Sunday, July 21, 2013

Conquering William's DNA

   One of my favorite aspects of y-DNA is that it’s used to prove or disprove that two men with the same last name are closely related. Two family lines with a similar surname can figure out if they have a common ancestor. The DNA matches or it doesn’t. What do you do if the common ancestor you are looking for doesn’t have a surname? If you are researching the British Isles, the surname you are looking for is probably less than 1,000 years old.

   What were the surnames associated with William the Conqueror? To start, who was William the Conqueror? William the ‘bastard’ was born about 1028 in Normandy, the illegitimate son of Robert I, Duke of Normandy, and Herleva. William was the 3rd great grandson of Rollo, the Viking who harassed the French so much that they gave him Normandy in order to make him stop.

    In 1066, when King Edward ‘the confessor’ of England died, William was a potential heir to the English crown. When he didn’t get the nod, he took the crown by force by defeating and killing King Harold at the Battle of Hastings.

    Finding the DNA of William the Conqueror is not that easy. He has no documented living male-line descendants. King Henry I was his last legitimate offspring. If you look in the phone book, you won’t find too many names listed under Conqueror, William T. That makes asking for a DNA sample problematic.

    We have to look at the entire line of Dukes from the House of Normandy to identify the surnames that they would eventually adopt. The line from Rollo to William looks like this – Rollo (846-931) > William I (900-942) > Richard I (933-996) > Richard II (978-1026) > Robert I (1000-1035) > William II (1028-1087). To start, there is some evidence, true or not, that the surnames Clifford, Devereaux and St. Clair have a direct connection back to Richard I and Richard II. It’s not my goal to prove anyone’s genealogy. Many medieval genealogies are pure fiction, geneamyth. Although, with ever story there may be a piece of the truth. Some of William’s companions at the Battle of Hastings were his cousins and it would have made sense for him to surround himself with kin. I collected those names and others that had a tenuous connection.

    I began the process with the following 27 names; Bartelott, Beaumont, Bruce, Clifford, Corbett, D’Arcy, Devereaux, Giffard, Hereford, Lindsay, Molyneaux, Montgomery, Mortimer, Mowbray, Neville, Norman, Norton, Osbern, Pearsall, Ramsey, Spencer, St. Clair, Stewart, Sutton, Talbott, Umfreville and Warren. While this is not an exhaustive list, it did provide 3,800 records to sift through.

    DNA records for these surnames were collected from publically available sources and sorted into haplogroups. Remember, everyone is related. It’s just a question of how far back in time they share a common ancestor. Members of haplogroups I and J may share an ancestor about 30,000 years ago, but my goal is to find as many surnames that have a common ancestor about 1,000 years ago. So, DNA comparison was limited to within haplogroups. Immediately, groups E1b, G2a, I2, J and R1a were eliminated for having no cross surname relationships.

    The first likely candidate was haplogroup I1. I1 would make sense. It is a typical Scandinavian group and Rollo is supposed to be either Norwegian or Danish. There was some good cross surname relationships among 8 of the 27 surnames. More analysis showed that they didn’t form a tight clan and that their common ancestor would have been over 1,250 years ago. That predates Rollo. This doesn’t completely rule out haplogroup I1, but my expectation was that there would be a higher number of surnames and a common ancestor between Rollo and William.

    The next candidate was group R1b, the most populous haplogroup in Europe and having a potential Scandinavian or continental Europe origin. This group clustered well across 25 of the 27 surnames and revealed a genetically related clan. To make sure that this wasn’t a false positive or something symptomatic about the large R1b population, I took a random sample of British Isles R1b y-DNA and ran the same comparison. The random sample did not group well and actually formed multiple clusters.

    This looks very positive for the R1b group. Twenty-one of the surnames are tightly related enough that their common ancestor lived 1,080 years ago (933 AD), coincidentally the birth year of Richard I. All common ancestor calculations come with a margin of error. I’d say this estimate is plus or minus a generation. Clifford, Devereaux and St. Clair, with their genealogical connection remain in this group as well as Beaumont, Giffard, Montgomery, Mortimer, Osbern and Warren.

    The odd thing about this second group of names is that they all, genealogically, connect back to Gunnora, wife/concubine of Richard I. Beaumont and Giffard are descendants of Duvelina, a sister of Gunnora. Osbern is a descendant of Herfast, a brother of Gunnora. None of this common y-DNA came from Gunnora or her sister; being female, they don’t have y-DNA to pass down. We have to look for a common male donor. My theory is that the practice of droit du seigneur – ‘right of the lord’ or primae noctis – ‘right of the first night’ was being used by Richard to increase his genetic success.

