In Search of Norman Genes

General discussions regarding DNA and its uses in genealogy research

Posts: 493
Joined: Wed Mar 14, 2012 5:25 pm
Location: England
PostPosted: Wed Mar 21, 2012 6:54 pm
The former DNA Forums contained a popular thread called 'Who Were the Normans?' started by Mikewww. This thread attempts to continue that debate along similar lines.

Who were the Normans? Many members of the British and American public might answer that they were French. Those with a deeper knowledge of history might answer that they were originally Scandinavian 'Viking' invaders of the then Neustria in northern France under Rollo, that they made the territory their own [Normandy or 'North Man's land'], and that their later descendants formed the backbone of Duke William 'the Conqueror's' invading army that defeated King Harold's Englishmen at Hastings in 1066.

Historians such as Neveux, Davis, Wood, Jones and Brondstedt tell us that the bulk of Rollo's band were Danish, but that his followers also included Anglo-Danes from the Danelaw, Hiberno-Norse and a small Norwegian contingent that settled the Cotentin. As these historians acknowledge, by 1066 these Scandinavian elements had become thoroughly melded by intermarriage into the Gallo-Frankish culture, and they were thoroughly 'French' in terms of language and culture. Neveux regards the Conquest as 'Frankish' rather than Norman. I personally dissent from this position. Arguably, there were three main divisions of the Norman invasion force of 1066; 'native Norman', which formed the largest contingent and which were a Gallo-Frankish-Scandinavian mixture, and the Flemings and Bretons. Also involved were warriors from Ile de France, Gascony, Picardy, Artois and perhaps a smattering of Italian and German mercenaries with the occasional 'saracin'. If Neveux is correct that the whole of northern France's warrior-stock and knights were drafted for the invasion force then perhaps 'Northern French' is a more accurate term for the Conquest than either 'Norman' or 'Frankish'? I cannot envisage it becoming a popular alternative though. What seems clear, however, is that the umbrella term, 'the Normans' refers largely to a northern French, Germanic-Celtic mixture of peoples in the main and in that order.

Where do we search for genetic echoes of the Normans? Arguably the 'native Norman' element that might have carried a degree of Scandinavian Ydna would predominate in counties such as Cheshire, or at least it appears to be the case. In lowland Scotland and in the Marcher lands between England and Wales, the Flemish element of the Normans appears to predominate. Arguably, it is in north Yorkshire, especially the Moors areas settled by Count Alan, in Lincolnshire especially the towns of Boston and Louth and in East Anglia [Suffolk was a 'Breton Soke' according to John Beddoe] that we might encounter a predominance of Breton-Norman genes.

What percentage of the population of the UK are descendants of Normans? Estimates by those such as Sykes and Oppenheimer are little above 2%. Arguably these genes from a range of haplogroups with R1b, I1 and R1a1a perhaps predominating, might be most easily located within the landed classes or within bloodlines that were at one time associated with land-ownership.

Posts: 89
Joined: Wed Mar 14, 2012 7:54 pm
PostPosted: Fri Mar 23, 2012 5:13 am
Good post, Yorkie, and nice to see this thread transported to another venue.

As you say, folks like Sykes and Oppenheimer put the Norman contribution to the UK gene pool at about 2 percent. I'm just wondering: what sorts of things do you see coming out of Sir Walter Bodmer's People of the British Isles project that will bear on this? Do you think the POBI project will offer a great deal more illumination on this question? Or if not, what new developments do you see coming in the future that will bear on the question of those of Norman descent in the UK?

Posts: 493
Joined: Wed Mar 14, 2012 5:25 pm
Location: England
PostPosted: Fri Mar 23, 2012 10:52 am
Well, Duke, we have to bear in mind that the Bodmer results are not finalised and published yet, but I have asked the project manager, Bruce Winney, about this issue. So far, he said, they had not come across anything they might be able to distinguish as 'Norman'. Perhaps that is to be expected given the mixed Germanic-Celtic umbrella group that is the 'Normans'.

Bryan Sykes's oft-repeated view of the Normans as 'recycled Vikings' strikes me as reductionist and inaccurate given the mixing between the original Scandinavian invaders of the then Neustria and the 'native French', and the fact that William's army of 1066 contained Flemings, Bretons, Picards etc. The Normans, and those from Normandy-proper especially, might well have carried some Scandinavian clades such as R1a1a and I1d, but they were certainly not Scandinavian on all lines by the time of Hastings so Sykes exaggerates somewhat there. If we take it that there was probably a predominance of 'native' Norman as opposed to Flemish-Norman or Breton-Norman influence in Cheshire [and the surnames of the landed gentry indicate so], then we might perhaps expect to find more Scandinavian-leaning Ydna. The problem is, how do we know whether a R1a1a or I1d signal found in Cheshire is from the Norwegians of the Wirral, the small Danish settlements of the east or the Normans? It is difficult to disentangle them. However, in the case of the allegedly Norman origins of some of the east Cheshire families, we might hedge our bets and say that a Scandinavian-leaning clade found amongst these landed families is more likely to be Norman due to the minimal 'Viking' activity in the east of Cheshire as opposed to the western side where we have Norse Wirral. Also, in the case of some of the allegedly Norman landed families of the Macclesfield Hundred [I descend from four of them], there is the evidence that the area was reduced to waste with only two native landowners surviving after the Conquest, making the Norman origins of the east Cheshire gentry far more likely. For example, the descent of the Leghs from Gilbert de Venables.

