Jacques “dit Beaumont” de Bonnevie, Acadian from Paris, 52 Ancestors #26

Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques,
Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?
Sonnez les matines, sonnez les matines
Ding ding dong, ding ding dong.

I always loved that lullaby from childhood.  Brother John, Brother John, are you sleeping, are you sleeping?  Morning Bells are ringing, morning bells are ringing….

I had no idea I had my own French Jacques and that the morning bells were those of Notre Dame in Paris.

river cruise 2

Little did I know on the day I found my first Acadian ancestor what a floodgate was opening.  Now, that’s both a good thing and a bad thing.  Wonderful because so much research has been done on Acadian families, and terribly frustrating because in so many cases, in spite of all of that research, we still can’t get them back to France.

world vine

The families are also, in some cases, hopelessly intertwined….and I don’t even want to talk about what the autosomal DNA of these families looks like.  Let’s just say that it’s not a family tree, but more line a family vine.

Jacques “dit Beaumont” de Bonnevie is an exception in that we know where he was born in France.

Before I tell you about Jacques, what little we know about him, let me thank a few people who’ve helped me immensely.

First, Paul LeBlanc, who tells me we are related in 37 different ways, is the host of the Acadian list at Rootsweb.  To subscribe to this list,  please send an email to ACADIAN-request@rootsweb.com with the word ‘subscribe’ without the quotes in the subject and the body of the message.

I think it was also Paul who told me that if you’re related to one Acadian, you’re related to all Acadians.  I thought it was cute at the time.  Little did I realize he was serious!  I didn’t know, then, just how true that was!

Secondly, the research on Jacque and much of what has been done on my other Acadian ancestors was contributed by Karen Theriot Reader, a librarian and genealogist extraordinaire, focused on Acadian immigrants to Louisiana.  Fortunately for me, those families all originated in Acadia, in far northeastern Canada, shown on the map below.

Acadia 1754

I am also very grateful to the administrators of DNA projects that include or focus on Acadian families.

There is the Mothers of Acadia project as well as the Amerindian Ancestor Out of Acadia project.

There are also various related projects, such as the Louisiana Creole and the French Heritage projects.

Sorting out the families and separating myth from fact has become much easier with the advent of genetic genealogy.  In fact, it’s how I proved my first Acadian connection through the Lore family – but that’s a story for another time.

Dit Names

Oh yes, and there’s one more thing I’d better explain and that’s about “dit” names.  Dit names, often found in French Canadian, specifically Acadian, families are nicknames, for lack of a better term, either attached to a surname or to a particular person.

Dit translates literally as “to say” so a “dit” name means “that is to say.”  Sometimes dit names are location based, military based or something else that doesn’t make much sense today.  For example, if the dit name is LaMontagne, or “the mountain,” does it mean the man was built like a mountain, he was of great social stature, was it that he lived near the mountain, or was it, perhaps, a joke?

As if Acadian genealogy wasn’t complex enough, ancestors can be listed under either name, or both, variously, or at the same time.

When I knew I was going to Paris in the fall of 2013, I searched through my files to see if any of my ancestors had a historical connection to Paris, and sure enough, Jacques was born there.

Jacques “dit Beaumont” de Bonnevie

Jacques was born about 1660, although some references state as late as 1678, in Paris. However, Karen Theriot Reader’s source provides proof that the 1660 date is much more accurate than later dates.

Karen provided me with the following information about Jacques and how we know he was in fact, born in Paris.

The citation from Stephen A. White is from his highly respected genealogical dictionary of Acadians. He does go into detail on the historical document which says Jacques was a “native of Paris.” It is in French in the original citation, but I have the English translation he published somewhat later. Footnote/Endnote Citation: Stephen A. White, English Supplement to the Dictionnaire généalogique des familles acadiennes (Moncton: Centre d’Études Acadiennes, 2000). Published as [vol. 3] of the Dictionnaire Généalogique des Familles Acadiennes.

He is listed as Jacques Bonnavie dit Beaumont.

Another note from Karen provides us with additional information.

Jacques BONNEVIE dit BEAUMONT, Biographical Note: 20 Dec 1732: List of the disabled retired from the French forces at Ile Royale proposed to my Lord the Compte de Maurepas to receive half-pay.

Jacques Bonnevie called Beaumont, aged seventy-two years, native of Paris, former corporal in the troops of Acadia, where he served for seventeen years. He is not in condition to serve, nor to earn his living, because of a wound to his thigh he received in the King’s service.

Document found in Stephen A. White’s Dictionnaire (French ed.):  (ANF, Col, D2C, vol 47, fol 475)   That would be in the Archives of New France (ANF). Also, Isle Royale is now Cape Breton Island in Canada.

Jacques died on April 23, 1733 at the Hospital de Louisbourg, Ile-Royal, Acadia.

Karen also provided from Bona Arsenault, HISTOIRE ET GENEALOGIE DES ACADIENS; 1625-1810; Ottawa, Editions Lemeac, 1978, 6 vols.; p. 438 (Port Royal); own copy:

Entry says name also BEAUMONT. Jacques was born around 1678, married around 1699 to Francoise MIUS, “doubtless” the daughter of Philippe MIUS Jr. of Pobomcoup & a “sauvagesse” Marie, whom he had married.

Karen’s tree shows the six children listed, born from 1701 through 1715.  There were no births listed from 1707-1714, suggesting that at least 4 children perished.

“Sauvagesse” means Native American.  Because she has a Christian name, Marie, we can rest assured that she had been baptized into the Catholic faith.

One of the daughters of Jacques dit Beaumont de Bonnevie was Marie Charlote Bonnevie, born May 12, 1706 in Port Royal, Acadia.  On August 18, 1721, Marie would marry Jacques “dit LaMontagne” Lore/Lord.  They are my 7G-grandparents.


Unfortunately, I have been unable to find any record that anyone by the name of Bonnevie or deBonnevie has been DNA tested, but at Family Tree DNA there are 15 individuals with the surname Beaumont who have tested.  There is no Beaumont surname project, unfortunately, so I checked the French Heritage project.  Unfortunately, there is only one and they are from England.  At Ancestry.com, there is only one Beaumont who has tested and there is no information attached to their account.  I have sent them a message, but I’m not at all convinced that my message-sending capability at Ancestry isn’t broken, considering that I haven’t received a reply from anyone in over a year.

I have a scholarship for Y DNA testing for any male who descends from this line and carries the surname, whatever it is today, Bonnevie, de Bonnevie, Beaumont, or whatever.

Renaissance Paris

I know what Paris was like in 1970 when I lived there, and what it is like today, but what was Paris like when Jacque de Bonnevie lived there as a child in the 1660s and 1670s?

Like everyplace else in Europe at that time, religion played a very big part of the lives of the populace.  Paris wasn’t immune to the religious turmoil plaguing the rest of Europe after the beginning of Protestantism in 1530. This problem didn’t begin in the 1600s though, but much earlier, in the 1500s,althoug the ramifications reached forward centuries.

An ominous gulf was growing within Paris between the followers of the established Catholic church and Protestant Calvinism and Renaissance humanism. The Sorbonne and University of Paris, the major fortresses of Catholic orthodoxy, forcefully attacked the Protestant and humanist doctrines, and the scholar Etienne Dolet was burned at the stake, along with his books, on Place Maubert in 1532, on the orders of the theology faculty of the Sorbonne; but despite that, the new doctrines continued to grow in popularity, particularly among the French upper classes.

Beginning in 1562, repression and massacres of Protestants in Paris alternated with periods of tolerance and calm, during what became known as the French Wars of Religion. Paris was a stronghold of the Catholic party. On the night of 23–24 August 1572, while many prominent Protestants were in Paris on the occasion of the marriage of Henri of Navarre—the future Henry IV—to Margaret of Valois, sister of Charles IX, the royal council decided to assassinate the leaders of the protestants. The targeted killings quickly turned into a general slaughter of Protestants by Catholic mobs, known as St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, and continued through August and September, spreading from Paris to the rest of the country. About three thousand Protestants were killed in Paris, and five to ten thousand elsewhere in France.

st bartholomew massacre

This painting by Francois Debois shows the massacre with Admiral Cologny’s body handing out of a window in the rear to the right.  The left rear shows Catherine de’Medici emerging from the Chateau de Louvre to inspect a heap of bodies.  Another drawing, below, by Frans Hogenberg, shows the massacre as well.

st bartholomew massacre 2

People left Paris in droves, about one third of the population, fearing for their safety.  Many houses were destroyed during the Religious Wars and the grand projects of the Louvre, the Hôtel de Ville, and the Tuileries Palace were left unfinished.

This was a very dark time in French history.

By the middle of the 1600s, the city had recovered and new churches were being built, inspired by those of Rome.  By 1650, the population had doubled and reached about 400,000.  Bridges were being built to replace ferries and new construction was everyplace.  The Church of Les Invalides was built between 1671 and 1678 and the College of 4 Nations from 1662-1672.  New theaters were created to entertain people and the first café opened in 1686.  Paris was growing and prospering.  Jacque, born about 1660, would have been witness to this prosperity.

For the poor however, life was very different.  They were crowded into tall, narrow, five or six story high buildings lining the winding streets on the Île de la Cité and other medieval quarters of the city. Crime in the dark streets was a serious problem. Metal lanterns were hung in the streets and the number of archers who acted as night watchmen was increased to four hundred.

Of course, we don’t know Jacque’s social or financial status – but I doubt a wealthy man would serve in the military as an enlisted man, and be shipped to Nova Scotia.

Paris in 1660

We know that Jacques was born in Paris in 1660.  We know that he was in Acadia by 1699 when he married.  He likely did not arrive in Acadia until he was at least age 20, so he was in Paris from at least 1660 to 1680 and possibly another 18 or 19 years.

We know that he was in the military for 17 years, and he know that he had a “dit” name that translates as “beautiful mountain.”  (Thank you for the translation to Marie Rundquist.)  You’ll have to pardon my wondering about how that name was bestowed up on him, and whether it was before or after he arrived in Acadia.

What was happening in Paris when Jacques lived there?

Kings entry 1660

In 1660, all of Paris gathered to see the entry of King Louis the XIV.  Were Jacque’s parents among the crowd?  Was his mother pregnant for Jacques, or perhaps she had a newborn infant and couldn’t attend the festivities.

louvre 1660s

Here’s the Louvre, as Jacque might have seen it as a young boy, in the 1660s.  In fact, he could have been one of those children playing in the street.

If, in fact, Jacques was born anyplace near the city center, he could have been baptized in Notre Dame.

notre dame 1669

Here is a painting of “Choeur de Notre Dame de Paris” from 1669.

ile de la cite 1550

This first map is of Paris in 1550. You can see this map in detail at this link.  The detail is incredible, neighborhoods and even individual houses.  Were Jacques’, and my, ancestors living here then?  Is their house on the map?

The first bridge, The Pont Notre-Dame, shown on the map above, was built in 1512 and held a street and 68 houses.

paris 1607

Here’s a perspective view of Paris from 1607.  Notice that there were many churches.

The island at the city center is quite visible and so are the walls, although it’s evident that there is already some constructions and people living outside the walls.  If Jacques was born in 1660, this would have been the Paris of his grandparents.

paris 1660

This 1660 map shows not only the city, but the dress of Parisians at that time as well.  This would have been what his parents wore or saw people around them wearing.

Paris 1705

In 1670, King Louis ordered the destruction of the city walls, feeling they were no longer necessary.  This 1705 map shows the location of the old walls and the new construction outside the walls.  Did Jacque watch the old walls being torn down?  Might he have helped? He would have been a strapping man of about 20, in his physical prime.

Les Invalides

Jacques would have watched the construction of Les Invalides, above, from 1662-1672.

We don’t know when Jacques left Paris, but we do know he was in “His Majesty’s Service” for 17 years, and it’s very likely that he arrived in the New World as a soldier.  Life would have been dramatically different for Jacques, moving from Paris to, comparatively, a wilderness.

We also know he was wounded in the thigh, but we don’t know how or when that injury occurred although it would have not been before his arrival in Acadia.  It could well have been in 1710 in the Siege of Port Royal when the British took Port Royal, renaming it Annapolis Royal.

His 17 years in service could have ended shortly after his arrival in Nova Scotia.  If he enlisted when he was age 20 in 1680, his 17 years of service would have ended in 1697, for example.  However, the wording in his pension application says specifically that he served as a “former corporal in the troops of Acadia, where he served for seventeen years.”  If he served in Acadia for 17 years, then his retirement was probably about 1715 or so.  It certainly was not after 1716 if he married in Port Royal about 1799.  His retirement could have been earlier than 1716.

It’s likely that Jacques was involved with the building of the fort at Port Royal.  With the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1702, colonists on both sides again prepared for conflict. Acadia’s governor, Jacques-François de Monbeton de Brouillan, had, in anticipation of war, already begun construction of a stone and earth fort in 1701, shown below, which was largely completed by 1704.

