Medieval Mobility, DNA tests, and the East Anglian

Two men threshing sheaf - Luttrell Psalter c1325-1335 f74v - BL Add MS 42130

Two men threshing sheaf - Luttrell Psalter (c.1325-1335), f.74v  See page for author [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.  Originally published/produced in England [East Anglia].

My last post on the Norfolk 16th century surname study has made me look at my medieval East Anglian roots a little differently.  It suggests that there may have been a fair amount of mobility and migration in East Anglia, and from outside, from both Northern England, and from the nearby Continent.  Although current commercial autosomal DNA tests for ancestry are clearly contradictory, behind them lays a common pattern.  My auDNA is little bit more similar to people living on the Continent, in places like France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, and also further to the south - than it is for most British testers.  This is despite my known English family history and recorded ancestry.  These commercial DNA tests usually claim to investigate your family ancestry over the past 250 - 500 years only.  I'm convinced that is untrue.  I can't help but see population background, and shared patterns from testers that have no known, or little known migration or admixture in places such as England, and Northern France.  These appear to represent older migration and population admixture events that are shared across local genomes.

However, maybe there is something that these tests are telling me - but only after taking into account to the results of other British testers.  I now believe that I may have underestimated mobility around East Anglia and England between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries - that precedes any of my recorded ancestry.  I also feel the need to reassess Continental migration to East Anglia.  It appears it was not all urban or bourgeois.  The Anglo-Saxon fifth century AD may have marked the most significant migration event to south east Britain, but I know believe that I have underestimated how much migration and exchange has occurred across the North Sea ever since.

Focusing first on movements within East Anglia, and England, I have in my last post,  Norfolk surnames in the sixteenth century, provided locative surname evidence.

Let's look at some more historical research.

"Considerable personal mobility existed from the later Middle Ages.  From the mid fourteenth century the loosening of seigneurial bonds allowed English people to become even more mobile.  Landlords complained that tenants were deserting their holdings for better land elsewhere and that servants and labourers were seeking higher wages from other employers.".

"From the sixteenth century, migration and personal mobility becomes better documented.  A study of tax records for Towcester in Northamptonshire showed a considerable turnover of the population between consecutive years.  In 1525 47 of the 278 men taxed in the previous year had left.  This unusually full source shows that six of the 47 had died and 41 had migrated.  This represents a turnover rate of 16.9 per cent a year - higher than any other communities in pre-industrial England.".

The continuity (and discontinuity) of surnames over a period of time indicates the movement of individuals and families with the same surname in and out of the community.  The small 'close' village of Glynde (population 216 in the 1801 census) lies three miles from the East Sussex county town of Lewes.  Between 1558 and 1812 out of 444 different surnames that appeared in the parish register (excluding people whose only connection with the village was to marry in its church) 261 surnames (58.8 per cent) occurred only once and 71 per cent were found only during a period of 25 years or less.".

Source: The English Rural Community: Image and Analysis. Brian short. 1992.

So, maybe I need to discard ideas of my mother's tight cluster of recorded ancestry as having been so localised for so long.  Although, the density of the cluster does suggest that she probably have some direct ancestry in the Reedham area of East Norfolk for a very long time, perhaps back to the early medieval, there is also a good probability that her medieval ancestry stretched much further across the region, England, and to the Continent.  Indeed, her known ancestral proximity to the coast and a tidal navigable river makes that Continental ancestry more likely.  For my father's ancestry - the majority recorded East Anglian, but with known ancestry going back to Oxfordshire, Berkshire, London, and the East Midlands, this might be even more the case.

Visit to Lowestoft Record Office

Image above taken yesterday of St Michael's Church, South Elmham Saints villages, Suffolk.

The Barber Family of St Michael, South Elmham, Suffolk

I recently found evidence that my ancestor, 3xgreat grandfather Robert Barber of St Michael, may have been the Robert Barber of Suffolk that was transported in 1844.

I also made contact via GEDmatch, with the owner of a sample that shares 56 centiMorgans of DNA with my sample, including a 27 centiMorgan segment.  It is all on my late father's side.  This is by far the most significant DNA match that I have yet encountered on GEDmatch.  Email correspondence with the owner (Margaret), revealed that we share a paper trail, with the Barber Family of St Michael.

