Elmers, Elmers Everywhere outside of Essex

I’m moving along on the supposition that Ed Elmer was probably a solidly middle-class guy, but maybe at the lower end of wealth from Ed Elmer Regular Guy and also following up on my post about the surprising number of Elmers in Essex (although a decided lack of Ed Elmers in available records there) that leaves open the possibility that he was a resident in Braintree or Bocking but that his paperwork is missing.

Of course not all the puritans were from Essex and neither were all the passengers on the Lyon (using this comparison of varying accounts from the Whipple family site as a reference). The source of all knowledge Wikipedia says that nearly half of all puritans came broadly from East Anglia. This random British travel site seems to agree. The Whipple passenger lists have people from Norfolk, Suffolk, Kent, Surrey, Hertfordshire, and Northamptonshire. Although fewer in number than the Essex passengers they are not insignificant. Edward ends up settling in Hartford which is named after Hertfordshire after all.

When I was looking at Essex I cast a pretty broad net to get a feeling for how many Elmer families lived there in the early 1600s. Looking at counties like Norfolk, I can afford to be a bit pickier. Where possible I’ve looked up hearth tax records online and I found a great search site at https://www.freereg.org.uk/ that has tons of parish records. My focus for those parish records has been on Edward Elmers.

I’m not from Britain so I may be grouping these towns wrong, but for the sake of some sort of order, I’m going to try to cluster these a bit for context. I’ll bold the Hearth Tax Records which will be roughly 50 to 70 years later (1670’s) than the vital records I can find between 1590 and 1620.

The hearth tax records are meant to provide some idea of the general state of Elmers in the area after Edward’s departure. Following the theory that Edward’s remaining family in England would have had some means, we’d be looking at a yeoman class person up to a wealthy craftsman so roughly 2 to 7 hearths.

Elmers from Norfolk

Norfolk is the home county for Bishop John Aylmer. It’s also home to a large amount of Elmers, Ailmers, Elmores and other name variants. It is thick with Elmers. The family and court records I dug up in the past are overwhelming, to the point that I got tired of copying them. If you had to guess where Ed Elmer was from, then I think Norfolk would be the safest guess based on surname alone.

In my record search from 1590 to 1620 there are 138 Elmer records (baptism, burial, marriage) in Norfolk. Compare that to the 22 records I find in Essex or the 14 records I find in Suffolk for the same period and you get an idea of how dense the Elmer population is there.

Because of that, I’ve gotten pretty picky with Norfolk. I’m only looking at birth, burial or marriage records related to Edward Elmers. The hearth tax records are there for the general flavor to show the means of Elmer families in the area after Edward had migrated to America.

Norfolk hearth taxes found at: https://www.familysearch.org/library/books/records/item/204870-norfolk-hearth-tax-assessment-michaelmas-1664-vol-15?offset=1

map of Norfolk with pins marking Ed Elmer records, Elmer hearths and Hingham.

King’s Lynn Area

Kings Lynn area Norfolk map contains Brancaster, Bagthorpe, West Bilney, and Wiggenhall St Germans


You can see the vital records at the top of Norfolk as a red pin near Brancaster. I don’t know if the Edward Elmer buried in 1610 represents the child born around 1605, or his father also named Edward who was married to Isabell just the year before the birth, in 1604, or if the 1610 Edward Elmer is unrelated. All I’ve seen are the indexes. I can see that Edward and Isabell have a son named Edward in 1605, a son named John around 1607, a son Oliver in 1608 and then Isabell is oddly listed alone as the mother of Bridget Elmer in 1616. I couldn’t find any birth records for Edward Elmers born in Norfolk between 1500 and 1612. I suspect that Edward the younger is the death in 1610, but I can’t be sure. I can’t find the death of Edward senior.

Isabell FOULL Edward ELMER Marriage 25 Jan 1604/5 – St Mary the Virgin : Parish Register

Edward? ELMER Baptism 29 Sep 1605 – St Mary the Virgin : Parish Register

Edward ELMER Burial 10 Jun 1610 – St Mary the Virgin : Parish Register


Thomas Elmore 4 hearths

West Bilney

Rich Elmore 2 Hearths

Wiggenhall St Germans

Mr Ailmer 3 hearths.


Thetford Norfolk map contains Hingham, Hockwold cum Wilton, Scoulton, Little Ellingham, Caston and Attleborough.


There are several records for Almer births in Scoulton (Red pin on the map by the Hingham star) with what appear to be a couple of generations in my 1590 to 1620 range. Edward Almer is the son of William Almer who appears to have multiple children in the 1590 and early 1600s. There are also multiple records for Aylmers who may be the same family with a different spelling. Almer seems to be the older record set with Aylmers becoming dominant later. I looked for records of Edward Almer later from 1620 to 1700 in Scoulton to see if he married or died there but I found none.

Edward ALMER Baptism 25 Jan 1608/9 – Holy Trinity : Archdeacon’s Transcript

Edward Almer really caught my attention so I looked to see if Scoulton had puritan activity and found this passage that makes it sound like there was some current of puritanism there. From the google book “Faith, Hope and Charity: English Neighbourhoods, 1500–1640” By Andy Wood

It hurt to hear the parson of Scoulton preach in 1628, for example, that them that kneeled at the lords prayer at the sacrament of batism were ridiculous. The minister refused to read latin, reproved women who wore a veil when they came to church and he said it is a relic of the pope.