    Do you have a connection to William the Conqueror? There is an estimate that 25% of the population of England is related to Bill the Conq. From a y-DNA perspective, this percentage would be lower. If you have one of these surnames; Bartelott, Beaumont, Bruce, Clifford, Corbett, D’Arcy, Devereaux, Giffard, Molyneaux, Montgomery, Mortimer, Norton, Osbern, Pearsall, Ramsey, Spencer, St. Clair, Stewart, Talbott, Umfreville (Humphrey) or Warren and match the 37-marker William the Conqueror Modal Haplotype (WCMH), you may be related.











































































   You might match the WCMH within a few steps and not have one of those surnames. The wealthy practiced polygyny. They had as many mistresses as they could afford. The illegitimate male offspring would have generated countless undocumented surnames and carry these same y-DNA markers.

    I can’t say that this is exactly William the Conqueror’s y-DNA markers. These values are a mode, the numbers that appear most frequently in the related R1b sample of 152 records. The results that I have found are based on my analysis of about 3,800 y-DNA samples and form a good correlation. New data in the future may change the results.

    The techniques that I have used are similar to the ones used to identify Carthaigh (McCarthy King of Desmond), Niall of the Nine Hostages and Genghis Khan. I predict that as the DNA databases grow, more discoveries like this will be found. My next projects are to determine Rollo’s origin (see Exploring Rollo...) and Charlemagne’s haplotype.


Maglio, MR (2013) A Y-Chromosome Signature of Polygyny in Norman England (

©Michael R. Maglio and OriginsDNA


  1. Excellent and informative article. I have both autosomal results with Ancestry and FTDNA. My g g grandmother is a Clifford from Ireland. Do you have a site or group I can add myself to? Would love to be in the mix.

    1. Thank you, I don't have a group for collecting more data. If you are ever able to get some of your Clifford y DNA, please compare it to the results that I have listed. Good luck.

  2. I have several documented lines back to these philandering kings, thanks to Gary Boyd Roberts. My paternal great grandmother is a Warren born in Yorkshire, and my father is R1b. Along these lineages are several of the names you listed: St. Clair/Sinkler, Osbern/Osborne, Beaumont, Spencer and Humphrey. However, my Dad passed away ten years ago and cannot donate any more DNA.

    1. Hi Heather,

      I was hoping that the Wilkinson DNA project had members that were related to you. I couldn't find a connection. Do you have a 2nd or 3rd cousin you can test?


  3. I have just compared the Y chart above with my deceased husband who is a good match with Sinclair as in the Sinclair DNA project. No one knows why. We have a brick wall with his Horttor ancestor b 1845. His maternal Canfield line as traced by the Canfield Family Association several years ago went back to William the Conqueror. Interesting article and one my children will be interested to follow. Beverly Horttor

    My husband, H David Horttor tested with SMGF, FTdna and 23andMe
    Kit # for FTdna is F120270 23andMe is M193005

  4. This is fascinating. I always was intrigued by the interplay between surnames and titles. We have English ancestors with surnames Patey, Boone, Croft, Pinckney, Johnson. Scots: Fraser. Irish: Lynch. There are a number of St. Clair /Sinkler surnames along the way. And some Montgomery surnames, too.

    Really interesting to tease out the surnames like this!

  5. Interesting! I suggest you try Brian Boru, since 2014 is the 1000 year anniversary of his death. Sir Conor O'Brien would be the direct living descendant. Currently FamilyTree DNA is doing the O'Brien surname project which has almost 300 participants.

    1. Great suggestion. Brian Boru would make a wonderful case study.


  6. Hi, my brother was tested and he had Y-Dna:
    Best Regards

  7. Hello, I am Dale C. Rice 1948 and a direct Descendnant of Perrott ap Rice 1600 who's family traces back to 30 AD. I tested out I-1 Haplogroup, origionating in Northern France and my 37 markers are 9 exact matches, 14 1 segment shorter, 9, 2 steps shorter , 1 marker 3 steps shorter and only 4 sites have segments of 1 lengthend segment that the reconstructed Y that you show above in your article....If interested you can see results of my test at Family DNA if you so wish...Kind Regards DC Rice 1948 Nebraska Rices

