Will ancestry DNA tests tell me my family origins?

I have taken several DNA tests for ancestry, including those provided by the FT-DNA, 23andMe, and Living DNA companies.  Unusual for a tester, I am actually of a single population, very local, well documented ancestry here in East Anglia, South-East England.  I'm not someone in the Americas or Australia, that might have very little clue what parts of the world that their ancestors lived in, previous to immigration.  I know my roots, I'm lucky.  I live them.  You might ask, why did I feel the need to test DNA for ancestry?  The answer is, curiosity, to test the documented evidence, fill the gaps, look for surprises, and in particular, to understand the longer term, to reach further back into my ancestry.

I have though, become a bit of a skeptic, even a critic, of autosomal DNA (auDNA) tests for ancestry.  They are the tests presented by the businesses in results called something like Ancestry, Family Ancestry, Origins, Family, Composition, etc.  Instead of testing the haplogroups on either the direct paternal (Y-DNA), or direct maternal (mtDNA), these tests scan the autosomal and X chromosomes.  That's good, because that is where all of the real business is, what makes you an individual.  However, it is subject to a phenomena that we call genetic recombination (the X chromosome is a little more complicated).  This means that every generation circa 50% of both parents DNA is randomly inherited from each parent.  I said randomly.  Each generation, that randomness chops up the inherited segments smaller, and moves them around.  After about seven or eight generations, the chances of inheriting any DNA from any particular ancestral line quickly diminishes.  It becomes washed out by genetic recombination.

Therefore, not only are the autosomes subject to a randomness, and genetic recombination - they are only useful for assessing family admixture only over the past three hundred years or so.  There is arguably, DNA that has been shared between populations much further back, that we call background population admixture.  It survived, because it entered many lines, for many families, following for example, a major ancient migration event.  If this phenomena is accepted - it can only cause more problems and confusion, because it can fool results into suggesting more recent family admixture - e.g. that a great grandparent in an American family must have been Scandinavian, when in fact many Scandinavians may have settled another part of Europe, and admixed with that ancestral population, more than one thousand years ago.

DNA businesses compare segments of auDNA, against those in a number of modern day reference populations or data sets from around the world.  They look for what segments are similar to these World populations, and then try to project, what percentages of your DNA is shared or similar to these other populations.  Therefore:

  1. Your results will depend on the quality and choice of geographic boundary, allocated to any reference population data set.  A number of distinct populations of different ancestry and ethnicity may exist with in them, and cross the boundaries into other data sets.  How well are the samples chosen? Do they include urban people (that tend to have more admixture and mobility than many rural people).  Do they include descendants of migrants that merely claim a certain ancestry previous to migration?What was the criteria for sample selection?
  2. Your results might be confused by background population admixture.
  3. You are testing against modern day populations, not those of your ancestors 300 - 500 years ago.  People may well have moved around since then.  In some parts of the World, they certainly have!

It is far truer to say that your auDNA test results reflect shared DNA with modern population data sets, rather than to claim descent from them.  For example, 10% Finnish simply means that you appear to share similar DNA with a number of people that were hopefully sampled in Finland (and hopefully not just claim Finnish ancestry) - not that 10% of your ancestors came from Finland.  That is, for the above reasons, presumptuous.  It might indeed suggest some Finnish ancestry, but this is where many people go wrong, it does not prove ancestry from anywhere.

Truth

This is my main quibble.  So many testers take their autosomal (for Family/Ancestry) DNA test results to be infallible truths.  They are NOT.  White papers do not make a test and analysis system perfect and proven as accurate.  Regarding something as Science does not make it unquestionable - quite the opposite.  The fact of the matter is, if you test with different companies, different siblings, add phasing, you receive different ancestry results.  Therefore which result is true and unquestionable?

