Ancestry Composition, Origins, Ethnicity Estimates…Oh My

I normally look at ancestry composition, DNA origins and ethnicity estimates as a guessing game. More for entertainment than for specific work in genealogy and that is mainly because you can get some dramatically different results depending on the company you test with and the version of the estimates you’re using. As testing companies add more samples the estimates should get more precise, but it’s also kind of like weather forecasting. There is science in there but sometimes you get thrown for a loop and get things you don’t expect.

The biggest issue for companies I think has been sample size. As I recall, autosomal DNA testing in France is illegal. French citizens have tested, but it is not widely advertised so it is difficult to call it out and you may see overlaps with Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands trying to get some French DNA on the radar.

I tried to look back at earlier estimates here in my diary and found this post from 2011 that used my 23 and me test results (which had a disappointing ancestry breakdown):

That post contains one of my favorite estimates because Mr. McDonald identified Middle Eastern and African segments that were unexpected and ended up coming from my mom’s side of the family. He described me as “English or British with significant input from the continent”.

One of my first DNA relative contacts at 23 and me was from Morocco so African DNA seemed to make sense although I couldn’t really explain it. 23 and Me has periodically picked and then dropped similar populations from their estimates over the years.

I also used 23 and Me and to an extent Ancestry DNA’s origins for my aunt Cheryl to ponder a large amount of Irish DNA she carried when compared to her half-brother. It was a large percentage of her DNA and it seemed to be more important because of that large size. As it turned out her paternal grandmother was from Ireland.

The estimates can be useful but it’s hard to know how much weight to give them and they seem to break down beyond the big-ticket items.

I thought I already had a nice post about the differences I see at these companies, but I seem to have misplaced it, so here is my 2021 version.

Ancestry DNA Origins

Here is a look at my ethnicity estimates from Ancestry DNA circa 2015:

ancestry DNA Origins ethnicity estimates in 2015. 50% Great Britain, 37% Europe West, 6% Ireland, 3% Italy and Greece, less than 1% Iberian, Europe East, Scandinavia and West Asia.

Here is my Ancestry DNA Ethnicity Estimate in 2019:

Ancestry DNA Ethnicity Estimate 2019.

That 2019 estimate image may be hard to read. So I’ll repeat it here:

  • England, Wales & Northwestern Europe 70%
  • Germanic Europe 11%
  • Ireland and Scotland 9%
  • Sweden 3%
  • France 3%
  • Portugal 2%
  • Norway 2%

After an update in 2020 my ethnicity estimates at Ancestry DNA have changed again.

Ancestry DNA ethnicity estimates for 2020.

Again, the image may be hard to read so I’ll list them here:

  • England and Northwestern Europe 44%
  • Scotland 28%
  • Sweden 11%
  • Germanic Europe 10%
  • Ireland 5%
  • Wales 2%

At Ancestry DNA I seem to drop southern and eastern European influences for Scandinavian influences and a more specific breakdown of the British Isles, now peeling off Scotland and Wales as independent entities. In each iteration, over the years it has been hard to hang my hat on anything other than that I am European by hundreds of ways. I’m not sure why Sweden, but I do have Scandinavians in my family tree along with Germans, Scots, English, Irish and Welsh. Of note, they don’t seem to recognize any West Asian, Middle Eastern, or African influence in this round.

For reference here are the results of a friend of mine from Britain (with strong Irish roots as well), you can see how specific his results are to regions in Great Britain and Ireland:

Ethnicity Estimate of a British citizen 45% Ireland with a break down by county, 38% England and Northwester Europe with a breakdown of locations in England, 11% Scotland and 6% Wales.
ethnicity estimate of a British friend

I post his results to show that Ancestry seems to be working pretty hard to be precise and have some pretty narrow assessments when the playing field is likely also narrow and fairly recent. With an American like me who has some late 1800’s British Isles, German, and French immigrant ancestors jumbled in with a ton of intermixed colonials 400 years ago, it’s got to be really hard to get specific by regions within European countries. I imagine I look like a North American European toe in a sea of other North American European toes. If you look back at my 2011 analysis, using Dodecad, the group I’m most like is “white people from Utah”.

Where I really like Ancestry DNA’s analysis is the part below the ethnicity in Communities. Northeastern States settlers, New England and the Great Lakes, New York and Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana settlers. It’s less about ethnicity and more about migration. Is this map wrong? All my evidence says no. To me, it feels like an attempt to be as precise with my more recent history as they can be. The overview presents several genetic matches in my family with our shared roots in these movements and there is a sliding scale that actually taps your family tree to show these migrations with your genetic relatives highlighted along with your documented ancestors.

ancestry communities showing large populations from the East coast to the great lakes with separate population circles for New York settlers, Pennsylvania and New England.

Family Tree DNA My Origins

My Family Tree DNA ethnicity circa 2015:

FTDNA Ethnicity 97% European, 59% Western Europe, 19% Scandinavia, 19% British Isles, 3% Middle Eastern

Of note, FTDNA has me as 19% Scandinavian in 2015 as compared to less than 1% Scandinavian at Ancestry DNA that same year. They do broadly categorize 3% of my DNA as Middle Eastern.

Here is an updated FTDNA estimate in 2020:

FTDNA ethnicity estimate 2020.

That image may be hard to read so I’ll list them here:

  • Europe 100%
  • England, Wales and Scotland 55%
  • Scandinavia 29%
  • Central Europe 13%
  • Sardinia less than 2%
  • Magyar less than 2%

Like my results at ancestry, I seem to become more Scandinavian over time although I can’t say that I’ve found more Scandinavians in my family tree. I cannot account for the extremely high amount of Scandinavian they attribute to me. It seems like it might be a stand-in for some unknown quantity. At Family Tree DNA specifically, I seem to have traded in my middle eastern for Sardinian and Hungarian (Magyar).

Are they be wrong? Being generous, I could suspect that where they are veering away from my family tree and ethnicity estimates at other companies is where their Scandinavia bubble overlaps Scotland and Germany/Denmark. I could possibly make a case that there are underlying Scandinavian markers in populations that saw Scandinavian settlement in England, Ireland, Scotland…etc, but I can’t say that that is the case with their findings. It is difficult to ignore a group that makes up 30% of my DNA in their estimation, but I’m not sure where it’s coming from or why.

23 and Me Ancestry Composition

My ancestry composition at 23 and me circa 2015:

23 and me ancestry composition 99% European, 23% British and Irish, less than 1% Scandinavian, 60% Northwestern European, less than 1% southern european, 14% broadly european, less than one percent sub-saharan African.

Of note to me 23 and me recognized some African segments along with southern european influence, which you could say that Ancestry DNA also picked up on in 2015. 23 and me and Ancestry also seem to agree that I have very little Scandinavian DNA in 2015, while FTDNA ranks it pretty high. I don’t recall finding these results abnormal given the outside analysis I’d had in 2011.

My ancestry composition in 2019:

23 and me Ancestry Composition 2019

I’m rounding these values because I’m lazy, but it’s good to note that 23 and Me gives decimal points in their percentages.

  • Northwestern European 95%
    • British and Irish 50%
    • French and German 20%
    • Scandinavian less than 2%
    • Broadly NW Europe 23%
  • Southern European 2%
  • Eastern European less than 1%
  • Broadly European less than 2%

In 2019, 23 and Me did have a breakdown of likely location matches in Britain and Ireland as well as France/Germany. They show more Scandinavian than previously but not to the extent that does in 2019 or to the extreme of FTDNA. My African DNA was no longer included.

The 2020 update to Ancestry Composition.

23 and me 2020 Ancestry Composition Update

Of note for 2020, my West Asian/Middle Eastern/North African DNA is back. I’m rounding these values where they do not.

  • Northwestern European 98%
    • British & Irish 57%
    • French & German 36%
    • Scandinavian less than 1%
    • Broadly NW European 5%
  • Western Asian & North African less than 2%
    • North African less than 1%
    • Arab Egyptian Levantine less than 1%
    • Broadly Western Asian & North African less than 1%

Broad Brush Strokes

In 2011, my ethnicity results from 23 and me were 100% European and so it was a little surprising to get contacts from Morocco and later contacts from genetic relatives who are Roma. My 2011 Analysis with Mr. McDonald identifying African and Middle Eastern DNA along with those contacts have left me wondering about a Roma/North and West African influence on my mother’s side of the family. I have no proof of a connection but it continues to roll around on the periphery for me.

I assume there is something there in my ancestry that is throwing these estimators for a loop as a small percentage of my DNA continues to be assigned to eastern and southern locations that you can’t really find in my family tree.

That is the take away again for me of the last decade of ethnicity estimations. I know there is some DNA in there that is hard to pin down and companies either display it or ignore it. It’s real, but as I learned in 2011 likely impossible to pin down genealogically as well given that Europeans in the U.S. and people who could pass for Europeans in the U.S. would not want to advertise their non-European heritage. I’d have to say that this minor amount of DNA is probably the most “interesting” DNA I have and has a great or terrible story attached to it that I’ll never know.