Fort Royal 1704

Fort Royal was defended by about 300 troops, many of whom were poorly trained recruits from France.  We don’t know when Jacques was injured, but to entirely disable him, it must have been severe.  In 1710, the French lost both Fort Royal and Port Royal.  The painting below shows the evacuation of the fort.  Whether Jacques was still in the military at this time, or not, he surely was involved in many ways during this decade of instability.

Did he and his wife worry constantly about an impending attack?  Did they finally decide that it was never coming, and relax, only to be surprised?  How did they cope with living under constant threat?  Life apparently went on, because several of their children were born during this decade.

Fort Royal 1710

Jacques would have been 50 years old in 1710 when Fort Royal was taken by the British.  He requested a half-pay pension on December 20, 1732, at age 72, and subsequently died on April 23, 1733.

Maybe it’s a good thing he died when he did and didn’t live another 22 years to see his children and their families uprooted and forcibly deported from Acadia in the 1755 event known as “Le Grand Derangement.”

Jacques saw a lot in his lifetime.  The rebuilding and expansion of the City of Paris, the removal of the medieval city walls, a transatlantic crossing, the fort at Port Royal and the loss of Port Royal to the British in 1710 when he had young children to protect.  He was likely involved in battles, or at least one battle, and was severely wounded.  He would have watched his children become adults and marry as the fort area expanded.  Still, his children were close by.  In 1732, probably as he was becoming feeble and unable to care for himself, he asked for a half-pay pension for his 17 years of service, passing away only four months later..

I wonder if he agreed to go to Acadia (Canada) with the expectation that he would never return home to France, or if the company of French/Indian Francoise Mius changed his mind and was the reason he remained.  We have no records from Paris, but his age at the time he married Francoise, nearly 40 years old, suggests that he might have had a family in France at one time as well.  Perhaps they perished and he went to Acadia to begin anew.

We are very fortunate to know as much as we do about Jacques “dit Beaumont” de Bonnevie.  Like all genealogists, I’d love to know more.  I’d also love to test the DNA of a Bonnevie male descendant, if there are any.  If you are a male Bonnevie and descend from this line, I have a DNA scholarship waiting just for you!



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WikiTree Announces DNA Ancestor Confirmation Aid

The following press release was provided by WikiTree.  I was pleased to be able to preview the new DNA Ancestor Confirmation Aid.  If people will actually use WikiTree for their ancestors, and enter their DNA information, especially in mitochondrial lines where there is no common surname to follow…this new tool holds a great deal of promise.  WikiTree didn’t develop this tool in a vacuum.  Genetic genealogist Peter Roberts, project administrator of the Bahamas DNA Project, has been involved along the way, providing invaluable insight as to what the genetic genealogy community needs, and how to go about providing those tools and services.

Great job WikiTree!

Take a look and a test drive…

wikitree logo

Fourteen years ago, on 26 June 2000, it was announced that the first draft of the entire human genome had been completed. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair commented that “every so often in the history of human endeavor there comes a breakthrough that takes humankind across a frontier and into a new era. … I believe that today’s announcement is such a breakthrough …”.

The sweeping impact of a map of the human genome is still unfolding in science, medicine, and many other fields. One of these fields is genealogy. DNA testing for genealogy has been advancing rapidly — becoming more reliable, more informative, and less expensive.

Parallel to this, progress on a single family tree for humanity has been advancing rapidly thanks to Internet “crowdsourcing.” Genealogists are pooling their research and collaborating on websites such as WikiTree.com. Until now, this family tree collaboration has been based primarily on research in public records and information handed down through families.

The combination of DNA testing and a collaborative worldwide family tree is enabling something that most genealogists never expected: scientific confirmation of their genealogy.

Today WikiTree is announcing the DNA Ancestor Confirmation Aid, a tool to help genealogists confirm their ancestry. Because of the broad-based collaboration on WikiTree and the fact that the Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA is passed down relatively unchanged for many generations in known inheritance patterns, a DNA test taken by one genealogist can aid the research of many distant cousins. In turn, the research of one genealogist can dramatically expand the utility of other people’s DNA tests.

The DNA Ancestor Confirmation Aid shows step-by-step how to confirm father-son and mother-child relationships in a family tree. It enables genealogists to discover if any other descendants of their ancestors have already taken DNA tests — something becoming more common as the cost of testing goes down and as ancestries become more deeply interconnected. When there’s an opportunity for confirmation by comparing test results, there are direct comparison links. When additional testing needs to be taken for confirmation, it links to potential test-takers.

The DNA Ancestor Confirmation Aid is intended to help genealogists of all levels, including those who are completely new to DNA testing. More experienced genetic genealogists will also find benefits. Roberta Estes of DNAeXplain says, “this is particularly useful for mitochondrial DNA because there is no other ‘connecting’ mechanism. I’m sure that many of my ancestor’s mitochondrial DNA is represented in the thousands of people who have tested — but until now — there was no way to find them, since the surnames may have changed a dozen times since our shared ancestor.”

Nathan J. Bowen, PhD, genome scientist at the Center for Cancer Research and Therapeutic Development at Clark Atlanta University, sees potential long-term benefits we can all share: “The release of the working draft of the human genome 14 years ago was a huge moment, democratizing the use of the sequence for everyone, not just corporations with private databases. Now genealogists at WikiTree are building a public family tree for humanity, confirmed with DNA. Ultimately this may reveal patterns of human migration, inheritance and disease that return significant benefits for science and medicine.”

About WikiTree

Growing since 2008, WikiTree.com is a 100% free shared family tree website. Community members privately collaborate with close family members on modern family history and publicly collaborate with other genealogists on deep ancestry. Since all the private and public profiles are connected on the same system this process is helping to grow a single, worldwide family tree that will eventually connect us all and thereby make it free and easy for anyone to discover their roots. See http://www.WikiTree.com.



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Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

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Big Y DNA Results Divide and Unite Haplogroup Q Native Americans

featherOne of my long standing goals has been to resurrect the lost heritage of the Native American people.  By this I mean, primarily, for genealogists who search for and can’t find  their Native ancestors.  My blog, www.nativeheritageproject.com, is one of the ways that I contribute towards that end.  Many times, records are buried, don’t exist at all, or don’t reflect anything about Native heritage.  While documents can be somewhat evasive and frustratingly vague, the Y DNA of the male descendants is not.  It’s rock solid.

The Native communities became admixed beginning with the first visits of Europeans to what would become the Americas.  Native people accepted mixed race individuals as full tribal members, based on the ethnicity of the mother.  Adoption also played a key role.  If a female, the mother, was an adopted white child, the mother was considered to be fully Native, as was her child, regardless of the ethnicity of the father.

Therefore, some people who test their DNA expecting to find Native genetics do not – they instead find European or African – but that alone does not mean that their ancestors were not tribal members.  It means that these individuals have to rely on non-genetic records to prove their ancestors Native heritage – or they need to test a different line – like the descendants of the mother, through all females, for example, for mitochondrial DNA.

On the other hand, some people are quite surprised when their DNA results come back as Native.  Many have heard a vague story, but often, they don’t have a clue as to which genealogical line, if any, the Native ancestry originated.  Native ancestry was often hidden because the laws that prevailed at the time sanctioned discrimination of many kinds against people “of color,” and if you weren’t entirely of European origin, you were “of color.”  Many admixed people, as soon as they could, “became” white socially and never looked back. Not until recently, the late 20th century, when discrimination had for the most part become a thing of the past and one could embrace their Native or African heritage without fear of legal or social reprisal.

Back in December of 2010, we found the defining SNP that divided haplogroup Q between Europeans and Native Americans.  At the time, this was a huge step forward, a collaboration between testing participants, haplogroup administrators, citizen scientists and Family Tree DNA.

This allowed us to determine who was, and was not included in Native American haplogroups, but it was also the tip of the iceberg.  You can see below just how much the tree has expanded and its branches have been shuffled.  This is a big part of the reason for the change from haplogroup names like Q1a3 to Q-M346.  For example, at one time or another the SNP M3 was associated with haplogroup names Q1a3a, Q1a3a1 and Q1a3a1a.  On the ISOGG tree below, today M3 is associated with Q1a2a1a1.

isogg q tree

The new Family Tree DNA 2014 tree is shown below for one of the Big Y participants whose terminal SNP is L568, found beneath SNP CTS1780 which is found beneath L4, which is beneath L213 which is beneath L474 which is beneath MEH2 which is beneath L232 which is, finally, beneath M242.

ftdna 2014 q tree

The introduction of the Big Y product from Family Tree DNA, which sequences a large portion of the Y chromosome, provided us with the opportunity to make huge strides in unraveling and deciphering the haplogroup Q (and C, the other male Native haplogroup in the Americas) tree.  I am hopeful that in time, and with enough people taking the Big Y test, that we will one day be able to at least sort participants into language and perhaps migration groups.

In November, 2013, we asked for the public and testers to support our call for funds to be able to order several Big Y tests.  The project administrators intentionally did not order tests in family groups, but attempted to scatter the tests to the far corners, so to speak, and to include at least one person from each disparate group we have in the haplogroup Q project, based on STR matches, or lack thereof, and previous SNP testing.

Thanks to the generosity of contributors, we were able to order several tests.  In addition, some participants were able to order their own tests, and did.  Thank you one and all.

The tests are back now, and with the new Big Y SNP matching, recently introduced by Family Tree DNA, comparisons are a LOT easier.

So, of course, I had to see what I could find by comparing the SNP results of the several gentlemen who tested.

To protect the privacy of everyone involved, I have reduced their names to initials.  I have included their terminal SNP as identified at Family Tree DNA as well as any tribal, ethnic or location information we have available for their most distant paternal ancestor.

There are two individuals who believe their ancestors are from Europe, and there is a very large group of European haplogroup Q members, but I’m not convinced that the actual biological ancestors of these two gentlemen are from Europe.  I have included both of these individuals as well. Let’s just say the jury is still out. As a control, I have also included a gentleman who actually lives in Poland.

native match clusters

Of the individuals above, SD, CT and CM are SNP matches.

CD, WJS and WBS are SNP matches with each other.

BG and ETW are also SNP matches to each other.

None of the rest of these individuals have SNP matches.  (Note, you can click to enlarge the chart.)

native snp matches

In the table above, the Non-Matching Known SNPs are shown with the number of Shared Novel Variants.  For example, SD and CT have 4 non-matching SNPS and share 161 Novel Variants and are noted as 4/161.

We can easily tell which of the known SNPs are nonmatching, because they are shown on the participants match page.

snp matches page

What we don’t know, and can’t tell, is how many Novel Variants these people share with each other, and how many they might share with the individuals that aren’t shown as matches.

Keep in mind that there may be individuals here that are not shown as matches to due no-calls.  Only people with up to and including 4 non-matching Known SNPs are counted as matches.  If you have the wrong combination of no-calls, or, aren’t in the same terminal haplogroup, you may not be shown as a match when you otherwise would be.

The other reason for my intense interest in the Novel Variants is to see if they are actually Novel, as in found only in a few people, or if they are more widespread.

I downloaded each person’s Novel Variants through the Export Utility (blue button to the right at the top of your personal page,) and combined the Novel Variants into a single spreadsheet.  I colorized each person’s result rows so that they would be easy to track.  I have redacted their names. The white row, below, is the individual who lives in Poland.

novel variant 1

There are a total of 3506 Novel Variants between these men.  When sorting, many clustered as you would expect.  There is the Algonguian group and what I’ve taken to calling the Borderlands group.  This group has someone whose ancestor was born in VA and two in SC.  I have documentation for the Virginia family having descendants in SC, so that makes sense.  The third group is an unusual combination of the gentleman who believes his ancestors are from Germany and the gentleman whose ancestors are found in a New Mexico Pueblo tribe, but whose ancestor was, likely, based on church records, a detribalized Plains Indian who had been kidnapped and sold.

Clusters that I felt needed some scrutiny, for one reason or another, I highlighted in yellow in the Terminal SNP column.  Obviously the Polish/Pueblo matching needs some attention.

Another very interesting type of match are several where either all or nearly all of the individuals share a Novel Variant – 15 or 16 of 16 total participants.  I don’t think these will remain Novel Variants very long.  They clearly need to be classified as SNPs.  I’m not sure about the process that Family Tree DNA will use to do this, but I’ll be finding out shortly.

Here’s an example where everyone shares this Novel Variant at location 7688075,except the gentleman who lives in Poland, the man who believes his ancestor is from Germany, and the Creek descendant.

novel variant 2

I was very surprised at how many Novel Variants appear in all 16 results of the participants, including the gentleman who lives in Poland – represented by the white row below.

novel variant 3

So, how were the Novel Variants distributed?

