Genetic Genealogy at 20 Years: Where Have We Been, Where Are We Going and What’s Important?

Not only have we put 2020 in the rear-view mirror, thankfully, we’re at the 20-year, two-decade milestone. The point at which genetics was first added to the toolbox of genealogists.

It seems both like yesterday and forever ago. And yes, I’ve been here the whole time,  as a spectator, researcher, and active participant.

Let’s put this in perspective. On New Year’s Eve, right at midnight, in 2005, I was able to score kit number 50,000 at Family Tree DNA. I remember this because it seemed like such a bizarre thing to be doing at midnight on New Year’s Eve. But hey, we genealogists are what we are.

I knew that momentous kit number which seemed just HUGE at the time was on the threshold of being sold, because I had inadvertently purchased kit 49,997 a few minutes earlier.

Somehow kit 50,000 seemed like such a huge milestone, a landmark – so I quickly bought kits, 49,998, 49,999, and then…would I get it…YES…kit 50,000. Score!

That meant that in the 5 years FamilyTreeDNA had been in business, they had sold on an average of 10,000 kits per year, or 27 kits a day. Today, that’s a rounding error. Then it was momentous!

In reality, the sales were ramping up quickly, because very few kits were sold in 2000, and roughly 20,000 kits had been sold in 2005 alone. I know this because I purchased kit 28,429 during the holiday sale a year earlier.

Of course, I had no idea who I’d test with that momentous New Year’s Eve Y DNA kit, but I assuredly would find someone. A few months later, I embarked on a road trip to visit an elderly family member with that kit in tow. Thank goodness I did, and they agreed and swabbed on the spot, because they are gone today and with them, the story of the Y line and autosomal DNA of their branch.

In the past two decades, almost an entire generation has slipped away, and with them, an entire genealogical library held in their DNA.

Today, more than 40 million people have tested with the four major DNA testing companies, although we don’t know exactly how many.

Lots of people have had more time to focus on genealogy in 2020, so let’s take a look at what’s important? What’s going on and what matters beyond this month or year?

How has this industry changed in the last two decades, and where it is going?

Reflection

This seems like a good point to reflect a bit.

Professor Dan Bradley reflecting on early genetic research techniques in his lab at the Smurfit Institute of Genetics at Trinity College in Dublin. Photo by Roberta Estes

In the beginning – twenty years ago, there were two companies who stuck their toes in the consumer DNA testing water – Oxford Ancestors and Family Tree DNA. About the same time, Sorenson Genomics and GeneTree were also entering that space, although Sorenson was a nonprofit. Today, of those, only FamilyTreeDNA remains, having adapted with the changing times – adding more products, testing, and sophistication.

Bryan Sykes who founded Oxford Ancestors announced in 2018 that he was retiring to live abroad and subsequently passed away in 2020. The website still exists, but the company has announced that they have ceased sales and the database will remain open until Sept 30, 2021.

James Sorenson died in 2008 and the assets of Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, including the Sorenson database, were sold to Ancestry in 2012. Eventually, Ancestry removed the public database in 2015.

Ancestry dabbled in Y and mtDNA for a while, too, destroying that database in 2014.

Other companies, too many to remember or mention, have come and gone as well. Some of the various company names have been recycled or purchased, but aren’t the same companies today.

In the DNA space, it was keep up, change, die or be sold. Of course, there was the small matter of being able to sell enough DNA kits to make enough money to stay in business at all. DNA processing equipment and a lab are expensive. Not just the equipment, but also the expertise.

The Next Wave

As time moved forward, new players entered the landscape, comprising the “Big 4” testing companies that constitute the ponds where genealogists fish today.

23andMe was the first to introduce autosomal DNA testing and matching. Their goal and focus was always medical genetics, but they recognized the potential in genealogists before anyone else, and we flocked to purchase tests.

Ancestry settled on autosomal only and relies on the size of their database, a large body of genealogy subscribers, and a widespread “feel-good” marketing campaign to sell DNA kits as the gateway to “discover who you are.”

FamilyTreeDNA did and still does offer all 3 kinds of tests. Over the years, they have enhanced both the Y DNA and mitochondrial product offerings significantly and are still known as “the science company.” They are the only company to offer the full range of Y DNA tests, including their flagship Big Y-700, full sequence mitochondrial testing along with matching for both products. Their autosomal product is called Family Finder.

MyHeritage entered the DNA testing space a few years after the others as the dark horse that few expected to be successful – but they fooled everyone. They have acquired companies and partnered along the way which allowed them to add customers (Promethease) and tools (such as AutoCluster by Genetic Affairs), boosting their number of users. Of course, MyHeritage also offers users a records research subscription service that you can try for free.

In summary:

One of the wonderful things that happened was that some vendors began to accept compatible raw DNA autosomal data transfer files from other vendors. Today, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, and GEDmatch DO accept transfer files, while Ancestry and 23andMe do not.

The transfers and matching are free, but there are either minimal unlock or subscription plans for advanced features.

There are other testing companies, some with niche markets and others not so reputable. For this article, I’m focusing on the primary DNA testing companies that are useful for genealogy and mainstream companion third-party tools that complement and enhance those services.

The Single Biggest Change

As I look back, the single biggest change is that genetic genealogy evolved from the pariah of genealogy where DNA discussion was banned from the (now defunct) Rootsweb lists and summarily deleted for the first few years after introduction. I know, that’s hard to believe today.

Why, you ask?

Reasons varied from “just because” to “DNA is cheating” and then morphed into “because DNA might do terrible things like, maybe, suggest that a person really wasn’t related to an ancestor in a lineage society.”

Bottom line – fear and misunderstanding. Change is exceedingly difficult for humans, and DNA definitely moved the genealogy cheese.

From that awkward beginning, genetic genealogy organically became a “thing,” a specific application of genealogy. There was paper-trail traditional genealogy and then the genetic aspect. Today, for almost everyone, genealogy is “just another tool” in the genealogist’s toolbox, although it does require focused learning, just like any other tool.

DNA isn’t separate anymore, but is now an integral part of the genealogical whole. Having said that, DNA can’t solve all problems or answer all questions, but neither can traditional paper-trail genealogy. Together, each makes the other stronger and solves mysteries that neither can resolve alone.

Synergy.

I fully believe that we have still only scratched the surface of what’s possible.

Inheritance

As we talk about the various types of DNA testing and tools, here’s a quick graphic to remind you of how the different types of DNA are inherited.

  • Y DNA is inherited paternally for males only and informs us of the direct patrilineal (surname) line.
  • Mitochondrial DNA is inherited by everyone from their mothers and informs us of the mother’s matrilineal (mother’s mother’s mother’s) line.
  • Autosomal DNA can be inherited from potentially any ancestor in random but somewhat predictable amounts through both parents. The further back in time, the less identifiable DNA you’ll inherit from any specific ancestor. I wrote about that, here.

What’s Hot and What’s Not

Where should we be focused today and where is this industry going? What tools and articles popped up in 2020 to help further our genealogy addiction? I already published the most popular articles of 2020, here.

This industry started two decades ago with testing a few Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA markers, and we were utterly thrilled at the time. Both tests have advanced significantly and the prices have dropped like a stone. My first mitochondrial DNA test that tested only 400 locations cost more than $800 – back then.

Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA are still critically important to genetic genealogy. Both play unique roles and provide information that cannot be obtained through autosomal DNA testing. Today, relative to Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA, the biggest challenge, ironically, is educating newer genealogists about their potential who have never heard about anything other than autosomal, often ethnicity, testing.

We have to educate in order to overcome the cacophony of “don’t bother because you don’t get as many matches.”

That’s like saying “don’t use the right size wrench because the last one didn’t fit and it’s a bother to reach into the toolbox.” Not to mention that if everyone tested, there would be a lot more matches, but I digress.

If you don’t use the right tool, and all of the tools at your disposal, you’re not going to get the best result possible.

The genealogical proof standard, the gold standard for genealogy research, calls for “a reasonably exhaustive search,” and if you haven’t at least considered if or how Y
DNA
and mitochondrial DNA along with autosomal testing can or might help, then your search is not yet exhaustive.

I attempt to obtain the Y and mitochondrial DNA of every ancestral line. In the article, Search Techniques for Y and Mitochondrial DNA Test Candidates, I described several methodologies to find appropriate testing candidates.

Y DNA – 20 Years and Still Critically Important

Y DNA tracks the Y chromosome for males via the patrilineal (surname) line, providing matching and historical migration information.

We started 20 years ago testing 10 STR markers. Today, we begin at 37 markers, can upgrade to 67 or 111, but the preferred test is the Big Y which provides results for 700+ STR markers plus results from the entire gold standard region of the Y chromosome in order to provide the most refined results. This allows genealogists to use STR markers and SNP results together for various aspects of genealogy.

I created a Y DNA resource page, here, in order to provide a repository for Y DNA information and updates in one place. I would encourage anyone who can to order or upgrade to the Big Y-700 test which provides critical lineage information in addition to and beyond traditional STR testing. Additionally, the Big Y-700 test helps build the Y DNA haplotree which is growing by leaps and bounds.

More new SNPs are found and named EVERY SINGLE DAY today at FamilyTreeDNA than were named in the first several years combined. The 2006 SNP tree listed a grand total of 459 SNPs that defined the Y DNA tree at that time, according to the ISOGG Y DNA SNP tree. Goran Rundfeldt, head of R&D at FamilyTreeDNA posted this today:

2020 was an awful year in so many ways, but it was an unprecedented year for human paternal phylogenetic tree reconstruction. The FTDNA Haplotree or Great Tree of Mankind now includes:

37,534 branches with 12,696 added since 2019 – 51% growth!
defined by
349,097 SNPs with 131,820 added since 2019 – 61% growth!

In just one year, 207,536 SNPs were discovered and assigned FT SNP names. These SNPs will help define new branches and refine existing ones in the future.

The tree is constructed based on high coverage chromosome Y sequences from:
– More than 52,500 Big Y results
– Almost 4,000 NGS results from present-day anonymous men that participated in academic studies

Plus an additional 3,000 ancient DNA results from archaeological remains, of mixed quality and Y chromosome coverage at FamilyTreeDNA.

Wow, just wow.

These three new articles in 2020 will get you started on your Y DNA journey!

Mitochondrial DNA – Matrilineal Line of Humankind is Being Rewritten

The original Oxford Ancestor’s mitochondrial DNA test tested 400 locations. The original Family Tree DNA test tested around 1000 locations. Today, the full sequence mitochondrial DNA test is standard, testing the entire 16,569 locations of the mitochondria.

Mitochondrial DNA tracks your mother’s direct maternal, or matrilineal line. I’ve created a mitochondrial DNA resource page, here that includes easy step-by-step instructions for after you receive your results.

New articles in 2020 included the introduction of The Million Mito Project. 2021 should see the first results – including a paper currently in the works.