    Sinclair Family of Caithness is most likely NOT directly related to William C. The Sinclair group sharing some 14 different haplotypes of dna do not relate to each other, The Caithness group,most likely to relate back to the Sinclairs of Roslin Scotland and the famous Rosslyn Chapel have the following dna results,testing done by Family Tree Dna,

    R1b1a2a1a1a4 /// SNP Tested Z9>Z30>Z2>Z7>Z8>Z1>Z346+, Z343-
    Current SNP designation is Z346*

    PANEL 1 (1-12)
    Marker DYS393 DYS390 DYS19** DYS391 DYS385 DYS426 DYS388 DYS439 DYS389I DYS392 DYS389II***
    Value 13 23 14 11 11-14 12 12 11 13 13 29

    PANEL 2 (13-25)
    Marker DYS458 DYS459 DYS455 DYS454 DYS447 DYS437 DYS448 DYS449 DYS464
    Value 16 9-10 11 11 24 15 19 29 15-16-17-18

    PANEL 3 (26-37)
    Marker DYS460 Y-GATA-H4 YCAII DYS456 DYS607 DYS576 DYS570 CDY DYS442 DYS438
    Value 11 10 19-23 17 14 19 17 38-39 12 12

    The Sinclairs are French/Germanic...possibly old Franks

  9. I believe that the majority of participants in the Family Tree DNA Montgomery Surname DNA Project are J2 with an only slightly fewer number of participants being R1b1. There is one participant who is J2 with a strong paper trail connection to Hugh Montgomery, 1st Earl of Eglinton and from there, historical records provide evidence that the 1st Earl descends from Roger de Montgomerie, cousin of William the Conquerer. There is good reason for much debate on whether the blood line from Roger de Montgomerie runs J2 or R1b1, so I am curious how you settled on Montgomery's as R1b1.

  10. I am in the U152 project on FTDNA which is a descendant of R1b.
    My cluster's (A:a:a:a: U152>YCA=19,22+dys447=27) common ancestor is 1,000-1,100 AD. Until we get a sample of Will's DNA an open mind is recommended!

  11. Hi Michael,

    Great approach to DNA and the Conqueror "SuperFamily" of surnames.

    I run the Sinclair / St. Clair / Sinceler DNA study. We've found 12 distinct lineages. One of those is mentioned in a comment above. They have the best chance of connecting to our Roslin family who built Roslin Chapel and castle.

    Another of our branches, discovered this year, is called the Herdmanston Lineage. They were the first of our family to arrive in Scotland, 1162, on land given by the de Moreville family. Curiously, among their SNP matches are names like Mandeville. This got me quite interested and we've since ordered FTDNA's Big Y test on this lineage to look for more recent SNPs than their L11 / P310. If that match to de Mandeville remains tight, then we'll know an approximate date for a most recent common ancestor.

    I ran your WC Modal against our study of over 200 members in several different ways:

    First, working left to right. This produced a 31/37 match with our Glasgow Lineage (L21, L193). That immigrant came over in 1698. We've got some evidence that his line went back to Northumberland England before the 1500s. We're off on these particular markers from your WC Modal:
    Our DYS 456 - 570 = 17,16,19,17
    CDYa-b = 36, 37

    Then, allowing for a mutation on DYS 390, which we've seen in our Caithness Lineage.
    I allowed for DYS390 to equal all options.
    I allowed for DYS458 to equal 16 & 17.
    DYS 389ii to equal all options.
    DYS439 equal all options.
    DYS 391 equal all options.
    DYS19 equal all options.
    With all of this, I still end up with the L21 group in our Sinclair / St. Clair DNA study. Very interesting.

    A great next step in your research on this WC Modal would be to look for common SNPs. That would help get to the actual common ancestor. For instance, L193 is believed to have mutated between 800 and 1,000 years ago. I highly doubt you'd find it among all the surnames you've looked at but, based on your research, somewhere "upstream" of L193 there should be a common ancestor in the L21 groups.


    Steve St. Clair

    1. Hi Steve,

      Thank you for your comments. I am continuing to refine this work by moving from a 37 marker model to a 67 marker model. The preliminary SNP data has an L21 correlation. Once I have completed the analysis, the modal haplotype, in theory, would be that of Rollo. The next step would be to determine if Rollo was from Denmark or Norway.


  12. Just as a side note, the Y-DNA of the reacher is?

    1. Hi,

      My haplogroup is G or specifically G-Z726. I have no vested interest or bias in which haplogroup William the Conqueror belongs. Excellent question. It is important to be as impartial as possible while doing research.