Category # of Variants Comments
Algonquian Group 140 This is to be expected since it’s within a specific group.  Any matches that include people outside the 3 Algonquian individuals are counted in a separate category.  These matches give us the ability to classify anyone who tests with these marker results as provisionally Algonquian.
Borderlands 83 This confirms that these three individuals are indeed a “group” of some sort.  This also gives us the ability to classify future participants using these mutations.
All or Nearly All – 15 or 16 Participants 80 These are clearly candidates for SNPs, and, given that they are found in the Native and the European groups, they appear to predate the division of haplogroup Q.
Several Native and European, Combined 45 This may or may not include the person who lives in Poland.  This group needs additional scrutiny to determine if it actually does exist in Europe, but given that there are more than 3 individuals with each of these Novel Variants, they need to be considered for SNPhood.
Pueblo/NC 1
Poland/Borderlands 2
Mexico/Algonquian 2
German/Pueblo 9 I wonder if this person is actually German.
Poland/Mexico 20 I wonder if this person’s ancestors are actually from Poland.
Algonquian, NC, Creek 1
Borderland, Mexico, Creek 1
Algonquian/Cherokee 1
All Native, no Euro 2
Algonquian, Borderlands, Mexico, NC 1
Algonquian, Mexico, Borderlands 1
Borderlands, Pueblo 1
Borderlands, Creek, NC 1
Algonquian, Cherokee, Mexico 3
Algonquian, Pueblo, Creek, Borderlands 1
Cherokee, NC 2
Algonquian, Borderlands 2
Borderlands, NC 1
Algonquian, NC 1
Polish/NC 10

Some of this distribution makes me question if these SNP mutations truly are a “once in the history of mankind” kind of thing.  For example, how did the same SNP appear in the Polish person and the NC person, or the Pueblo person, and not in the rest of the Native people?

New SNPs?

So, are you sitting down?

Based on these numbers, it looks like we have at least 125 new SNP candidates for  haplogroup Q.  If we count the Algonquian and the Borderlands groups of matches, that number rises to about 250.  This is very exciting.  Far, far more than I ever expected.  of these SNPS, about half will identify Native people, even Native groupings of people.  This is a huge step forward, a red letter day for Native American ancestry!

SNPs and STRs

Lastly, I wanted to see how the SNP matching compared to STR matching, or if it did at all, for these men.

Only two men match each other on any STR markers.  CD and WJS matched on 12 markers, but not on higher panels.  The TIP calculator estimated their common ancestor at the 50th percentile to be 17 generations, or between 425 and 510 years ago.  We all know how unrealistic it is to depend on the TIP calculator, but it’s the only tool we have in situations like this.

Given that these are the only two men who do match on STR markers, albeit distantly, in a genealogical timeframe, let’s see what the estimates using the 150 years per SNP mutation comes up with.  This estimate is just that, devised by the haplogroup R-U106 project administrators, and others, based on their project findings.  150 years is actually the high end of the estimate, 98 being the lower end.  Of course, different haplogroups may vary and these results are very early.  Just saying.

CD has 207 high quality Novel Variants.  He shares 188 of those with WJS, leaving 19 unshared Novel Variants.  Utilizing this number, and multiplying by 150, this suggests that, if the 150 years per SNP is anyplace close to accurate, their common ancestor lived about 2850 years ago.  If you presume that both men are incurring mutations at the same rate in their independent lines, then you would divide the number of years in half, so the common ancestor would be more likely 1425 years ago.  If you use 100 years instead of 150, the higher number of years is 1900 and the half number is about 950 years.

It’s fun to speculate a bit, but until a lot more study has occurred, we won’t be able to reasonably estimate SNP age or age to common ancestor from this information.   Having said all of that, it’s not a long stretch from 710 years to 950 years.

It looks like STR markers are still the way to go for genealogical matching and that SNPS may help to pull together the deeper ancestry, migration patterns and perhaps define family lines.  I hope the day comes soon that I can order the Big Y for lots more project members.  Most of these men do have STR marker matches, and to men with both the same and different surnames.  I’d love to see the Big Y results for those individuals who match more closely in time.

This is still the tip of the iceberg.  There is a lot left to discover!  If you or a family member have haplogroup Q results, please consider ordering the Big Y.  It would make a wonderful gift and a great way to honor your ancestors!

You can also contribute to the American Indian project at this link:


In order to donate to the haplogroup C-P39 project which also includes Native Americans, please click this link:




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Big Y Matching

A few days ago, Family Tree DNA announced and implemented Big Y Matching between participants who have taken the Big Y test.

This is certainly welcome news.  Let’s take a look at Big Y matching, what it means and how to utilize the features.

First, there are really two different groups of people who will benefit from the Big Y tests.

People trying to sort through lines of a common and related surname – like the McDonald or Campbell families, for example – and haplogroup researchers and project administrators.

My own family, for example, is badly brick walled with Charles Campbell first found in Hawkins County, TN in the 1780s.  We know, via STR testing that indeed, he matches the Campbell Clan from Scotland, but we have no idea who is father might have been.  STR testing hasn’t been definitive enough on Charles’ two known sons’ descendants, so I’m very hopeful that someday enough Campbell men will test that we’ll be able between STR and SNP mutations to at least narrow the possible family lines.  If I’m incredibly lucky, maybe there will be a family line SNP (Novel Variant) and it won’t just narrow the line, it will give me a long-awaited answer by genetically announcing which line was his.  Could I be that lucky???  That’s like winning the genetic genealogy lottery!

For today, the Big Y test at $695 is expensive to run on an entire project of people, not to mention that many of the original participants in projects, the long-time hard-core genealogists, have since passed away.  We are now into our 15th years of genetic genealogy.

For those studying haplogroups, the Big Y is a huge sandbox and those researchers have lost no time whatsoever comparing various individuals’ SNPS, both known and novel, and creating haplogroup trees of those SNPs.  This is done by hand today, or maybe more accurately stated, by Excel.  This is “not fun” to put it mildly.  We owe these folks a huge debt of gratitude.  Their results are curated and posted, provisionally, on the ISOGG Tree.

There is an in-between group as well, and those are people who are working to establish relationships between people of different surnames.  In my case, Native American ancestors whose descendants have different surnames today, but who do share a common ancestor in some timeframe.  That timeframe of course could be anyplace from a couple hundred to several thousand years, since their entry into the Americas across Beringia someplace in the neighborhood of 12-15 thousand years ago.

The Big Y matching is extremely helpful to projects.

Let’s take a look.

Big Y Matches

Big Y landing

On your personal page, under “Other Results,” you’ll see the Big Y results.  Click on Results” and you’ll see the following page.

big y results

The Known SNPs and Novel Variants tabs have been there since release, but the Matching tab, top left, is new.

By clicking on the Matching tab, you will then see the men you match based on your terminal SNP as determined in the Big Y Known SNPs data base.  You will be matched to men who carry up to and including 4 mutations difference in known SNPs, and unlimited novel variant differences.  If you have a zero in the “Known SNP Difference” column, that means you have no differences at all in known SNPs.

big y matches cropped2

The individual being used for an example here has paternal ancestry from Hungary.  His terminal SNP is reported as R-CTS11962.  Therefore, all of the people he matches should also carry this same SNP as their terminal SNP.

This is actually quite interesting, because of his 10 exact matches, 9 of them have surnames or genealogy that suggests eastern European/Slavic ancestry.  The 10th, however, which happens to be his closest match, carries an English surname and reports their ancestor to be from Yorkshire, England.  His one mutation differences carry the same pattern, with one being from England and two of the other three from eastern Europe.

Our participant has 155 total Novel Variants, 135 high quality and 20 medium quality.  Only high quality are listed in the comparison.  Medium quality are not.

Ancestral Location Known SNP Difference Shared Novel Variants Non Matching Known SNPs
Yorkshire, England 0 134 None
Prussia 0 127 None
Ukraine 0 121 None
Poland 0 121 None
Belarus 0 119 None
Poland 0 116 None
Poland 0 116 None
Russian e-mail 0 113 None
Bulgaria 0 113 None
Slovakia 0 111 None
English surname 1 126 PF6085
Undetermined, poss German 1 121 F1816
Poland 1 118 F552
Poland 1 116 CTS10137
Prussia 2 122 CTS11840 PF4522
Poland 2 112 L1029 PR6932
Russia 3 116 CTS3184 L1029 PF3643
Poland 3 106 CTS11962 L1029 L260
Ukraine 3 105 CTS11962 L1029 L260
Poland 3 104 CTS11962 L1029 L260
Poland 3 100 CTS11962 L1029 L260
Poland 3 99 CTS11962 L1029 L260
Eastern European surname 3 98 CTS11962 L1029 L260
Poland/Germany 3 97 CTS11962 L1029 L260
Austria/Galacia 3 93 CTS11962 L1029 L260
Poland 4 97 CTS11562 CTS11962 L1029 L260

It’s also very interesting to note that his non-matching known SNPs tend to cluster.  Non-matching known SNPs can go in either direction – meaning that they could be absent in our participant and present in the rest, or vice versa.

l1029 search

It’s easy to tell.  In the Big Y Results, under Known SNPs, there is a search feature.  This means that it’s easy to search for SNPs and to determine their status.  For example, above, our participant does carry SNP L1029 (he’s derived or positive (+) for the mutation in question).  This means that our participant has developed L1029, and, it just so happens, also CTS11962 and L260, the three clustered SNPs, since these men shared a common ancestor.

It’s difficult not to speculate a little.  If the TMCRA Big Y SNP estimates are correct, this suggests that these 3 clustered SNPS occurred someplace between 4350 and about 5000 years ago, based on the range (93-106) of the number of high quality novel variant differences.  We’ll talk more about this in a minute.

f552 search

For SNP F552, our participant is negative, meaning that that other person has developed this SNP since their shared ancestor.  In fact, he’s negative for all of the other Known SNP differences.

Novel Variants

The Novel Variants are quite interesting.  Novel Variants are mutations that if found in enough people who are not related within a family group will someday become SNPs on the tree.  Think of them as ripening SNPs.

By clicking on the “Show All” dropdown box you can see the list of the participants novel variants and how many of his matches share that Novel Variant.

novel variant list

In this example, all 26 of our participant’s novel variants share 13142597.  I’m thinking that this Novel Variant will someday become classified as a SNP and not as a Novel Variant anymore.  When that happens, and no, we don’t know how often Family Tree DNA will be reviewing the Novel Variants for SNP candidates, it will no longer be in the Novel Variant list.  The Novel Variants are meant to be family, novel or lineage SNPs, not population based SNPS that apply to a wide variety of people.  Finding these, of course, and adding them to the human haplotree is the entire purpose of full sequence Y chromosomal testing.  Just look at tall of this new information about this man’s ancestors and the DNA that they passed on to this gentleman.

By scrolling down to the bottom of that list, we find that our participant has 8 different Novel Variants where he matches only one individual.  By clicking on the Novel Variant number, you can see who he matches.  Of those 8, 7 of them match to the man who carries the English surname and one matches to a gentleman from Prussia.

This information is extremely interesting, but it gets even more interesting when compared against STR matches.  Our participant has a fairly unusual haplotype above 12 markers.  He has three 67 marker matches, two 37 marker matches and thirty-three 25 marker matches.  None of the men he matches on the SNP test match him on any of those tests.  I did not check his 12 marker matches, because I felt that anyone who would invest the money in the Big Y would certainly have tested above 12 markers plus our participants has several hundred 12 marker matches.

The numbers being bantered around by people working with SNP information suggest that one Big Y mutation equals about 150 years.  If this is true, then his closest match, the English gentleman from Yorkshire, England would share an ancestor about 2850 years ago.  That is clearly beyond the reach of STR markers in terms of generational predictions, so maybe STR matches are not expected in this situation, IF, the 150 year per novel variant estimate is close to accurate.

Another interesting piece of information that can be deduced from this information is how many SNPs were actually found.

At the bottom of our participants page, under Known SNPs, it says “Showing 24 of…571 entries (filtered from 36,274 total entries.)”  We know that the entire data base of SNPs that Family Tree is utilizing, which includes but is not limited to the 12,000+ Geno 2.0 SNPs, is 36,274.  In other words, 36,274 are the number of SNPs available to be found and counted as a SNP because they have already been defined as such.  Any other SNPs discovered are counted as Novel Variants.

Not all available SNPs are found and read in this type of next generation test.  The number of “Matching SNPs” with each individual gives us an idea of how many SNPs actually were found and read at either a medium and high confidence level.  Low confidence SNPs and no-calls are eliminated from reporting.

Our participants best match matches him on 25,397 SNPs.  This leaves a total of 10,877 SNPs that were not called.

The Future

SNP Matching is a wonderful feature and a first in this industry.  A hearty thank you to Family Tree DNA!

However, like all passionate people, we are already looking ahead to see what can be and should be done.

Here are some suggestions and questions I have about how the future will unwrap relative to Big Y SNP testing and matching.