The other take away is that I’m still mostly British Isles with continental Europeans bulking up the mix and possibly some Scandinavian influence. I would also say that my closest groups and most meaningful matches are North American Europeans (“white people from Utah” all over again). I shouldn’t get too wrapped up in the percentages other than to be skeptical of wild fluctuations and maybe to question the vast amount of Scandinavian DNA that FTDNA sees in my results.

A decade in, things are getting more precise as far as locational DNA at these companies, which is pretty neat.


Posts from 2020:

DNA and Genealogy

This year started off where last year ended. I had my own Big Y results back (before a human review) and tried to make sense of those results and the new FTDNA block tree. I had my MTDNA results back with the deepest testing I could do and tried to relate that information to time, place and my own genealogy. I’d also gathered a lot of information on Elmers and Elmores circa 1600 in Essex as a survey of possible Elmer and Elmore families for Edward Elmer (there were a lot of them).

Fresh off tying up some of my own DNA testing wants, I also ordered tests for my Thompson cousins in Indiana (the actual descendants of Levi Thompson) and a Big Y test for one of our DF95 men from Denmark. In the early months, I was able to post about the progress the DF95 Baker clan made in Big Y testing branches on the non-458.2 side of the house and I was able to post some conversations and research on R-ZP125 (a brother branch to my own).

Disengaging in Context

I may have mentioned before that I left a lot of social media behind. I was never really engaged in Twitter and I found that most of my time on Facebook was spent trolling strangers, and then acquaintances and eventually people I like and admire. Outside of a few instances of genuine communication, I was spending time angry or making other people angry and being manipulated as a guinea pig in social/emotional studies and by misinformation campaigns.

I realized that I was scrolling through my feed looking for people to hurt and people were scrolling through their feeds looking to hurt me. These “people” were my friends and loved ones and the dark path I was on was very clear. I posted some red flags about what I saw happening to me and to others, got the flurry of negative attacks I expected, and…didn’t comment.

It was hard. Too hard. Eye-openingly hard not to engage. I took it as the starting gun for change and slowly, one step at a time, buggered off.

I don’t remember exactly when I dropped it off my desktop it seems like it’s been three or four years. It took a bit longer to remove it from my phone as it was entwined with messages, but I didn’t know how to keep it from notifying me of Facebook activities meant to suck me back in through messenger so I had to quit it and any product related to it.

The withdrawal from communications with my DNA groups begins there. Once you see yourself trolling and don’t like what you’re becoming, you start to see it in other places. Do I need to comment on this email forum? Am I adding value or knowledge or even asking a question or am I trolling people in slow motion? Are they serious about what they’re saying, are they educating me or are they just trolling me for the lulz?

I had to pull back, reassess, and find some new direction. I eventually decided to go back to school.

Covid 19 and Life

Flash forward to 2020 and In the process of wrapping up my bachelor’s degree and working full time as an IT person with a family and biting off some large home improvement projects, I had become even more withdrawn from my genealogy projects and from writing and communicating in general. I was clustering my interests and my correspondence during breaks in classes rather than picking at them all year long.

Then of course the pandemic really got rolling here in Michigan and ironically, as IT staff for a college, I began working more hours. We were desperately trying to get all these paper processes and systems that rely on buildings and local networks online and remotely available for staffers and teachers who were now all remote workers with all remote students. Many students and staff didn’t have access to the internet from home or computers to use for newly minted online courses.

I have been LUCKY to remain employed through this pandemic, I see what has happened to friends and neighbors, but by no means have I been able to kick back and take things slow. I find myself here at year-end, officially on paid leave but having worked every day but Christmas…safe…warm and isolated (all things to be thankful for) but still working.

I did have time to myself between my own schooling and working for a school and getting my kids through remote school, but much of that has been devoted to home improvement projects. When you work at home, you now can teleport directly into replacing a kitchen countertop at 5pm and finish placing it in time to get a few hours of sleep before the 1 a.m. calls about whatever is happening to the database server.

In this lockdown, I’ve still somehow managed to injure myself, bulging a disc in my neck and paralyzing my left arm and then while my arm was useless, falling in my own house and breaking my leg (pro tip, paralyzed arm is not going to catch you when you fall).

My process of withdrawal which started with abandoning my Facebook accounts several years ago has become real near-total isolation that didn’t lend itself to contemplation and deep thought, but somehow became a more frantic lifestyle of work, stress, schoolwork, fear, injury, and stomach ulcers. As weird as it’s been, I’m still glad for the lack of social media feedback looping in my life, it could have been worse.

Passive Participation

I advocate for people being involved in Y DNA Haplogroup projects at Family Tree DNA and taking part in any haplogroup projects you happen to fall into along with any surname group or regional projects you can get.

There is a lot to be gained from discussions in the groups at FTDNA or on social media and forums or in other online group discussion boards. There are usually experts who can help and people who are not experts but who are on the path and have experience which can be valuable in navigating the world of DNA testing.

Having said that, I have to also say that I haven’t been an active participant in the broader communities for several years now. I haven’t been engaged in the chatter in any of the larger discussions going on in R1b, U106 or Z18 for a while.

I also haven’t been actively recruiting R-DF95 testers for several years outside of my own Elmer/Elmore group (which gets the bulk of my attention) and a few minor attempts to get in touch with some of the better Elmer Y STR matches and a group of German Y STR matches I pick up better than the other Elmers. I see them, but I feel like they’re under-represented in Big Y testing. The response rate is really low though and I don’t feel the urge to put too much effort there.

I’ve made myself content this year to hear what others are thinking when they want to tell me and help out when I’ve been asked and to see some of the seeds planted a long time ago bear fruit.

I’ve withdrawn quite a bit for a lot of different reasons but I’m still filled with wonder about the possibilities in DNA testing and looking forward to new discoveries as they filter in.

Oh and I did manage to graduate, just a few days ago, so I am now qualified to be a bachelor. I’ll have to let the wife and kids know.

Jensen Big Y 700 Results

I’ve been talking about various Y DNA matches in Denmark for…well the whole time I’ve kept an online journal. In 2010 testers from Denmark appeared in my matches at YHRD, SMGF/Ancestry, Genebase and Ybase.

It was exciting in 2015 when I got permission to further test one of the Cumberland men who had ancestors in Denmark (Jensen) who was a 458.2 like me. This January I quietly ordered a Big Y test for Jensen around the time I ordered my test for the U152 Thompsons to keep some of those promises I made and take advantage of the testing before the samples could no longer be used.

For years, I’ve wondered where Jensen would fall on the Y DNA family tree. I suspected he would be somewhere between my group and Lund, our tester from Norway who branches off at R-ZP85. Currently there are two branches under R-ZP85, one with Lund and Rathburn and one that contains multiple families and branches which the Elmers, Lunsfords and Knowtons are on (among many others). My hunch was that Jensen would be at the top of my side of R-ZP85 as an early branch, possibly all by himself.

That is not the case.

Jensen is well down the Lund/Rathburn branch under R-ZP85 currently labelled under the shared SNP R-PH1934 aka R-ZP193 which represents about 14 SNPs in a line. In the block diagram for R-ZP85, you can see R-PH1934 now Jensen, Rathburn and Lund with 2 branches, and on the right the branch the Elmers are on under R-FGC78528 with 22 branches.

block tree diagram showing z85 and downstream branches PH1934 and FGC78525
Jensen on the left branch, Elmers on the right

Diving in further, Jensen is more closely related to Lund than the Rathburn tester (and another tester in a branch with Rathburn). Jensen shares 6 more SNPs with Lund on a branch currently designated by R-PH2557.

block tree showing R-PH1934 and two branches beneath it R-BY94814 and R-PH2557

Lund and Jensen have an average of 8 private SNPs between them. DIY age estimating says 8 X 83 would be 664 years. Normally you would add the number of SNPs multiplied by years together for each tester and then divide by the number of testers, but that would just get us back to 664 years. Without knowing the age of the testers to average out a birth year, we’ll go with 1950. That gets us to 1286 AD which, if you read my recent post on the U152 Thompson Big Y results, should seem familiar.

We learn something with every Big Y test and getting to the 1300’s for a match for Lund is an excellent end to this testing saga and a long time in the making. I only wish our Jensen tester had lived to see it.

Getting in the wayback machine.

Here’s an early post in 2010 looking at my matches, with some from Denmark:

A post in 2014 referencing DYS458.2 and Jensen’s DF95 test:

A post that talks about DYS520 = 21 in the Y67 panel and cumberlands that match that value being Lunsford, Knowlton the Elmers and Jensen:

Then this post later in 2015 where I decided I wanted to get more testing for Jensen…possibly even a Big Y:

I’ll round out my Wayback references with ZP125 conversations where I ate crow about my dates and theories and eluded to Jensen’s impending Big Y results:

U152 Thompson Big Y 700 Results

I was able to get big Y results for the direct descendants of Levi Thompson. This will likely be the last best test I can do for posterity. Few Y DNA matches have tested to this level.

