Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Stephen Hopkins: Saxon DNA?

   As we approach Thanksgiving, it’s a great time to write about our Mayflower ancestors.  So far, I have found two on my wife's side, Stephen Hopkins and Stephen Hopkins.  Ok, that’s really just one, but I have two lines that trace back to him.   This isn’t unusual, estimates put the count of Stephen Hopkins’ descendants at about 2 million Americans.

   What can Stephen Hopkins’ DNA tell us about his origins and his ancestors?  First, I should say that no one has a sample of Stephen’s DNA.  What we know about Stephen comes from tests completed by his male-line descendants with corroborating genealogical paper trails.  The Hopkins families are members of y-DNA haplogroup R1b, the largest genetic population in Europe.  R1b is often associated with the Celtic and Gallic tribes.  Hopkins’ DNA may be able to shed additional light on his birthplace, extend his genealogy further by tapping into an older family line or tell us about his deep ancestral origins.

   One of the first things I like to do is compare the haplotype, (the numeric markers from a y-DNA test) against a public database like ySearch.org.  The goal is to find other parallel lines of Hopkins with ancestry that predates Stephen.  This would allow us to work forward in time, connecting to Stephen and his father John, breaking through the current brick wall.  Unfortunately, no such records exist.

   What we do get from ySearch is list of genetic cousins and their ancestral locations.  Plotting these locations generates a distribution from Kent to Cornwall across southern England.  The highest concentration of cousins is in the historic Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex.  The current research on Stephen Hopkins has him baptized in Hampshire, the heart of Wessex.

   What kind of R1b was Hopkins?  Was he a Celt, a Gaul, an Anglo-Saxon or something completely different?  One way to get close to the answer is to look at his genetic cousins again.  Since R1b is such a large group, it is important to focus on both the haplotype and SNP that defines his R1b subgroup.  The SNP that best defines Stephen is S493, which on the 2012 haplogroup tree is R1b1a2a1a1a2.  With the explosion of new SNPs identification and the rapidly expanding and changing subgroup nomenclature, researchers are advocating the use of the SNP rather than subgroup as a naming convention.  Let’s call Stephen Hopkins R-S493.

   When I take all these genetic cousins and run them through TribeMapper®, a pattern forms.  Ancestors start to pile up on either side of the English Channel and an approximate date of migration emerges.  Here’s where we pull out our history books.  If the date were about 2,500 years ago, I would say this was a Celtic migration.  If the date were 2,000 years ago, I might say these were Gaels fleeing the Romans.   The calculations come out to be about 1,500 years ago, putting this migration in line with the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain.

   Why stop there?  What flavor of Anglo-Saxon are we talking about?  Angle, Saxon, Jute?  The great thing about tribe mapping is that we can continuously turn back the clock and get a new picture.  If we find a Danish connection, then we might say Jutes or an association to the Angeln region of Germany, we could say Angles.  We have to be careful as those names and locations were just a snapshot in time when ancient historians catalogued Germanic tribes.  Those tribes, like all tribes, were just passing through.

   Stephen Hopkins’ DNA points to a genetic cluster in modern day Lithuania and Latvia.   This data most closely correlates to the Saxons and their origins on the Baltic coast.  Continuing this process gives us the following migration map.

   The R-S493 data takes us through Finland, Sweden and back to the mainland Europe to the Iberian Peninsula.  This puts the origin of R-S493 in Iberia about 4,000 years ago ± 500 years.

   We can’t be certain that Stephen Hopkins has Saxon DNA.  We can’t even say that all Saxons were haplogroup R1b.  It’s unlikely that they were a single homogenous ethnic group, but the core of the tribe would have had strong familial and genetic ties.  Were Hopkins’ ancestors at the core of this tribe or part of the fringe, picked up along the way?  A broader study of DNA associated with the same places and times would be required to answer that question.