The trail follows my father's maternal side.  His mother's mother, was born Emily Barber, at Hedenham, Norfolk in 1859.  Her father was George Barber, born at St Michael in 1830.  George was a son of Robert and Mary Ann Barber.  I thought that Robert was baptised nearby at Alburgh, Norfolk, the son of George and Hannah Barber (nee Blaxhall).  I thought that Mary Ann was baptised Maria Page, daughter of John and Mary Page (nee Brooks), and that she married Robert at All Saints, South Elmham, in 1828.

However, making contact with a DNA relative challenges an insecure tree.  Margaret pointed out a nearby Robert and Maria Barber family.  I started seeing more Robert Barbers, more Marys, More Marias.  Online digital records for Suffolk are not as good as they are for Norfolk. Confusion!  This is an example where Online Genealogy falls down.

So I checked with the Archive branch of the Suffolk Record Office had the original St Michael records - should no microfilms or fische be available.  They were over at Lowestoft.  Yesterday I drove over, to strike the iron while it was still hot.  I was quite pleased with the resources in the office.  I did not have an excuse to request the original registers - although digital is lacking, they have good copies on fische and film.  In addition, the Saints Villages of South Elmham had all been indexed and typed up by volunteers.  So what did I find?

The baptism font in St Michael's, South Elmham, Suffolk, yesterday.  This would have been used in the below baptisms of ancestors.

There were a LOT of Barber families in the area, since the parish registers start in 1559.  The very earliest reference is to a baptism at St Michael's, of a Robert, son of Robert and Brigett Barber xxxi Auguste 1589.  A lot of sons born in St Michael alone during the following century - this was going to be difficult.  Indeed, in the St Michael registers, Barber entries continue on a regular basis until 1713.  Then a break!  No doubt there were a lot of Barber families living in the surrounding parishes and district, but the next St Michael Barber entries start with our family in 1818:

Baptisms St Michael's, South Elmham

  • Lydia, daughter of Robert & Mary Barber (born Dec 11) Husbandman. Bap. 19 Dec 1818.
  • Emma, daughter of Robert & Mary Barber, husbandman. Bap. 28 Apr 1821.
  • Isaac, son of Robert & Mary Barber, husbandman.  Bap. 14 Jan 1823.
  • Maria, daughter of Robert & Mary Barber, labourer.  Bap. 3 Jun 1827.
  • Charlotte, daughter of Robert & Mary Barber, labourer.  Bap. 25 Nov 1827.
  • George, son of Robert & Mary Barber, labourer.  Bap. 11 Apr 1830.
  • Eliza, daughter of Robert & Marianne Barber, labourer.  Bap. 7 Apr 1833
  • Jacob, son of Robert & Mary Barber, labourer.  Bap. 6 Nov 1836
  • Jacob, son of Robert & Mary Barber, labourer.  Bap. 18 Sep 1843
  • Emily, daughter of Robert & Mary Barber, labourer.  Bap. 18 Sep 1843

Maria is Margaret's ancestor, George is my ancestor.  I am a little confused as to why there might be two Jacob's, perhaps the first died, but I'm not sure.  I did find a later burial of a Jacob Barber age 23, who died after falling from a moving horse pulled wagon.  However, the clumsy genealogist in me didn't record the date!  Note also that the last two baptisms were joint.

I could not locate the marriage of Robert Barber to Mary (Ann).  This was a disappointment.  I did look through the other Saints Villages of South Elmham.  Neither did I find or confirm Robert's birth.  I had previously online found a baptism at Alburgh, Norfolk - a close by parish, just over the river.  however, as Robert claimed that he was born in Suffolk on the 1841 census, I have deleted that link from my tree.  Another case, where I lost more ancestors from the tree, than I gained from this research.  however, the point of genealogy is to improve and refine, based on evidence.

I do believe however, that I have located Robert's death.  I have also eliminated him as the transported Robert Barber of Suffolk.  I found the below burials:

Burials St Michael's, South Elmham

  • Robert Barber, aged 8 days.  Bur. 19 Aug 1840
  • Robert Barber, aged 50 years.  Bur. 22 Feb 1846
  • George Barber, aged 20 weeks of St Peter's.  bur. 30 Dec 1860
  • Eliza Barber, aged 6 days.  Bur. 22 Jun 1862.

