Ed Elmer updates

Updated Y Testing Tree

We’ve had a lot of successful Y testing in the branches of the descendants of Edward Elmer. Through Y triangulation of two men in each line we’ve been able to assign some previous singleton Y SNPs to specific men in the line within the genealogical time frame.

You may (or may not) recall my disappointment 7 years ago that the closest I seemed to get to other men in Y DNA testing was in the time of cave painting and mammoths, so it’s very exciting to have concrete designations for men who can be documented!

We were able to get three good outcomes from this testing.

The first two are defining SNPs for branches: We have a line of men under Edward’s son Samuel. They share a common ancestor in Samuel’s grandson David Elmer born in 1725. That line is defined by the SNP (previously a singleton) R-A6928.  We also have a line of men under Edward’s son Edward 2. They share a common ancestor in Edward 2’s grandson Samuel Elmer born in 1732. That particular Samuel (a son of Hezekiah) is defined by a previous singleton SNP, R-A5920.

The third outcome is a confirmation of the absence of R-A2284 in the line of Edward’s son Samuel. We can then definitively assign it to Edward’s son Edward 2.  We have been effectively working under that assumption, but it’s good to have the confirmation.

Here is a link to the Ed Elmer blogspot posting with the new Y testing chart for Ed Elmer branches: http://edelmer.blogspot.com/2017/07/y-dna-testing-in-branches.html


Sorting Out the Paperwork

As a group, we’ve spent a few years periodically going over the available documentation and various conjectures for Edward Elmer and decided to come out with an overview of what we found looking at the various sources and a statement of our intent to pursue DNA testing to try to get beyond Ed (and the borders of the U.S.) in some definitive way.

Looking through the old books, records and analysis of other researchers was made much easier by the availability of documents on the internet. We were able to find almost everything we needed through online searches. That gave us a powerful set of tools, and worldwide access, that previous researchers didn’t have.  Someone searching by hand through paper in London in the 1930’s may only have come upon a single census record for a family to try to build theories from, while we can see the records for that entire family play out from birth until death, for generations, in searchable records online.

Probably the biggest revelation for the group was that being closer to the source in time did not make people more accurate. We, ironically more distant relatives, have better access to records than researchers did even a few decades ago.



A Fraud with a Capital T

As this site is really my open journal, I have to admit that it is a strange feeling to be researching Ed Elmer in a serious way. Growing up in a “patrilineal naming” society, as a “Thompson”, I feel like I have no business digging at Edward “Elmer”.

The story in my genes brings me finally back to Ed, my unintentional ancestor. I can only describe the feeling as “imposter syndrome”. Here I have been accepted by my most distant genetic relatives on the male line, and allowed to participate in their research (both genetic and paper trail), and yet I am nervous about taking too much ownership of Edward Elmer.

The man is literally coded into my DNA, but when I visited the ancient burying ground in Hartford, I was waiting for some authority on B-list puritans to come out and shew me away.  As if I had not somehow earned the right to experience this physical link to the past without the appropriate paperwork.

No one earns their DNA. Edward could no more choose to be related to me than I could to him. We are linked, he and I, for better or worse. My sons will carry his living DNA into the future even as I try to use it to figure out his past.

My internal challenge continues to be accepting the reality in my genes as others have, and accepting that I have something to offer my distant cousins in continuing to research Ed.

When Tangled Roots Release a Burning Need Becomes a Hobby Again

A person I met through genetic genealogy circles said to me once that the ancestors were speaking to me. I wished at the time and for years after that they would speak more clearly. I think around this time last year, I was still deep into the mystery of the Elmores and no closer to figuring out my Aunt’s paternal family.

With those ghosts no longer haunting me, I feel like I can enjoy genetic genealogy as a hobby. Maybe I should have titled this “when a full time becomes a pastime”.

In December, having filled in a lot of information for my Aunt, I said “Maybe, I can treat this more as an enjoyable hobby now rather than the painful dismantling of my recent ancestor’s great and terrible machines”. For the most part that has been the case.

I’ve poked in on ancestryDNA and FTDNA with their various blessings and curses. I’ve stacked up the people with their common matches and checked out segments when I have that information available. Many times, I can get a good idea of where someone fits. I’ve looked around some blind corners and put together deeper trees based on the half-hearted trees left by genetic matches. I’m still surprised by the complete lack of family tree information for most matches at Ancestry.com. At the same time I’m  happy that ancestry pulls such a large audience that most of our biggest and closest matches are there and usually not hard to place, now that I know which families to look at.

As I suspected in those last months of 2016, more matches have rolled in for both our Elmore family (picked up a new Elmore/Waughtel relative today on my account at Ancestry) and my Aunt’s Robert family (A brand new Robert/Bahan relative at FTDNA today too).

Because these people are not active partners, and often don’t return contacts, I am not going to have all the best information, but because they leave little stub trees, share triple digits of centimorgans and 12 to 24 segments, it’s not such a mystery how they fit.

On the known sides of the family, I’m content to put together the trees I have with simple “in common with” matches and to let my large second cousin level matches do the heavy lifting and sorting.

There are still some unknowns. Where do the Winters family members fit for my aunt?  With another large, likely Bolton related match to my grandfather pulled in at FTDNA today, will I ever know how we are connected to that family?

There are those mysteries still on all sides, but I don’t feel like the clock is ticking on them any more. The Ancestors have stopped speaking to me for the moment and I’m really enjoying that.


Elmers, Aylmers and the Normans

Although I haven’t posted about it much here and I haven’t updated the Ed Elmer blogspot site in a while, we’re continuing to recruit members and add evidence and to shore up our discoveries using Autosomal and Y DNA. We have a broad range of interests in our small group. We have members whose Y DNA shows a clear connection to Ed Elmer but are struggling with brick walls in documenting that connection. We have members trying to push beyond Ed to clear up some of the mysteries surrounding his family in England (something a lot of good researchers have not been able to do) and we have another small subset that is interested in the story of what made these Elmers…”Elmers”.

This post is generally for that last small group, although I suppose it might be applicable to others.

I’ve been ruminating the last few days on various discussions with with different groups as most of us are trying to use Y DNA to push our family trees back and to test out our family mythologies. Particularly conversations in our Ed Elmer focused elmer-elmore google group and with the Lunsfords.

Given our Y DNA results we’re all looking at a common male ancestor around 950 AD, but our family myths have us coming from various different dispersed areas in Southeast England. Namely Norfolk (Elmers), Sussex (Lunsfords) and Kent (Knowltons). Some of those family myths stretch back to 1066 AD which is getting very close to our meeting point. A question raised was, why don’t we see more cross over between these families?

The Blessing and Curse of Surnames

Because I’m a Thompson, I’ve had to accept a few basic truths about surnames. They do not always indicate related families. The spellings of them do not always follow the rules. They are pretty easily modified, picked up or dropped by any individual at any time.

I’ve actually spent a lot of time trying to hash out what it means to be a Thompson and how reality differs from the Thompson mythology. The minimum requirement for a Thompson or Thomson is to be the son of  some Thomas or another. End of story.  Having said that, you will find a lot of Thompsons who don’t meet even that very liberal requirement because Thompson is also a name you pick to make life easier in an English speaking country.

It took me a while to break out of the mythology surrounding Thoms. You can see me jumping through those hoops in early posts here. No one should be surprised that I apply that same experience to the other surnames in my family.

I have found that people with rare surnames or in rare surname DNA projects, often struggle with those basic truths and how fluid surnames can be. People with generic job based or paternity/maternity based surnames are usually forced to face that fluidity head on. Think of all the Smith and Jones families out there. No one expects that every village blacksmith in europe shared the same male ancestor, but we will still try to shoehorn people with rarer surnames into the same paternity over and over again. That thinking is especially dangerous in genetic genealogy because it can lead to project admins saying your DNA doesn’t look like a “Sammons” or a “Rose”. The mythology of common ancestry becomes hurtful to both the people involved and the research of the surname.

Surname Bias

In the course of my research into my own paternal family, I’ve moved from a very common surname “Thompson” to a more uncommon surname “Elmer” and surname tradition and mythology and the focus on subtle differences become more powerful barriers. Surname bias gets stronger as there are fewer of you.

Forget for a minute that I’m a Thompson and consider that my great grandfather was an Elmore. I say that name El-more. Like “May I have some more”.  At a certain point farther back in my tree, the spelling Elmore was chosen over the spelling Elmer. When I say Elmer I say it like “El-mur”, like the “mer” in “mermaid”. In my neck of the woods those two pronunciations are very different and for a lot of people like me, that is a full-stop wall. Elmers are completely different from Elmores.  There are people in the world for whom Elmers becoming Elmores is not acceptable, let alone Thompsons becoming Elmores becoming Elmers.

Now imagine you are trying to work with people who may be related to Ed Elmer and you contact male Elmores to see if they will run a few Y tests? Your likelihood of success drops a good amount in that transition from Elmer to Elmore and recruiting those Elmores becomes nigh impossible if you’re a Thompson.

The inverse of that is explaining to two groups of Y tested Elmores in Kentucky that one of them is related to these Elmers from Connecticut, while the others are related to Elmores from Virginia and the two are completely unrelated on the paternal line.

That is the curse of surnames. They are given too much weight.

The blessing is, especially for Y DNA in our patriarchal society, they can be an important clue to relatedness. Elmers, Elmores and Ellmars from upstate New York can really benefit from comparing Y DNA results because their similar surnames and proximity to each other, might be a clue to shared paternal ancestry. Once you’ve determined shared paternal ancestry it can become easier to go beyond the surname bias and find actual documentation of a surname evolving within a genetic family.

So far, people we can prove are related to Ed Elmer carry the surname Elmer and Elmore but I imagine there are untapped surname variants out there. The other side of that coin is that there are a lot of unrelated but perfectly good Elmer and Elmore families out there too as you can see at the Elmore Y DNA project.

Aylmers and Aelmer

Please don’t be offended by the word mythology here. I use it lovingly because “cherished traditional story” is just too long.

The pervasive mythology of Edward Elmer’s ancestors is that he is really an Aylmer and that he is actually related to Bishop John Aylmer. You can see in John’s painting in the wikipedia article, the Elmer cross with the little black birds called choughs (part of the crow family mentioned for both Aylmers and Elmores in some arms books).

The next leap of faith for the name is that Aylmer is a form of Aelmer, a personal name of Saxon origin which occurs in the Domesday book (I’m sure I’ve mentioned them before connected to Knowlton in Devon).

You’ll see the Aylmer as Aelmer repeated in books about Bishop John Aylmer and they note his preference for the Saxon spelling of it.

segment of biography of Bishop John Aylmer

A couple of things bother me about this. The name Aelmer is definitely saxon and you can find it in the Domesday book for lords before 1066. I don’t think this text is technically wrong and our Y DNA would support a Saxon conclusion, but there are always zero Aelmers in charge of land after 1086. Saxon Aelmers lost the war and were replaced on their lands.

Aelmers Under Norman Rule and the Common Use of Surnames

Surnames came into common use in England with (and after) the Normans and lots of people have saxon names, especially in the trades like Baker. It makes sense for tax purposes if John the Baker is different than John the Smith. That makes sense whether they assumed the name or were assigned it.

People with patronymic names like “Thompson” can assume a Thomas in their past. Maybe a Thomas of local significance. Someone you want to be associated with.

If Aylmer is Aelmer after the Saxon given name from Domesday and the Aelmers in the Domesday were run off their holdings by incoming Normans, what would cause a person to want to associate with a deposed Saxon lord when the incoming regime is Norman? What benefit would there be in proudly maintaining that Saxon given name? It would be like a black mark on a family singling you out for Norman punishment.