Hockwold cum Wilton

Millicent Aylmer – 2 hearths
Robt Aylmer – 3 hearths
Sam Aylmer – 3 hearths

Little Ellingham

Robt Aylmer – 2 hearths


Chr (Christopher? Charles?) Aylmer – 2 hearths


Richard Elmer – 6 hearths


I found no Elmers in Hingham in the 1590 to 1620 range. I have a star on Hingham because it’s history with the Puritans is interesting. A large portion of the town left for America in the 1630’s including the ancestors of Abraham Lincoln. Hingham Massachusetts was settled by people transplanted from Hingham Norfolk. According to sources quoted on Wikipedia “The parishioners who left Hingham had been so prominent in the Hingham community that the town was forced to petition British Parliament, saying their town had been devastated by the emigration. They told the House of Commons that “most of the able Inhabitants have forsaken their dwellings and have gone severall ways for their peace and quiett and the town is now left and like in the misery by reason of the meanness of the [remaining] Inhabitants.”

Hingham is 3 miles from Scoulton.


Map of Norwich Norfolk area with pins in Frettenham, Norwich and Hethersett.

St Margaret Parish Norwich

This Edward Elmer (Red pin above) is at the top end for birth date I would think. Being born in 1617 would have made him only 15 when he traveled on the Lyon in 1632. I don’t know if that is likely or not. It seems awfully young and it seems odd that he would be traveling alone in 1632. He’s the son of Nathaniell Elmer. I’ve found no record of his marriage or death in Norfolk, although I can see that Nathaniell dies in 1649/1650 in Norwich. Nathaniell was a Worsted Weaver. Nathaniell’s death is recorded at St. Peter Mancroft where there is a tapestry hanging that was created by Dutch and Flemish weavers who came to Norwich according to this article on the 1000 plus Dutch and Flemish strangers. Several of the Elmers with burials at St. Peter Mancroft appear to be weavers or related to Elmer weavers.

Edward ELMER Baptism 14 Aug 1617 – St Margaret : Parish Register


John Elmer – 1 hearth


John Elmer – 2 hearths

Pullham Area

Pullham area map with pins for Pullham, Wortwell and Hardwick


Robt Elmer – 4 hearths

Pullham (Market) St Marie

John Elmer – 1 hearth

Wortwell; hamlett of aldeburgh

Isaac Elmer – 2 hearths

Elmers from Suffolk

There are fewer Elmer records in Suffolk from 1590 to 1620 (roughly 14) than I find in Norfolk, although plenty of hearth tax records from 1674. When I extend my vital record searches to 1690 I see more literal “Elmers” showing up in records in the 1660s and 1670s (as opposed to Almers who dominate in 1590 to 1620). It may be that the Elmer hearth records are showing new Elmer families moving into Suffolk…while the low level of “Elmer” vital records (really just the one family from Bury St. Edmunds seem trustworthy) may show a transient Elmer family with the residents from the hearth tax records representing newer families in Suffolk.

Suffolk hearth taxes found at: https://archive.org/details/suffolkin1674bei00shah/page/142/mode/2up

West Side Bury, Sudbury…Cowlinge

Bury St. Edmunds

From the records in Bury St. Edmunds there is at least one Elmer family. Robert has sons Edward in 1595 and Nicholas in 1594 one record is spelled Ellmer and the other Elmer. I found no other records for the family. I don’t see them in my Suffolk searches, even when I extend it out to 1690.

Edward ELLMER Baptism 9 Nov 1595 – St James : Other Transcript

Long Melford

Robert Elmer – 3 hearths

Sudbury Babergh St. Peters

Step. Ellmer – 3 hearths

Cowlinge in Risbridge

The bulk of the Almer records from 1590 to 1620 are in the general vicinity of Cowlinge. Most are from Lidgate roughly 3 miles away with a few popping up in Wickhambrook about 4 miles to the east. The Almer families show up in vital records in Lidgate until the 1660s.

William Almer – 2 hearths

North and East

Hepworth (north of Stanton on the west side of the map)

Jo Elmor – 2 hearths
Grig Ellmer – 3 hearths


Jo Elmer – 4 hearths
widow Elmer – 1 hearth

Ashfield Thredling (to the west of Bruisyard and Sweffling)

Rich. Elmer, Stannard – 2 hearths (not sure what Stannard represents here)

Swefling in Plomesgate

Thomas Elmore – 3 hearths

Bruisyard Plomesgate

Thomas Elmer – 2 hearths

South and East


Henry Elmer – 2 hearths
… Almer – 2 hearths


A sort of dodgy record for an Elinore family came up in my searches from 1590 to 1620 in Woodbridge. I’m not sure what to make of them. It could be a transcription error.

Widow Almer – 2 hearths

Elmers from Sussex

There are 45 vital records for Aylmers (of various spellings) and 8 vital records for Elmers in Sussex between 1590 and 1620. The Aylmers were active in Sidlesham and Boxgrove. I couldn’t find a good source for Sussex hearth taxes online, although it appears there is a book I could order. Here’s a walking map from Sidlesham to Boxgrove roughly 8 miles away.


Edward Aylmer is born to John Aylmer in Sidlesham but dies as an infant.

