Was our Y ancestor a Baloch Lascar?

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.  "A Portrait of an Indian Gentleman," by A. Smith, 1841.  No.  This portrait was not one of my ancestors.  It is believed to have been painted in England.  However, my Asian Y ancestor must have been here previous to 1700.  This relates to my Y line, inherited down my father's, father's father line and so on.  Descendants for example of Reginald J Brooker, should share this heritage.  My Y-DNA research indicates that I had an Asian ancestor, that most likely moved to Southern England sometime between 1,800 and 500 years ago.  I did find this portrait however, on Wikimedia Commons, whilst searching the subject of who my Y ancestors in Asia were, and why one may have travelled to England.

Let's start a little further back.  My Y-DNA is West Asian in origin.  I share my current terminal Y-DNA SNP (L-SK1414) with a guy that is a Balochi speaker from Makran in SW Pakistan, close to the border with Iran.  I also match fairly well (on STR tests) with a guy who's paternal line hailed from the town of Birjand, South Khorasan, Iran.

Now, although my Australian Y cousin with ancestry in South Khorasan didn't know of any family Balochi link - it's possible.  Balochi, have lived in that region of Eastern Iran.  It may, just may, be a link.  Who are and were the Baloch?

Origins of the Baloch People

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.  Iranian Baloch khans in Qajar era, c. 1902.  The Baloch people today are spread across Western and Central Asia, mainly found in SW Pakistan, SE Iran, and Afghanistan.  

The pink areas display the main Balochi areas today.  The red outline suggesting likely homelands for my Y-DNA.  Also marked by red spots, are the homes of the two recorded L-SK1414 in that area.  It is estimated that there are 15 million Baloch people across the World today.  The Balochi language is Iranic.  It has been ascribed by linguists as belonging to the North-West Iranic family, close to Kurdish.  Yet the Balochi today, are in the South-East of the Region.  The traditional origin story told by the Baloch people, is that they were Arabic, and originated in Syria.

However, linguists and historians today usually suggest that they were in fact, refugees from Arabic expansion, that migrated mainly east and south east, over several centuries (starting circa 7th Century AD) from an area close to the Caspian Sea in Northern Iran.  This puts Birjand incidentally, on the route of that migration.  It also leads from what I consider to be the homelands of the mother clade - Y hg L1b (L-M317), between the Caspian and Black seas.  Today, the majority of the Baloch are Sunni Muslim (some are Shia).  However, many early migrants from the North West may have ascribed to other religions including Zoroastrianism.  An attack on Persia by the Seljuk Turks from Central Asia during the 11th Century AD, may have accelerated Baloch migration to present day Balochistan. Today, the Baloch of Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan are divided into an estimated 130 tribes.

As for Balochistan itself, when Alexander of Macedonia, passed through it, during the 4th Century BC, it was known as the Kingdom of Gedrosia.  Balochistan has long been sandwiched and pulled between the great empires of Persia, and India.  Even today, it is divided between these two political boundaries.  A large region with a sparse population, but a firmly stamped ethnic identity.

According to Akhilesh Pillalamarri "In the 1500s, Balochistan like Afghanistan to its north, became divided into zones of control between the Safavid Persian Empire to its west and the Mughal Empire to its east. This approximately reflects the Iran-Pakistan border today."

Could this friction even have lead my Y ancestor to move?  When did European ships appear on the coastline?

That's the Baloch hypothesis.  Now for the next, the Lascar hypothesis.

The Asian Lascar

By National Maritime Museum from Greenwich, United Kingdom [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons. Three lascars on the Viceroy of India.

Our Y ancestor may have moved to Southern England for all sorts of reasons:  merchant, diplomat, adventurer, slave, hostage, prisoner of war, trader, mercenary, servant, religious convert, refugee, etc.  Genetic genealogists tend all too often to cling to known historical events such as battles.  I'd be very wary of that. 

With that in mind... here is one new possibility (as opposed to a probability), that I am presently considering.  

The Lascar.

Lascar derives from al-askar, the Arabic word for a guard or soldier.  When European ships first started to sail the trade routes to India and the Middle East, they often suffered losses of life on the way.  Subsequently, they would recruit new sailors at their ports of call.  Arab traders had scattered seamanship and sailing skills along the coast line around the Persian Gulf, and the practice of Lascars may have already been established before the first Portuguese ships picked them up.  The European practice of taking on Lascars is believed to have started as early as the 16th Century.  It continued through to the 20th Century.  Just about in time, to account for my Y-DNA in Southern England, that turns up during the early 18th Century in two surname families.  It's possible.

Apparently, the Lascars received even poorer food and water than even the late British sailors that they replaced.  Therefore, many jumped ship when they reached England.  Their intentions may not have been immigration, but they couldn't risk the return voyage.  This, it is said, was the very first root of the present day Asian settlement of Britain. It has been speculated that the portrait at the top of the post, may have been of a former Lascar, or ... servant!  Why not though, a traveller that has succeeded?

Why would a 16th or 17th Century European trading ship visit Balochistan?  Did it?  Our ancestor may have already moved either westwards or down to an Indian port.  He may have been a professional sailor!

It's one possibilty.

By National Maritime Museum from Greenwich, United Kingdom [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons. Lascars at the Royal Albert Dock in LondonThree lascars on the Viceroy of India. 1936.

The Other SK1414. My Cousin in Baluchistan

By Baluchistan on Flickr under a Creative Commons Licence. No, this young man is not the SK1414 tester, but the mandolinist in me found this photo kind of cool.  A young man from Makran.  The other SK1414 tester was also a male Makrani Baloch.

