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.

Gedrosia and our DNA

Attribution: Fielding Lucas, Jr. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This post is partly an excuse to upload and store the above creative commons image.  My Y-DNA terminal SNP (L-SK1414) twin was a Balochi speaker in Makran, SW Pakistan.  In classical times, Makran was located in the Kingdom of Gedrosia.  It's almost ironic that an open source range of autosomal DNA testers on GEDmatch have been named after Gedrosia.

Gedrosia was a dry, mountainous country along the northwestern shores of the Indian Ocean.  The indigenous name for Gedrosia is thought to have been Gwadar.  It was conquered by the Persian king Cyrus the Great (559-530 BC). The capital of Gedrosia was Pura, which may survive today as modern Bampûr.  In 326 BC, The Macedonian king, Alexander the Great disastrously crossed the Gedrosian Desert, on the return from his campaign in India, and lost 12,000 of his men to the savage conditions.

Image of Gwadar Bay by wetlandsofpakistan (Gwadar - West Bay) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

So, although the GedrosiaDNA GEDmatch heritage calculators may have little to do with the legendary land that may have been host to my Y ancestors, out of interest, how do our atDNA test results tally with the GedrosiaDNA calculators?  These calculators are designed to measure Ancient Eurasian Admixture.

My results (using an FT-DNA raw file) against those of my mother (23andMe raw file).

My Eurasia K9 ASI Oracle:

  • 39% Western Hunter-Gatherer
  • 27% Early Neolithic Farmer
  • 15% Eastern Hunter-Gatherer
  • 12% Caucasus Hunter-Gatherer
  • 7% SW Asian
  • 1% Siberian East Asian

Mother's Eurasia K9 ASI Oracle:

  • 40% Western Hunter-Gatherer
  • 26% Early Neolithic Farmer
  • 14% Eastern Hunter-Gatherer
  • 12% Caucasus Hunter-Gatherer
  • 6% SW Asian
  • 1% Siberian East Asian

My Gedrosia K3 Oracle:

  • 97.5% West Eurasian
  • 2.5% East Eurasian

Mother's Gedrosia K3 Oracle:

  • 96% West Eurasian
  • 4% East Eurasian

My Gedrosia K15 Oracle:

  • 40% Western Hunter-Gatherer
  • 25% Early European Farmer
  • 21% Caucasus
  • 5% Burusho
  • 5% SW Asian
  • 3% Balochi
  • 1% Siberian

Mother's Gedrosia K15 Oracle:

  • 40% Western Hunter-Gatherer
  • 24% Early European Farmer
  • 18% Caucasus
  • 4% Burusho
  • 3% Kalash
  • 2% Siberian
  • 1% Balochi

My Ancient Eurasia K6 Oracle:

  • 40% West European Hunter-Gatherer
  • 39% Natufian
  • 21% Ancient North Eurasian
  • 1% East Asian

Mother's Ancient Eurasia K6 Oracle:

  • 41% West European Hunter-Gatherer
  • 38% Natufian
  • 19% Ancient North Eurasian
  • 2% Ancient South Eurasian
  • 1% East Asian


We both appear to have inherited around 40% of our DNA from ancient Western (European) Hunter-Gatherer populations, nothing unexpected there.  Western Hunter-Gatherers not only lived in Europe, but appear to have contributed to some later Eurasian populations such as the Yamnaya and Early European Farmers.

We both have low counts of Ancient North Eurasian - particularly my mother, who scores only 19% ANE (Upper-Paleolithic genomes from the Lake Baikal region of Siberia, identified as Malta, Afontogora 2, and Afontogora 3, dated to 17 to 24 kya).  It has been noted during online discussions, that the English appear to have slightly lower percentages of ANE than do their close neighbours.  ANE is sometimes used to indicate Yamnaya ancestry (ANE was a component), that spread from the Eurasian Steppes into Western Europe during the Early Bronze Age.

I have 3% Balochi compared to 1% Balochi for my mother.  It may mean nothing, but it could just perhaps indicate something in the autosomes that associates on my paternal side with my Y-DNA story.  The indicators (particularly K15) suggest that I have more SW Asian ancestry, presumably from my paternal side - again, it just could associate with what we know about my Y haplogroup L-SK1414.

We have around 24-25% Early European Farmer ancestry, representing early Neolithic descendants of an admix of WHG and "Basal Eurasians".  This signal apparently peaks around 80% in modern Sardinians.  However, the "Natufian" reference are higher - 38-39%.  According to GEDmatch: "Natufian was an Epipaleolithic culture that existed from 12,500 to 9,500 BC in the area of Israel. They were derived about 50% from an original Out-of-Africa population, referred to as Basal Eurasians. If you are a European and show Natufian admixture, this does not imply that Natufians interacted with your ancestors. All it means is that Natufian like admixture was mediated to you via intermediaries, such as the early European Farmers from the Near East".  I'm not sure what to make of that.