The Million Mito Project is rewriting the haplotree of womankind. The current haplotree has expanded substantially since the first handful of haplogroups thanks to thousands upon thousands of testers, but there is so much more information that can be extracted today.

Y and Mitochondrial Resources

If you don’t know of someone in your family to test for Y DNA or mitochondrial DNA for a specific ancestral line, you can always turn to the Y DNA projects at Family Tree DNA by searching here.

The search provides you with a list of projects available for a specific surname along with how many customers with that surname have tested. Looking at the individual Y DNA projects will show the earliest known ancestor of the surname line.

Another resource, WikiTree lists people who have tested for the Y DNA, mitochondrial DNA and autosomal DNA lines of specific ancestors.

Click on images to enlarge

On the left side, my maternal great-grandmother’s profile card, and on the right, my paternal great-great-grandfather. You can see that someone has tested for the mitochondrial DNA of Nora (OK, so it’s me) and the Y DNA of John Estes (definitely not me.)

MitoYDNA, a nonprofit volunteer organization created a comparison tool to replace Ysearch and Mitosearch when they bit the dust thanks to GDPR.

MitoYDNA accepts uploads from different sources and allows uploaders to not only match to each other, but to view the STR values for Y DNA and the mutation locations for the HVR1 and HVR2 regions of mitochondrial DNA. Mags Gaulden, one of the founders, explains in her article, What sets mitoYDNA apart from other DNA Databases?.

If you’ve tested at nonstandard companies, not realizing that they didn’t provide matching, or if you’ve tested at a company like Sorenson, Ancestry, and now Oxford Ancestors that is going out of business, uploading your results to mitoYDNA is a way to preserve your investment. PS – I still recommend testing at FamilyTreeDNA in order to receive detailed results and compare in their large database.

CentiMorgans – The Word of Two Decades

The world of autosomal DNA turns on the centimorgan (cM) measure. What is a centimorgan, exactly? I wrote about that unit of measure in the article Concepts – CentiMorgans, SNPs and Pickin’ Crab.

Fortunately, new tools and techniques make using cMs much easier. The Shared cM Project was updated this year, and the results incorporated into a wonderfully easy tool used to determine potential relationships at DNAPainter based on the number of shared centiMorgans.

Match quality and potential relationships are determined by the number of shared cMs, and the chromosome browser is the best tool to use for those comparisons.

Chromosome Browser – Genetics Tool to View Chromosome Matches

Chromosome browsers allow testers to view their matching cMs of DNA with other testers positioned on their own chromosomes.

My two cousins’ DNA where they match me on chromosomes 1-4, is shown above in blue and red at Family Tree DNA. It’s important to know where you match cousins, because if you match multiple cousins on the same segment, from the same side of your family (maternal or paternal), that’s suggestive of a common ancestor, with a few caveats.

Some people feel that a chromosome browser is an advanced tool, but I think it’s simply standard fare – kind of like driving a car. You need to learn how to drive initially, but after that, you don’t even think about it – you just get in and go. Here’s help learning how to drive that chromosome browser.

Triangulation – Science Plus Group DNA Matching Confirms Genealogy

The next logical step after learning to use a chromosome browser is triangulation. If fact, you’re seeing triangulation above, but don’t even realize it.

The purpose of genetic genealogy is to gather evidence to “prove” ancestral connections to either people or specific ancestors. In autosomal DNA, triangulation occurs when:

  • You match at least two other people (not close relatives)
  • On the same reasonably sized segment of DNA (generally 7 cM or greater)
  • And you can assign that segment to a common ancestor

The same two cousins are shown above, with triangulated segments bracketed at MyHeritage. I’ve identified the common ancestor with those cousins that those matching DNA segments descend from.

MyHeritage’s triangulation tool confirms by bracketing that these cousins also match each other on the same segment, which is the definition of triangulation.

I’ve written a lot about triangulation recently.

If you’d prefer a video, I recorded a “Top Tips” Facebook LIVE with MyHeritage.

Why is Ancestry missing from this list of triangulation articles? Ancestry does not offer a chromosome browser or segment information. Therefore, you can’t triangulate at Ancestry. You can, however, transfer your Ancestry DNA raw data file to either FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, or GEDmatch, all three of which offer triangulation.

Step by step download/upload transfer instructions are found in this article:

Clustering Matches and Correlating Trees

Based on what we’ve seen over the past few years, we can no longer depend on the major vendors to provide all of the tools that genealogists want and need.

Of course, I would encourage you to stay with mainstream products being used by a significant number of community power users. As with anything, there is always someone out there that’s less than honorable.

2020 saw a lot of innovation and new tools introduced. Maybe that’s one good thing resulting from people being cooped up at home.

Third-party tools are making a huge difference in the world of genetic genealogy. My favorites are Genetic Affairs, their AutoCluster tool shown above, DNAPainter and DNAGedcom.

These articles should get you started with clustering.

If you like video resources, here’s a MyHeritage Facebook LIVE that I recorded about how to use AutoClusters:

I created a compiled resource article for your convenience, here:

I have not tried a newer tool, YourDNAFamily, that focuses only on 23andMe results although the creator has been a member of the genetic genealogy community for a long time.

Painting DNA Makes Chromosome Browsers and Triangulation Easy

DNAPainter takes the next step, providing a repository for all of your painted segments. In other words, DNAPainter is both a solution and a methodology for mass triangulation across all of your chromosomes.

Here’s a small group of people who match me on the same maternal segment of chromosome 1, including those two cousins in the chromosome browser and triangulation sections, above. We know that this segment descends from Philip Jacob Miller and his wife because we’ve been able to identify that couple as the most distant ancestor intersection in all of our trees.

It’s very helpful that DNAPainter has added the functionality of painting all of the maternal and paternal bucketed matches from Family Tree DNA.

All you need to do is to link your known matches to your tree in the proper place at FamilyTreeDNA, then they do the rest by using those DNA matches to indicate which of the rest of your matches are maternal and paternal. Instructions, here. You can then export the file and use it at DNAPainter to paint all of those matches on the correct maternal or paternal chromosomes.

Here’s an article providing all of the DNAPainter Instructions and Resources.

DNA Matches Plus Trees Enhance Genealogy

Of course, utilizing DNA matching plus finding common ancestors in trees is one of the primary purposes of genetic genealogy – right?

Vendors have linked the steps of matching DNA with matching ancestors in trees.

Genetic Affairs take this a step further. If you don’t have an ancestor in your tree, but your matches have common ancestors with each other, Genetic Affairs assembles those trees to provide you with those hints. Of course, that common ancestor might not be relevant to your genealogy, but it just might be too!

click to enlarge

This tree does not include me, but two of my matches descend from a common ancestor and that common ancestor between them might be a clue as to why I match both of them.

Ethnicity Continues to be Popular – But Is No Shortcut to Genealogy

Ethnicity is always popular. People want to “do their DNA” and find out where they come from. I understand. I really do. Who doesn’t just want an answer?

Of course, it’s not that simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s not disappointing to people who test for that purpose with high expectations. Hopefully, ethnicity will pique their curiosity and encourage engagement.

All four major vendors rolled out updated ethnicity results or related tools in 2020.

The future for ethnicity, I believe, will be held in integrated tools that allow us to use ethnicity results for genealogy, including being able to paint our ethnicity on our chromosomes as well as perform segment matching by ethnicity.

For example, if I carry an African segment on chromosome 1 from my father, and I match one person from my mother’s side and one from my father’s side on that same segment – one or the other of those people should also have that segment identified as African. That information would inform me as to which match is paternal and which is maternal

Not only that, this feature would help immensely tracking ancestors back in time and identifying their origins.

Will we ever get there? I don’t know. I’m not sure ethnicity is or can be accurate enough. We’ll see.

Transition to Digital and Online

Sometimes the future drags us kicking and screaming from the present.

With the imposed isolation of 2020, conferences quickly moved to an online presence. The genealogy community has all pulled together to make this work. The joke is that 2020’s most used phrase is “can you hear me?” I can vouch for that.

Of course while the year 2020 is over, the problem isn’t and is extending at least through the first half of 2021 and possibly longer. Conferences are planned months, up to a year, in advance and they can’t turn on a dime, so don’t even begin to expect in-person conferences until either late in 2021 or more likely, 2022 if all goes well this year.

I expect the future will eventually return to in-person conferences, but not entirely.

Finding ways to be more inclusive allows people who don’t want to or can’t travel or join in-person to participate.

I’ve recorded several sessions this year, mostly for 2021. Trust me, these could be a comedy, mostly of errors😊

I participated in four MyHeritage Facebook LIVE sessions in 2020 along with some other amazing speakers. This is what “live” events look like today!

Screenshot courtesy MyHeritage

A few days ago, I asked MyHeritage for a list of their LIVE sessions in 2020 and was shocked to learn that there were more than 90 in English, all free, and you can watch them anytime. Here’s the MyHeritage list.

By the way, every single one of the speakers is a volunteer, so say a big thank you to the speakers who make this possible, and to MyHeritage for the resources to make this free for everyone. If you’ve ever tried to coordinate anything like this, it’s anything but easy.

Additonally, I’ve created two Webinars this year for Legacy Family Tree Webinars.

Geoff Rasmussen put together the list of their top webinars for 2020, and I was pleased to see that I made the top 10! I’m sure there are MANY MORE you’d be interested in watching. Personally, I’m going to watch #6 yet today! Also, #9 and #22. You can always watch new webinars for free for a few days, and you can subscribe to watch all webinars, here.

The 2021 list of webinar speakers has been announced here, and while I’m not allowed to talk about something really fun that’s upcoming, let’s just say you definitely have something to look forward to in the springtime!

Also, don’t forget to register for RootsTech Connect which is entirely online and completely free, February 25-27, here.

Thank you to Penny Walters for creating this lovely graphic.

There are literally hundreds of speakers providing sessions in many languages for viewers around the world. I’ve heard the stats, but we can’t share them yet. Let me just say that you will be SHOCKED at the magnitude and reach of this conference. I’m talking dumbstruck!

During one of our zoom calls, one of the organizers says it feels like we’re constructing the plane as we’re flying, and I can confirm his observation – but we are getting it done – together! All hands on deck.

I’ll be presenting an advanced session about triangulation as well as a mini-session in the FamilySearch DNA Resource Center about finding your mother’s ancestors. I’ll share more information as it’s released and I can.

Companies and Owners Come & Go

You probably didn’t even notice some of these 2020 changes. Aside from the death of Bryan Sykes (RIP Bryan,) the big news and the even bigger unknown is the acquisition of Ancestry by Blackstone. Recently the CEO, Margo Georgiadis announced that she was stepping down. The Ancestry Board of Directors has announced an external search for a new CEO. All I can say is that very high on the priority list should be someone who IS a genealogist and who understands how DNA applies to genealogy.