At Y 111, we have a single match with a person descended from Francis Ireland b. 1787. The family tree at FTDNA is forbidden to me for some reason, but a quick google search shows at least one Francis Ireland with similar secondary family surnames like Simpson, who was born in Yorkshire England. The Ireland match is a genetic distance of 7 at Y111.

Several testers have gone to Y67 and tested individual SNPs on the path towards my U152 Thompsons. We’ve got a GD 3 match with a Mr. Davidson, GD 4 with Mr. Ireland above, GD 5 with John Thomson, about 1815 who tested to R-FGC4166 but only Y67 (that will come into play later) and GD 6 with multiple members of the Wilson family, one of which tested to R-FGC4166. Of note in these Y67 matches is one listing Joseph Allen, Gainesville, GA, USA who is in R-BY98312 but doesn’t make it to the Y111 STR match list.

At Y37 there are a few Allen/Allan matches at various distances who have only tested Y37 to add to the list, it’s possible there is an Allen tribe there like the Wilsons who are just different enough or untested so they don’t appear at higher testing levels.

The U152 “Indiana” Thompsons in my family are listed as R-BY98312 along with Mr. Allen. I have posted a lot about R-DF95 (U106 “Michigan” Thompsons) being a lonely branch but the sons of Levi Thompson have us beat. Here is the block tree as it stands in December 2020.

Thompsons over on the right in R-BY98312

it’s okay to leave it zoomed out. The Thompson and Allen are in the right hand column. There are 27 SNPs between the Thompson/Allens and the next group of men. This whole group of men is under R-FGC4166 (note Thomson above untested below R-FGC4166), We’re part of a group beneath that with R-BY123080 and BY142256 forming a base but that’s it. The Thompson/Allen group now defined by R-BY98312 represents a lot of time. I don’t have age dating for the U152 branches but it’s a lot of time even just adding up 83 year generations per SNP is over 2000 years between the Thompson/Allens and the next group.

Given the number of Y STR matches though, I’d suspect there are more Allens, some Wilsons, Davidsons, Douglases, a Duncan an Ireland and a Thomson that would probably fall in that right hand column somewhere, they just haven’t been tested.

The cluster of Allen/Allan Y STR testers (with one big Y tester in their midst) that my U152 Thompsons fall in with isn’t really clear on origins although one family tree points at Scotland the others have origins in the U.S. just like Levi Thompson. I’m 99.99% positive the Thompsons are borders English or Ulster Scots as advertised but can’t quite get them there with a paper trail.

The average (for the two testers) in the Thompson/Allen group is 8 SNPs. There are only two testers. My Thompson cousin has 10 SNPs in the private SNP list so the Allen tester must have 6. DIY aging for the shared group with big Y 700 uses 83 years.

10 X 83 = 830. 6 X 83 = 498. 830 + 498 = 1328. 1328 / 2 (testers) = 664 years. Without knowing the average birth year of the testers, I’ll go with 1950 – 664 = 1286. Roughly 1300 AD plus or minus a few generations for a common ancestor.

For Y DNA, 1300AD is great, but genealogically not so helpful unless you’re a member of the nobility. It’s a start though and my hope would be that we will see some people break up that big column or get closer to my Thompson cousins in the years to come. Over the years, I worked my way closer to that Thomson R-FGC4166 tester, now we’re well beyond them 2000 or more years down a path and will have to wait for others to catch up.

Big Y 700 Update

With the dust settled a little bit from my big Y 700 test and the Big Y 700 results from an Elmer cousin, I thought it would be good to revisit my place in the tree and compare that to my spot in the family tree.

FTDNA Big Y Block Tree a Good Place to Start

Here is the current Big Y block tree for the Elmer family as of July 2020:

My branch is in the middle highlighted in black. Because no one further down my branch has tested I’m shown coming directly off R-A2284 which is associated with Ed Elmer 2 born in 1654. You can see our cousin to the right listed as R-A2276 who is descended from Ed Elmer 2’s brother Samuel. To the left in R-A5920 are my closer cousins who are also descended from Hezekiah Elmer.

Right now the striking thing is that this is what FTDNA knows about my family given the current crop of FTDNA testers. It’s accurate to a point, but not the whole picture.

The actual family tree more closely mimics this Y DNA testing tree we put together in the Ed Elmer group:

Ed Elmer testing tree with branches for Edward 2 and Samuel

As family trees go, I’m more closely related to the men who are under R-A5920 because I’m descended from Hezekiah Elmer (1686) through his son Dan (1730). The R-A5920 men are descended from Hezekiah’s son Samuel (1732).

As you can see on the testing tree we have an STR test mixed in with our SNP tests, a DYS449 test. STRs change with time, so they can only suggest a relationship, not prove one, but we did notice a pattern of men related to three sons of Hezekiah (1686) Dan, Samuel and Jacob and that is that all of us (5 testers in total) have DYS449 = 29 while all our cousins have DYS449 = 30. So it seems possible that that particular STR mutation occurred in Hezekiah (1686). We can only wait for other testers to break the pattern.

The block tree only shows SNPs and has nothing to do with STRs let alone family trees, so it is at once completely accurate, but in my case a bit misleading.

The tester I’m grouped with in the block tree is R-A2284 like me and so we expect he’s related to Ed Elmer 2 since that SNP isn’t carried by men descended from other sons of Ed Elmer. Unfortunately, we’re blocked in his family tree. We have several lost sheep in New York state who appear to be related to Ed 2 but we have no family trees or documents to connect them to Ed 2 (usually stuck in the early 1800s) and none of them match each other’s private SNPs.

The block tree is grouping us based on our common SNP but it would be more accurate to put the two of us into our own separate blocks because we only have private SNPs beyond that point. Just based on SNPs We should each be an individual straight line with our private SNPs above our names.

The block tree can make a bunch of straight lines look like a cluster of more closely related men.

Going back to our testing tree in the Ed Elmer group, you can see that we’ve already SNP tested down the line for Ed Elmer (1610) son Samuel (1646) listed as the R-A2276 branch to the right of me. He has actually tested to R-A6928 along with another man who tested at YSEQ. Both are related to Samuel’s son Jonathon and his son David and then split there. Because we don’t have any more sons of Jonathon to test down, we can only assign that R-A6928 to David (1725).

Ed Elmer testing tree with branches for Edward 2 and Samuel

FTDNA is not aware of that YSEQ or Full Genomes Corp testing and so they can only assign our cousin on the right all the way back up the tree at Ed Elmer (1610) and R-A2276.

Looking at the block tree one more time it is accurate, but misleading because it makes me look more closely related to one Elmer than to my two (actually more closely related) cousins on the left. The block tree can’t know that I am really more closely related to them. If we ignore my family tree and focus on the SNPs that FTDNA knows about then technically, to be less misleading, what is labeled as “my branch” should be a twig for me and a twig for my counterpart with our private SNPs listed separately.

Even if I had a closer cousin tested, like my second cousin, the block tree would still be misleading because they would put us in our own group under R-A2284 which would be accurate as far as SNPs go but again might confuse a layperson.

The block tree also isn’t aware of non-FTDNA testing so we have no facility to represent the cluster of men that should appear on the right.

The FTDNA block tree is accurate from its perspective but not definitive for this family because of a slightly misleading layout and a lack of data from other sources.

family tree dna block tree for A2276

Why am I beating up on the block tree?

The block tree is an awesome way to view Y DNA as a point in time and to watch the major structures change as new test results come in. There is only so much you can do with the screen space you’ve been allotted. So the block tree is being efficient by clumping results together. From a standpoint of organizing the major segments of the Y DNA tree it makes total sense, but (there is always a but) someone could take this representation of data the wrong way and that can hinder research or cause hard feelings.

My Private SNPs

When I originally looked at my Big Y 700 results I was warned that they had likely not been reviewed by a human. I had a list of 7 private SNPs at that point and registered some dismay that they were already named (which would make me think they’re not exactly private).

This was that list:

  • 10926150 – FGC78529 – C to T
  • 11048867 – BY84358 – C to T
  • 15413588 – FT207533 – A to G
  • 21824986 – FT208074 – A to G
  • 3232865 – FT206108 – G to C
  • 4031585 – FT206255 – T to G
  • 6535656 – FGC78523 – G to T

Since that time I believe my human review was completed and I’ve also had my results analyzed by Full Genomes Corp (which means they have also named my private SNPs). The list has been whittled down to these four:

  • 15413588 A to G FT207533+ FGC93151+
  • 21824986 A to G FT208074+ FGC93152+
  • 3232865 G to C FT206108+ FGC93149+
  • 4031585 T to G FT206255+ FGC93150+

You might notice that FGC78529 has made an appearance in the block tree image above. It was discovered in one of our lost sheep testers from NY. It also appeared in my list and then in the big Y 700 results of one of the R-A5920 men. So it’s been placed up with R-A2284. It’s possible that it is older than that, but I would need to individually test men for it at YSEQ to find out (or wait for more testers at FTDNA).