The baby Robert, could have been Robert and Mary's.  The fifty year old Robert Barber, does look like my 3xgreat grandfather.  Indeed, it explains where he went between the 1841 and 1851 census.  He was not transported.  Checking Suffolk criminal records at the Record Office, I found that the 1844 sentence of a Robert Barber was over in West Suffolk, at Bury St Edmunds Assize.

I had jumped the gun again - based on the very partial online record.  I keep learning this lesson, but it should also serve as a lesson to genealogists abroad, that rely only on digitalised or transcribed records of English ancestors online.  What you are seeing is a partial record.  There can be so many John Smiths, or even Robert Barbers, in a small area. A visit to the County Archive (Record Office) revealed so many more records of Barbers in the South Elmham area, that cannot be seen online at Ancestry.com, FindMyPast.com, nor on FamilySearch.org.  Beware!  I see awful, incorrect family trees (not just my own ha ha), whenever I view personal online trees at Ancestry.com.

The Tovell Family of Wrentham, Suffolk

While I was at Lowestoft, I thought that I would take a quick look at another ancestral family of mine, local to this Archive.  The Tovell Family that lived at Wrentham, Suffolk, during the late 18th Century, and fall on to my mother's side of my family tree.  Although members of a local Congregationalist chapel, for some services, they referred to the local parish church.  It was in a transcript of those parish registers, that I found a number of burials of the children of my 4xgreat grandparents Tovell:

Wrentham, Suffolk Burials

  • Thomas Tovell, an infant.  Bur. 29 Jan 1773
  • Elizabeth Tovel, an infant.  Bur. 29.Mar 1778
  • Sarah Tovel, infant.  Bur. 13 Jan 1780
  • Thomas Tovell, an infant.  Bur. 31 Dec 1782.

They went on to have a third son baptised Thomas Tovell in 1785, who was my ancestor.  Sometimes though, the infant mortality of those times can get to you.

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.

An Anglo-Saxon Bias Confirmed

We want to understand the past, our past, but how we interpret that past always depends on our own personal bias.  Our culture, our class, our political and religious stance.  Doing history is about writing a story, and you do it from a perspective, rarely as an objective.

My perspective is that of a 21st Century rural working class guy in his fifties.  My bias is that I am an atheist and a liberal that grew up in a Post Fordist society, during the Arms Race, followed by 911, and the War on Terror.  That sounds ridiculous, but the truth is that how we see the distant past, is tempered by our life time experiences.

During the early parts of the 20th Century, British antiquarians and archaeologists would proudly raise different shaped skulls, bronze axe heads, and pottery shards at conferences, announcing that they represented the "collared urn people", or the "pond barrow culture" the "La Tene" or what not.  These time travellers had grown up and experienced times of imperialism, colonisation, international upheaval, world war, and genocide.  They were as often as not, politically conservative, middle class, men, and yeah, if it matters, white.  They saw every trench level of artefact changes as evidence of population displacement, invasion, genocide.

Then following years of relative world peace, anti-war protests, and social reforms, the universities and colleges started to churn out a new breed of professional archaeologist - from a variety of backgrounds.  They argued that "pots were not people", they argued for "continuity, admixture, and cultural exchange".  As they saw it, a change in artefacts, cultures, even perhaps of languages, did not always prove displacement.  They grew up in a time of peace.  They saw peace.

That age recently ended.  The past six or seven years has seen a resurrection of ideas of invasion, displacement, Indo-European expansion, and maybe even of ancient genocides.  It is as though we have returned to those antiquarian conferences, only the actors are no longer middle class historians, but online enthusiasts, and it is no longer bronze weapons or pots that they hold up as their artefacts, but haplogroups, DNA, and PIE (proto Indo-European language).  A popular revolution with a conservative theme.  Pots might not always be people, but SNPs (snips) may well be, they jeer.