Edward AYLMER Baptism 28 Feb 1606/7 St Mary Our Lady : Parish Register

Edward AYLMER Burial 09 Mar 1606/7 St Mary Our Lady : Parish Register

Elmers in London

The St. Mary Le Bow Edward Elmores show in my vital records searches from 1590 to 1620. As we found out Edward Elmore senior, a fishmonger, had two sons named Edward who did not survive childhood. He then also died in 1620. The Elmore family maintains a presence in the area, but that particular set of Edward Elmores was a dead end. We have more on the roads we followed trying to tie up loose ends for Ed Elmer here:


The end of the Edward Elmers

That marks the end of my Edward Elmer teasers in England between 1590 and 1620. There are Elmers, Almers, Aylmers, etc. that are active in many counties. These searchable records are amazing but also incomplete. I can’t negate the idea that Ed Elmer is from Northhamptonshire, for instance, but I couldn’t find Ed Elmer records there.

I found the Ed Almer record from Scoulton to be pretty interesting because of timing and proximity to Hingham. Hingham’s exodus happens a few years after Ed leaves for the new world with the Braintree company. It would make Ed roughly 36 when he was married and 60 when he’s relieved of watching and warding and roughly 68 when he is killed.

I suspect Ed Elmer from Brancaster dies in 1610, but I have no way to confirm that. Born in 1605 this Edward would be 27 when the Lyon departed. 39 when he was first married (a bit on the older side). 62 when he was freed from watching and 71 when he was killed.

Ed Elmer from Norwich born in 1617 seems young at first but then fits better later. He would be 15 when the Lyon set sail, but I’ve suspected in the past that Ed was an unmarried young man, possibly under the watchful eye of another family on the journey. Ed is married in 1644 which would make him 27. The average age for a man to marry in Puritan society is about 26 according to womens history blog. That doesn’t seem too unreasonable. He would have been 51 when relieved of watching and 59 when he died. The average life expectancy seems to be around 70 for men in New England at the time and Ed didn’t die from natural causes.

Edward from Bury St. Edmunds seems to be pretty long in the tooth. He would have been in his late 30’s for the trip and almost 50 when he was first married and 81 when he was killed. This Ed Elmer just seems unlikely.

Just for Fun

Out of curiosity, I wanted to see where the other two close Y DNA families might be in England at the time of Edward’s birth.

Lunsfords, Lunsfords in England

The Lunsfords are the second closest family roughly 700 or 800 AD for a common ancestor. Doing the SNP trick with two new big Y results I get 15 * 83 for us and 13 * 83 for them. That’s 1245 + 1079/2 = 1162. 1950 – 1162 = roughly 788 AD for a common Y ancestor with the Lunsfords. Here are the Lunsfords from 1590 to 1620. I dropped back to 1500 with them as a kind of survey and they still seem clustered around Sussex and Kent.

Lunsfords in Hastings

William LUNSFORD Baptism 07 Jun 1590 Sussex Hastings : All Saints : Parish Register

William LUNSFORD Baptism 7 Jun 1590 Sussex Hastings : St Clement Old Town : Parish Register

Joan LUNSFORD Burial 2 Mar 1593/4 Sussex Hastings : St Clement Old Town : Parish Register

William LUNSFORD Burial 10 Jan 1594/5 Sussex Hastings : St Clement Old Town : Parish Register

Agnes LUNSFORD Baptism 23 Nov 1595 Sussex Hastings : St Clement Old Town : Parish Register

Elizabeth LUNSFORD Baptism 14 Dec 1606 Sussex Hastings : St Clement Old Town : Parish Register

Bridgett LUNSFORD Burial 2 Nov 1609 Sussex Hastings : St Clement Old Town : Parish Register

….LUNSFORD Burial 18 Nov 1609 Sussex Hastings : St Clement Old Town : Parish Register

Joane ROGERS Thomas LUNSFORD Marriage 05 Sep 1610 Sussex Hastings : St Clement Old Town : Parish Register

John LUNSFORD Burial 24 Jan 1617/18 Sussex Hastings : All Saints : Parish Register

Lunsfords in Kent

John LUNSFORD Burial 02 Nov 1593 Kent Benenden : St George : Other Transcript

Sarah LUNSFORD John KNIGHT Marriage 10 Aug 1620 Kent Tenterden : St Mildred : Parish Register

Knowltons, Knowltons in England

Currently our closest non-Elmer Y DNA relatives, the Knowltons are still far enough back that we likely don not have a common male line ancestor in the time of the common use of surnames in England. Testing shows our families diverged 7 Y SNPs before Edward Elmer was born. Most estimates have shown a shared ancestor around the time of the Norman invasion. When I do the trick of using SNP calculations I get 12 Big Y SNPs for the Elmers back to the common Y SNP. So 12 * 83 years. Then 5 SNPs for our Knowlton tester with old Big Y: 5 * 125 years. That’s 996 + 625 = 1621. 1621/2 = 810.5 years. 1950 – 810 years is roughly 1140 AD for the common ancestor with the Knowltons.

Here are some vital records in the range of 1590 to 1620 for Knowltons (and spelling variants). I’m limiting them here to just 1590 to 1620 but it’s worth noting that there are many Knowltons of various spellings in Kent and Middlesex between 1500 and 1600. These are Knowltons who would be roughly the same age as Ed Elmer.