It is to the landed classes or those with descent from once landed families that I personally think we need to turn regarding testing for any echoes of the Normans. I can imagine that a programme that tested descendants of the east Cheshire gentry might well yield some interesting results regarding possible links to the largest 'native Norman' component of the Conquest. Additionally, any testing of the descendants of Breton-Normans, perhaps focusing upon Lincolnshire towns such as Louth and Boston might yield something. Of course, there is a possibility there that we would struggle to distinguish between the genes of the Bretons and the Brythons! If it were possible to conduct testing in the Cotentin region of Normandy, which was allegedly colonised by the smaller Norwegian contingent of Rollo's band, we might possibly discover the higher levels of R1a1a that are associated with Norwegians.

Of course, this is just an amateur trying to do his best in the direction of imaginative conjecture. I am certainly not qualified to go out into the field to do the dna testing, and I would never pretend to be.

Posts: 11
Joined: Tue Mar 20, 2012 5:28 pm
Location: NorwaY
YDNA:
R1a1a-L448
MtDNA:
K
PostPosted: Sat Mar 24, 2012 2:12 pm
There was quite an extensive body of reasoning (and some lack of it) in the old thread. If the text is ,preserved somewhere, a systematic summary would be welcome.

p.

Posts: 89
Joined: Wed Mar 14, 2012 7:54 pm
PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 6:02 am
The discussion on the old thread was meandering and diffuse. There's no need to attempt to summarize it. Rather, it's better to begin anew.

In that vein, here's an interesting clip from an historian I admire, Simon Schama, from his series on Britain. This part is about the Normans. (For those who haven't seen the entire series, I highly recommend.)

http://youtu.be/1b2KJxbU1xg

Posts: 493
Joined: Wed Mar 14, 2012 5:25 pm
Location: England
PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:38 pm
Marmaduke wrote:The discussion on the old thread was meandering and diffuse. There's no need to attempt to summarize it. Rather, it's better to begin anew.

In that vein, here's an interesting clip from an historian I admire, Simon Schama, from his series on Britain. This part is about the Normans. (For those who haven't seen the entire series, I highly recommend.)

http://youtu.be/1b2KJxbU1xg


Thanks, Duke, for the Schama clip. I too share your admiration of thes media-savvy scholar. However, being of the Monty Python generation, I can't watch it without expecting at any moment that Simon will be run through with a spear or hacked to death with swords. :lol:

Actually, Schama does a good job of evoking the terrifying completeness of the Conquest. As the historian suggests, we are talking about the utterly brutal and merciless colonisation of a country by an elite whose martial abilities were matchless. In some counties, none of the English landowners survived. In east Cheshire [my chief interest re my own part- Norman descent], two local landowners are said to have survived in the Macclesfield Forest area, and one was allowed to hold reduced land, allegedly linked to the Mottrum family of the eery Longdendale. One wonders to what degree of treachery did this latter surviving English lord stoop in order to be allowed such privileges? My own connection is to several allegedly Norman families who held land in this area, holding Foresterships. I often pause to imagine what the huge forest must have looked like back then, when it echoed to the hunting horn, and the Suttons, Leghs and Del Sherds meted out savage punishments to those who dared trespass. :o

Posts: 89
Joined: Wed Mar 14, 2012 7:54 pm
PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:59 pm
Hahaha@Monty Python. I hear you there. There is actually a take-off on Simon Schama posted on Youtube that is sort of amusing.

As for this clip, I agree with you. The thing I like about Schama is he certainly doesn't sugarcoat anything. He presents the rapaciousness of the Normans just as it was. He also says that if the native English were expecting a kinder, gentler monarch, they would get nothing of the sort. William had outstanding favors to repay, and in order to repay them he needed that Domesday Book and its accounting of minutae. The other thing which interested me was his account of the creation of surnames. He uses the well-known Norman name Beaumont, for instance, to summon those new Anglo-Norman lords who chose to go by the villages they owned in Normandy 'lock, stock and barrel,' as he puts it. In other cases, though, (and I know this interests you), there were the cadet branches of these same Norman families who settled over time on English-appearing names but which were actually simply the names of the properties they now controlled in their new home country. Folks like the Leghs or the Gresleys come to mind.

Posts: 493
Joined: Wed Mar 14, 2012 5:25 pm
Location: England
PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 8:13 am
Good point re the cadet branches, Duke [i.e the Suttons are believed to be a branch of the Davenports, for example, taking their name from a small settlement] . Not all the Norman landowners bore French/Flemish/Breton surnames, and as you suggest, many of the junior, 'cadet' branches of Norman families took English placenames as surnames, i.e Del Sherd from the Macclesfield Forest hamlet of Sherd etc. This reinforces the need to factor in landownership as a key variable into any analysis of possible Norman ancestry.