Other changes included:

In the future, as genealogy and DNA testing becomes ever more popular and even more of a commodity, company sales and acquisitions will become more commonplace.

Some Companies Reduced Services and Cut Staff

I understand this too, but it’s painful. The layoffs occurred before Covid, so they didn’t result from Covid-related sales reductions. Let’s hope we see renewed investment after the Covid mess is over.

In a move that may or may not be related to an attempt to cut costs, Ancestry removed 6 and 7 cM matches from their users, freeing up processing resources, hardware, and storage requirements and thereby reducing costs.

I’m not going to beat this dead horse, because Ancestry is clearly not going to move on this issue, nor on that of the much-requested chromosome browser.

Later in the year, 23andMe also removed matches and other features, although, to their credit, they have restored at least part of this functionality and have provided ethnicity updates to V3 and V4 kits which wasn’t initially planned.

It’s also worth noting that early in 2020, 23andMe laid off 100 people as sales declined. Since that time, 23andMe has increasingly pushed consumers to pay to retest on their V5 chip.

About the same time, Ancestry also cut their workforce by about 6%, or about 100 people, also citing a slowdown in the consumer testing market. Ancestry also added a health product.

I’m not sure if we’ve reached market saturation or are simply seeing a leveling off. I wrote about that in DNA Testing Sales Decline: Reason and Reasons.

Of course, the pandemic economy where many people are either unemployed or insecure about their future isn’t helping.

The various companies need some product diversity to survive downturns. 23andMe is focused on medical research with partners who pay 23andMe for the DNA data of customers who opt-in, as does Ancestry.

Both Ancestry and MyHeritage provide subscription services for genealogy records.

FamilyTreeDNA is part of a larger company, GenebyGene whose genetics labs do processing for other companies and medical facilities.

A huge thank you to both MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA for NOT reducing services to customers in 2020.

Scientific Research Still Critical & Pushes Frontiers

Now that DNA testing has become a commodity, it’s easy to lose track of the fact that DNA testing is still a scientific endeavor that requires research to continue to move forward.

I’m still passionate about research after 20 years – maybe even more so now because there’s so much promise.

Research bleeds over into the consumer marketplace where products are improved and new features created allowing us to better track and understand our ancestors through their DNA that we and our family members inherit.

Here are a few of the research articles I published in 2020. You might notice a theme here – ancient DNA. What we can learn now due to new processing techniques is absolutely amazing. Labs can share files and information, providing the ability to “reprocess” the data, not the DNA itself, as more information and expertise becomes available.

Of course, in addition to this research, the Million Mito Project team is hard at work rewriting the tree of womankind.

If you’d like to participate, all you need to do is to either purchase a full sequence mitochondrial DNA kit at FamilyTreeDNA, or upgrade to the full sequence if you tested at a lower level previously.

Predictions

Predictions are risky business, but let me give it a shot.

Looking back a year, Covid wasn’t on the radar.

Looking back 5 years, neither Genetic Affairs nor DNAPainter were yet on the scene. DNAAdoption had just been formed in 2014 and DNAGedcom which was born out of DNAAdoption didn’t yet exist.

In other words, the most popular tools today didn’t exist yet.

GEDmatch, founded in 2010 by genealogists for genealogists was 5 years old, but was sold in December 2019 to Verogen.

We were begging Ancestry for a chromosome browser, and while we’ve pretty much given up beating them, because the horse is dead and they can sell DNA kits through ads focused elsewhere, that doesn’t mean genealogists still don’t need/want chromosome and segment based tools. Why, you’d think that Ancestry really doesn’t want us to break through those brick walls. That would be very bizarre, because every brick wall that falls reveals two more ancestors that need to be researched and spurs a frantic flurry of midnight searching. If you’re laughing right now, you know exactly what I mean!

Of course, if Ancestry provided a chromosome browser, it would cost development money for no additional revenue and their customer service reps would have to be able to support it. So from Ancestry’s perspective, there’s no good reason to provide us with that tool when they can sell kits without it. (Sigh.)

I’m not surprised by the management shift at Ancestry, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see several big players go public in the next decade, if not the next five years.

As companies increase in value, the number of private individuals who could afford to purchase the company decreases quickly, leaving private corporations as the only potential buyers, or becoming publicly held. Sometimes, that’s a good thing because investment dollars are infused into new product development.

What we desperately need, and I predict will happen one way or another is a marriage of individual tools and functions that exist separately today, with a dash of innovation. We need tools that will move beyond confirming existing ancestors – and will be able to identify ancestors through our DNA – out beyond each and every brick wall.

If a tester’s DNA matches to multiple people in a group descended from a particular previously unknown couple, and the timing and geography fits as well, that provides genealogical researchers with the hint they need to begin excavating the traditional records, looking for a connection.

In fact, this is exactly what happened with mitochondrial DNA – twice now. A match and a great deal of digging by one extremely persistent cousin resulting in identifying potential parents for a brick-wall ancestor. Autosomal DNA then confirmed that my DNA matched with 59 other individuals who descend from that couple through multiple children.

BUT, we couldn’t confirm those ancestors using autosomal DNA UNTIL WE HAD THE NAMES of the couple. DNA has the potential to reveal those names!

I wrote about that in Mitochondrial DNA Bulldozes Brick Wall and will be discussing it further in my RootsTech presentation.

The Challenge

We have most of the individual technology pieces today to get this done. Of course, the combined technological solution would require significant computing resources and processing power – just at the same time that vendors are desperately trying to pare costs to a minimum.

Some vendors simply aren’t interested, as I’ve already noted.

However, the winner, other than us genealogists, of course, will be the vendor who can either devise solutions or partner with others to create the right mix of tools that will combine matching, triangulation, and trees of your matches to each other, even if you don’t’ share a common ancestor.

We need to follow the DNA past the current end of the branch of our tree.

Each triangulated segment has an individual history that will lead not just to known ancestors, but to their unknown ancestors as well. We have reached critical mass in terms of how many people have tested – and more success would encourage more and more people to test.

There is a genetic path over every single brick wall in our genealogy.

Yes, I know that’s a bold statement. It’s not future Jetson’s flying-cars stuff. It’s doable – but it’s a matter of commitment, investment money, and finding a way to recoup that investment.

I don’t think it’s possible for the one-time purchase of a $39-$99 DNA test, especially when it’s not a loss-leader for something else like a records or data subscription (MyHeritage and Ancestry) or a medical research partnership (Ancestry and 23andMe.)

We’re performing these analysis processes manually and piecemeal today. It’s extremely inefficient and labor-intensive – which is why it often fails. People give up. And the process is painful, even when it does succeed.

This process has also been made increasingly difficult when some vendors block tools that help genealogists by downloading match and ancestral tree information. Before Ancestry closed access, I was creating theories based on common ancestors in my matches trees that weren’t in mine – then testing those theories both genetically (clusters, AutoTrees and ThruLines) and also by digging into traditional records to search for the genetic connection.

For example, I’m desperate to identify the parents of my James Lee Clarkson/Claxton, so I sorted my spreadsheet by surname and began evaluating everyone who had a Clarkson/Claxton in their tree in the 1700s in Virginia or North Carolina. But I can’t do that anymore now, either with a third-party tool or directly at Ancestry. Twenty million DNA kits sold for a minimum of $79 equals more than 1.5 billion dollars. Obviously, the issue here is not a lack of funds.

Including Y and mitochondrial DNA resources in our genetic toolbox not only confirms accuracy but also provides additional hints and clues.

Sometimes we start with Y DNA or mitochondrial DNA, and wind up using autosomal and sometimes the reverse. These are not competing products. It’s not either/or – it’s *and*.

Personally, I don’t expect the vendors to provide this game-changing complex functionality for free. I would be glad to pay for a subscription for top-of-the-line innovation and tools. In what other industry do consumers expect to pay for an item once and receive constant life-long innovations and upgrades? That doesn’t happen with software, phones nor with automobiles. I want vendors to be profitable so that they can invest in new tools that leverage the power of computing for genealogists to solve currently unsolvable problems.

Every single end-of-line ancestor in your tree represents a brick wall you need to overcome.

If you compare the cost of books, library visits, courthouse trips, and other research endeavors that often produce exactly nothing, these types of genetic tools would be both a godsend and an incredible value.

That’s it.

That’s the challenge, a gauntlet of sorts.

Who’s going to pick it up?

I can’t answer that question, but I can say that 23andMe can’t do this without supporting extensive trees, and Ancestry has shown absolutely no inclination to support segment data. You can’t achieve this goal without segment information or without trees.

Among the current players, that leaves two DNA testing companies and a few top-notch third parties as candidates – although – as the past has proven, the future is uncertain, fluid, and everchanging.

It will be interesting to see what I’m writing at the end of 2025, or maybe even at the end of 2021.

Stay tuned.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

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Y DNA Resources and Repository

I’ve created a Y DNA resource page with the information in this article, here, as a permanent location where you can find Y DNA information in one place – including:

  • Step-by-step guides about how to utilize Y DNA for your genealogy
  • Educational articles and links to the latest webinars
  • Articles about the science behind Y DNA
  • Ancient DNA
  • Success stories

Please feel free to share this resource or any of the links to individual articles with friends, genealogy groups, or on social media.

If you haven’t already taken a Y DNA test, and you’re a male (only males have a Y chromosome,) you can order one here. If you also purchase the Family Finder, autosomal test, those results can be used to search together.

What is Y DNA?

Y DNA is passed directly from fathers to their sons, as illustrated by the blue arrow, above. Daughters do not inherit the Y chromosome. The Y chromosome is what makes males, male.

Every son receives a Y chromosome from his father, who received it from his father, and so forth, on up the direct patrilineal line.

Comparatively, mitochondrial DNA, the pink arrow, is received by both sexes of children from the mother through the direct matrilineal line.

Autosomal DNA, the green arrow, is a combination of randomly inherited DNA from many ancestors that is inherited by both sexes of children from both parents. This article explains a bit more.

Y DNA has Unique Properties

The Y chromosome is never admixed with DNA from the mother, so the Y chromosome that the son receives is identical to the father’s Y chromosome except for occasional minor mutations that take place every few generations.

This lack of mixture with the mother’s DNA plus the occasional mutation is what makes the Y chromosome similar enough to match against other men from the same ancestors for hundreds or thousands of years back in time, and different enough to be useful for genealogy. The mutations can be tracked within extended families.

In western cultures, the Y chromosome path of inheritance is usually the same as the surname, which means that the Y chromosome is uniquely positioned to identify the direct biological patrilineal lineage of males.

Two different types of Y DNA tests can be ordered that work together to refine Y DNA results and connect testers to other men with common ancestors.

FamilyTreeDNA provides STR tests with their 37, 67 and 111 marker test panels, and comprehensive STR plus SNP testing with their Big Y-700 test.

click to enlarge

STR markers are used for genealogy matching, while SNP markers work with STR markers to refine genealogy further, plus provide a detailed haplogroup.