A Tool for further investigation

So what use is DNA testing for ancestry?  Actually, I would say, lots of use.  If you take the results with a pinch of salt, test with different companies, then it can help point you in a direction.  Never however take autosomal results as infallible.  Critical is to test with companies with well thought out, high quality reference data sets.  Also to test with companies that intend to progress and improve their analysis and your results.

For DNA relative matching, then sure, the companies with the best matching system, the largest match (contactable customer) databases, and with custom in the regions of the world that you hope to match with. There is also, GEDmatch.  Personally, I find it thrilling when I match through DNA, but in truth, I had more genealogical success back in the days when genealogists posted their surname interests in printed magazines and directories. 

The results of each ancestry test should be taken as a clue.  Look at the results of testers with more proven documented and known genealogies.  Learn to recognise what might be population background, as opposed to recent admixture in a family.  Investigate haplogroup DNA - it has a relative truth, although over a much longer time, and wider area.  Just be aware that your haplogroup/s represent only one or two lines of descent - your ancestry over the past few thousand years may not be well represented by a haplogroup.  Investigate everything.  Enjoy the journey.  Explore World History.

The most common misunderstanding - mtDNA

I just see so many misunderstandings on genetic genealogy and DNA test forums concerning mtDNA haplogroups, that I feel compelled to try to explain.

DNA testing businesses tend to dumb down a lot of information for their "audience".  I feel that this actually increases misunderstandings, and mtDNA haplogroups are a good example.  Rather than use the lengthy description mitochondrial DNA, or even it's shortened mtDNA, businesses describe it more frequently as Mother Line, or Maternal.  It misleads so many of their customers.  So let us put this straight:

  • A haplogroup is a  "combination of alleles at different chromosomes regions that are closely linked and that tend to be inherited together"  A series of mutations, that are inherited across generations.
  • mtDNA are a series of mutations within the DNA of mitochondria.  Mitochondria exist outside of a cell nucleus.  They have their own independent DNA, apart from the nuclear chromosomal DNA that dictates how we develop, what we are.  We all have mitchondria, in most of our cells.  They actually serve a function by processing energy.
  • As humans, we use nomenclature to group those mutations within a family tree of humanity.  My mtDNA mutations fall within Haplogroup H.
  • mtDNA cannot be passed on to future generations by males.  it is passed down to the children from the mother only.  I inherit H6a1a8 (my haplotype) from my mother, as do my brother and our sisters.  Only my sisters though will reproduce that mtDNA in their children.  My own children inherited the mtDNA of their mother, not mine.

So what does this mean in practice?

  • A Maternal / Motherline / mtDNA Haplogroup does NOT represent your biological ancestry.
  • A Maternal / Motherline / mtDNA Haplogroup does NOT even represent your mother's "half" of your biological ancestry.
  • For example, your father's mother most likely carried a different mtDNA.  Your mother's father most likely had a different mtDNA haplotype.  Only one of your sixteen great great grandparents passed down their mtDNA to you.
  • Instead, it acts pretty much as a single line genetic "marker" that can be traced only along one very narrow, single line of ancestry.  Look at the image at the top of your post.  Do you see?  Just one line of descent. It follows your mother's, mother's, mother line, and so on, all of the way back to a hypothetical "Mitochondrial Eve" 100,000 to 200,000 years ago.
  • It is not a tribe, ethnicity, or identity.  It is just the mtDNA genetic marker (Haplotype) that you inherited from your mother.
  • It is no good going onto mtDNA genetic genealogy forums and giving the names and origins of ANY direct ancestor, other than a woman (or her children) on that maternal line (mother's mother's, mother, and so on).
  • Forget surname studies.  In most western societies, and in many other's, the "family" name is inherited from the father - and follows a completely different course (Y-DNA).  Indeed, the surname of your true mtDNA ancestor changes most generations with marriage.  That is what makes this the most difficult line to trace with documentary methods.
  • Although difficult, it is the most true and secure.  Although secret or hidden adoptions can occur, the risk of non-parental events is much lower than for the strictly male line (Y-DNA).
  • Mitochondrial DNA mutates at a very slow rate.  This, along with the change in surnames most generations, can make it difficult to use successfully for genetic genealogy.  Many of the mutations are thousands of years old.  Alternatively, it makes it a valuable evidence for tracing ancient ancestry within a population.