Knowltons in Essex

Allis NOWLTON Baptism 30 Apr 1592 Essex West Bergholt : St Mary the Virgin : Parish Register

Knowltons in Norfolk

Elizabeth NULTON? Baptism 02 Apr 1609 Norfolk Hevingham : St Botolph : Archdeacon’s Transcript

Margaret KNOULTON Burial 23 Apr 1597 Norfolk Halvergate : St Peter and St Paul : Parish Register

Knowltons in Yorkshire

Tho. WOLTON (OR NOLTON) Baptism 30 Jan 1609/10 Yorkshire, West Riding Leeds : St Peter : Other Transcript

Knowltons in Hampshire

Richard KNOWLTON Baptism 12 Oct 1600 Hampshire Church Oakley : St Leonard : Parish Register

Margerys KNOWLTON Baptism 22 Jan 1603/4 Hampshire Church Oakley : St Leonard : Parish Register

Knowltons in Surrey

Susan KNOWLDEN Baptism 26 Dec 1610 Surrey Bletchingley : St Mary the Virgin : Parish Register

James KNOWLDIN Baptism 27 Sep 1618 Surrey Bletchingley : St Mary the Virgin : Parish Register

Ethnicity Estimates and Goals

I recently watched what I thought was a really good piece from CBC Marketplace on Twins getting DNA tests in 2019. They test with several companies and get different ethnicity estimate results between the various companies and it appears that sometimes their results differ from each other within the same company. They also interview people on the street about whether DNA testing is science and if the ethnicity estimates are true or false. They also show the famous or infamous Ancestry commercial featuring a guy who thought his family was German but found out through DNA testing they were “Welsh or Scottish”. They present videos and commercials with people who got surprising and sometimes life-changing results. People whose identity is changed as a result of these tests.

CBC Marketplace interviews some of the companies about their differing results and a professor about ancestry testing in general. In 20 plus minutes, they do a good job of explaining that your Ethnicity Estimate results are only as good as the company’s sampling around the world, that your results will change over time as sampling gets better, and that these are only estimates. In the end, stressing that this is science entertainment and your cultural affinities are not tied to DNA. So if you grew up in a first nation as part of Native American culture and it turns out you were adopted from a Polish family, sure…look up Poland and learn about that, but you’re still Native culturally at the end of the day. That’s your culture. You get culture from your family and community and even your own interests…but not from DNA.

I’ve done several posts myself comparing ethnicity estimates, watching them change, and seeing how they are different for myself and between my family members. Based on my own experience, I agree, ethnicity estimates are fun and sometimes useful, but not necessarily definitive.

Overall, I thought it was a great message, but I also had this nagging feeling that their piece was short enough and so focused on ethnicity as the end goal, that it could be a bit misleading.

Short Attention Spans, and Easy Answers

DNA story graphic 44 percent England an Northwestern Europe, 28 Percent Scotland
My DNA Story Estimate Pie Chart this year

Take the Ancestry commercial. It does seem like they’re saying DNA made Kyle say “Goodbye Lederhosen, Hello Kilt”. It is also unfortunate that Kyle would give up what is portrayed to be a long-standing family tradition so easily. You would expect that they have friends and family in the German community that would not be so easy to leave behind. Kyle gets an easy answer and makes sweeping life changes, quickly. He’s Scottish now.

But that is not exactly what the Ancestry commercial is saying.

Kyle, in the commercial, is not finding any German relatives in his family tree. The scenario presented is that he’s doing research first and then gets a DNA test when his research doesn’t match his expectations. He gets to a point in his paper trail research and says…where are all the Germans?

The question that Ancestry’s commercial doesn’t answer, but should, is did Kyle’s DNA ethnicity results better resemble what he found in his research?

If you’ve read any of my past postings about my aunt, you may remember that I was surprised by her large Irish ethnicity estimate at 23 and me (and also at Ancestry DNA). It seemed clear that she was getting a large Irish component that I could not place. Once we used DNA to find her real paternal genetic family among the Roberts, I could easily see that her grandmother was an immigrant from Ireland. The estimates of “Irishness” varied between companies, but they weren’t bogus.

Ancestry DNA ethnicity estimate for cheryl 41% England and Northwestern Europe, 31% Scotland 28% Ireland with an affinity for Munster and Cork.
Ancestry DNA ethnicity estimate for cheryl 41% England and Northwestern Europe, 31% Scotland 28% Ireland with an affinity for Munster and Cork.

When looking at Robert families that I had identified by slogging through segment matching people from Quebec and the U.P., I wondered how these DNA companies were coming up with a really high Irish component when all I was finding were French people and confusion. The amounts were so enormous and found broadly enough between companies that they warranted some explanation.

Ancestry compostion from 23 and me for Cheryl. 81% British and Irish with an affinity for Cork.
Ancestry compostion from 23 and me for Cheryl. 81% British and Irish with an affinity for Cork.

In the end, they are best interpreted through the lens of the other real work I did to identify her paternal family. Now, having done my homework, her ethnicity estimates better resemble what I found in my research and that gives them some more weight.

My aunt’s grandmother Mary Bayhan’s parents were both immigrants from Ireland.

Of course, it helped my research that her 2nd cousin in the Robert family had a test and then they had her first cousin tested, but watching the ethnicity begin to make sense and that puzzle piece fit, almost uniquely, in this single family was amazing. The ethnicity estimate was “more right” than I knew.

DNA testing is a “long game” and it’s hard to cover the nuances of a long game in a 30-second commercial or a 20-minute consumer journalism piece.

While I share the frustration expressed by CBC Marketplace with DNA company marketing that promises easy magical answers without you (the consumer) having to do any work, I think focusing solely on ethnicity estimates as the goal of DNA testing, and marking DNA testing as Science Entertainment, is also misleading and catering to short attention spans in a different way.

What Are Your Goals?

Culture is not tied to DNA although sometimes they go hand in hand. I know many people who love cultures they were not born into, no blood quantum required. Being raised in a culture always trumps DNA. If your DNA causes you to learn more about a culture, great. If you love a culture but don’t have the DNA to back it up, great, you go ahead and keep on loving.

