Bunwell, Norfolk - ancestral parish

I took a little local bicycle ride today, along the extremes of my recorded maternal line - that which should carry my mt-DNA.  23andMe tested it as H6a1.  WeGene and mthap analyser both suggest H6a1a8.  I'm looking forward to see what Living DNA make of it.  The haplogroup, based on current evidence, most likely originated on the Pontic and Caspian Steppes, before spreading into Western Europe during the Early Bronze Age.  However, on documentary record, I've traced it back to Generation 9 - my maternal G.G.G.G.G.G Grandmother, Susannah Briting (Brighten, Brighton) who married my ancestor John Hardyman (Hardiment, Hardimend, Hardiman), in the Norfolk parish of Bunwell in 1747.  According to the Bunwell Parish Registers, between 1748 and 1754, John and Susannah had four children baptised at the local church of Bunwell St Michael & Angels: John, Martha, Elizabeth, and Thomas Hardyman.  My G.G.G.G.G Grandmother Elizabeth Hardyman, went on to marry my ancestor Robert Page at nearby Wymondham in 1779, and continued my maternal line down to my Mother.

Bunwell, Norfolk, East Anglia

Bunwell is a parish of scattered settlement and hamlets, located above the Tas Valley, on the high boulder-clay soils of South Norfolk.  These heavy soils encouraged a pattern of dispersed settlement during the Late Medieval, with occupation often taking place along the edges of common land.  This could suggest limited manorial control.

I took this photo of the local landscape.  Large medieval open fields were divided into smaller enclosed fields during the 17th to 19th centuries.  These small parceled and enclosed fields were then opened up again into larger fields, with the removal of many hedgerows, during the 20th century.  Main land uses today are arable agriculture - modern crops include sugar beet, wheat, oil seed rape, etc.

Counting the number of plant species within a designated length of hedgerow has been used as a dating process.  The number of species increasing across the centuries.

Vernacular tradition includes many classic South Norfolk farmhouses, of which the following example is a striking example:

The owner has been renovating it from many years, having inherited it from his father.  Aside from the chimney (which was replaced following a lightening strike), the newest sections of the house date to the 1740's.  The eldest have not been dated, but perhaps extend to the Late Medieval.

The Church building is of the Perpendicular tradition, and dates to circa the 1450's, although it was most likely built on the site of an earlier church.  It is dedicated to St Michael and All Angels.

It is very much still an active church.  A knitting club were busy at work on my visit.  The church warden also called in.  The locals told me that there were, or still are Hardiment and Britings living in the parish.  I had a look around the surrounding graves.

This headstone is a good example of 18th century headstones in East Anglia.  Sadly, not one of my known ancestors.  Note the extra information Late of Starston.

I didn't spot any Britings, but I did find a cluster of Hardyman graves, including this example:

Not one of my direct ancestors, but most likely, a cousin.

My mtDNA ancestor Elizabeth, moved away from Bunwell, marrying nearby at Wymondham. From there, my mtDNA line moved through other nearby villages, including Bestthorpe.  Another generation on, it made an unusual leap (my Norfolk ancestors rarely moved far) to the opposite side of Norwich, to the parish of Rackheath in Broadland.  It then moved further East, to the parishes of Tunstall and Reedham.  On to Hassingham and my mother carried it back west to the Norwich area. We've ironically both  carried it back to the Wymondham area.


Living DNA Kit

Well, the kit arrived in good time!  Living DNA only just announced yesterday afternoon, on their Facebook Page, that the first batch of kits were ready for despatch - and it was here in Norfolk this morning!

Unfortunately, I can't activate it until the service goes live on Friday midday.  So I've got to wait a few days.  Ugh.  I also notice that the return address for the completed sample, is back to their base in Frome, Somerset.  So I'm guessing that they'll pile them up until they ship them to the lab in Denmark.  Must be patient!

A new test - LivingDNA test for Ancestry

You might think that following my recent posts, that I've lost all faith in DNA testing for Ancestry.  Not at all.  I just object when people take the analysis results of autosomal DNA tests for ancestry, as infallible truths.  They are clearly not.