   If we look at the surname Hopkins, its origins are from Hobbes-kin and even further back to the Germanic name Hrodberht.  Stephen Hopkins and his closest genetic cousins are found in the historic Kingdom of Wessex (West Saxons).  Time-wise, there is a correlation to the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain.  We can even make a connection to the proto-Saxons along the Baltic coast.  I’m going out on a limb and calling Hopkins a Saxon.

   That Saxon bloodline remained adventurous and served Stephen well as he voyaged to Bermuda, Jamestown and Plymouth colony.

   It’s never obvious where DNA will lead.  Each tribe mapping is an adventure in itself.

© Michael R. Maglio and OriginsDNA

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Myles Standish: Mayflower DNA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where did you come from?

© Michael R. Maglio and OriginsDNA

What’s in My gDNA Toolbox

If I were talking about my regular genealogy toolbox, I would be listing links to all the great websites with digital records (e.g. FamilySearch). I would also talk about great repositories like NARA, BPL or the Mass Archives. Or, I would mention tips and techniques like Nearest Neighbor and the Hidden Treasures in old photos.

Now that we are adding DNA as a tool for genealogy, we have to pack a new toolbox.

The Databases – record sources to compare your DNA against

· Ysearch.org – Y-DNA database
· Mitosearch.org – mtDNA database
· FTDNA.com – DNA Project database
· WorldFamilies.net – DNA Project database
· SMGF.org – DNA Project database

The Testing Companies – many different testing companies that are not all equal – do your homework

· FTDNA.com – DNA testing (my favorite)
· 23andMe.com – DNA testing
· SMGF.org – DNA testing
· Ancestry.com – DNA testing
· GeneTree.com - DNA testing

Sources of gDNA Knowledge – There are many areas of genetic genealogy that are open for interpretation. Read everything and come to your own conclusions.

· ISoGG.org – Advocates for the use of genetics as a tool for genealogical research
· Wikipedia - Haplogroup details
· nationalgeographic.com/genographic

Analysis Tools – DNA results love to be compared and analyzed

· hprg.com/hapest5/index.html – Whit Athey’s Haplogroup predictor
· mymcgee.com/tools/ - Dean McGee’s Y-DNA comparison tools
· www.math.mun.ca/~dapike/FF23utils/ - David Pike’s autosomal comparison tools
· http://gedmatch.com/ - Autosomal comparison tools
· PHYLIP – phylogenetic tree creation

DNA Data Management – you need to organize and manage your DNA records

· Legacy Family Tree – supports DNA records (the one I use)
· Family Tree Maker, RootsMagic, Ancestral Quest and The Master Genealogist – supports DNA
· Excel – spreadsheet tools

· Google Maps – User defined maps – you never know when you might want to build your own custom map

This is hardly an exhaustive list. I use most of these tools on a weekly basis. I’m always looking for new tools (or creating ones that don’t exist).

What's in your toolbox? Let me know what tools you are using.


Armenia, DNA and Ethnicity

Self-identity, what culture or ethnicity do you identify with? Your current culture? Your immigrant ancestor’s culture? Perhaps you identify with a culture buried deep in your DNA.

See this article as a great primer on the differences between - Ethnicity, Nationality, Race, Heritage, and Culture.

Culturally, my wife is an American. I could even say that she is a New Englander. She grew up in an Armenian family, but she doesn’t know the language. What she does identify with is the food and family. Her immigrant grandfather, Reuben, was born in Turkey. Turkish was his nationality, but culturally he associated deeply with the Armenian heritage that was strong in Adana.

Nations redraw their lines, form and dissolve over the course of decades. If you had lived in central Europe over the past few hundred years, one day you might be French and the next day German, only to be French again in a week.

How long does it take us to lose our ethnicity? If I took my family to Armenia and we stayed there for three or four generations, would they think of themselves as Armenian American Armenians. I doubt it. Each generation would absorb the culture around them to a greater degree. Given enough time, some descendants might think that it was just family mythology that they ever lived in the US. We’ve always been here.

We are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants. That goes for the entire planet.

