian
2.4% Broadly South European

23andMe result after phasing with one parent (spec mode):
100% European
96% Northwestern European
1.8% Southern European
2.2% Broadly European

Broken down further to:
37% British & Irish
22% French & German
1% Scandinavian
36% Broadly NW European
1.8% Broadly Southern European

FT-DNA Family Finder My Origins.
100% European

Broken down further to:
36% British Isles
32% Southern Europe
26% Scandinavia
6% Eastern Europe

Now I am comparing the two raw files for the same person, uploaded to, and analysed for ancestry, by DNA.land:

23andMe V4 raw file for myself on DNA.land:

100% West Eurasian.
77% North West European
19% South European (broken into 13% Balkan / 6.1% South/Central European
2.4% Finnish
1.3% Ambiguous

FT-DNA FF raw file for myself on DNA.land:
100% West Eurasian
75% North West European
25% Balkan

Just for more information:

My mother's 23andMe raw file on on DNA.land:
100% West Eurasian
80% North West European
10% South European (broken into 7.7% South/Central Europe / 2.4% Balkan)
6.4% Finnish
2.3% Sardinian
1.5% Ambiguous 


Phasing on 23andme suggested that I inherit (in spec mode) nearly 1% Southern European from each parent. That each of my very East Anglian parents had a Southern European ancestor within the past 300 - 500 years is highly unlikely, considering 1) the paper trail, and 2) local history in this rural area. Therefore I feel that this reflects much older background ancestry for the local SE English population. Ancient DNA calculators also predict that I have higher than average levels of ENF/EEF than other local populations such as the Irish and Scottish, and lower levels of ANE. This appears associated with my Southern European flavour that some tests suggest as a minority percentage. FT-DNA suggested 32% Southern European! Some commentators have suggested that this might indicate significant French admixture to the SE English population, perhaps during the Norman and Medieval periods, carrying a southern signal higher into lowland Britain. Earlier admixture into Lowland Britain from the south, is also possible during late prehistory and the Roman period.

DNA.land has been noted for a bias to predicting both Balkan, and Finnish ancestry for testers, and my results are no exception. I feel that as with all current autosomal DNA test/analysis for ancestry, that DNA.land has a way to go. As with the other predictors, it is very successful at recognising me as 100% European (although ironically my Y-DNA is Western Asian). It is fair at spotting me as NW European, but NOT as successful as 23andMe. Below that level, once again it falls down - but I feel that this is understandable, as most predictors fail down for anciently admixed populations such as the English. They are far more successful at spotting for example, Irish/Scottish. For the English, we tend to be ripped across different European populations. The Southern European element is a particular surprise - but all of the testers so far have been confused by this background signal. Dienekes has himself, suggested Southern European DNA coming into England with the Normans:


I'm starting to settle with this hypothesis, although I still have some interest in possible Southern European admixture earlier.

Finally... The two raw files for one person, have produced slightly different results. The FT-DNA raw file has I believe, more tested (but different?) SNPs than the 23andMe file. It would be interesting to know the differences. DNA.land, using the FT-DNA FF file, does not see Finnish, or South/Central European, but enhances the Balkan.

Long Wittenham - the ancestral home of our Brooker line.

St Mary Long Wittenham Berks - geographorguk - 331096jpg
St Mary's, Long Wittenham, Oxfordshire.  By John Salmon, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12512201

I'm ready to accept the connection.  I've talked to people with more expertise than me concerning the confusion over the ages of my couple on the census.  I've found the baptism on a transcription CD for Long Wittenham from Oxfordshire FHS.  It's perfect.  The cream on the cake though, is that I found someone else with a tree on Ancestry.com, that had already come to the exactly same conclusion.  Okay, I don't normally take much notice of trees on Ancestry.com, but this one appeared well researched, and I've both checked and added to the details on that tree.  Third time lucky.

G.G.G.G.G.G. Grandparent Generation

I can now go back to an ancestor named John Brooker, there's a few of them, so let's call him John Brooker I.  He might have been born somewhere in the Thames Valley, during the early 1720's.  He married a Mary, my G.G.G.G.G.G Grandmother Brooker.  They settled (if they didn't originate there) at Long Wittenham in Berkshire, near to the River Thames.  She gave him at least six children between 1749 and 1763:  Mary, Anne, John, Edward, Martha, and Sarah.

G.G.G.G.G Grandparent Generation

Their son, Edward Brooker (or Brucker), was our ancestor.  He was baptised at Long Wittenham on the 16th January 1757.  When Edward was 29 years old, he married local girl Elisabeth Gregory, on 24th October 1786, at Long Wittenham.  So you see, that photo above of the church of St Mary's there, is a part of the story.  Our 18th Century Brooker ancestors were baptised, and sometimes married there.  Some of them are also buried in that church yard.  Indeed, that was where Edward himself later ended up, when he was buried there 23rd September 1832, having died at the age of 75 years.