So far this year, I have commissioned two 23andMe tests, and three FT-DNA tests, a FullGenomes analysis, and a YFull analysis.  I have also used free analysis at WeGene and DNA.land, and have run three raw files on GEDmatch calculators.  You'd might also think that I've done enough testing for one year!  I thought that as well.  Then a new service just entered the market.

Living DNA Ancestry attracted my commission on two particular points.  1) it has an incredible British reference, that promises to break ancestry composition into 30 British regions - in addition to global analysis.  If it works, then this is a must for people with significant British ancestry.  2) it uses the latest cutting edge test chip.  The latest Illumina chip based on Global Screen Array (GSA).  In addition, it uses a European based lab (Denmark), it tests Y-DNA, mtDNA, and autosomes.  It tests more SNPs on all three counts, than other current chips used by competitors offering autosomal plus tests.  Raw files for the test results will be available for download.

The British Reference

Living DNA will be using a British reference broken down into an incredible 30 regions, across England, Scotland, Wales, Orkney, and Northern Ireland.  The reference uses the much heralded POBI (Peopling of the British Isles 2015) data set.  This project collected 4,500 blood samples from people that could claim four grandparents in the same area, from across the regions of Britain.

A little about the POBI project below:

The British reference does not include the Republic of Ireland.  However, LivingDNA are confident that they have collected a good global reference, and I understand, that they are seeking a similar quality Irish data-set for the future.  

In comparison, other providers of DNA tests for ancestry, only reference to Britain, or the British Isles & Ireland, as a single reference point.  And as can be seen by my previous posts, with limited success.

They also hope to provide imports for formats of raw file from other test companies in the future.  LivingDNA do not themselves currently offer relative matching, or health information.  Their service is for now, primarily for ancestry.

The Chip

They will be using a custom version of the latest Illumina chip technology, the Global Screen Array (GSA).  It is encoded with:

650,000 autosomal DNA SNPs

20,000 Y-DNA SNPs

4,000 MT-DNA SNPs.

In comparison for example, the 23andMe V4 chip scans for:

577,000 atDNA SNPs

2,329 Y-DNA SNPs

3,100 MT-DNA SNPs.

I hope that LivingDNA will also use up-to-date haplogroup nomenclature and information.  23andMe with their V4 chip still use very dated 2009 nomenclature.

So, let's see if this new service is any improvement to my results, compared with the hit and miss of 23andMe, and Family Tree DNA (FT-DNA).  Will they be able to identify and locate my English roots successfully?  What will the improved chip make of my haplogroups?

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 Southern European DNA enigma. Option 2. The DNA is Ancient.

The above photograph taken by me, of Neolithic skulls from the Tomb of the Sea Eagles, Orkney.

I'm not the only English person reporting "Southern European" on their Autosomal DNA for Ancestry test results.  I've noticed that on 23andMe, for example, that English often report these strange low percentages of "Southern European" in their ancestry composition results.

There may be something odd about the ancient ancestry of the English, that we do not yet know.  Others have also pointed out that in ancient admixture calculators, that the English receive lower percentages of ANE (Ancient North Eurasian) than do the Irish, Scottish, or other nearby neighbours.  POBI (People of the British Isles 2015) suggested a unknown immigration into Southern Britain during Late Prehistory perhaps from the area that is now France.

Some point to perhaps, more Neolithic survival in lowland Britain, relating perhaps to Sardinian patterns.  Others suggest immigration from Southern Europe and elsewhere during 360 years of Roman occupation.

Option 2 is a possibility - perhaps these is something about English ancestry that we do not yet know about, that confuses the algorithms of commercial DNA companies, when trying to identify our more recent ancestry.

The Southern European DNA enigma. Option 1. The DNA Analysis is true

My great grandfather Fred Smith, and my great Uncle Lenny.