The value you get from your DNA testing and whether it’s entertainment or serious business should map to your goals.

If you’re looking for a quick way for DNA to assign you a fun culture, then you’re in the realm of Science Entertainment. My advice is to stick to the big numbers like 45% British Isles. That’s a big amount, there’s probably some validity to it. When you get into the weeds, things get weirder. That 2% Middle Eastern may swap over to 1% North African down the line. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Try out some themed restaurants and learn some language, maybe appreciate some art or history and travel. There’s nothing wrong with that. You just have to know what you’re buying and that it is not 100% accurate. The broad brush strokes are probably real enough for some edutainment, the fine details…maybe not so much.

If your interest is in tracing your family and you find 56% Western European or 90% African to be accurate, but unfulfilling, you’re probably ready for some science work. Dig into your paper trail and then return to DNA to find repeating families among your larger (and closer) matches. Try to pin matches to your paper trail family. Test your parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins to get direction and compare to yourself. Work on segment mapping and triangulation to find out which segments of DNA belong to which family. You will probably uncover some genuine mysteries and may find interesting answers, but it will take some time and effort to put together the puzzle that is you. I think you’re worth it. We all are. Everyone deserves to know these things about themselves.

DNA testing is a tool kit you can use along with other tool kits like historical records and even family stories, to learn more about you. Ethnicity estimates are one part of the DNA tool kit and I would say that they’re not the best tool in the arsenal. They’re like that weird little toothpick in the swiss army knife, sometimes useful, but clearly not the best part. If you only focus on ethnicity then I feel like you’re missing out on an opportunity to do more and learn more.

Our Ethnicity Estimates

You can see my comparisons of ethnicity estimates at different times with various family members, along with a comparison of a friend from Britain (and the specificity he has regionally in the isles that I don’t have) in 2020 here: Ancestry Composition, Origins, Ethnicity Estimates…Oh My

You can see the difference in my old 2011 ethnicity estimates here: Genome Analysis

As a side note, where I feel that Ancestry DNA is making great gains for European Americans in ethnicity estimates and Locational DNA is in their “Communities” feature. I say European Americans because all the tests I have access to fall into that category or straight European. Communities require special permission and access to an ancestry DNA test. I have several African American relatives that I suspect will share the Ohio River Valley/Northern Blue Ridge Mountain DNA with me through my Finks family and their part in slavery in the U.S., but I haven’t seen their full communities report.

Here is an update for me in 2021. I gained two more specific communities:

Ancestry DNA communities featuring Early Connecticut and New York Settlers and Eastern Ohio River Valley and Northern Blue Ridge settlers.
Ancestry DNA communities featuring Early Connecticut and New York Settlers and Eastern Ohio River Valley and Northern Blue Ridge settlers.

As another point of interest. My aunt’s ethnicity estimates, likely because of bans on genetic testing in France, barely register her Quebec roots, but they shine through in Communities with featured genetic matches:

Cheryl's communities showing Southwestern Quebec, New York and Vermont French Settlers.
Cheryl’s communities showing Southwestern Quebec, New York and Vermont French Settlers.

T2A1A in Ancient DNA

Recently the kind admins at the U106 forum posted about a DNA data update from David Reich with updated Y haplogroups in it (2019 ISOGG groups). A quick glance at some of the .anno files shows 5 R-Z18 men who seem to be on the R-L257 branch and one R-DF95 man. The data contains both ancient and modern DNA and it turns out the R-DF95 man is the modern tester from Utah, which I think was the first R-DF95 person discovered. There is a lot of data there and others may find different results but in the easy finds…no DF95 ancient DNA. I’m always waiting for one of our brethren to show up in some Saxon village, Viking mass grave, or post-Norman dig site, but no luck this time.

T2A1A mitochondrial DNA though does appear several times along with some cultural notes, age dating, and latitude and longitude coordinates for the gravesites. I covered some of these in my previous post about my all mother, but several are new to me too.

I dug up an NCBI article that estimates that T2a1a first appears around 6000 years ago, so roughly 4000 BCE and moves into Europe during the neolithic from the near east (ncbi article). That makes 4k BCE the date to beat for ancient DNA samples. The samples in this data are about 1000 years away from that source, so we catch T2a1a while it is on its journey.

For reference here is “the near east”

Thanks Near East History Podcast: https://www.neareasternhistorypod.com/episodes/episode-1-before-the-beginning

I grabbed the locations and images with help from google maps and gps-coordinates.net. With images of locations, I tried to get as close as I could. Many of these gravesites are near modern-day towns and some are within a current city.

The Steppe Influence

Near Yelo Russia Roughly 3000-2900 BCE (Before Common Era aka BC).

It is hard to imagine these places, so I’ve tried to grab pictures from google maps that are near the areas of the burials. Here are a few pictures that were taken in or near Yelo in the Altai Republic in Russia.


There are two men and one woman in different digs (Elo 1 and Tyumechin 1) all listed as “Russia_Afanasievo”. Tomsk_1950 (sample I5269), Tomsk_1952 (sample I5271) and Tomsk_1959 (sample I5273). These were the oldest T2a1a people in the data set.

Wikipedia has a nice article on the Afanasievo culture, linking it to the Yamnaya or a proto-Yamnaya culture. The Yamnaya live large in the Y Haplogroup R world as movers and shakers in Europe. Here is a migration map for the Yamnaya that shows Afanasievo off to the east in orange around 3000 BCE (marked as -3000). The article talks about them being an early offshoot creating artifacts dated to around 3300 BCE.