  1. Within surname projects, matching should be relatively easy, unless hundreds of people test. I would be happy to have that problem. Today, administrators are creating spreadsheets of matches and novel SNPs and attempting to “reverse engineer” trees. In family groups, those trees would be of Novel SNPs, and in haplogroup projects, those trees would be of both Known SNPs and Novel Variants and where the Novel SNPS slip in-between the known SNPs to create new branches and sub-branches of the haplotree. We, as a community, need some tools to assist in this endeavor, for both the surname project admin and the haplogroup project admin as well.
  2. As new SNPs are discovered in the future, one will not be retested on this platform. As new SNPs are added to the tree, this could affect the matching by terminal SNP. Family Tree DNA needs to be prepared to deal with this eventuality.
  3. As a community, we desperately need a better tool to determine our actual “terminal SNP” as opposed to the Geno 2.0 terminal SNP. Yes, I know the ISOGG tree is provisional, but the contributed tools initially provided by volunteers to search the ISOGG tree utilizing the known SNPs reported in Big Y no longer work. We desperately need something similar while Family Tree DNA is revamping its own tree. I would hope that Family Tree DNA could add something like a secondary “search ISOGG tree” function as a customer courtesy, even if it needs some disclaimer verbiage as to the provisional nature of the tree.
  4. With the number of SNPs being searched for and reported, no calls begin to become an issue, especially if the no-call happens to be on the terminal SNP. We need to be able to determine whether a non-match with someone is actually a non-match or could be as a result of a no-call, and without resorting to searching raw data files. Today, participants can order a SNP test of a SNP position that has been reported as a no-call, but one needs to first figure that out that it is a no-call by looking at the BAM and BED files, something that is beyond the capability of most genetic genealogists. Furthermore, in the case of a “suspicious” no-call, where, for example, individuals in the same surname project with the same surname and other matching SNPS and STRs, some type of “smart-matching” needs to be put into place to alert the participant and project admin of this situation so that they can decide up on a proper course of action. In other words, no-calls need to be reported and accounted for in some fashion, as they are important data points for the genetic genealogist.

I am extremely grateful to Family Tree DNA for their efforts and for Big Y matching.  After all, matching is the backbone of genetic genealogy.  This list is not a complaint list, in any sense.  Family Tree DNA has a very long history of being responsive to their client base and I fully expect they will do the same with the next step in the Big Y journey.

The story of our DNA is not yet told.  Where our STR matches are found and where our SNP matches are found tells the story of the migration of our ancestors.  Today, SNPs and STRs promise to overlap, and already have in some cases.  If I could, I would order a Big Y test for every individual that I sponsor and for every person in each of my projects. I feel that these tests, combined, will help immensely to complete the puzzle to which we have disparate pieces today.  I look forward to the day when the time to the most recent common ancestor can be calculated by utilizing the Y STR markers, the known SNPs and the Novel Variants.  In a very large sense, the future has arrived today.  Now, we just have to test and figure out how all of the puzzle pieces fit together.

If you haven’t yet ordered a Big Y, you can order here.  The more people who test, the larger the comparison data base, and the sooner we will all have the answers we seek.



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Haplogroups, SNPs and Family Group Confusion

The transition at Family Tree DNA from the old haplogroup naming convention to the new SNP-only naming convention has generated a great deal of confusion.  It’s like surgery – had to be done – but it has been painful.

I’ve received several questions, many that are similar, so I’d like to attempt to resolve some of the confusing points here.

First, just a little background.

Ancient History

Remember, in 2008, when Michael Hammer et al rewrote the Y tree?  If you do, then count yourself as an old-timer.  Names such as R1b1c became R1b1a2.  E3a became E1b1a and E3b became E1b1b1.  We thought we were all going to die.  But we didn’t – and now, if I hadn’t just told you, you wouldn’t even be able to remember the previous name of R1b1a2.

Why did this happen?  Because when you have a step-wise tree where each step is given a number and letter, like this, you have no room for expansion.





Each of these haplogroup names is assigned a SNP, and when a new SNP is discovered between R and R1, for example, the name R1 gets assigned to the new SNP and everyone downstream gets renamed and/or a new SNP assigned.  If you think this is confusing, it is and was – terribly so.  In fact, as testimony to this, the last version of the FTDNA tree, the ISOGG tree and the tree used by 23andMe are entirely out of sync with each other.

With the shift from about 800 SNPs to 12,000 SNPs with the Geno2.0 chip, it was definitely time to redo and rethink how haplogroup names are assigned.  What seemed initially like a great idea turned out not to be when the magnitude of the number of SNPs that actually exist was realized.  In reality, they needed to be obsoleted, but the familiar cadence of the letter number path will forever be gone – with the exception of the fact that the SNP is prefaced with the haplogroup name.  We will no longer have our signposts, sadly, but our signposts were becoming overwhelmingly long.  Here’s one example I copied from the ISOGG tree.  R1b1a2a1a1c2b2a1a1b2a1a – seriously – I can’t remember that.

So, today, and forever more, R1b1a2 will be R-M269.  It will not be shifted or “become” anything else.  Moving a SNP to a new location becomes painless, because it will not affect anything upstream or downstream.

However, as you get use to this new beast, you’re going to want to refer to “what something was” before.  You’ll find that articles, papers and who knows what else will refer to the haplogroup name – and you’ll need a conversion reference.

Here’s a link to that reference.  I don’t know about you, but I copied this and created a .pdf file in case this reference disappears – not that that ever happens in the electronic world.

Why the Confusion?

Within projects, men with the same surname now have different haplogroups assigned, and the SNP names look entirely different.  Before, if most of the surname group was R1b1a2, and one person had SNP tested at a deeper level and showed R1b1a2a1a1b4, it was easy to tell by looking that R1b1a2a1a1b4 fell underneath R1b1a2, and was a subclade.  Today, with the new tree, everyone that was R1b1a2 is now shown as R-M269 and the lone R1b1a2a1a1b4 person is shown as R-L21.  You can’t tell by looking if R-L21 is a subclade of R-M269 or the other way around.  And another few SNP tests at different levels into the mix, and you have one confused administrator.

One thing hasn’t changed.  Notice the haplogroup I-M253 individual in the purple group below.  There is a note that their parentage is uncertain.  Given the completely different haplogroup – this individual does not fit into any groups of Estes males biologically.  So completely different haplogroups are still exclusive, meaning you can tell at a glance that these folks do not share a common ancestor, even though their genealogy says that they should.

estes project cropped

Ok, got that now?  Good, because it gets more confusing.

Family Tree DNA did not do a one to one conversion, meaning they did not create a conversion table where R1b1a2=R-M269.  They did an entirely new prediction routine.  This makes sense, because they don’t hard code the haplogroup – it’s fluid and based on either a hard and fast SNP test or a prediction routine. This also allows for easy future improvements, and they utilize 37 markers for haplogroup predictions now instead of just 12, in most cases.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, the prediction routine produces different results for people within the same family group, based on STR marker results and how many STRs are tested.

What this means is that different people in the same family line will have different haplogroup predictions, as you can see in the groups above of individuals all descended from one male, Abraham Estes.

This isn’t wrong, as in incorrect, but it is confusing, especially when you’re used to seeing everyone who has not been SNP tested have a matching haplogroup within families.

Enter the Terminal SNP

The terminal SNP is your SNP that is furthest down the tree based on the SNPs that you have tested.  That second part is really important – based on the SNPs that you have tested.

When you’re looking at your matches, you can see their terminal SNP in the column below to the right, but what you can’t tell is if they have tested for any downstream SNPs and were found negative.

Estes match cropped

For example, if you are tested positive for R-M269 (formerly R1b1a2) and someone else that you match is R-L21, which is downstream of R-M269 – this does not exclude them as valid matches, UNLESS the first R-M269+ gentleman has actually tested for R-L21 and is negative.  You, of course, have no way of knowing this without asking the other participant.

Also, testing “negative” is a bit subjective, because there are known no-calls in the Geno 2.0 results – so if the Geno 2.0 result did not include the terminal haplogroup you expected, and the outcome is truly important to you, meaning family defining – have that defining SNP, if it’s absent in the Geno 2.0 raw data results, tested individually through regular Sanger sequencing – meaning purchase it separately through Family Tree DNA.  A non-positive result in the Geno 2.0 results is typically interpreted to mean negative, but that is not always the case.  In most situations, if everything else matches, meaning surname, STRs and other SNPs, it’s not necessary to test the SNP separately – but it is available if you need to know, positively.

Secondly, the terminal SNP on the new Family Tree DNA haplotree and in your results, if you have taken the Big Y, the Walk Through the Y or purchased individuals SNPs, may be different.  Why, and how would you know?

The why is because Family Tree DNA has synced to the Geno 2.0 tree at this point, and there have been many new SNPs discovered since the Geno 2.0 tree was developed in 2012.  The ISOGG tree is more current, but keep in mind that it is a provisional tree.  However, you still need to have a way to determine your terminal SNP beyond the Geno 2.0 criteria if you have had advanced testing.

There were originally some tools created by individuals to help with this dilemma, but both tools appear to no longer work.  Kitty Cooper blogged about this, and was apparently recently successful, but I was not.  I downloaded the updated version of the Big Y Chromosome extension that I wrote about and was using the Morley tree but that no longer functions either.  Let’s just say that the word frustrated doesn’t even begin to apply….

My suggestion is to work closely with your haplogroup and surname project administrator(s).  Many of the administrators have put together provisional charts and the haplogroup project pages are grouped by SNP groupings with suggestions for additional relevant testing.

The U106 project is a great example of proactive administrators.  Individual participants are clearly categorized and the categories suggest an appropriate “next step.”  Looking at their home page, the administrators make themselves readily available to project members for consulting about how to proceed.

u106 project

Yes, all of this change is a bit fuzzy right now, but give it a bit of time and the fog will clear.  It did in 2008 and we all survived.

Tree Updates

Family Tree DNA has committed to at least one more tree update this year, and let’s hope that it includes all of the SNPs in the reference data base they are using for the Big Y.

I’ll be talking about Big Y comparisons in a future article.



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1348 – It Was a Very Bad Year – 52 Ancestors #25

It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times…it was the season of darkness…it was the winter of despair.  (Apologies to Charles Dickens.)

In my family history, 1348 was probably the worst year, ever, and I do mean EVER – and if you have European ancestry – it was, undoubtedly, for your family too.  Why?

The Plague.

The Black Plague.

The Black Death.

The Great Plague.

The Great Pestilence.

The Great Mortality.

Bubonic Plague.

And it was probably, worse, far worse, than you know, or can even imagine.

It was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history – or at least the part of human history that we know about.  Between 1348 and 1350, estimates are between 30% and 60% of all Europeans died.  DNA from victims tells us that the source of the plague was indeed the Yersinia Pestis bacterium, originating in Asia and spread by rat fleas on ships.  The epidemic began on the island of Sicily, spread from south to north, eventually encompassing all of Europe.

And it didn’t just happen once, it happened over and over again, beginning in the mid-1300s.  It appeared again and again throughout the 1300-1700s, especially in major cities, but not as widespread and all-encompassing as the initial 1348 outbreak.  By the year 1400, it’s estimated that the plague had reduced the world population from about 450 million to about 300-350 million.

According to historians, the plague was reported someplace in Europe every year between 1346 and 1671. Repeated outbreaks in some areas took high percentages of the population several times.  London, for example, lost half of its population initially, then again in 1471, 10-15% of the population died, and in 1479-80 another 20%.  In 1563, 1593, 1603, 1625, 1636 and 1664, London lost 20% of its population with each subsequent outbreak.

plague 1665

This drawing depicts the Great Plague of London in 1665, which killed up to 100,000 people.

plague London burials

Anyone who could afford to left London for six months or so during the worst of the plague. All cats and dogs were destroyed as a preventive measure. This allowed rats to flourish and spread the disease which was carried by their fleas. The painting shows a scene of horror. After sunset carts were driven through the streets to collect the dead. They were taken to the nearest graveyard to be buried in plague pits, as shown above. Fires burned to make smoke. Pipes of tobacco were smoked, posies of herbs worn and faces covered with masks. This was thought to be protection against contagion. London was overwhelmed with fear, terror and grief.

This scene was repeated throughout Europe.  Norway lost 60% of its population between 1348-1350.  Paris was stricken about every 3 years, repeatedly.  There were 22 outbreaks in Venice between 1361 and 1528, and again in 1576 when one third of the population, about 50,000, people died.  What do you do with 1000 dead bodies every day?

So, how bad was it, personally?  Wiki gives us this information about symptoms.

Contemporary accounts of the plague are often varied or imprecise. The most commonly noted symptom was the appearance of buboes (or gavocciolos) in the groin, the neck and armpits, which oozed pus and bled when opened.

Boccaccio’s description is graphic, and I’m sparing you the photos:

“In men and women alike it first betrayed itself by the emergence of certain tumours in the groin or armpits, some of which grew as large as a common apple, others as an egg…From the two said parts of the body this deadly gavocciolo soon began to propagate and spread itself in all directions indifferently; after which the form of the malady began to change, black spots or livid making their appearance in many cases on the arm or the thigh or elsewhere, now few and large, now minute and numerous. As the gavocciolo had been and still was an infallible token of approaching death, such also were these spots on whomsoever they showed themselves. ”

Ziegler comments that the only medical detail that is questionable is the infallibility of approaching death, as if the bubo discharges, recovery is possible.