Option 1.  The DNA Analysis for Ancestry is true

This option supports the commercial DNA for ancestry companies claim, that I have Southern European ancestry.  For this to be the case, my Southern European ancestors must have either a) been hidden in the gaps, the missing ancestors.  b) be NPE (non parental events - biological ancestors that are contrary to recorded ancestors.  Usually male). c) predate my genealogical record over the past 360 years or d) my recorded genealogy is faulty.  I have badly researched my ancestry and have made mistakes.

What gaps are there?  All of my generations are complete to and including my Generation 5.  I have all of the names of my 16 direct ancestors at that generation (great great grandparents).  All appear totally English, of English religious denominations.  Their surnames and location were: Brooker of London (previously Oxfordshire), Shawers of London, Baxter of Norfolk, Barber of Norfolk, Smith of Norfolk, Peach of Norfolk, Barber (again) of Norfolk, Ellis of Norfolk, Curtis of Norfolk, Rose of Norfolk, Key of Norfolk, Goffen of Norfolk, Tammas-Tovell of Norfolk, Lawn of Norfolk, Thacker of Norfolk, and Daynes of Norfolk.

I have photographs of three of them.

Everything looks utterly English - the majority East Anglian.

The gaps start to appear at Generation 6 (G.G.G Grandparents)  Three missing male ancestors - all missing fathers of illegitimate births.  29 out of 32 direct ancestors recorded though.  All appear English again:  

Brooker of Oxfordshire, Edney of Oxfordshire, Shawers of London, Durran of London (previously Oxfordshire), Baxter of Norfolk, Barber of Norfolk, Smith of Norfolk, Hewitt of Norfolk, Peach of Lincolnshire, Riches of Norfolk, Barber of Norfolk, Ellis of Norfolk, Goodram of Norfolk, Curtis of Norfolk, Larke of Norfolk, Rose of Norfolk, Barker of Norfolk, Key of Norfolk, Waters of Norfolk, Goffen of Norfolk, Nichols of Norfolk, Tovell of Norfolk, Tammas of Norfolk, Lawn of Norfolk, Springall of Norfolk, Thacker of Norfolk, Daynes of Norfolk, Quantrell of Norfolk.  Oh, and a "Mary Ann" of Norfolk.

Again, all English, English religious denominations.  Mainly rural working class East Anglian.  No sign of any foreigners.

The record does start to really fall away at Generation 8.  From then on, it's a minority of lines recorded, stretching back to the 1680's.  However, at no where on my record of 207 direct ancestors, do I see anything that looks remotely non-English, never mind Southern European.  No sign of any Catholicism anywhere.

Let's just consider percentages of DNA though.

Each grandparent gives me 25% on average.

Generation 3 (grandparent) 12.5%

Generation 4 (great grandparent) 6%

Generation 5 (great great grandparent) 3%

Generation 6 (G.G.G grandparent) 1.5%

Beyond then genetic recombination starts to really kick in, and you may have zero DNA from any particular ancestral lineage.  It get's washed out.  Only if it comes down from a number of lines is admixture highly likely to survive further back.

23andMe (V4 AC in spec after phasing with one parent) claims that both of my parents had 2% Southern European DNA.  That takes it back to around MY Generation 6 or 7.  Sure, I'm missing 9% of Generation 6, and 20% of Generation 7.  My Southern European ancestors could have admixed then.  But what are the chances of it happening on both sides?  Possible, yes.  I think unlikely though.  No Southern European names or religions passed down.  When was this? Around 1780 to 1820.  Okay, if I want to piece national history into it, how about The Peninsular Wars (1807-1814)?  The Royal Norfolk Regiment took an active part in that campaign.  Could I have (presumably male) ancestors through both of my parents, that brought back Portuguese wives?  It is a possibility.  I'll acknowledge that.  But am I weaving history in order to make it fit the DNA analysis?

FT-DNA (FF My Origins) claims that I have 32% "Southern European" ancestry.  No sign of it in family history or photography.  Too much likeness of recorded fathers.  Okay, maybe it goes further back, but on multiple lines?  I think that we are pushing this one.  What is the chance of so many Southern Europeans given my above recorded or known English ancestry.  It couldn't have happened.