The oldest T2a1a in the data set is from a far eastern arm of an early Yamnaya or proto Yamnaya migration, suggesting to me that they traveled with the Yamnaya. I want to point out the proximity of the Yamnaya central dot on the map to “the near east” just south of it.

By Joshua Jonathan – This file has been extracted from another file: Yamnaya Steppe Pastoralists.jpg, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=97086608

The Afanasievo owned domesticated cattle, horses, sheep, and goats, used wheeled vehicles, and worked metal. Allentoft is cited as coming to the conclusion that the Afanasievo were genetically indistinguishable from the Yamnaya and later studies looking at Y and MT DNA concluded there was an initial migration from the pontic steppe.

I can never seem to remember where the pontic steppe is although it seems to be pretty important to my genetic journey. Here is a map of that (and again to the south of it “the near east”).

By Terpsichores – Own work Source :background : Natural Earth II (public domain) by Tom Patterson, US National Park Servicenational borders : File:NED worldmap 110m.svg by Gringerecoregion shape : File:Western palearctic biomes.svg by Terpsichores, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22346006

Near Remontnoye or Elista in Kalmykia Russa circa 2900 – 2100 BCE

These are RISE547 and RISE552 (both male) that I mentioned in “My All Mother“. They are listed as Yamnaya culture. Here is their burial pin followed by a map of the Yamna Culture (also called the pit grave culture) from Wikipedia.

Remontnoye/Elista Kalmykia Russia Yamnaya culture dig site
Yamna cultural boundaries in relationship to maykop to the south.
By Joostik – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24429966

For some context, these T2a1a people are in the Yamna heartland, 4000 km from their cousins near Yelo.

Estonia Near Ardu 2800 to 2500 BCE

Listed as Ardu1, male Corded Ware culture (CWC). Looking for some information on whether the T2a1a person was a local or migrated in I found this in an article from Current Biology: “The CWC individuals displayed a more diverse set of mitochondrial hgs, including H5a, T2a, and J1c, that first appeared in Europe during the Neolithic. ”

Remontnoye to Ardu is roughly 2100 km

Later in the article: “The Estonian CWC individuals on the other hand clustered closely together with a bulk of modern as well as LNBA (Late Neolithic/Bronze Age) populations from Europe, consistent with being associated with the migration of Yamnaya culture people from the Steppe region of the Eastern European Plain.

Interestingly, CWC people showed a higher affinity to Caucasus Hunter-Gatherer (CHG) DNA than to European Hunter-Gatherer DNA unlike earlier people in the area and people living there today.

These CWC people carried a “clear Steppe ancestry with some minor Anatolian contribution, most likely absorbed through female lineages during the population movements”.

They conclude that the genetic evidence shows that farming did not arrive through a slow migration of Anatolian farmers or through cultural exchange, but with a migration of Steppe people into Estonia (current biology article).

I take this to mean that T2a1a wasn’t resident in Estonia at the time It was carried there with the Yamnaya migration (along with farming and animal husbandry).

ardu1 map pin in northern estonia
Ardu1 map pin in Estonia
Ardu area forest with modern cabin
Ardu area with modern cabin

Amesbury Down, England 2500 – 1700 BCE

Listed as I2459 female (2500 to 2100 BCE) and I2460 female (2100 to 1700 BCE) from the Beaker Culture.

Almost 4000 km west from Remontnoye (using that as our rough center point in the data) are Amesbury Bell Beaker burials that appear to tell the story of a fairly dramatic bronze age replacement of neolithic people in Britain.

Amesbury Down pin on map southern England.
Amebury Down pin
Stonehenge at amesbury
Stonehenge at Amesbury.

This paper at ncbi contains the graves of I2459 and I2460 as part of its evidence and suggests a 90% replacement of the local population in Britain with people who have steppe ancestry and move in from the continent. Among the beaker burials, they see new MTDNA haplogroups that were present in beaker associated populations from continental Europe but not in Neolithic Britain, suggesting that both men and women were involved in this population replacement.

According to the tables other branches of T2 (T2b, T2c, T2f) existed in Neolithic Britain, but T2a1a seems to be limited to these bronze age samples. That makes some sense when you consider that T2a1a appears to be fairly young at 6000 years ago while T2a1b appears circa 13000 years ago, T2f roughly 17000 years ago.

As a side note, the authors also tracked alleles that are associated with reduced skin and eye pigmentation (rs16891982 in SLC45A2 and rs12913832 in HERC2/OCA2) and found a considerable increase in frequency in the beaker and bronze age remains. The arrival of migrants associated with Beaker culture altered the pigmentation of British populations. Lactose tolerance still was not popular at the time though.

That analysis lines up with isotope analysis of the Amesbury Archer that suggested a childhood in the alps before settling in Britain.

Near Norra Asum, Sweden roughly 1500 – 1300 BCE

Listed as RISE210 female, Nordic Bronze Age actual burial place is Ängamöllan. RISE210 is part of a dataset used to examine population genomics in bronze age Europe and draws some conclusions on Indo-European language groups and population movements. New Perspectives on the Bronze Age talks about RISE210 more specifically as a person in a gallery grave (along with several others) from the early bronze age. If I’m reading it correctly RISE210 has a very normal atDNA makeup for a European in the bronze age with Caspian-Steppe heritage owed to the Yamnaya but is likely not a local. She is also listed as a commoner based on burial style and a lack of grave goods. This shows that there was high mobility among different social classes. The paper suggests that the changes in the style of burials suggest that there was an intense exchange of people and goods from south Germany and West-Central Europe.