FGC78523 was moved up as a shared SNP with the Knowlton family. Of note, the Knowltons now show 5 private SNPs along with this new SNP while previous notes show them with 4 private SNPs, so I suspect they’ve had an upgrade to big Y 700 or FTDNA has been able to mine more results from their Y 500 test. They remain our closest Y family with a rough estimate of 1100 AD for a common ancestor (if they’re big Y 700 then it might bump to 1200 AD).

ftdna block tree for R-ZP129 the branch containing the Elmers and Knowltons

BY84358 has been removed from my list, although also acknowledged by FGC as a positive SNP for me. At FGC it did not occur in any other Z18 person including other Elmers. I’m not sure what to make of that.

With full genomes Y-Elite testing for one man under Ed Elmer 2 and Big Y 700 for two of us, I think this list of SNPs is the go to list for testing men on this branch of the Elmer family: Ed1 -> Ed2 ->Hezekiah -> Daniel:

  • 15413588 A to G FT207533+ FGC93151+
  • 21824986 A to G FT208074+ FGC93152+
  • 3232865 G to C FT206108+ FGC93149+
  • 4031585 T to G FT206255+ FGC93150+

ZP125 Conversations

In my big Y 700 Community I talk about the ZP125 group, with thoughts on aging and migration. It has been a group of men that I’ve watched really since the beginning without any indications of just how closely related we all are. I’ve been lucky enough to have ongoing conversations with men in this group since roughly 2012 when I received a comment on my 2010 posting about the blue pin in Belgium on my map for the revenge of 458.2. These continuing conversations are valuable insights and perspectives from outside my echo chamber and offer me an opportunity to reconsider my ideas and inform my little diary of research here.

no comment…

First things first, it looks like I’ve been forgetting to turn comments on for my posts, so my posts from December still were not allowing comments. A person reading this may miss some conversation with Chris Wright which is ultimately about ZP125 but is a comment on DF95 not alone in being alone.

DIY Age Estimates

Through the course of conversation with Chris and ongoing emails with my possible Irish Aylmer testers and several great posts in the U106 group, I can see that my own estimates for common ancestors, trying to count back from SNP ages provided by the U106 group, are off by hundreds of years.

Their ages still seem to be on the mark I just veer off track when I’m trying to guesstimate the ages for SNPs they didn’t have.

Here is a repeat of the comment I left on my posting that gives rough age estimate calculations we can make if we have results from the men in a group.

Very recently, after these posts, The U106 group’s Iain McDonald gave out a rough way to estimate ages between two testers. This calls into question my rough estimates here, especially for the ZP125 group which didn’t have a full set of age estimates to look at.

Since I don’t know the specifics of each man in ZP187 I am going to use the information on the block tree at FTDNA which is averaged. I can only treat them as a single person. They have an average of 4 SNPs to themselves and it takes them 6 more SNPs to get back to ZP125 where Wright splits from them. So they have 10 SNPs. The U106 group is using 125 years as an average for years between SNPs in Big Y 500 tests. So the ZP187 men have 1025 years back (from 1950) to ZP125. In the block tree, Wright has 14 private variants back to ZP125 so 1750 years.

In their equation, we add the two sets of years together and then divide by 2 (the number of people since I can only count ZP187 men as an averaged person). So that would put a common ancestor for you and the ZP187 men at 1388 years or roughly 1400 years before 1950.

So (10*125) + (14*125)/2 or 1025 + 1750 / 2 = 1388.

1950 – 1388 is 562 so around 500 or 600AD for a common ancestor.

Which is about 600 years older than my guesstimate based on number of SNPs between blocks.

This aging equation is similar to one I’ve seen recently from my own test at Yfull. YFull limits the amount of the Y they look at (so they limit the number of SNPs they get). They use an equation that adds 144 years per SNP and then adds 60 to each year set and divides the total of all of that by the number of testers. So Yfull might give an estimate like

(1025+60) + (1750+60) / 2 = 503

About the same range we get using the U106 group method for common Y ancestors.

If you have uploaded your results to Yfull you can see that equation in the info section of a shared SNP. It’s pretty interesting to see how they do it. I’m not sure if their add on factor of 60 changes based on circumstances or if it is there to add a margin of error to everyone.

Thoughts on Migration

With permission, I’m going to post a message from Peter de Burghgraeve, who has been a source of great ideas and information for the past 8 years. As I was reading his message, I thought it would be best to post it in his words. He also addresses the concerns about aging and the Wright family based on history rather than numbers of SNPs.

You wrote the 1st of January in the ‘My Big Y 700 Community’ : That means the Wrights from England have a shared ancestor with men from Belgium, Netherlands and Poland around 1200AD… If my hypothesis would be correct, that common ancestor is either likely around 870 or the Wrights are a family descending from continental Europe if the common ancestor would be more recent than that 870.

But let me start my hypothesis with a historical fact: there is a family Burchgrave documented in Ghent around 1380 and those were the Castle Wardens of Vijve (I probably wrote that before that the name Burchgrave, in its many variants, means Castle Warden). At about the same time period there are Burchgrave’s in that very same Vijve with the same armorials as that Ghent family, and a few Burchgrave men in Tielt with also the same armorials. All belong to their respective city/area alderman’s or upper class. So documents cannot prove it, as there is little archive of the era’s preceding, but it is not a big leap to assume these are 3 branches of the same Vijve family.

It is also a fact that we see the castle wardens of Vijve changing their name from ‘Vijve’ into Burchgrave around 1250 (or at least before).

Now assumptions… My fully documented genealogy runs dead with the brothers Pieter, Gillis and Wouter, born about 1490 (but this is the ‘latest’, they could be born up to 10 years before that). But their father Legier and his sons Pieter, Gillis and Wouter could well fit in timing and given names of his sons with the Tielt family (1380 – 1500). The names do not fit with Ghent, Vijve, nor Kemmel. And there are no known Burchgrave’s before that time in other places. So we cannot link my Legier with Ghent, Vijve or Kemmel, but they do fit with Tielt. Also, but that would fit with Vijve and Ghent as well: my family arrives into Passendale and immediately marries with the local magistrate family of the Ypres area, and they have the financial means to buy some properties in Passendale. Son Wouter became bailiff of a small local lordship.

So back to the larger hypothesis: my family is a very branched-out family of descendants of the old castle wardens of Vijve. That family is recorded since 1040, they were also the lords of Vijve, hence why they get called ‘Van Vijve’ meaning from Vijve. When things turn for the worse (politicly) around 1127, they keep the castle wardenry, but it gets downgraded and they no longer are the lords of Vijve. That could well be the reason why they now get styled Burchgrave and no longer Van Vijve instead.
Stanuszjek was of the opinion that his family descended from the Germanic settlement into Polish areas: , that would not contradict my hypothesis, as that Ostsiedlung had Flemish people among them and a family who got their fortunes a bit turned down would have been a primary source of youngsters looking for better chances elsewhere.

How Winne would fit into this… Well, the family Winne came from Ghent and left it with the religious wars (at least our Winne descending from a protestant branch). At that time the Burchgrave’s of Ghent were part of the political class of the ruling protestants and I’m guessing a non-paternal event. Although Ghent was a protestant republic for some time, the vast majority of inhabitants remained catholic, the group of protestant not being that big Winne’s and Burchgrave can easily have come into contact.

And now going back further in time, really hypothetical The castle of Vijve is known as of 900, so it could well have been older but not that much. The local historical amateurs look at it and talk about the Vikings… Well, we know the Heathen Army attacked Ghent 879 and in 880 went south to Kortrijk (Vijve been smack in that path between these two cities). And we do know of Vikings been appointed lordships in turn to defend of their fellow Norsemen from further attacks (Frisia, Normandy…). So it is not impossible that a Viking warlord took or build the castle in Vijve and got bestowed with the castle wardenry in return promising to defend the area. That could be a possible explanation why the historical records seem to esteem the mother of the castle warden Lambert in 1080 higher than his unnamed father (the local Lady coming from a family being Christian for some time, while the Viking descend’s father’s family would have been heathen not so long ago).

But that would very likely put our relation with Wright further back in time, before 875. Unless some of this castle warden’s descendants went back to England?

The Great Heathen Army was largely a new invasion into England, with new Norsemen/Vikings, but they did not get the chance to do much there, they got rather quickly expelled out so they then went to raid the coasts of France, Low Countries and so on. Could this explain that Wright is more recently related to us than those other ‘English’ families that descended from earlier invasions into England?

It’s as good a theory as anything I have posted and has more historical context for our continental cousins and the timing of the match with Wright. I think you can make a good case for “the Danes” being at the root of our little group under BY41998. For reference here is some speculation from 2015 that follows similar lines, although without the detail that Peter has: Common Ancestors and Speculations.

Although the page has a lot of possible migration routes, down the page a bit is a crude map that I think outlines the kind of movement Peter is talking about (my assumption in this map is that we funnel through Denmark):

map of migration from Norway to Ireland then through Denmark to England and Belgium and from Belgium to Poland.

Over the Christmas break, I quietly ordered a big Y 700 test for Jensen, our tester from Denmark. Unfortunately, he died several years ago. His wife has been told that his kit will be tested as is, likely using up any sample they had left. I hope that it can complete the tests, but it is possible that I am too late.

