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In the Beginning:

Our Deep Ancestral Origins

 

 

 

 

            In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the molecular structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, commonly referred to as DNA. It had long been established that children inherit traits from their parents. Members of the same family will generally have many similarities. However, the method of genetic transmission remained something of a mystery until DNA was identified as being the key component of reproductive cells. After genetic recombination from parents, a unique organism is created with a unique DNA sequence that provides the basic instructions that help make each of us who we are. With the exception of identical twins, every person, including siblings, inherits a different set of genetic instructions.

            Until recently, the implications of these discoveries remained irrelevant to the family historian. Then, it was discovered that the genetic sequence of the Y-chromosome remains relatively impervious to change from one generation to the next. Bryan Sykes, author of The Seven Daughters of Eve states that this chromosome “carries only one gene which really matters. This is the gene that stops all human embryos from turning into little girls”. Therefore, the Y-chromosome is the sex chromosome that fathers pass to their sons in a relatively pure form from one generation to the next. Females do not inherit a Y-chromosome. Rather, they inherit a second X-chromosome that carries a different set of genetic instructions resulting in the creation of a human female.

 

            In western cultures, surnames tend to be passed from father to son. Geneticists soon realized that because fathers pass their Y-chromosome on in a relatively unchanged manner, specific surnames would be linked with a corresponding unique genetic “fingerprint”. Theoretically, men who descended from the same common male lineage would generally carry the same surname AND the same genetic pattern on their Y-chromosome. By that rationale, therefore, an analysis of one’s genetic pattern would be useful in determining a relationship to other men who are believed to be members of the same family. Later advances in genetics would prove that assumption to be correct.

            Although a son’s Y-chromosome is a nearly exact copy of his father’s, it is not quite perfect. There are many different genes located on the Y-chromosome, and the vast majority of this material will pass form one generation to the next in an unchanged sequence. However, spontaneous genetic mutations do occur, and some genetic markers may change from one generation to the next. Moreover, it has been determined that each of these genes has a slightly different “mutation rate”. Some genes will mutate more frequently, while others may remain exactly the same for thousands of years.

In analyzing the mutation rates of specific genetic markers, scientists can make an approximation regarding the time to the most recent common male ancestor. Therefore, if two men with the same surname believe themselves to be descended from a common progenitor, an analysis of genetic differences can not only confirm the relationship, but it can give an approximation regarding the number of generations back the common ancestor would expect to be found. In families with very common surnames (such as Jones, Smith or Johnson) this could be a very useful tool. Furthermore, this analysis can be compared with known archeological and anthropological evidence to provide us with a better sense of our deep ancestral heritage. Generally, when we think of how far back a person’s lineage can be traced, we think in terms of centuries. Now, Y-chromosome analysis enables the researcher to gain a better understanding of paternal lineage for tens of thousands of years!

 

 

A Perplexing Genetic Sequence

 

            In the early part of the year 2004, this writer opted to use Y-chromosome analysis for the purpose of genealogical research. The surname Johnson is rather common, and not surprisingly, paper documentation concerning early generations of the family was becoming difficult to obtain. The problem was further compounded by the fact that the earliest proven ancestor was named William Johnson. He was born in the year 1754, and lived in North Carolina at the time of the Revolutionary War. Colonial North Carolina abounded with other men who carried the same name, and it was believed that DNA evidence would help break through this genealogical “brick wall”.

            Surprisingly, results from the genetic test failed to match anyone in a rather large Johnson family genetic database. In fact, the genetic sequence was so unusual, that it is rarely seen in all of Western Europe. Less than 1% of the men in Western European countries exhibit a similar pattern, yet family lore suggested origins in the British Isles. Specifically, it had been suggested that the family had come from either England or Scotland. Yet, the Y-chromosome analysis appeared to suggest otherwise. At the time, the genetic sequence appeared to be unique among Johnson family researchers who had submitted samples for genetic analysis. This data was extremely perplexing. Several months later, however, the independent testing company, Family Tree DNA, reported some encouraging findings.

            In the summer of 2004, this writer was contacted by researcher, Leonard Johnson. Not only was he an exact match, but he was a Johnson. Oddly enough, however, a common lineage could not be established. Although both families had been traced to the mid-18th century, the families were living in different areas. Yet DNA evidence proved the families to be related. The common progenitor, therefore, must have lived generations earlier.

            Because of a similarity in naming patterns, Leonard Johnson had made the acquaintance of Jerry Johnson. Both men had been researching the same group of people, and Leonard had persuaded Jerry to submit a DNA sample for comparison. The results were a near perfect match. Eventually, several other matches were also found, and a DNA profile can now be established for the common male line progenitor. In using this data, combined with an open exchange of research notes, we are better able to tell the story of this family from prehistoric times down to the present day.

            Genetic testing provides an analysis of specific markers along the Y-chromosome. These markers are reported as a series of numbers. Various tests consist of 12, 24, and 37 marker analyses, each test being somewhat more precise. Using DNA evidence from more than ten living descendants, the following 12 marker genetic sequence can be reconstructed for the common male ancestor for each of the participants.

 

 

 

393

390

19

391

385a

385b

426

388

439

389-1

392

389-2

13

23

15

10

12

16

11

15

13

13

11

29

 

 

            With but one exception, all participants matched one another exactly. Yet, one participant matched the others with a one marker difference. It was observed with a value of 14 at marker 439, while each of the other participants had a value of 13 at the same location. However, marker 439 has been determined to have a faster mutation rate than most other markers. Therefore, because all participants carried the same surname, this difference is considered to be relatively inconsequential.

            In comparing the genetic sample above with samples collected from random individuals living throughout the world, we can get a better sense for the family’s deep ancestral origins. The technique is rather simple. That part of the world where similar genetic patterns are found most frequently today would be viewed as the place of origin in the remote past.

Although humans have become increasingly more mobile in recent generations, populations were more settled hundreds and thousands of years ago. Because early human populations frequently revolved around kinship, early groups of people would frequently exhibit smaller amounts of genetic diversity than is observed in human populations today. As groups of people remained separate from one another for lengthy periods of time, their DNA would become less similar as genetic mutations continued to accumulate within separate populations. It is interesting to note, however, that these corresponding genetic mutations do not necessarily manifest themselves in physical characteristics. In fact, two groups who become isolated from one another may continue to share the same physical characteristics. The genetic diversity that is observed throughout the world today can be used in conjunction with evidence from other disciplines (such as archaeology and anthropology) in an effort to discover where any specific group may have originated.  

 

 

Haplogroups and the Remote Past:

I2a

 

            A comparison of the Johnson family’s genetic sequence with indigenous populations throughout the world yielded surprising results. The markers observed in the Y-chromosome analysis are rarely found in Western Europe. Yet, the family almost certainly came to the American colonies from Great Britain.

            Similar genetic sequences are grouped together into haplogroups. These classifications correspond to modern human populations who share common origins in the remote past. People are grouped into specific haplogroups based on the specific markers that are retained in their genetic sequence over extremely long periods of time. While some genes have a tendency to mutate rather quickly, others remain very stable over very long periods of time. People who retain the same stable markers up to the present day are believed to share a common ancestry that may date back thousands of years. Surprisingly, much of Western Europe belongs to the same haplogroup, suggesting that they descend from a common group of ancestors who arrived in Europe tens of thousands of years ago. The Johnson family, however, belongs to the vast cluster referred to as the “I haplogroup”.