Although Bishop John Aylmer was born in the 1520s and that seems like a long time ago and we might equate that with the Saxon/Norman transition because both are “old”, John was about the same distance from the end of Saxon rule as we are from him today. If he preferred the Saxon spelling of the name it may have had more to do with what he knew about the Saxons or maybe even knowledge of the previous Saxon clergy carrying the given name Aelmer, rather than some underlying knowledge of his own heritage.

Here is what the Oxford dictionary of British and Irish names has for Aylmer and Elmer:

Aylmer oxford dictionary section 1

Aylmer Oxford dictionary continued.

We’ll focus on the English name from the dictionary: “Variants: Aylmore, Elmore, Elmer, Ellmore, Elmar, Elmers, Helmore. English relationship name from the middle English personal name Ailmer, from old english Aethelmaere composed of the elements aethel “noble” and maere “famous”. See also Aymer.

In the list of variants you can see the Domesday Aelmers, but also post Norman given name Ailmers like Haelmerus from the Danelaw documents or Ailmerus le Bercher from 1212 AD or Godwinus filias Elmari 1115 AD.

So it seems that the given name Elmer survives the Normans and (in the case of Godwin there) is worth continuing as a patronymic. Again though, how is paying homage to a Saxon name of any benefit to a Norman land owner? I think the key there is “middle English”. Middle English is Norman English. The name Aelmer exists in old English, but it’s not just an old English anglo-saxon name. It’s older than that. It belongs to the continent.

Here is what surname DB has:

This interesting and long-established surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and derives from the Middle English male given name “Ailmar”, itself coming from the Olde English pre 7th Century “Aethelmaer”, a compound of the elements “aethel”, noble, and “maer”, famous, which was reinforced after the Norman conquest of 1066 by the introduction of “Ailmer”, from a Continental cognate.

Read more: http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/aylmer#ixzz4VwSSBQw4

The part I had to repeat there is the “reinforced after the Norman conquest of 1066 by the introduction of “Ailmer” from a Continental cognate.” The same given name, Ailmer, also comes over with the Normans from the continent.

Forgetting for a moment that Elmer is a perfectly good place name in Sussex or a nice enough descriptive name for a place where elms grow, this idea that the name spans continental culture grabbed me and made me think about my Y DNA and migration assumptions (yet again).

Our family is best understood by examining our other close (950 AD -1000 AD) paternal relatives the Lunsfords and Knowltons.

De Lundresford

Note: Entering dangerous ground here where powerful family mythology is concerned. I’m not a Lunsford expert, but I’m in a spot where I need to consider their family history, so my perspective is as a relative outsider unaware of all the work that has come before me. 

Conversations with our medieval Y cousins the Lunsfords (estimated common ancestor in 950 AD based on big Y) turned to earliest known ancestors, because we don’t see a lot of crossover between the Lunsfords, Knowltons and Elmers. Our real earliest provable is Ed Elmer 1610 AD, but the conversation was really about the mythological roots. For the Lunsfords the story is that they are related to Ingelramus De Lundresford who was an Anglo-Saxon and lost his land after the Norman invasion because he battled William at Hastings.

Neither of us could find the Lundresford or Lunsford farm in the Open Domesday site. So that was disappointing.

Two things came to bother me about Ingelramus De Lundresford. For one, he’s got a French surname. Since Normans pretty much start the surname boom, how did he get that in the time of the Saxons? Also, De Lundresford, in that age, denotes ownership or titles. If he was a saxon land owner, could I find him associated with some other property in 1066?

I could not, but it led me to the second bothering. I looked up Ingelramus and it appears it’s also a continental name, sometimes shortened to Ingram. All the Ingelranns and Ingrams in the Domesday are there replacing previous Saxon Lords. They fought on the side of the Normans, not against them.

I started looking around for references to the De Lundresford family and found this google book on Sussex:

Description of the holdings of Hugo De Lundresfordpart two of he Lunsford donations


There are places near Etchingham in the Domesday like Salehurst which show Robert the count of Eu as tenant. Or Drigsell (also part of Henhurst like Salehurst), also under Robert count of Eu with a lord of Cana in 1066 but under Aelfric after the Normans. The De Lundresford family tree has Aelric as the son of Ingelramus. Maybe that is him. Hard to say because no other name is listed than Aelfric.

The thing here again is that the De Lundresfords seem to be doing pretty well in post Norman England. Well enough to donate land.

Then I found another book on genealogy that is just swamped with Latin, the Collectanea topographica et genealogica. It mentions the De Lundresfords and Lunsfords. It does begin with Ingelramus De Lundresford in the time of Edward the confessor and then moves on from there, but the sentence above the charters regarding those entries in the family tree is pretty dire:

Charters intended as proofs of the preceding pedigree. The four first are in the original written in imitation of the Saxon characters, and are palpably forgeries, as not improbably, are some of those that follow.

The first four forgeries takes us from Edward through Harold Godwinson and the end of Saxon England.

There are a lot of De Lundresford charters again in Latin, one with a David, but you don’t really see any dates until you get to Hugo De Lundresford in the early 1200s. Those charters are followed by this bit which I’m going to include as an image because it’s pretty long:

De Lundresford possibly De Lodenesford from Kent

The basic idea in that image is that David De Lundresford in the fabricated Charters might actually be Daniel de Lodenesford who owned property in Yalding Kent. The Hamlet referred to as Lodingford is called Laddingford today and the author believes the De Lundresford family probably got their name from that town in Kent.

If you go to the open Domesday, Yalding Kent is under Richard, the son of Count Gilbert. Count Gilbert is the count of Brionne in Normandy. Gilbert is the son of Geoffrey…the count of Eu (see above about Hugo De Lundresford and his lands adjacent to the forest of the Count of Eu and Aelfric who is in charge of Henhurst in 1086 under the Count of Eu a hundred years and some before the De Lundresfords decide to donate to the church).

What is interesting about Richard son of Count Gilbert is that he spent time with Baldwin V. Count of Flanders. It turns out there was a decent Flemish contingent in the Norman army. The Norman army was not all Normans I guess.

Chenolton Knolton Knowlton

Note: Again, here there be dragons. The Knowltons are doing a lot of work on their own family lines and may come to completely different conclusions than past Knowlton researchers, in this I’m looking at common Knowlton mythology and am probably missing the finer points of their latest research.

Most discussion of Knowltons in history begins with Charles Stocking who did his best to put all the pieces together and organized a lot of the Knowlton families. I envy that organization when looking at our Elmers.

Stocking talks about Knowlton Dorset but quickly shifts to Knowlton in Kent where there were apparently more people carrying the surname Knowlton generally to research. Since we’re most interested in the paternal lines involved in the Knowlton family it’s helpful to note that ownership of Knowlton passed from a father to a daughter very early on. The daughter married William De Langley or De Longly and their son picked the name William Knowlton. We have the beginning of one paternal line in the 1300s.

The general sense I get from most Knowltons is that Kent is their home turf. Paternally William de Langley in whatever internet sources I’ve been able to find, appears to be related to his brother Richard Middleton who took his name from Middleton in Lancashire with the Langleys also tied to county Durham. Quite a distance from Knowlton Hall in Kent. Which makes me think that these families were much more mobile than I have previously imagined.

Stocking’s text is kind of confusing to me but it appears that Knowlton Hall changed hands several times through marriage with various lines of men going extinct. It is hard to imagine which if any of these families our Knowltons might be related to.  Stocking picks a Richard Knowlton 1553 as the first Knowlton in the line of American Knowltons, calling him Richard of Kent, but I’ve struggled to find records for Richard outside of other family trees.

I did find a list of “extinct” families that contained several of the Langley-Knowltons and Peytons etc associated with Kent. In the 1700s Knowlton Hall and the baronetcy changed over to a family from Flanders. The D’aeth family and they too added Knowlton to their name, but that seems too young for the triangulated DNA of the descendants of John Knowlton (who are our Y matches).

The Knowltons have discovered some great new documents about Knowltons in Middlesex in the 1600s which is around the time they would expect of the father of their last Y triangulated relative John. Stocking mentions Middlesex as a repository for Knowltons, but focuses on Kent. Uxbridge has an interestingly named neighbor “Hillingdon” which is mentioned in the Domesday. Knoll being a small hill..eh? eh? Get it?

Still it seems like we’re talking about a pretty recent surname based on a place or landscape feature and we would have to consider that the name of that area has changed or that the landscape feature may not exist anymore.  So as far as surnames go, the Knowltons are in no better shape than the Elmers. 

Norfolk to Essex, Aelmer to Arnulf and Ranulf the Rabbit Hole

I tried to bridge the gap between the 1500s and the Domesday which turned into a pretty good goose chase, but in the end was informative.

I know that the Aylmers are traditionally located in Norfolk, but Ed Elmer seems tied to Essex most often because he was listed in the Braintree Company of Reverend Hooker. Bishop John Aylmer also owned land in Essex at Mugden or Mowden Hall in Hatfield-Peverel. Essex seems like a reasonable place to look for Aylmer/Elmers.

Also, with the Lunsfords in Sussex or Kent and the Knowltons in Kent or middlesex, what if Norfolk is too far “North”? What if it was just the recent home of the much more mobile Aylmers in the 1500s? Should I be looking for the Aylmers farther south?

As I was looking for Aylmer references, I ran across this document listing the medieval village at Sheering, about 22 miles west of Hatfield-Peverel. There is an English Aylmers manor owned by Thomas Aylmer in the 1400s.

“The manor of SHEERING or HUTTONS or AYLMERS lay in the south-west, near Ealing bridge. It originated as a free tenement of 60 a. which in 1241 was granted by the lords of Sheering Hall manor to Ralph Gobion. Thomas Aylmer, who was holding it in 1427, was succeeded c. 1429 by his infant son William. In 1465 William Aylmer sold it to Thomas Colte.”

The Aylmer activity in the area got me back over to the Domesday book to look at Hatfield Peverel. It turns out it is one of the areas that passed from one of the Aelmers in the Domesday over to several Norman Lords.  One of them caught my eye, Arnulf of Hatfield. Mainly because he was of Hatfield, but was still somehow in with the Normans.

I couldn’t find much on Arnulf of Hatfield, but did accidentally click on Arnulf of Hesdin and found a nice article about him. I had to wonder if Arnulf of Hesdin was Arnulf of Hatfield. Arnulf had a pretty full life including titles and lands in Normandy under the overlordship of the count of Flanders.

Ranulf Peverel (it’s right in the name: Hatfield, Peverel) turned out to be the maternal half brother of William the Bastard’s bastard. No one seems to know where Peverel comes from although the wikipedia article mentions that they think Ranulf’s family was possibly from Flanders.

I became daunted by this diversion as you can literally get lost trying to decipher all the ways these people are related and even though the Normans are usually considered the starting shot of static surnames in England, the new Norman Lords seem to be pretty nonchalant about surname standards.

Back to Oxford Surnames for Elmers in Sussex

Elmer surname Oxford Dictionary

Here we have a listing of Elmers beginning in the 1500s with a pretty broad range and contemporary with John Aylmer. I became interested in Elmer as a place name, so I looked into Elmer in Middleton Sussex. Middleton is listed in the Domesday, but Elmer is not. It seems most notable for recent resort development and as a coast guard station.

I did find a note about it on a historical site for middleton:

“The reputed manor of ELMER, which was not apparently called a manor before 1590, perhaps originated in the four hides and five yardlands which three Frenchmen held of Middleton in 1086; since Felpham manor’s hidation had been reduced by about the same amount since 1066  the estate may have been detached from that. At the division of the d’Aubigny inheritance in 1243 the overlordship passed with the share of Robert Tattershall.  William de Montfort held five fees in Elmer and elsewhere between 1303 and his death in 1310,  and William Elmer at his death c. 1325 held a house and six yardlands there of Barpham manor in Angmering; his heir was his son, also William. ”

So generally there are Elmers in Sussex earlier than the 1500s and that might one day prove to be a tie in with the Lunsfords.