That is all that I wanted to say.  it is a fascinating marker, but it is not representative of even 50% of your ancestry, it is not an identity, it is pretty irrelevant to surname (studies), it is inherited only down one narrow line - but all of the way back.

My earliest mtDNA ancestor with a surviving photograph.  My mother's mother's, mother's, mother (2xgreat grandmother), born Sarah Daynes in Norfolk, during 1845.  Her mtDNA would be H6a1a8.  Her mother was born Sarah Quantrill in Norfolk during 1827.  Her mother in turn was born Mary Page in Norfolk during 1791.  Her mother in turn was born Elizabeth Hardiment in Norfolk during 1751.  Her mother in turn (my 6xgreat grandmother) was Susannah Briting, who married John Hardyman in Norfolk during 1747.  If my documentary research along this line is correct, then Susannah inherited mtDNA haplotype H6a1a8 from her mother.

Living DNA - my early results are in!

After a four month wait, my initial results have arrived today from Living DNA.  The wait has, I feel been understandable for a launch company.  The results are still limited to standard mode only.

Living DNA Standard mode

100% European
Regional:
74% Great Britain & Ireland
10% Europe (South)
7% Europe (North and West)
10% Europe (unassigned).

Sub-regional:

39% East Anglia
8% South Central England
5% South East England
5% Lincolnshire

2.5% Cornwall
2.4% North Yorkshire
2% South England
1.9% Devon
1.6% Central England
1.5% North West England
1.3% South Yorkshire
1.2% Northumbria

3.5% unassigned Great Britain & Ireland

10% Tuscany (Europe South)
5% Scandinavia (Europe North and West)
2% Germanic (Europe North and West)
9.7% Europe unassigned.

My initial response?  Enthralled and highly impressed.  A little disappointed that the East Anglia percentage was not higher.  I suggest 77% based on my documentary record.  Living DNA gave it 39%.  I still find that a very good result.

However... let's get this into perspective to 23andMe and FT-DNA tests.  Documentary evidence suggests that I am 100% British over the past 300 years.  23andMe said 32%.  FT-DNA said 36%.  Living DNA gets it so much closer at 74%!  That is a whole lot more accurate.

What about the remaining 26% on regional level, where do Living DNA say that comes from? All European.  It suggests 9.7% unassigned European, 9.6% Tuscan (Southern European), 4.6% Scandinavian, and 2% "Germanic".  The Tuscan is interesting, but I'm not convinced yet that it is not ancient and population based.  The Scandinavian is also most likely ancient - in my opinion.

Two things please and impress me about my results on the sub regional level:

1) Based on documentary research, I estimate that 250 years ago, 77% of my ancestors were in East Anglia.  Living DNA indeed, sees it as by far my largest sub regional percentage.  At 39%, a little low, but very impressive.  They correctly identified me as East Anglian.

My next main region, in my Family Tree, I have circa 12% ancestors from "South Central England".  Living DNA saw this, and it is indeed, my second  largest percentage at sub regional level.  I get South Central England with 7.5% - incredible.  The small "South England" would also tied to this line.

Then I get 5.4% South-East England.  It could be over spill from the East Anglia ancestry, but I do have one 3xgreat grandfather Shawers In London, that I do not know the origins of.  I wonder now?

Then it's "Lincolnshire" with 4.8%.  Brilliant!  I had a 3xgreat grandfather from the southern parts of Living DNA's Lincolnshire sub region.  That fills my documentary record almost perfect.  The small "Central England" percentage would also tie to this line.