RISE210 near Norra Asum in southern Sweden.
RISE210 map pin
field near Norra Asum Sweden with some distant trees and large stones

The conclusion I draw from these finds is that T2a1a is kind of a latecomer in Europe and seems to be pushed around the continent riding the wave of Steppe influence both east and west, and as far north as Sweden over the course of centuries.

In this particular set of data, beyond this point, there is a big leap in time. Roughly 2000 years until we pick up a saxon grave.

In the Common Era

Oakington, South Cambridgeshire, England 400 to 600 CE (AD basically).

I0774 Early Medieval Saxon female. Listed in this article from Nature as O3 showing mixed heritage, likely Danish admixed with the local British.

The authors write: “For sample O3, which appeared to be of mixed ancestry in the allele sharing analysis, we find highest likelihood for merging with the Danish branch. However, in this sample there is also a notably higher likelihood to merge onto the same Northern European ancestral branch point as seen for the Iron Age samples. This is consistent with O3 being of recently mixed indigenous and Anglo-Saxon origin, although we can not rule out more complex scenarios involving prior mixed ancestry of this individual during the Romano-British period.”

“There is some differentiation amongst the Anglo-Saxon era samples with samples O1, O2, HS1 and HS3 having highest likelihood of merging onto the Dutch branch while O3 and HS2 have highest likelihoods of merging onto the Danish branch, although in some cases the difference in likelihood between these two possibilities is small.” 

“In the cemetery at Oakington, we see evidence even in the early Anglo-Saxon period for a genetically mixed but culturally Anglo-Saxon community, in contrast to claims for strong segregation between newcomers and indigenous peoples.”  (Iron Age and Anglo-Saxon genomes from East England reveal British migration history)

Of interest in the article was an observation that all the graves (despite different ancestry) were very similar with the best grave goods associated with a native British person. Suggesting that the new immigrants were often poor.

Without O3’s parent’s genomes to look at, it would be hard to know if her T2a1a had hitched a ride from Denmark or if it was the local British variety that had been on the island for at least 2000 years. In the data, she is listed with “no relatives detected”.

map in for I0774
graves at saint andrews church in oakington England.
St. Andrews church in Oakington

Salme, Estonia 700 – 800 CE, just up the road from the Viking Burger

Listed as VK481 and VK511 both males assigned to early viking period.

salme viking map pin north west estonia

I’ve stolen this quote from a posting in groups.io. In the powerpoint, VK481 is listed as a warrior in the boat burial.

The men of Estland came down from the interior with a
great army, and there was a battle; but the army of the
country was so brave that the Swedes could not withstand
them, and King Yngvar fell, and his people fled. He was
buried close to the seashore under a mound in Estland;
and after this defeat the Swedes returned home.”
– From A saga of Noble King Yngvar who met his end while raiding in Estonia around 600.
Written in 1225. (Viking ships 1 and 2)

There is some conjecture that VK481 was half Estonian at Anthrogenica. That may be total speculation, but since T2a1a was 250km away in Ardu Estonia (see above) 3500 years earlier it would seem reasonable that VK481’s mother may have been from the Baltic or from Estonia.

Looking at supplemental material from Population Genetics of the Viking World VK481 in table 6 shows the most affinity (almost equally) for Swedish and Finnish populations, but VK511 also T2a1a did not. His affinity was twice as high for Sweden which would suggest to me that both parents were from Sweden. We know from RISE210 above that T2a1a was in Sweden around 2200 years before VK481 and VK511 were killed in Estonia.

VK511 must not have gained enough interest. Other than general listings I can’t find a lot of information on him other than he’s in the same vicinity and has the same MTDNA as VK481, although a different Y.

wood carving of a viking figure at salme estonia.
wood carving of a Viking figure
map showing proximity of viking burger to the dig site.
Viking Burger just south of the dig site

Near Over Randlev Denmark, 850 – 900 CE.

VK339 Danish Viking period female.

from Population Genetics of the Viking World: “The cemetery is located approximately 1 km south-east of the parish village Over Randlev and 3.8 km from the coast of Kattegat. Over 80% of those interred in the cemetery were women.” VK339 did not appear in the ancestry estimates portion of the supplementary material so I’m unsure what populations she was most like (My suspicion is that she would fall into the Danish group but that could be wrong).

Of interest, the paper did say they had some struggles telling the difference between Anglo Saxons from the Danish Viking population.

“Outside of Scandinavia, the genetic legacy of the Vikings is consistent, though limited. A small component is present in Poland (up to 5%) and the south of Europe. Within the British Isles, it is difficult to assess how much of the Danish-like ancestry is due to pre-existing Anglo-Saxon ancestry” In the media going along with the paper, they specify that Denmark was particularly hard to place because its best match was the UK population probably owing to Anglos Saxon heritage. They speculate that the Danish Viking contribution to England was around 6% while Norway was around 4%.

VK399 map pin near Dyngby Denmark


Near Igaliku Greenland, 890 to 1100 CE

Early Norse Eastern Settlement. VK187 female 890 to 1020 CE. VK6 female 900 to 1000 CE.

From Population Genetics of the Viking World:

“Viking individuals with Norwegian-like ancestry travelled to Iceland, Greenland, Ireland and the Isle of Man”. “In terms of genetic ancestry of the Greenlandic Norse, we find evidence of admixture between Scandinavians (mostly from Norway) and individuals from the British Isles, similar to the first settlers of Iceland, which supports the archaeological and historical links between the Greenlandic Norse and the Icelandic Vikings”.