Think of a haplogroup as a genetic clan that tells you which genetic family group you belong to – both today and historically, before the advent of surnames.

This article, What is a Haplogroup? explains the basic concept of how haplogroups are determined.

In addition to the Y DNA test itself, Family Tree DNA provides matching to other testers in their database plus a group of comprehensive tools, shown on the dashboard above, to help testers utilize their results to their fullest potential.

You can order or upgrade a Y DNA test, here. If you also purchase the Family Finder, autosomal test, those results can be used to search together.

Step-by-Step – Using Your Y DNA Results

Let’s take a look at all of the features, functions, and tools that are available on your FamilyTreeDNA personal page.

What do those words mean? Here you go!

Come along while I step through evaluating Big Y test results.

Big Y Testing and Results

Why would you want to take a Big Y test and how can it help you?

While the Big Y-500 has been superseded by the Big Y-700 test today, you will still be interested in some of the underlying technology. STR matching still works the same way.

The Big Y-500 provided more than 500 STR markers and the Big Y-700 provides more than 700 – both significantly more than the 111 panel. The only way to receive these additional markers is by purchasing the Big Y test.

I have to tell you – I was skeptical when the Big Y-700 was introduced as the next step above the Big Y-500. I almost didn’t upgrade any kits – but I’m so very glad that I did. I’m not skeptical anymore.

This Y DNA tree rocks. A new visual format with your matches listed on their branches. Take a look!

Educational Articles

I’ve been writing about DNA for years and have selected several articles that you may find useful.

What kinds of information are available if you take a Y DNA test, and how can you use it for genealogy?

What if your father isn’t available to take a DNA test? How can you determine who else to test that will reveal your father’s Y DNA information?

Family Tree DNA shows the difference in the number of mutations between two men as “genetic distance.” Learn what that means and how it’s figured in this article.

Of course, there were changes right after I published the original Genetic Distance article. The only guarantees in life are death, taxes, and that something will change immediately after you publish.

Sometimes when we take DNA tests, or others do, we discover the unexpected. That’s always a possibility. Here’s the story of my brother who wasn’t my biological brother. If you’d like to read more about Dave’s story, type “Dear Dave” into the search box on my blog. Read the articles in publication order, and not without a box of Kleenex.

Often, what surprise matches mean is that you need to dig further.

The words paternal and patrilineal aren’t the same thing. Paternal refers to the paternal half of your family, where patrilineal is the direct father to father line.

Just because you don’t have any surname matches doesn’t necessarily mean it’s because of what you’re thinking.

Short tandem repeats (STRs) and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) aren’t the same thing and are used differently in genealogy.

Piecing together your ancestor’s Y DNA from descendants.

Haplogroups are something like our pedigree charts.

What does it mean when you have a zero for a marker value?

There’s more than one way to break down that brick wall. Here’s how I figured out which of 4 sons was my ancestor.

Just because you match the right line autosomally doesn’t mean it’s because you descend from the male child you think is your ancestor. Females gave their surnames to children born outside of a legal marriage which can lead to massive confusion. This is absolutely why you need to test the Y DNA of every single ancestral line.

When the direct patrilineal line isn’t the line you’re expecting.

You can now tell by looking at the flags on the haplotree where other people’s ancestral lines on your branch are from. This is especially useful if you’ve taken the Big Y test and can tell you if you’re hunting in the right location.

If you’re just now testing or tested in 2018 or after, you don’t need to read this article unless you’re interested in the improvements to the Big Y test over the years.

2019 was a banner year for discovery. 2020 was even more so, keeping up an amazing pace. I need to write a 2020 update article.

What is a terminal SNP? Hint – it’s not fatal😊

How the TIP calculator works and how to best interpret the results. Note that this tool is due for an update that incorporates more markers and SNP results too.

You can view the location of the Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA ancestors of people whose ethnicity you match.

Tools and Techniques

This free public tree is amazing, showing locations of each haplogroup and totals by haplogroup and country, including downstream branches.

Need to search for and find Y DNA candidates when you don’t know anyone from that line? Here’s how.

Yes, it’s still possible to resolve this issue using autosomal DNA. Non-matching Y DNA isn’t the end of the road, just a fork.

Science Meets Genealogy – Including Ancient DNA

Haplogroup C was an unexpected find in the Americas and reaches into South America.

Haplogroup C is found in several North American tribes.

Haplogroup C is found as far east as Nova Scotia.

Test by test, we made progress.

New testers, new branches. The research continues.

The discovery of haplogroup A00 was truly amazing when it occurred – the base of the phylotree in Africa.

The press release about the discovery of haplogroup A00.

In 2018, a living branch of A00 was discovered in Africa, and in 2020, an ancient DNA branch.

Did you know that haplogroups weren’t always known by their SNP names?

This brought the total of SNPs discovered by Family Tree DNA in mid-2018 to 153,000. I should contact the Research Center to see how many they have named at the end of 2020.

An academic paper split ancient haplogroup D, but then the phylogenetic research team at FamilyTreeDNA split it twice more! This might not sound exciting until you realize this redefines what we know about early man, in Africa and as he emerged from Africa.

Ancient DNA splits haplogroup P after analyzing the remains of two Jehai people from West Malaysia.

For years I doubted Kennewick Man’s DNA would ever be sequenced, but it finally was. Kennewick Man’s mitochondrial DNA haplogroup is X2a and his Y DNA was confirmed to Q-M3 in 2015.

Compare your own DNA to Vikings!

Twenty-seven Icelandic Viking skeletons tell a very interesting story.

Irish ancestors? Check your DNA and see if you match.

Ancestors from Hungary or Italy? Take a look. These remains have matches to people in various places throughout Europe.

The Y DNA story is no place near finished. Dr. Miguel Vilar, former Lead Scientist for National Geographic’s Genographic Project provides additional analysis and adds a theory.

Webinars

Y DNA Webinar at Legacy Family Tree Webinars – a 90-minute webinar for those who prefer watching to learn! It’s not free, but you can subscribe here.

Success Stories and Genealogy Discoveries

Almost everyone has their own Y DNA story of discovery. Because the Y DNA follows the surname line, Y DNA testing often helps push those lines back a generation, or two, or four. When STR markers fail to be enough, we can turn to the Big Y-700 test which provides SNP markers down to the very tip of the leaves in the Y DNA tree. Often, but not always, family-defining SNP branches will occur which are much more stable and reliable than STR mutations – although SNPs and STRs should be used together.

Methodologies to find ancestral lines to test, or maybe descendants who have already tested.

DNA testing reveals an unexpected mystery several hundred years old.

When I write each of my “52 Ancestor” stories, I include genetic information, for the ancestor and their descendants, when I can. Jacob was special because, in addition to being able to identify his autosomal DNA, his Y DNA matches the ancient DNA of the Yamnaya people. You can read about his Y DNA story in Jakob Lenz (1748-1821), Vinedresser.

Please feel free to add your success stories in the comments.

What About You?

You never know what you’re going to discover when you test your Y DNA. If you’re a female, you’ll need to find a male that descends from the line you want to test via all males to take the Y DNA test on your behalf. Of course, if you want to test your father’s line, your father, or a brother through that father, or your uncle, your father’s brother, would be good candidates.

What will you be able to discover? Who will the earliest known ancestor with that same surname be among your matches? Will you be able to break down a long-standing brick wall? You’ll never know if you don’t test.

You can click here to upgrade an existing test or order a Y DNA test.

Share the Love

You can always forward these articles to friends or share by posting links on social media. Who do you know that might be interested?

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Books

Ancient Ireland’s Y and Mitochondrial DNA – Do You Match???

Ancient Ireland – the land of Tara and Knowth and the passage tombs of New Grange. Land of legend, romance, and perchance of King Arthur, or at least some ancient king who became Arthur in legend.

The island of Ireland, today Ireland and Northern Ireland, was a destination location, it seems, the westernmost island in the British Isles, and therefore the western shore of Europe. Anyone who sailed further west had better have weeks of food, water, and a great deal of good luck.

But who settled Ireland, when, and where did they come from? How many times was Ireland settled, and did the new settlers simply mingle with those already in residence, or did they displace the original settlers? Oral history recorded in the most ancient texts speaks of waves of settlement and conquest.

According to two papers, discussed below, which analyze ancient DNA, there were two horizon events that changed life dramatically in Europe, the arrival of agriculture about 3750 BC, or about 5770 years ago, and the arrival of metallurgy about 2300 BC, or 4320 years ago.

The people who lived in Ireland originally are classified as the Mesolithic people, generally referred to as hunter-gatherers. The second wave was known as Neolithic or the people who arrived as farmers. The third wave heralded the arrival of the Bronze Age when humans began to work with metals.

Our answers about Irish settlers come from the skeletons of the people who lived in Ireland at one time and whose bones remain in various types of burials and tombs.

The first remains to be processed with high coverage whole genome sequencing were those of 3 males whose remains were found in a cist burial on volcanic Rathlin Island, located in the channel between Ireland and Scotland.

In 795, Rathlin had the dubious honor of being the first target of Viking raiding and pillaging.

Rathlin Island is but a spit of land, with a total population of about 150 people, 4 miles east to west and 2.5 miles north to south. Conflict on the island didn’t stop there, with the Campbell and McDonald clan, among others, having bloody clashes on this tiny piece of land, with losers being tossed from the cliffs.

The island is believed to have been settled during the Mesolithic period, according to O’Sullivan in Maritime Ireland, An Archaeology of Coastal Communities (2007). The original language of Rathlin was Gaelic. Having been a half-way point between Ireland and Scotland, it’s believed that Rathlin served as an important cog in the Dalriada diaspora with Dalriada people taking their language, through Rathlin, into Scotland from about 300 AD, or 1700 years ago.

The first Irish remains whose DNA was sequenced at the whole genome level are from those three men and a much earlier Neolithic woman.

  • Three men from a cist burial in Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim (2026-1534 BC) with associated food vessel pottery.
  • A Neolithic woman (3343-3030 BC) from Ballynahatty, County, Down, south of Belfast, found in an early megalithic passage-like grave

Megalithic tomb at the centre of the Giant’s Ring in Ballynahatty, Ireland, photo by robertpaulyoung – [1], CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3221494

The female is clearly older than the three Rathlin males. According to Cassidy, et al, 2016, she clusters with 5 other Middle Neolithic individuals from Germany, Spain, and Scandinavia, while the males cluster with early Bronze Age genomes from central and northern Europe, reflecting a division between hunter-gatherer and early farmer individuals.

The males reflect genetic components of the Yamnaya, early Bronze Age herders from the Pontic Steppe, along with an equal level of Caucasus admixture.

The threshold between the Neolithic and Bronze Age fell at about 3750 BC in western Europe and Ireland, right between these two burials.