Then follows a number of low percentages from all over Southern and Eastern England.  They might tell a story, or might not.  Surprisingly Cornwall and Devon show up in low percentages, as does Yorkshire.  Did my Shawers line actually come from one of those regions?  I have seen Shawers in Devon, Cornwall, Shores in Yorkshire, and Shawers in Lancashire.

2) What is excluded can also demonstrate the accuracy of such a test.  No Welsh, Northumbrian, French, Normand, Irish, Scottish, or Iberian ancestry suggested.  Not that I'd have any objection against descent from any of these, or anywhere - but that this test successfully sees that I am NOT descended from these close regions, is to my mind, a great success, and a vast improvement on any past autosomal DNA tests for ancestry by other businesses.  The truth is, that the English are so like these other populations!

On mtDNA they get my haplogroup down to H6a1a.

They have not yet completed my Y-DNA analysis.  I guess L in an English tester might have thrown them a bit.

No other DNA test has ever existed quite like this.  My initial response is - an amazing test.  The future of autosomal testing for Ancestry.

Breaking through? My Brooker line - the Hagbourne records

Hagbourne St Andrews, Berkshire.  By Andrew Mathewson [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

I have recently become aware, that there were Brooker families, including John Brookers born circa 1722 in the parish of Hagbourne, only 5 km / 3 miles by road, from Long Wittenham, where my ancestor john Brooker, married to a Mary, fathered several children between 1749 and 1760.  I'm here collating evidence and data.  The problem is that there are TWO candidates for my direct ancestor in the same parish.  One baptised 1721 (the son of widower, Elizabeth Brooker (nee Fox), and the late John Brooker), the other 1722 (son of John and Ursula Brooker (nee Deadman).  I have to somehow decide which one it is, if either.  Both families may descend from a Thomas and Anne Brooker, that were in the village, married before 1662.

Hagbourne Parish Register Transcript CD-ROM OXF-WAL02

Marriages

  • 1679 15 Jun BROOKER Thomas to HIDE Lettice
  • 1694 6 Oct BRUCKER John to HEWS Martha
  • 1698 12 Nov BRUCKER Lawrance to WOODLEY Anne
  • 1700 5 Jun HOLDER John Aston Upthorpe to BRUCKER Mary widow
  • 1714 20 Jun JONES Edward to BROOKER Mary
  • 1716 24 Feb BROOKER John to DEADMAN Ursula
  • 1720 27 Nov BROOKER John to FOX Elizabeth
  • 1721 3 Sep CHILD Luke to BROOKER Anne
  • 1728 23 Feb BROOKER John to ACRES Sarah

Baptisms

  • 1662 Apr 1 BROOKER John s. Thomas & Anne
  • 1667 Sep 3 BROOKER Anne d. Thomas & Anne
  • 1673 11 BROOKER William s. Thomas & Anne
  • 1679 Apr 5 BROOKER Marie d. Thomas & Anne
  • 1680 Aug 8 BROOKER Marie d. Thomas & Lettice

Gap

  • 1696 May 21 BRUCKER Anne d. Thomas & Lettice

Gap

  • 1712 18 BRUCKER John (no parents!)
  • 1714 18 BRUCKER Anne d. William & Elizabeth
  • 1714 24 BRUCKER Martha (no parents)
  • 1718 May 4 BROOKER Mary d. John & Ursula
  • 1719 Jan 3 BROOKER Elizabeth d. John & Ursula
  • 1721 Oct 21 BROOKER John s. Elizabeth widow
  • 1722 Dec 2 BROOKER John s. John & Ursula
  • 1725 Oct 24 BROOKER William s. John & Ursula
  • 1730 Dec 13 BROOKER William s. John & Ursula

BURIALS (FindMyPast Berkshire Burial Index)

  • 30 Mar 1721 John Brooker St Andrews, Hagbourne (appears to be late husband of Elizabeth Fox?)
  • 12 May 1745 John Brooker St Andrew, Hagbourne
  • 4 jun 1783 John Brooker St Andrew Hagbourne