So in this post 911 World, here I am acknowledging my prejudice, my bias.  I am not opposed to the new popularist wave of displacement hypothesis.  Some of it does sound dangerously nationalist, even xenophobic.  A struggle for survival, as one Y chromosome replaces a less fit haplogroup, almost as if proposed by a perverted social take on Darwinism.  The online bulletin boards on the front line of this debate are full of posts by banned members.  I actually welcome the new ideas, the revival, the challenge of acceptance.  That so many online enthusiasts are involved, rather than the merely elitist professionalised academics has to be a good, more democratic thing.  However, I also tend to look for a concession.  I think yes, the revisionist archaeologists out of the post-war universities went too far.  But as do many of the new genetic warriors today.

With that in mind, I'm going to share my own prejudiced view of the origins of Anglo-Saxon England with this post.

The humble Dutch immigrant

People have been building boats and travelling out of sight of the coast, for a very long time.  More than 8,000 years ago, Neolithic farmers were doing it, to colonise places like Cyprus and Crete.  Britain had long been an island, when the first Neolithic farmers arrived here.

Britain has two main spheres of influence.  1) The West (or if you prefer "Celtic West", looks to the Irish and Atlantic seaboards that connect the West of Britain to Ireland, Brittany, the Highlands and perhaps even Northern Iberia.  2) The East (or if you prefer the English south-east), that is a part of the "the North Sea World", looks to the low countries, the north German coast, and even to Scandinavia for trade, influence, and exchange.  How far back do these two spheres go?  I'd say all of the way back.  People didn't simply wait until AD 410 to hop onto a boat, I cannot accept that.

My first confession of bias, is that I do not believe that Anglo-Saxon England was born in AD 410.  I think that it had a North Sea influence much earlier than that.  Perhaps that is what the POBI 2015 study (people of the British Isles) found when they assessed the English to be a very homogeneous population, but with a mystery shared ancestry with the French, that appeared to date back long before AD 410.  Perhaps we should take more notice of Caesar's assertion, that the British Isles had recently been colonised by the Belgae.  Perhaps we shouldn't dismiss all of the suggestions by Stephen Oppenheimer, that there was an ancient Saxon presence in south-east Britain, and that the Belgae were a part of their story.

That is my first confession.  I think that the English have been around Britain longer than from AD 410.

My second confession.  I don't see an Anglo Saxon invasion, simply followed a few centuries later by a Viking army.  I see instead, immigrant farmers from what is now Belgium, the Netherlands, Northern Germany, and Denmark, arriving in South-east Britain in drips and waves between perhaps late prehistory, and the 12th century.  Immigrants more than invaders.  Fitting in where they could.  Grabbing what was available.  Perhaps they were fleeing fealties and bonds in their own countries.  Late Roman Britain suffered from uprisings, disputes, insecurity, and political weaknesses.  The economy collapsed, administration collapsed, society was in tatters.  It was easy to row past immigration control in the forms of the deserted Roman shore fort at Burgh, evade paying a tax, and to land at Reedham.

I can imagine that when they landed, they would have been met by others, already familiar with their dialects, eager to trade, and to sell services.  Guide them to the best cut of new land, or land that could be drained.  The economy was in collapse, local elites would have been ready to break with tradition, make deals with hard working immigrants.  Allocate land to work.  Who cares if it had bypassed the Imperial authorities, it was cheap and flexible.

So what I am suggesting is that the Anglo-Saxon invasion in places like the coastline and river valleys of East Anglia may not have been such a big hitter.  Instead of helmeted Angles and Saxons roaring up the beaches waving their swords, that the change could have been a little gentler, less confrontational.  Gildas and Bede, with their stories of Hengist and Horsa, could have been the outraged Daily Mail Editorial of their day "invading immigrants, raping our women, nicking our land!!".  Recent studies of cemeteries in the Cambridge area, have supported this hypothesis, with evidence that a) locals mimicked the culture of the immigrants, b) they inter-married, and c) the poorest were actually recent immigrants.  Source.

I'm not saying that it happened this way, it's just an alternative perspective.  Poor Dutch and German farmers looking for a better life in Britannia.  That might have been the scene in 5th Century East Anglia.  Of course, the good times couldn't roll forever.  New elites emerged, and started to exploit the fealties again.  Once again, the poor got poorer.  Feudalism established....