His wife Elisabeth had also been born at Long Wittenham, the daughter of a William and Anne Gregory.  She had been baptised at the above church on 15th November 1761.

Edward and Elisabeth Brooker appear to have lived in Long Wittenham all of their life.  They had five children baptised at St Mary's between 1789 and 1796: John, Dinah, James, Richard, and Joseph.

G.G.G.G Grandparent Generation

Our ancestor John Brooker II was baptised on 18th January 1789.  At the age of 25 on 31st October 1814, John married Elisabeth Seymore at the nearby market-town of Abingdon-on-Thames, in Berkshire.  Elisabeth was born circa 1797 at a village north of the Thames in Oxfordshire, that in later life on a census, she referred to as Drayton.  Most likely, this is the village of Drayton St Leonard.  It's only a mile or two across the river from Long Wittenham.

I should at this point explain why I sometimes refer to long Wittenham as in Berkshire, and at other times a in Oxfordshire.  Historically, it is a Berkshire parish, and is on the south side of the Thames.  However, in 1974, it was transferred to Oxfordshire County Council.

The couple moved, and they moved around twelve miles.  That chucked my attempts to trace them for a long time.  They moved to Rotherfield Peppard in South Oxfordshire, down river.  They turned up there on the 1841 census.  They must have moved soon after marriage, as their children were born in Oxfordshire.  John was employed as a labourer, most likely a farm worker.  Between 1815 and 1836, they had seven children: Frederick, Phoebe, John, Elizabeth,Mattew,Emma, and William Brooker.  Later in life, they moved to the next village of Rotherfield Greys.  It was there on the 1861 census, that I finally picked up their origins.  John died in 1867.

G.G.G Grandparent Generation

Our ancestor, John Brooker III was baptised at Rotherfield Peppard on 23rd April 1820.  In the 1841 census, he turns up in a house of multiple adults on Hamstead Farm in the next parish of Sonning Common.  Although technically north of the Thames, and in Oxfordshire, it actually belonged to a parish south of the river in Berkshire.  John was an agricultural labourer.

On the 1st February 1845, at nearby Shiplake in Oxfordshire, John married Mary Ann Edney.  They lived at times in both the South Oxfordshire parishes of Shiplake, and of Harpsden, both close to the town of Henley-on-Thames.  Between 1847 and 1870, Mary gave birth to at least ten children: Hannah, Charles, Arbina, Phoebe, Emma, Thomas, William, Henry, Alice, and Ellen Brooker.

Mary Ann Brooker herself, was the daughter of Thomas Edney, a thatcher at Shiplake, and his wife Hannah (nee Hedges).

John lived to a good age.  During the 1901 census, he was living with his eldest daughter, Hannah Belcher and her husband.  He was 81 years old, and working as a shepherd.  John finally passed away in 1912, at the age of 91 years.

G.G Grandparent Generation

Our ancestor Henry Brooker was baptised at Harpsden on 5th December 1863.  An early appearance as a young man on the 1881 census, lists him as a farm worker, at Harpsden Bottom Cottages.

Henry had itchy feet though.  He wanted to move right down the river, into London.  A few years later, on the 29th September 1883, Henry married Elizabeth Rosina Shawers, at Fulham, London.  Elisabeth was born at Haggerstone, London on 11th September 1858.  her father, Henry Shawers was a harrow weaver, but her mother Elisabeth (nee Durran) also hailed from Oxfordshire.  I've traced her ancestors to the area around Woodstock and Deddington.From Fulham, the couple next moved to Bethnal Green, and then to Deptford.  I only know of two children, born between 1884 and 1887.  Perhaps something prevented Elisabeth from carrying again.  Their children were: John Henry Brooker, and Elisabeth Rosina Brooker.

They later moved down river yet again, to Lewisham.  Henry worked mainly as a carter, driving a horse and cart in the East End of Victorian London.  I've long suspected that he may have worked on the docks.  However, by 1908, he was recorded as a store keeper.

The above photograph is of our great grandfather's sister, Elisabeth Rosina Brooker.

I don't yet know when or where Henry passed away.  However, I do know that Elisabeth spent her last days living with her son at Sidcup, Kent.  She was buried there on 2nd May 1939.

Great Grandparent Generation

Our Ancestor John Henry Brooker was born 25th June 1884 at Deptford, London.  However, the rest of the story - still needs to be written, or has already been written in other posts.