Even Earlier Burials

In 2020, Cassidy et al sequenced another 44 individuals from Irish passage grave burials ranging in age from 4793 to 2910 BC, or about 3000 to 7000 years ago. All of the men are members of haplogroup I, except two who are Y haplogroup H.

The Rathlin males, all haplogroup R1b, combined with evidence provided by later genetic analysis of passage grave remains point decisively towards a population replacement – with haplogroup R males replacing the previous inhabitants of both Europe and the British Isles.

In far western Ireland, haplogroup R and subgroups reach nearly 100% today.

I would encourage you to read the two papers, linked below, along with supplemental information. They are absolutely fascinating and include surprises involving both the history between Ireland and continental Europe, along with the relationships between the people buried at Newgrange.

Not only that, but the oral history regarding an elite sibling relationship involving the sun was passed down through millenia and seems to be corroborated by the genetics revealed today.

The most recent 2020 paper includes extensive archaeological context revolving around passage graves and megalithic tombs. When I visited New Grange in 2017, above, I was told that genetic analysis was underway on remains from several ancient burials.

I’m incredibly grateful that Dr. Dan Bradley’s ancient DNA lab at the Smurfit Institute of Genetics in Dublin, which I was also privileged to visit, was not only working on these historical treasures but that they were successful in obtaining high-quality results for Y DNA, autosomal and mitochondrial.

Dr. Dan Bradley in his ancient DNA lab in Dublin.

Take a look at these fascinating papers and then, see if you match any of the ancient samples.

Papers

Neolithic and Bronze Age migration to Ireland and establishment of the insular Atlantic genome by Cassidy et al 2016

This paper included the Ballynahatty female and the three Rathlin Island males.

Significance

Modern Europe has been shaped by two episodes in prehistory, the advent of agriculture and later metallurgy. These innovations brought not only massive cultural change but also, in certain parts of the continent, a change in genetic structure. The manner in which these transitions affected the islands of Ireland and Britain on the northwestern edge of the continent remains the subject of debate. The first ancient whole genomes from Ireland, including two at high coverage, demonstrate that large-scale genetic shifts accompanied both transitions. We also observe a strong signal of continuity between modern-day Irish populations and the Bronze Age individuals, one of whom is a carrier for the C282Y hemochromatosis mutation, which has its highest frequencies in Ireland today.

Abstract

The Neolithic and Bronze Age transitions were profound cultural shifts catalyzed in parts of Europe by migrations, first of early farmers from the Near East and then Bronze Age herders from the Pontic Steppe. However, a decades-long, unresolved controversy is whether population change or cultural adoption occurred at the Atlantic edge, within the British Isles. We address this issue by using the first whole genome data from prehistoric Irish individuals. A Neolithic woman (3343–3020 cal BC) from a megalithic burial (10.3× coverage) possessed a genome of predominantly Near Eastern origin. She had some hunter–gatherer ancestry but belonged to a population of large effective size, suggesting a substantial influx of early farmers to the island. Three Bronze Age individuals from Rathlin Island (2026–1534 cal BC), including one high coverage (10.5×) genome, showed substantial Steppe genetic heritage indicating that the European population upheavals of the third millennium manifested all of the way from southern Siberia to the western ocean. This turnover invites the possibility of accompanying introduction of Indo-European, perhaps early Celtic, language. Irish Bronze Age haplotypic similarity is strongest within modern Irish, Scottish, and Welsh populations, and several important genetic variants that today show maximal or very high frequencies in Ireland appear at this horizon. These include those coding for lactase persistence, blue eye color, Y chromosome R1b haplotypes, and the hemochromatosis C282Y allele; to our knowledge, the first detection of a known Mendelian disease variant in prehistory. These findings together suggest the establishment of central attributes of the Irish genome 4,000 y ago.

A Dynastic elite in monumental Neolithic society by Cassidy et al, 2020

Poulnabrone Dolmen, County Clare, where disarticulated remains of 35 individuals have been excavated and two, approximately 5500-6000 years old, have resulting haplogroups.

This second article includes a great deal of archaeological and burial information which includes caves, reefs, cist burials, boulder chambers, peat bogs, dry-stone walls, portal tombs (think Stonehenge style structures), megalithic tombs such as the Giant’s Ring, court tombs, and passage tombs, including Newgrange.

Abstract

The nature and distribution of political power in Europe during the Neolithic era remains poorly understood1. During this period, many societies began to invest heavily in building monuments, which suggests an increase in social organization. The scale and sophistication of megalithic architecture along the Atlantic seaboard, culminating in the great passage tomb complexes, is particularly impressive2. Although co-operative ideology has often been emphasized as a driver of megalith construction1, the human expenditure required to erect the largest monuments has led some researchers to emphasize hierarchy3—of which the most extreme case is a small elite marshalling the labour of the masses. Here we present evidence that a social stratum of this type was established during the Neolithic period in Ireland. We sampled 44 whole genomes, among which we identify the adult son of a first-degree incestuous union from remains that were discovered within the most elaborate recess of the Newgrange passage tomb. Socially sanctioned matings of this nature are very rare, and are documented almost exclusively among politico-religious elites4—specifically within polygynous and patrilineal royal families that are headed by god-kings5,6. We identify relatives of this individual within two other major complexes of passage tombs 150 km to the west of Newgrange, as well as dietary differences and fine-scale haplotypic structure (which is unprecedented in resolution for a prehistoric population) between passage tomb samples and the larger dataset, which together imply hierarchy. This elite emerged against a backdrop of rapid maritime colonization that displaced a unique Mesolithic isolate population, although we also detected rare Irish hunter-gatherer introgression within the Neolithic population.

Y DNA Analysis at FamilyTreeDNA

Fortunately, the minimum coverage threshold for the Bradley lab was 30X, meaning 30 scanned reads. Of the 37 males sequenced, the lab was able to assign a Y DNA haplogroup to 36.

Family Tree DNA downloaded the BAM files and Michael Sager analyzed the Y DNA. The results split about 8 Y DNA lines, resulting in a total of 16 different haplogroup assignments. There are a couple more that may split with additional tests.

Cassidy et al report that the Y DNA results in several geographic locations, using the ISOGG tree (2018) for haplogroup assignment, although in some cases, I did find some inconsistencies in their haplogroup and SNP names. I would recommend reading the paper in full for the context, including the supplementary information, and not simply extracting the SNP information, because the context is robust as is their analysis.

If your family hails from the Emerald Isle, chances are very good that these people represent your ancestral lines, one way or another – even if you don’t match them exactly. The events they witnessed were experienced by your ancestors too. There appears to have been a vibrant, diverse community, or communities, based on the burials and history revealed.

Of course, we all want to know if our Y DNA or mitochondrial DNA haplogroups, or that of our family members matches any of these ancient samples.

Thank you to Michael Sager, phylogeneticist, and Goran Runfeldt, head of R&D at Family Tree DNA for making this information available. Without their generosity, we would never know that an ancient sample actually split branches of the tree, nor could we see if we match.

Do You Match?

I explained, in this article, here, step-by-step, how to determine if your Y DNA or mitochondrial DNA matches these ancient samples.

If you only have a predicted or base haplogroup, you can certainly see if your haplogroup is upstream of any of these ancient men. However, you’ll receive the best results if you have taken the detailed Big Y-700 test, or for the mitochondrial DNA lines, the full sequence test. You can upgrade or order those tests, here. (Sale started today.)

Sample: Rathlin1 / RM127 (Cassidy et al. 2016)
Sex: Male
Location: Glebe, Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland
Age: Early Bronze Age 2026-1885 cal BC
Y-DNA: R-DF21
mtDNA: U5a1b1e

Sample: Rathlin2 / RSK1 (Cassidy et al. 2016)
Sex: Male
Location: Glebe, Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland
Age: Early Bronze Age 2024-1741 cal BC
Y-DNA: R-DF21
mtDNA: U5b2a2

Sample: Rathlin3 / RSK2 (Cassidy et al. 2016)
Sex: Male
Location: Glebe, Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland
Age: Early Bronze Age 1736-1534 cal BC
Y-DNA: R-L21
mtDNA: J2b1a

Sample: Ballynahatty / BA64 (Cassidy et al. 2016)
Sex: Female
Location: Ballynahatty, Down, Northern Ireland
Age: Middle to Late Neolithic 3343-3020 cal BC
mtDNA: HV0-T195C!

The above 4 samples were from the original 2016 paper, with the additional samples from 2020 added below

Sample: Ashleypark3 / ASH3 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Ashleypark, Tipperary, Ireland
Age: Early-Middle Neolithic 3712-3539 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-FT344600
FTDNA Comment: Ashleypark3, Parknabinnia186, Parknabinnia2031, Parknabinnia672, Parknabinnia675, Parknabinnia768 and Poulnabrone06 split the I2-L1286 (S21204+/L1286-) branch. These samples, along with SBj (Gunther 2018), I1763 (Mathieson 2018), Ajv54 (Malmström 2019) and Ajv52, Ajv58 and Ajv70 (Skoglund 2012) form the branch I-FT344596. All Cassidy samples form an additional branch downstream, I-FT344600. There is further evidence that SBj, Ajv58 and Ajv52 might form an additional branch, sibling to I-FT344600
mtDNA: T2c1d1

Sample: Killuragh6 / KGH6 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Killuragh, Limerick, Ireland
Age: Mesolithic 4793-4608 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-V4921
FTDNA Comment: Joins ancient samples Loschbour, Motala12, Motala3 (Lazaridis 2015) and Steigen (Gunther 2018) at I2-V4921
mtDNA: U5b2a

Loschbour Man is from present-day Luxembourg, Motala is from Sweden and Steigen is from Norway.

Sample: Parknabinnia186 / PB186 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Parknabinnia, Clare, Ireland
Age: Middle Neolithic 3518-3355 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-FT344600
FTDNA Comment: See Ashleypark3
mtDNA: X2b-T226C

Sample: Parknabinnia2031 / PB2031 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Parknabinnia, Clare, Ireland
Age: Middle Neolithic 3632-3374 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-FT344600
FTDNA Comment: See Ashleypark3
mtDNA: K1a2b

Sample: Parknabinnia672 / PB672 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Parknabinnia, Clare, Ireland
Age: Middle Neolithic 3626-3196 cal BC; 3639-3384 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-FT344600
FTDNA Comment: See Ashleypark3
mtDNA: T2c1d-T152C!