The trickle of immigrants probably continued.  The trade and contact across the North Sea didn't just go away.  Perhaps there was a secondary wave during the 9th Century AD, that which we associate with the Dane-Law.  Perhaps they were from the area of Denmark, but were they raging horned helmeted Vikings?  Sea levels had recently dropped ever so slightly, making new land at Flegg in Norfolk, actually of use, with just a little bit of drainage - as other new land would have been.  No wonder places like that are dotted with Anglo-Danish place-names.

Was this period though, just a continuation of what had preceded?  We could extend this in a way.  Norwich and Great Yarmouth became host to a number of Dutch protestants during the early 15th Century.  Later it was the Huguenots.  There always was a Dutch influence in East Norfolk.  During the early 20th Century, Anglo-Dutch sugar beet consortiums even carved up the landscape of the area.  Was this nothing new?

But I'm biased...

More posts like this one:

There was no British Genocide

There was no British Genocide II


My Anglo-Saxon Mother (Moder)

This is a follow on from my last post, concerning the mapping of my paper ancestry over the past three centuries.  A noticeable cluster of ancestry (on my mother's side) appeared on the maps from three generations ago, in Broadland or East Norfolk, including the villages of Reedham, Limpenhoe, Cantley, Freethorpe, Stokesby, Beighton, Postwick, Hassingham, Buckenham St Nicholas, Halvergate, Tunstall, South Burlingham, Moulton, and Acle.

That this cluster is so firmly entrenched, suggests that I have had ancestry in that locality for a long time.  I have already postulated that this area would have acted as a prime settlement district for immigrants from between the fourth and eleventh centuries, from across the North Sea.  I thought that I would play on this idea a little more.

The map below shows East Norfolk as it would have appeared during the Fourth Century, with slightly higher sea levels than we enjoy today, and previous to any substantial engineered drainage:

The red dappling, outlines the main cluster of my mother's paper ancestry, that provenances there during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  Such a strong cluster would suggest deep roots in that zone.

Very different to the present day Norfolk Broads and Coast.  Great Yarmouth and Breydon Water are replaced by a Great Estuary.  Reedham literally faced the North Sea at the head end of the estuary.  Indeed, 20th Century works in the parish church of Reedham, revealed hidden herringbone decorations made from Roman bricks.  it has been hypothesised, that these bricks may have come from a nearby Romano-British lighthouse.

Revisionist historians and archaeologists have for many years, argued that the Roman forts of the Saxon Shore, were in fact not defensive, defending the province from attack by marauding Anglo-Saxon pirates, but were instead used to control and tax North Sea trade with the province.  Some have even gone so far as to suggest that areas like this were already being culturally influenced by the North Sea Anglo-Saxon world.

The collapse of Roman administration, and the disintegration of much of Roman society, and the Roman way of life, made it easy for Continental adventurers to cross the North Sea from outside of the old Empire, and to settle in Eastern England.  Some of them may have been escaping exploitation from the elites that were gathering power in their homelands.  They knew how to live with a rural barter-economy, without the niceties that the Empire had offered the British.  A recent study of human remains in the Cambridge area, noted that within a very short time, even the local British were adapting the customs and artifacts of Anglo-Saxon culture.  Not only that, but those remains that were genetically profiled as of being of local British origin not only aped the new immigrants, but their burials were higher status and richer.  The poorer graves mainly profiled as newly arrived immigrants from the Low Countries or Denmark.  The researchers suggested that in the case of immigration (rather than invasion), this is what we should expect to see.  The immigrants had to settle for whatever they could get, which would often be poorer land.

I'm going to restate my view.  I support a number of recent genetic surveys, also backed up by many archaeologists, that the 5th Century AD Anglo-Saxon Invasion of Britain was exaggerated in it's ferocity by Gildas and Bede, rather like the Daily Mail exaggerates present day immigration and it's "damaging effect".  It was certainly a very major migration, but it appears to have left the lowland British genome with no more than 20% to 40% of it's DNA share.  It seems from recent genetic studies, that the present day ethnic English, inherit more DNA from prehistoric British populations, than they do from Continental Anglo-Saxons.  Not only that, but the immigrants seem to have married into British society, rather than slaughter it.  It was during the later Sixth Century, that emerging elites of the lowland British kingdoms started to claim ethnic identification, and descent from heroic Angles and Saxons.

