By John Blankenbaker
In the limit, there was one father, Adam. Though Adam’s descendants are beyond counting, nearly all men in Europe descend from just six men and to these men we can give the names, R, I, G, J, N, and E.
We can trace a path of male descent for European men from one of these men. Incredibly, we can say something about when these men were born and how their descendants moved around, even inter-continentally.
We are born with a partial blueprint of how to build more copies of ourselves. We combine this blueprint with that from a partner to get the master plan for a descendant.
The combination of the parts from the two parents is random and this randomness makes us different from our siblings. There is an exception though to the concept of randomly sharing or combining the blueprints from the two parents.
The male parent reserves the right to contribute one hundred percent to the small portion of the master blueprint for sons and this is called the Y chromosome.
In the succeeding generations the sons of one male individual will have the same Y chromosome as the father had. From father to son to his son to his son ad infinitum, this same Y chromosome is passed on in the male line.
Though this is the general rule, sometimes a small glitch occurs when the father makes a copy of his Y chromosome to give to a son.
The son does not know that the plan he has received or inherited has been altered slightly so he makes a copy of what he has received to pass on to his son. These alterations are rare but permanent.
When one of these random changes, call it M253 just to give it a name, is passed to a son, the male progeny of that son will have this change indefinitely.
The father of the son may have other sons who do not have the change, i.e., they receive the true copy of the father’s Y chromosome.
Thus, if there are two sons of this father, one line will consist of the males without the M253 change and the other line has the M253 change. The first male with the M253 change is said to be the father of that line (potentially a clan).
A descendant of the sons without the M253 change, after period of time, may pass a change on to one of his sons which is different from the M253 change. Call such a change, arbitrarily, S64.
And a descendant of the original carrier of the M253 change may pass along another change to a son. Call this last change P78.
From the original father, after many but not any fixed number of generations, there may be individuals with the same Y chromosome but with these minor alterations:
M253 and P78
In this example, the clans could be called X, X1, X1a, and X2, respectively. A sequence of alternating letter and numbers distinguishes the clans.
Now there are four populations which will continue indefinitely but always subject to further random changes. All changes are relatively minor and usually do not affect the life or the procreative ability of the individual who first has it.
If the change was major, then it probably does not get passed on simply because the change is not viable.
We can test today to see if any of these changes are present in an individual. If we find two individuals, one with the M253 change alone and one with the M253 and P78 change, we say they probably shared, at some time in the past, a common male ancestor.
Somewhere along the path of descent the M253 line generated a new, separate and distinctive line with the additional P78 change.
The alterations in the Y chomosomes occur only very rarely. Ten thousand years may not see any change in a given line. The changes are random with a very small probability of occurring at any one time.
Perhaps the probability is only one in a hundred or in a thousand but a change may occur at any time. Inheriting a change is not proof that another change cannot be created immediately.
From the changes that we can measure, we can work backward and estimate when a particular change occurred.
For example, if many individuals have a common change with a scattering of other changes, we may estimate the common change occurred 50,000 years ago, to pick an arbitrary time for illustrative purposes here.
Timing the dates of change is an art based on mathematical science but the ideas are tested by alternative means such as cultural artifacts and radioactive carbon 14.
If a man is the first to have a distinctive change and he has many sons, they are apt to live in the neighborhood of the father. Again, it is a matter of probabilities as to how many descendants there will be with this change.
Some distinctive lines will die out and others will grow enormously. So if we find that many individuals with the M253 change live in the Balkans, we might suspect that the first M253 individual lived in the Balkans.
Tracing the migration paths is more difficult than such simple-minded reasoning, especially because of the mass migrations that have occurred. Still, it is possible to make good estimates.
Europe has been occupied for at least 50,000 years and during this time there have been glacial periods which forced mass migrations to warmer areas to be followed by reoccupation of the deserted areas when the weather turned warmer.
Only the broadest outlines will be given here as an introduction to genetic genealogy. Many of the thoughts here have been taken from the article, “The Origins of European Men,” by Kalevi Wiik, in Journal of Genetic Genealogy, Volume 4, Number 1 (Spring 2008).
Copies of this extensive article are available on the internet where there are many illustrations (search on the name of the Journal).
Clans or groups which share the same set of genetic changes are given names. The broadest name is a letter and this is used for the earliest individual and it distinguishes him from all others.
As changes occur in one clan, the branches are distinguished by numerical and alphabetical suffixes. For example, Clan R has two major branches, R1 and R2. Now if Clan R1 has a branch, then it can be distinguished as R1a.
Later there may be another branch from R1 and it can be R1b. Clans R1, R1a, and R1b may all exist simultaneously and share a common feature, a genetic change that no other clan has. R1 and R1a differ at one point in the genetic definition.
Also, Clans R1 and R1b differ at one point but Clans R1a and R1b differ in two distinct ways.
