DNA Wide and Thin

In the past when I’ve talked about the searches I’ve done I’ve been laughed at. Mainly because I accept some pretty broad results. I call them my matches but functionally at FTDNA they would not be matches. We all have this same general pattern and that is what I’ve homed in on to make my list, but for most people this wouldn’t be a list.

I search for people at a genetic distance of 5 which most people wouldn’t do, but it’s the only way I could get any results at all. At best I’ve been looking at some pretty ancient relationships. I think at the very best I may have a good match with the Elmers in the last 200 to 500 years although estimates vary.

My name appears to be irrelevant, other than maybe I’ve noticed in the past a swing toward personal names rather than “task” based names in my matches. Thompson, Edwardson, Peterson, Janke (diminutive of Jan) Pipkin (diminutive of Philip I think). I’ve also noticed place names like Knowlton in Kent…Elmer is an anglo saxon descriptive name in England from the area of Kings Lynn but in Switzerland it denotes someone from Elms…Although the English family seems most likely. The Damerons may be from Flanders. I’m not sure what the origin of their name is (they are also not sure although they do have a patriarch from Ipswich England) although it is sometimes associated with Belgium, “West Flanders” and the Netherlands like the Winne/Winner family who actually does trace to the same area. I can’t totally say there aren’t job names because there is a Chandler in the mix from somewhere in England.

In my closest group there is only one Elmer 35/37, the other Elmers I would match with would be 34/37.

So in my lists of FTDNA sanctioned 25 marker matches I have Southeast Englanders, Germans and Netherlanders/Belgians…if that is a word. Right now that is Chandler, Emery, Dameron/Damron, Pipkin/Pipken, Elmer, Boettcher and Winne/Winner.

In the wider group that I claim as matches like the Coens, Knowltons, Edwardsons, Petersons, Kuhlman etc.., the range is pretty similar…although the Coens bring in Ireland, when I include Janke it edges into Poland and the Petersons swing up into Denmark.

If I widen out even more, I end up at the Z18/Z14 cumberland cluster and I gain some people from Wales, more English and more Polish people like Ralowicz, Stanuszek, Szczublewski. Since they’re not in my matches, I’m not sure where their last ancestor is from although Ralowicz seems to also be popular in Belarus.

With so few people in this cluster (20 something but further testing should find more) and so much ground to cover you can’t help but think of some huge migration event. The Z18 group seems to cover the “Germanic” world and to me seems to be roughly the same area as U106..if a bit more Baltic-centric, but our cluster also seems to cover most of this territory too. Like dandelion seeds blown in the wind.

When I look at the cumberland cluster I see a lot of “unknown” origin people, like myself. My Thompsons seem to be people on the move at the edge of society, with few records. They have a common name, but are not related to others in the same area that share the name. Sprawled out. Part of a major group, but oddly different from others in the group. Waxing poetic, I can see that same story echoed in the DNA results of the cumberland cluster, people who are everywhere and nowhere all at once.

I can’t help but think about tying together in my mind a group of men who span the Baltic from Belarus to Ireland. Clustered together, but separated by huge distances. The first explanation I can think of is that we have a common ancestor, way back in time (more than a thousand years ago) and that what we are seeing is an undefined subclade of R1b-Z14 being played out in a cluster of similar STRs. Since Z18 doesn’t seem to be that well traveled and I don’t fall into it’s known subclades, this seems reasonable.

I’ve spent a lot of time coming up with likely groups for us over the years (even before I knew there was an us) and I still fall back to those groups that epitomize sea trade and have a Germanic slant. You can’t look at the territory from Germany to England and not think about the Anglo Saxons. They are still the major player in the minds of most genetic genealogists and looking at my maps and matches, I think it makes sense. I’ve covered a lot of that ground and given them a lot of thought, but then I wondered, who am I overlooking and how can I incorporate these new Polish people?


Well, to an extent I’ve overlooked the Anglo Saxons. They are not a unified group. The definitions of people have been handed to us by the Romans largely and by the people themselves long after they migrated to England. I’m considering people in my matches that may be predate 500AD and may have been Roman transplants themselves. Would the Romans or Romano-celts have made a distinction between a Saxoni and a Warini in Britain? Would the people themselves have been able to make such a distinction?


A little more recently than the Saxons, I’ve focused quite a bit on the Danes, specifically around the 800-900AD mark where they are impacting England. I’ve made maps of matches that seem to mimic the borders of the Danelaw (and the extent of the Saxons in some areas). Given my single Danish match at Ancestry.com it seemed worth a look. England and Germany carry the bulk of people “like” me, but I can’t discount the Danes for lack of testing.

I still get caught at what to do about the Polish matches. There was certainly a viking presence in the area of Poland and even further east. Thinking specifically about the Varangians who became the Rus out of Kiev. Like the Varni or Warini they were eventually assimilated into the greater Slavic ethnic group.