This was followed by acute fever and vomiting of blood. Most victims died two to seven days after initial infection. David Herlihy identifies another potential sign of the plague: freckle-like spots and rashes which could be caused by flea-bites.

Some accounts, like that of Louis Heyligen, a musician in Avignon who died of the plague in 1348, noted a distinct form of the disease which infected the lungs and led to respiratory problems and which is identified with pneumonic plague.

“It is said that the plague takes three forms. In the first people suffer an infection of the lungs, which leads to breathing difficulties. Whoever has this corruption or contamination to any extent cannot escape but will die within two days. Another form…in which boils erupt under the armpits,…a third form in which people of both sexes are attacked in the groin.”

What did this mean to our ancestors who survived?  To begin with, people were dying so fast that they could not be afforded a proper burial.  Below, the citizens of Tournai burying plague victims.

plague tournai

Most telling, perhaps are the testimonials of the people who survived, and wrote about what they endured – the unwilling chroniclers, as it were.

“They died by the hundreds, both day and night, and all were thrown in … ditches and covered with earth. And as soon as those ditches were filled, more were dug. And I, Agnolo di Tura … buried my five children with my own hands … And so many died that all believed it was the end of the world.”

—The Plague in Siena: An Italian Chronicle

He didn’t say that he buried 5 of his children, but that he buried “my five children.”  As a parent, I can’t imagine a worse day in my worst imaginings of Hell.

“How many valiant men, how many fair ladies, breakfast with their kinfolk and the same night supped with their ancestors in the next world! The condition of the people was pitiable to behold. They sickened by the thousands daily, and died unattended and without help. Many died in the open street, others dying in their houses, made it known by the stench of their rotting bodies. Consecrated churchyards did not suffice for the burial of the vast multitude of bodies, which were heaped by the hundreds in vast trenches, like goods in a ships hold and covered with a little earth.”

—Giovanni Boccaccio

In fact, it may have been even worse than we know, and killed even higher percentages of people, especially in some locations.  Geoffrey reveals that 90% of the English population may have died.

“The seventh year after it began, it came to England and first began in the towns and ports joining on the seacoasts, in Dorsetshire, where, as in other counties, it made the country quite void of inhabitants so that there were almost none left alive.

 … But at length it came to Gloucester, yea even to Oxford and to London, and finally it spread over all England and so wasted the people that scarce the tenth person of any sort was left alive.”

—Geoffrey the Baker, Chronicon Angliae

Because of the massive number of deaths, mass graves were utilized, like this one in Martigues, France.

plague mass burial

Now the good news is that archaeology digs at the sites of the mass graves, allow scientists to unquestionably identify the DNA of the culprit bacteria in different locations, across Europe, including France, Holland and England, and compare them.  It appears from the genetic evidence that the plague may have come in waves, at least two different times, but the plague of the 1300s and 1400s is almost identical to that which hit Madagascar in 2013.  So, the plague is not dead, just lurking, in the fleas of rats.

I wondered, how many of my ancestors died?  We know that every one of my ancestors lived at least long enough to procreate, and at least one of their children lived long enough to procreate too.  When you think about it, given all of the death – repeatedly – it’s nothing short of a miracle that we’re here at all.  We are the offspring of the lucky ones.

How does that translate into what happened to my family members?  I may not know who they were, their names, but assuredly, they lived then, were alive, functioning members of medieval society.  How many were there?  Assuming a 25 year generation, here’s how many ancestors we had living in the year 1350.

Generational Years Ancestors
1950 2
1925 4
1900 8
1875 16
1850 32
1825 64
1800 128
1775 256
1750 512
1725 1,024
1700 2,048
1675 4,096
1650 8,192
1625 16,384
1600 32,768
1575 65,536
1550 131,072
1525 262,144
1500 524,288
1475 1,048,576
1450 2,097,152
1425 4,194,304
1400 8,388,608
1375 16,777,216
1350 33,554,432

If you allow for pedigree collapse, let’s say that half of these people were actually the same person, meaning that I’m descended from that person twice.  That reduces the number of ancestors alive at that time to only about 16.5 million.  Ok, now let’s say one third of them died, which is about 5 million.  If half died, that’s about 8 million.  Even if we collapse the pedigree by another 50%, which would be equivalent to a 30 year generation, 2.5 to 4 million ancestors, all dying at about the same time is a cataclysmic event in any family tree.  And if you’re European and alive today, your tree suffered this same agonizing event, or series of events.  The great irony is, that as horrific as this had to have been – I’ve never heard of a story, any oral history, in any family, that details or even suggests that this happened – and it was only about 650 years, or 23-25 generations, ago.

It’s a huge, huge loss, however you count it.  The agony for those who remained to grieve their losses must have been immense, and intense.  The very social fabric of families, communities and governments was torn from asunder the population.  Blame was laid in many places, with many people, for many reasons, but never attributed to rats.  And the people just kept dying.

plague aftermath

This painting, from 1562, titled “The Triumph of Death,” by Pieter Bruegel reflects the social upheaval and terror that follow the plague that devastated Europe.  The aftermath of the plague created a series of religious, social, and economic upheavals, which had profound effects on the course of European history. It took 150 years for Europe’s population to recover.  No family was left untouched, and I’m sure many were simply wiped from the face of the earth.

Which brings up a question – how did my ancestors manage to survive?  Was there some sort of advantage conferred upon some that others didn’t have? And if so, why?

Indeed, there may have been a protector.  It’s called CCR5-delta32, where delta means deletion, and its found on chromosome 3.  The receptor looks like this:

CCR5 receptor

This particular deletion of a gene sequence has a specific impact on T cells and blocks the entry of disease agents.  This deletion is found in between 4 and 20% of Europeans, but not in Africans or Asians.  We know that it historically has protected people from smallpox, and it protects people from AIDS today.  Initially it was thought that it also played a role in protecting people from the plague, but a second paper suggests otherwise.  The jury is still out.

It would be interesting to determine the percentage of people who died from the plague that carried the deletion.  If the percentage of plague victims with the double deletion is equal to the European percentage that carry CCR5-delta32 today, then it’s unlikely that the deletion conferred any protection, assuming the European percentage of CCR5-delta32 would have been approximately the same at that time as it is today.

If you want to know if you have the CCR5-delta32 deletion, there are two ways to find out.

If you tested at 23andMe before the FDA shut down their health reporting in late November, 2013,  you can view your own results under the “Resistance to HIV/AIDS” trait by clicking on this link.

You can also browse your raw data, as shown below.  In this case, if you have two copies of the deletion, you’re “fully protected,” whatever “fully protected” turns out to mean.  One copy means you’re partially protected, which may mean that you can become infected but the infection does not progress to full blown AIDs, or it progresses more slowly.  No deletion means that you have no protection.  The individual in the example below has one copy of the deletion, the other is normal.

23andMe CCR5

If you ordered your 23andMe test after November 2013 and don’t have health results, you’re not entirely out of luck.  You can order the test individually at Family Tree DNA, if you are already a customer, by clicking on “Order an Upgrade,” then “Order an Advanced Test,” then follow the instructions below.  The test costs $39.


The CCR5 mutation is autosomal, which means, of course, that you receive a copy from each parent.

In my case, I don’t carry the deletion, so neither of my parents carried two copies of the deletion or I would have inherited the deletion.

Of my children, one does have one copy of the deletion, and the other has no copies.

So, obviously, the plague did not kill everyone who didn’t carry two copies of the mutation, or today’s European descendants would only carry the mutated (deleted) version of the gene in question.

Still, for our ancestors, and our individual European families, regardless of how, why or protection conferred, 1348 was a really, really bad year from every possible perspective.  It was indeed, the season of darkness, the winter of despair.

While I can’t tell you their names, I know they died, horrible deaths, buried in mass graves – and all I can do today is to remember them namelessly – my thousands of ancestors who died in 1348.



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10 Things to Do With Your DNAPrint, renamed AncestrybyDNA, Test


Please note, AncestrybyDNA is NOT the same as the AncestryDNA test sold by Ancestry.com.  Both CeCe Moore and David Dowell have written about this in their respective blogs.

Back in 2002 (no, that is not a typo,) a new product called DNAPrint was introduced by a company then called DNAPrint Genomics.  It provided you, in percentages, your percentages of 4 ethnic groups: Indo-European, East-Asian, Native American and African.  Family Tree DNA remarketed this test for just over a year but ceased when they realized there were issues.

It was the first of its kind of test ever to be offered commercially, and version 2.0 utilized a whopping 71 ancestrally informative markers, according to the user’s guide delivered with the product.  The next version of the test, 2.5, titled AncestrybyDNA included 175 markers, and a third version, which I don’t believe was ever released, was to include just over 300 markers.

In 2002, this was a baby step in a brand new world.  We, as a community, were thrilled to be able to obtain this type of information.  And of course, we believed it was accurate, or relatively so.  However, the questions and ensuing debate started almost immediately and became very heated.

The company’s representatives indicated that East-Asian and Native American could be combined for those without a “Chinese grandpa” and that would have given me a whopping 25% Native American.  Even then, before pedigree analysis, I thought this was a little high.  My East Asian was shown as 15%, Native American at 10% and Indo-European at 75%.  For reference, my real Native results are probably in the 1-3% range.  Keep in mind that we were all babes in the woods, kind of stumbling around, learning, in 2002 and 2003.

Interestingly enough, I found the answer recently, quite by accident, to one of the burning questions about Native American ancestry that was asked repeatedly of Tony Frudakis during that timeframe, then a corporate officer of DNAPrint, and left unanswered.  In Carolyn Abraham’s book, The Juggler’s Children, which is a wonderful read, on page 55, the answer to the forever-hanging question was answered:

“When I finally reached Frudakis, that’s how he explained the confusion over our Native ancestry result – semantics.  The Florida company had pegged its markers as being Native American to appeal to the American market, he told me.  But it was accurate to consider them Central Asian markers, he said, that had been carried to different regions by those who migrated from that part of the globe long ago – into the Americas, into East Asia, South Asia and even southern Europe – finding their way into today’s Greeks, Italians and Turks.  ‘We may do ourselves a favour and change the name of this ancestry [component] in the test,’ he said, since apparently I wasn’t the only one baffled by it.”

So, now we know, straight from the horses mouth, via Carolyn.

Of course, since that time, many advances have occurred in this field.  Today, Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, Ancestry.com and the Genographic Project utilize chip based technology and utilize over half a million markers to achieve ethnicity predictions.  If DNAPrint, renamed AncestybyDNA was the first baby step, today we are teenagers – trying to refine our identity.  Today’s tests, although not totally accurate, are, by far, more accurate than this first baby step.  Give us another dozen years in this industry, and they’ll be spot on!

For 2003, when I ordered mine, DNAPrint was an adventure – it was exciting – it was a first step – and we learned a lot.  Unfortunately, DNAPrint under the name AncestrybyDNA is still being sold today, currently owned by the DNA Diagnostics Center.  If you are even thinking about ordering this product, take a look first at the Yelp reviews and the Better Business Bureau complaints.

I don’t regret spending the money in 2003.  Spending money on this outdated test today would be another story entirely – a total waste.  The results are entirely irrelevant today in light of the newer and more refined technology.  Unfortunately, seldom a week goes by that I don’t receive an e-mail from someone who bought this test and are quite confused and unhappy.  The test has been marketed and remarketed by a number of companies over the years.

So, here are some suggestions about what might be appropriate to do with your DNAPrint or AncestybyDNA results if you don’t want to just throw them away:

  1. Line the bottom of the birdcage.
  2. Use to light the BBQ grill or camp fire.
  3. Use under boots in the hallway in the winter.
  4. Shred, then use as confetti.
  5. Cut into strips and use as bookmarks.
  6. Use as scratch paper.
  7. Use in the garden between rows to minimize weeds.
  8. Make into a paper airplane.
  9. Roll, along with other excess paper, into logs for the fireplace.
  10. Frame, and display along with your other antiques.

Yes, it’s really that old and outdated!



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Paris and a Trip Down the Seine

I lived in Europe in 1970 for a few months. During that time, I visited Paris for an extended stay, and as a student, loved it. I was so looking forward to going back an visiting, with an adult perspective, and maybe seeing some of my old haunts along the Seine River.

Since then, I have also discovered that one of my ancestors was born in Paris as well – Jacques “dit Beaumont” de Bonnevie. You’ll meet him in a future article. I was connected to Paris ancestrally and couldn’t wait to revisit with that in mind. I had been looking forward to this port since we first booked the trip.


The day finally arrived and began before sunrise in the quaint Port of LeHavre, above, the closest port location to Paris for big ships like the Carnival Legend.

paris modern art

Hmmm, not really sure what this is.  A warning to invaders maybe?