MARRIAGES (FindMyPast England Marriages 1538-1973)

23 Feb 1728  John Brooker to Sarah Acres, Hagbourne.

MARRIAGES (FindMyPast Sarum Marriage Licence)

02 Oct 1745 John Brooker to Ann Dearlough at Blewbury.  grooms parish Hagbourne.

So, 

Likely founder is Thomas Brooker & Anne married before 1662, OR Thomas Brooker that married Lettice Hide 1679, OR John Brucker and Martha Hews that married Oct 1694.

Both John Seniors (circa 1695) could have been grandchildren of Thomas & Anne Brooker.  One, son of Thomas & Lettice.  The other of John & Martha.

John Senior 1 married Elizabeth Fox in Nov 1720.  He died Mar 1721!  She gave birth to son John Junior 1 in Oct 1721.

John Senior 2 married Ursula Deadman in Feb 1716.  They had children between 1718 and 1730 - Mary, Elizabeth, William (x2), and son John junior 2 in Dec 1722.  He may have died May 1745.

Surviving in village was a John Brooker that married Ann Dearlough Oct 1745.  Junior 1 or 2?

My John Brooker had children at Long Wittenham 1749 - 1760 with his wife mary (married circa 1748?)  Included a Martha, Anne, John, Sarah, and Mary.  Junior 1 or 2?

  • Gen 11: Thomas & Anne (mar. before 1662) Did the same Thomas later marry Lettice? 
  • Gen 10: John (b. 1662.  Mar. 1694 to Martha)  John (mar Ursula 1716), John (mar Elizabeth 1720), William (b. 1673.)
  • Gen 9: John 1 (b 1721 John & Elizabeth) John 2 (b 1722 John & Ursula) William (John & Ursula 1725)

Resolution.

I need to see marriages of all John seniors (1694, 1716, 1720).  Two could have been same guy (2nd as widower).  I do think there were two John Seniors, because John & Ursula had kids contemporary to John & Elizabeth.  Martha could have died, replaced by Elizabeth?

Update.

A member of the Facebook Berks and Bucks Ancestors and Genealogy Group, dug up the burial of Junior 1.  Widow Elizabeth's young son tragically died, and was buried at Hagbourne 12th January 1723.

Now can I tie Junior 2 (son of John Brooker and Ursula (nee Deadman) to my ancestor, John Brooker, married to Mary, at Long Wittenham?

I am a Western Eurasian

The Caucasus.  By NASA/MODIS - Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view_rec.php?id=1939) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

I grew up in the age where archaeology was the main driver behind our understanding of the distant past.  It still plays an important role in helping us to understand our human past before writing, and to sometimes correct our understanding of our past ever since the advent of writing.

During the past 24 months however, there has been a silent revolution.  It has been read by what is inside of us, the story of human DNA, and a foray into exploring and mapping ancient human DNA.  It is rewriting the prehistory of Western Eurasia.

First of all, we have to stop retaining ideas that somehow, Western Europeans are an isolate population.  We are the result of admixture after admixture, across Eurasia.  The DNA of humans from Ireland to Iran is strikingly similar.  We are a combination of different admixtures from different populations that lived 1) North of the Caucasus, 2) South of the Caucasus, and 3) Europe.  The Caucasus, as in the photo above, has been the great division between peoples, that allowed local Western Asian populations to divide, that then to admixed in both Western Asia, and in Europe.

This revelation is not yet widely known.  Even many professional archaeologists remain unaware, or skeptical about this new tool.  New migrations and admixture events are being discovered, into Europe, and across Eurasia that contradict previous consensus.

