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

Monday, June 11, 2012

Who's Who in the DNA Zoo

   When I talk to folks about y-DNA, I like to give the haplogroups an ethnic identity.  Rather than just saying that they are R1b, I also talk about their Western European or Celto-Iberian deep ancestry.  This helps them associate their DNA in a historical and geographical context.  It is important to understand that your nationality is just the outside of the onion, with many more ethnic layers beneath.

   I’ll pick on England for second, because they’re an island.  Roughly 10,000 years ago, nobody lived in England.  It was still recovering from the Ice Age.  Over the past 10,000 years, England has seen wave after wave of immigrants and invasions.  It’s only been the last 2,000 years that we can label these new comers as Romans, Vikings, Anglo-Saxons or Normans.  If you consider yourself English, think again.  What is that next ethnic layer?

   If you want to know the answer, I suggest taking a DNA test to get your ancestral origins.  The approximate cultural identities that I use for y-DNA are:

  • C3 - Mongol
  • E1b – Greek / Egyptian
  • G2a – Caucasus / Etruscan
  • I1 – Scandinavian
  • I2 – Balkan / Danubian  
  • J – Phoenician / Semitic
  • N1c – Finn
  • Q1a – Siberian / Native American
  • R1a – Balkan / Slavic
  • R1b – Celtic (most common in Europe)

   I see these haplogroups consistently in Europe.  There are many more, worldwide.  Even these ethnicities are too generalized.  Throughout history, the R1b and I1 folks have shared geography from Iberia to Scandinavia.  It may be easy to describe someone as Celto-Scandinavian, but it is difficult to say Scandinavian-Iberian.  Location based naming conventions are tough to use for nomadic tribes.

   Perhaps you are English and have taken an autosomal DNA test.  As part of the at-DNA test, you get an ethnic population distribution.  It might say that you are 100% Scandinavian.  Now you have peeled back one more layer of your ethnic onion.  What flavor of Scandinavian are you?  This is where y-DNA can help place you in either the R1b, I2, N1c or even Q1a group.

   You could find out that you are R1b Scandinavian (with Celto-Iberian roots) and that more than likely your ancestors entered England as part of the Anglo-Saxon invasion.  One more layer peeled back.  I know that R1b men were among the Anglo-Saxons.  That doesn’t mean that they were a homogenous group.  Perhaps you are more Angle than Saxon or even Jute.

   Many of these nomadic haplogroups traveled the same river highways and lived in the same regions.  Today the genetic groups are thoroughly mixed in every country.  It is difficult to pick a time in history when we weren’t mixed.  History books are full of the great battles between nations.  Where is it written that two tribes co-existed, worked together and built a new common heritage?

   I can count Italian as part of my heritage, with roots in the mountains outside of Benevento.  That definition of me only has a 150-year history.  Prior to 1860, Italy was not a unified country.  3,000 years ago, my ancestors were living on the north side of the Alps in what is now Switzerland.  That doesn’t make me Swiss or does it?  7,000 years ago, my ancestors lived along the Danube River.  Now I’m Danubian.  Before that, we were in the Caucasus Mountains.  I sense a mountain theme going on here.  Perhaps I should call myself Caucasian?  My y-DNA haplogroup is G with origins in the Caucasus and my autosomal test indicates a close relation with the Adyghe or Circassian tribes of current day Russian Georgia.  A rough translation of the word Adyghe means ‘mountaineer who lives near the sea or between two seas’.  The Italian peninsula must have made a great home away from home.

   I could continue to peel back the layers of my ethnicity.  Genetically we could all say that we are African.  Who we really are and what culture we associate with has gotten a bit more complex.  My y-DNA is just a fraction of my identity.  I enjoy the music of Scottish bagpipes while drinking Irish beer or eating a nice slice of lasagna with a glass of German wine.  I have a craving to hike in the mountains, go figure.

Friday, June 8, 2012

DNA at the Genealogy Field Day

The Massachusetts Society of Genealogists presents -

When: Saturday, June 9, 2012, starting at 1:30PM

Where: Framingham Public Library, 49 Lexington St., Framingham

(free & open to the public - bring a friend)

Join Jeff Carpenter and Mike Maglio at the DNA table to talk about all your genetic genealogy questions.

Other Field Day topics include:
The 1940 Census
Scanning Demonstration - Flip Pal
Genealogy Mapping Tools
Scandinavian Research
Ask the Expert
Web Demonstrations
and more...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Marie Antoinette: DNA Family History

   When we use DNA to research our family history, we have the potential to uncover quite a bit of information.  We could find living cousins, lost connections and deep ancestral origins.  There is also geographic information associated with your DNA.  When you start comparing your DNA to your Clan and your Tribe, you can map your recent old world origins and your migrations.

   You are not limited to your own DNA as you are researching.  As we work on our traditional genealogy, we may find famous ancestors, a Mayflower passenger here or a President there.  If you are descended from them then you can bet that hundreds of other people are also.  Many times one of those hundreds has had their DNA tested to confirm their relationship to that famous ancestor.  You can use that published data to add to your family history.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

   Let’s look at Marie Antoinette, while she has no living descendants, she makes a great example.  Tests from a lock of her hair and from her son’s preserved heart show her mitochondrial DNA to be haplogroup H, the most common group in Europe.

   Marie Antoinette’s results - HVR1 - 16519C and HVR2 - 152C, 194T, 263G, 315.1C

   Marie Antoinette’s maternal line has been documented back 25 generations to the 1100s.  You could still be related to her through this Germanic line of women.  There are twelve exact HVR1/HVR2 matches for Marie Antoinette on  Even with an exact match, that common ancestor lived over 625 years ago, in the 1300s or earlier.

   On paper, Marie Antoinette’s ancestry goes back to the 1100s in the Holy Roman Empire (modern day Germany).  DNA can take us further.  One theory shows a correlation between HVR2 marker 152C and the Goth barbarian tribes.  The Goths were in no way a homogenous genetic group as they grew through mergers and acquisitions.  To say that one DNA marker defines a mixed group like the Goths may be hard to prove.

   If we look at the geographic data associated with Marie Antoinette’s maternal tribe, a pattern starts to emerge.  Take all the DNA records available, matches and close matches.  With each close mismatch, we can step backwards in time in roughly 625-year increments.   TribeMapper® analysis shows a genetic flow of ancestors from Scandinavia down through the Germanic heartland.  The timing of this flow, from 2200 to 1300 years ago suggests a connection to the Goth migrations.  While this is still not definitive proof, it is an additional element that could be used to build a case that Marie Antoinette was a Goth descendant.

   This is an example of the geographic data that can be harnessed from mitochondrial DNA.  The results with mtDNA tend to be more macro as there is less variability, which leads to less timeline resolution.  Y DNA has more variability and will produce maps in greater detail.  Our unique Tribal DNA will tell its own migration story and help tie us to history.

© Michael R. Maglio and OriginsDNA