            Family Tree DNA has analyzed the DNA sequence for several members of this Johnson family who are known to share common ancestry. In comparing Johnson family genetic markers with other samples in their database, it has been determined that our line belongs to the haplogroup known as I2a (previously known as I1b). An analysis of genetic mutations found in the main branch of haplogroup I indicates that “haplogroup I dates to 23,000 years ago or longer”. It is interesting to note that this time period coincides with the advance of enormous ice sheets during the last glacial period in the Earth’s history.

Our ancestors are known to have arrived in south-eastern Europe during the last ice ages. There, they multiplied in small hunter gatherer groups. Due to the advance of the ice, they became isolated from other human populations who were living to the West in Europe and Asia to the East. Over several thousand years of isolated existence, the genetic markers found on the Y-chromosome of our ancestors began to develop characteristic mutations that would distinguish them from other groups of people who became settled in other parts of the world.

            Curiously, the genetic markers displayed by the men in the Johnson family are found with great frequency in and around modern-day Bosnia where a large percentage of the men demonstrate similar genetic patterns. Family Tree DNA further categorizes Johnson family markers into the subgroup known as I2a. The company states that “The Balkan countries likely harbored this subgroup of I during the Last Glacial Maximum. Today, this branch is found distributed in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, and extends further east with Slavic-speaking populations”. The National Genographic Project specifically notes that I2a is “found around the Dinaric Alps, a mountain chain in southern Europe spanning areas of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, and Albania”.

            A large body of evidence can be found supporting our classification into the group known as I2a. Independent confirmation has been obtained from other genetic databases. Specifically, geneticist Whit Athey has developed a haplogroup predictor. Using STR values, or specific genetic markers, an individual can determine which group his remote paternal ancestors most likely belonged to based on data collected from thousands of genetic samples collected from around the world. Not surprisingly, Whit Athey’s model has also predicted that our family belongs to haplogroup I2a.

            Genetic markers are described as a set of “repeat values”. The specific set of repeat values found on a Y-chromosome is called a haplotype. Using an individual’s haplotype, Whit Athey has developed a program to predict that person’s Y-chromosome haplogroup. Athey defines a haplogroup as “a group or family of Y-chromosomes related by descent”. Using correlational data, Athey’s program can predict an individual’s haplogroup based on how well a person’s haplotype “fits the pattern of previously reported STR values for a haplogroup”. For instance, men in the large R1b haplogroup, will typically exhibit a “repeat value” of 12 on marker 426. In rare occasions, there are exceptions where they will exhibit a value of 10, 11 or 13. However, they will never exhibit a value of 16. Many times, members of a specific haplogroup will exhibit only one value at a given marker. In such cases, these are markers that mutate very slowly. Athey’s model compares an individual’s “repeat values” (or haplotype), with the values found most frequently for people whose haplogroup has been determined through the lengthy testing process known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP). Using this “goodness of fit”, an individual’s haplogroup can be predicted when compared with values exhibited by known members of a given haplogroup.

            Athey’s prediction model yields a numerical score when predicting a haplogroup based on “repeat values”. A perfect 1 to 1 correspondence with the values most frequently demonstrated in a haplogroup yields a score of 1. However, people will almost never exhibit such a ratio. Rather, a decimal is used to express this “goodness of fit”. Using the greatest value generated by the program, a haplogroup can be predicted. Haplogroups can be predicted when there is a correspondence of .40 or higher. Using the “repeat values” found in Johnson family participants, a score of .68 was established for haplogroup I2a. This is a very strong score. As such, these results are believed to be very reliable.

            Family Tree DNA hosts Ysearch, a public database of genetic samples. This service allows researchers to compare their sample against all other people in the database. Using this free service, a comparison of the Johnson family’s genetic profile yielded some fascinating results which support the findings generated by Whit Athey’s predictor model. A 12 marker analysis indicates that men in the Johnson family differed from the “Y-DNA-I2a security modal haplotype” by only one marker resulting in a score of ~1. According to Ysearch:

 

“The Y-DNA-I2a Security Modal Haplotype is a tool for finding out whether or not you could belong to haplogroup I2a…your mutational difference value will most likely be less than ~3 compared to this set of 12 I2a –specific markers.”

 

Archaeology and Genetic Evidence

 

            Genetic evidence can be a useful tool to the modern day researcher who is interested in discovering information regarding his or her remote ancestry. Archaeological evidence can help illuminate the technical information obtained from a series of genetic tests. A graphic analysis of genetic distributions will frequently betray information concerning ancient migratory patterns and settlements. 

            The I haplogroup is confined to European populations. Rootsi et al. have published a rather comprehensive report pertaining to the distribution of the I haplogroup in Europe. Their findings indicate that the most genetic diversity is found in Bosnia where more than 40% of the male population belongs to group I2a. These facts imply that the I haplogroup dispersed from this region in prehistoric times, resulting in a greater number of genetic variations in modern populations. They estimate that the I haplogroup ancestors arrived in the region prior to the last glacial period. Their “estimates hint that its initial spread in Europe may be linked to the diffusion of the largely pan-European Gravettian technology ~28,000-23,000 years ago”.

            The link between the I haplogroup and Gravettian technology is reiterated by the National Genographic Project sponsored by the National Geographic Society. Information concerning the spread of Gravettian culture can be found at www.historytoday.com.

 

“Gravettian culture: a phase (c.28,000-23,000 years ago) of the European Upper Paleolithic that is characterized by a stone-tool industry with small pointed blades used for big-game hunting (bison, horse, reindeer and mammoth). It is divided into two regional groups: the western Gravettian, mostly known from cave sites in France, and the eastern Gravettian, with open sites of specialized mammoth hunters on the plains of central Europe and Russia. Some early examples of cave art and the famous 'Venus' figurines were made by Gravettian artists.”

 

            Members of haplogroup I became isolated from one another as the ice sheets advanced to a maximum extent. This resulted in subsequent mutations that would distinguish one group from another. The various groups living in Eastern Europe were cut off from their distant relatives who would seek refuge from the ice in Western Europe. In the Balkan region, prehistoric Gravettian hunters utilized mammoth bones and tusks to construct shelter. In the West, caves were preferred. Regardless of geographical location, the Gravettian culture is associated with the production of voluptuous “Venus” figurines. Such exaggerated sculptures are believed to reflect the importance of fertility in these early European populations. 

 

The Famed “Venus of Willendorf”, Circa 23,000 BC

Found Near Willendorf, Austria

 

 

 

 

According to most theories (including Family Tree DNA), as members of haplogroup I2a, the paternal ancestors of the Johnson family are known to have been sheltered in or near modern day Bosnia during the last “ice age”. However, the climate gradually began to improve about 15,000 years ago. As global temperatures began to rise, the ice sheets began a slow retreat. By 8,000 BC most of central and northern Europe was released from this icy prison. Therefore, the small groups of people residing in Europe exhibited corresponding changes in their behavior. While migratory patterns and DNA would appear to indicate that the paternal ancestors of I2a-West "wintered" in the Balkan region, their DNA had already begun to exhibit characteristic traits very different from their other I2a kin. Therefore, Ken Nordtvedt offers caution in assuming that I2a members were trapped in the Balkan region during the farthest extent of the last glacial period. He notes that it is possible that some male line representatives had already started a slow migration into northern Europe before this time period, thereby being cut off from their ancestral home while the ice continued to move farther south.