Chasing Godwin son of Elmar

Aylmer Oxford dictionary continued.

How about Godwinus Filius Elmari 1115, Winton Domesday (Hants)? It turns out “Hants” is the short name for Hampshire and is related to Southampton through some translation of an anglo-saxon name for the area. I looked up Winton in Hampshire and found that it was a new town built in the 1800s and named after a castle in Scotland?

I couldn’t find Godwinus Filius Elmari online in the Open Domesday, but at 1115 AD it might be too new for the Open Domesday?

I did find the location of  Winkton in the Open Domesday about 20 miles from Southampton near Bournemouth and thought maybe it could be the “winton” for Godwin son of Elmar. Winkton’s tennant in chief under the Normans was Waleran the Hunter.  I looked him up and found a nice website with some descendants and a nice explanation of the name Waleran:

“Prior to 1066, Fifehead Neville was held by an unnamed English thegn (nobleman), but by the time of the completion of the Domesday Book in 1087, the manor of Fifehead Neville is recorded as being in the possession of Waleran Venator. The name Waleran (meaning Wall or ‘Strong’ Raven the Huntsman) is Germainic, and was introduced to Britain by the Anglo-Saxons in the eighth century, but was also re-introduced at the Conquest by the Norman-French. Waleran could possibly have been a native Englishman, but it is more likely that he was a Norman invader, who accompanied William I on his Conquest, and as a favourite was rewarded with huge hunting estates. His under-tenant in Fifehead Neville was Ingelrann, who also held land in Somerset after the Conquest (see Domesday Fifehead). …”

This particular entry is interesting because it mentions one of the Ingelranns in the Domesday. Ingelrann of course of interest because of the Lunsfords Ingelram or Ingelramus (latinized I suppose). On a side note, Ingelrann’s fifehead neville land is about 20 miles from Knowlton in Dorset. Just another in an endless series of connections we could make.

The Takeaway

There are a lot of options for being an Elmer in the 1100s and 1200s and 1300s, the only limiting factor seems to be our imagination.

What got my attention during These searches in Hampshire is the use of Germanic names among Normans. Names that had matching anglo-saxon equivalents but have been reintroduced by the Normans and are used by people who do well under Anglo-Norman rule.


Searching through the Open Domesday and looking at various entries often led to connections with Flanders (Like Eustace of Boulogne or Arnulf of Hesdin). Many Germanic names were re-introduced by the Normans from the continent and given Flanders position in the low countries and other English Y DNA matches that seem to have either Belgian or French derived names like “Dameron” and “Franklin” I decided to check for medieval Flemish names.

Eventually I found a site devoted to  several centuries of given names in the low countries before 1150 that included Flanders. I’m going to recreate part of a table of names from the site here:

low countries names before 1150 including Ailmer

Of course I’ve got Athelmar up top as a companion to the Anglo Saxon Aethelmaer. Ingelramnus as a companion for the Lunsford Ingelramus. Walramus…just for the heck of it because of that guy named Walramus in the domesday and Arnulf again just for the heck of it. Athalmar isn’t as popular as others but it seems to be recorded more in the later centuries.

Here is Flanders in light pink:

I think Medieval Flanders was larger than that, but you get the idea.

It doesn’t have to be Flanders of course, but they just kept grabbing me and forcing me to look at them.  I found a few sites devoted to Norman given names.

Here is a wiktionary page of Norman given names that contains Edelmir which I’m certain is also a cognate for Aethelmaer.

Here is another page devoted to Norman names borrowed from the Franks that also contains Ingelramus, but doesn’t specifically call out Elmer or a variant…although it does have Aylard and Aymer.

A Genetic Case for Norman Era Continental Ancestors

I’ve mentioned the Damerons before, but it bears bringing them up here too. Consistent matches to the Elmers at Y37, the Damerons are also speculatively, from England. They have found records for a Lawrence Dameron in Ipswich in the early 1600s that would be in keeping with their Virginia ancestor.  The surname Dameron has a few different origin stories on the Dameron family site they give the origin as Flanders with the Germanic reading of the name.

Ancestry.com lists this:  “French: nickname for a foppish or effeminate young man, Old French dameron, a derivative of Latin dominus ‘lord’, ‘master’ plus two diminutive endings suggestive of weakness or childishness.”

Either way we’re looking at a continental surname which could mean roots in the continent or that the people naming you spoke a continental language. The Dameron site gives the age of the surname in the 1400s which would make it a younger name, like Knowlton and might also suggest closer ties to the continent.

STR results suggest that the Damerons are more closely related to the Elmers than some other families, but without Big Y or other next generation Y testing it’s hard to tell exactly how close. They do have our DYS458.2 value placing them closer than about 400 BC but they don’t have all of the other distinctive values the Lunsfords, Knowltons and Elmers seem to share.

Big Y has placed the Knowltons, Lunsfords and Elmers in a group currently defined best by the SNP ZP124. The U106 group ages the common ancestor for that group around 950 AD. All three families claim England. The Elmers and Knowltons continue on for one more named SNP, ZP129 aged around 1000 AD (meaning at least one more generation together).

We have a brother branch that is defined by ZP125 which I’ve mentioned before. It has more members. One family claims England, one claims Netherlands, one Belgium and another claims Poland.  The English family, Wright, is the most distantly related in the group and has not been given an age estimate. The Winne, DeBurghgraeve and Stanuszek families continue on to another named SNP ZP150 which is aged to around 1200 AD. Winne and Deburghgraeve continue on together at least one more SNP beyond that.

ZP150 is interesting because (at 1200 AD) it fits well with a migration event that included people from the Netherlands and Flanders moving to Poland. Stanuszek provided some surname information that would fit with that assessment, so we have a nice historical precedent for that west to east migration.

This from a wikipedia article on the history of Germans in Poland: “The civil strife and foreign invasions, such as the Mongol invasions in 1241, 1259 and 1287, weakened and depopulated the many small Polish principalities, as the country was becoming progressively more subdivided. The depopulation and the increasing demand for labor in the developing economy caused a massive immigration of West European peasants, mostly German settlers, into Poland (early waves from Germany and Flanders in the 1220s).”

Concerning the Wright family, it’s hard to make a lot of headway. They are likely on a siginificantly older branch than the other men in the Belgian/Dutch ZP125 with no real clue other than a Saxon job surname. Well, the word Wright itself is a Saxon word, but the Surnamedb has a listing for the first record of the name as Patere le Writh in 1214 AD in Sussex. The use of Wright as a surname started to come together quite a while after the Norman invasion.

In any case, we might be splitting hairs as this wikipedia article section on 7th century Flanders shows that the place was populated by the descendants of Saxons and Franks and by people from the Netherlands and Germany.

Both the ZP124 (Elmer etc) group and the ZP125 (DeBurghgraeve etc) group meet up at ZP121 which is a cluster of SNPs estimated to have a common ancestor around 600 AD which places our common ancestor within the time of the Germanic migrations.

Although I’ve always favored the Danes as the source of our widespread Y DNA, I have to admit that closer to home from 600 AD on, we Elmer/Knowlton/Lunsfords match more closely with people who lived just across the channel than we do with our friends from Norway.

An Administrative Case for a Post Norman ZP124 Diaspora

Two questions that kicked off my Norman travelogue were how can we (in the ZP124 group) be so closely related 950AD but be so distributed in England and why don’t we see more overlap between the families?

Previously, I’ve used these same dates and ideas to propose a Saxon source or a Viking source for our Y DNA but now I think a Norman conquest source is probably just as likely to explain the dispersed nature of our families in southeast England.

As I was reading up on the Flemish contribution…kind of painfully laid out in this essay. I was particularly struck by something that I had also noticed looking at the Domesday book. Some Normans had very widespread holdings in different counties. The final paragraph of the essay talks about this and how it may have been purposefully done to weaken the Flemish tenants in chief. Basically they cannot consolidate power (even among their own holdings) because they are spread all over the place to begin with.

I’m pretty sure the Normans brought people with them that they felt they could trust. They had to rule a large Anglo-Saxon-Danish population.

One could imagine members of a Flemish or Norman family following a lord, maybe from their area back home, and being spread around his many estates. It’s not like we have a list of all the rank and file Norman or Flemish people that fought with William. With only a hundred years or so between the three ZP124 families in England, it’s easy to imagine them as first cousins being placed in various fiefs scattered around a nobleman’s holdings.

After the conquest, several of the families I searched through, seem to do pretty well for themselves and show quite a bit of mobility as lands and titles change about. As the essay points out, the Flemish seem to blend in and don’t form a cohesive power group in Norman England. My guess would be that they became just as Anglo-Norman as the Normans and that within a few generations that Flemish identity was gone even though wealth, land or titles may have given later generations the power to move about adding to that earlier forced mobility and dispersal of Y DNA around various counties.

That last bit doesn’t really require being Flemish of course, but they are a particular example of people spread around on purpose. People with some wealth and power coming out of the Norman conquest are much more likely to want to venerate a parent by taking their given name “Ailmer” as a surname.

If the Normans were so Good to us…Why Give it all up?

So why would John Aylmer prefer the Saxon spelling of Aelmer and why would the De Lundresfords have a fudged pedigree back to the last Saxon king?

Is it possible that at a certain point in England there was a revival of Saxon heritage, like people looking back on a bygone age, that caused people to identify with their Saxon names (like Aelmer over Ailmer or Aylmer) or to chose a Saxon story to complete their lines back to pre-conquest England (like it appears the De Lundresfords did)? Did it become less fashionable to be associated with the Norman invaders and their French connections and more fashionable to look back to Alfred the Great and the Saxon kings as a source of national unity?

Perhaps I should read this book to find out. It’s description certainly suggests so: The Elizabethan Invention of Anglo-Saxon England. This from the description:

Full of fresh and illuminating insights into a way of looking at the English past in the sixteenth century… a book with the potential to deepen and transform our understanding of Tudor attitudes to ethnic identity and the national past.” Philip Schwyzer, University of Exeter. Laurence Nowell (1530-c.1570), author of the first dictionary of Old English, and William Lambarde (1536-1601), Nowell’s prot g and eventually the first editor of the Old English Laws, are key figures in Elizabethan historical discourses and in its political and literary society; through their work the period between the Germanic migrations and the Norman Conquest came to be regarded as a foundational time for Elizabethan England”


“Their studies took different strategies in demonstrating the role of early medieval history in Elizabethan national — even imperial — identity, while in Lambarde’s legal writings Old English law codes become identical with the “ancient laws” that underpinned contemporary common law. Their efforts contradict the assumption that Anglo-Saxon studies did not effectively participate in Tudor nationalism outside of Protestant polemic; instead, it was a vital part of making history “English”.


People in Elizabethan England and probably later had their own family mythology too and the authority we give them because they are “old” and their preferences for Saxon England as a standard for Englishness, may color our research today.



Everybody Has Two Family Trees …A New Hope

Previously in Everybody has Two Family Trees…which in hind sight, I should have called “Revenge of the Undying Machine”. I went through some of the back story of how, while I was hunting down the Thompson Elmores, I was also trying to hunt down a Thompson…(fill in the blank) with my aunt’s own NPE. Her search was much more painful than the search for my grandfather’s paternal family because I didn’t have Y DNA to help me out, it’s so close in time that there are living people involved and my aunt has a time limit imposed by the late stages of kidney disease. Those additional stress elements made the usual suspects that get in the way of a genetic genealogy search a lot more disconcerting.