Any time a new clan or line is created it initially resides in only one individual, the potential sire of that clan. Whether or not this class is recognizable later depends upon how many descendants the first carrier of the change has. Most lines or clans have probably died out and left no evidence.
When “Adam” lived is uncertain but probably it was not much more than 50 thousand years ago (abbreviated kya where k represents one thousaand).
Most researchers say that he lived in the northeastern section of Africa. Even as the descendants of Adam multiplied, there was only one clan.
About 45 kya, this one clan generated an offshoot and the original clan was called E and the new clan was called F (there may have been other clans preceding this split). Clan E remained in Africa for a long time and is known as the African Clan.
Clan F moved out of Africa to the Arabic peninsula and the Near East and became known as the Asian Clan. When Clan F moved out of Africa, it probably occurred over many generations with no one man making the total move.
The migration went by stages and might even have taken thousands of years.
About 40 kya, the Middle Eastern or Asian Clan F sired a new Clan K which moved to central Asia, perhaps through present day Iraq and Iran to the north of those areas.
Many millenniums later, people in the Middle East found this area was good for farming but Clan K did not consist of farmers.
They and all of the early settlers of Asia and Europe were hunters and gatherers. They led very unsettled lives and were on the move following game, especially the larger animals.
About 35 kya two new clans, R and NO, branched off from K. Clan R moved to western central Asia in the area we know today as Tashkent north of Afghanistan.
Clan NO moved to eastern central Asia. Today this area is north of Tibet and west of Mongolia.
The originator of Clan R was one of the six fathers of European males. Descendants of R led to two new branches, R1 and R2, about 30 kya who are each recognizable today.
For this reason, some people recognize R1 and R2 as two sires of European men but the position here is that they had the same ancestor, R, who is called one of the six fathers. Descendants of R1 and R2 followed separate paths and they will be considered here as separate categories.
About 25 kya, Clan R1 gave rise to Clan R1b who journeyed over the generations to Iberia (Spain) and the Atlantic coast. At a slightly later time Clan R1a branched from R1 and became common in the present-day Ukraine.
For about 25 thousand years, Clan F continued to live in the Middle East where a genetic change created a sub-clan I who moved to Anatolia (in Turkey) and the Balkans. The start of Clan I, due to a genetic change in one individual, was about 25 kya.
About this same time, Clan NO in eastern central Asia developed into a Siberian Clan N and moved to the north. Then Clan N led to two branches, N3 and N2. The N3 Clan moved first to northwestern Siberia and later to eastern and northeastern Europe.
After these developments had occurred, Europe experienced a severe cooling climate as ice sheets developed in the North and moved south across Europe.
This Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) lasted a few thousand years.
The ancestors of the European men retreated south and found refuges in Iberia, the Ukraine, the Balkans, and Siberia. These core areas were habitable even during the coldest periods of the LGM.
The dominant clan in Iberia was R1b, in the Ukraine was R1a, in the Balkans was I.
In Siberia, outside of Europe, the N3 Clan lived. As the LGM was ending after a few thousand years of very cold weather, the clan members moved out of their retreats. In some cases they moved quite far.
All of these people were hunters-gatherers who followed the larger game animals such as the wooly mammoths. They were a mobile people without any fixed home.
New major clans were slow to develop though there were further differentiations in the existing clans. Genetic changes are constantly occurring but if a change occurred just recently there would not be enough people in the clan to show up in a sampling of the population.
About 10 kya new clans and cultures entered Europe. The cultural element, introduced by the new clans, was farming.
This was done without displacing the hunter-gathers. The latter learned the new ways of providing for food and a home.
One of the new clans was E1b1b1, a derivative from the African Clan E. The older Asian Clan F had, by then, led to two new classes, G and J.
Collectively, these are called the farming clans. They spread out of the Middle East to Anatolia in Turkey, on to Greece, and in general over the Mediterranean coast, both the north and south shores.
Clans I, the European E, J, and G originated in the Middle East but only E, J, and G qualify as the early farmers. Clan I is not included because it had spread into Europe before the emergence of effective domestication of wild plants and animals in the Middle East.
It is common to speak of the “Old Europeans” and the “New Europeans.” Today, European men, based on their Y chromosome, can be classified as Old or New Europeans.
The Old Europeans were in Europe before the start of the LGM. However widely dispersed they were, they moved to one of the three European refuges when they were forced out of northern Europe by the ice age.
The were the first to repopulate Europe after the LGM. The post-LGM settlement patterns may not have been indicative of the pre-LGM settlement patterns.
These Old Europeans are the bulk of the present European male population though there are smaller areas when the New Europeans are well represented.
The Iberian refuge was dominated by Clan R1b, the Balkan refuge by Clan I, and in the Ukraine by R1a where Clan R1 has two branches, R1a and R1b.
Adding Clan N3 in northeastern Europe, these four clans were essentially the only peoples who were present in Europe at the start of the LGM.