DNA.land gives me 19% Southern European, including 13% Balkan.  The same problem as the FT-DNA analysis.  It just doesn't wash.  It cannot fit.

Therefore I conclude:

  1. FT-DNA and DNA.land claims of my Southern European percentages cannot realistically be explained by gaps or missing ancestors.
  2. 23andMe claims of 2% Southern European could be explained by the missing gaps - just!  But would need quite a coincidence to be on both sides, just in those gaps.

That pretty much covers it for gaps, NPE's, etc.  If any Southern European on the other hand, predates my genealogical record, then it would need to be on multiple lines, and to have lost all sign of Southern European surnames, religions, and traditions.  I haven't seen any history of a mass Southern European migration to England 600 - 400 years ago.

Revisiting Southern European for Ancestry

This photo of A Capela dos Ossos (the bone chapel) in Évora, Portugal.  Taken by myself.

First, a recap

I'm English by ethnicity, birth, upbringing, known family history, and by record.  That record, I've researched on and off for more than 25 years, primarily in record offices, but in more recent years also online.  On my personal database I presently have 207 direct ancestors recorded.  All lived in Southern England, with the majority in East Anglia.  All appear to have English surnames.  All recorded religious denominations, English.  The majority were rural working class.  I have a typical English ethnicity and phenotype.  My recorded genealogy stretches back at the furthest to the 1680's.

I'd expect some admixture in there.  I know from my Y-DNA that I have Asian admixture from between 500 and 1,800 years ago on my paternal lineage.  Surely some Hugeonauts, Strangers, Romany, or others at some point.  However, a rare and single event on one line of ancestry doesn't hang around very long in autosomal DNA.  It can be washed out very quickly by genetic recombination - as my Asian, as detected by my Y-DNA, has been.  You should only really see significant traces of admixture, when it is either recent (within the past few hundred years at most), or entered on multiple lines of ancestry.

Therefore, I'd have expected a commercial Autosomal DNA test for ancestry to come fairly close to 100% for British, or even English.  But instead, so far, I've received:

From 23andMe Ancestry Composition in Speculative mode, before any phasing with mother alone:

32% British & Irish
27% French & German
7% Scandinavian
29% Broadly NW European
2% Broadly Southern European (including 0.5% Iberian)

and after phasing with one parent:

37% British & Irish  (23% from father, 14% from mother)
22% French & German  (12% from father, 10% from mother)
1% Scandinavian  (from mother alone)
36% Broadly NW European  (23% from father, 13% from mother)
2% Broadly Southern European (1% from father, 1% from mother)

From FTDNA Family Finder My Origins, I recently received:

36% British Isles
32% Southern European
26% Scandinavia
6% Eastern Europe

Wegene using my 23andMe raw data gives me:

81% French
19% British

DNA.land using my 23andMe raw data gives me:

77% Northwest European
19% South European broken into 13% Balkan and 6% Central/South European
2% Finnish
1% ambiguous West Eurasian.

GEDmatch Eurogenes K13 on Oracle using my FT-DNA raw data gives me as my nearest Genetic Distance:

Southeast English 3.75 GD

On Oracle 4 I get as my nearest single population Genetic Distance:

Southeast English 4.28 GD

Best three way on K13 Oracle 4 mix is:

50% Southeast_English +25% Spanish_Valencia +25% Swedish @ 1.86 GD

Eurogenes K13 does often suggest Iberian references for admixtures on my results further down the proposal list.  Still, thumbs up for Eurogenes K13!  It gets me as Southeast English correctly!

So... 23andMe claims that I have 2% Southern European and that it comes from both parents, although before phasing, it hinted at Iberian.  FT-DNA claims that I have a whopping 32% Southern European!  DNA.land claims that I'm 19% South European, but Balkan with some Italian, rather than Iberian!  Eurogenes K13 Oracle 4 suggests that if I do have admixture, that it most likely includes Iberian.  My family tree has no evidence of any Southern European people, names, or any Catholicism, etc.  Confusing or what?