I’ll pick up here, nearer in time, with a helpful and unexpected helping hand.

Winters Gives me some Direction

First off, although my aunt’s top match at 23 and me (possible second cousin of some sort) was silent, he did leave some clues in his profile. He left a partial tree for his mother’s side of the family. I think his father’s side ended with his father or grandfather. That is okay. Not everyone is interested in every branch of their tree. He was more focused on his maternal Italian relatives. So I assumed he was trying to build out their tree and didn’t want to be bothered with his paternal side.

Although I hate using them, the ethnicity estimates actually helped me out there. Some of my aunt’s other matches had Italian heritage at the grandparent level and I was able to see what that looked like. It definitely showed up. Comparing that to my aunt, who showed no Italian ethnicity and to Winters who had close Italian relatives, led me to believe I needed to follow up on Winters’ absent paternal family tree.

So I built a family tree for him and found that it was invested in Iron Mountain, Calumet, Houghton and other areas of the U.P. It was also heavily English and Scottish with a branch from Austria. Again, my aunt’s ethnicity estimates also ran high in the Isles. Particularly with Irish populations. She was somehow more “British isles” than my dad and I were. She also showed a substantial input from continental Europe…a blob that represents France and Germany, etc.

Winters also had Hungarian ancestry, and I pursued that because my aunt showed several matches who were also recently Hungarian or Austrian. So I thought maybe Austrian mixed with some French Canadian might explain her continental ethnicity blob.

I built a huge “Winters” related tree to explore all the relationships. What I struggled with was connecting Winters to other matches at 23 and me, FTDNA and AncestryDNA (through Gedmatch.com). Without sharing genomes, your 23 and me research is crippled because you cannot see exactly where someone matches anyone else and so you cannot triangulate segments to find common ancestors.

Michigan’s upper peninsula saw a lot of recent immigration from all over the world. So there is a very recent mix of Italians, French, Irish, Germans etc. Ironically, the variety wasn’t as helpful as it might be because it seemed everyone was the same mix of Italians, French, Irish, Germans etc. So that information did not help me sort matches and nothing was as obvious as the Quebec matches (which are the bulk of my aunt’s matches).

I really needed to know how Winters matched my aunt. So I periodically begged for access using examples from his family tree as possible directions for research.

After a year or more of silence, Winters quietly shared his DNA. The family tree I have for him, again, contains no real genetic input for him from Quebec but large amounts of input from the U.P. where my aunt has many matches. I expected his DNA segments to show the same and that he would fill in different parts of my aunt’s genome than those dominated by the French Canadians. Possibly matching other British or Hungarian families. I actually expected the Hungarians to shine through because I had some good Hungarian/French Canadian cross overs.

I was wrong.

Not only did he match the French Canadian matches, he matched the biggest of them in multiple places. In fact, he ONLY matched the French Canadians. His genetic family tree did not match the paper trail family tree I had for him. Winters (apparently judging from the triangulated segments I did have) was also a Robert/Robar descendant. All the research I had put into his extended paternal family looking for French Canadians who may have married in, was useful to me, but more as a process of elimination than of discovery.

Without any real conversation to give further direction, I had to think back to the his profile. It did not contain his paternal family beyond a certain generation. Perhaps it was not a lack of motivation in his family research, but a genetic brick wall like I had in my own family with my grandfather that had kept him from filling in his tree.

That sounds bitter, but really, it’s helpful to know when you’re barking up the wrong tree and I like to think that maybe he silently shared his DNA so I could figure that out. It’s nice to know that you’ve been trying to put the square peg in the round hole because you can quit trying it.

I went back to mapping the Robert family, but paid special attention to the branches that moved from Quebec to the U.P. assuming the unknown connection for my aunt and Winters (and other matches who also had ties to the Houghton area) most likely happened there.

I informed him of my findings and thanked him for sharing. No response was returned. That could be because 23 and me was in transition and my message didn’t go through, or it could be because he was just giving me a boost and was not really interested. Either way, I will not know what he knows about their shared family.

Dumb Luck Strikes Again

I should probably make “Dumb Luck” a category of this site. Hopefully, if you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ll know that I spend a lot of time doing my (and a lot of other people’s) homework. I really do put hours and hours into this, but often the real breakthroughs are driven by the unseen hand of fate. All my hard work, ends up giving me insight into what chance provided.

Here again, evidence falls into my lap.

Although I have struggled to get basic information from many of the top matches for my aunt at Ancestry.com, and I routinely throw my hands up in disgust at further road blocks and dead end leads, this past week, I got a solid.

A brand new 2nd cousin level match. I will call him “PureLuck” for having fallen into my lap.  In his family tree, I see a recent “Roberts”. Thanks to Ancestry’s addition of Michigan death records, I find out that John Roberts from Ontonagon Michigan is really Jean Robert from Quebec. He and his parents already exist in my research tree for the Robert/Robar family although I had no idea he changed his name and moved to Michigan or that he was married and had children.

John Roberts fits perfectly into the genetic picture with descendants in the U.P. that could coincide with Winters family (possibly adding the Robert DNA to them) and sons that move to Flint Michigan, which is where my grandmother worked and my aunt was born.

John’s wife Mary Bayhan is the daughter of two Irish immigrants, which brings me back to my aunt’s penchant for Isles ancestry. John’s father Amable Robert is married to Melanie Ledoux which coincides with Ledoux related matches at AncestryDNA and 23 and me (finally making sense of some of the earliest matches my aunt had).

Overall, John Roberts fits very well and layers into the existing evidence in the right spot.

He has two sons that move to Flint. One son appears to have left before 1940, but the other (Irving Roberts) is there in Flint and I can find his place of employment in 1946, about a mile from Hurley Medical Center where my grandmother is in school.

Irving also has a son, who would be a good candidate and is 10 years older than my grandmother. I still suspect Irving though because being born around 1890, as our unhelpful relative pointed out, he would be “some old man” in 1946. He’s in a position to spend time within proximity of my grandmother.   My aunt’s match to her brand new second cousin level person, PureLuck, is bigger than you’d expect for a second cousin at 344cM. If Irving is her biological father, then that would make my aunt a 1st cousin 1 time removed for PureLuck (one generation closer to their shared common ancestors). I also cannot find a lot of compelling evidence for a connection to Irving’s wife who is the daughter of German immigrants who live in Idaho.

After a process of elimination for other Roberts descendants related to John, I think Irving is the best possible person given the evidence I have. I can’t write off his son, or his brother for that matter, but he seems like the most reasonable choice.

What could go wrong?

Well, for one thing, this is about confidence levels not absolute proof. I’m not getting a lot of good information on these matches that are close to home. Simple conversation might turn up some interesting facts and possibilities I’m not considering. I don’t know what information I’m missing because all of the closest matches (so far) are completely mute.

I feel really confident about Irving because a lot of pieces fit, but there are some caveats. That new PureLuck match is about 100cM bigger than ISOGG lists as a rough guide to second cousins, but he’s also about 80cM smaller than what ISOGG lists as a rough guide to a first cousin 1x removed (which is where I place him in the family tree).

Irving ties up the loose ends on many Robert/Robar matches and Ledoux matches, but he doesn’t (so far) help me tie up all of the matches my aunt has from the U.P. Including some pretty big ones.

Probably the most troubling of those are large Winters related matches. As of this writing (part way through actually), she now has two Winters family matches. They are first cousins of each other and given the triangulation I’ve done on the one at 23 and me (as I wrote earlier), most likely very recent Robert family members. I just have no clear idea how. These two cousins share a male ancestor born around 1900 in Calumet Michigan and that man’s wife who is the daughter of Austrian immigrants, also born around 1900 in Iron Mountain.

Because of the strong Robert family ties in their DNA, neither of those ancestor’s family trees fits. I suspect that one of those ancestors is really a Robert, but I couldn’t say which one. I have read a lot into the original Winters match’s missing paternal tree and, for the record, the new Winters related match chose to leave his Winters family off his tree as well.  On a gut check I think it’s the Winters patriarch whose story is more complicated, but again…what do they know that I don’t I know?

These Winters matches bookend my aunt’s brand new match PureLuck with the documented Robert family. One Winters sits at 280cM and the other at 366cM, you could expect them to have nearly the same relationship level as PureLuck. which would mean they most likely tie up to the Robert family right there around 1900.

Comparing the tests at AncestryDNA, I know the Winters there shares PureLuck as a match.  Since I’m dealing with AncestryDNA, I don’t really know how big of a match they are to each other. I only have the perspective of my aunt, which makes these matches practically equidistant. I would have to suspect that everyone in the scenario is descended from John Roberts somehow.

Also eerily, among these three matches, each man is larger than you’d expect for a second cousin and smaller than you’d expect for a first cousin one time removed. Making me question whether I’ve got my aunt situated in the family tree correctly. Being off a generation here or there can be a big deal.

If I was dealing with PureLuck alone, my confidence level would be high given our dumb luck and triangulating homework done specifically with the Robert family. I just can’t seem to escape the gravity of the Winters family. I am certain this uncertainty around them will continue to haunt me and leave doubts to gnaw at my confidence until more second cousin level relatives outside the Winters family begin showing up in my aunt’s matches.

What has gone right?

Even with those nagging doubts, I think I’ve got the right family and I’m most confident that I have the right man in that family.

Come Hell or high water, at the cost of not being invited to family reunions anymore and alienating my own relatives as well as total strangers, I feel I have answers for my aunt’s basic questions.

I used four different databases of autosomal matches and spent three…nearly four years putting together clues and triangulating DNA segments with matches and their family trees. I had luck on my side, but luck favors the prepared. I feel like I beat the clock of kidney disease to provide the best answers I can, which is much better than the answers she had before.

I can’t say that I never gave up, because I gave up all the time, but I do feel like I kept giving it chances to work (once enough time…and bitterness had passed). Now, I think I can take a step back and wait for yet more confirming matches to roll in (the way they did with my Elmores).

Maybe, I can treat this more as an enjoyable hobby now rather than the painful dismantling of my recent ancestor’s great and terrible machines.


Everybody has Two Family Trees


Everyone has two family trees. One is a paper trail tree. That tree lives in documentation, court records, land ownership, family bibles and the almighty census. The other tree is a genetic tree, built from the DNA of your ancestors that lives on in you. The two trees may or may not coincide for various reasons.

That bit of insight comes from the DNA Newbie forum which I recommend for anyone who is interested in genetic genealogy.

If you’re feeling down about your genetic genealogy searches and are looking for some moderate good news on that front to keep you going, these next two posts are for you.

First up, I need to go over some back story that I’ve been walking around poking at in posts, but don’t think I’ve directly tackled in the past.

I’ve spent most of the years in this online diary discovering, researching and documenting the divide in my paternal Thompson family between the Michigan branch and Indiana branch of our paper trail tree. As it turned out, although our papers are in order, the Michigan branch has a different genetic tree beginning with my grandfather and an NPE in Illinois. So, we’ve been Thompsons for less than 100 years and genetically at least, we are not related to the Thompsons from Indiana.

I’ve mentioned in autosomal DNA posts that there is another speed bump in the Thompson genetic road. This one belongs to my aunt who, genetic testing at 23 and me showed, is also not a Thompson and not even an Elmore/Thompson like the rest of us.  Just like in the case of my grandfather, I could show that she was related to her mom, but not her dad. Unlike my grandfather, I haven’t had Y DNA to give me any clues.

Sorting out an NPE for my grandfather in 1925 was a years long, difficult process that was uncomfortable and unacceptable for a lot of people, starting with me. Sorting out my aunt from 1947 has been bitter and lonely work.  I often find that the stone walls around her information are built higher and stronger and that the participants in the conspiracy to hide her ancestry are more willing to conspire by being less willing to help.

