R-ZP121 in Tjærby Denmark Circa 1100-1300 CE.
First off, I want to acknowledge the cover photo I’ve stolen from Google Maps, which was taken by Niels Blumensaat. The location for this DNA find is a small town just outside of Randers, Denmark. The samples are from an abandoned medieval graveyard used in a bone growth study comparing rural people in Tjærby, Denmark, to urban people in Randers in the Middle Ages. I couldn’t find a lot of pictures of the place. There were pictures of Dronningborg a few kilometers away, so I have lovingly borrowed one of those.
It took me a while to find the studies that our man from Tjærby is associated with. I ended up with two. The first one was the bone growth study I mentioned above, and the second was a study on Genetic risk for Multiple Sclerosis and Steppe Pastoralist populations. I believe it is the second study that FTDNA is citing. The supplementary material has our guy, Tjærby 750, also known as KHM899 A692/X173 or CGG100750 number 4. In the data KHM899 and CGG100750 seem to be more locational, a dig location on a site with multiple remains. A692/X173 seems like a more definitive identifier.
Without Family Tree DNA ancient connections, I probably would not have seen this guy and I would not have known that their Y DNA was tracked down to R-ZP121 under CTS12023. I have to give the M.S. study a bunch of credit for having the Y DNA down to R-Z18->CTS12023 figured out, though. It wasn’t that long ago that we would not have any resolution beyond R-U106.
Looking up Tjærby landed me on a Danish website with an English translation. I can’t vouch for the accuracy, but it translated into “Tar Town”. I know that some Viking age settlements in Britain have modern names ending in “by” so it seems plausible. Why it is Tar Town, I do not know.
The Family Time Tree
There are 74 of us (at the moment) under R-ZP121 with eight recognized branches (according to FTDNA). Our man from Tjærby could be down any of those or completely on their own branch. I’m spoiled to have this much resolution on Y DNA for our small group, but our common ancestor in R-ZP121 is estimated to have lived in 200 CE. That’s roughly a thousand years before our cousin in the Middle Ages. He’s certainly on a branch with that many generations under his belt.
What we have is…sort of, a set of bookends for R-ZP121 and the migration period/Viking age. We’re spoiled to have that as well at this point. Two ancient samples at this resolution are pretty amazing. It’s good to keep in mind that ZP121 is itself a collection of SNPs. A straight line of father-to-son relationships with no branches for at least 14 generations. There are a lot of unknowns there. Then, below that, we have eight known branches.
I’ll use my own tree as an example of when our cousin falls within the family.
Alright, borrowing FTDNA’s time tree you can see my branch of the Elmer/Elmore family down on the right in red. I’m down the R-A2284 branch, which we’ve triangulated to Edward Elmer 2, who was born in 1654. One step back is Ed Elmer, who was born around 1610 or so in A2276. The time tree has done a pretty good job of estimating those age ranges.
Then you jump back to ZP129 when our family splits from the Knowltons circa 900 CE give or take a few hundred years. Tjærby 750 is younger than that estimate, coming in around 1100 CE, but could be about the same time. He’s after the Norman invasion of England, though.
My next hop is ZP124 when our family splits from the Lunceford family. On the time tree, you can see that it roughly lines up with Hatherdene 5, our Angle from the Wash, who was born around 400 – 600 CE. He’s the other bookend for ZP121. He’s about 200 years from the source ancestor and likely on a branch below ZP121.
The next hop is BY41998. This one is a single SNP. One single ancestor, born around 250 CE, give or take a few hundred years. This is where my family split from the Wright, De Burchgraeve, Stanuczek, and Winne families. There is also a third line, but I’m unsure what family is at the end of it. They have one branch estimated to be around 1200 CE. We’re all definitely descended from Mr BY41998, and even though it is unlikely, any of us could be more directly related to Hatherdene 5.
One more hop back in time, and there are seven other branches under R-ZP121. Any of those branches could be more directly related to Hatherdene 5 or Tjærby 750.
Between our human bookends, Hatherdene 5 and Tjærby 750, is a big chunk of the migration period and the Viking age. I have gotten to the point where I think of it as a spaghetti mess of moving people that Hatherdene 5 was a part of and that Tjærby 750 might be a product of.
Bookends in Time but Maybe from the Same Space?
Branches that cover or form within this time frame, under ZP121, contain modern men from Poland, Germany, France, Belgium, Netherlands, England, Ireland, Wales, Finland, and Sweden (with a chunk of men also in “unknown” or United States). That makes the location of these two ancient DNA samples interesting as well.
They’re both ZP121. They cover a large portion of the time when all of the migration period action occurs. They’re 800 years apart, but in theory, they’re both from the Jutland Peninsula. Hatherdene 5 was not admixed. He was a continental northern European. His autosomal DNA didn’t suggest any time spent among the Franks before heading for Britain. We could hypothesize that he left Angeln or his parents both did. In some theories, the Angles and Jutes migrated down the coast and to England because of the encroaching Danes from the east. Tjærby 750 lived and died on the Jutland Peninsula. Perhaps his family never left. Maybe they just became Danes.
There are biases in testing, limits on the depth of testing, and limits on the amount of material that CAN be tested. These limiting factors can converge to cloud the real paths we’ve taken. My bias towards southern Scandinavia and Jutland, particularly as a reservoir for CTS12023, is pretty obvious to anyone who has read my diary here.
It’s easy to fall into confirmation bias because I feel like I’ve been watching this pattern unfold for a decade or more.
With that in mind, this is what is actually being presented as evidence. I don’t have to do a lot of backbends, and yoga stretches to make this fit. Ancient ZP121 is found in the Jutland Peninsula and places and cultures associated with migration from the Jutland Peninsula. If we’re lucky, there will be more evidence in the future that fills in more locations and gaps in the timeline.