Sample: Parknabinnia675 / PB675 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Parknabinnia, Clare, Ireland
Age: Middle Neolithic 3263-2910 cal BC; 3632-3372 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-FT344600
FTDNA Comment: See Ashleypark3
mtDNA: H1

Sample: Parknabinnia768 / PB768 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Parknabinnia, Clare, Ireland
Age: Middle Neolithic 3642-3375 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-FT344600
FTDNA Comment: See Ashleypark3
mtDNA: H4a1a1

Sample: Poulnabrone06 / PN06 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Poulnabrone, Clare, Ireland
Age: Middle Neolithic 3635-3376 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-FT344600
FTDNA Comment: See Ashleypark3
mtDNA: H

Sample: Sramore62 / SRA62 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Sramore, Leitrim, Ireland
Age: Mesolithic 4226-3963 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-S2519
FTDNA Comment: Split the I2-S2519 branch. Pushes Cheddar man and SUC009 down to I-S2497. Other relevant pre-L38s include I2977 (I-Y63727) and R11, I5401, I4971, I4915 I4607 (I-S2599)
mtDNA: U5a2d

This branch is ancestral to Cheddar Man who dates from about 9000 years ago and was found in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, England. S2497 has 141 subbranches.

Sample: Annagh1 / ANN1 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Annagh, Limerick, Ireland
Age: Middle Neolithic 3638-3137 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-Y3712
FTDNA Comment: One of 15 ancient samples currently on this branch
mtDNA: K1a-T195C!

Men from Germany and Ireland are also found on this branch which hosts 47 subbranches.

Sample: Annagh2 / ANN2 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Annagh, Limerick, Ireland
Age: Middle Neolithic 3705-3379 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-Y3712
FTDNA Comment: One of 15 ancient samples currently on this branch
mtDNA: H4a1a1

Along with men from Germany and Ireland, and 47 subbranches.

Sample: Ardcroney2 / ARD2 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Ardcrony, Tipperary, Ireland
Age: Middle Neolithic 3624-3367 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-FT354500
FTDNA Comment: Ardcroney2 and Parknabinnia443 split the I2-Y13518 branch and form a branch together (I-FT354500). Additional ancient samples residing on I-Y13518 include I2637, I2979, I6759, and Kelco cave
mtDNA: J2b1a

Kelco Cave is in Yorkshire, England.

Sample: Ashleypark1 / ASH1 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Ashleypark, Tipperary, Ireland
Age: Middle Neolithic 3641-3381 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-Y3712
FTDNA Comment: One of 15 ancient samples currently on this branch
mtDNA: K2a9

Sample: Baunogenasraid72 / BG72 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Baunogenasraid, Carlow, Ireland
Age: Middle Neolithic 3635-3377 cal BC
Y-DNA: H-FT362000
FTDNA Comment: Baunogenasraid72 and Jerpoint14 split the H-SK1180 branch and form branch together (H-FT362000). Several other additional ancient samples belong to this branch as well including FLR001, FLR002, FLR004, GRG022, GRG041 (Rivollat 2020), and BUCH2 (Brunel 2020)
mtDNA: K1a4a1

Y haplogroup H is hen’s-teeth rare.

Sample: Carrowkeel531 / CAK531 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Carrowkeel, Sligo, Ireland
Age: Late Neolithic 2881-2625 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-FT380380
FTDNA Comment: Joins ancient sample prs013 (Sánchez-Quinto 2019)
mtDNA: H1

Sample: Carrowkeel532 / CAK532 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Carrowkeel, Sligo, Ireland
Age: Late Neolithic 3014-2891 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-Y3709
FTDNA Comment: One of 12 ancient samples currently on this branch
mtDNA: J1c3

One current sample from Portugal.

Sample: Carrowkeel534 / CAK534 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Carrowkeel, Sligo, Ireland
Age: Neolithic None
Y-DNA: I-M284
mtDNA: X2b4

This branch has several subclades as well as people from Ireland, Scotland, England, British Isles, Germany, France, Denmark, Northern Ireland and Norway.

Sample: Carrowkeel68 / CAK68 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Carrowkeel, Sligo, Ireland
Age: Late Neolithic 2833-2469 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-Y3709
FTDNA Comment: One of 12 ancient samples currently on this branch
mtDNA: H

Sample: Cohaw448 / CH448 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Cohaw, Cavan, Ireland
Age: Middle Neolithic 3652-3384 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-L1498
mtDNA: H1

This branch has 129 subbranches and men from England, Ireland, UK, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Norway, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Sample: Glennamong1007 / GNM1007 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Glennamong, Mayo, Ireland
Age: Middle Neolithic 3507-3106 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-Y3713
FTDNA Comment: Joins VK280
mtDNA: K1a-T195C!

Branch has 42 subbranches and men from Ireland, England, Scotland, France, and Germany. I wrote about VK280, a Viking skeleton from Denmark, here.

Sample: Glennamong1076 / GNM1076 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Glennamong, Mayo, Ireland
Age: Middle Neolithic 3364-2940 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-Y3709
FTDNA Comment: One of 12 ancient samples currently on this branch
mtDNA: H1c

Sample: MillinBay6 / MB6 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Millin Bay (Keentagh Td.), Down, Ireland
Age: Middle Neolithic 3495-3040 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-L1193
FTDNA Comment: One of 6 ancient samples currently on this branch
mtDNA: J1c3

Branch has 51 subbranches and men from Ireland and England.

Sample: Jerpoint14 / JP14 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Jerpoint West, Kilkenny, Ireland
Age: Middle Neolithic 3694-3369 cal BC
Y-DNA: H-FT362000
FTDNA Comment: Baunogenasraid72 and Jerpoint14 split the H-SK1180 branch and form branch together (H-FT362000). Several other additional ancient samples belong to this branch as well including FLR001, FLR002, FLR004, GRG022, GRG041 (Rivollat 2020), and BUCH2 (Brunel 2020)
mtDNA: T2c1d1

Sample: Newgrange10 / NG10 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Newgrange, Main Chamber, Meath, Ireland
Age: Middle Neolithic 3338-3028 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-Y3709
FTDNA Comment: One of 12 ancient samples currently on this branch
mtDNA: U5b1-T16189C!-T16192C!

Sample: Parknabinnia1327 / PB1327 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Parknabinnia, Clare, Ireland
Age: Middle Neolithic 3631-3353 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-Y3712
FTDNA Comment: One of 15 ancient samples currently on this branch
mtDNA: T2b3

Sample: Parknabinnia443 / PB443 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Parknabinnia, Clare, Ireland
Age: Middle Neolithic 3636-3378 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-FT354500
FTDNA Comment: Ardcroney2 and Parknabinnia443 split the I2-Y13518 branch and form a branch together (I-FT354500). Additional ancient samples residing on I-Y13518 include I2637, I2979, I6759, and Kelco_cave
mtDNA: K1b1a1

Sample: Parknabinnia581 / PB581 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Parknabinnia, Clare, Ireland
Age: Middle Neolithic 3631-3362 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-L1193
FTDNA Comment: One of 6 ancient samples currently on this branch
mtDNA: T2b

Sample: Poulnabrone02 / PN02 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Poulnabrone, Clare, Ireland
Age: Early-Middle Neolithic 3704-3522 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-Y3712
FTDNA Comment: One of 15 ancient samples currently on this branch
mtDNA: U5b1c1

Sample: Poulnabrone03 / PN03 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Poulnabrone, Clare, Ireland
Age: Middle Neolithic 3635-3376 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-Y3709
FTDNA Comment: One of 12 ancient samples currently on this branch
mtDNA: K1a1

Sample: Poulnabrone04 / PN04 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Poulnabrone, Clare, Ireland
Age: Early Neolithic 3944-3665 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-Y3709
FTDNA Comment: One of 12 ancient samples currently on this branch
mtDNA: H1-T16189C!

Sample: Poulnabrone05 / PN05 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Poulnabrone, Clare, Ireland
Age: Early Neolithic 3941-3661 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-L1193
FTDNA Comment: One of 6 ancient samples currently on this branch
mtDNA: K1a-T195C!

Sample: Poulnabrone07 / PN07 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Poulnabrone, Clare, Ireland
Age: Middle Neolithic 3629-3371 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-FT370113
FTDNA Comment: Forms a branch with Raschoille_1 (Brace 2019) and I3041 (Olalde 2018). Other relevant ancient samples are Carsington_Pasture_1, I3134, I7638 at I-BY166411, and Coldrum_1 and I2660 at I-BY168618. These 8 ancients all group with two modern men, 1 from Ireland and 1 of unknown origins.
mtDNA: U5b1c

Sample: Poulnabrone107 / PN107 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Poulnabrone, Clare, Ireland
Age: Early Neolithic 3926-3666 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-Y3709
FTDNA Comment: One of 12 ancient samples currently on this branch
mtDNA: U4a2f

Sample: Poulnabrone112 / PN112 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Poulnabrone, Clare, Ireland
Age: Early-Middle Neolithic 3696-3535 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-Y3709
FTDNA Comment: One of 12 ancient samples currently on this branch
mtDNA: U5b2b

Sample: Poulnabrone12 / PN12 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Poulnabrone, Clare, Ireland
Age: Middle Neolithic 3621-3198 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-Y3709
FTDNA Comment: One of 12 ancient samples currently on this branch
mtDNA: H

Sample: Poulnabrone13 / PN13 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Male
Location: Poulnabrone, Clare, Ireland
Age: Early-Middle Neolithic 3704-3536 cal BC
Y-DNA: I-S2639
mtDNA: V

Branch has 172 subclades.

Sample: Carrowkeel530 / CAK530 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Female
Location: Carrowkeel, Sligo, Ireland
Age: Late Neolithic 2883-2634 cal BC
mtDNA: W5b

Sample: Carrowkeel533 / CAK533 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Female
Location: Carrowkeel, Sligo, Ireland
Age: Late Neolithic 3085-2904 cal BC
mtDNA: H

Sample: NewgrangeZ1 / NGZ1 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Female
Location: Site Z, Newgrange, Meath, Ireland
Age: Middle Neolithic 3320-2922 cal BC
mtDNA: X2b-T226C

Sample: Parknabinnia1794 / PB1794 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Female
Location: Parknabinnia, Clare, Ireland
Age: Middle Neolithic 3647-3377 cal BC
mtDNA: J1c6

Sample: Parknabinnia357 / PB357 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Female
Location: Parknabinnia, Clare, Ireland
Age: Early-Middle Neolithic 3640-3381 cal BC; 3774-3642 cal BC
mtDNA: U8b1b

Sample: Parknabinnia754 / PB754 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Female
Location: Parknabinnia, Clare, Ireland
Age: Middle Neolithic 3617-3138 cal BC
mtDNA: U5b2a3

Sample: Poulnabrone10_113 / PN113 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Female
Location: Poulnabrone, Clare, Ireland
Age: Early Neolithic 3940-3703 cal BC
mtDNA: H4a1a1a

Sample: Poulnabrone16 / PN16 (Cassidy et al. 2020)
Sex: Female
Location: Poulnabrone, Clare, Ireland
Age: Middle Neolithic 3633-3374 cal BC
mtDNA: K1b1a1

So, how about it? Do you match?

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Disclosure

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Longobards Ancient DNA from Pannonia and Italy – What Does Their DNA Tell Us? Are You Related?

The Longobards, Lombards, also known as the Long-beards – who were they? Where did they come from? And when?