In the spirit of “never quit quitting”, I’ve dropped any serious research on my aunt’s paternal family for months at a time while waiting for the disappointment and anger to wear off. I’ve quit over and over again. Of course the quitting is a double edged sword because my aunt is dying from kidney disease. Time wasted on lies, stonewalling and misdirection or on being sulky and frustrated by these things is that much more painful. The clock really has been ticking on fulfilling her really basic request for summary directory information that most people take for granted.

As per usual, we’re down the NPE rabbit hole of genetic genealogy and, as the Mad Hatter said, we need to begin at the beginning.


The 23 and me test is how we discovered that my aunt is my father’s half sister. By WE, I mean everyone but my aunt. She already knew and the test was, for her, a way to learn more about her biological family. It was not the first test she had run, but twists of fate and human emotion would keep the results of that first test in the shadows for most of us.

As I look back here, what you have to realize is that this is information we’ve put together over the last couple of years.  Some of it came in fits and snatches of conversation.

My aunt was born in June of 1947 so for genetics, 1946 is the important year. Fall of 1946. 1946 is of course, then, important for my grandmother, so important and scary that it must be hidden forever.

If you read my grandmother’s obituary, you would see this:

Daughter of Lloyd and Mae (Campbell) Seelye. She married Charles Paul Thompson on April 5, 1946 in Rushton, Ind.

It’s quick, concise and a fabrication. It’s part of the machinery put in place to protect the family. It should read April 5, 1947. A couple of months before my aunt was born. The real information on their wedding was easily found at ancestry.com (including the original document from Indiana), but the narrative is so pervasive that most family trees ignore the actual documentation even when using it as a source.

My grandparents are not the first people to have a “shotgun” wedding rushed because of out of wedlock pregnancy, but our story is more complex now that we know that Charles Thompson is not my aunt’s biological father.

I’m going to pause a moment because when I talk about conspiracy and machinery put in place for protection it really sounds like an indictment. Hind sight makes me want to avoid that. I prefer to think of my grandmother in much the same way as my great grandmother, Orvetta Finks. Not a saint by any means, but a regular woman living in a time in the U.S. when there were harder and fewer choices and less honest ways to deal with unwanted pregnancy. Humans did then exactly what they do now, but society could not live with the truth of human sexual needs and reproduction or rape or incest. Society was kind of a pussy then now that I think about it.

I believe my grandmother made the choices she could make and began constructing the machine that still tries to protect us from the really quite mundane truth all these years after she has died.


A Tale of Two Nurses

My grandmother was a nurse. This again from her obituary matches the story I heard growing up:

She graduated from the Hurley School of Nursing in Flint and had worked as a registered nurse at Hurley Hospital, Flint Osteopathic Hospital. 

My grandmother was at Hurley in 1944 as a cadet nurse in the Women’s Army Air Corps. Her graduation date is listed as March 1947 she marries my grandfather about a month later and two months from giving birth.

Hurley dealt with Polio, which is what paralyzed my grandfather. I have been told that my grandmother was my grandfather’s nurse when he was being treated for polio and that is how they met. Although Hurley looms large as a location for her given the timing and her training schedule, I don’t have a lot of records for her in 1946.

My aunt followed through with her own military service and nursing school. It’s the nursing school that leads to the next oddity and the reason my aunt already knew something was up. Blood typing.

What my aunt has said is that she typed my grandfather’s blood and her own blood for school and found that he could not be her father. She talked to my grandmother about it and my grandmother told her that she had “done it wrong”.

There in the shared experience of nursing is the seed of doubt set between mother and daughter.


Some Old Guy

Keep in mind, this is my perspective. These are things I’ve been told.

At one family event or another, my aunt is pulled aside by a family member who tells her that her father…is not really her father. When this family member is pressed on the identity of the father she says “some old guy”. Not exactly helpful. Since my grandmother worked for various county health organizations and hospitals, the idea is that it’s some old guy she was taking care of.

I don’t know if that is the case because clearly she was still in nursing school in 1946.

What is important to me here is that the relative is not in this game to be helpful. There is no real information passed along that is of use. This exchange is likely meant to cause pain for the sake of entertainment.

Again, that is the perspective I have or have been handed by others. I wasn’t there. The lack of real usable information just seems more hurtful. The doubt planted with blood typing takes root.


The Undying Machine

I was there when my grandmother died. We sat there for several days through the slow process. My aunt was in attendance. No deathbed confessions took place. My grandmother passed away peacefully without addressing anything.

My grandfather was questioned after my grandmother’s death and maintained the story of my aunt’s birth for the rest of his days. The machinery that was in place since the forties continued to click along. The people who could have dismantled it, chose not to.

The…now, shrubbery, of doubt, did not go away at their deaths.

So a paternity test was done after my grandfather died. We would end this doubt once and for all. My aunt is sent the results in the mail. She reported that it he could not be her father (98% certain or something like that) and then she destroyed the results.

For my aunt, the answer was concrete. For the rest of us, it was something we did not really want to believe. With my grandparents in the ground, there is really nothing anyone could do. Those kinds of paternity tests are either positive or negative. They didn’t give her any more information than she already had.

Pausing again because you would think that paternity test result would be the end of the machine, but these kinds of golems are social structures. They live and are fed by friends, family and maybe even complete strangers who continue to bolster them, unwittingly, with misinformation or a blind eye. We want the lie to be true so bad that we will do almost anything to see it continue. The shadow monster they made continues it’s work, finally harming the very people it was created to protect.The initial will of the person who created the new reality continues on with a life of its own, even after their death.

This created a cold war zone of distrust in our family. We had some stories, some clues and a malevolent (but socially acceptable) revenant whose sole purpose was to see us fail at learning more about my aunt’s paternity. It had, at it’s finger tips, any number of recruits from within the family who were much happier with the sanitized version of life it presented, even though it meant harming their own living flesh and blood.

After several years stewing in that environment with the biological clock of kidney disease ticking, my dad suggested that my aunt should do some of the DNA testing he and I were doing.


2013 and Beyond

Two years into not being able to figure out the issues with my paternal line autosomal tests, we ordered a test for for my aunt. This presented a few opportunities. Half siblings are great for comparisons. They are close relatives, but represent the genetic material from only one parent. So my aunt’s results in comparison to my dad would help her with her paternal family and help me with mine.

At the same time we ordered a test for their maternal uncle. His comparison to both my dad and my aunt would shed more light on their mother and reveal DNA segments the two of them inherited from her, but don’t share with each other.

By mapping their mother’s segments, I can find the shadow regions of their father’s contributions. You can see that best illustrated in the autosomal DNA mile marker post.

With the fuse lit on that kidney disease, we quickly lost an entire year to my poor communication skills and the thwart festival that is 23 and me privacy and sharing.  By the end of it, I had nearly lost access to the results from their maternal uncle who no longer trusted my motives and disagreed with the idea that my aunt needed to know who her biological father was. He was on team “undying machine” and refused to release his results for further research (which is his right). The rest of my comparisons to him were crippled by that. This prompted me to move my base of operations away from 23 and me and over to family tree dna.

Not that the 23 and me matches were bad. I WAS jealous of my aunt’s 23 and me matching results. She had one very close and very big match, within the range of a second cousin or first cousin one time removed, probably someone you would see at a family reunion. Winters. He did not match her brother so I knew he must represent her father.

Again though, I was thwarted by 23 and me’s sharing system. I could not run any real comparisons on this kit without first sharing DNA which just sounds scary as hell and requires participation from someone who may be dead for all I know. He was the absolute best lead we had (her genetic relatives at FTDNA were much smaller) but there was little I could do with the match.

I spent the next year and more working with her many French Canadian matches and triangulating segments to several generations of the Robert/Robar family from Quebec. The international upgrade to Ancestry.com was required for that research.

Although I felt I met my own confidence level through triangulation, I was still effectively stuck in the 1700s.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to map an entire family backwards from the 1700s. It’s a nightmare. Because I didn’t have Y DNA as any sort of guide, I had to find every person related to that Robert/Robar family that was alive in 1946. 200 years of generations of humans from colonial Canada. I don’t speak French, so I struggled with hand written French baptism records the best I could.

Somewhere in this mix I ordered an AncestryDNA test for my aunt with the hope that AncestryDNA testers would be more likely to have a family tree even though the matching system was opaque. I eventually followed suit with my own test there which helped to sort hers out a little.


AncestryDNA and Genetic Go Fish

The promise of AncestryDNA is really opportunity. More people are more likely to test with AncestryDNA because they are interested in genealogy (as opposed to health or ethnicity) and they are more likely to already have a family tree. Ancestry has kept their actual DNA results hidden and the tools for comparison are very limited (and sometimes misleading).

You can see me finding the immediate benefits of an AncestryDNA test for my wife and myself in the warm mug of cocoa post. You can see me immediately hitting the wall of their tools and the frustration of a close, but hidden match in the awful feeling of awfulness.

In a system without any real tools for DNA comparison, hidden family trees burn like a thousand hot needles. Follow that pain with the totally missing family trees and you’ve defeated the purpose of an AncestryDNA test. It’s surprisingly common, and, true to form I ran into it a lot with my aunt’s test there.

Interestingly, I could usually find my way around a hidden tree if a person was communicative at all and gave me the “go fish” list of surnames or if there were enough clues in their username and among shared matches. So hiding trees 98% of the time only really succeeded in eating up more of my time. In the end I would get the information anyway and often have very detailed conversations with genetic matches about the people in their STILL hidden trees.

The major problem is that, having won the victory of getting basic directory information from a genetic match (even a close one), I often struggled to make any connection to other genetic matches.

Some of that is not really knowing what I’m looking for and that people from Quebec are highly interrelated, but some of it is also that everyone has two family trees.  I’m getting their paper tree, but I really need their genetic tree and the two may not line up for them either.

You can end up in a weird situation where you are researching your NPE comparing to people who may or may not know that they have an NPE and you don’t really have all the genetic information to help you make good assessments.

That, pretty much brings us up to this past year and should fill in the back story on what was a pretty disappointing autosomal experience with the added pressure of impending death for my aunt.

I’m going to split this long book into two here with a part two to follow.

Next: Everybody has Two Family Trees…a New Hope



And Then There Were Two

If you take a look at my previous posts on DF95 and the Cumberland Cluster, you’ll see that Big Y showed us to be a lone line of men straight from Z18, among other lone lines of men also coming directly form Z18. All our branches (save one) died out around the tail end of the Nordic Bronze age. That makes us a relatively small group and both young (all related to someone who lived around 500BCE give or take a few hundred years) and very old ( the next ancestor in line after 500 BCE is about 2100 BCE with 14 SNPs worth of generations in between).

On the one hand, that removes a lot of the arguments that revolve around the bronze age movements of different Y groups. On the other hand, you’re stuck on an island.

A lot of the ideas in my previous posts are based on discussions I’ve had in the Z18 facebook group along with things I’ve learned from the age estimates and SNP spreadsheets from the U106 group Forum. All the groups and analysis verify that the Cumberlands are basically alone on their island branching directly off Z370/Z18.

Then maybe a month or so ago, Alex Williamson posted a link to his work in progress U106 Big Tree in the U106 Forum. This is his independent work. Normally he focuses on R1b-P312 (the bigger sibling of U106) and that is basically the content of the Big Tree, but he must have heard the cries of the many U106 people asking for their own version of the Big Tree and began to plug away at one.

It’s based on Big Y or FGC tests that Alex has access to, so panel results and individual SNP tests will be missing, but it’s a great start.

