It’s My Swamp – DF95 in Anglo-Saxon England

Checking in on U106

I visited the U106 haplogroup tree and noticed something exciting in the Ancient DNA tab: The appearance of several R-CTS12023 (AKA R-DF95) samples…and one of them, to my complete shock, is a ZP121 (AKA Y15995) sample.

Mind blown. We’re such a small group of men in Y DNA terms that I didn’t expect us to show up in many samples (if any), but CTS12023/DF95 shows up in four samples in Anglo Saxon cemeteries in Cambridgeshire (in the Fens) and in Kent (in Dover) with burials between 400 CE and 800 CE.

ZP121 (Y15995) in the Fens

Mr. ZP121 is my direct ancestor (I’m over there in BY41998 in the picture above), along with every man who has tested positive for that ZP121 SNP. Descendants of ZP121 are from England (and various colonies), Wales, Ireland, Germany, Poland, Estonia, the Netherlands, Belgium and possibly Sweden (based on a Swedish surname). Age estimates from the U106 group placed Mr. ZP121 around 300 CE. Family Tree DNA estimates that he was born around 250 CE, which is pretty close to the original estimates from the U106 group.

The ZP121 person buried in Hatherdene Close, Cherry Hinton, Cambridgeshire (listed as HAD005 in the U106 spreadsheet) is likely not Mr. ZP121 but a descendant a few hundred years down the line. Burials in the cemetery are from the 5th and 6th centuries so between 400 CE and 600 CE. The results I saw from this post on anthrogenica only say that the sample was negative for one SNP. That SNP is under BY41998 on the ZP125 side of the family. They say the sample was negative for Y15996. But there is nothing about any other SNPs under BY41998 or any of the other branches under ZP121. For all I know, the sample could be positive for BY41998 or Y15999 in that block under R-ZP125 or he could be positive for ZP124 or none of them and down a different branch.

A relative of every man under ZP121 was in the Fens between 400 and 600 CE. According to this article: “There is little indication of items post-dating c. AD 560 with a minority having a potential 7th century date. Although generally typical of Cambridgeshire, some items are more commonly found in Kent or the continent and point to links further afield, possibly suggestive of a mixed population with possible recent migrants.” He’s an Angle, one of the South Gyrwas (from south Gyrwe) which is a group tucked between the East Angles and the Middle Angles/Mercia. Gyrwas apparently describes a person who lives in a fen as “Gyr” is a bog.

map showing east angles, the wash, north and south gyrwe and other tribes.
lovingly borrowed from

Above you can see the Gyrwe (north and south) and below the location of the burial.

location of the burial

According to this article from Country Life, Ely, just to the north, was described this way: “Traveller Celia Fiennes, arriving in Ely in 1698 after heavy rains, called it ‘ye diryest place I ever saw… a perfect quagmire ye whole Citty’”.

Notes and Queries Vol 105 describes the Gyrwas this way: “The East Angles occupied Norfolk and Suffolk and their allies or subjects, the Gyrwas, spread themselves over the Fen and its margin. It appears from Bede that the south Gyrwas were the dominant people among Fenmen. He mentions them by name, and their chief was of rank to marry a daughter of the East Anglian king.”

They go on to say that the Gyrwas are further related to the East Angles as evidenced by their conversion to Christianity and church appointments.

The Angles

By mbartelsm – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Here’s the migration map (or one interpretation of the migration map) of the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. Somehow the Jutes end up way down in Kent. I’m glad the map also includes the Frisians and Franks. Modern Frisian is the most like old English I believe, and both languages are considered “low German”.

CTS12023 in Kent

Also listed in the U106 spreadsheet are several finds at the Buckland Cemetery in Dover, Kent buried between 475 CE and 750 CE.

Buckland Cemetery Dover Kent

There in the kingdom of Kent we have BUK009 listed as CTS12023 -> PH1163. BUK042 and BUK048 listed as CTS12023.

R-PH1163 modern testers are from Denmark and Norway. For reference, ZP121 is under R-ZP85 over on the left, and R-PH1163 is currently at the same level as ZP85. We’re all related to Mr. CTS12023/R-DF95

BUK042 and BUK048 at CTS12023 are in the major group we all fall under (you can just see ZP86 from that major group at the top of the image). Without further testing, it’s hard to know if they fall under a branch or would be on a brand-new one.

The paper associated with the finds says the early graves show possessions that suggest a lot of continental influence. A mix of Danes or Jutes, Franks, and maybe an Angle and a Saxon. The paper references burial practices and goods from Jutland several times.

Going back up to the map above of the Anglo-Saxon migration to Britain, this is where you would expect to find Jutes and Franks I would think, given the odd sea voyage of the Jutes and the proximity of the Franks. I found a nice website that has images from the burials there.

R-PH1163 doesn’t have an estimated age from FTDNA yet. I don’t know if it existed when the U106 group was putting out estimates. I’ll have to wait to see if there are further developments for the Buckland cemetery men.


R-Z18 generally skews Scandinavian. It has been said that it skews enough to give all of U106 more Scandinavian representation than you would expect. Ancient Z18 remains under chemical analysis from burials farther south in Europe with the Longobards show Scandinavian origins in their lifetime. R-Z18 shows up in late neolithic burials (1800 – 1400 BC) in Zealand, Denmark, and ancient finds in Britain for Z18 show up in East Anglia, the Danelaw (including a Viking mass grave), and in other known Norse settlements.

CTS12023 similarly has many modern testers from Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Ancient CTS12023 people were on the move. There are fewer of us, so it seems like we would be less likely to be found in ancient remains, but this focus on more advanced testing for archaeological remains seems to have hit the jackpot for us. We’re clearly recovering and expanding in the 400s CE.

I’ve proposed a lot of theories for migrations to Britain, and now I’m even more biased about CTS12023 being another Scandinavian Z18 group that pushed down into the continent, over to Britain, and took part in multiple migrations beyond that.

What Could Go Wrong?

  • Well, first, these results are from an upcoming paper on Anglo Saxons so the base written work and analysis are still in the making. It’s early early stuff.
  • I don’t (yet) know how to attribute the DNA results from the spreadsheet to the actual graves in the associated papers. Do my peeps belong to the 400 CE crowd or the 700 CE crowd? Do the grave goods identify them as Franks or as Jutes?
  • If you look at the spreadsheet, it appears that the initial analysis was repeated with radically different results (or that the numbering system is random and that results were cross-assigned). So it seems possible that my ZP121 man could get walked back at some point as it appears other samples have been.

Basically, all of this needs to be reviewed and verified.

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