Perhaps more important – are you related to these ancient people?

In the paper, Understanding 6th-century barbarian social organizatoin and migration through paleogenomics, by Amorim et al, the authors tell us in the abstract:

Despite centuries of research, much about the barbarian migrations that took place between the fourth and sixth centuries in Europe remains hotly debated. To better understand this key era that marks the dawn of modern European societies, we obtained ancient genomic DNA from 63 samples from two cemeteries (from Hungary and Northern Italy) that have been previously associated with the Longobards, a barbarian people that ruled large parts of Italy for over 200 years after invading from Pannonia in 568 CE. Our dense cemetery-based sampling revealed that each cemetery was primarily organized around one large pedigree, suggesting that biological relationships played an important role in these early medieval societies. Moreover, we identified genetic structure in each cemetery involving at least two groups with different ancestry that were very distinct in terms of their funerary customs. Finally, our data are consistent with the proposed long-distance migration from Pannonia to Northern Italy.

Both the Germans and French have descriptions of this time of upheaval in their history. Völkerwanderung in German and Les invasions barbares in French refer to the various waves of invasions by Goths, Franks, Anglo-Saxons, Vandals, and Huns. All of these groups left a genetic imprint, a story told without admixture by their Y and mitochondrial DNA.

click to enlarge

The authors provide this map of Pannonia, the Longobards kingdom, and the two cemeteries with burial locations.

One of their findings is that the burials are organized around biological kinship. Perhaps they weren’t so terribly different from us today.

Much as genealogists do, the authors created a pedigree chart – the only difference being that their chart is genetically constructed and lacks names, other than sample ID.

One man is buried with a horse, and one of his relatives, a female, is not buried in a family unit but in a half-ring of female graves.

The data suggests that the cemetery in Pannonia, Szolad, shown in burgundy on the map, may have been a “single-generation” cemetery, in use for only a limited time as the migration continued westward. Collegno, in contrast, seems to have been used for multiple generations, with the burials radiating outward over time from the progenitor individual.

Because the entire cemetery was analyzed, it’s possible to identify those individuals with northern or northeastern European ancestry, east of the Rhine and north of the Danube, and to differentiate from southern European ancestry in the Lombard cemetery – in addition to reassembling their family pedigrees. The story is told, not just by one individual’s DNA, but how the group is related to each other, and their individual and group origins.

For anyone with roots in Germany, Hungary, or the eastern portion of Europe, you know that this region has been embroiled in upheaval and warfare seemingly as long as there have been people to fight over who lived in and controlled these lands.

Are You Related?

Goran Rundfeldt’s R&D group at Family Tree DNA reanalyzed the Y DNA samples from this paper and has been kind enough to provide a summary of the results. Michael Sager has utilized them to branch the Y DNA tree – in a dozen places.

Mitochondrial DNA haplogroups have been included where available from the authors, but have not been reanalyzed.

Note the comments added by FTDNA during analysis.

Many new branches were formed. I included step-by-step instructions, here, so you can see if your Y DNA results match either the new branch or any of these samples upstream.

If you’re a male and you haven’t yet tested your Y DNA or you would like to upgrade to the Big Y-700 to obtain your most detailed haplogroup, you can do either by clicking here. My husband’s family is from Hungary and I just upgraded his Y DNA test to the Big Y-700. I want to know where his ancestors came from.

And yes, this first sample really is rare haplogroup T. Each sample is linked to the Family Tree DNA public tree. We find haplogroups G and E as well as the more common R and I. Some ancient samples match contemporary testers from France (2), the UK, England, Morocco, Denmark (5), and Italy. Fascinating!

Sample: CL23
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: T-BY45363
mtDNA: H

Sample: CL30
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-P312
mtDNA: I1b

Sample: CL31
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: G-FGC693
FTDNA Comment: Authors warn of possible contamination. Y chromosome looks good – and there is support for splitting this branch. However, because of the contamination warning – we will not act on this split until more data is available.
mtDNA: H18

Sample: CL38
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: E-BY3880
mtDNA: X2

Sample: CL49
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-CTS6889

Sample: CL53
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-FGC24138
mtDNA: H11a

Sample: CL57
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-BY48364
mtDNA: H24a

Sample: CL63
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: I-FT104588
mtDNA: H

Sample: CL84
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-U198
mtDNA: H1t

Sample: CL92
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-S22519
mtDNA: H

Sample: CL93
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-S22519
mtDNA: J2b1a

Sample: CL94
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-DF99
mtDNA: K1c1

Sample: CL97
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-L23

Sample: CL110
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-L754

Sample: CL121
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-BY70163
FTDNA Comment: Shares 2 SNPs with a man from France. Forms a new branch down of R-BY70163 (Z2103). New branch = R-BY197053
mtDNA: T2b

Sample: CL145
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-S22519
mtDNA: T2b

Sample: CL146
Location: Collegno, Piedmont, Italy
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-A8472
mtDNA: T2b3

Sample: SZ1
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Study Information: The skeletal remains from an individual dating to the Bronze Age 10 m north of the cemetery.
Age: Bronze Age
Y-DNA: R-Y20746
mtDNA: J1b

Sample: SZ2
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-Z338
FTDNA Comment: Shares 5 SNPs with a man from the UK. Forms a new branch down of R-Z338 (U106). New branch = R-BY176786
mtDNA: T1a1

Sample: SZ3
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: I-BY3605
mtDNA: H18

Sample: SZ4
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-ZP200
FTDNA Comment: Splits R-ZP200 (U106). Derived (positive) for 2 SNPs and ancestral (negative) for 19 SNPs. New path = R-Y98441>R-ZP200
mtDNA: H1c9

Sample: SZ5
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-BY3194
FTDNA Comment: Splits R-BY3194 (DF27). Derived for 19 SNPs, ancestral for 9 SNPs. New path = R-BY3195>R-BY3194
mtDNA: J2b1

Sample: SZ6
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: I-P214

Sample: SZ7
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: I-S8104
FTDNA Comment: SZ13, SZ7 and SZ12 share 2 SNPs with a man from Denmark, forming a branch down of I-S8104 (M223). New branch = I-FT45324. Note that SZ22 and SZ24 (and even SZ14) fall on the same path to I-S8104 but lack coverage for intermediate branches.
mtDNA: T2e

Sample: SZ11
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-FGC13492
FTDNA Comment: Shares 1 SNP with a man from Italy. Forms a new branch down of R-FGC13492 (U106). New branch = R-BY138397
mtDNA: K2a3a

Sample: SZ12
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: I-S8104
FTDNA Comment: SZ13, SZ7 and SZ12 share 2 SNPs with a man from Denmark, forming a branch down of I-S8104 (M223). New branch = I-FT45324. Note that SZ22 and SZ24 (and even SZ14) fall on the same path to I-S8104 but lack coverage for intermediate branches.
mtDNA: W6

Sample: SZ13
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century 422-541 cal CE
Y-DNA: I-S8104
FTDNA Comment: SZ13, SZ7 and SZ12 share 2 SNPs with a man from Denmark, forming a branch down of I-S8104 (M223). New branch = I-FT45324. Note that SZ22 and SZ24 (and even SZ14) fall on the same path to I-S8104 but lack coverage for intermediate branches.
mtDNA: N1b1b1

Sample: SZ14
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: I-CTS616
FTDNA Comment: SZ13, SZ7 and SZ12 share 2 SNPs with a man from Denmark, forming a branch down of I-S8104 (M223). New branch = I-FT45324. Note that SZ22 and SZ24 (and even SZ14) fall on the same path to I-S8104 but lack coverage for intermediate branches.
mtDNA: I3

Sample: SZ15
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-YP986
mtDNA: H1c1

Sample: SZ16
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-U106
mtDNA: U4b1b

Sample: SZ18
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: E-BY6865
FTDNA Comment: Shares 1 SNP with a man from Morocco. Forms a new branch down of E-BY6865. New branch = E-FT198679
mtDNA: H13a1a2

Sample: SZ22
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: I-Y6876
FTDNA Comment: SZ13, SZ7 and SZ12 share 2 SNPs with a man from Denmark, forming a branch down of I-S8104 (M223). New branch = I-FT45324. Note that SZ22 and SZ24 (and even SZ14) fall on the same path to I-S8104 but lack coverage for intermediate branches.
mtDNA: N1b1b1

Sample: SZ23
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-S10271
mtDNA: H13a1a2

Sample: SZ24
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: I-ZS3
FTDNA Comment: SZ13, SZ7 and SZ12 share 2 SNPs with a man from Denmark, forming a branch down of I-S8104 (M223). New branch = I-FT45324. Note that SZ22 and SZ24 (and even SZ14) fall on the same path to I-S8104 but lack coverage for intermediate branches.
mtDNA: U4b

Sample: SZ27B
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century 412-538 cal CE
Y-DNA: R-FGC4166
FTDNA Comment: Shares 1 SNP with a man from France. Forms a new branch down of R-FGC4166 (U152). New branch = R-FT190624
mtDNA: N1a1a1a1

Sample: SZ36
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: T-Y15712
mtDNA: U4c2a

Sample: SZ37
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century 430-577 cal CE
Y-DNA: R-P312
mtDNA: H66a

Sample: SZ42
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: R-P312
mtDNA: K2a6

Sample: SZ43
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Age: Longobard 6th Century 435-604 cal CE
Y-DNA: I-BY138
mtDNA: H1e

Sample: SZ45
Location: Szólád, Somogy County, Hungary
Study Information: ADMIXTURE analysis showed SZ45 to possess a unique ancestry profile.
Age: Longobard 6th Century
Y-DNA: I-FGC21819
FTDNA Comment: Shares 2 SNPs with a man from England forms a new branch down of FGC21819. New branch = I-FGC21810
mtDNA: J1c

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Ancient Icelandic Viking Settlers Expand the Y DNA Tree

The harsh yet starkly beautiful volcanic island of Iceland was only settled about 1100 years ago, between 870 and 930 CE (current era). Obviously, the original settlers had to originate in locations where populations were already established. During this time, Vikings had been raiding islands and coastal regions of Ireland, Scotland, and England.

Their DNA, now unearthed, tells their tale.

This 2018 paper, Ancient genomes from Iceland reveal the making of a human population by Ebenesersdóttir et al, along with the supplementary material, here, provides insight into the genomes of 27 ancient Icelanders who are a combination of Norse, Gaelic and admixed individuals. The Irish Times wrote a non-academic article, here.

Unequal contributions of the ancient founders, plus isolation resulting in genetic drift separates the current Icelandic population from the founder populations. These ancient Icelandic genomes, autosomally, are more similar to their founding populations than today’s Icelanders.

While autosomal DNA recombines in each generation, Y and mitochondrial DNA does not, revealing the exact DNA of the original founding members of the population. This, of course, allows us to peer back in time. We can see who they match, historically, and where. Today, we can see if our Y and mitochondrial DNA matches them as well.