When I clicked the link to go look at it I was shocked by two things. One…there we were, the Cumberlands front and center!

Big U106 tree

And two, The Cumberlands were not alone anymore. Apparently, Alex looks for specific SNPs that occur in the palindromic regions. of the Y. Each ZZ prefix represents two possible SNP locations. If you look at the top you’ll see two ZZ SNPs 61 and 62. They are two sides of a coin (if I have things straight), the third SNP was more trouble and is only listed by reference number.

What you will notice is that these ZZ SNPs fall below the R-Z18/Z370 parent of all Z18 men which was our original connection point. You’ll see DF95 there below this new SNP set. You may also notice then that another group shares those SNPs. That group is the East Anglia group marked by ZP24.

Cumberland has a new parent and a brother?!!

Brothers Gotta Hug

It was unbelievable. I contacted Alex to ask about it. He said that they are real SNPs, but they cannot be tested in the traditional way (Sanger Sequencing), so they may not be offered by FTDNA for testing. They do show up in Big Y or FGC Y tests though.

The group just to the right of that (the next straight line going down not connected to ZZ61 etc.) contains men from the Poland cluster and from the Swede cluster. I’m guessing these are just unfinished at the moment.

Until new discoveries come along, DF95 Cumberland shares a common ancestor with ZP24 East Anglia…likely a few hundred years after the formation of Z18 around 2300 BCE. So, In that 2000 BCE range is one man our two groups are related to. Then we split and have a really crappy time through the Bronze age (as evidenced by those long runs of SNPs) and come out as two survivors in the pre-roman iron age.



DF95 Do Over

DF95 Do Over

I’m splitting these posts up in the hopes of keeping them short.

Between 600BC and 0AD (I never know whether to put AD or BC(E) on that one) we can say that some series of events whittled the Cumberland Cluster down to a single man. In that same time, some similar series of events seems to have taken the East Anglia cluster and the Swede cluster down to one man as well. Using the small amount of evidence we have for Cumberland and East Anglia, my last post ended with the idea that instead of looking at a group pushed into Scandinavia as I have in the past, I should look at groups that pushed out. Instead of focusing on the vikings as the sole distributors of our Y DNA, I have to go farther back in time to the end of the Nordic Bronze Age. This seems like the most likely time that our slates were wiped clean and we had to begin again.

Until someone comes in and breaks up these runs of 11 to 16 SNPs in our groups, we can’t really say much about the whereabouts or activities of the men who might have shared those SNPs with us. We are the descendants of a “do over”, so we start there.

The problem I always come to is, how do you get rid of 2000 years worth of people who might be spread over multiple cultures and locations? No one was Y DNA testing to get rid of Cumberlands…or East Anglians…so how does that come about?

The Nordic Bronze Age Setting the Stage

About 1700BC to 500BC. Here is the brief description from wikipedia, note the baltic references and cultural sphere: The Nordic Bronze Age (also Northern Bronze Age) is a period of Scandinavian prehistory from c. 1700–500 BC. The Bronze Age culture of this era succeeded the Late Neolithic Stone Age culture and was followed by the Pre-Roman Iron Age. The archaeological legacy of the Nordic Bronze Age culture is rich, but the ethnic and linguistic affinities of it are unknown, in the absence of written sources. Some scholars also include sites in what is now northern Germany, Pomerania and Estonia in the Baltic region, as part of its cultural sphere.

Scandinavia, but not exactly the Scandinavia we’re used to, it’s more of a regional culture.

Climate Change

The part of the wikipedia article on the Nordic Bronze Age that really grabs me is the bit about the climate: The Nordic Bronze Age was characterized first by a warm climate that began with a climate change around 2700 BC (comparable to that of present-day central Germany and northern France). The warm climate permitted a relatively dense population and good farming; for example, grapes were grown in Scandinavia at this time. A wetter, colder climate prevailed after a minor change in climate between 850 BC and 760 BC, and a more radical one around 650 BC.

Why I think this is so interesting is because of the scope. Right there in one climate report, we have the timing for the expansion of U106, Rise98 in Sweden, RZ18 with it’s many scandinavians and they go along with this warming climate and good farming farther north. Then at the end you have a wetter colder climate setting in until there is a radical shift around 650BC.

A changing climate is one way to get rid of a lot of people. Flooding, crop loss and famine are all familiar ways that entire large groups of people can die.

Large Scale Battles in the Bronze Age

I remember Troy as a mythical event..or maybe it was just semi mythical. Anyway, in my lifetime, it’s become accepted that Troy existed and that the story of the battle of Troy has a core of a historical event (although not exactly as it went down in the Iliad). One reason we have heard about the battle of Troy is the literacy of the people in the area. Norther Europe is a dead zone for literacy in the 1200s BC. This year though archaeology made up for our lack of the written word and a large Northern European battle is being brought to light in Tollense.

There are a lot of things that grabbed my attention in the article on the battle in Tollense from Science Magazine. The location for one. Here is a map with Tollense picked out just south of Sweden and Southeast of Denmark. So here is a picture of the people in this area in the 1200BC timeframe.

tollense river valley

The description of the size of the battle is in keeping with the total defeat of a large group of people. From the article in Science Magazine:

Northern Europe in the Bronze Age was long dismissed as a backwater, overshadowed by more sophisticated civilizations in the Near East and Greece. Bronze itself, created in the Near East around 3200 B.C.E., took 1000 years to arrive here. But Tollense’s scale suggests more organization—and more violence—than once thought.

Again taking a description of the region in the article, I’m reminded of Viking Age Iceland. It was not unorganized, but the base unit was a family farm, not a town. In Iceland disputes would be settled and decisions made at a Thing (a scheduled gathering for an area) where there would be a lawspeaker and various regional officials comprised mainly of wealthy farmers. I have to wonder if the society around Tollense was organized the same way:

At the time of the battle, northern Europe seems to have been devoid of towns or even small villages. As far as archaeologists can tell, people here were loosely connected culturally to Scandinavia and lived with their extended families on individual farmsteads, with a population density of fewer than five people per square kilometer. The closest known large settlement around this time is more than 350 kilometers to the southeast, in Watenstedt.

Although Viking Age Iceland was very definitely built surrounding the idea of warrior-farmers, the Tollense crew is different:

And yet chemical tracers in the remains suggest that most of the Tollense warriors came from hundreds of kilometers away.

Genetic analysis is just beginning, but so far it supports the notion of far-flung origins. DNA from teeth suggests some warriors are related to modern southern Europeans and others to people living in modern-day Poland and Scandinavia. “This is not a bunch of local idiots,” says University of Mainz geneticist Joachim Burger. “It’s a highly diverse population.” 

That suggests an unexpectedly widespread social organization, Jantzen says. “To organize a battle like this over tremendous distances and gather all these people in one place was a tremendous accomplishment,” he says.

It’s not necessarily that there weren’t locals but there was a big enough organization to pull participants from places farther afield. Near the end of the article they ask why would there be a big battle in Tollense (whose only real feature seems to be a bridge over the river that may have been contested). This part is important I think because it lays the groundwork for regional instability just before the period I’m interested in:

But why did so much military force converge on a narrow river valley in northern Germany? Kristiansen says this period seems to have been an era of significant upheaval from the Mediterranean to the Baltic. In Greece, the sophisticated Mycenaean civilization collapsed around the time of the Tollense battle; in Egypt, pharaohs boasted of besting the “Sea People,” marauders from far-off lands who toppled the neighboring Hittites. And not long after Tollense, the scattered farmsteads of northern Europe gave way to concentrated, heavily fortified settlements, once seen only to the south. “Around 1200 B.C.E. there’s a radical change in the direction societies and cultures are heading,” Vandkilde says. “Tollense fits into a period when we have increased warfare everywhere.” 

Constant conflict will also take it’s toll on the gene pool.

We Never Really had a Chance

R1b is a dominant haplogroup in Europe, but our branch of it, U106, is not. U106 is about 30% of the population of R1b. Even in the areas where you most likely find U106 it rarely reaches a level of 50% the male population. It’s not a majority. So from the outset, even in our “home” populations, U106 men are at a statistical disadvantage. Being a member of Z18 doesn’t help things. The majority of men in U106 fall under the monster group of Z381. I suspect that Z18 is about 15% of the population of U106. I’m horrible with math but I think tha puts Z18 men at about 4.5% of R1b. Cumberlands make up about 10% of Z18, but the comparison seems unfair because we know that we’re not full strength. Others sharing our SNPs may have brought us up to a higher percentage.

The point is, even at our best, with groups that don’t seem to have been depopulated to the extent that the Cumberlands were, we’re still a small percentage of the total of R1b. Considering that Haplogroup I and R1a are more prominent in Scandinavia, our market share of available Y DNA goes down significantly. Rise98 shows a U106 presence in Scandinavia, but in the context of other Y haplogroups in the region, it is likely a very small presence.

Being a small population can lead to being an endangered population pretty quickly.

Good Thing, Where Have You Gone?

It is easy to think of all U106 men as a “people” or all Z18 men as a culture, but the truth is that they probably spanned multiple peoples and cultures in the bronze age, just as they do today.

Given the factors explained in the Wikipedia article on the Nordic Bronze Age, I could see the descendants of Mr. U106 and Z18 making their way north and west into Scandinavia during that long period of warmer weather and good farming. Among them there may have been some few proto-Cumberlands. Maybe the real Mr. DF95 (or any of his 14 other counterparts in our particular line). I’m sure life was not easy and there would be the usual amount of die off in lines, but I can imagine the existence of other types of DF95 men. Maybe the warmer parts of the bronze age helped to account for the diversity of haplogroups we see in R1b, U106 and Z18 at the top levels.

I can imagine the DF95 group dispersing to become part of several populations over hundreds of years, just as they have done since 600BC.

As things progress through the Bronze Age though, I can also imagine those men, already fewer in number than others, facing large scale wars, radical climate change and cultural collapse. All of these things could conspire to destroy smaller populations and leave some wandering genetic remnants to stand alone. Larger Y groups may have been more resilient through their largeness.

Here are parts of the wikipedia article on Archaeology in Northern Europe that really informed this idea that we might be a part of a late bronze age decline and early iron age expansion:

Out of the Late Bronze Age Urnfield culture of the 12th century BCE developed the Early Iron Age Hallstatt culture of Central Europe from the eighth to sixth centuries BCE, which was followed by the La Tène culture of Central Europe (450 BCE to 1st century BCE). Albeit the metal iron came into wider use by metalsmiths in the Mediterranean as far back as c. 1300 BCE due to the Late Bronze Age collapse, the Pre-Roman Iron Age of Northern Europe started only as early as the 5th/4th to the 1st century BCE. 

The coincidence to the age estimates for Mr. ZP86 (the guy that lived) are very interesting as the Cumberland men…well man at that point faces climbing out of a genetic hole right at the point of the pre-roman iron age. Although not as close a fit, it does also contain the contraction and expansion of the men in East Anglia and the Swede Cluster (may have to squint a bit on the swede cluster though).

The Iron Age in northern Europe is markedly distinct from the Celtic La Tène culture south of it. The old long range trading networks south-north between the Mediterranean cultures and Northern Europe, had broken down at the end of the Nordic Bronze Age and caused a rapid and deep cultural change in Scandinavia.

The cultural change that ended the Nordic Bronze Age was affected by the expansion of Hallstatt culture from the south and accompanied by a changing climate, which caused a dramatic change in the flora and fauna. In Scandinavia, this period is often called the Findless Age due to the lack of archaeological finds. While the archaeological record from Scandinavia are consistent with an initial decline in population, the southern parts of the culture, the Jastorf culture, was in expansion southwards. It consequently appears that the climate change played an important role in this southward expansion into continental Europe.