Schama estimates the Norman presence post-1066 England at around 25,000. Did they all hold land taken from the natives? Probably the bulk did, but I suspect that in areas such as Louth and Boston in Lincolnshire where there appears to be evidence for a really sizeable migration of Breton-Normans, and this appears to be the case in areas of the North York Moors under Count Alan, many of the less grand may have held small farms. This appears to be the case too with the Flemish-Norman Men-At-Arms who settled County Wexford in Ireland as part of Strongbow's Cambro-Norman invasion. The author, Richard Roche claims descent from one such Fleming who held a relatively small piece of land. Conversely, there were Norman families who held huge swathes of land in various English counties and were quite obviously fabulously rich by the standards of the day.

Posts: 89
Joined: Wed Mar 14, 2012 7:54 pm
PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 11:44 pm
I noticed Schama's 25,000 figure for the Normans, Yorkie, and that's higher than some estimates (but more along the lines of what I'd imagine is accurate). In any case, it is interesting to speculate about the various landholdings, and especially about which factions of the Normans held properties in certain areas. As you say, one might expect parts of Cheshire to be dominated by 'Normans proper,' whereas other areas (like those you cite in Lincolnshire) might be dominated by other factions within the forces under the Bastard.

I mentioned this on the old Forums, but I would be curious if a study is ever undertaken like those by Mark Jobling et al. in the Wirral and West Lancashire using surnames combined with genetic testing to attempt to map the composition of what we know as 'the Normans.' I suppose one way might be to use the 300 or so surnames compiled by Lewis Loyd in his 'Origins of Some Anglo-Norman Families' -- i.e., those surnames dating from Anglo-Norman times which can be traced back via charter and other documents to specific places in Normandy --- and then test the genetics of possible descendants. Obviously, this would be an immense undertaking. I suspect that there would be a fair smattering of haplogroups I1 and R1a1a, marking some Norse and Danish Viking lines, as well as R1b's in various flavors, and with the occasional outlier haplogroups, as well. As you say, Sykes' idea of Normans as simply 'recycled Vikings' seems a bit out-of-date nowadays. It'd sure be nice to get some new data on this, barring the unearthing of bones at Hastings. ;)

http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/-sczsteve/survey.htm

Posts: 493
Joined: Wed Mar 14, 2012 5:25 pm
Location: England
PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2012 7:56 am
The idea of using families listed in Loyd to test sounds a very interesting idea, and I am personally surprised that no population geneticist so far has made great inroads into the search for Norman genes. This is probably because of the immense difficulty involved.

You mention Cheshire. Yes Harding and Jobling et al's 'Wirral and West Lancashire Project' set out to isolate Norwegian Viking genes, using R1a1a and I1 but rejecting the use of R1b because it was seen to be too widespread. We know that is not necessarily the case with some R1b, such as the little R1b-U198 clade which is almost certainly Anglian, but one can understand the general principle. One of the 'Viking' haplotypes resembled my own maternal Grandfather's Scandinavian-leaning I1d signature. The problem here for any study of the Normans would be how to distinguish between an I1d or R1a1a signal in Cheshire; would these trace to the Wirral Norse or to later 'recycled Vikings' on the male line in the form of Normans? I personally wonder if a few of Harding and Jobling's I1 and R1a1a 'Norse Viking' examples are actually Norman? Whilst the bulk most probably do date to the thickly-settled Norse Wirral times, there were and are descendants of landed gentry on the Wirral who can claim Norman descent so maybe some 'Viking' signals there are actually Norman?

In the east of Cheshire, to reiterate an earlier point, there was little Norwegian input, but there was certainly Anglian input and a little Danish settlement [the latter is often forgotten], so the chances of a landowning line that is I1 or R1a1a being Norman is higher, especially in the Macclesfield Hundred which was reduced to waste we are told by Ormerod, and new, presumably Norman, inhabitants introduced such as the ancestors of Jordan De Distelagh [Disley] who founded the settlement of Disley near Stockport.

There can be little doubt though that many Normans, be they 'Normans-proper', Breton-Normans, Flemish-Normans etc, must have carried a great deal of R1b of varying shades because as Neveaux suggests, the Conquest appears to have involved warriors from across northern France into Flanders etc. I imagine that some R1b found in English counties such as Lincolnshire might well date to Breton settlements, and that this Ydna might prove difficult to distinguish from 'local' dna. Jim Wilson and Alistair Moffatt recently found little trace of R1a1a amongst some of the Scottish Anglo-Norman families, and Wilson speculated about 'French' rather than 'Norman' genes. Perhaps the answer is that the bulk of Scottish Anglo-Norman families were actually Flemish-Norman on the Ydna line [the surnames seem skewed towards Flanders], and one would therefore not expect to find Scandinavian levels of R1a1a amongst Flemish? One would expect to find a predominance of R1b, and that is apparently what they did find in these families.
Next

Return to General DNA Discussion

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 2 guests