Some areas were extremely foggy, creating some very interesting early-morning effects. Perhaps something like this is what my ancestors saw in the French countryside. Difficult to photograph from a moving bus though.

misty french countryside

The ride to Paris was a long one, several hours, so I decided I was going to enjoy the beautiful French countryside.  Except, it wasn’t remarkable.  It looked much like the Midwest in the US – just kind of nondescript.  We didn’t pass through any villages because we were of course on the major road that bypassed villages.  Eventually, I fell asleep, looking forward to arriving in Paris.  And in fact, when I woke up, we were greeted with a view of the iconic Eiffel Tower.  How’s that for a wake-up call!

eiffel tower

Our first stop was not at the Eiffel Tower, per se, but at a location where you could get a photo of the tower. The tower is so large that you can’t take a photo of the tower at the tower. Unfortunately, we only had 15 minutes and no opportunity to visit the tower itself. Disappointing.

From there we went on a driving tour of Paris.

paris street

Having visited Paris for some time in 1970, many of the places looked familiar, but a lot has been updated as well.

One thing unique to Paris is the marquis type of structures on the streets. Movies, plays and sometimes just local or neighborhood events or signs are posted here.  In 1970 – lost dog, need a guitar player on Friday night for a pickup band and beer on sale from 4-7 in the local beer gardens.  On a good day, in 1970, the band and the beers on sale were in the same place and some handsome young man was flirting….but I digress.  Ah, I loved Paris in 1970.  For that matter, I loved all of Europe in 1970, but that’s a story for another time.  And, in case you’re wondering, I was STUDYING there.  Yes, studying.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!


Here’s a more contemporary marquis.

marquis 2

Photos were difficult due to the glass and glare in the bus windows.  The good news is that we did have sun, not rain, but the down side is that it created glare.

arc de troimphe

The Arc de Triomphe celebrates French victories and honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

french fountain

The Fountain of River Commerce in La Place de la Concorde, a plaza rich with French history, and the Obelisk of Luxor in the distance.

the louvre

The Louvre, with its contemporary pyramid, which wasn’t built yet in 1970. I understand that the entry line for the palace is hours long. It is a fantastic art museum and I would highly recommend a visit if at all possible.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to stop at any of these locations.

paris traffic

And the traffic, did I mention the traffic??

The Eiffel Tower is ever-present in Paris. The city’s tallest structure, you can orient yourself if you can find this structure on the skyline. We did that a lot in 1970. Paris’s streets are not laid out in a grid, and it’s easy to get lost.

For example, here is a satellite view of the streets radiating from the Arc de Triomphe.

arc de triomphe streets

Erected in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair, the Eiffel Tower was initially criticized by some of France’s leading artists and intellectuals for its design, but has become both a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world.

We were told the story of one Parisian man who disliked the tower, felt that it was not warm and charming but cold and ugly. He went and had coffee underneath the tower every day. When asked why he did that, since he hated the tower, he replied that when sitting under it, you can’t see it, but everyplace else in Paris, it’s on the horizon someplace.

eiffel tower 2

One of the things I didn’t get to do as a student in 1970 was to take one of the Seine River boat rides.  It was just out of my financial reach at that time.  But this tour included a river cruise and lunch.  You can see one of the cruise boats plying the waters of the Seine below.  This photo is just so quintessentially Paris – the river which is the heartbeat of Paris, bridges and church spires in the distance.

river cruise 1

We boarded the boat and we were fortunate enough to actually get a seat for the lunch where we had access to a window.  Unfortunately, this boat wasn’t one that you could go upstairs where there was no glass between you and the sights. I couldn’t escape glare on the glass.

When I was in Paris before, I loved Notre Dame – just loved it.  May of the students hung out on the rather bohemian left bank, La Rive Gauche, with its artists, cafes and booksellers, just across from Notre Dame.  The cathedral was open all the time and welcoming of visitors, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.  I suspect it still is, but seeing it again was like seeing an old friend.  I so longed to walk over the bridge to the cathedral and visit again.  But time ashore wasn’t included in the day’s itinerary.

river cruise 2

Above, Notre Dame from the river just below the cathedral. It’s quite in imposing structure and considering that it was built beginning in 1163, amazing indeed.

One thing of note is that the French were extremely, exceedingly rude. We had been warned about this, but I hadn’t experienced it in 1970 and I figured it was probably exaggerated. It wasn’t exaggerated and it was very pronounced.  I was very surprised. This is not something we have experienced on our side trips before and I suspect Carnival strives to avoid anything like that.  But on the boat, the waiters couldn’t be described as anything else.

So basically, we ignored them and had fun anyway.  We were fortunate enough to have a lunch partner couple who were also camera bugs and he took a good photo of Jim and I.  Jim enjoyed the wine.  I didn’t so he sacrificed and drank mine for me!


Paris is a city known for her bridges.  It’s a city bisected by the Seine river so bridges every few blocks are a must.

river cruise 4 cropped

Each bridge is unique and beautiful, and a good photo catches a nesting effect of 3 or 4 on down the river.

river cruise 5 cropped

Art is everyplace, even beneath contemporary bridges. Paris is an incredibly interesting eclectic mixture of old and new with exciting morsels hidden in the most unlikely places – all yours for being observant.

river cruise 6

river cruise 7

river cruise 8

river cruise 9

This bridge is quite interesting. Look at the railings.

river cruise 10

Some of the bridges in Paris have mesh type railings and they have become iconic locations for lovers to visit and then add a padlock as a type of “forever” symbol of their love. You can see the couples above. The lock is often inscribed with their initials and the key thrown away, symbolizing unbreakable love. The river bottom is probably lined with lock keys.

river cruise 11

Here’s a closeup of the Pont des Arts bridge, above, compliments of Wiki.

river cruise 12

Unfortunately, the combined weight of these locks on a structure that wasn’t intended to support it has caused the collapse of part of the structure in some places.

The Seine in Paris has a very social element. There are walkways and stairs all along, and they are regularly used. In 1970, we sat, drank coffee and tea, talked and read by the river.  We strolled and chatted, visiting merchant shops and stalls.  Sometimes we walked alone and people-watched.  Paris is and was extremely cosmopolitan. It looks like people are doing much the same things today.

river cruise 13

You just never know who you’re going to see riding by…maybe an ancestor…

river cruise 14

The perspective from the river is certainly different than anyplace on land. This is much more authentic to what our ancestors would have seen – minus the cars and hubbub that the walls block.

river cruise 15

As we return down the Seine, we see Notre Dame in the distance again.

river cruise 16

In the center of Paris is an island, Île de la Cité, the heart and origin of Paris. You can see the islands on the right and the location of the Eiffel Tower, at left, as well.

river cruise 17

A this point, the river splits and flows on either side of the island. Of course, Notre Dame is on the left.

river cruise 18

I have no idea about the orange building…but it was very interesting and creative, and you can’t miss it.  No question about directions either – “go to the orange building and turn left.”

river cruise 19

Coming full circle now.

river cruise 20

river cruise 21

Back to the Eiffel tower.

river cruise 22

France is culturally different than any of the other countries in Europe.  It feels different.  The people are different. One aspect that stands out, other than their obvious dislike of tourists, are their laws about DNA testing.

Any paternity testing without a court order is banned, due to the official desire to “preserve the peace” within French families, with the French government citing psychologists who state that fatherhood is determined by society rather than biology. French men apparently don’t agree and often circumvent these laws by sending samples of DNA to foreign laboratories, but risk prosecution if caught. The maximum penalty for carrying out secret paternity testing is a whopping one year in prison and a €15,000 fine.

This argument for preserving the peace is in direct conflict with why people undertake paternity testing elsewhere. And not to be undone by the law, there has been a boom in DNA testing on kits from France in adjacent countries.

Of course, DNA testing for genealogy (as does medical testing) certainly has the potential to indicate, quickly and easily, if a father and son are not related, both utilizing the Y tests and the autosomal tests – even if that’s not the intended purpose. Therefore today, in genetic genealogy, we rely on those who have moved away from France or are the descendants of a group like the Acadians to represent French families. For people having French heritage, this is a very frustrating situation.

So if your matches map at Family Tree DNA has a big blank spot with no or few balloons in France – don’t presume that there’s a message about your ancestors. The message could well be a modern one having to do with French laws and not ancestral migrations.

ftdna france map



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Stop and Smell the Flowers

flowers 1

Some days DNA is just such fun.  My cousin, Marja, Facebooked me and suggested that I check and see if I carried the Neanderthal SNP for heightened smell.  Now, being a DNA junkie, of course, I had to do just that.

It turns out that our DNA location Rs6591536, if coded with G, increases our odor sensitivity – a characteristic shared by our Neanderthal cousins.

I would certainly think that heightened smell would enhance chances of survival.  Although, in contemporary society, I’m not sure heightened smell is that much of a blessing.  Floral is fine, some others odors aren’t and heightened sensitivity to smell knows no boundaries.  To me, some smells are simply overwhelming – like a candle or potpourri shop, or someone who took a bath in perfume, for example.  On the other hand, there is just nothing that compares to lavender.

To find out, I checked my raw data files.  In fact, I checked both mine and my mother’s raw data files.  Let’s take a look.

Flowers dna

This shows that Mom carried nucleotides AA and I carry AG.  G provides me with the enhanced odor sensitivity.  Clearly, Mom didn’t have a G to give me, so this tells me that I received this trait from my father, not my mother.  So something I share with my Dad.

Hmmm, now that I think of it, the flowers on my desk have passed their prime….I can tell by the way they smell!

Marja is preparing a presentation related to Neanderthal DNA.  I love this type of exploratory science.  I hope that she will present her findings in November at the Genetic Genealogy Conference in Houston.  It’s fun getting to know yourself, your parents, and your Neanderthal cousins.

Curious about how much and which specific DNA locations you might carry from our Neanderthal ancestors?  You’re in luck, courtesy of Marja and SNPedia….here’s a list.

flowers 2



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Elisabetha Mehlheimer (c1800-c1851) and Her Scandinavian Mito-Cousins, 52 Ancestors #24

We know very little about Elisabetha Mehlheimer.  Were it not for her daughter’s children’s christening records, we wouldn’t know anything at all.

What do we know?  Elisabetha was born probably about 1800, judging from the fact that she had her daughter, Barbara (possibly Maria Barbara), on December 12, 1823. Elisabetha could have been born as early as 1780 or as late as 1810.

We know that Elisabetha lived in Goppsmannbuhl in 1823, because that is where Barbara was born.

We know Elisabetha was dead by 1851.

In the christening record of her daughters second child, born in 1851, Elisabetha is listed as “the former day laborer in Goppsmannsbuhl,” which indicates she is deceased.

We know she was a day laborer.  What was a day laborer?

From FamilySearch, we learn the following:

The social hierarchy of a village was determined by the size of farmland and personal property. People with little or no property found themselves at the bottom on the social ranking. These were the sons and daughters of farmers who were not entitled to inherit the farm. The number of people in such predicament grew steadily after the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). They had to work as day laborers or seasonal workers and had to be very creative to make ends meet.

Priests during that timeframe wrote of the deplorable conditions in which day laborers lived.  Often, they slept on hay in the corner or loft of a peasant’s home.  They have few or no belongings, and lived at only a subsistence level.  If they did live in a separate “house,” it was often a poorly made shack on the periphery of the village.  Their children left home as quickly as possible to work for themselves or to marry.

There was an entire underclass of day laborers, a significant social notch below peasants who tended to live on and work the same homestead generation after generation.  Sometimes day laborers were younger children who stood to inherit nothing. Day laborers often moved from place to place, so can be especially difficult to track genealogically.

Wonderful, just wonderful – Germanic cultural gypsies.

Perhaps Barbara Mehlheimer’s status as a servant was a step up from her mother’s status as a day-laborer.  No wonder opportunities in America looked so wonderful.

We know Elisabetha was never married.

In that 1851 christening record, Elisabetha’s surname is listed as Mehlheimerin which indicates she never married and she gave her daughter her maiden name.  In German naming practices, the “in” is appended to show a maiden name.  Since her daughter’s surname was also Mehlheimer, we know that Elisabetha was not married, at least not when she gave birth to Barbara.

Elisabetha’s daughter, Barbara, was an unmarried servant, so it’s not an unlikely stretch that Elisabetha was in the same social structural class.

The only other clue we have to any possible family connection is that the witnesses to the christenings of Barbara’s two children born in Germany were  Barbara Krauss of Windeschenlaiback (today probably Windischeschenbach) and Margaretha Kunnath of Berneck.

Barbara Mehlheimer also was not married at the time she gave birth, so it’s likely that these women were related to her and not to the child’s father.  They may have been her sisters, aunts or first cousins.  Barbara ultimately immigrated to the US, with both children and did marry the father, George Drechsel (Americanized to Drexler.)

The State Archives in Amberg, Germany, found in a record for the administration of the upper Palatinate that Barbara Mehlheimer of Goppmansbuhl am Berg received permission to emigrate with her two illegitimate children, as well as Georg Drechsler from Speichersdorf, on April 18, 1852.