In this post, I'm not going to particularly distinguish between the Anglo-Saxon settlement of the 5th/6th Century AD, from the hypothesised Danish settlement of the 9th/10th century.  Perhaps we should see them as waves of North Sea immigration, but perhaps not so entirely divorced from each other.  The earlier may have originated more from Frisia and Angeln, and the latter from a little bit further north in Denmark, but the cultures don't seem to have been that much different.  When I was a boy, travelling through the loam soils of Broadland to see my relatives in Cantley, I was always struck by the big Dutch barns on the landscape.  I was told that the Dutch had long had connections to the area.  Maybe my parents underestimated how far back these links across the North Sea went.

This 20% to 40% Anglo-Saxon DNA spreads across all of England.  Even the Welsh and Cornish have a percentage of it.  However, I was intrigued by a comment in Stephen Oppenheimer in his book Origins of the British 2007, when he did just remark that the highest marker was from an East Norfolk sample!

When I look at the above maps, and in relationship to Frisia, Saxony, Angeln, and Denmark, it appears to me that the Great Estuary must have seemed like a magnet to the boat loads of new settlers.  Rivers opening up from the North Sea, to rich arable soils and lowlands.  A recently closed shore fort - tax, customs, and immigration control free!  I can't help but imagine the first boats beaching or mooring at Reedham, Cantley, Halvergate (-gate, another Norse place-name) etc.

Not only that, but during the 6th and 7th centuries, the sea levels dropped.  Desperate settlers could easily create new land with simple drainage methods.  This appears to be particularly relevant to the East Norfolk district of Flegg.  An island surrounded by new marshes, with the sea waters draining away.  Almost every parish on Flegg, finishes with the classic place-name suffix of Danish settlement - Fil-by, Stokes-by, Rolles-by, Ormes-by, Hems-by etc.  That the later settlers left so many place-names must reflect a great land grab by immigrant families.  The settlers had to fit in where they could.  their ability to exploit a drop in sea levels, and to perhaps make use of their engineering skills at draining land, must have been an advantage at settling in this area.  The drained salt-marshes proved top quality grazing land.  The marsh grasses of the Halvergate Triangle were used to fatten sheep, cattle and other livestock for centuries after. The marshes are dotted by small medieval man-made islands known as holmes (from the Old Norse holmr).

Conclusion

I've basically been making claims here, of direct descent from the North Sea Settlers that arrived in the eastern extremes of East Anglia between the 4th and 11th centuries.  I'm daring to suggest that my mother's established deep links with that area, may indicate that she has a heightened percentage of their DNA.  Of course, I could be wrong.  Perhaps there was more shuffling of genes across Britain into and out of that district during the medieval.  Perhaps the POBA 2015 survey was correct in dismissing any Danish settlement.

Why does it matter to me anyway?  I am equally proud of my Romano-British ancestry as I am of my Anglo-Saxon (or perhaps Anglo-Danish) ancestry.  The Romano-Britons seem to have largely descended from late prehistoric Britons - the people that erected all of those round barrows across Britain, that went on to build wonderful hill forts, the people that rebelled against Rome during the 1st Century AD.  However, I'm also proud of having North Sea settler ancestry.  They were the go-getters of their day, that uprooted to look for adventure.  Hard working migrants and pioneers.  Perhaps similar in some respects, to the Europeans that uprooted to settle the Americas, or dare I suggest, to the present day EU immigrants of Britain.

Years ago, I read a fascinating landscape history on this area, called The Norfolk Broads, a landscape history.  By Tom Williamson, 1997.  Unfortunately, I lent the book out.  I really would like to read this again now.

Why do I like Mandolins

Danse Macabre

I took the above photograph on Rollei Retro 400S film, loaded in a Pentax Spotmatic camera.  Anita holding my Chinese made Countryman F-style mandolin in the village church yard.  Developed in rodinal.

Why do I like mandolins?

I don't really know, but I absolutely love mandolins.

The mandolin descends from a long line of small oud or lute-type instruments that had been circulating Africa and Europe for many centuries or perhaps even more.  However, They really took form as the mandolino in the Naples area.  Between the late seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries the Neapolitan mandolino (meaning almond-shaped) evolved to have as a default, a bowl shaped back made of glued strips of wood, a bent sound table, decorated beading around the sound board, a tortoise shell pick guard, a narrow neck, , four pairs of metal strings, tuned in pairs the same as a violin - GDAE, and good quality tuners.  It had evolved from being a small oud, into the classic Neapolitan bowl-backed mandolin.