Elmers, Elmers Everywhere in Essex

Following up on some research from my previous post: Ed Elmer, Regular Guy.

“Some Mistakes were Made”

Near the end of the post, I mentioned trying to order reads of the Poll Tax documents in the UK national archives in Kew which I had found while searching the E 179 Database. The Poll Tax rolls sometimes include information about people and there was a roll that included names from Braintree in 1629, which with a lucky roll of the dice might contain some information on local Elmers and maybe some idea of their net worth based on taxes.

In my excitement, I ordered something like 8 different lookups, which were pretty inexpensive. I think the grand total was something just under $100. In return, I received 8 notifications that they could not scan these old scrolls, but that I was welcome to hire a local researcher or come to Kew myself and have a look at them.

Needless to say, I felt dumb for ordering so many lookups at once. I also feel that the message I got back telling me I could visit Kew and look at the documents myself was an automated response designed for people in Britain who are looking up more recent documents. It would be highly unlikely that the national archives would allow me, a random guy from the U.S., to walk in and mess around with parchments from 1629.

I had no doubt that I could hire a researcher, but that I could also pay for hours of their time, only to have them eventually tell me that they couldn’t just walk into the national archives at Kew and mess around with rolls of parchment from 1629. The rates for independent researchers are negotiated between you and the researcher, although they do offer research services and did provide a nice listing to help find researchers specialized in your time period of interest or in specific groups of records.

Having just been (stupidly on my part, I admit) charged $11 per email for 8 copies of the same templated email, I fear that hiring a researcher could lead to some expensive life lessons that I cannot afford.

I always say that genealogy is really a selfish pursuit. It’s a “me-time” thing and it’s also a me-money thing. I know I’ve said it’s a rich man’s game. Basically, it requires time and usually some disposable income. Finding documentation of your great grandfather who made two dollars a day in a farmer’s field is not going to be the top priority of someone currently making two dollars a day in some farmer’s field.

My wife realizes that this is my thing and that I’m going to funnel some time and money to it. My kids couldn’t care less about it.

Switching over to my role as a father of two with a car payment and mortgage, I couldn’t find where there was an upper limit to what a person could spend on a researcher for, possibly, zero return on investment.

In the future, if I come into some large source of “gambling” money, I might just hire a researcher, but right now, it seems like a very expensive fishing expedition because I have no idea what is contained in the documents I’d like them to look over.

Getting Some Data

Since then, I’ve put some money and time into various searches trying to feel my way around this elephant. Getting a subscription to which gives you the feeling you are definitely being scammed, but has some really good indexes and a nice search feature that I would say is better than

I also accidentally found a way to order books on the hearth tax for various counties through the Centre for Hearth Tax Research and The British Records Society. In the 1670s there was a tax put in place on the number of hearths in a home and it lists both taxed and non-taxed owners. It is nearly 40 years after Ed Elmer leaves England, but assuming he wasn’t a unicorn and had some family left behind, it’s a way to see who they might be. I received a nice hardcover book with hearth tax records from Essex, which has been interesting all by itself but did at least contain some “Elmer” records. posts a rough guide to social groups based on the number of hearths:

8 and above
Gentry and above with many surviving examples today.
Wealthy craftsmen and tradesmen, merchants and yeomen, some of whose houses survive today.
Craftsmen, tradesmen and yeomen, very few of which have survived to modern times.
Labouring poor, husbandmen, poor craftsmen whose homes have long since vanished. One hearth could typically heat four small rooms, two up and two down stairs often occupied by two or even more families.

My best guess previously at social standing was that Ed Elmer was a Yeoman or more likely Husbandman, not at the bottom rung of the ladder but not in the Gentry either. So these hearth tax records might give us an idea of the social standing of Elmers found in other records and searches and some idea of the surnames surrounding them that may appear in other records and searches.

As an example, I’ve used John Talcott as a person to measure Ed against when thinking about his family in England. The Talcotts in Colchester (where John’s grandfather is from) have 5 to 16 hearths in their homes. A 10 hearth listing belongs to Thomas Talcott who is listed as a gentleman. A William Talcott has 16. While Gentleman Thomas Talcott from Feering (3 to 4 miles from Coggeshall Hamlet) has 9 hearths.

The other thing this survey can help with is that John Talcott is listed as being from Braintree, but obviously has ties to Colchester. Is Ed in a similar situation?

Although I found perfectly good Elmers, Aylmers, Elmars, Ellmers and Elmores in Norfolk, Suffolk, Middlesex, Sussex, Kent, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Surrey, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Hertfordshire, Lancashire, Somerset and London from the 1300’s to the 1600’s I’m going to focus on Essex (for the moment) because it is the last place we can put a pin for Edward Elmer. It is generally given as his departure point.

I apologize for the size of this list, I’m trying to leave myself some notes on Elmers alive or dead in Essex around the time of Ed and some idea of how many there are.


A map of the pinpoints for Elmer records in Essex in the 1500s and 1600s. I’m trying to break down the towns by “area” but I’m not sure of the relationships of all the towns because I’m not from Essex. So I may group a town “near” Tollesbury incorrectly associating the two because I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’ll bold the hearth tax records.

broad overview map of Elmers in Essex listed below.
Pins representing the locations of Elmers listed below


Ed Elmer was part of the Braintree Company but also Hooker’s company, following Reverend Thomas Hooker to what would become Hartford Connecticut. Thomas Hooker was a lecturer in Chelmsford and retired to Little Baddow before leaving for North America.

1670 Hearth Tax – Ellmer – 5 hearths – interesting that it is just listed as Ellmer, others similarly have no first name, like Whitehead (3 hearths) and Mr. Wall (6 hearths). This Ellmer would have qualified as a wealthy craftsman, tradesman or yeoman.

Date 6th November 1575 Groom John Gotsall, Bride Susan Elmar

1683 Theophilius Aylmer (apothecary), Chelmsford

Hattfield Peverel

1612 Samuel Almer, in Hattfield Peverel. The Churchwardens tried to take his cow.


Date of Baptism 13th August 1570 Venefred Elmer, Father’s Name Richard Elmer, Place Boreham St Andrew, Essex

Little Baddow

Date 20th October 1567 Groom: Edmond Hawkes, Bride Elizabethe Elmar, Parish Little Baddow St Mary the Virgin


1670 – Hearth Tax – Brabason Aylmer Gentleman – 8 hearths


Date of Baptism 27th April 1597 Thomas Elmer, Father William Elmer, Maldon St Peter

Date 16th April 1613 Groom William Elmer, Bride Mary Frend, Parish Maldon St Mary the Virgin


It seems like the general area of Braintree and Coggeshall was important to Puritans who later moved to North America with Ed. Many of these locations are also in the sphere of Colchester.

Date 11th September 1619 Groom Gregory Elmore, Bride Elizab Beacha, Parish Coggeshall St Peter Ad Vincula

Coggeshall Hamlet (Little Coggeshall)

1670 Hearth Tax – Charles Elmer – 2 hearths – It appears he is listed as discharged by certificate, which means he wasn’t liable for the tax. If I’m reading it right then the majority of hearths listed in Coggeshall Hamlet are not taxed. Would also qualify as a yeoman or craftsman.

1696 – Will for Thomas Elmer, Little Coggeshall


Reverend Samuel Stone, another founder of Hartford, was a curate at Stisted between Braintree, Coggeshall and Earls Colne.

1628 court record for Gad Elmer, Labourer from Braintree, along with Walter Wall, assaulted Thomas Whitehead. See the Hearth tax for Chelmsford where all these surnames appear as well.


Date 24th November 1617 Groom Edmond Elmar, Bride Alice Hill
Groom’s Parish or Abode Kelveden, Parish Messing All Saints

Date of Burial 26th December 1619 Edmund Elmer, Parish Kelvedon St Mary the Virgin

Date of Burial 14th June 1585 Alice Elmor Parish Kelvedon St Mary the Virgin

Date of Burial 9th October 1616 Helen Elmer, Husband Edmund Elmer, Parish Kelvedon St Mary the Virgin

Date of Baptism 14th January 1626 Joan Elmer, Father John Elmer, Mother Helene Elmer, Kelvedon St Mary the Virgin

Date of Baptism 12th April 1629 William Elmer, Father John Elmer, Mother Helene Elmer, Kelvedon St Mary the Virgin

Date of Baptism 23rd February 1633 Charles Elmer, Father John Elmer Mother Helen Elmer, Kelvedon St Mary the Virgin

Date of Baptism 25th June 1637 Elizabeth Elmer, Father John Elmer, Mother Helene

Date of Baptism 21st November 1624 John Elmmer, Father John Elmmer, Mother Helene, Kelvedon St Mary the Virgin


Date of Baptism 1st March 1572 Roberte Elmore, Father Roberte Elmore, Messing All Saints, Essex

Date of Baptism 21st March 1573 Susan Elmore, Father Robarte Elmore, Messing All Saints

Earls Colne

1582 John Almer, Earls Colne

Date of Burial 17th February 1569 John Elmer, Parish Saffron Walden St Mary the Virgin (yep…two in a row)


A lot of the outlying towns that contain Elmers are within the sphere of influence of Colchester.