Cultural change, climate change, population decline and southward expansion. Not everyone is going to pack up and leave but I imagine some population probably did. It could have been violent or it may have been a peaceful exchange, maybe gene flow through culture swapping, or maybe just the natural movement of farmers escaping south to better land. Either way, I think some of the descendants of Mr. ZP86 hung out in Scandinavia and others left and moved south in later ages, likely through Jutland, but also west by sea.

Here again from wikipedia:

The bearers of this northern Iron Age culture were likely speakers of Germanic languages. The stage of development of this Germanic is not known, although Proto-Germanic has been proposed. The late phase of this period sees the beginnings of the Migration Period, starting with the invasions of the Teutons and the Cimbri until their defeat at the Battle of Aquae Sextiae in 102 BCE, presaging the more turbulent Roman Iron Age and Migration Period.

The Teutons and the Cimbri were tribes in Northern Jutland that ran south and caused a lot of trouble for Germanic and Celtic peoples along with the Romans who eventually defeated them around 100BC in South Eastern France. The story goes that those two groups were virtually wiped out by the Romans with thousands taken as slaves, including women and children. So it’s not a small war band, but entire moving tribes. I’m not saying that our Y DNA group had anything to do with the Cimbri or the Teutones, but it does give an example of a wandering group of various tribes from Jutland heading south in a hurry.

Here is a google map of the direct route. Of course, they did not take the direct route they battled all along the way both east and west.

denmark to aix

Having Jutlanders in the south of France fighting the Romans at their back door makes it easier to imagine the comparatively minor migrations and expansion of the Cumberland or East Anglia men out of Scandinavia after the disastrous (for us anyway) events of the late Bronze Age.


The Beginning

Here I’ll leave it for now, with Cumberland man (and likely East Anglia man and probably Swede man) having been pushed to the breaking point at the end of the Bronze age. It was the end for a thousand plus years of generations of men having been brought down to the offspring of a single man in each group. With their survival, it also marks the beginning of a new expansion for us, through the Iron age and the Migration period on up through the rise and fall of Rome and the middle ages. Sons have sons and men move on. Now, again, we are part of many cultures and peoples.

This is currently my best explanation for why we are very ancient haplogroups with very recent common ancestors.


And Then There Were Two



DF95 Not Alone in Being Alone


DF95 Not Alone in Being Alone

Previously in DF95 All Together Alone, I gave some examples of how the Cumberland Cluster is striking for it’s differences. Thinking about the question of how we can all be so alike (in our STR results), but so different from others we examined the SNPs turned up by big Y.  I talked about Y lines dying out, while others might thrive and how that might create gaps on the scale of a family. I gave some examples of the Y DNA trees of other haplogroups to illustrate all the missing branches from ours. I wondered out loud what happened to all the men who should be there given all the time that transpired between our first “cumberland” ancestor born around 2100BC and our most recent common ancestor (Mr. ZP86) born around 600BC.

We’re on our own and odd, but our circumstances are not exactly unique.

Alone in a Crowd

On the Z18 big Y results page (a listing for people who do not fall under the majority Z372 and it’s monster child L257), you’ll find several groups who show a similar pattern of runs of SNPs indicating that all the testers are more recently related to each other without any side branches coming from the ancient ancestors. I’ve highlighted them with darker red boxes.

Big Y Z18 SNP runs


Keep in mind that these groups were often named for the location given by the first few testers, so for instance Cumberland had two or three testers who traced back to Cumberland in England. The names become arbitrary as more testers are added from various locations. Also you’ll see some boxes that are blank, but a light grey. These were areas where there was not coverage in the test (Big Y is not “exact” in it’s coverage). The arrows are pointing to the level of the resident old guys in the cluster.

The East Anglia cluster on the left has about eleven SNPs in a run for all their testers.  To estimate the gap we can think of them being a few hundred years from Mr. Z18, so again maybe 2100BC with a last common ancestor in 250BC. About 1800 years of gap time. Similarly the Swede cluster has 16 SNPs in a row and a gap of about 2000 years. Although with only three testers from that group it’s hard to take that as a hard and fast number, the run could be smaller or it could be that these testers were just lucky in matching someone and others from the group would prove more branches.

Taken for what it is worth today, we have at least three groups coming from the root of Z18 with long straight non-branching Y trees showing a pinch point (back down to a single man) for each group.


Timeline of Tragedy

Well. Who can say if it’s really that dramatic or not, but It would seem like, in the last few hundred years before 0AD, things turned poorly for all these clusters (except L257, they seem to have a lot of nice layers up top which I assume would be in this same time period).

Given the Penchant for all the Z18 groups to include members from Scandinavia and the penchant for Scandinavians (in the Cumberland group anyway) to be on the early branches of big Y (after Mr. ZP86 of course), I’m still betting on that area as a starting point. I feel especially bolstered by the oldest ancient DNA found for U106 being Rise98 found in Sweden. He’s on an extinct branch of U106, but at around 2200BC he shows that U106 had already made it’s way to Scandinavia fairly early on (U106 age estimate is about 3000BC).

Of course, we don’t have to worry too much about those most ancient dates and 4000 to 5000 years of history. All of the diaspora of Cumberland Cluster men (and by the look of their SNPs East Anglia and Swede Cluster men) happened after some series of events and everyone has to get to their current positions in about half the time (2500 to 2000 years maybe). We don’t have to account for any members with connections older than 500 or 600BC. In that time, we recolonize all the same areas that the rest of RZ18 lives in and most of the same areas that U106 men inhabit.

This evidence of a pinch point and late expansion agrees with what we’ve been noticing for years. There are very few of us and we’re really spread out. Like a remnant population scrambling to find new homes.

We have roughly 600AD to 0AD to worry about (assuming we’re going to include the Swede cluster in here). That marks the bottleneck and the beginning of the expansion for these three groups with the Swede group seeming to be the most extreme (coming in closest to 0 hour and having the most SNPs in it’s run). Each group would have been brought to it’s knees about this time, but it also marks the hopeful point where they begin to branch out again.

Cumberlands…the not so early days

In 458.2 Cluster Bomb and Thoughts about Migration I spent some time thinking about the push of Rome north and what it might  mean for Z18 and the DF95 men in particular. In that time, my overarching idea was that we may have been pushed north by the Romans or the inter-tribal pressure created by the Romans, and then migrated from places like Denmark to The Isles, Poland, Sweden and Norway.

The big Y results and Rise98 have me wondering if I had the movement backwards. In the Cumberland cluster, those branches right off Mr. ZP86 and his descendant ZP85 contain men from Norway. Making it seem like Norway may be our home in the range of 600 to 400BC.

At the level of ZP86 (age estimate around 600BC), we have Skjennum (Koller) from Norway forming his own branch with multiple unmatched SNPs (arrow in the graphic above). At that same level, we have the Corsons (Sweden…or maybe Netherlands) who have their own branch. They have one SNP that was identified by Britains DNA or Scotlands DNA; S3525. That means at least one person at those test companies is on their line, but otherwise they are currently on their own (column to the right of the arrow in graphic above).

Down a rung at ZP85 (age estimate around 400BC) we have Lund from Norway on a  branch identified by ZP193, it has two men on it, the other shows a last name of Rathburn which may be Irish or English. The ZP193 branch is the sibling of the ZP121 branch that many of us below ZP85 sit on. There are other  isles origin ZP85 branches with a trails blazed by Ovens and separately Old and we’re waiting for another person to walk down those and define some group of shared SNPs for each man.

The presence of men from Norway at the top, near the pinch point is compelling to me even in a group like DF95 that is still dominated by the Isles and Continental Europe. Our diversity happens after the bottleneck.

East Anglia and the Swede Cluster

Among these three groups with long runs of shared SNPs right off the top, the Cumberlands have won a couple of victories in that you can see an “older” branch at ZP86. In the East Anglia group you have, at this point, a similar pattern. Their man from Sweden, Sahlstrom, is on his own branch at the base (East Anglia arrow in the graphic above) along with some isles testers like Davidson and Parker (to his left and right). The East Anglia cluster is dominated by the Isles but contains a man from Poland as well (Barkman). I have to wonder if he would end up on an older branch as would be expected in the normal east to west migrations or if (like the Cumberland Poland members) he would end up on a younger branch that went west to east. His panel test placed him at the same level as all the other East Anglia testers.

The Swede cluster, although it contains a man from Denmark (currently not tested for big Y) in it’s STR listings, has Swett from England as it’s resident old man, with Marksberry and Howell going a step farther together. All of these men are isles testers, so it would be interesting to get the Swede cluster person from Denmark tested. It’s hard to make a lot of determinations based on three testers who are so similar on the Y and geographically. I have to wonder how much of their 16 SNP run is part of a pinch point and how much of it is shared history in the isles.


A possible Scandinavian Location for the Bottleneck

Although these groups are biased towards the isles (with Cumberland picking up the most continental testers), the evidence we have from the two largest data sets (Cumberland and East Anglia) shows some affinity for early Scandinavian branches at the time of their bottlenecks. Given that other base branches of Z18 like Z372 also have a high incidence of Scandinavians and …again…rise98 showing an early U106 Scandinavian, I think I’m making the safe bet now in looking at 600BC to 0BC in Scandinavia for most recent common ancestors for these remnant groups. Like I said, we don’t have to account for all the diversity and migration of any group since 2100BC because, it would appear those other expected branches between 2100BC and 600BC or so are all dead. We really can think about the location of one man in 600BC for cumberland or 250BC for east anglia etc.

The general idea I come away with is that something big happened or several big things happened and they probably took place before the Romans made their presence known. The Cumberlands are a surviving branch along with what appear to be other sole surviving branches in Z18. We have to go back a bit and think about people who may have been in Scandinavia, but were not the kind of Scandinavians we think about today (vikings).

Based on age estimates, I’m specifically thinking about the period of time end of the Nordic Bronze Age and the beginning of the Pre-Roman Iron Age and, through big Y results, Scandinavia as a source or refuge.



DF95 Do Over



DF95 – All Together Alone









DF95 – All Together Alone

One of the really striking things about Y DF95 or the Cumberland Cluster, is that we generally tend to have fewer Y matches than others in R1b and R1b-U106 and I imagine even other men in R1b-Z18. In my experience, using Y STRs, we have less false positive matches at lower levels than other haplogroups in R1b. This is because we all have some weird values at places like DYS385a and b (11-11 vs. the standard 11-14 for R1b). We have a really clear shared pattern of Y STRs that is different from the majority of testers, which you would assume makes us fairly closely related. Yet we’re a really old group, apparently branching right off of R1b-Z18. Old and young at the same time.

In Hidden Branches of the Cumberland Cluster I mentioned the cluster of about 14 SNPs right at the top of all of our big Y results. Making our signature SNP, DF95, really 1/14th of the story. In that big long list of shared SNPs are clues to the story of why we are so old, but so similar and it’s a story about pinch points.

As results have come in, I’ve been waiting to see one big Y test or another break up that gang of 14, the way tests have broken up the gangs below it. It just hasn’t happened yet. I’ve also been waiting around for a connection to some other group under Z18, thinking we would tie back into one of them, but all the group analysis shows us branching directly from Z18.

Through the Eye of the Needle

SNPs rack up over time on lines of descent. Instead of a family tree, imagine a descendant tree with the trunk on top and branches going down.

let’s say I make an SNP to add to those that I inherited. My son may be a duplicate of me on the Y, his son may be a duplicate, his son may be a duplicate, but maybe four sons down the line, something changes and a new SNP is born on our line. That 2nd great grandson will have a Y SNP that he will pass on to future generations that is slightly different from mine. My other 2nd great grandsons won’t have that particular SNP, but they may have some others of their own. These form Y branches from my original Y DNA. All of them carry my original set of Y SNPs (that I inherited from my male ancestors) and converge on me as the most recent common ancestor.