  13. have a de warenne though, is it the same, but they are related , but not so Close, he was a brother of one in that family. åsa

  14. I would like to see this same model used on the de Hauteville family. I don't think there is enough data to do it though. You need a bunch of people with the surnames Altaville, de Gesualdo, Geraci and maybe Tankerville, Tancarville, Chamberlain

  15. I was wondering if you know if a person by the name of niclas zincler grim markusson ulmoen oyteigen is a relative of the st.clairs. He was born in Sel norway in 1741.

  16. Hello: My family were likely part of the Norman invaders with the Norman name “Rickards”. As compared to the above WCMH markers above, my values are: 13 24 14 11 11 14 12 12 12 13 13 29 17 9 10 11 11 25 15 19 29 15 15 17 17 11 11 19 23 15 15 17 17 36 37 12 12. Question: Does standard makers exist for people of Norman ancestry? Have you compiled Norman population dna data to compare to the WCMH values? What is your quick analysis of my values – am I within the 25% of the population of England that is related to Bill the Conqueror?

  17. Hi: Fascinating reading and I can see various surnames found in Percy history. I am either a Y descendant of William de Percy a cousin of WTC via Rollo or of Josceline de Louvaine a Y descendant of Charlemagne who married a Percy heiress C1150 which may be helpful. I am R1B-U152 tested at Leicester University by Dr Trudi King. Charles Percy

  18. What of the illegitimate line of Peveral?

  19. I've tested my yDNA for 67 STR markers on FTDNA and am not too far from those markers listed. I've tested SNP's for L21>DF13>Z16500>Z17901+ aka R1b1a2a1a2c1n1 and someone with patrilineal ancestry from the Breton Marches also tested for Z17901+. While my two other closest matches on FTDNA for yDNA have North German ancestry. While another is a Pitts from America with ancestral patriline origin unknown. While they are Pitt(s) descended from the Norman Gervase de la Puette. As for my own surname Holt I don't match any other Holt's for yDNA on FTDNA. And there's an old family rumour that my great-grandfather Holt was born via a non paternity event.

  20. Hello! Love the article. A little too technical for me though... so are you saying Rollo and William the Conqueor are from the L21 branch of R1b, then? I would have assumed from Denmark U106 would have been more likely. Does that mean most of those Anglo-Norman surnames Rollo descendants) in the study were L21? All the numbers in those markers confuse me. Thanks! :)

  21. Hi, I just found out this unusual information yesterday. Sometimes when you can't find the direct line of someone you can find it by going backward or sideways. Through my Mother's line there are 29 unbroken male descendants from King Fornjot (Williams oldest Ancestor) all the way down to the Dutton line then a few females break the line up down to my Mother. While I do not know specifically the descent of William's living Male descendants it is probably easy enough to find male descendants of Peter Dutton 12th Lord Dutton's living today. Some should be carrying the DNA of William's direct Male Ancestor King Fornjot. This is a good place to start for you can trace Peter Dutton all the way to Fornjot who is William's oldest known ancestor.
    Peter Dutton, 12th Lord of Dutton
    his father → Sir Edward de Dutton
    his father → Sir Thomas Dutton
    his father → Sir Hugh Dutton, 9th Lord of Dutton
    his father → Hugh de Dutton, 8th Lord of Dutton
    his father → Sir Thomas de Dutton, 7th Lord of Dutton
    his father → Sir Hugh de Dutton, 5th Lord of Dutton
    his father → Hugh de Dutton, 4th Lord of Dutton
    his father → Hugh de Dutton, 3rd Lord of Dutton
    his father → Hugh FItzodard de Dutton, 2nd Lord of Dutton
    his father → Odard, 1st Lord of Dutton
    his father → Ivo DE DUTTON, Viscount Cotentin
    his father → Niel II (III) de Saint-Sauveur, vicomte de Cotentin
    his father → Neil (I) II, viscount de Saint-Sauveur
    his father → Roger de Saint-Sauveur, vicomte du Cotentin
    his father → "Nigel" Neil I, vicomte de Saint-Sauveur
    his father → Richard I de Saint Sauveur Viscount of Contentin
    his father → Malahulc / Haldrick Eysteinsson
    his father → Eystein Ivarsson «the Noisy» Glumra
    his father → Ivar Halfdansson, Opplendingejarl
    his father → Halfdan "Gamle" Sveidasson
    his father → Sveidi Heytirsson, Norse King, c. 650
    his father → Heytir Gorrsson, King of Kvenland
    his father → Gorr Thorasson, King of Kvenland
    his father → Thorri Snærsson, King of Kvenland
    his father → Snær Jokulsson, King of Kvenland
    his father → Frosti / Jøkull Karasson, king in Kvenland
    his father → Kari "Wind" Fornjotsson, King of Kvenland
    his father → King Fornjot "The Ancient Giant" of Kvenland
    By using tools like gedmatch one would probably find that Descendant's of Fornjot including William would have Icelandic, Norwegian and possibly Finnish, Scottish or Orkney as well as Swedish background. Heritage origins might place them in More Og Romsdal, a place some of these Descendants came from; Kvenland, William has lot's of descendants but even when you trace his Royal line it already starts to break when you get to Empress Matilda.