If Barbara’s mother, Elisabetha, had died, Barbara would have had no reason to remain in Germany when opportunity in the US beckoned.

George Drechsel and Barbara Melhheimer were married shortly after their arrival in the US, on the same say George Drechsel applied for US citizenship.  They must have been very happy.

According to the Reverend who found these christening records for me in the church in Wirbenz, Germany, Barbara and George probably had to immigrate to be allowed to marry.  He commented on how brave this young couple must have been.  In Germany, a young man had to prove he could support his family before he was allowed to marry.  Immigrating to America at that time was the social equivalent of eloping.  George would have had to work long and hard enough to save enough for both his and her passage, and those of their two children.  This was likely their only opportunity, and they seized it, marrying at their first opportunity.  Marriage is a right we take for granted today, but one they risked their lives and fortunes to obtain.

This could also explain why Elisabetha never married.  Her child’s father couldn’t prove he could support a family.

There were no further records pertaining to Elisabetha in the church in Wirbenz where Barbara’s children’s records were found.  The church in Wirbenz is the church closest to Goppsmannbuhl.

berneck map

I was unable to find any record of either Barbara Krauss or Margaretha Kunnath, but I was able to find both locations mentioned.  They seem to be about equidistant in either opposite directions from Goppmansbuhl.

wind map

You can also see Speichersdorf, located just beneath the Goppmansbuhl label.

Here is the little village of Goppmansbuhl, today, via satellite and thanks to Google Maps.

Goppsmanbuhl map

In the image below, Goppmansbuhl is at the top, and the little village of Wirbenz, about a mile away, is at the lower right.  To put things in perspective, the village of Wirbenz is only about 1000 feet from side to side.

Goppsmanbuhl and wirbenz

Here is the church in Wirbenz where Barbara’s children were baptized.

Did Elisabetha’s view of the church look something like this?

These are slim pickings for an ancestor – very slim pickings.  Perhaps as more records are digitized and transcribed, more information will emerge.  We’re dead ended right now, as the church records in Wirbenz don’t provide us with any direction further back in time.

Mitochondrial DNA

The only other thing we know about Elizabetha Mehlheimer is her mitochondrial DNA.  Fittingly, it’s just as elusive.

I carry Elisabetha’s mitochondrial DNA, through my mother, and through all females between Elisabetha and me.  My children also carry her mitochondrial DNA, but my son’s children carry his wife’s mtDNA and my daughter’s children would continue the line of Elisabetha.

We know that our full haplogroup is J1c2f.  We know that haplogroup J, Jasmine, was born in the Middle East some 30,000 to 50,000 years ago.  Jasmine’s descendants traveled from the Middle East about the age of the spread of agriculture – and over time, that 4 distinct subgroups, J1, J1c, J1c2 and finally, J1c2f emerged.  Dr. Doroh Behar in his paper “A ‘Copernican’ Reassessment of the Human Mitochondrial DNA Tree from its Root,” places the age of J1c2f at about 1900 years plus or minus 3000 years.  In reality, that means that anything between relatively recently and about 5000 years ago.

This map shows the grouping in the haplogroup J project of J1c (and subgroup) participants.  You can see that there are a few in the Middle East, but very few, so most of J1c and her descendants look to be in Europe today.

J1c cluster

My own full sequence matches tell a bit of a different story.


My two exact matches aren’t in Germany, they are in Norway.  My matches that are one mutation different are found in Sweden, the Czech Republic and Russia.  My two mutation match is found in Sweden.

This is confusing.  What happened?  What is going on?

In total, I have 9 full sequence matches, although not all of them provided the geographical location of their most distant matrilineal ancestor. One individual does not have e-mail, so I can’t exactly ask them.

Of these matches, 3 are exact, 4 have one mutation difference and 2 have two mutations difference.  I’m very curious to know which mutations we don’t share.  I have to wonder if there is a mappable pattern to the mutations that would infer sublines.  I wrote to my mito-cousins and asked if they would share their mutation information.  Two responded, the rest did not.  Frustrating.  This means that I can’t work from the mutation mapping angle.

Time to find a different approach.

Let’s Go Fishing!

There has to be some type of historic connection between Germany and Norway, or the Scandinavian region.  Normally, when dealing with Y DNA, we think of warfare.  We look at the history of wars and invasions, because soldiers did leave their DNA sprinkled around the countryside where they visited – if they didn’t outright settle there.  But mtDNA is different.  Women aren’t soldiers and one can’t just leave mtDNA scattered in quite the same way that Y DNA gets left behind.  Mitochondrial DNA is passed from the women to all of her children, and is only passed on by the female children.  So, generally, where you find the children, you also find the mother – they don’t deposit their DNA and then go back home.

So, let’s poke around and utilize Google and Wiki, our friends.  In other words, let’s go fishing and see what we catch.

Bayern aka Bavaria

Bayern, also known as Bavaria, comprises the entire southeast portion of Germany.  It borders The Czech Republic, Austria and Switzerland along with 4 other German states.  Bavaria is divided into 7 regions.  Bavaria is one of the oldest continuously existing states in Europe; it was established as a stem duchy in the year 907.

The Bavarians as a people emerged in a region north of the Alps, originally inhabited by the Celts, which had been part of the Roman provinces of Raetia and Noricum.

early roman empire

The Bavarians spoke Old High German but, unlike other Germanic groups, probably did not migrate from elsewhere. Rather, they seem to have coalesced out of other groups left behind by Roman withdrawal late in the 5th century. These peoples may have included the Celtic Boii, some remaining Romans, Marcomanni, Allemanni, Quadi, Thuringians, Goths, Scirians, Rugians, Heruli. The name “Bavarian” (“Baiuvarii”) means “Men of Baia” which may indicate Bohemia, the homeland of the Celtic Boii and later of the Marcomanni. They first appear in written sources circa 520. Saint Boniface completed the people’s conversion to Christianity in the early-8th century. Bavaria was, for the most part, unaffected by the Protestant Reformation that happened centuries later.

Wirbenz, Goppmansbuhl and surrounding areas are located in Upper Franconia whose capital is Bayreuth.  Upper Franconia was annexed to Bavaria in 1815 and borders the Czech Republic and the German states of Saxony and Thuringia.  With more than 200 independent breweries which brew approximately 1000 different types of beer, Upper Franconia has the world’s highest brewery-density per capita. A special Franconian beer route (Fränkische Brauereistraße) leads along popular breweries.

Bavarians tend to place a great value on food and drink. In addition to their renowned dishes, Bavarians also consume many items of food and drink which are unusual elsewhere in Germany; for example Weißwurst (“white sausage”) or in some instances a variety of entrails.  Oh yum…

At folk festivals and in many beer gardens, beer is traditionally served by the litre in a Maß, a glass beer mug that holds exactly one litre.

mass mug

Bavarians are particularly proud of the traditional Reinheitsgebot, or purity law, initially established by the Duke of Bavaria for the City of Munich in 1487 and the duchy in 1516. According to this law, only three ingredients were allowed in beer: water, barley, and hops.  Bavarians are also known as some of the world’s most beer-loving people with an average annual consumption of 170 litres per person, although figures have been declining in recent years.

Ok, so now we know that Bavarians aren’t migrants, but the original people of the region and they not only love beer, they are very good brewmeisters.

Bayern is part of Upper Franconia, so…

Who were the Franconians?

Franconia is named after the Franks, a Germanic tribe who conquered most of Western Europe by the middle of the 8th century. Though one might assume that Franconia was the homeland of the Franks (indeed in German, Franken is used for both modern day Franconians and the historic Franks), this is not the case. Until the 6th century AD, the region of today’s Franconia was probably dominated by Alamanni and Thuringians. After the Frankish triumphs over both tribes around 507 and 529–534, most parts were occupied by the Franks.

Ok, so Franconians could be Alamanni, Thuringians or Franks.

The Frankish Empire (at its greatest extent around the year 800) included most of modern Franconia, which was situated at its easternmost borders. The vast majority of ethnic Franks, divided between Salians and Ripuarians, were confined respectively to the Low Countries, the northeastern tip of modern France and the Rhine river banks all the way down to near the Main and Hesse areas. However, there was a Frankish elite which was dispersed all across the empire, and it is from this elite that Franconia derives its name.

Hmmm, I wonder where else they might have been dispersed to…

Around the 9th century Frankish identity gradually changed from an ethnic identity to a national identity. The original ethnic Franks ceased to be called by others and themselves Franks, whereas certain groups of people who were not Franks but were mostly ruled by Frankish nobility now began to use it as a term to describe their respective land and people. At the beginning of the 10th century a Duchy of Franconia (German Herzogtum Franken) was established within East Francia, which comprised modern Hesse, Palatinate, parts of Baden-Württemberg and most of today’s Franconia. These areas had been dominated and settled by the Burgundians and the Alemanni before being removed and resettled much further south around Switzerland. The vacuum left may have been resettled then by some Frankish nobles with some more or less numerous retainers from their original core area.

A vacuum?  I wonder who actually did settle there.  This is an opportunity and possibility for how Elisabetha’s mtDNA got to Germany.

While Old Bavaria is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, Franconia is a mixed area. Lower Franconia and the western half of Upper Franconia (Bamberg, Lichtenfels, Kronach) is predominantly Catholic, while most of Middle and the eastern half of Upper Franconia (Bayreuth, Hof, Kulmbach) are predominantly Protestant (Evangelical Church in Germany).

Elisabetha’s records were found in a Protestant church.

Now we know more about this region of Germany, and there does seem to be some opportunity for resettlement here around the year 1000, and we also see that some Franks were settled elsewhere, in particular, the elite.  But still, that doesn’t connect us to Scandinavia.

Let’s look at this from the perspective of historical Scandinavia, in particular, the locations where my mtDNA matches are found.

Loten, Norway

There has been traffic from east to west through Løten, throughout all recorded periods of history and archeological evidence supports earlier trade along this route.

Loten map

When King Christian IV of Denmark prohibited the importation of German beer in the early 17th Century, distillation began in Norway. In 1624, distilled alcohol was prohibited at weddings, and by 1638 King Christian forbade the clergy the right to distill in their own homes. The corn-growing districts of Løten, Vang (the former municipality in Hedmark), and Romedal all became famous for their distilleries.

Within Løten lies the “border” between cultivated farmland and the winderness.  It begins with the wheat fields of the lower eastern Norway, continues around and south of lake Mjøsa, and borders the taiga, the boreal coniferous forests that stretches from eastern Norway until Siberia. The moorland Hedmarksvidda lies in the north.

So, Loten was a trade route, and Norway imported beer until in the 1600s.  This timeframe would have been during the 30 Years War in Germany.  Now that beer connection is quite interesting, because it tells us that trade between the two locations was indeed healthy and prosperous, at least until 1624.  And we already know that Bayern was the heart of beer production in Germany.

Let’s look at Christian IV, King of Denmark.

Christian IV – King of Denmark

Christian IV was King of Denmark-Norway from 1588 until his death in 1648.

He was quite interested in the Thirty Years’ War in Germany where his objectives were twofold: first, to obtain control of the great German rivers— the Elbe and the Weser— as a means of securing his dominion of the northern seas; and secondly, to acquire the secularized German Archdiocese of Bremen and Prince-Bishopric of Verden as appanages for his younger sons. He skillfully took advantage of the alarm of the German Protestants after the Battle of White Mountain in 1620, to secure coadjutorship of the See of Bremen for his son Frederick (September 1621). A similar arrangement was reached in November at Verden. Hamburg was also induced to acknowledge the Danish overlordship of Holstein by the compact of Steinburg in July 1621.

Interesting, but this all took place in the northern part of Germany, so probably not relevant to Bavaria which is located in the southwest quadrant of Germany.


Sweden, however, was another matter.  In 1631, Sweden invaded Bavaria.  Over the following months, they decimated Germany, destroying up to 2000 castles, 18,000 villages and 1,500 towns.  That’s equivalent to one third of all German settlements.  While this was a horrific development, it doesn’t explain how Scandinavian mtDNA might have arrived in Germany.  There is no record that the soldiers brought any women with them.  It did however, prove extremely disruptive to the region and may have opened the door for new settlers in some locations. 

Let’s take a look at the next location where a full sequence match is located.

Inderoy, Norway

The municipality is primarily an agricultural community, but also has some industry.