Date of Burial 31st August 1594 Edy Elmer, Parish Colchester St Leonard


1614 Robert Elmer alias Tyler, documented in 1614 and again documented in 1616 from Wivenhoe outside Colchester.


Date of Baptism 7th July 1640 Samuel Elmer, Father Edmund Elmer Profession: Clerk, Aldham St Margaret and St Catherine

Beaumont Cum Moze

Date of Burial 16th December 1599 Mary Elmar, Father’s Name Robart Elmar, Parish Beaumont-Cum-Moze St Leonard – Also a birth record for Mary in May of this year.

Baptism Date of 14th December 1600 John Elmar, Father Robart Elmar, Mother Mary Beaumont-Cum-Moze St Leonard

Date of Burial 30th August 1603 Elmar, Father Robart Elmar, Parish Beaumont-Cum-Moze St Leonard

Date of Baptism 1st January 1604 Mary Elmer Father Robert Elmer, Beaumont-Cum-Moze St Leonard, Essex

Date of Burial 23rd January 1615 Mary Elmer, Husband Robert Elmer, Parish Beaumont-Cum-Moze St Leonard

Date of Baptism 21st April 1606 Rychard Elmar, Father Robart Elmar, Mother Mary

Date of Baptism 18th September 1608 Elizabeth Elmar, Father Robart Elmar, Mother Mary

Date of Baptism 23rd April 1611 Grace Elmar, Father Robart Elmar, Mother Mary


13th June 1616 Groom’s Name Robert Elmar, Bride’s Name Sara Wright, Parish Manningtree St Michael and All Angels


Date 25th September 1626 Groom William Elmer, Bride Susan Convin, Parish Bradfield St Lawrence

Date of Burial 1st July 1628 William Elmer, Parish Bradfield St Lawrence

Date of Baptism 30th September 1627 Henry Elmer, Father William Elmer, Mother’s Name Susan, Bradfield St Lawrence


Date 3rd August 1635 Groom Robertus Ashley, Bride Maria Elmer, Parish Thaxted St John the Baptist Our Lady and St Lawrence

Saffron Walden

Date of Burial 29th October 1568 John Elmer, Parish Saffron Walden St Mary the Virgin

Sible Hedingham

Date of Burial 28th August 1611 Ane Elmer, Parish Sible Hedingham St Peter

Little Canfield

Date of Baptism 25th July 1568 Jone Aylmor, Mother Margery Aylmor Little Canfield All Saints

Stapleford Tawney

1670 Hearth Tax – William Elmer – 1 hearth – discharged by certificate.

Will – 1606 or 1696 – Mary Elmer in Stapleford-Tawney, interesting because she lists a male “Cattlyn” and our Mary Unknown (Edward Elmer of Hartford’s wife) married Thomas Caitlin after Edward’s death.


1513 Thomas Aylmer, Gentleman of Harlow near Thaxted


1558 – 1578 – Plaintiff Thomas Halys, Defendant Edward Elmer


There were so many Elmer records from Tollesbury that I got tired of seeing records from Tollesbury.

Date 27th January 1615 Groom’s Name Rob Paynter, Bride’s Name Susan Elmor, Groom’s Parish or Abode Toleshunt Major, Bride’s Parish or Abode Tolsburie, Parish Kelvedon St Mary the Virgin

Date 3rd November 1594 Groom Thomas Pale, Bride Susan Elmer

Date 17th April 1597 Groom John Eve, Bride Mary Elemer

Date of Baptism 20th June 1577 John Elmer, Tollesbury

Date of Baptism 12th November 1581 Mary Elmer, Tollesbury

Date of Baptism 7th November 1583 Elizabeth Elmer, Tollesbury

Date of Baptism 17th October 1585 Robert Elmer, Tollesbury

Date of Baptism 18th October 1579 William Ellmer, Tollesbury

Date of Baptism 11th August 1588 Margaret Elmore, Tollesbury

Date 11th November 1605 Groom John Elmen, Bride Susan Elmer, Tollesbury

Date of Burial 1st October 1604 Rebecca Elmer, Husband John Elmer

Date of Burial 11th June 1608 Susan Elmer, Father John Elmer

Date of Burial 28th June 1612 Elizabeth Elmer

Date of Burial 18th November 1614 John Elmer

Date of Burial 25th November 1621 Ratchell Elmer

Date of Burial 12th July 1625 William Elmer

Date of Baptism 19th May 1616 Mary Elmer, Father Willi Elmer

Date of Baptism 4th October 1619 William Elmer, Father William Elmer, Mother Ratchell

1578 – previous search record for Rob Elmer Tollesbury

1608 previous search record for John Elmer in Tollesbury

1623 previous search record for William Elmer in Tollesbury

Great Stambridge

Date of Baptism 19th September 1648 Ann Elmor, Great Stambridge St Mary and All Saints


1670 Hearth Tax – Widow Ellmer – 1 hearth – discharged by certificate so not paying the tax.

West Mersea

Date of Burial 8th September 1618 Bartholomews Elmer, Abode Westmerzea, Parish Harwich St Nicholas

1644 Robert Elmer, Seaman. Will from West Mersea

More Elmers than Expected

So, yeah, there are a lot of Elmers in Essex in the time of Ed Elmer. Specifically looking at the Hearth tax and thinking about Elmers who could afford a trip to the new world and walking that back from 1670 to 1640. Here is the short Hearth Tax list for Essex:

8 hearths for Brabason in Ulting – gentleman (descendant of Bishop Aylmer)
5 hearths in Chelmsford – wealthy yeoman
2 Hearths in Coggeshall Hamlet – yeoman
1 hearth in Stapleford Tawney – labourer
1 hearth in Tillingham – labourer

In my post on Ed Elmer Regular Guy, my theory based on his means was that he wasn’t the bottom rung of the ladder, but also not a gentleman. He had means, but clearly not the amount of means of others he lived near in the new world. The Puritans made sure every man had something but some people had more something than others and they brought that with them.

Ulting is close to Braintree but we haven’t been able to find any family ties between Ed Elmer and Brabason Aylmer’s family. Most of the Aylmers are well documented and so we’ve been able to find death records for our suspect Edward Aylmers. We could totally be related to the Bishop, but I suspect it would be in a more round-about fashion through his brother or uncle or great uncle, something that wouldn’t let Ed have access to their wealth and standing.

Gad Elmer from braintree in 1628 is a labourer and he’s listed with Wall and Whitehead there. I bring that up because I see those same names pop up in Chelmsford hearth taxes. My previous theory though was that Ed was not a labourer (although that may be misguided), but it’s also completely possible that Gad is a relative of Ed’s. Some of my cousins live one town away from my family and there is a clear income gap between our families. What if Gad was Ed’s cousin?

Given my bias that Ed is a yeoman or a tradesman of some sort, I’d be looking at those families from Chelmsford on the high end (roughly 12 miles from Braintree) and Coggeshall which is just about 6 or 7 miles from Braintree. Of course you get to the point where everything is only so far from everything else in the region.

Other People on the Lyon who are from Essex

Ed travels on the Lyon, so that had me wondering if other people on the Lyon were from Essex and what towns they came from.

Using the Whipple family’s break down of the Lyon passenger list as a guide (A Whipple being a witness to Gad’s crime up there) here is my laundry list of origins for Essex Lyon travelers:

  • Braintree
  • Nazeing
  • Coggeshall
  • Halstead
  • Dedham
  • Bocking
  • Hatfield Broad Oak
the road from Nazeing Essex to Dedham.

This isn’t the full list of origins for people on the Lyon, just those thought to be from Essex.

What did I Learn?

Getting in the wayback machine, what I learned a long time ago is that Braintree is under-represented when it comes to birth and death records because many of those records were damaged. The fact that we can find records from Braintree or about Elmers from Braintree like Gad (above) is then a small miracle.

It leaves us without a definitive record of Edward’s birth though. I also do not see the birth of Gad Elmer of Braintree. I couldn’t find any birth marriage or death records from Braintree, just that one lucky court document for Gad with a list of familiar names.

There are definitely Elmers whose parish records do show up near Braintree in places like Kelvedon and Coggeshall. Which is interesting, if not definitive.

There are Elmers near Braintree who would fit the bill as yeoman class families, as the Hearth Tax shows, in Coggeshall Hamlet and again not too far away in Chelmsford.

Looking at his Puritan leanings; Samuel Stone (who named Hartford Connecticut) was a curate at Stisted near Braintree, Hooker lectured in Chelmsford. Ed Elmer followed these men to Hartford and may have been part of their parishes while in England. Stisted is 5 miles from Coggeshall Hamlet where the lower end Yeoman family of Elmers lives in 1670 and Chelmsford is where a wealthier Yeoman family of Elmers lived.

Edward is part of the “Braintree Company” which contains a lot of Braintree residents but people outside of Braintree were part of the company too.