    Just for fun I searched for a Male Dutton on FTDNA and found one, a Fourth Cousin which would put him in the right time frame for my Dutton line. Our match was on Chromosome #1 at a length of 10cm. This may or may not be relevant. So are all Dutton's descendants of King Fornjot? The pedigree says this is true but only if from the Noble Dutton line. However, depending on how one Dutton derived his DNA for he could just as easily be a descendant of High King Brian Boru (One of his 12th Grandfather's) a popular RM222 Haplogroup type as I found this Dutton to be. Is King Fornjot an Ancestor of William the Conqueror? Historical information says this is true. What Haplogroup would he belong to? Norwegian DNA groups may have the best answer based on locality.
    Hope this helps in your research.

  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

  23. I liked your article. It seems that I might not be apart of these super cluster families. My haplogroup is R-Z2396. I was told that very few kits will be positive for it. So I suspect that Z2396 will have no connection to William or Rollo. Z2396 is said to from Sweden? Here are my 1-37 dys markers.

    13 24 14 10 11-15 12 12 12 13 13 31
    19 8-10 11 11 24 15 19 31 14-14-17-17
    11 11 19-23 15 14 16 18 36-38 1

  24. I was born a Montgomery and have worked hard on our family tree. Documentation for the Montgomery's ends around 1845 and I made some tentative connections using advice from other genealogists and circumstantial evidence. However, that line should be J-M172 and our haplogroup turns out to be R-M269. I only tested for the first 12 but they are very close to William the Conq. Two markers are off by one.
    13 24 14 10 11-14 12 12 12 13 13 30

    According to my research William is my 21st GG via my paternal grandmother of the Bean (MacBean) Clan. I have fairly good confidence about that line.

    I had always assumed that my line would go back to the 3 Rogers de Montgomerie who were closely associated with William the Conqueror and gained their lands and titles from their association with him and his conquests.

    Can anyone tell me their haplogroup?

  25. I am patiently waiting for DNA to bring out the secrets and not-so-secret secrets as this service gets more proficient.My family date back to John Warren born 1617 probably at Ashburton in Devon. I believe that his father was the celebrated [by most American Warrens] Christopher Warren. My DNA [from Marnhull in Dorset] appears to be R-M269 which is the same haplogroup recorded for William De Warren, General at Hastings and cousin to William the Conqueror. At this moment I claim only my forebear John b 1617 d 1698 but believe that my line goes back through Christopher Warren b 1585 [married Alice Webb] to Rollo the Danish Knight that terrorized France. If anyone can assist with the family of Christopher Warren of the visitations it would be nice. The work of Reverend Thomas Warren [History of the Warren Family] has the family wrong and I believe that the mix up with another Waren Family was caused by a late entry in the Visitations record. I truly think that DNA will provide answers, they hasve a thigh bone of the Conqueror and also bones from William De Warren and his wife Gundrada [daughter of the Conqueror] and of Matilda the Conqueror's wife, so why do they not take samples from the bones so that originators DNA can be shown?

  26. Also, there is a huge controversy over the parentage of Gundrada, wife of William De Warren. William the Conqueror claimed her as Filae miea [my daughter] in charters and at her wedding to William De Warren. Gundrada's marble slab that covered her grave is identical to her mother in Normandy. The controversy was started by a Norman hating Ordericus Vitalis who at 70 years old did a history on the conqueror. Ordericus made so many errors in his history that one wonders how modern day historians could be taking him seriosly. Then again, British grudges are long held, hurry up DNA.