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.

Building bridges and walls through ancestry

Copied from openstreetmap.org and modified under the Open Data Commons Open Database License.  

Bridges and Walls, Snakes and Ladders

I've noticed two perspectives within the broad scope of genealogy where it ties to population genetics.

  • Some people, those with nationalistic, right wing political views, frequently look for what divides their ancestry from others.  What defines and ties them to a historical population, or even to a land.  They may well want to prove connection to a romanticised historical group within their part of the world.
  • Others - those of a more international, liberal persuasion, instead tend to look for what unites them with other peoples alive today - what connects them within the community of humanity.

I have to confess to being more of the latter.

On Paper

I started out with a pretty well researched paper genealogical record.  A family tree.  A family history.  Researched through oral history, interviews, parish records, state records, and then on to digitalised records in more recent years.  A genealogical database of 1,570 individuals for my kids, and 207 direct ancestors recorded for myself - going back to the 1680s.  My recorded ancestry was 100% English - dominated by the County of Norfolk.  The majority of present day English perhaps have some non-English ancestry, perhaps Irish or Scottish, or something a little further afield.  I didn't find any.  All English surnames, and English denominations.  Some of those surnames however, did echo rather more ancient immigration from across the North Sea.

Autosomal DNA Testing

Autosomal DNA testing for ancestry provided a bit of a surprise.  I took a 23andMe DNA test, along with my mother, who's results I phased with to provide more accuracy.  The 23andMe Ancestry Composition analysis in standard mode didn't simply see me as English, or even as British.  It did see me pretty much as 100% European.  Not a hint of Africa nor Asia within the past several hundred years.  It saw 86% of my autosomal DNA as definitively North-West European.  However, it could only see a mere 17% as distinctly belonging to British & Irish.  So, the ancestry test of my autosomal DNA certainly agreed that I was European, NW European even, but couldn't be sure on how English or even British that I was.

23andMe Ancestry Composition in the very unreliable speculative mode rated my British/Irishness at only 37%.  The highest percentage of focus - but it saw 22% of my autosomal DNA ancestry as French / German, 1% as Scandinavian, and 2% as South European.  So considering my 100% English ancestry on paper, autosomal DNA testing couldn't really be very sure about my ancestry.  Even in speculative mode, it had 34% of my DNA as "Broadly NW European", meaning that it couldn't be sure, but somewhere in that corner of that continent.

Fair enough I suppose.  I've lost a certain amount of faith in any autosome DNA tests for ancestry to be able to pinpoint the English.  You see, even ignoring recent waves of immigration of Irish, Scottish, French, Germans, West Indians, South Asians, etc, etc.  The truth is that the English were already a very admixed population even 1,500 years before present.  Already a mixture of prehistoric populations, immigrants from across the Roman Empire, then from across the North Sea, from the Low Countries, Northern Germany, Denmark, Scandinavia, etc.  23andMe claim that their product reflects your ancestry 500 years ago.  No it does not.  It uses modern reference populations.  Genes have been circulating around the World for a long time.  Autosomal DNA tests for ancestry have really improved.  They are pretty good now for recognising a Continent - sometimes even a corner of a continent, as the source of some ancestry.  But they cannot pinpoint many populations with accuracy, and they cannot pinpoint the English.

So, my paper record said English.  My 23andMe autosome DNA test said North-West European, but couldn't even pinpoint British.  It suggested admixture.  It did however - this is important - only see me as European.  Okay, in Standard Mode, it did have a tiny 0.3% that it failed to assign to Europe, nor anywhere.  It did not see Asian.

Haplogroup DNA Testing

Haplogroups follow two narrow lines of ancestry.  The Y follows the direct paternal line, the MT follows the direct maternal.  They do not represent the bulk of your ancestry.  However, they can tell a more accurate, and longer term story.  Ancestry can be lost in Autosomal DNA within a few centuries.  In addition, it gets messed up through recombination.  Not so with the two haplogroups.  So where did mine come from?


There is an awful lot that we will know in future about our haplogroups, that we don't yet know - especially in the case of mt-DNA. However, we do know that my haplogroup, H6a1, did not originate in Europe.

H is common in Europe, and it most likely originated either there, or in South West Asia, during the Upper Palaeolithic. H6 did not originate in Europe.  It may be West or Central Asian in origin.  H6a1 has not been recovered in any ancient DNA within Western Europe.  However, it has been recovered in the DNA of the Yamnaya on the Eurasian Steppes.  For this reason, it is generally thought - based on evidence so far, to have been brought into Western Europe during the Early Bronze Age, by the expansion from the Eurasian Steppes at that time.

It isn't too fanciful - based on this evidence, to imagine that my distant grandmothers belonged to tribes of Early Bronze Age pastoralists, living on the Steppes of what is now the Ukraine.


This one has been a cracker for me.  Anyone that has followed my blog, might be getting bored with this.  I've thoroughly tested my Y-DNA.  It's not an exaggeration to suggest that it is quite likely Ancient Persian.  Based on current evidence, I believe that my Y-DNA arrived into England within the last millennia - probably between 350 and 800 years ago.  I'm still working on it's most likely route here.  I do believe that it was most likely still located in the region of Iran circa 1,000 to 2,000 years ago.  My nearest 111 STR match is to a guy in Australia who's paternal line lived in Birjand, Eastern Iran.  We shared a common ancestor around 2,000 years ago.  My terminal SNP is shared on record with only one other man so far - in the world.  He was a Balochi speaker that lives in Makran, SW Pakistan - close to the border with Iran.  The Balochi are believed to have migrated from North Iran between the 5th and 14th centuries AD.

Nomad camp, at the Zagros Mountains, Iran.  By C Whitely on Flickr under Creative Commons License.

A bit more distant, I have a Y cousin in the USA that maybe I shared a common ancestor with 3,000 years ago.  He is of Azores Portuguese descent on his Y line, but he carries a distinct STR marker that has been associated with the Parsi, who migrated to India and Pakistan, but originated in Iran.

And going further back, the Y haplogroup L most likely originated within the area of Iran and Iraq, during the Ice Age.  It would have been carried by Upper Paleolithic hunter-gatherers in that region.  13,000 years, I shared grandfathers with two Pontic Greek Y cousins, who's ancestors lived in Trazbon, Eastern Anatolia.  Maybe one Y ancestral son headed to the Black Sea, the other settled at the Caspian Sea?  The Ice Age was drawing to a close, but with a ferocity and climate instability that drove bands of people apart and into refuges at that time.

The Parsi connection keeps hinting.  They descend from Persians that worshiped the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism.  I've just seen a Y haplogroup study of men in Pakistan.  The background level of Y haplogroup L-M317 sat at 1.1%.  However, in the sample of Parsi men there - it spikes up to 13.3%.  That might not be the route however, of my Y line.  The SK1414 SNP turned up in that same study, but that was found on the Makrani Boluch man that was tested L-M317, not in the 12 Parsi men that also tested positive for L-M317.


I prefer bridges to walls, and that is what I got.  My paper ancestry said 100% English - much of it East Anglian.  I'm quite proud of that, but I'm equally proud of my more distant ancestors that emigrated here.  I've found North Sea admixture, from places such as the Netherlands and southern Scandinavia.  I've found a grandmother in a Bronze Age tribe of pastoralists in the Ukraine.  I've found ancient Persians, descending from hunters of Ibex in the Iran / Iraq region.  I've found distant cousins in the USA, Iran, Pakistan, Australia, and Turkey.

One species, one family.

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.