The municipality is named Inderøy which comes from the Old Norse form of the name: Eynni iðri, meaning is “the inner island”, probably referring to the peninsula which sticks out into the fjord.

inderoy map

During the Middle Ages Inderøy was called Eynni iðri, meaning the inner island, which is still the meaning of the word Inderøy. Saurshaug (now Sakshaug) was an important political centre until the 20th century. In the Middle Ages it was the centre of the county

During the late Middle Ages and until the breakup of the union between Sweden and Norway Inderøy was the seat of the Governor, Judge, and Tax Collector of Nordre Trondhjems amt, thus it was the county capital of what now is known as Nord-Trøndelag. The Trondhjems, shown below in red, is an area that abuts Sweden and divides Norway in half, north to south.  It was important prior to and in the Viking age, but was almost entirely depopulated during the 1300s.  The Sami people and others repopulated this region over the next two centuries.  All of my Scandinavian matches, except one, are in proximity to this region.

norway map

Just as this article was ready to go to press, I received another full sequence match and it is also found in this region, in Nesna, just above the red area, in the fjords, on an island.  This is just beneath the Arctic Circle.

nesna map

We know that haplogroup J1c2f is not Sami, so this is not the source of our ancestors.

Let’s take a look at the areas in Sweden where my matches are found.

Strand, Strom, Sweden (Stronsund)

Strand is a very small village in Sweden whose claim to fame is that it has the largest population of black bears.

Laxsjo, where my second Swedish match’s ancestors are located is too small to even be called a village.  Both are located in Jämtland, which was originally an autonomous peasant republic, its own nation with its own law, currency and parliament. However, Jämtland lacked a public administration and is thus best regarded as an anarchy, in its true meaning.

jamtland map

Jämtland was conquered by Norway in 1178 and stayed Norwegian for over 450 years until it was ceded to Sweden in 1645. The province has since been Swedish for roughly 350 years, though the population did not gain Swedish citizenship until 1699.

Historically, socially and politically Jämtland has been a special territory between Norway and Sweden. This in itself is symbolized in the province’s coat of arms where Jämtland, the silver moose, is threatened from the east and from the west. During the unrest period in Jämtland’s history (1563–1677) it shifted alignment between the two states no less than 13 times.  These historical and cultural bonds to Trøndelag and Härjedalen have expressed themselves in the name Øst-Trøndelag, in addition to the fact that the Jamts historically never considered themselves to be Swedish Norrlanders.

Jämtland’s name derives from its inhabitants, the Jamts. The name can be traced back to Europe’s northernmost runestone, the Frösö Runestone from the 11th century. The root of Jamt (Old West Norse: jamti), and thus Jämtland, derives from the Proto-Germanic word stem emat- meaning persistent, efficient, enduring and hardworking.

Aha, so the work Jamtland has a Germanic origin.

A Jamtish Neolithic culture emerged during late Roman Iron Age (about the year 400) in Storsjöbygden, although the hunter-gatherers had come in contact with this lifestyle long before they settled down themselves. Since the hunts were rich and successful in Jämtland, it took a long time before a change occurred.

During the Viking age, the settlement in the province grew. This confirms the sagas written by Snorri Sturluson, where he narrates about the Vikings who fled from Harald Fairhair and Norway in about the year 900 and took residence in Jämtland, just like many Norwegians at the same time fled and colonized Iceland.

This makes me wonder if some of them fled into Germany as well.

Religiously the Jamts had abandoned the indigenous Germanic tribal religion in favour of the Norse faith.  Aha, so apparently the Jamts themselves were descendants of Germanic tribes.

As the population continued to grow, the Jamts established an Thing (assembly), just like other Germanic tribes. Jamtamót, the assembly of Jamtland, came into existence shortly after the world’s oldest parliament, the Icelandic Althing, which was instituted in 930 CE.

Norse religion is a subset of Germanic paganism, which was practiced in the lands inhabited by the Germanic tribes across most of Northern and Central Europe.

Knowledge of Norse religion is mostly drawn from the results of archaeological field work, etymology and early written materials.

The literary sources that reference Norse paganism were written after the religion had declined and Christianity had taken hold, so it wasn’t painted in a positive way. The vast majority of this came from 13th century Iceland, where Christianity had taken longest to gain hold because of its remote location.

Many other ideographic and iconographic motifs which may portray the religious beliefs of the Pre-Viking and Viking Norse are depicted on runestones, which were usually erected as markers or memorial stones. These memorial stones usually were not placed in proximity to a body, and many times there is an epitaph written in runes to memorialize a deceased relative. This practice continued well into the process of Christianization.  Most, but not all of the runestones are found in Sweden.  Many runestones tell of the demise of an individual in England, probably on raids.


Like most pre-modern peoples, Norse society was divided into several classes and the early Norse practiced slavery in earnest.

Slavery – I wonder if a female slave could have been brought from Germany at some point.

One of the first things Tacitus mentions in his work Germania is that the Germanic people treasure their animals above all else. Tacitus also concludes that the Germanic people found cultivation repulsive. Instead, he states, the Germanic people devote themselves to food and sleep and besides that they prefer to remain idle. All of this, to certain extents, applied to Jämtland. When the people of Jämtland settled down they relied mostly on pastoralism. Their animals were the source of wealth and they were therefore loved by their owners.

It looks like the original people of this region were Germanic.  However, my closest matches aren’t in Germany, where Elisabetha was found, but in Scandinavia.

Did the Vikings later raid and perhaps settle in the Bayern region of Germany?

The Vikings

The Vikings seem to be everyplace in Europe – and they were – so long as there were rivers.  This part of Germany seems to have escaped most of the Viking’s wrath – so it’s unlikely that the mtDNA in Germany is a result of a Viking excursion.

viking excursion map

Conversely, it’s certainly possible that a Viking took a shine to one of his prisoners and took a nice German girl as a slave or wife – and back to Scandinavia with him.

scandinavian settlements

It appears the Vikings are an un likely migration source relative to Bavaria/Bayern/Franconia.

So, if the Scandinavians were Germanic people, who were the Germanic peoples?

Germanic Peoples

The Germanic peoples (also called Teutonic, Suebian or Gothic in older literature) are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of Northern European origin, identified by their use of the Germanic languages which diversified out of Proto-Germanic starting during the Pre-Roman Iron Age.

The term “Germanic” originated in classical times, when groups of tribes were referred to using this term by Roman authors. For them, the term was not necessarily based upon language, but rather referred to tribal groups and alliances who were considered less civilized, and more physically hardened, than the Celtic Gauls living in the region of modern France. Tribes referred to as Germanic in that period lived generally to the north and east of the Gauls.

In modern times the term occasionally has been used to refer to ethnic groups who speak a Germanic language and claim ancestral and cultural connections to ancient Germanic people.  Within this context, modern Germanic peoples include the Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, Icelanders, Germans, Austrians, English, Dutch, Afrikaners, Flemish, Frisians and others.

This confirms that Scandinavians are considered Germanic.

Prior to the Middle Ages, Germanic peoples followed what is now referred to as Germanic paganism: “a system of interlocking and closely interrelated religious worldviews and practices rather than as one indivisible religion” and as such consisted of “individual worshippers, family traditions and regional cults within a broadly consistent framework.  It was polytheistic in nature, with some underlying similarities to other Indo-Germanic traditions.

Many of the deities found in Germanic paganism appeared under similar names across the Germanic peoples, most notably the god known to the Germans as Wodan or Wotan, to the Anglo-Saxons as Woden, and to the Norse as Óðinn, as well as the god Thor – known to the Germans as Donar, to the Anglo-Saxons as Þunor and to the Norse as Þórr.

While the Germanic peoples were slowly converted to Christianity by varying means, many elements of the pre-Christian culture and indigenous beliefs remained firmly in place after the conversion process, particularly in the more rural and distant regions.

In Scandinavia, Germanic paganism continued to dominate until the 11th century in the form of Norse paganism, when it was gradually replaced by Christianity.

Gamla Uppsala, the center of Norse worship in Sweden, with three “royal” mounds representing the three Gods, Thor, Odin and Feyr, is shown below.


Below, the same mounds are shown about 1700.

uppsala 1700

Towards the end of the 3rd millennium BC, Proto-Indo-European speaking Battle-Axe peoples migrated to Norway bringing domesticated horses, agriculture, cattle and wheel technology to the region.

During the Viking age, Harald Fairhair unified the Norse petty kingdoms after being victorious at the The Battle of Hafrsfjord in the 880s. Two centuries of Viking expansion tapered off following the decline of Norse paganism with the adoption of Christianity in the 11th century. During The Black Death, approximately 60% of the population died and in 1397 Norway entered a union with Denmark.

This may be our answer, but was there back immigration into Germany?  Exact matches should indicate a common ancestor in a time frame closer than 5000 years ago, according to the haplogroup age estimates of Dr. Behar.

Norway and The Netherlands

During the 17th and 18th centuries, many Norwegians emigrated to the Netherlands, particularly Amsterdam.  The Netherlands was the second most popular destination for Norwegian emigrants after Denmark.

Loosely estimated, some 10% of the population may have emigrated, in a period when the entire Norwegian population consisted of some 800,000 people.

The Norwegians left with the Dutch trade ships that when in Norway traded for timber, hides, herring and stockfish (dried codfish). Young women took employment as maids in Amsterdam.

Barbara Melhleimer was a servant in the mid-1800s where her children were baptized.

Young men took employment as sailors. Large parts of the Dutch merchant fleet and navy came to consist of Norwegians and Danes. They took Dutch names, so no trace of Norwegian names can be found in the Dutch population of today.

The emigration to the Netherlands was so devastating to the homelands that the Danish-Norwegian king issued penalties of death for emigration, but repeatedly had to issue amnesties for those willing to return, announced by posters in the streets of Amsterdam. Increasingly, Dutchmen who search their genealogical roots turn to Norway. Many Norwegians who emigrated to the Netherlands, and often were employed in the Dutch merchant fleet, emigrated further to the many Dutch colonies such as New Amsterdam (New York).


According to the paper, “Different Genetic Components in the Norwegian population revealed by the analysis of mtDNA and Y Chromosome Polymorphisms” by Passarino (2002), both mtDNA and Y chromosome polymorphisms showed a noticeable genetic affinity between the Norwegian population and other ethnic groups in Northern and Central Europe, particularly with the Germans. This is due to a history of at least a thousand years of large-scale migration both in and out of Norway.  Norwegian and Swedish Y and mtDNA is closer to Germans than any other European region.  The authors expressed the following opinion relative to haplogroup J.

Haplogroup J, possibly brought to Europe by Neolithic farmers coming from the Near East is found at a frequency of 10% in our sample. It has also been reported elsewhere at 7% in Norway. Given its frequency in Northern and Central Europe, it is likely it has been brought by the Germanic migrations to Norway. As previously noted, the distribution of this haplogroup throughout Northern Europe indicates that during the spread of agriculture women moved throughout Europe, crossing group and cultural barriers more so than men. In addition, any asymmetric cultural factors that reduce the effective population size of men relative to women would influence the geographic patterns of mtDNA lineages relative to Y haplotypes.

Positive selection is also a possible influence. The presence of mtDNA haplogroup J in our sample, and elsewhere in Northern Europe shows that its frequency in Norway is even higher than in those areas from where it probably arrived. It would be intriguing, although very speculative, to hypothesise that the climate of Northern Europe may have played a selective pressure where the uncoupling of oxidative phosphorylation and the consequent higher production of heat in J individuals may have led to an advantage, as previously suggested for the European groups during the glaciations.

Glory be, hot flashes might have been good for something after all!

In Summary

I compared the raw results in the Passarino paper with my own results.  Of the mutations included in that paper, which did not include any coding region mutations, I carry only two, 16069 and 16126.  These were reported in every haplogroup J result, where the other 9 mutations were only found in a maximum of two participants each.

It looks very likely, barring new evidence, such as church records that say that Elisabetha Mehlheimer, or her mother, were from Scandinavia and immigrated in the 1600s or 1700s, that we’re going to have to assume the common ancestor of Elisabetha Mehlheimer and my matches lived in Germanic Europe.  Given the match below, she may have even lived in Russia, between the Black and Caspian Seas, and her descendants may have migrated to the region now known as Germany, with a subgroup moving further north into Scandinavia.

russia mtdna match

If this is the case, that means that there have been no mutations in this ancestral line since that migration occurred, at least in the case of the two exact matches in Norway, as long as 5000 years ago.

While this does indeed sound unlikely, I have seen this phenomenon in client’s DNA before.

A second possibility is that someone from Norway returned during the migration of the 1600s and 1700s, adopted a Germany surname, and we are none the wiser today.  Given that my only exact matches are in Scandinavia, this seems the most likely scenario.

We may never know for sure.  In fact, we’re not likely to know.  However, on the KISS scale, where the simplest, easiest, least complex answer is likely to be the right one, the population migration to Norway scenario comes out on top with the remigration in the 1600-1700s second.  Both of those events had many opportunities for people to move, and we know for certain that many did.  Other scenarios, such as the beer trade, are certainly still a possibility, but on a much smaller scale.  Of course, that doesn’t mean they didn’t happen.  We can only deal here with history as we know it, possibilities and probabilities.

Elisabetha Mehlheimer’s ancestry and her Scandinavian mitochondrial matches may forever remain shrouded in mystery.  However, I at least understand the possibilities.  It’s no wonder that those fjords in Norway brought me such joy.


Part of me seems to be there.

Hmmm…I think I’ll go and have one of those nice German beers and ponder the situation.



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