Friday, January 30, 2015

DNA Series: Update on Vance Groups 1 and 2, Part 1

This is the first in a three-part series on recent DNA analysis of Vance Groups 1 and 2.  While this series will be interesting primarily for Vances who descend from those Groups, I hope it will also show the current state of genetic genealogy and what you can learn by having a male in your family take a Y-DNA test.   This update owes a lot to Adam Bradford's original analyses of these Groups which can be found on the Vance Y-DNA Project's website, and it is a tribute to his original work that the current analysis agrees with and simply builds on it.  

The charts shown here are developed and maintained by the volunteer administrators of the R1b-L21 and R1b-L513 projects and I am including them here for information.  Please respect their hard work, do not use these for commercial purposes, and give them credit for these charts.

I'll confess to being a genetic genealogy junkie.  It's not likely that paper records will get me any farther than the 1700s in Ireland on my Vance line, so I've latched onto DNA testing as the most likely way to get more information about my Vance history.  And while our ancestors unfortunately didn't write their names in our DNA, they did leave us many clues that we're only just beginning to understand.

My own DNA is in Group 2 of the Vance/Vans/Wentz Y-DNA Project so that's the DNA research that I follow most closely.  But Group 1 and Group 2 are related within the last 4000 years (give or take) so I'm close to Group 1 as well.   So this series is an update on the DNA research into both Groups 1 and 2.  In this first article, we'll review the current state of the overall DNA analysis that includes Groups 1 and 2.  I'll concentrate on each of those Groups in the rest of the series.

When I talk about DNA and genetic genealogy here I'm focusing ONLY on Y-DNA testing, which is especially relevant to the Vance surname because only men have and pass on a Y chromosome so a Y-DNA test traces back through your direct male line (your father's father's father's father etc) which includes the first male in that genetic ancestry who adopted a surname.  Other very important DNA tests (mitochondrial and autosomal tests) can help you trace your other ancestral lines but I won't be covering those here.

When I first took a DNA test nearly 10 years ago it gave you more anthropology than genealogy.  I found out I descended from Cro-Magnon men who came into Western Europe some 30,000 years ago; which left me a gap of a few years from there to my Irish Vance ancestor in the 1750s.   In the years since then genetic genealogy has been working forwards from those Cro-Magnons to help fill that gap.

2014 was a banner year for genetic genealogy with major advances both in affordable tests and in the expansion of the family trees of our ancient ancestors.  So let's close the gap a bit and jump from the Cro-Magnons to Vance Groups 1 and 2, pausing first on a man living about 4000 years ago on the European continent in a Bell Beaker culture whose descendants make up what is now known as group (haplogroup) R1b-L21.  Most of his descendants became associated with Celtic cultures and while they originally populated Western Europe and the British Isles in great numbers, the group is now most concentrated in the British Isles and Brittany and Normandy in France.  There is a map showing the current distributions of R1b-L21 here.

Roberta Estes, a noted blogger in the genetic genealogy community, showed the advances in 2014 in group R1b-L21 on her blog in this post which is a great progress summary for the year for anyone interested.  But repeating her point about the progress in L21 last year, this is the descendant tree for R1b-L21 at the start of 2014:

R1b-L21 Descendant Tree as of January 2014 (credit:  R1b-L21 Y-DNA Project)

And here it is in January 2015.  This tree now connects over 13,000 men living today to their common ancestor about 4000 years ago.  Note the sub-tree in the pink box which is known as R1b-L513, where Vance Groups 1 and 2 sit.

R1b-L21 Descendant Tree as of January 2015 (credit:  R1b-L21 Y-DNA Project)

Narrowing things down further, we get into territory that is under intense study and debate.  Around 4000 years ago (so about 2000 BC), the common ancestor of the L513 sub-group arose.  It seems most likely that this man was a Celt living on the European continent, although some argue he already lived in the British Isles.   In any case his descendants are now predominantly of Scottish and Irish origins, as shown in this map of the most distant known ancestral origins of the L513 group.

Locations of most distant known ancestors for members of R1b-L513 (credit:  Family Tree DNA)

And this is the family tree of that man from 4000 years ago down to present day covering about 1800 of his male descendants.  This is the same sub-tree as in the pink box above, just expanded to show more detail and surnames.

R1b-L513 Descendant Tree as of January 2015 (credit:  R1b-L513 Y-DNA Project)

You'll need to click on that picture to read it, so let's zoom in on the left hand side and see where Vance Groups 1 and 2 sit.    We'll add a few markers and a very rough timeline:

Excerpt from R1b-L513 Descendant Tree as of January 2015 (credit:  R1b-L513 Y-DNA Project)

What does this mean?  Every subgroup has a label (which for those who follow genetic genealogy refers to a SNP that everyone in that group is positive for).

Vance Group 2, which is now defined by SNP Z23519,  broke off of L513 pretty early on, like about 3500 years ago.  To date, that group's descendants have ONLY been found with origins in Ireland and apart from one man of the surname Whalen, are exclusively of the surname Vance.   So far we know that this Vance line was in Ireland by around 1600 at least.  But while there are some clues, we don't yet know for sure where it was before that, or when it arrived in the British Isles.

Vance Group 1, on the other hand, is part of a much larger group of current descendants which includes a whole variety of surnames, some of which you can see on this last chart.  About 1000 years ago under the SNP A3 the Vans/Vance line split off from the rest and so far all the men on that branch carry a variant of the same surname.   This whole line, and in fact most of its parent L193, shows a very strong connection with Scotland and particularly with southwest Scotland near Ayrshire and Galloway, but its origins are still under fierce debate.  Some say it is of Pictish origin, and others think it could have arrived in Britain as late as the Norman Conquest.

That's the older story so far, and how the members of Vance Groups 1 and 2 relate to the rest of their wider groups.  I know for most Irish Vances, we want to know "so what does that all mean to the origins of these Vances and where our ancestors lived and who they were?".  We don't have a complete answer to those questions yet but we have more clues.  We'll explore the evolving story of Group 1 in the next article, and Group 2 after that.