The Founder Populations

Europe

The latest evidence suggests that the earlier humans and their cultures of Ice Age Europe, did not survive all of the fluctuations in climate.  A new genome arrived and established 14,000 to 7,000 years ago, as represented by the Villabruna Cluster of human remains.  These last hunter-gatherers appear to have less Neanderthal DNA, and a closer relationship to Near East populations than did earlier Europeans.  They may have migrated into Europe when much of the Aegean Sea dried towards the end of the Ice Age.  These late hunter-gatherers may have contributed DNA to modern Western Eurasians both inside Europe, and in West Asia. When Early Neolithic Farmers arrived in NW Europe, it was probably the descendants of the Villabruna Type that they encountered.  They may have admixed with them.  A genetic legacy from these populations appears to be blue eyes.

South of the Caucasus

The Fertile Crescent spawned the Neolithic Revolution of Agriculture.  A distinctive genetic "ghost" population that has been named the Basal Eurasians significantly contributed to their DNA, along with other hunter-gatherer populations within the area.  Their descendants, the Early Neolithic Farmers, took agriculture, wheat, barley, sheep, goats, cattle, and pigs - along with pottery production, and polished flint axe heads across the Levant, to North Africa, Anatolia, and then on to Europe.  Along the way, they may have admixed with the hunter-gatherer populations that they displaced.  Today, their surviving DNA signal in Europe, is strongest in Sardinia, followed by the remainder of Southern Europe.

North of the Caucasus

Arable agriculture made only a temporary appearance on the Pontic and Caspian Steppes, but was soon replaced by pastoralism and a very different way of life.  The horse was well adapted to life on the Steppes, and humans there domesticated it.  Mounted on horses, they could control larger flocks and herds of livestock.  They also introduced wheeled carts, enabling them to easily mobilise to the best pastures depending on season and climate change.  They also encountered and mastered the new copper then bronze working technologies.  Steppe pastoralists could range long distances across the Steppe Corridor across Eurasia. They were also adapting by natural selection to a dairy based diet, with a rising percentage of lactose tolerance into adulthood.  A significant contribution to their DNA came from a group of Siberian hunter-gatherers known to population geneticists as the Ancient North Eurasian.  The copper age archaeological culture associated with this genetic group is the Yamna or Yamnaya.

Yamna Culture Tomb.  By XVodolazx (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

What happened in Europe?

Villabruna types entered Europe around 15,000 years ago, perhaps from the Near East.  They may have replaced earlier groups of European hunter-gatherers.

Early Neolithic Farmers from south of the Caucasus, then spread into Europe around 7,000 years ago, both across the Balkans into Central Europe, and also along the Mediterranean coast, bringing agriculture and pottery.  They may have at times admixed with hunter-gatherers within Europe.  However, their much better abilities at food production created a wave of displacement that must have been hard to resist.  They could rear so many more children.  By 5,000 years ago, their descendants dominated Europe.

Eurasian Steppe Pastoralists from north of the Caucasus, then spread into Eastern Europe around 4,100 years ago.  Why wasn't there a resistance from the Early Neolithic Farmers living there?  Latest research suggests that the Steppe Pastoralists had contracted a plague strain known as Yersinia pestis from Central Asia.  The current favoured hypothesis is that they may have accidentally spread this disease to less resistant Neolithic Farmer populations in Europe.  Some plots in Neolithic activity do indeed suggest a crisis at this time.  Therefore, the Steppe Warriors could easily dominate the depleted and weakened social structures of the Neolithic Europeans.  They brought with them, an Indo-European language, that appears to be the ancestor of most present day European languages.

In Europe, the fusion had a clear sex bias, with many Neolithic mitochondrial DNA haplogroups surviving, while Steppe Y haplogroups such as R1A still dominate today.  The fusion also seemed to give rise to a new archaeological culture known as the Corded Ware.