There is are quite a few Elmers in Essex in the late 1500s to the late 1600s. Nothing compared to the flood of records from Norfolk, but clearly a big enough population that Edward could be born there.

If he was somewhat like John Talcott, attributed to Braintree but with roots in a different town, then it seems like Chelmsford or Coggeshall Hamlet could be those towns. Either place along with Braintree, would also have put him within range of the Men who would lead the group to Hartford (Hooker and Stone).

The end result is that I feel good about Chelmsford or Coggeshall and even close towns like Kelvedon as possible source locations for our Elmers, but I was not able to find any records that would pin Edward to them.

Bakers Blaze a Trail and Light the Path for Others

Back in 2016, I wrote about a hidden test, marking a hidden branch in the Cumberland tree, for a kit listed as “Baker” that had testing but was unresponsive to contacts. In the years that followed another Baker tested along with Schmidt and their results for this DYS458 normal branch came to light and defined a new haplogroup in the Cumberland cluster. Below is the Family Tree DNA block tree for the Cumberland cluster and its large number of shared SNPs. To the left is the branch I’m on in ZP85 which seems to coincide with a DYS458 micro-allele. To the right are our brother branches including the branch for Baker and Schmidt (and likely others) R-BY38913.

cts12023 or DF95 with our ZP85 branch and the Baker/Schmidt BY38913 branch.

The image below is the R-BY38913 group (from my perspective in the FTDNA block tree):

The Bakers themselves are on BY61595 on the left, related to James Baker born circa 1700 AD in Virginia. The fact that they have so many public SNPs and a small average of private SNPs usually means that two of the kits have different surnames. For instance, FTDNA lists several of the Elmer private SNPs after 1600 as public and I believe that is because one of our kit holders has the ancestral surname Aylmer assigned to his kit rather than the Elmer the rest of us have. So it could be a Baker with some other spelling or it could be another man in the Baker’s circle of DNA matches like the Hill family which may be closely related.

The test on the right, I believe is Schmidt who had ordered an SNP pack for comparison in 2016. Although I haven’t had a chance to communicate with Schmidt, I’ve got to thank them for their continued progress in testing and shining lights in the dark.

Here there be Dragons

Recently, I’ve struggled with age estimates that don’t come from a service like YFull or from the U106 group’s work with Big Y 500, but there are a couple of equations we can use (lovingly borrowed from the U106 group and YFull) for rough aging to hold us over until FTDNA releases their own age analysis tools.

The numbers we need to consider are an estimated number of years per SNP. For YFull that number seems to be 144 years because of the regions of the Y they monitor. For FTDNA big Y 500 that number is 125 years per SNP. For Big Y 700 and FGC Y Elite it’s 83 years.

Then you consider the number of testers and the number of SNPs separating the two tests.

For Big Y, You multiply each tester by the appropriate number of years for their test. Then add all those sums together and divide by the number of testers.

Taking a swing at it here, since the Baker branch in the block tree is averaged I can only count it as one test. It has 25 SNPs and I believe it’s a composite of Y700 tests so 25*83 = 2075 years back to the common ancestor with Schmidt. Schmidt has 11 and I believe their test is a Big Y 500 so 11*125 = 1375 years. Then we add the two together and divide by the two tests we have (since one seems to be a baker average) 3450/2 = 1725 years back to a common ancestor.

Back from where? Well most people have counted from 1950 as a the average birth year of testers, but if you knew the testers you could ask them and then get the average of their birth years to use. For now, I’ll go with 1950 – 1725 years which would be about 225AD.

Now if Schmidt is a Y700 then his number would change to 913 and the end result would be about 456AD.

When the Baker kits were Big Y 500 they had 16 variants to Schmidt’s 11 which calculating it out with 125 years apples to apples would be 262 AD for a common ancestor with Schmidt. The Bakers have a lot of SNPs which makes me think they may have more mutations in the testable range than the average bear. That could serve to skew their rough estimates older than if we were comparing others or had more testers on more branches in their group to work with.

Unfortunately, Baker stands alone at YFull and they’re not giving away the number of SNPs for the Baker kit there (that I can see) so if I use the Big Y 500 standard for them and Schmidt, but the YFull scheme I’ve seen used for my own kit, it would be (16 * 144)+60 for Baker and (11*144)+60 for Schmidt then divide by 2. So they might estimate about 54AD for a common ancestor.

That puts the Schmidt/Baker common ancestor within spitting range (give or take several hundred years) of the common ancestor of Y15995/ZP121 in Iain McDonald’s calculations.

These are pre-migration period people who would have lived while the Roman Empire was the major power in the world.

The Bakers have been kind enough to include me on some of their conversations and research over the past year and it is good to follow up and conclude a 2016 mystery with a happy return. I can’t say “ending” because we seem to keep learning and growing and I doubt this is the end for the R-BY38913 group.

My Big Y 700 Region

My previous post followed the big Y block tree back to about 500 BC. In comparison to the older Big Y 500 results and even previous FTDNA block tree iterations, I’m seeing a finer-grained map with new SNPs not necessarily at the family level, but up in the tree defining and connecting branches that may have seemed wholly separate.

I’m writing about all of this in one massive series because I have a moment now around the holidays, before my classes start again (back to school as a working adult), to take a longer look. It means that my information may change quite a bit down the line when my results go through a human review.

This is my catch up mechanic, work and school have pulled me away from genetic genealogy, so my own big Y results are helping me figure out what has changed in the last couple of years.

I’ve chosen a geographical metaphor for my big Y results as a way to get a handle on the scope of what I’m seeing and thinking about my place in that scope. Big Y, effectively drops you off at your front door and allows you to see testers who live down the street, around the block, in your town etc.

Although I’m using geographical metaphors and locations, it’s important to know that each of these people is related through a single male line going back thousands of years. Where we choose to stop is just where we choose to stop, the line goes back to the beginning.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, the line of men has no culture and at the same time many cultures. Culture is not decided by genetics, culture is a social construct in time and usually surrounding a location that our Y lines move through. I’m going to say that ZP124 is English (right now) and ZP85 is Scandinavian but all of these lines are also Steppe people as we move backwards through different times and locations and ultimately all of us end up being African.

In my previous post, R-ZP85 is a turning point for me because of the importance of the acquisition of a micro-allele at DYS458 in my quest to research my own family. It is a dividing line marking one brother slightly different than other brothers in the same family. It is a freak of nature, like all mutations, and in the end, another waypoint to guide us.

That brings me to, I think, the heart of the matter and the parent group R-CTS12023 also referred to here often as R-DF95. What the block tree makes clear is that everyone in R-DF95 is the offspring of a single man who is basically alone after 24 SNPs, a minimum of 24 generations of men do not appear to define their branches. CTS12023 has an age estimate of just 600 to 700 BC, not too far from the root person for R-ZP85. Those 24 SNPs mark more than 24 generations. The next block up is shared by all men who are related to R-Z18 so CTS12023 represents about 1700 years of men and entire branches of the family who seem to have disappeared.

In this group you will find people from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Poland. All of us seem to be the product of an expansion at end of the Nordic Bronze Age. So it looks like we got squeezed down to one man and have been recovering ever since.

Being extremely old connected in a direct line back to Z18, but also extremely young as a group with no side branches until 700 BC explains why our STR results are very similar to each other and very different from others in R-Z18. There is no one along the way from point A to point B to show incremental change. Spreading out from an inhospitable Scandinavia and taking part in the Germanic migrations helps explain why we are so similar to each other and so dispersed around Northern Europe.

The FTDNA block tree for CTS12023 also shows where there is work to be done (at least from the perspective of FTDNA). Those blocks of private variants below CTS12023, so high in the tree, may point to a lack of branches, but probably point to a lack of testers. Although many men have tested, not everyone is tested to this level, probably for financial reasons. It’s expensive. What we see here is not all the information, but all the information that the market within FTDNA has provided.

The FTDNA block tree only represents people who have tested at FTDNA, not those who may have walked the path down at YSEQ or FGC. The SNPs in the tree that are marked as FGC#### or A#### were named and or discovered by FGC and YSEQ. The people who have followed those paths may have identified branches beneath CTS12023 that will not appear in the FTDNA block tree necessarily.

As a matter of perspective, it is good then to know that FTDNA is the major player in this space, especially in the U.S., but is not the only player. We’re seeing the data presented as they have access to it, but not necessarily as it exists in the world.

There is no unified repository or analysis of these results.

The parent of CTS12023 is the block of 9 or so SNPs that define R-Z18 a group that eventually leads to R-U106. In the FTDNA block tree, CTS12023 is a direct descendant of R-Z18 without any closer siblings.

If you’ve seen my previous posts from 2016 though you will know that Alex Williamson’s own block tree shows something a bit different. Alex connects CTS12023 with a brother group, now under R-S19726 which in the FTDNA block tree contains testers from Norway, Sweden, Finland, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Netherlands and Germany.

It is a difference of perspective on the available big Y and FGC data at the time, but Alex Williamson’s tree offers some possible insights. According to the notes the SNP connecting CTS12023 to S19726, labeled A19290, is ugly and the connection is hard to see in Big Y results alone. I’m not sure how to describe ZZ61 and ZZ62.

