Friday, June 15, 2012

Myles Standish: Mayflower DNA

   My genealogy has one Mayflower passenger, Stephen Hopkins.  Seven other passengers are cousins in one manner or another, Doty, Howland, More, Mullins, Standish, Warren and Winslow.  Twenty-four of the Mayflower families have living descendants.  I have collected the y-DNA records for fifteen of them. (For more on this process watch this short video) It was no surprise to find eight R1b Celts and four I1 Scandinavians among them.  But, the three I2a Balkans intrigued me.

   The one name that stood out as I2a was Myles Standish.  Every first grader knows that name.  My first thought was that Myles was descended from a member of the Roman Legions.  Perhaps he was a Scythian or Sarmatian.  I needed to identify the Standish family tribe and when they arrived in England.   If I was lucky, I’d be able to bracket the immigration of his ancestor to the 1st or 2nd century, the height of the Roman conquest.

   As the DNA records started to compile using TribeMapper® analysis, an initial pattern developed showing historic habitation on either side of Hadrian’s Wall.  This was the beginning of a great migration story and potentially the end to the dispute of Myles Standish’s origins.  Researchers have placed Standish’s birthplace as either Lancashire or the Isle of Man.  Based on the data, Lancashire emerges as the most likely location.  There was no genetic indication that the Isle of Man was a possibility.

   If Standish’s ancestors had been conscripted into the Roman Legion, then I would expect their migration pattern to appear scattered like a diaspora.  Fathers and brothers and their descendants would be spread across the Roman empire.  There would be no focus for the data points representing the period 2,000 years ago.

   The actual data points told a different story.  They remained focused.  At the end of the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago, Myles Standish’s ancestors were living in the Balkans.  As the ice receded, they journeyed up the Danube River, a major migration highway, until they reached the upper Rhine.  The upper Rhine was a Neolithic way station for many tribes coming up the Danube or out of Iberia.  The area served as a stopover before continuing over the Alps or down the Rhine.  The Standish tribe chose to follow the Rhine down to the North Sea.

   Between 2,000 and 3,000 years ago, Standish’s ancestors crossed into England and made their way up the Thames to its source.  My theory is that they were pushed ever westward by successive waves of immigrants.  They found Wales to be well populated already and ventured north to where we find the most recent genetic evidence, in Lancashire.

   My initial theory that Standish’s ancestor was brought to England as part of the Roman Legion, to reinforce the troops at Hadrian’s Wall, was wrong.  It is always good to have a theory to work toward, but don’t let preconceived ideas get in the way of new evidence.  Now that we know that Standish’s origins are pre-Roman we can consider that his family is one of the native tribes of Britain.  The most likely Lancashire tribe would be the Setantii, which is a sub-tribe of the Brigantes.

   Each one of our ancestors has a unique migration story to tell.  Their travels overlap with events that we have read about in history books.

   Where did you come from?

© Michael R. Maglio and OriginsDNA


  1. Very interesting! I have Myles on both my maternal and paternal lineages. I also have three lineages from John Howland, and one from his brother Arthur. Has anyone done the Howland DNA?

    1. There is an active Howland DNA project on Family Tree DNA. The Howlands have Celtic origins (R1b). I'll move them up on my blog post to-do list.

    2. Steven Hopkins is one of my ancestors, too.

  2. Thanks for posting this. My husband is a Standish descendant. I enjoy migration patterns; just another indication that we're all related, no one is "pure" anything.

  3. This is just the best discovery. Way Cool. Ever since I saw the Movie with Clive Owen as King Arthur. I have seen England's people differently and wondered what more will we learn.

    I find folks amusing who say they ancestors are only from one place. But I know from Genealogy every one has their own unique DNA which will prove they are not from where they said they were from. Thanks so much for more great history.


  4. nice posting.. thanks for sharing.

  5. This is fascinating. I'm the 14th generation of Myles Standish.

  6. My friend is a descendant of Myles Standish.

  7. I live in Standish Lancashire.The Romans were here from AD 77 they called it Coccium.

    Myles came from Duxbury Hall which no longer stands but the park is still there.

    In WW 2 a US airman demolished our 14th Century well with his truck Everyone blamed Myles.

    If you are interested Historians have discovered that Camelot was in Standish