We know that the Yamnaya expansion didn't stop at all in Eastern Europe, it continued into Western Europe.  A fusion culture may be the Bell Beaker of the Early Bronze Age.  Again, a sex bias, with some mtDNA haplogroups surviving, but a strong dominance of Steppe Y haplogroups including the many clades of R1b.  Indeed, some of this domination is strongest on the Western edge of Eurasia, in places such as Iberia, Ireland, and Scotland, where later admixture events failed to reach - but the Steppe Pastoralists had dominated, particularly in male haplogroups.

How does this relate to this East Anglian?

According to the latest K7 Basal-rich test by David Wesolowski of the Eurogenes Blog, my ancestral breakdown of my autosomal DNA, around 14,000 years ago would be:

  • 57% Villabruna-type (Europe and the Near East)
  • 29% Basal-rich (Middle East)
  • 14% Ancient North Eurasian (Siberia)

My Y haplogroup (L-SK1414) ancestor would have most likely been an ibex hunter in the area of present-day Iran and Iraq, possibly in the valleys of Mesopotamia, and or the Zagros Mountains of Iran.

My mtDNA ancestor would have been Eurasian - by 4,400 years ago, a woman of the Yamnaya, on the Pontic and Caspian Steppes, in a pastoralist tribe.

So, you get where this is taking me.  Step back into prehistory, and what DNA is revealing to me is that my ancestors were NOT all in Britain, or even all in Europe.  They were scattered across Siberia, the Steppes, the Caucasus, the Zagros, the Middle East, the Levant, and go further back, to Africa.

Alternatively, the equally recent Global 10 test, run by my friend Helgenes50 of the Anthrogenica board, resulted in:

  • 55% Baalberge_MN (European Middle Neolithic)
  • 38% Yamna_Samara (Eurasian Steppe Pastoralist)
  • 7% Loschbour:Loschbour (Late Eurasian hunter-gatherer)

These two tests may not actually conflict, as they are essentially tests referring to the Eurasian populations of two different time periods, with different admixtures.  The K7 Basal-rich test refers to my proposed ancestral populations towards the end of the last Ice Age.  The Global 10 test refers to more recent admixture leading up to the Bronze Age. 

I am a Western Eurasian.

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 Ancestral Events Mapped

Here I map the ancestral events as recorded on my Gramps genealogical database.  These events can be baptisms, marriages, census records, etc.  The larger the dot, the more events for that particular parish.  I have modified images of Southern England from OpenStreetMap.org Copyright attribution-sharealike 2.0 generic.

My Mother's Ancestral Events.

This includes the recorded events for my mother's 134 recorded direct ancestors and siblings.  As you can see, her known ancestry over the past 330 years has been incredibly localised!  All English.  All East Anglian.  Almost entirely in Norfolk - with one line drifting back to nearby Suffolk.  An incredibly dense cluster in East Norfolk, around the River Yare in Broadland.  Sure enough second cousin and third cousin marriages have been detected in her tree.

My Father's Ancestral Events

This includes the recorded events for my late father's 116 recorded direct ancestors and siblings.  A little more travelled over the past 330 years, although I feel that the events record has a bias in research to show this - as indeed, I estimate his known Norfolk ancestry over the past 330 years to amount to at least 70% of his combined heritage.  Nonetheless, some of his lines trace back temporarily to London, then back mainly to Oxfordshire and the Thames Valley.  All South-East English again.

None of this makes my family any more special than any other family anywhere else in the World, with any type of recent heritage and admixture.  Indeed, the English are a particularly admixed population. However, in testing commercial DNA tests for ancestry, I feel that we offer a good reference sample of SE English, and even East Anglian Norfolk.

I'm particularly interested in how these commercial DNA companies are failing to discriminate ancient or population admixture, from recent (350 years) family admixture.  Some populations they are able to detect with some certainty and accuracy.  However, others such as the English, not at all.  They are unable - despite their claims otherwise, to break recent autosomal admixture on lines over the past ten generations, from earlier, sometimes much earlier population admixtures.

I'm looking forward to seeing if the new Living DNA test fares any better, with it's rich British data set.