More recently though I ran across this interesting article about Harold Bluetooth and his army containing mercenaries from the south Baltic:  “The team of researchers examined a total of forty-eight skeletons using a new method called strontium isotope analysis. This made it possible to determine that more than half of the skeletons did not come from Denmark. The researchers were not able to trace the precise geographical origin of the deceased, but previous finds of artefacts such as pottery and weapons around Trelleborg indicate that many of them came from Norway or south of the Baltic Sea – i.e. what is now Poland.”

Now that is what I’m talking about. Harald Bluetooth, whose son Sweyn Forkbeard became a Danish King of England and whose grandson Cnut conquered England with the help of Polish warriors: “Among the allies of Denmark was Boleslaw the Brave, the Duke of Poland and a relative to the Danish royal house. He lent somePolish troops,[25] likely to have been a pledge made to Cnut and Harald when, in the winter, they “went amongst the Wends” to fetch their mother back to the Danish court. “

So we have a fairly long standing south baltic tilt to the armies of the Danish kings. I’m imagining that some of those Polish mercenaries stayed and eventually melded into the background. That would be one way to spread south balts around the Baltic and North Sea.

Hanseatic League

These guys are always on my mind because they could spread Y DNA really far in a really short timeframe. When I look at my closest match, the Elmer and see that his Elmer matches are a 1 or 2 mismatches away from him, and that it happened within the last 400 or so years, it makes me think we might be a fast mutating group. The Hanseatic league would probably be considered a little too close for comfort for our group, but if we are speed demons for mutation rates, then it could play out. Especially when I consider the coastal nature of the English matches and their proximity to the Netherlands.

The league was active from the 13th to the 17th century. Have a look at the range on this map: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Extent_of_the_Hansa.jpg

Then have a glance at this map of the Hanseatic trade routes:

It contains multiple stops along the Cumberland Cluster path. Could we differentiate this much over 700 years?

Check out the towns in the Hanseatic League in Britian:

In addition to the major Kontors, individual Hanseatic ports had a representative merchant and warehouse. In England this happened in Boston, Bristol, Bishop’s Lynn (nowKing’s Lynn, which features the sole remaining Hanseatic warehouse in England), Hull,[disputed – discuss] IpswichNorwich, Yarmouth (now Great Yarmouth), and York.” 

The league succeeded in establishing additional Kontors in Bruges (Flanders), Bergen (Norway), and London (Kingdom of England). These trading posts became significant enclaves. “

German colonists in the 12th and 13th centuries settled in numerous cities on and near the east Baltic coast, such as Elbing (Elbląg), Thorn (Toruń), Reval (Tallinn), Riga, and Dorpat (Tartu), which became members of the Hanseatic League, and some of which still retain many Hansa buildings and bear the style of their Hanseatic days. Most were granted Lübeck law (Lübisches Recht), which provided that they had to appeal in all legal matters to Lübeck’s city council. The Livonian Confederationincorporated modern-day Estonia and parts of Latvia and had its own Hanseatic parliament (diet); all of its major towns became members of the Hanseatic League. The dominant language of trade was Middle Low German, a dialect with significant impact for countries involved in the trade, particularly the larger Scandinavian languagesEstonian, and Latvian.”

Flemish Exiles

I’ve heard quite a bit about Flemish exiles and the weaving trade but never looked into them too seriously. There are sporadic articles about them on the internet. Even some information taken from a book on Benjamin Franklin and the Flemish Exiles of Norwich. I also found this article on the Flemish Exiles in London: http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/Collections-Research/Research/Your-Research/RWWC/Themes/1295/1286/

And this piece in the short history of Norwich:

The medieval period was a prosperous one for the Norwich area and the main industry was the wool trade and weaving. (The heavy fabric called Worstead was named after the village of that name north of Norwich.) Large numbers of skilled Walloon and Flemish weavers came to Norwich from the Low Countries during this time, often to escape persecution at home.”

This is a favorite group used to explain possible wayward Scots, English and Irish (like a Thompson that doesn’t look so Thompsonish in their Y DNA).
Other German Migrations

I also don’t want to ignore later German migrations. My own Finks family is said to have moved from the Palitinate to England and then on to the Americas. I know that Germans also lived along the Volga as I’ve seen Volga Germans among my autosomal DNA matches. I did some searching about German migrants to Poland and ran across this Wikipedia article about the German minority in Poland:

German migration into the area of modern Poland began with the medieval Ostsiedlung (see also Walddeutsche). The historical regions of Lower SilesiaEast BrandenburgPomerania and East Prussia were almost completely German-settled by the High Middle Ages, while in the other areas there were substantial German populations, most notably in the historical regions of PomereliaUpper Silesia, and Posen or Greater Poland.”

These migrations are numerous and have many reasons, many involving the Catholic and Lutheran churches and making the Protestant “nations” inviting places to land…raise a family and possibly lose your last name.

My list is not exhaustive and it’s not meant to be. It’s my attempt to remind myself that I’m looking at where the leaves landed and trying to guess the wind.


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