John Henry Brooker and his partner Mabel Tanner in 1933.

The Y chromosome.

I have so far been tested to have the Y haplogroup L-M317, or L1b if you prefer.  It means nothing, except that is incredibly rare and enigmatic sub clade, particularly in NW Europe.  It may mean that at some point, my paternal line lived in Eastern Anatolia, south of the Causacus, or near to the Black Sea.  I'm waiting for further testing, but it looks quite possible, that it is linked to the Pontic-Greek ethnicity that lived in that area.  I have no autosomal evidence of anything from that part of the world, so it is likely to have been in England or NW Europe for quite some time.  It might for example, have arrived here via the Roman Empire.

Why mention that now?  Because until it meets an NPE (non parental event), it should follow the surname line.  If I ever met another Y chromosome descendent of my Thames Valley Brookers - another person that has descended directly through a strictly father-to-son paternal line, I'd love to know if they've had their Y haplogroup predicted.

East Anglian Ancestry


The above map has been modified from an original copied from © OpenStreetMap contributors

I have plotted my ancestral places that are tagged in my Gramps genealogical GEDCOM database.  These Places represent events -births, baptisms, marriages, or residence, etc.  These Places  belong to my direct ancestors, although they may also include siblings of ancestors.  Overall, I have modified this map in order to illustrate the distribution of my East Anglian (almost entirely of the County of Norfolk, with a few over the border in Suffolk) ancestors over the past 350 years - as so far revealed by paper genealogical research.

The BLUE markers represent the places of my father's recorded ancestors.  The RED markers represent the places of my mother's recorded ancestors.  The more events recorded for any place, the larger the marker.  You can click on the image in order to see a full resolution image.

The RED markers include pretty much all events for my mother's ancestors, as presently recorded in my family history database.  She has no recorded ancestry from outside of Norfolk, for the past 350 years.  She has an incredibly strong Norfolk ancestry.  Particularly in the East of Norfolk.

The BLUE markers do not cover all of my father's recorded ancestors, as I have also detected ancestry for him in Oxfordshire, London, and possibly Lincolnshire.  These ancestors lived outside of the mapped area.

When my mother and father initially met each other in 1956, they believed that they came from quite different parts of Norfolk, from opposite sides of the City of Norwich, with my father moving from East Dereham to my mother's neighbourhood in the Hassingham area.  Yet this map suggests that over the past 350 years, some of their ancestors have lived much closer.  The chances of them both sharing common ancestry during the Medieval, or even more recently are good.

This might support the findings of the POBI (People of the British Isles) 2015 study, that not only emphasised the homogeneous nature of the English, but also suggested that the old Anglo-Saxon kingdoms could still be detected as localised gene pools to today.

I have previously created the below map, using red dappling to mark out the main zone of my mother's ancestry, onto a map of East Norfolk, as it would have appeared during the 5th Century AD, before sea levels fell, and drainage works created the more recent Norfolk coast:

My hypothesis is that my mother's ancestors clustered in an area of East Anglia, that would most likely have experienced an influx of North Sea immigration between the 4th and 11th centuries AD from Frisia, and perhaps Angeln and Denmark.

I also modified the below map from Wikimedia Commons.  Attribution is: By Nilfanion [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons.  This map, as the legend states, illustrates the distribution of my recorded direct ancestors (bother on my father's and mother's sides are in RED) across the wider area of England at a single generation level, based between 1756 to 1810.  It suggests a combined ancestry, concentrated in Norfolk, East Anglia, but with a few lineages in Wessex / Mercia.

Six Generation Ancestral Fan Chart

Its not going to get any more complete than that.  The only two missing ancestors were unrecorded fathers.  That should pretty much reflect the paper background to my autosomal DNA.  It also illustrates quite well, how a complete ancestry fans out, doubliing in number each generation.  Of course, over enough generations, it starts to reduce again, as common ancestors shared by more than one line, start to appear.  Hence the homogeneous nature for example, of the English.

It is also not a proportional representation of where my autosomal DNA comes from.  At meiosis, I recieve 50% of my DNA from my mother, and 50% from my father.  However, before that, randomness creeps in, along with chromosome exchange, so that it's quite possible that I have inherited no DNA at all from some of my G.G.G grandparents for example, while others may be over-represented in my DNA.

I created the Fan Chart using the Open Source Gramps genealogy database software.  I'm really enjoying that program.

I do wish that 23andMe would hurry up.  Thirty four days since sending my sample, and so far it's reached a queue for testing in an American lab.  Judging by the moans and groans on their forums, I might have to wait for a total of three months in order to see results.