As the ice sheets began to recede, a small group of men belonging to the I haplogroup left their refuge in southeastern Europe. Descendants of this group migrated to France, eventually migrating to Norway, Sweden and Denmark. During the ice ages, these northern lands were completely submerged in ice. Therefore, it was too hostile for human habitation. However, after the retreat of the ice sheets, members of haplogroup I colonized the region. Of course, over long periods of time, these men developed characteristic mutations that would distinguish them from their kin who remained in the warmer Balkan region of Europe. Today, these Scandinavian members of the I haplogroup are categorized as the sub-group I1a.

 

Migratory Patterns of Various European Haplogroups

Following the Last “Ice Age”

 

 

 

 

Warmer global temperatures resulted in increased movement among human populations. The climate in southern Europe became warmer and wetter, and new plants began to flourish. In addition, people in the Balkan region began to develop better hunting methods which enabled larger groups of people to cooperate and live together. Most importantly, people in western Asia began to experiment with agricultural methods which enabled them to settle in one place for extended periods of time because of a surplus of food. Due to gradual global warming, some of these people began to settle in southeastern Europe. The ice, which had isolated various human populations, was no longer a barrier. The influx of people from settled villages in Asia resulted in an increase in genetic variation as these different groups began to breed with one another. In addition, it resulted in a free exchange of ideas, and Europe began a slow process of change. People gradually moved from a life of hunting and gathering in small groups, to living in settled villages and raising crops.

            One of the earliest settled communities in Europe was at Lepenski Vir in the former Yugoslavia. Today, it is located in Eastern Serbia, and the archaeological evidence of this early civilization closely corresponds with the genetic fingerprint of the I2a haplogroup. Lepenski Vir became a settled community about 8,500 years ago, and it was comprised of approximately 60 permanent homes that were built along the banks of the Danube River. Archaeological excavations reveal that each of these homes housed characteristic stone carvings of “fish gods”. It is believed that the Danube provided these people with much of their food, but the remains of homes built of stone and wood indicates that they were among Europe’s earliest farming communities.

            In reality, Lepenski Vir was only one of many farming communities that sprang up along the Danube River during the Mesolithic period otherwise known as the Middle Stone Age. Residents of this settlement traded pottery and food with neighboring communities. Over time, however, Lepenski Vir came to be the ritual center for what would become known as the Starcevo-Cris Culture. This ancient culture overlapped the ancestral home of haplogroup I2a which had become established in the Balkan region many thousands of years earlier. Moreover, Starcevo culture appears to have been somewhat of an outgrowth of the earlier Gravettian culture. Perhaps the most notable similarity connecting the two ancient cultures is the continued obsession with fertility demonstrated in “Venus figurines”.  A website pertaining to this early farming culture has been found at AncientWisdomCulturesPeople@groups.msn.com. It is noted that “The Starcevo Culture covered a huge area, including today's Slovakia, western Ukraine, Romania, eastern Hungary, Bulgaria, Serbia, and northeast Bosnia. In Croatia, it extended at least as far as Vucedol (near Vukovar) and Sarvas (near Osijek)”.    

 

“Fish God” Sculpture from Lepenski Vir

Circa 5000 BC

 

Modern Map Illustrating the Extent of

 Starcevo-Cris Culture: Circa 6,000 BC

 

 

 

            The book The Last Two Million Years explains the population explosion that took place in the Balkan region of Europe beginning about 5,000 BC. By that time, agriculture had spread from Greece, in the South, to Hungary in the North. People in this region lived in “densely populated villages”, in homes that were constructed of mud and timber with flat roofs. Homes were generally constructed with a raised floor on a clay platform that served as a kitchen area. The people created beautiful, painted pottery, and they wore clothing made of flax and wool.

            Farming settlements were particularly numerous along the Danube River. The rich river valley was particularly conducive to raising crops. The valleys also provided protection against invasion from nomadic peoples. Many historians believe that the Danubians were responsible for the advance of agriculture as it spread from southeastern Europe. “They and the revolution they represented spread rapidly across Europe, reaching Holland before 4,000 BC”. These early farmers were able to benefit from the rich soil that was a result of glacial retreat at the end of the last ice age. These early Europeans cultivated wheat, barley and peas. However, as farming spread toward northern Europe, people began to domesticate cattle and pigs with increased frequency.

 

Subsets of Haplogroup I2a

 

As agriculture spread from the Balkan region of Europe to the North, groups of people became increasingly mobile. It is interesting to note, however, that these advances were more the result of an exchange of ideas rather than the displacement of one group of people by another. Whatever the case may be, it is now clear that a small handful of people from the Balkan region inevitably migrated to the Baltic coast of Europe during this time period. Moreover, it is likely that the Danube River was the primary mode of transportation for these early men who first carried the I2a haplogroup to northern Europe.

 The findings of a number of noteworthy geneticists support the conclusions of Family Tree DNA and Whit Athey’s haplogroup predictor in classifying Johnson males into haplogroup I2a. In fact, an analysis of specific markers can now help us to identify which specific branch of this haplogroup we descend from. Haplogroup I2a has been divided into two major subgroups. The vast majority are classified as “I2a-Dinaric”. The group takes its name from the Dinaric Alps, a group of mountains situated along the border between modern-day Croatia and Bosnia. This subgroup of 1Ib is mainly distributed near the ancestral homeland of the I haplogroup. In addition, it is often found throughout parts of Eastern Europe.

In addition to I2a-Dinaric, a Western subgroup has recently been discovered. In contrast to their distant kinsman in southeastern Europe, representatives of this subgroup are found most frequently in northwestern Europe. Ken Nordtvedt, perhaps the world’s foremost I haplogroup researcher, describes the I2a-West haplogroup as follows:

 

“I2a-West (Western) is a variety of (old) I1b…found more in Western Europe, and particularly in a swath across Germany’s Baltic and North Sea coastal areas, and then into the British Isles. Western I1b1 (now I2a) variety is most notably identified by having 15 repeats at DYS388 instead of the usual 13 repeats of Dinaric I2a. I2a-West is also usually 10 at DYS391 instead of I2a-Din being 11…they have differing modal values at a large number of markers and are usually not difficult to distinguish from each other.  I2a-West was discovered in 2004.”

 

In May of 2005, Ken Nordtvedt refined his definition of I2a-West as follows:

 

“I was upgrading my Western I2a (the variety with the unusual DYS 388 = 15 and Western Europe geographical distribution) with the latest Sorenson data …one must add DYS448 = 18 (an unusual modal value in its own right) to the root definition of Western I2a … Here is the total 6 marker core haplotype:

DYS388 = 15; DYS448 = 18; DYS454 = 11 = DYS455; DYS462 = 12.

Its DYS 19, 390, 391, 392, 393, 385a,b, 389i modal haplotype is then 15,23,10,11,13,(12,15),14 and highly so except for 389i which also has significant population with 13 repeats.”

            In comparing this very specific root definition of the I2a-West modal haplotype with the genetic profile of Johnson family men, we find that there is a nearly perfect correspondence. The only difference is that Johnson males demonstrate a characteristic repeat value of 16 at marker 385b rather than the more typical value of 15.

            In order to properly classify the peculiar genetic sequence of Johnson family males, this writer contacted Ken Nordtvedt directly. Specifically, Mr. Nordtvedt was asked for his opinion regarding the classification of the Johnson family into haplogroup I2a-West. After several weeks, he sent the following response:

 

“You are definitely Western I1b (now I2a).  I don't think I would have said western I2a is more common in Britain than in continental Europe.  I have found it both in Britain and in the swath you mentioned.  I assume continental people brought it to the British Isles. Perhaps with the Anglo-Saxons or Danes, but maybe in an earlier migration pre-Roman?  Only more data and future research will answer that choice. I have identified a separate type of I2a which is ‘Isles’ I2a and not yet found on the continent.  But it is different than what you have which is the ‘western’.”

 

            Today, the I2a-West haplogroup can be subdivided into typical haplotypes. Researchers have now discovered that I2a-West manifests itself somewhat differently in England, Ireland and Scotland. “Comparative y-DNA results” obtained from Ysearch indicates an extremely close correspondence with what has been called the “English Y-DNA-I2a modal haplotype”. This data implies that our Johnson male line ancestry stems from England.

            Nordtvedt has also been able to estimate the approximate age of I2a-West by studying the genetic mutations that separate this group from their relatives in the Balkan states. He suggests “a 4300 year age for the Western I2a.” This suggests that the two major subgroups of haplogroup I2a diverged sometime about the year 2,300 BC.

Ken Nordtvedt suggests that the unusual genetic sequence of the Johnson family was “brought … to the British Isles. Perhaps with the Anglo-Saxons or Danes”. It is clear that I2a was brought to the coast of northern Europe from the Balkan region by about 2,000 BC. As agriculture spread to Northern Europe along the Danube River, male representatives of this family must have followed, carrying their unique genetic sequence with them to the Baltic and North Sea region. Here they assimilated, learned the customs and language, and blended with the people who would eventually become known collectively as “the Anglo-Saxons”. Through a series of genetic mutations, their DNA developed the interesting characteristics of a new haplogroup, known as I2a-West. It was in this region that the last common ancestor of haplogroup I2a is known to have lived approximately 500BC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Supporting Evidence for an Anglo-Saxon

Migration to England

           

 

 

Today, I2a-West is a genetic sequence that is rarely found in England. Yet, it is clear that quite a few English families share a common genetic heritage that is betrayed by their collective membership in haplogroup I2a-West. The Sorenson genetic database indicates that the majority of these families are generally distributed in Northampton, Lancashire, Worcester and Nottingham. Information from this database and others shows a distribution of similar genetic patterns found in northern Germany and Denmark; a region that corresponds with the ancestral homeland of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes who invaded England roughly 1,500 years ago.

            Ken Nordtvedt used “2,200 SNP tested British Isles haplotypes” and discovered that there was a “clear cluster of Western I2a haplotypes” found in England. It is noted that there is “a slight preference for Western I2a being located in eastern England where Anglo-Saxons or Danish Vikings settled. This is confirmed with finding Western I2a in Sorenson database with Baltic coast and Danish origins”. He further notes that such haplotypes only constitute somewhere between ½ and 1% of the Y-chromosome patterns found in northwestern Europe today.

            Ken Nordtvedt noticed that haplogroup I2a-West is found along the Baltic and North Sea coasts in continental Europe. Further, it is noted that modern distributions of this genetic sequence are found most frequently in western England, particularly along the border with Wales. A comparison of this distribution pattern with known archaeological evidence suggests a probable Anglo-Saxon migration. This theory was suggested by Nordtvedt, and it helps explain how this rare genetic sequence is found in both places simultaneously. A study of the mutations present in each of these families suggests that they are all related within the last 1,500 to 2,000 years. Again, this is in keeping with the time period that the Angles and Saxons arrived in England. What is especially interesting is that the modern distribution of families allows the researcher to formulate a more specific theory regarding the origins of these families. It should be noted that the western portion of England was most heavily colonized by the group of people known as the “Middle Angles”. They arrived in England from southern Denmark during the 5th century, and they were eventually absorbed into the kingdom of Mercia during the Middle Ages. The map that follows illustrates the settlement patterns of the various Germanic tribes who arrived in England during the 5th and 6th centuries. The inset corresponds to the original homeland of these various groups.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Settlement of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes in England

 

 

            The best early source regarding the migration and settlement of the Angles and Saxons is A History of the English Church and People by Bede. Although his chronicles were written about 300 years after the fact, they remain one of our best sources of information regarding this shadowy time period. The Anglo-Saxons first arrived on the shores of England sometime between the years 440 and 460 AD. Bede notes that they had been invited by the native Celtic inhabitants, called Britons. This time period saw the collapse of the Roman occupation of the island, and subsequent invasions by “barbarians” from Ireland and Scotland. In order to defend themselves, the native Britons are said to have invited the Angles and Saxons to England as mercenary soldiers. Initially, they established peaceful settlements, and they coexisted with the indigenous population. However, upon their arrival, the Germanic tribes found the native population to be “cowardly”, and they exploited the desperate situation of the Britons to their own benefit. Bede describes these events as follows:

 

“In the year of our Lord 449, Martian became Emperor with Valentinian, the forty-sixth in succession from Augustus, ruling for seven years. In his time the Angles or Saxons came to Britain at the invitation of King Vortigern in three long-ships, and were granted lands in the eastern part of the island on condition that they protected the country: nevertheless, their real intention was to subdue it. They engaged the enemy advancing from the north, and having defeated them, sent back news of their success to their homeland, adding that the country was fertile and the Britons cowardly. Whereupon a larger fleet quickly came over with a great body of warriors, which, when joined to the original forces constituted an invincible army. These also received from the Britons grants of land where they could settle among them on condition that they maintained the peace and security of the island against all enemies in return for regular pay.

            These new-comers were from the three most formidable races of Germany, the Saxons, Angles, and Jutes. From the Jutes are descended the people of Kent and the Isle of Wight…from the Saxons – that is, the country now known as the land of the Old Saxons – came the East, South and West Saxons. And from the Angles – that is, the country known as Angulus, which lies between the provinces of the Jutes and Saxons and is said to remain unpopulated to this day – are descended the East and Middle Angles, the Mercians, all the Northumbrian stock…and the other English peoples…

            It was not long before such hordes of these alien peoples vied together to crowd into the island that the natives who had invited them began to live in terror.”

 

            In his book Ancient Peoples and Places: The Anglo-Saxons, D.M. Wilson discusses the subsequent colonization over the next 150 years.

 

            “The colony, founded by Vortigern in the east of England, must have been strengthened by accretion from the Continent, until the mercenaries rebelled against their employers and started to colonize the country in earnest…parts of England – Kent and Sussex for instance – were settled in this manner. The conquest of the rest of England probably started, as did the colonization of America, with small bands camping on the eastern seaboard and gradually spreading west up the river valleys into the rest of the country. The Britons…put up a considerable resistance against the Saxons. Gradually, however, over a period of some hundred and fifty years they were reduced to the position of a subject population, or fled to the hills and fastness of the Celtic lands to the west and north. At the time of the Augustinian mission the Anglo-Saxons controlled the whole of England from Kent to East Dorset and from the East Coast to the lower Severn, Staffordshire and Derbyshire, most of Yorkshire and part of Northumberland and Durham.”

 

            The Angles came to control much of the Island. These invaders, originally from southern Denmark, would assume a position of preeminence over the Saxons and Jutes. Their Kingdom of Mercia dominated the course of English history from the mid-7th century to the early 9th century. The Encyclopedia Britannica defines the boundaries of Mercia as “originally comprising the border areas (modern Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, and north Warwickshire)…Mercia later absorbed the Hwicce territory (Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, and south Warwickshire) and spread also into what was later Cheshire, Shropshire, and Herefordshire”.

            Eventually, Mercia’s position of dominance was overshadowed by the Saxon kingdom of Wessex. Under their King, Alfred the Great, England’s boundaries were extended to near modern extent. Alfred was able to consolidate nearly all of Anglo-Saxon England under one crown, and English culture became somewhat more uniform until it became nearly impossible to discern the differences between Angle and Saxon.

            This background information concerning the arrival of the Angles and the rise of Mercian dominance has tremendous implications for the Johnson family researcher. Clearly, genetic data regarding our family is closely correlated with the arrival of the Angles and their subsequent migrations. Modern-day distribution patterns for males who exhibit the I2a-West signature closely correspond not only to the settlement of the Angles in England, but to the ancestral homeland of the Angles in southern Denmark. Clearly, the men of this family were part of the early invasion of the Britons and the colonization of the western portion England.

            After many generations, the numerous male line descendants of our earliest ancestor in England adopted countless different surnames. This is not surprising. Surnames were not adopted throughout England until after the Norman invasion of 1066. Furthermore, this next wave of invaders quickly reduced the Anglo-Saxons to a subject population, establishing themselves in positions of power. The Norman custom of adopting a surname eventually took root with Anglo-Saxon families. However, this did not become a uniform custom until about the 13th to the 15th centuries. In other words, the various branches of our family took on scores of different surnames approximately 700 to 900 years after their arrival in England. This explains why so many seemingly different families carry the same or nearly identical Y-chromosome genetic signature.

            Although our genetic sequence is rather unusual, it is found in small numbers in several public databases. It is estimated that I2a-West is present in between ½ - 1% of the men in England. Although this is a small proportion of the male population, we would still expect it to be present in nearly 250,000 men in England! With that in mind, it is now clear that many such men, representing numerous different families, arrived in the American colonies independently of one another. Fortunately, with the assistance of modern technology, we can retrace the footsteps of these men back through the millennia with a respectable degree of accuracy.

 

 

 

 

 

English Families of I2a Extraction

 

 

 

            Following the establishment and preeminence of the Anglo-Saxon culture in England, these groups would ultimately be subjugated by Norman invaders following the conquest of 1066. Laws and customs of the Normans soon became commonplace, and one such custom was the adoption of surnames. 

            Although Ken Nordtvedt describes a concentration of I2a English families outlined by Northampton, Nottingham, Lancashire and Worcester, a system was also devised by this writer to refine the area of concentration. Information obtained from Ysearch and the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation provides a pattern that is even clearer. An attempt was made to identify families of English extraction who would appear to be classified as I2a-West. This search was restricted to English families who are no more than three genetic mutations away from the Johnson family. Then, those surnames were correlated to specific regions of England where the surnames are found most frequently. Not surprisingly, many of the names do coincide with the area described by Nordtvedt. However, the greatest concentration of families most closely related to our Johnson family was found in Lancashire and West Yorkshire where there appears to have been an especially heavy concentration.

            Family names used in this correlational study included Sharp, Stanley, Lucas, Terry, Overstreet, Ashley, Parker, Holder, Slaton, Buckley, Glover, Mills, Binns, Edenfield, Hilton and Johnson among others. It is believed that each of these families shares a common male lineage likely stemming from the period surrounding the Anglo-Saxon invasion. Of course, that was a time before surnames had been adopted in England. It is interesting to note that a study of the various mutations present in each family can reveal which specific families are most closely related to one another. As with the Johnson family, some of these surnames may have originated in multiple places independently. However, others are relatively confined to a small geographical area in England. In situations of uncommon surnames that are linked to one specific location in England, this is very helpful in determining that family's place of origin.

            Together, Nordvedt’s observations coupled with modern-day distributions of related English families point to a probable early settlement near the Staffordshire / Leicestershire border. From there, our unusual genetic signature appears to have become diffused along the border between England and Wales. Finally, it seems likely that our specific branch of the family settled a bit to the North in or near what is now southeastern Lancashire. This movement is also in keeping with what historians have traditionally noted in reference to the history of Lancashire. For instance, The Encyclopaedia Brttanica states that "The Anglo-Saxons penetrated the area from the east and south, and it became a province of the kingdom of Northumbria" which had been chiefly populated by Angles from southern Denmark. The following chart illustrates the various clusters of English families who appear to share a common male lineage with the Johnson family stemming back to the Anglo-Saxon period.

 

 

 

 

 

Last Name

3
9
3

3
9
0

1
9

3
9
1

3
8
5
a

3
8
5
b

4
2
6

3
8
8

4
3
9

3
8
9
|
1

3
9
2

3
8
9
|
2

4
5
8

4
5
9
a

4
5
9
b

4
5
5

4
5
4

4
4
7

4
3
7

4
4
8

4
4
9

4
6
4
a

4
6
4
b

4
6
4
c

4
6
4
d

I2a modal

13

 

 

 

 

15

11

 

 

 

11

 

 

8

 

11

11

 

 

 

 

 

14

 

 

English I2a

13

23

15

10

12

15

11

15

12

14

11

30

18

8

9

11

11

26

14

18

29

11

14

14

15

Sharp

13

23

15

10

12

15

11

15

12

14

11

30

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stanley

13

23

15

10

12

15

11

15

12

14

11

30

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lucas

13

23

15

10

12

15

11

15

12

13

11

29

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terry

13

23

15

10

12

15

11

15

12

13

11

29

19

8

9

11

11

25

14

18

30

11

14

14

15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overstreet

13

23

15

10

12

15

11

15

13

13

11

29

20

8

9

11

11

26

14

18

29

11

14

14

15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benbow

13

23

15

10

12

15

11

15

11

13

11

29

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ashley

13

23

15

10

12

16

11

15

13

13

11

29

18

8

8

11

11

26

14

18

29

11

14

14

15

Parker

13

23

15

10

12

16

11

15

13

13

11

29

18

8

9

11

11

26

14

18

29

11

14

14

15

Slaton

13

23

15

10

12

16

11

15

13

13

11

29

18

8

8

11

11

26

14

18

29

11

14

14

15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Johnson

13

23

15

10

12

16

11

15

13

13

11

29

19

8

9

11

11

26

14

18

30

11

14

14

15

Hilton

13

23

15

10

12

16

11

15

13

13

11

29

19

8

9

11

11

26

14

18

30

11

14

14

15

Edenfield

13

23

15

10

12

16

11

15

12

13

11

29

19

8

9

11

11

26

14

18

30

11

14

14

15

Binns

13

23

15

10

12

16

11

15

13

13

11

29

19

8

9

11

11

26

14

18

29

11

14

14

15

Greaves

13

23

15

10

12

16

11

15

13

13

11

29

19

 

 

11

 

 

14

18

29

11

14

14

15

Holder

13

23

15

10

12

16

11

15

13

13

11

29

19

8

9

11

11

26

14

18

29

11

14

14

15

Pidcock

13

23

15

10

12

16

11

15

13

13

11

29

19

8

9

11

11

26

14

18

29

11

14

14

15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glover

13

23

15

10

12

16

11

15

13

13

11

29

20

8

9

11

11

26

14

18

29

12

14

14

15

Buckley

13

23

15

10

12

16

11

15

13

13

11

29

20

8

9

11

11

25

14

18

29

11

14

14

15

Mills

13

23

15

10

12

16

11

15

13

13

11

29

20

8

9

11

11

25

14

18

29

11

14

14

15

 

 

 

 

English I2a-West

Arrived in England from Northern Germany and/or Denmark

          Cluster I                                                                      Cluster II

   Defined by 15 at 385b                                      Defined by a mutation of 16 at 385b

    Group IA                         Group IB                       Group IIA               Group IIB

typical 14 at 389i          mutation of 13 at 389i         marker 18 at 458       19 or 20 at 458

                                                                               Ashley,Parker,Slaton

      Sharp             Group IBi    Group IBii   Group IBiii         Group IIBi   Group IIBii

     Stanley            Lucas &        Overstreet       Benbow         marker19 at 458     Glover,

                              Terry            13 at 439        11 at 439                                       Buckley

                     typical 12 at 439                                                                                Mills

                                                                                                                             20 at 458

                                                                                                        

                                                                                                       

                                                                                                       

                                                                                                                    

                                                     Group IIBi a                                       Group IIBi b                                                

                                                  marker 29 at 449                                  marker 30 at 449

                                                       Binns                                                         Johnson

                                                       Greaves                                                     Hilton

                                                       Holder                                                       Edenfield

                                                       Pidcock

 

 

 

            The diagram above illustrates related family groupings among English families who are known to be representatives of haplogroup I2a-West in England. A study of the characteristic mutations in each family enables the researcher to make a determination as to how closely each family is related to the others. Obviously, all of these families share a common origin in the remote past. The more closely grouped surnames at the bottom of the diagram represent families whose common male ancestor lived in the more recent past.

            Of particular interest to Johnson family researchers is the family of Edenfield. This family shares a match of 24 out of 25 genetic markers. Moreover, the Edenfield surname is rather uncommon in England. Although its greatest concentration is now found around Halifax in Yorkshire, the family took its name from the village of Edenfield in Lancashire. We can be sure of this as there is only one village of this name in all of England. Edenfield is situated about four miles east of Bolton and Blackburn. As surnames were frequently adopted from village names during the 12th and 13th centuries, this may provide us with a clue as to the approximate location of where the Johnson family may have originated during this time period as well. Curiously, Estimating the time to the Most Recent Common Ancestor between the Johnson and Edenfield families yeilds a probability of there being a 90% chance that the person lived in the last 40 generations (or 1,000 years). This is a conservative figure that has been estimated by FamilyTreeDNA.

            An Edenfield family researcher reports that his earliest proven ancestor was John Edenfield of Ovenden near Halifax in Yorkshire who was born about the year 1665, dying in Dover, Delaware in the year 1720. Edenfield researchers have noted that although the family had taken their name from Edenfield in Lancashire, most had left the area by the mid-1500s. It is noted:

 

" The main thrust of the migration must have been to Halifax and vicinity in nearby Yorkshire; several Edenfield families begin to show up there as early as 1582"

 

In speculating as to the precipitating event for the Edenfield exodus from Lancashire to the Halifax area in Yorkshire during the 1500s, researcher M.B. Ormerod of Walley, Lancashire writes:

 

"I can...suggest a reason for the move — the wool trade...Wakefield is the highest point on the Yorkshire Calder [River], which was navigable, and goods could be transported by water thence to the coast at Hull for export to the continent. The main export was wool, and this area could produce it in abundance. ... it was up to private individuals to manage the export. Halifax was a staging post on the route from the lands of the Honour of Clitheroe, and the goods must have been transported by pack animal."

 

            Finally, an internet sight dedicated to Edenfield research includes the following synopsis regarding the family's Lancashire origins together with a brief explanation pertaining to the family's subsequent migration into neighboring Yorkshire:

 

" [In Edenfield,] some of the oldest village families died out or moved away relatively early. For example, the Aytenfelds who obviously took their surname from the village name itself are found in Edenfield as early as 1500. (Since the spelling of their surname is very close to 'Aytounfeld', the earliest form of the village name, it is probable that their links with the village went back to the early 14th century). However, after 1540 there is only one reference to a member of the family in the court rolls of the manor of Tottington and certainly by the late 1550s they had severed their ties with Edenfield. Interestingly, the surnames Edenfield, Ettenfeld and other variations are quite common in the Halifax area from at least the 1590s and no doubt these families could trace their origins back to east Lancashire."

 

            While this discussion pertaining to Edenfield origins may not seem relevant to Johnson family research, it does indicate that at least one family with whom we share a common male lineage originated near Bolton in Lancashire. Clearly, our earliest Johnson relatives had diverged from this family prior to the 1500s, but if the Edenfields originated in Lancashire, perhaps our family did as well.

            Another family with whom we share a common descent is the Greaves family. A genetic sequence for this family was discovered in the Sorenson database, and their Y chromosome pattern differs from our own by just one marker. They demonstrate a value of 29 at marker 449. This is actually the typical value that is normally seen at this marker in the English I2a haplotype. Therefore, in this case, it is the Johnson family that inherited the odd mutation of 30 at marker 449.

            A descendant of John Greaves and his wife Mary Worthington provided a DNA sample for this family. In life, John was a resident of Oldham in Lancashire. Today, this area has been absorbed into the greater Manchester area. Further research into the Greaves family of Oldham yields some interesting information. This surname was actually rather common in the vicinity of Oldham, Lancashire during the 1600s and 1700s. Early records prove that there were men named Greaves residing in that general area as early as 1550. The Binns / Bynnes family of Wakefield, Yorkshire shares an identical genetic sequence with that of Greaves of Oldham. While there were men named Binns in the vicinity of Wakefield as early as 1600, there were branches of this family settled in and around Huddersfield, Yorkshire many years earlier. Therefore, it appears that the Binns family had migrated to Wakefield from the Lancashire / Yorkshire border.

           

 

The Hilton Family of Bolton

 

            The most important collateral family with implications regarding Johnson family origins is that of the Hilton family of Pilkington and vicinity. Several members of this family have contibuted DNA samples, and taken together, they are a 25/25 match with the typical set of markers demonstrated by Johnson family males. This is powerful evidence that the Johnsons and Hiltons were connected with one another in the not too distant past. It was discovered that our family is a 24/25 match with Brian Hilton, a descendant of Thomas Hilton who was born in Pilkington, Lancashire in 1803. Although Brian's Hilton line runs into a dead end in Pilkington, Lancashire about the year 1803, it is worth noting that the Sorenson database contains data relevant to two other Hilton males who match Brian Hilton's ancestor from Pilkington.

            The data from the Sorenson database is particularly interesting for two reasons. Combining the DNA sequence from these three samples proves that many members of this Hilton family are a 25/25 match with our family. Secondly, two representatives of this family have a clear paper trail for the Hilton ancestors in Lancashire that reach back nearly 1000 years. Using FamilyTreeDNA's tool to calculate the time to the most recent common ancestor the following calculations were generated. Comparing a one-step mismatch between Johnson and Hilton males, with no proven ancestry within the last 15 generations yields a 95% chance that the two families share a common origin within the past 30 generations (or 750-800 years).

            Pedigrees obtained from the Sorenson database indicate that information had been submitted by two descendants of Hugh Hilton and his wife, Isabella Pilkington Frost. Hugh had been born in Bolton, Lancashire in the year 1821. He and his wife eventually settled in Utah in the mid-1800s where Hugh died in the year 1873. It is interesting to note that Hugh Hilton's mother-in-law was Anne Pilkington, suggesting a connection to Brian Hilton whose male line ancestors originated in Pilkington, Lancashire.

            Members of this Hilton family were early Mormon converts, and Hugh Hilton's grandson, Eugene, conducted a tremendous amount of research on the origins of this ancient family. His research indicates that the Hilton family of Lancashire is among the oldest in all of England. It is noted that the name was already in use prior to the Conquest of 1066. The chief seat of the Hilton family was "Hilton Park", located roughly three miles southwest of Bolton. As Eugene Hilton points out in his work, the fact that the Hilton name was already in use during the reign of the Saxon King Edward (901-924) implies that the family had Anglo-Saxon origins.

            The first person of historical record to be listed in the ancient pedigrees of the Hilton family of Lancashire is Blethyn de Hulton, who with his son, Jorveth/Jorwerth had settled upon the lands at Hulton Park near Bolton in the mid-1100s. Owing to their foreign sounding names, most genealogists and historians have assumed these men to be of Welsh extraction. However, as Eugene Hilton speculates, the family may have simply owned lands in several different localities, returning to their ancestral home about the year 1167.

            Blethyn de Hulton was born sometime about the year 1100. His son, Jorveth, was born about 1135. It is presumed that these men were "faithful vassals of Robert Banastre expelled from Wales about 1167".Supposedly, Robert Banastre and his men were driven out of Wales by Owen Gwynned "Lord of Wales". Banastre's chief estate of Prestotyn was located in Flintshire in the north of Wales bordering Cheshire. This estate was captured in the year 1167, and "Banastre led his followers into Lancashire".

            After their expulsion from the Welsh border lands, Jorveth was granted the lands of Kereshall and Barton in Lancashire by John, "Earl of Morton" who would later be crowned King. Many years later, in the first year of his reign (1199), King John gave the village of Penelton or Pen Hulton to "Jorveth, eldest son of Blethyn de Hulton", in exchange for the lands that had previously been granted to him. Hilton Park would be the chief seat of this family for the next 800 years.

            Through the generations, this family would continuously be celebrated as one of the most honorable and respectable families in England. In the work County Families of Lancashire and Cheshire, the author notes:

 

"The House of Hulton of Hulton is in several respects one of the most remarkable extant. The pedigree of teh family is by far the longest of any in this locality, and is probably as complete, in recording the names of the various generations, as any in the country, the descent from father to son being clearly traced for more than 700 years. It is also remarkable for the fact that the family retained possession of the same inheritance, and continued to reside upon it."

           

            Several generations after Jorveth de Hulton, his grandson, John de Hulton, removed to and settled upon lands at Farneworth, approximately five miles distance from Hilton Park. These lands were granted to John in the year 1272, and many generations of the family would continue to reside there until about 1605. At that time, William and Elizabeth Hilton of Farneworth received a grant of lands in Bolton where many of their descendants continue to live until the present day.

            This lengthy overview of the Hilton family should concern Johnson family descendants because it appears likely that our family began as an offshoot branch of this very family. Y chromosome analysis from both families prove beyond doubt that they share a common male lineage. In fact, it has been shown that there is a 95% chance that the families diverged from one another within the last 30 generations. In reference to the Hilton family of Lancashire, this is in a genealogical timeframe. The fact that the Hilton's have carried their surname for an especially lengthy period of time would indicate that the Johnson's actually descended from the Hiltons. Johnson is a patronymic name that was often times adopted to avoid redundancy in naming when there were many members of the same family present in one locality. The fact that the Hiltons had been established in and around Bolton, Lancashire for such a lengthy period meant that they were rather numerous.

            Adding to this argument is the fact that the Edenfield family took their name from the village of Edenfield, Lancashire, about 4 miles east of Bolton. Certainly, it is no coincidence that the two families most closely related to our own just happen to have originated in the same town. Although there are several other English families who are only a one step distance from Johnson males, they all share a value of 29 at marker 449. We can be sure that the Hilton and Edenfield families are most closely related to us by the fact that all three families have inherited the peculiar value of 30 at 449. Note that this value is very rare, even in all of the other English families who are I2a West! Every Johnson who belongs to haplogroup I2a has inherited the same genetic mutation.

            The mutation at marker 449 indicates that it happened at a point in time after the common ancestor of the Johnson, Hilton and Edenfield families diverged from the common ancestor with the Greaves, Binns and Holder families. Owing to the fact that the earliest records pertaining to the use of the Edenfield surname do not date to a point in time prior to the 1400s, it seems very likely that the progenitor of the Edenfield family was also a Hilton. Therefore, the Johnson and Edenfield families of Lancashire both appear to be collateral branches of the Hilton family.

            If the Johnson family can be shown to share a common origin with both the Hilton and Edenfield families of Lancashire, and both families were residing in or near Bolton in the 1500s and early 1600s, then it follows that Johnson immigrants to Virginia in the mid-17th century likely arrived from the same general area.

 

 

 

 

Map of Bolton, Farnsworth and Edenfield

Lancashire, England

 

 

 

            The map above shows the proximity of both Farnsworth and Edenfield with Bolton in Lancashire. Today, this area is considered the northern limits of Greater Manchester. In light of the fact that the Johnson family shares a common male lineage with these families, this area was likely their ancestral home as well.

 

 

Two Branches of the Same Family?

 

            In January of 2009, an interesting discovery was made pertaining to Johnson family descendants classified as belonging to haplogroup I2a. The test results of Joey Travis Johnson returned an unusual sequence at markers 464b and 464d. At 464b, he demonstrated a value of 11, and at 464d, the value was 14. Although he was not the first group member who was reported with this odd sequence, he did have a documented paper trail extending back to Henry Johnson who is thought to have been born in Essex County, Virginia about the year 1667.

            Up to that point, group labors had been invested in neighboring Middlesex County where several group members could trace their ancestry back to colonial times. In this case, there was no reason to believe that the progenitors of the Middlesex and Essex County families had ever interacted with one another. In fact, there was no reason to presume that there had ever been any direct contact between the families. At that time, the co-administrator for the Johnson Family DNA project suggesting that the two families were "unrelated" thought it best to subdivide the group into two separate groups based on the defining mutations at markers 464b and 464d. This prompted a lively discussion in which the origins of the family were once again evaluated in order to determine the precise relatedness of the two groups.

            The fact that three group members all displayed the same mutations indicated that they shared a common lineage which would account for the presence of those odd values in each of their respective families. All of the other group participants had a value of 14 at 464b, and 15 at marker 464d. Shortly after discovering that a descendant of Henry Johnson of Essex County displayed this specific sequence, another group member was able to complete his own paper trail back to the same ancestor, seemingly confirming the need to subdivide the group into two subgroups.

            Aside from the obvious differences at these markers, there was very little genetic variability that would distinguish either group from the other. Indeed, the presence of these mutations helped group members understand why they were never able to connect to one another. Because the mutational differences were present at the time when these families arrived in Virginia, it indicated that there were two separate migrations to Virginia from England, and that it was unlikely that the progenitors of the Essex and Middlesex County families were siblings. However, owing to the fact that both groups were classified as belonging to the seldom seen Haplogroup I2a, it appeared certain that the two groups represented collateral branches of the same Johnson family. This is based on the common sense fact that if you took away the two mutations that Joey Travis Johnson had, he would be a 25/25 match with most of the other group participants. In order to gain a better understanding of the ramifications of these test results, professional help was solicited from both Ken Nordtvedt and a representative from the testing company, FamilyTreeDNA. Specifically, the group desired confirmation that the two subgroups did in fact represent different branches of the same family. What follows is the query that was addressed to by Family Tree DNA and Ken Nordtvedt:

 

"Here is my rather complicated question. Obviously the members of group A appear to share common male-line ancestry with one another. Furthermore, all of the members of group B appear to share common male line ancestry amongst themselves. However, in light of the fact that we are talking about a very unusual haplogroup in I2a, and that the two separate groups are themselves 23/25 matches, don't these two groups appear to share a common male line origin at an earlier point in time? I know that the three step mismatch at 464b is a defining characteristic, but can't both of these groups be considered "collateral branches" of the same Johnson family? Is anything known about the mutation rate at marker 464b, and if so, is there anyway to determine how long ago these two groups diverged from one another?"

 

            A response from Darren Marin, a representative from Family Tree DNA follows:

 

"Thank you for your email.   This is a complex scenario because DYS 464 is not an easy marker to work with.  First off because of its multicopy nature.  Most people have 4 copies of this marker in their DNA, this marker also sits on a palindrome, or a loop of our DNA that reads the same forward and backwards.  Because of the nature of this marker we do not know which value that we obtain is from which copy, so it is represented from least to greatest on the Family Tree DNA personal pages.  So while 464 b may help in identifying genetic distance it is not the most reliable for use as confirming relationships.   

Another reason this marker is difficult to work with is that it can copy over itself and show large jumps in genetic distance even though it may have only been one mutation even. For example: 

DYS 464         a          b          c          d         

 Member 1      12        14          14        15

 Member 2      12        14          14        15       

 Member 3      14        14          14        15         

In the above case it looks like Member 3 is a genetic distance of two from the other two members.  However what likely happened is part B of the marker copied directly over Part A in one transmission event or one mutation (as opposed to two individual mutations). 

This makes 464 one of the most volatile markers we tests.  Regardless, with the two families matching each other on the other markers so closely I would be inclined to think that you are correct, that the two families would share a more distant connection with one another. "

            While the above scenario is unusual, it is by no means unheard of. There have been cases where two full siblings demonstrated mutations separating one another on these same markers. In fact, siblings have been shown to demonstrate a multi-step mutation on these markers. Ken Nordtvedt explained in that scenario that what might initially appear to be a 3-step mutation, could in fact be a single mutational event. Therefore, it should be thought of as a one-step mutation on this marker. This thought was reiterated by Darren at Family Tree DNA. In this case, because 464b has a tendency to “copy”, part B of the marker simply copied directly over Part A in one transmission event, or one mutation. Each member of both “groups” has a value of 11 at marker 464a. For group members matching Joey Travis Johnson, 464b just copied over the 11 value at 464a. Therefore, rather than a three step mismatch, this should be viewed as one mismatch on a marker with a high mutation rate.

            Finally, correspondence from Ken Nordtvedt  confirms the relatedness of both families. He notes:

 

"Some of the labs are misreading your DYS464. And other labs record extra copies 464. Just don't bother with 464 in figuring GD (genetic distance). All are related closely.

 

You are victim of the carelessness of some of the labs in recording DYS464. It is a bit different than other markers because of the multiple copies and chance for easy mutation to even more copies such as 5 or 6 of them. Indeed the ones in your message of earlier today are I2a-Western P37.2+  The name has changed a little due to new SNPs in the tree "

 

 

            Based on emerging data, we can conclude the descendants of Henry Johnson of Essex County, Virginia and John Johnson of Middlesex County do share a common male lineage. While both families appear to have arrived in the Virginia Colony at about the same time (mid-1600s), they appear to have arrived in two separate migrations. To date, no document has been discovered to suggest that the families ever interacted with one another after having arrived in Virginia. Therefore, it seems unlikely that the immigrants were siblings. However, DNA proves that the families must have shared a common origin within just a few generations prior to their arrival in America. The ongoing research of Mark Valsame suggests that Henry Johnson who died in Essex County, Virginia was the son of Thomas Johnson who died in Old Rappahannock County in the year 1684. Likewise, it appears that the John Johnson who married Lucina Blake in 1686 was the son of the immigrant John Johnson who was transported to Middlesex County by Maj. Robert Beverly in the year 1669. John and Thomas were contemporaries, both of whom appear to have been born sometime between 1625 and 1635. Thanks in part to DNA collected from other related families in England, it would appear that these "cousins" had come to Virginia from the northern part of what is now Greater Manchester where the families likely diverged at some point in the 16th century. What follows is a chronology of events which summarizes the noteworthy conclusions that have been surmised through DNA analysis of Johnson family descendants and other related families.

 

Date

Event

Circa 26,000 BC

Common progenitor of Haplogroup I arrives in southeastern Europe.

Circa 26,000 to 21,000 BC

Ideas associated with Haplogroup I are manifested in the “Gravettian culture” which spread throughout Europe at this time.

Circa 13,000 BC

European climate began to improve, and the ice begins to recede.

Circa 10,000 to 8,000 BC

Members of Haplogroup I migrate to northwestern Europe, becoming progenitors of Haplogroup I1a. This haplogroup is most frequently found in Scandinavian countries.

Circa 8,000 BC

Newly arrived immigrants from agricultural communities in northwest Asia arrive in southeastern Europe.

Circa 6,500 BC

Lipinski Vir is established as a settled community along the banks of the Danube River. The inhabitants of this “village” would have belonged to Haplogroup I2a.

Circa 7,000 – 4,000 BC

Dominance of the Starcevo-Cris culture in modern-day Slovakia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia. Its spiritual center was located at Lipinski Vir.

Circa 4,000 – 3,000 BC

Danubian representatives of haplogroup I2a begin to migrate North where they establish small agricultural communities. They appear to have followed the course of the Danube River toward its source in northern Europe.

Circa 2,300 BC

A male representative of haplogroup I2a becomes established in the vicinity of the Baltic coast. He may have lived in northern Germany or southern Denmark. His male line descendants accumulate characteristic mutations which distinguish these men from their distant kin who remained in the Balkan region.

Circa 500 BC

The most recent common ancestor of all modern I2a-West haplogroup members lived in northern Germany or southern Denmark.

Circa 450-550 AD

A male representative (or multiple representatives) arrived in England. He was probably a member of the group known as the “Middle Angles”, and it is likely that he settled near the Staffordshire / Leicestershire border.

Circa 800-900 AD

The most recent common ancestor of the Johnson, Edentfield and Hilton families diverges from the line leading to the Binns, Greaves, Holder and Pidcock families. The latter group would continue to carry the typical value of 29 at marker 449 while the Johnson, Hilton and Edenfield families would be defined by an unusual mutational value of 30 at the same marker.

Circa 1167

Blethyn and his son Jorveth flee the border between Wales and Cheshire in the company of Robert Banastre, eventually settling near Bolton, Lancashire. These men appear to be common male ancestors to the Johnson and Edenfield families as well as the Hiltons of Lancashire.

Circa 1250-1450

The most recent common ancestor of the Johnson, Hilton and Edenfield family resides near Bolton, Lancashire. All three families carry the unusual value of 30 at marker 449. This indicates a common male lineage. Owing to the antiquity of the Hilton family of Hulton Park, it is likely that the most recent common ancestor was a representative of that family.

Circa 1500-1600

Somewhere near Bolton in Greater Manchester, lived the most recent common ancestor of the Johnson families of Essex and Middlesex Counties in Virginia. One of his offspring will carry the unusual "copied" mutational values of 11 & 14 at markers 464b and 464d thereby becoming ancestor of the Essex branch. The rest of his offspring will demonstrate the characteristic 14 and 15 values at the same markers. A descendant of this branch became the progenitor of the Middlesex branch.