I'm hot on the trail of my Y or paternal line, following my FTDNA Y111 STR, then Big Y tests.  These tests analysed the DNA on my Y chromosome.  It is passed down strictly from father to biological sons.  the mutations (SNP and STR) that can be identified in the Y-DNA, can be used to assess relationship, and in some cases, to date the time of most recent common ancestry.  So, with the assistance of Gareth Henson, administrator of the FT-DNA Y haplogroup L Project, and with help from my new distant cousins, what have I learned over the past few weeks?

The Smoking Gun of Y-DNA

Between 45,000 and 13,000 years ago, my paternal ancestors most likely were hunter-gatherers, that lived in the region of what is now Iran and Iraq, during the last Ice Age.  Some sharp changes in glaciation, and cold extremes towards the end of that period, may have generated a number of adaptations, and subsequently, split new sub clades of my Y haplogroup L.

13,000 years ago (based on the Big Y test), I share a common paternal great x grandfather with a number of distant cousins, that descend from Pontic Greek families from the Trabzon region in Turkey.

Between 3,000 and 1,000 years ago (based on the less accurate STR evidence at 111 marker), I share common paternal great x grandfather with another cousin, who's paternal line Habibi, can be traced back to the 1850's in the town of Birjand, Southern Khorasan, Eastern Iran, close to the modern Afghanistan border.  This closer cousin now lives in Australia.

Human male karyotpe high resolution - Y chromosome

My Big Y test produced no less than 90 previously unrecorded or known SNP (pronounced "snip") mutations.  That might be because my Y-DNA is rare, or / and, that it is mainly found in parts of the World where very few people test at this level.  The last SNP on the roll that had been seen before, has been called SK1414.  Because now two of us have tested for this SNP, it is my terminal SNP, so at the moment (although it still has to be submitted to the YFull Tree), I can declare my Y haplogroup sub clade designation to be L-SK1414.  Only one of two so far recorded in the World.

So, who is this Y cousin that shares my SK1414 mutation?

My Baluchistan Cousin

By Baluchistan on Flickr under a Creative Commons Licence.  Another photo from Makran, Balochistan.

The other SK1414 turned up during an early survey, back in the early 2000s by the Human Genome Diversity Project.  It turned up in a sample of the Baluchi in Makran, South-west Pakistan.  Could this cousin be closer than the Habibi tester?  Could my Habibi cousin, from an eastern Iranian family also carry SK1414?

The Baluch, are an Iranic people, that speak Baluchi, an Iranian language that belongs, as do most European languages, to the Indo-European linguistic family.  According to the Iran Chamber Society website, they moved to Makran during the 12th Century AD.  Traditionally the Baluch claim that they originated in Syria, but a linguistic study has instead suggested that they actully originated from the south east of the Caspian region, and that they moved westwards between the 6th and 12th centuries AD in a series of waves.  No other Y sub clade L1b (L-M317) have been found in Southern Asia outside of two samples of this survey, so perhaps the tester did have ancestry from Western Asia.

Iran regions map fr

It would seem likely that I do have a number of Y cousins, most likely in the region of Eastern Iran and South-Western Pakistan.  That doesn't necessarily follow though, that our most recent common Y ancestors lived there.  As I said above, the Baluch of Makrani, Pakistan are said to have migrated from further north-west, from the Caspian Sea region.

There is a tentative suggestion of a link to the Parsi. A Portuguese STR tester with a genetic distance (based on 67 markers) of 22, has (thanks again Gareth) "a distinctive value of 10 at DYS393. In the Qamar paper this value is found in the Parsi population".  So there is just the possibility also, of the Parsi ethnicity carrying L1b from Western Asia into Southern Asia.  Perhaps this marker was picked up by a Portuguese seafarer link to Southern Asia.  It could even be the link to my English line, via the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance.  A lot of speculation.  I don't think that M317 has been found yet in India.

Into England

I have found STR links with four people that carry the surname Chandler.  They live in England, Australia, and the USA.  These cousins appear to descend from a Thomas Chandler, that lived in Basingstoke during the 1740s.  That is 32 miles away from my own contemporary surname ancestor, John Brooker, who lived at the same time at the village of Long Wittenham in the Thames Valley.

Unfortunately three of the Chandlers have only 12 markers tested, and the fourth at 37 markers.  Therefore time of most recent ancestor is not accurate, but it looks as the Chandler and Brooker Y hg L testers of Southern England, most likely shared a common paternal great x grandfather sometime between 800 and 350 years ago.

That only these two lines have turned up, and that they are geographically and genetically so close, might suggest that our Y-DNA lineage arrived in Southern England around the late medieval, perhaps from between the 13th and 17th centuries AD.  It could just be through a Portuguese navigator link, or it could be through thousands of other routes.  More L-M20 testers could turn up in England in the future, that could push the arrival to an earlier date.


I could have any number of cousins from south England.  The Brookers and Chandlers may well have other paternal line descendants living in the Thames Valley, Hampshire, London, or elsewhere.  I'd love to prove a Brooker from the Berkshire / Oxfordshire area, as sharing ancestry.  I believe for example, that the journalist Charlie Brooker descends from one of the Thames Valley families, although not necessarily from mine.  Do they carry the Y hg L?

My great great grandfather Henry Brooker, did not appear to have any more sons, other than my great grandfather John Henry Brooker - who in turn, only had one son, my grandfather Reginald John Brooker.

I have one Y haplogroup first cousin.  He has I believe, a son, and a grandson.