For a quick sample of how the clans spread after the LGM, 96% of the Basque, 70% of the French, 96% of the Dutch, 94% of the Germans, and 96% of the Polish are Old.
Though Spain was a refuge for the Old Europeans during the LGM, the percentage of Old Europeans today is low because of an inward migration of New Europeans.
The New Europeans are concentrated in southeastern Europe and adjacent Asian areas. for example, Turkey is 63% New, the Lebanese are 64%, Syrians are 55%, Albanians are 53%, Calabrian (the “toe” of Italy) is 56%, and Greece is 49%.
Even from the limited samples it is seen that genetics is not closely related to culture and language.
Knowledge of the ancient genetics is not a good prediction of the culture or language today. However, the possible links are closely monitored and studied. These genetic studies are in their infancy.
Because the of the limited data that has been gathered, students of the science do draw different conclusions. But with further study, and it is a serious study by academics, the picture can only be improved.
Returning to our six men, father R is the best represented judging by the number of descendants.
The largest branch in western Europe is R1b. In the British Isles and Ireland, a majority of the people are R1b ranging from 50% at Dover to 80% in western Ireland.
Though not quite to the same degree as just cited, sire R1b can claim more than half of the population in France, Belgium, Netherlands, northern Italy, Switzerland, and along the Rhine River.
These are the descendants of people who took refuge in Iberia during the LGM. After the end of the LGM, these people moved out Iberia, especially to the north but also to the east into northern Italy and Switzerland.
Sire R1a, a cousin of R1b through their common ancestor R1, has many of his descendants in the Baltic area including the Scandinavian countries and extending well into Russia. This is the group who took refuge in the Ukraine during the LGM. Afterwards they spread to the north and west.
Clan I found its refuge during the LGM in the Balkans. Broadly speaking, the sub-Clan, I1b, is found near that area today.
Two other sub-clans have developed and sub-Clan I1a is quite prominent in the Scandinavian countries with a small, about 10%, representation in the British Isles, but more in Ireland. Still a third sub-Clan, I1c, is concentrated in Germany just to the southeast of Hamburg. Away from this locality it is a minor contributor and even at the densest points is not a major factor. What is interesting about Clan I1 is its dispersion by the sub-clans into localized concentrations.
Clan N3 is a division of N, derived from NO and K, and on back to F and thence out of Africa.
The migration of its people is extremely long via central Asia, northern Asia (Siberia), and back to northeast Europe especially up to the Baltic Sea and north to the Arctic Ocean.
There is a small overflow into the northern areas of Scandinavia.
Clan N2, a cousin of N3, has a similar path with dispersion into Europe.
In northern Europe, the Old Europeans are extremely well represented and very few New Europeans are found. The farming clans are found in southern Europe, especially in the areas close to the Mediterranean.
Clan E1b1b1 is found in Lebanon, Syria, southern Turkey, Greece, Albania, southern Italy, Sicily, and southern Spain besides the north coast of Africa.
There are inland concentrations, especially in the Balkans. Smaller numbers are found on the coast of northern Spain and in scattered areas of Germany.
Even England has a small representation that resulted from the Roman legions that had been recruited in the Balkans.
Clan J2 has a distribution similar to Clan E1b1b1 but membership extends more to the north for small percentages. The area around the Black Sea is not without a measurable number of Clan J2.
Clan G is only slightly represented in modern Europe and is more numerous to the east of the Black Sea. No country in Europe is entirely devoid of Clan G but the representation is small.
Clan E1b1b1 which has six distinctive genetic changes including its original ancestor’s change does present a puzzle.
There are members of this clan living in Morocco, the Horn of Africa, and in South Africa. It is not clear whether the clan originated in Africa with some of the members migrating to Asia and Europe or whether it originated in Asia with a backward migration to Africa. It is usually considered an Asian clan.
Clan E1b1b1, known earlier as E3b, has representatives in the Germanna Colonies. Known members are the Thomases and Blankenbakers.
The writer here may be prejudiced since he belongs to Clan E1b1b but it seems to him that its members were intelligent people who led the way to a more advanced civilization.
The Wright brothers and the creator of the first personal computer belong to this clan.
When the author had his DNA tested, he was informed that the testing service was aware of four other members of this clan. One, judging by his email address, lives in Bulgaria.
The grandfather of another one lived in Austria. The earliest known sire of the Blankenbakers lived in Austria. These seem to fit the pattern described here.
It is of interest to compare these results with the finding that modern European women descend from seven women of whom six belonged to hunter-gatherer clans and one belonged to a farming clan.
Maternal clans do not identify with the paternal clans. For more about the seven daughters, see the book by Bryan Sykes, The Seven Daughters of Eve.
In the midst of all of this, there is a mystery, the case of the Neanderthals.
How they are related to the human species is unknown though they do seem to be close cousins but perhaps not close enough for interbreeding.