The Neapolitan bowl backed, is still the mandolin of choice for many mandolinists performing for tourists in Italy, for fans of traditional Italian folk music, and for some classical mandolinists.  However, as the mandolin craze spread across Europe during the nineteenth century, so it took local turns and twists.  The bowl was sometimes replaced with a flat or curved back for example.  In Greece, they already had their own versions - the bouzoukis. In Portugal, it took the form of the bandolim - which also made it across the Atlantic to Brazil.  Meanwhile, both Brazilian bandolinists, and Italian mandolinists were wowing the thriving palour music scene in the USA.

It was in the USA, that new forms of mandolin were produced and popularised, particularly by the Gibson guitar company, with their A and F style American mandolins.  Mandolins started to fall into the hands of Blues musicians.  Jazz musicians picked them up.  When Bluegrass launched, Bill Munroe picked a Gibson F5-style.  Today, it seems as though the USA has replaced Italy, as the stronghold of the mandolin.

Here in the UK, when many people first see a modern mandolin, they often mistake it for a ukulele or even a banjo. They don't really know what it is, or what it sounds like.  The mandolin rarely makes it into popular music - although it has starred in songs by Led Zeppelin (the Battle of Evermore), R.E.M (Losing my Religion), and Rod Stewart (Maggie May).

So why do I love mandolins?

I have no musical background.  I had never really tried to play a musical instrument outside of a stylophone during the 1970s.  I sucked in music class.  I could not read noted music at all.  That was my musical experience up to the age of fifty two.

Then I walked into the local music shop.  He had the Countryman F5 style on the wall, at the end of a long row of guitars.  It was just so pretty, I didn't think about it.  I just handed over the plastic.  Nothing to do with liking any style of music, any musician, or the sound of the mandolin.  It was just the looks of it.  Ironically the owner of that shop was born in Italy - so that I can still say that I bought my first mandolin from an Italian.

The Countryman label is used sometimes by a Chinese distributor to the UK.  I have tracked the same mandolin under different labels in Europe and in the USA.  Like so many Chinese stringed instruments - perhaps not the best wood - it is quiet, and not the richest tone, but for the price it was incredible value, with all of the goodies that you'd expect on a much more expensive American-made bluegrass mandolin.  A simple change of the strings improved the tone noticeably.  It plays well.  A good mandolin to learn on.

I took classes with a very good mandolin teacher for a while.  Good, in the sense that he was a mature music teacher of the old school, and a genuine mandolinist himself, but not so good in that he was so strict, that I eventually felt too nervous to play, and after around six months, regrettably canceled my classes.

Since then I have tried to self-train, but instead have perhaps more simply taken the route of playing for fun.  I would like more spare time, and more self discipline in order to study more efficiently.  I have plenty of great books, and a host of great teaching videos on Youtube and elsewhere.  I'm attracted to traditional Italian, and to Irish or Scottish folk, but I'd like to have a crack at some blues.  So much music to learn, so many techniques.

Ever since my initial attraction to that instrument in the music shop, I have found other reasons to love mandolins.  Okay, they don't have the warm big sound of an acoustic guitar.  But they are so small, so portable.  I absolutely love practicing on my mandolin.  I can't really explain why.  It's not a guitar.  It is more personal.

I have to admit that I have wasted money buying a couple of cheap mandolins on Ebay.  An old Neapolitan bowl back, and a Romanian curve back, distributed by a Scottish company as the Celtic Petit.  Although both are louder, neither play as easily as my Chinese Countryman.

As I said in my last post, I have commissioned a hand-crafted mandolin from a local luthier, Gary Nava.  I'm so looking forward to it later this year.  

The below Youtube video stars Charlie Pig's World of Pluck.  He is playing one of Gary Nava's hand-made mandolins.  He's such a good player, and my playing sucks so bad.  I just hope Gary doesn't expect me to play it when I pick it up.  I really like Charlie's performance here, so I'm embedding it in this blog for inspiration.  This is why I now love the mandolin: