The Greatorex family of Nantwich

This website details the history of the Greatorex family

DNA and the Y-Chromosome

I start my recordings of My Greatorex family records with part of the evidence which is, at this time, the most recent tool in uncovering my heritage. Namely, DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) and the Y-chromosome.

Chromosomes are packets of DNA contained within the nucleus of the body's cells. Most of them come in pairs, with one of each pair being inherited from my father and the other from my mother. However, the Y-chromosome is the exception. Only males have a Y-chromosome which is inherited from your father.

The Y-chromosome traces an unbroken paternal genealogy back into the past. Therefore people with the same Y-chromosome signature, over a series of numbers, are related, and can be fairly certain of a Common Paternal Ancestor. Those people, who have an almost identical signature may have a common paternal ancestor living further back in time. This is because a slight mutation occurs approximately every 600 years.

The question is, does this Y-chromosome signature follow a surname? The evidence so far is that it does. Professor Sykes of the Oxford Ancestors Company identified that over half the men in a random sample of present day 'Sykes' had inherited the same Y-chromosome from their common ancestor, the first Mr Sykes, who lived near the village of Flockton in West Yorkshire in the late 13th century. Other surnames that have been researched also have similar patterns. What about all the other Mr Sykes whose signatures were different? The answer is that somewhere along the way their ancestor was not a Mr Sykes. Perhaps he assumed the name, or perhaps Mrs Sykes had a secret! Who knows?

What is the Greatorex Y-chromosome signature? I don't know. I know what my Y-line signature is. The question is, am I really a Greatorex descended from the first Mr Greatorex who lived in Gretraches near Buxton in Derbyshire about 1150AD? Or have I a secret in my past? I will find this out as more people, especially people with the surname Greatorex, or one of its variant forms, takes the Y-line test and share their results. If, and I do hope that this is the case, more than 70% of Greatorex's have the same Y-chromosome signature as I do, then I can be sure that not only do the paper records identify me as a Greatorex but the genetic evidence also supports my claim the name of Greatorex.

What is my Y-chromosome signature? It is a number of markers containing DNA repeats for each of the markers used. New developments in the interpretation of DNA by comparing the results in an ever expanding database, containing thousands of Y-chromosome signatures from around the world, show that I have inherited my DNA from a paternal ancestor who belonged to one of the ancient Celtic tribes.

Oxford Ancestors, in their interpretation of my Y-line signature say;

On the balance of probability your Y-line result indicates that your paternal ancestor was one of the original Celtic people who had already settled in the British Isles at the time that the Romans invaded. The origins of the Celtic tribes first encountered by Julius Caesar are shrouded in mystery. From what we can tell from archaeological discoveries, Britain was first settled after the last Ice Age, about 9,000 years ago, by hunter-gatherers moving up from Southern Europe. Three thousand years later, the first signs of farming appeared. However, that does not mean that the original hunter-gatherers were necessarily replaced by the farmers; it is more likely that they learned and adapted to a new agricultural way of life.

About 3,000 years ago, during the late Bronze Age and Iron Age, material artifacts from the thriving Celtic cultures, like weapons and jewellery, began to appear in Britain. However, like the spread of farming, this vivid cultural change may actually have involved relatively few people.

Our analysis shows that it is most likely that you have inherited your Y-chromosome from one of the very early inhabitants of the British Isles, perhaps even from one of the first settlers who arrived 9,000 years ago. There are intriguing genetic connections between Y-chromosomes such as yours and those found in the Iberian Peninsula, especially amongst the Basques. This hints at the existence of vigorous connections between Ireland, Western Britain and the Atlantic seaboard of France and Spain, which archaeologists have long suspected. This connection began with the pre-farming hunters and fishermen and continued with the peoples who built the large stone monuments, the megaliths, which also connect these western sites from Spain to Scotland.

New research throws into question the statement made by Oxford Ancestors.

My Y-chromosome signature is referred to as R1b.

Ken Nordtvedt, an American who has researched genetics states; R1b is the most prolific haplogroup in Europe and its frequency changes in a cline from west (where it reaches a saturation point of Most 100% in areas of Western Ireland) to east (where it becomes uncommon in parts of Eastern Europe and virtually disappears beyond the Middle East). An R1b haplotype (a set of marker scores indicative of this haplogroup) is very difficult to interpret in that they are found at relatively high frequency in the areas where the Anglo-Saxon-Danish 'invaders' originally called home. Thus the R1b haplotype makes it challenging to determine the origin of a family with this DNA signature.

During the Last Glacial Maximum, about 18,000 years ago, the people bearing the R1b haplogroup 'over wintered' in Northern Spain. After the glacial retreat about 12,000 years before present, R1b began a migration to the north in large numbers, and to the east in declining numbers. R1b probably arrived in Spain from the east 30,000 years ago among the paleolithic or "old stone age" peoples considered to be aboriginal to Europe. It is believed that everybody who is R1b is a descendant in the male line from an individual known as "the patriarch" since his descendants account for over 40% of all the chromosomes of Europe. This haplogroup is characteristic of the Basques whose language is probably that of the first R1b, and who are genetically the closest to the original R1b population (which amounted to only a few thousand individuals).

It is probable that Danish R1bs (such as those who eventually invaded the British Isles) are from a Celtic tribe recorded as living in Danish Jutland in about 200BC. Called the Kimbri or Cimbri, they were regarded as 'Germanic'. In the manner of the Vikings of later years, they sent raiders south, down various rivers including the Elbe, attacking the Roman Empire. They formed an alliance in 100BC with the German speaking Teutons and combined their forces to fight the Romans in France, Switzerland, Germany and Bohemia. After some notable victories their main battlegroup was defeated somewhere in the Alpine region which ended their forays.

In 2002 the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution produced a report into evidence for Anglo-Saxon mass migration. In it they analysed DNA from 313 males in the British towns of North Walsham, Fakenham, Bourne, Southwell, Ashbourne, Abergele and Llangefni. These towns were selected because they lie approximately 50km apart along an east-west transect of Britain and are long established market towns that are less likely to be influenced by recent migration than large cities. For comparison they also collected DNA samples from 94 males in Friesland (Northern Netherlands) and 83 males in Norway.

The interesting thing about this study was that it showed the presence of a strong genetic barrier between Central England and North Wales and the virtual absence of a barrier between Central England and Friesland. In other words, the English are more closely related to the Germanic tribes than they are to the Welsh. A clear difference between two Celtic groups. Also, my particular signature (14-12-23-11-13-13) was strongest in Ashbourne (Derbyshire), 11.1%, and weakest in North Wales, 0.63%.

Alan Foster, who has the exact 10 marker signature that I have, and who's 43 marker test puts him only 10 markers difference (a possible Common Paternal Ancestor around 800-1050AD), has carried out much research into our shared signature. He has identified that those with a 23 at dys390 (he has named this sub group the North Sea-Baltic Group) are typically Germanic Celt rather than British Celt, who generally have 24 at this marker. This is confirmed by the evidence above.

Searching the YHRD database he found that the North Sea Baltic Group is most commonly found in Northwest Europe, from Belgium to Southern Norway with its highest frequency in Denmark!

Denmark 15.9%, Friesland 13.5%, Netherlands 12.3%, Belgium 12%, Britain 6.2%

Germany 6.2%, Switzerland 6%, France 4.8%, Portugal 4.8%, Spain 4.4%

In March 2005, after extensive research, he wrote the following paper for the North Sea-Baltic Group.

Variations of R1b Ydna in Europe Distribution and Origins.

Based on the differences and diversity of the alleles of R1b's DYS390 locus, there is evidence that there are four regional variants of the R1b sub-haplogroup in Europe. These are (i) Baltic-Russian. (ii) North Sea-Baltic. (iii) Alpine-South German. (iv) Atlantic. In Central and Western Europe, north of its great mountain ranges - The Pyrenees, Alps, and others - the major rivers flow northwest and northwards to the Atlantic, the North Sea and the Baltic. Only the Danube, which flows eastwards from the Northern Alpine regions to the Black sea, follows a different pattern. Extrapolating from data available within the online "YHRD" database (¹, see below) suggested all variants of R1b in Europe, as pre-historic hunter-gatherers, entered Europe from the east, and migrated and expanded along rivers and coastlines, and across the ridge ways of high ground, eventually to reach the Baltic, North Sea, Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines.

The mean frequency for DYS390=24 within the whole of the "YHRD" European database is about 59% of the R1b DYS390 population. In Iberia and France, and in the more remote areas of the British Isles, it averages almost 70% and reaches 80%. But in the Baltic regions the frequency is consistently low it averages only 33% throughout the Baltic States, about 43% in the Netherlands, and 47% in Baltic Germany. The lowest European percentage (29%) is to be found in Moscow, Russia. An even lower frequency, of 22%, can be found in Asian Khazakstan. Complete R1b data from the "YHRD" database, indicated that, after an earlier existence in Asian Khazakstan, all European variants of R1b shared an existence in Russia ( in the region of Kazan, on the Volga river at about 55° North and 50° East), and that, later they separated and expanded into two major migrations ( a westward migration to the Russian-Baltic region, and a south-western migration to the Black Sea area and then further, westwards, to the Alpine-South German region). Eventually, a North Sea-Baltic migration evolved from the Russian-Baltic expansion; and an Atlantic migration evolved from the Alpine-South German variant.

Baltic-Russian R1b:

Research showed that the greatest diversity of R1b's DYS 390 locus is within the Russian-Baltic region. The data suggested that the Russian-Baltic variant migrated/expanded from the Kazan region of Russia westwards to Moscow, and then to the Baltic States of Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia & Poland.

In this Baltic-Russian area, a sample of 159 haplotypes showed the R1b DYS390 percentages to be

DYS 390=25. 28.9%; DYS 390=24. 32.7%; DYS 390=23. 32.1%; DYS 390=22; 3.1% Diversity 68.6% (²)

North Sea-Baltic R1b

Within the North Sea-Baltic area (Northern Germany, Denmark, Netherlands and Norway) a sample of 1,227 haplotypes showed the R1b DYS390 percentages to be

DYS 390=25. 10.1%; DYS 390=24. 46.6%; DYS 390=23. 38.1%; DYS 390=22. 3.7%; Diversity 61.5% (²)

These percentages were less diverse than in the Russian-Baltic area - supporting the likelihood of an R1b migration/expansion from east to west along the Baltic coast. The coastal parts of the North Sea-Baltic region had more R1b diversity than in Norway and in the (German) Elbe river cities, indicating a further migration - from "Greater Frisia"(³) northwards to Norway and southwards into the Saxon lands alongside the Elbe.(4) Ultimately, North Sea-Baltic R1bs invaded England and other parts of British Isles during the period 450 to 1,000AD as part of the Germanic-speaking Anglo-Saxon and Danish Viking invasion forces.

Alpine-South German R1b

Analysis of the Yhrd data for this region indicates a migration/expansion path from Kiev (Ukraine - Russia), westwards along the River Danube (2,850 km), and north/westwards along the Rhine (1,320 km) to the North Sea. Politically, this whole region includes today's Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, Austria and Switzerland, Rhineland Germany, and Southern Holland. Except for the exception given below, a sample of 1,296 haplotypes revealed the R1b percentages for this region were uniform at

DYS 390=25. 8.3%; DYS 390=24. 57.9%; DYS 390=23. 30.1%; DYS 390=22. 2.6%; Diversity 55.7% (²)

With the Alpine-South German group, a small sub-sample of 122 haplotypes in the eastern Danube area, showed only 53% DYS390 =24, and 13% for DYS 390=25. This higher diversity supported the notion of a migration path of the Alpine-South German group from the east, and its heightened DYS390=25 in the eastern Danube area suggests that this variant may well have split from the Russian-Baltic variant near to its source in central Russia.

Atlantic R1b

This variant is found on the Atlantic coast, in Iberia, France and in the more remote parts of Ireland and Scotland. In order to obtain more accurate data on the

aboriginal/indigenous Scots/Irish, data was extracted from Capelli et al, (5) for Pitlochry and Oban in the Scots Highlands, and from Castlereigh in Central Ireland.

In the Atlantic region, R1b's DYS=390 showed the least diversity. A sample of 1,516 haplotypes showed its R1b's DYS390 percentages to be

DYS 390=25. 10.4%; DYS 390=24. 69.7%; DYS 390=23. 17.8%; DYS 390=22. 1.1%; Diversity 46.1% (²)

The origin of this sub-population is unclear, but its lack of DYS390 diversity makes it the "youngest" R1b in Europe. Some data suggested that it may have split from the Alpine-South German variant in the region of Albania, and then subsequently expanded, westwards, along the Mediterranean coast to Iberia.


The YHRD R1b sub-populations were identified by carrying out a geographic search based on the selection of DYS 392=13, within Europe. A repeat geographical selection, selecting DYS392=13 and combining it, alternatively, with DYS390=25,24,23 & 22 revealed the frequencies of each of DYS390's alleles. After analysis, these were aggregated into the four variant groups. The frequencies of DYS390=26 and 21 were so low that they could be ignored as being statistically irrelevant to this study.

The age of R1b?

If the allele DYS390=24 was the original modal value for all four R1b variants, then the Russian-Baltic group has been mutating either at least twice-as-long or twice-as-fast as the Atlantic one. About 30% of the Atlantic group's DYS390 does not have an allele of 24, while within the Russian-Baltic group this figure increases to 68%. Perhaps the Russian-Baltic variant never did have the well-known Atlantic Modal Haplotype where DYS390=24. But in either case, the difference in allele frequencies highlights that the populations are not homogenous. Differing alleles at the same locus position can be measured to show how diverse is the locus, and such increased locus diversity is a sign of a population's increased age (since its foundation or since it was isolated with a reduced amount of genetic diversity). A simple application of the different levels of diversity of the four variants to the known archaeology of the Atlantic countries suggests that the ages of the variants, since separation from an earlier, parent type, may, approximately, be as follows

Atlantic group c.14-18,000 ybp;

Alpine-South German c.18,000 - 22,000 ybp;

North Sea-Baltic c. 21,000- 25,000 ybp, and

Russian-Baltic possibly c. 24,000 - 28,000 ybp.

More work needs to be done on this aspect, and on the question of where the variant R1bs may have existed during the Last Glacial Maximum.

A.A.Foster, March 2005


*1* The YHRD database can be found at and it is maintained by the Institute of Legal Medicine, Charite' - University Medicine Berlin.

*2* Diversity has been calculated using Simpson's Index of Diversity, 1-D, expressed as a percentage where 100% represents complete diversity and 0% represents complete homogeneity. The maximum diversity of 4 alleles, comprising a total of 100% of those occurring at a locus, cannot exceed 75%. This would be achieved when all four alleles have the same frequency of occurrence, i.e. 25%.

*3* "Greater Frisia" was coined by Dr Ken Nordtvedt, during 2004, to describe the North Sea coastal region of the Northern Netherlands and Southern Denmark, after he detected that the frequency of the R1b combination DYS390=23 and DYS391=11, was unexpectedly high in this region. See, Ken Nordtvedt's R1b Sub-Clade at

*4* Data from Sweden was excluded both Baltic groups. Some of its data accords with them, but other data suggests that Sweden and Polish Gdansk may have received a later input of Central European R1bs from Bohemia. These R1bs might have been intermingled with the later induction of R1as northwards across the Baltic.

*5* Capelli et al, A Y-Chromosome Census of the British Isles, Current Biology, Elsevier Science Ltd. 2003

The studies detailed on the previous pages indicate that my particular Y-chromosome signature, with 23 at marker dys390, is at its strongest in Denmark. It also shows that there is a distinct difference between the Welsh and English. We know that the people of Wales are believed to be mainly the Celtic people of Ancient Britain who were pushed westward by the invaders from the continent. We also know that the people of England are mainly people of Germanic Celtic Anglo-Saxon and Danish descent. My signature shows me to be closest to Danish descent and, interestingly, the people of Ashbourne in Derbyshire are identified as the closest to my signature from those areas of England used in the above study.

No one can say, at this time, that I am of Danish descent. However, it seems that this conclusion is one that might well be drawn. Sir Arthur Conon Doyle said, in his Sherlock Holmes novel, The Sign Of Four, When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

Unfortunately nothing is impossible in genealogy, but some things are more probable. Derbyshire was part of the Danelaw area from 870-1015 and my family appear to have lived in this area at that time!

All of which proves nothing, but certainly indicates that on the balance of probability my ethnicity is Danish, rather than British Celt