The thing is, even though they all converge on me, I’m not the only one who carries these ancestral SNPs, there are many living men that do, even though they may be farther back on the tree. My first cousin probably has an identical set of SNPs, my third cousin, may have a few of his own along with carrying the SNPs we inherited from our shared 2nd great grandfather.

if all the male lines of my descendants save one died out, they could still compare their Y to my 2nd cousin’s descendants and come up with the shared SNPs from my 2nd great grandfather. They would completely bypass me and their last common ancestor and end up at my second great grandfather. My unique SNP would show up in a jumble with theirs on this single living line of descendants.

My second cousin could have twelve sons and their Y line would dominate the picture of our family. My Y line, shrunk to just one man, may die out. My second great grandfather’s Y DNA would continue through my third cousin’s descendants, but my Y SNPs would be on a dead end.

This sort of thing probably happens all the time, with some branches dead ending and others expanding. Below is an example, the different colors represent the formation of new Y SNPs. Any one line may die out but there are others there who carry on. Each little man here is a generation and SNPs might pop up every 140 years or so (judging by big Y).


descendants tree with some lines dead ending

When looking at that list of 14 SNPs shared by every DF95 man, but not shared by anyone else, you get a different sort of picture. 14 SNPs in a row times about 140 years is roughly 2000 years. So every DF95 man alive today has 2000 years of SNPs leading up to our last common ancestor and we don’t share them with anyone else. That means at a certain point 2000 years worth of descendants disappeared, leaving only one man.

cumberland men missing

I don’t have the space to make a 2000 year descendant chart so You’ll have to visualize with the chart above. In the chart above you have the Y line coming from one of those original 14 SNPs. On the right hand side is the DF95 Cumberland line. No one knows what order those 14 SNPs go in, they are a jumble. So I just picked. As you trace the cascade of men down you can see that there would be a lot of inter-related lines and groups that would share some of those 14 SNPs along the way.

We don’t have that. We’re related to that one man at the end. ZP86. All Cumberlands have it along with the rest of the 14. Beyond ZP86 we begin to diverge again forming the branches in the Cumberland Cluster.

That is why we all look so similar and so different from other Z18 men. There should be a lot more of us, maybe some with a few of the differences we have, but not others. In the context of the family tree that should exist, we DF95 Cumberlands would not be so striking. Right now, that man, Mr. ZP86 is our lifeline. He passed through the eye of the needle. Everyone else for 2000 years, is gone.


Broken Branches

Another way to visualize this is by thinking about the branches that should exist. I’m going to put up a few examples so you get the idea of what a Y family tree might look like (again it’s upside down because it’s a descendant tree).

Here is a top level tree for all of R1b made by Mike Walsh from the R1b and all Subclades project. See the tiny DF95 in purple on the right. On the left are some age estimates for major branches. We’re under P311 and U106.


R1b Chart


the tree above is big and messy. Each of those SNPs in boxes may have many many SNPs below them as children, this is just the upper level. You can see that U106 is smaller than it’s sibling P312. Z18 is smaller than it’s sibling Z381 (which is the major group under U106). Still Mr. R1b has a lot of living descendants.

Here is a visual tree made by Iain McDonald of the U106 group. Notice the layering of SNPs on the right where descendants were plentiful and new SNPs seem to crop up fairly routinely in various generations. Note Z18 on the left, with Z17 having child SNPs in Z372 and L257 and the long straight line farther left that leads to DF95 (among others). Click on it for a bigger version…although still pretty tiny to my eyes.


u106 visual tree

From age estimates also provided by Iain McDonald, this graphic above represents R1b-U106 from about 2900BC to today. Very roughly, about 5000 years of history. Lots of children, with some branches thriving and others surviving.

Here is an example closer to home. L257 which is a cousin of DF95 in the Z18 project. I’ve taken a snapshot of the draft big Y tree for L257 created by Peter OpdenVelde of the Z18 project. this is not all of it..I just couldn’t fit it all on the screen. Again, looking at age estimates, this would represent a common ancestor in about 1800BC. Roughly 4000 years of L257 branching.


With those trees as a reference, here is my example of a Cumberland tree..or a DF95 tree, with missing branches filled in.


Our first SNP in those top 14 would pop in about 140 years or so after Z18 man. So one of his descendants that might show up at his family reunion probably started it off. So maybe around 2100BC. I’ve used S8387 here, but any one could stand in since we don’t know the order of them. I’ve drawn in various branches that might exist but are missing for many of those 14 SNPs. These are the broken branches in our tree. We should see many branches, but our tree is more like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. All of those branches should be there, but they aren’t. We’re left with our single branch related to a man born around 600BC (based on age estimates). So here age estimates would put the gap around 1500 years, not too far from the 2000 year estimate based on the average 140 year per SNP rate.

Where did they all go? What happened to them? Did we face some sort of extinction event that ended around 600BC? What can we know about Mr. ZP86 (A.K.A. the guy who lived)?



DF95 Not Alone in Being Alone



Hidden Branches of the Cumberland Cluster


Autosomal DNA Updates and My Wife Sets Me Straight

AncestryDNA seems to be the hotspot for matches for me right now, but I’m still digging up things at 23 and me as well.

Another Elmore Match at AncestryDNA

I had another fairly large match come in at AncestryDNA. A person related to Halsey Orton Elmore through his daughter Blanche Pearl Elmore. A new second cousin two times removed in the Waughtel family. The match is predicted as a 4th cousin with 63cM and three segments. Shared matches include my original Elmore tester who is related to Halsey’s daughter Goldie Elmore, but do not include my first cousin or my big Elmore match that led to Maurice Elmore.

I have to say, the AncestryDNA shared matches feature is a mystery to me. I’ve seen through Gedmatch that shared matches exist and should show  up at Ancestry, but don’t. I’m not sure if Ancestry is disregarding some segments or what, but it seems kind of flaky. So I’m not really confident that I’m seeing all the information when I see (or maybe more importantly don’t see) a shared match. One more way the AncestryDNA tools are eroding my trust.

I made contact with my new match, but haven’t heard anything back. Of course, carting over to Gedmatch with them would be awesome as it might shed light on some of my dad’s other genetic matches. I do not have high hopes that that will happen.


Finally Some Finks matches (that I didn’t recruit myself)

I had a 4th cousin match pop up whose family tree contained a child and a single married couple. One parent private and the other named. Luckly they did the surname in the username thing, so I could see they are a Finks. I looked up all the Finks couples with male finks married to her named parent and started building a tree. Instead of a 4th cousin, this new match is a 2nd cousin 2x removed descended from a sibling (Earl Vivian Finks) of my Robert Finks.  Not having a family tree really defeats the purpose of the AncestryDNA site. Other sites allow you to look at shared segments, etc. Ancestry doesn’t do that…you just have the family tree and the “shared matches” which seems to be hit or miss sometimes. So if you don’t have a family tree to look at, you really don’t have much use for your ancestryDNA results. Thus I spend a lot of time trying to decipher a match’s family tree from whatever clues there might be.

I made contact with my new match, but haven’t heard anything back. Of course, carting over to Gedmatch with them would be awesome as it might shed light on some of my dad’s other genetic matches. I do not have high hopes that that will happen.

Another 4th cousin match has only private members in her family tree. The kit is managed by someone whose last name is Walsh like my grandfather’s cousin D Walsh. She shares matches in common with a person who has our Mitchell family and also our new Finks cousin above. The only time I’m aware of the Mitchell family meeting with the Finks family is with my second great grandfather Robert Finks and his wife Ida Mitchell (really Michel). I think this person might be related to Robert and Ida, but I’m unsure (again no real tree).

I made contact with my new match, but haven’t heard anything back. Of course, carting over to Gedmatch with them would be awesome as it might shed light on some of my dad’s other genetic matches. I do not have high hopes that that will happen.

Heartbreak Over a Totten Ancestry Hint

AncestryDNA gave me a hint about the Totten family, which is a family related to our Elmores way back. The match was a good size (at least 10cM). So I asked if they would upload to Gedmatch.com. Which they did! I checked first to make sure they were related to my dad, then I checked them against his maternal family. it turned out they were a maternal match, also sharing a segment with my dad’s uncle on the Seelye side.

I think this is my first official family tree “miss”. I’ve had other matches over at Gedmatch pass all the tests I can put in front of them as far as what side of the family they are on so this is a milestone of sorts and a good reason to be skeptical of the DNA hints.

A possible Vandergriff match

Back over at 23 and me, I found a Vandergriff match, nice big one. Two good segments. I have family trees for one segment and the troubling thing there is that I had identified several families with Caldwells in their tree for that segment. None that I can see have Vandergriffs. My new match does definitely share our Vandergriff family (through the Carr line) but also has some dead end Caldwells herself. So I’m not sure if that Vandergriff match is real or if there are unknown Caldwells in my tree.

I found an AncestryDNA match who shared David L. Smith (married to Elizabeth Vandergriff). They didn’t seem opposed to Gedmatch.com but had not done it yet. I would love to compare them to the 23 and me Vandergriff match and also see if they in any way correspond to the Bolton matches. Still trying to tie those Boltons down.

My Wife Sets Me Straight on Goals

As I’m working on my own matches, my dad’s matches, my aunt’s paternal mystery and trying to connect a friend to the Elmers in her family, I end up messaging a lot of people. The vast vast majority of people do not respond. The majority of respondents may give a polite nod, throw up their hands or erect a barrier. A minor amount will be willing to work on it (they might post their results to Gedmatch for instance, or provide a family tree to look at). There is a tiny fraction of that group that actively participates actively beyond that.

If you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ll know that I don’t think the data is the problem. The problem is normally people and dealing with their issues. The data is straight forward and easily had, but it has to be given by people who are complex bags of electrochemical signals with their own things going on. You put your message out without knowing who is on the other side or what their goals are, so you get that range of responses I mentioned before. Although what you really need is help, you end up doing a lot of hostage negotiations where the data you need to help yourself is being held hostage by someone.

My poor wife has to hear about this all the time. Especially with close relatives where I make contact and get no response and then, if I can, I build their family tree using whatever clues and then inform them of what I found… and still get no response. Rinse and repeat. It’s especially sad at ancestryDNA where having a family tree is kind of “the deal”. I’m not talking about ancient history here in many respects, the reason I can build these trees is because they are so close and maybe have one person who is not private that I can key off of.

So my wife hears this, daily about the bumps on logs and active stone-wallers and the mutes. I’m always asking her why. Why? Why do people go to the trouble of DNA testing and then just ignore the actual matches?

She finally said that my frustration is because my goals are different from other people’s goals.  I am desperately looking for information to fill in holes, gaps, find great grandparents or parents. I need the big data to come up with answers. Other testers, even in my immediate family are looking for validation. They want the test to tell them they are Irish or French or who knows Native American, but there is no real burden to prove anything or learn anything new. The test is the proof of the thing they already believe. Meanwhile, I am living in a world where our beliefs are false and I need evidence to find out what really happened.

I know that I should know that. It’s hard because you get wrapped up in finding the answer to something. In the case of my aunt, the clock is ticking because she’s dying from kidney disease. I am using these tools in a manhunt and the huge majority of people have probably signed up for entertainment value.

Some people use flotation devices to save lives and I use flotation devices to entertain my kids at the beach. Neither one is wrong, just different goals. Of course in genetic genealogy, I’m the one on the drowning side and other people are sitting on their floaties watching me sink to the bottom, so I’m going to be frustrated.

Information versus validation. A good thing to keep in mind.