If I look at another side of my wife’s family, they’ve been in America for over 350 years. Their immigrant ancestor, Edward Clark, was ethnically English. In turn, Edward’s immigrant ancestor was Norman and the immigrant ancestor before that was Danish. I can keep going back, Iberia, Asia and Africa. Which culture should they identify with? Nationality is fleeting and uncertain. Ethnicity is in your genes, embrace all the cultures of your ancestors.

About 50,000 years ago, there were no humans in Armenia, or for that matter, Asia Minor. Over the intervening years, folks trickled in from every direction. Let’s look at the current distribution of Armenian y-DNA.

J1c & J2a
Arabic / Semitic
I2a & R1a

This is a snapshot of modern Armenia. Without analyzing individual haplotypes from this dataset, it is difficult to determine which group arrived first. More than likely each group had multiple waves of immigration across history. I’ve created the map below for you to get a feel for the origin and flow of the major haplogroups.

It’s not unusual for groups J1c, J2a and G2a to have high percentages. Those groups also have their origins in that region. The large portion of R1b can be attributed to the crusaders passing through for hundreds of years. Many of the taverns in this region have signs that say, ‘Alexander the Great slept here’. His empire would have contributed the E1b DNA as they conquered eastward and the Dravidian DNA flowed back toward Greece with the spoils. The Roman and Byzantine influence brought the Balkan DNA. The Huns also stopped by on their way to conquer Eastern Europe.

My wife can count Armenian as part of her heritage, with roots on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. Someday I will find her living Armenian cousins in order to get DNA tests. Those results will allow me to identify her deeper ancestral ethnicity.

On another line, she is descended from four generations of Sea Captains from Maine with Scottish origins. Should my wife self-identify with all the cultures of her ancestors? Probably not. Should she learn about and understand all those cultures? Definitely. We can pick and choose the best parts of our ancestral heritage and create our own unique ethnic identity. She has a love for the ocean that didn’t come from any early family experience. It’s in her DNA.

Your Mother's Mother

Deep Into DNA*

Your mother’s ancestry can be extremely challenging. Most of us live in a patrilineal society. The wife and the children take the surname of the husband. History shows us that recording the maiden name of the wife was often an afterthought. We have all tried traditional genealogy for our mother’s line. Some of us can go back a couple of generations and have hit brick walls. Some of us have researched a dozen generations. Mitochondrial DNA testing can aid a genealogist in discovering those lost surnames and validating your research.

Two months ago, I wrote about y-DNA and its use in tracing your paternal line. Mitochondrial DNA testing looks at your maternal line. There are many similarities and just as many differences between the two tests.

...continued at The In-Depth Genealogist with a free membership.

*The Deep Into DNA article series is published each month in The In-Depth Genealogist Newsletter and will demystify genetic genealogy and make sense out of DNA testing terminology. Each month we will talk about the types of tests available from major labs and show relevant examples on how to use DNA in your genealogy research.


Your Father's Father

Deep Into DNA*

Raise your hand if you’d like to know more about your surname and your father’s ancestry. I’m raising mine!

Most of us live in a patrilineal society. The wife and the children take the surname of the husband. We can’t help but to associate with our father’s family, his clan. The males in the family will inherit the Y chromosome virtually unchanged, though genetically, we can only attribute a small fraction of our overall DNA to that patrilineal line. Psychologically though, 50% of our ethnic identity comes from dad.

We have all tried traditional genealogy for our father’s line. Some of us go back a couple of generations and some of us have researched a dozen generations. A few of us are adopted and know nothing about our paternity. Y-DNA testing has benefits that aid a genealogist in all these situations...

...continued at The In-Depth Genealogist with a free membership.

*The Deep Into DNA article series is published each month in The In-Depth Genealogist Newsletter and will demystify genetic genealogy and make sense out of DNA testing terminology. Each month we will talk about the types of tests available from major labs and show relevant examples on how to use DNA in your genealogy research.