The authors of the paper selected 35 ancient individuals, believed to be first-generation founders, to have their whole genomes sequenced, of which 27 were successful. Sometimes the ancient DNA is just too degraded to sequence properly.

Nineteen of these burials are pre-Christian, 2 from Christian burials and one that is “Early Modern,” dated to 1678 CE. Ages are expressed, as follows:

  • Pre-Christian <1000 CE
  • Pre-Christian 950-1050 CE
  • Early modern Born 1678 CE
  • Pre-Christian <1050 cal CE

Dates that say “cal CE” mean that they were carbon 14 dated and calibrated and CE (alone) means that those dates are based on the archaeological context of grave goods, other remains, and environmental indicators such as volcanic ash.

As he did with the 442 ancient Viking genomes that I wrote about, here, Goran Runfeldt who heads the research department at FamilyTreeDNA downloaded the Icelandic genomes, extracted and aligned the mitochondrial and Y DNA results.

Michael Sager analyzed the Y DNA and those results, once again, have refined, enhanced or split at least 8 branches of the Y DNA tree.

For instructions about how to see if your mitochondrial or Y DNA results match any of these ancient genomes, please click here. If you haven’t yet tested, you can order or upgrade a Y or mitochondrial DNA test, here.

The Graves

This map, provided in the paper by the authors, shows the burial locations of the remains, noted by sample numbers. Circles are females, squares are male. Light gray was later excluded from the author’s study.

Some of these burials and grave goods are fascinating. For example, note the horse and dog burials.

Goran and Michael have been kind enough to share their analysis, below, along with comments. Thanks, guys!

Sample: DAV-A9
Location: Dalvík (Brimnes), North, Iceland
Study Information: One of the largest and most studied pre-Christian burial sites in Iceland. Thirteen human skeletal remains, six horse skeletons, and the remains of three dogs were found at the site. In one of the graves, the deceased individual had been placed in a sitting position at the rear of a boat
Age: Pre-Christian 900-1000 CE
Y-DNA: I-FGC21765
FTDNA Comment: Likely splits this branch
mtDNA: H1

Sample: DKS-A1
Location: Öndverðarnes, West, Iceland
Study Information: Grave goods included a sword, a spearhead, a knife, a shield-boss, a bone-pin, and fragments of iron. According to a morphological analysis, the skeletal remains show evidence of developmental delay that could be explained by hypogonadism caused by Klinefelter syndrome, testicular disorder or castration.
Age: Pre-Christian 850-1000 CE
Y-DNA: R-YP6099
mtDNA: U5a1h

Sample: FOV-A1
Location: Fossvellir, East, Iceland
Study Information: The remains are thought to have been placed at the site after the individual was deceased. The bones had been carefully arranged on top of each other and were surrounded by stone slabs and turf.
Age: Christian 1246-1302 CE
Y-DNA: R-DF23
mtDNA: HV17a

Sample: GRS-A1
Location: Grímsstaðir, North, Iceland
Study Information: Three pre-Christian burials were found in close proximity to each other near the site of a farmstead. We analysed one of the skeletal remains (GRS-A1), which were excavated in 1937. No grave goods were found at the site.
Age: Pre-Christian <1050 cal CE
Y-DNA: R-BY92608
mtDNA: K1a1b1b

Sample: GTE-A1
Location: Gilsárteigur, East, Iceland
Study Information: In 1949, field-leveling exposed a pre-Christian burial site near an old farm site. The remains of two skeletons were excavated in 1957. Both burials contained grave goods.
Age: Pre-Christian <1000 CE
Y-DNA: R-CTS4179
mtDNA: H4a1a4b

Sample: HSJ-A1
Location: Hrólfsstaðir, East, Iceland
Study Information: A comb, knife, and pieces of charcoal were found in the grave.
Age: Pre-Christian <1000 CE
Y-DNA: I-BY202281
FTDNA Comment: forms a branch with 2 men (Scotland and England). I-BY202281. The two modern samples share an additional 11 markers that HSJ-A1 is ancestral for
mtDNA: H3g1

Sample: KNS-A1
Location: Karlsnes, South, Iceland
Study Information: Grave goods included a spearhead, a knife, two lead weights, three beads, and a small stone.
Age: Pre-Christian 950-1050 CE
Y-DNA: R-Z290
mtDNA: H5

Sample: KOV-A2
Location: Kópavogur, West, Iceland
Study Information: Two skeletal remains. Based on archaeological evidence, the remains were identified as a female, born 1664, and a male, born 1678. According to historical records, they were executed in 1704 for the murder of the female’s husband. The male was beheaded, and his impaled head publicly exhibited, whereas the female was drowned. Their remains were buried in unconsecrated ground at a site called Hjónadysjar.
Age: Early modern Born 1678 CE
Y-DNA: R-L151
mtDNA: H1

Sample: MKR-A1
Location: Viðar (Másvatn), North, Iceland
Study Information: The remains date to <1477 C.E. based on volcanic ash chronology, and are thought to be from a pre-Christian burial site.
Age: Pre-Christian <1050 cal CE
Y-DNA: R-YP1258
mtDNA: K1c1b

Sample: NNM-A1
Location: Njarðvík, East, Iceland
Study Information: A human skull (NNM-A1) was found at a site considered to be a badly damaged pre-Christian burial.
Age: Pre-Christian <1000 CE
Y-DNA: R-BY56981
mtDNA: H2a2b5a

Sample: ORE-A1
Location: Ormsstaðir, East, Iceland
Study Information: Pre-Christian site near an old farmstead was excavated after being exposed during field leveling. One human skeleton (ORE-A) was found, along with an axe, a knife, and three lead weights. A single human bone from another individual was found nearby.
Age: Pre-Christian 900-1000 CE
Y-DNA: R-PH93
mtDNA: K1a3a

Sample: SBT-A1
Location: Smyrlaberg, North, Iceland
Study Information: Pre-Christian burial site in an old gravel quarry. Two years later its excavation revealed a male skeleton (SBT-A1) and an iron knife. Another grave, badly damaged, was found nearby, but only fragments of bone were recovered.
Age: Pre-Christian <1000 CE
Y-DNA: I-FGC74518
FTDNA Comment: Shares 6 SNPs with a man from England. Forms a branch down of I-BY46619 (Z140). Branch = I-FGC74518
mtDNA: H3g1a

Sample: SSG-A2
Location: Sílastaðir, North, Iceland
Study Information: A cluster of four pre-Christian graves. Based on morphological analysis, three of the skeletons were deemed male, and one female.
Age: Pre-Christian 850-1000 CE
Y-DNA: R-BY41282
FTDNA Comment: Split the R-BY23441 block – derived only for BY41282 (Z246)
mtDNA: J1c3g

Sample: SSG-A3
Location: Sílastaðir, North, Iceland
Study Information: A cluster of four pre-Christian graves. Based on morphological analysis, three of the skeletons were deemed male, and one female.
Age: Pre-Christian 850-1000 CE
Y-DNA: I-FGC9493
mtDNA: T2b2b

Sample: SSJ-A2
Location: Surtsstaðir, East, Iceland
Study Information: The remains of two individuals were found at the site, along with grave goods.
Age: Pre-Christian 850-1000 CE
Y-DNA: I-Y129187
mtDNA: U5a1a1

Sample: STT-A2
Location: Straumur, East, Iceland
Study Information: Pre-Christian burial site was excavated, which included the remains of four individuals (one child, one male, one female, and another adult whose sex could not be determined by morphological analysis). Grave goods included a horse bone, a small axe, thirty boat rivets, a lead weight, two pebbles, and a knife.
Age: Pre-Christian 975-1015 cal CE
Y-DNA: R-FT118419
FTDNA Comment: Shares 22 SNPs with a man from Wales. They form the branch R-FT118419 (Z251)
mtDNA: U4b1b1

Sample: SVK-A1
Location: Svínadalur, North, Iceland
Study Information: Human skeletal remains were brought to the National Museum of Iceland. They had been exposed for many years near an old farmhouse. There were no grave goods found at the site, but the remains are thought to be pre-Christian.
Age: Pre-Christian <1050 cal CE
Y-DNA: I-FGC21682
FTDNA Comment: Joins VK110 and VK400 as an additional I-FGC21682* (P109)
mtDNA: I2

Sample: TGS-A1
Location: Tunga, North, Iceland
Study Information: Human skeletal remains (TGS-A1) were excavated in 1981 by inhabitants at a nearby farm. They were classified at the National Museum of Iceland as having unknown temporal origin. The remains were radiocarbon dated for this study, indicating that they date from the 10th century C.E.
Age: Pre-Christian 943-1024 cal CE
Y-DNA: R-Y10827
FTDNA Comment: Likely R-BY4659. Also PH1220+, but this is a C>T mutation also present in hg I ancient samples R7 and Carrowkeel531.
mtDNA: T2e1

Sample: TSK-A26 / ÞSK-A26
Location: Skeljastaðir, South, Iceland
Study Information: Christian cemetery at Skeljastaðir in Þjórsárdalur. The remains are dated to before 1104 C.E., as the site was abandoned in the wake of a volcanic eruption of Mount Hekla in that year.
Age: Christian 1120 cal CE
Y-DNA: R-Y77406
FTDNA Comment: Shares 2 SNPs with a man from Norway. Forms branch down of R-BY30235 (L448). New branch = R-Y77406
mtDNA: J1b1a1a

Sample: VDP-A6
Location: Vatnsdalur, West, Iceland
Study Information: Boat grave with seven skeletal remains (three females and four males), along with a dog skeleton. Grave goods included a knife, thirty beads, a silver Thor’s hammer, a fragmented Cufic coin (ca. 870–930 C.E.) and jewelry.
Age: Pre-Christian 850-1050 CE
Y-DNA: R-YP1120
mtDNA: H1c3a

Sample: VDP-A7
Location: Vatnsdalur, West, Iceland
Study Information: Boat grave with seven skeletal remains (three females and four males), along with a dog skeleton. Grave goods included a knife, thirty beads, a silver Thor’s hammer, a fragmented Cufic coin (ca. 870–930 C.E.) and jewelry.
Age: Pre-Christian 850-1050 CE
Y-DNA: R-FT209682
FTDNA Comment: Shares 7 SNPs with a man from Sweden. Forms branch down of R-BY71305 (Z18). New branch = R-FT209682
mtDNA: H4a1a1

Sample: YGS-B2
Location: Ytra-Garðshor, North, Iceland
Study Information: The site included the disturbed remains of nine human skeletons (four males, two females, one child and two individuals whose sex could not be inferred based on morphological analysis). There were grave goods in all graves.
Age: Pre-Christian <1000 CE
Y-DNA: R-Y98267
FTDNA Comment: Split the R-Y84777 block (L238). Derived only for Y98267
mtDNA: J1c1a

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