I don’t know if that means we’ll never see that connection in FTDNA’s version of the block tree or if it is just a series of more granular tests away.

In my big Y 700 results A19290 is there with a low-quality reading:

chrY 9739413 . A C 29.6785 QUAL=29.678453

Along with ZZ61 represented by a mutation Alex marks as ZZ61_1 (one of two possible mutations):

chrY 22205354 . G T 10.4682

…and ZZ62 showing as one of two possible mutations:

chrY 20149083 . A G 10.4682

Here is a link to Alex’s description of this block which he has positioned just beneath R-Z18:

Swinging back to CTS12023

Dropping back to CTS12023 for a moment here at the end, I’d like to highlight a point of interest that I alluded to above when talking about our ultimate origins in Africa.

All of the origin points for these families are also destination points for these families. My family under R-A2284 begins here in the North American colonies it is a native SNP to this continent as are any of my singletons that survive human review.

As we look at CTS12023 there are men whose families are as English as all get out, but who are more closely related to someone from Norway 1500 years ago than a CTS12023 person in the next county in England. My family is more closely related to men in Belgium than to people from the next county over in England. For some of these testers you have to go all the way back up to the tree to our root “one lucky DF95 guy who survived in 600 BC” and all the way back down another side to find men who lived a few kilometers from each other in Britain..or a few towns away in North America.

Where we’ve ended up is not necessarily part of any one concerted effort. Although I suspect that Mr. DF95 survived something awful in Scandinavia, the move from Scandinavia to any other origin for the majority of CTS12023 men was probably not a straight line. Each of our stories is part of a group movement, but they are also individual stories that are ironically illuminated by others whose ancestors picked a slightly different path or moved at a different time.

If your family is Swiss (and I know there is at least one Swiss CTS12023 family) I’m not saying your family isn’t Swiss. If your family is from England then…your family is from England. What I am saying is that it is highly unlikely that they popped out of the ground or spontaneously spawned out of the rocks there.

My Big Y 700 City

As we move along it will help to know that my age ranges and estimates are based on the work of the U106 group based on big Y 500 results and so are very much estimates.

My previous two posts pretty well covered something on the order of 800 to 1200 years of shared history, with most of the diversity of origins coming in closer to the 1000 plus year end of that range and the small number of matching families being plotted to the shores of southern north sea basin.

Looking at those results, with at least one English family more recently related to cousins in the Netherlands and Belgium than they were to other English families, that we’re witnessing multiple waves of migration.

The easy answer would be that one group of families arrived in England around 700 or 800AD while the other family arrived in Britain around 1100 or 1200AD. If we accept a general east to west migration, but it is possible that the families in the Netherlands and Belgium are the result of a back migration around 1200. It’s also possible that there are currently hidden continental cousins whose results are missing when examining the Knowltons, Elmers and Lunsfords in ZP124.

What is clear is that that in that in a 600 to 800 AD range, BY41998 gives rise to two new lines, with one group favoring England while the other favors the low countries.

by41998 map with seven families pinned to netherlands, belgium and england

The map above is a point in time guesstimate of ZP124 in blue and ZP125 in orange around 1000 to 1300AD. One of the orange markers in the low countries will end up in Poland and all of the markers in England will eventually end up in the U.S.

The next block back in time is a fairly big leap. Originally defined by 4 or 5 SNPs, the ZP121 block now shows 12 SNPs with at least 6 family origins. The matches are diverse enough that I’ll need to display the block in two images. On the left-hand side of this image you can see two new siblings for BY41998 leading to testers with plenty of novel variants to themselves. These novel variant blocks represent possibilities for undiscovered branches in the ZP121 family tree. One quirk in my ZP121 block matches is that Edwards from Wales shows as a DNA match where the more closely related match from Belgium does not. I would expect that to get cleaned up in the human review. The two sibling SNPs for BY4119, R-A19371 with descendants in England and Germany and BY101189 with Edwards from Wales, would I suspect have branched out in roughly the same time period.

The right-hand side also has new matches at the ZP121 level directly. Likely no potential sibling for BY41998 has been identified in those matches. They will probably eventually have some shared SNPs under the ZP121 block when more results come in. Here we have Germany, England, Ireland and Poland and the Polish match in this group is no closer or farther away than any other match. It would be harder to say if they were part of the Ostsiedlung migrating east or if they represent an older branch of ZP121 that migrated west.

My suspicion with both the left hand and right-hand groups without further evidence is that we’re seeing the Germanic migrations. The current best age estimate for ZP121 is around 300AD. With 12 SNPs, ZP121 represents another survivor story. He’s one man with a minimum of 12 generations behind him, but again likely many more. His descendants end up

All of these haplogroups are under the parent group of R-Z18 which is age estimated to have originated in a man born around 2500 BC and is a descendant of R-U106 which is estimated to be a man born around 3000 BC. Although several groups in R-U106 contain Scandinavians, R-Z18 has a high proportion of Scandinavians. Where R-U106 is generalized as a Germanic haplogroup by many, R-Z18 is generalized as a Scandinavian sub-group.

These are cultural labels that don’t reflect on the actual culture of Mr. U106 or Mr. Z18 at all. Those guys were probably walking around with stone axes speaking some language that would be alien to their later descendants. The labeling reflects more on the distribution of the descendants of those men. The observation of this distribution has been made based on current testers and has generally been backed up by ancient DNA.

The Germanic migrations, to me, are a spaghetti mess of movement in Europe that sends a few generations of men far and wide as settlers in new locations and founders of new cultures and groups in those locations.

The U106 group has been doing a good job of tracking ancient U106 related DNA in a spreadsheet:

There you can find R-Z18 related men in 4th century Nordland, Norway and R-Z18 men in 6th century Somogy, Hungary. The man in Norway is not necessarily surprising, but the man in Hungary, part of an eventual Lombard culture, was born in Scandinavia based on isotope analysis (one of two Scandinavians I believe) living among unrelated Germans and various locals.

In later centuries R-Z18 men appear in Norway, Sweden, Iceland and burials in the Danelaw in England. In a broad generalization, R-Z18 men seem to be found in Scandinavia and then places where Scandinavians ended up in the era of the Germanic migrations and the Viking age.

It would be great to have enough testing, of both modern and ancient DNA to be able to place and track DF95 men in this same journey, but our haplogroup is so small and so recently defined that I’m not sure our SNPs have been tested for when it comes to ancient DNA. Any of the men simply marked Z18 in the spreadsheet could be DF95 men, but the size of our group makes it less likely that we’ll be identified in ancient remains.

It is no surprise though, given the evidence we have from ancient DNA and historical accounts of the migration period, that we would find R-Z18 men in R-ZP121 in a variety of locations in Europe.

One block farther back I find FGC78525, new since March 2019, which connects ZP121 men to men under BY39935 and BY66573. Again, like ZP121, I would expect that these are migration era sibling groups. Each of them has a long string of SNPs just like Mr ZP121, 12 to 15 generations all in a straight line. These two groups are currently dominated by matches from the Isles (England, Scotland, Ireland) while Mr. ZP121 has children from both the Isles and the continent. Just like ZP121 we could be looking at a lot of hidden branches that will be defined with further testing for these groups or we could be looking at the string of SNPs in the descendants of three survivors with everyone else who would have branched off along the way going extinct.

FGC78525 contains men in ZP121 as well as two new groups under BY39935 and BY66573. All three groups have long runs of 12 to 15 unshared SNPs

One more block back and we get to ZP85 which seems to be correlated with the DYS458.2 micro-allele. ZP85 is the parent of FGC78525 above and another group defined by 14 SNPs in a long string leading to a tester from Norway and two Testers of unknown origin. My guess would be that the people in this R-PH1934 group split up at around the same number of SNPs as the split for ZP124 and ZP125 from BY41998, its age estimate is roughly 550 AD. My personal suspicion is that the subgroups of PH1934 represent splits in the Y line during and after the viking age and that there are more testers out there who could help define its branches.

My bet is that our mutual parent R-ZP85 has its roots in Scandinavia. ZP85 has an age estimate around 500BC which is in the vicinity of the end of the Nordic Bronze Age. I talk a bit about the end of the Nordic Bronze Age and references to climate change in a few of my posts in 2015 and 2016. This period is also sometimes called the “findless” age because of a population decline in Scandinavia and a lack of archeological finds.

There are enough blocks under ZP85 that I’m doing split screens left and right to capture them (hopefully in some meaningful way).

R-zp85, father of R-ph1934 and R-FGC78525
right hand side of ZP85 block tree

Mr R-ZP85 seems to be the originator of my ancestor’s DYS458.2 micro-allele, the tiny .2 number that vexed me so much in the early days of my search became important for sorting and then almost immediately was overshadowed by SNP discoveries. I think he also represents (barring new evidence) a diaspora of Scandinavians who would stop being Scandinavians and become Germans, Polish, Dutch, Belgians, English, Irish, Scots and Welsh.