“The farm site of E64 is located in Igaliku Kujalleq, a small side branch of Igaliku fjord in the Norse Eastern Settlement. 12 features have been recorded on the site among which are a small church belonging to the group landnam churches that were established from the late 10th century-around 1000. The church yard was excavated in 2007-08 led by Jette Arneborg. The excavated skeletons were radiocarbon dated within the period from late 10th century to about 1200. Sr isotope analysis indicates that several of the buried were immigrants from Iceland“.

In the ancestry estimate material, VK187 is roughly half “Norwegian like” Roughly a quarter “Southern European” and then an eighth British and an eighth Danish. Neighboring graves like VK1 came back over half Norwegian with a quarter British and VK186 came back about half British with the other half mainly Norway and about an 8th Southern European. Definitely a mixed group in the later abandoned settlement in Greenland.

VK187 near Igaliku Greenland map pin.
sparse but colorful houses by the water near Igaliku greenland.
homes near Igaliku

Comparing Modern and Ancient MTDNA

With the older samples, I’m not knowledgeable enough to extract the datasets in a meaningful way. In fact, I looked at the instructions and specialized extractor software, downloaded some things, and made an attempt then decided I wasn’t there yet. So all my information on graves, etc, came from already extracted metadata, where they kindly list things like MTDNA haplogroup and coordinates. I couldn’t really compare the data on the MTDNA outside of the haplogroup they were assigned.

The data I later grabbed from Viking studies already had things like MTDNA polymorphisms listed out. All the T2a1a samples had the exact same set of “found” polymorphisms.

Since I’m an MTDNA noob, I compared the Viking polymorphisms to my results at FTDNA.

Looking at the rCRS values, they were an exact match to me except that I have a few extra bits they just didn’t have results for. I have 16519C in the HVR1 and 309.1C and 315.1C from the HVR2 section that didn’t appear in the Viking DNA. I’m not sure if that is significant or not.

Without the actual data from the older T2a1a, I’m not sure if there are any noticeable differences between what could be tested in 3000 BCE T2a1a and my test results today and without full sequencing of the Viking results, I’m not sure how close they really are.

At Family Tree DNA, I do have very many people who are a genetic distance of 0 (so a perfect match across all the available testing regions in MTDNA) with a wide mix of Americans, speckled with people from France, Ireland and Sweden and Norway and probably a host of other places I’ve forgotten.

There are T2a1a people who have larger Genetic distances from me though, people who are not a perfect match. I imagine if we were to compare apples to apples and full sequencing was available (or even possible) across the board, that there would be a range of matching and mismatching with these ancient people as well. Then we might know that a Viking sample was best matched with a 3000 year old sample from Estonia or whether it best matched a 2000 year old sample from Sweden.

Wrapping Up My Tour

One take away from mulling through all these papers (not necessarily related to T2a1a) is that people are wonderfully complex and that the human story is the story of movement. In some instances, it looks like wholesale replacement of genomes in an area with genomes from some other area. In other instances we see the mixing of people who subscribe to the same cultural identity, seemingly without a genetic component. We have people in England buried at Stonehenge from the Alps and Vikings with Asian DNA and people like the Danes and UK samples so admixed that they’re difficult to tell apart. Mitochondrial DNA is part of that story.

To me, given the resources I found, T2a1a is relatively young for Haplogroup T. Other branches of T are twice as old or older and already dispersed around Europe in the Neolithic. From what I see in T2a1a samples as a layperson is a “newer” branch (if 6000 years old can be considered new) that moves into areas, maybe along with the steppe people, in the early several thousand years of its existence and then may just be resident in these areas at low levels beyond that. In the graphs of MTDNA samples from some of these papers, T as a whole is no slouch, although smaller than some it forms a fairly sizeable group. T2a1a seems to be a smaller sliver of that larger T pie piece. My guess would be that is because it is a fairly new resident in these areas due to its delayed start.

Again these are my thoughts and conjecture on what I see, not scientific facts. Y DNA is much more granular and I don’t think mitochondrial DNA is as granular as it could be right now. In the past, with Y DNA you would get R1b or R1a for ancient samples. Now they are getting well down into the branches of R1b. Although I’m not as versed in mito it seems like my testing is more precise and has more values in different areas for comparison that these ancient samples don’t have. That makes me think it’s possible that further MTDNA haplogroups might be defined in the future as other coding areas get included in the ongoing analysis of both modern and ancient humans.

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): https://wanderingtrees.com/2011/08/20/genome-analysis/

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 Ancestry.com 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: https://wanderingtrees.com/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: https://wanderingtrees.com/2010/11/28/migrations-3-other-databases/

A post in 2014 referencing DYS458.2 and Jensen’s DF95 test: https://wanderingtrees.com/2014/07/05/ball-3-results-from-denmark/

A post that talks about DYS520 = 21 in the Y67 panel and cumberlands that match that value being Lunsford, Knowlton the Elmers and Jensen: https://wanderingtrees.com/2015/03/22/y67-results-getting-from-point-a-to-point-b/

Then this post later in 2015 where I decided I wanted to get more testing for Jensen…possibly even a Big Y: https://wanderingtrees.com/2015/06/22/fathers-day-y-mile-markers/

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: https://wanderingtrees.com/2020/02/09/zp125-conversations/

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: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ostsiedlung , 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 thegenealogist.co.uk 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 Ancestry.com.

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.

Familysearch.org 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.