Adventures in Ancient YDNA: R1b> U152>L2 to Celtic FGC22501


It all began with a search for my husband’s WHEATON ancestry. After 40 years of trying to connect him with either immigrant Robert WHEATON of Rehoboth, Massachusetts or Thomas WHEADON if Branford, Connecticut I resorted to giving him a YDNA test for Valentine’s Day! In less than 6 weeks I had my answer that he was descended from Robert. If only it had been Thomas who we know comes from, Axminster, Devon, England. Where Robert Wheaton comes from, well that is another story.

There were lots of interesting surprises early on and a major one was how unusual the haplotype of Robert WHEATONs descendants is. To date there are no matches other than WHEATONs or suspected NPE’s. Several of the first 5 marker values are exceedingly rare. Another story.

The WHEATON FTDNA project participated in the “Walk Thru the Y” the brainchild of Thomas Krahn, then of Family Tree DNA, and although we discovered one SNP it remained a private one, as yet not shared with other WHEATONs. Then in 2013 Full Genomes Corporation began their Y Elite test and I entered into conversations with Justin Loe and Gregory Magoon and we ordered a test in early January. After a couple of snafu’s on my end (The kit was sent to the wrong David WHEATON) and in the end I had my husband take the test. The results in 2014 yielded over 50 brand new YSNPS. They were named FGC22500-FGC22551. One SNP FGC22501 was found to have been shared with a man from Los Angeles who was 3/4 Mexican and 1/4 European. I am forever indebted to Rich Rocca of the U152 project for his guidance and help and it was he who alerted me to the above match.

In July of 2014 Rich and I had speculated about the possibility that the WHEATONs were descended from a line of Roman soldiers. He wrote “what a story it would make.” On January 22, 2015 a pipe dream of finding a matching ancient remain became a reality with the publishing of Genomic signals of migration and continuity in Britain before the Anglo Saxons.” These Roman Era “headless gladiators” were excavated in the city of York, England. Thanks to Rich’s work it revealed that not only was the skeleton 6Drif-22 a match for FGC22501 but he matched one of our project members a WHIFFING, at least two levels below FGC22501 and with many additional SNPS (Y37734 > BY3497). This means this WHIFFING shares Y DNA with this alleged Roman.  6Drif-22 died about 100-400 AD and he is not the direct ancestor of my husband but he shares a common ancestor about 4,000-4500 years ago. He is a much closer ancestor with John Whiffing (bap. 1766), Richmond, Surrey, England. Isotope analysis showed that 6DRIF-22 may have been born in an area to the south or west of Britain. Closest IBS sharing of sample 6DRIF-22 was with modern day Welsh, Irish and Scots in that order. Also Rich discovered 3 FGC22501+ from three anonymous men from Bristol.

In 2015 My husband and a couple of other WHEATONs ordered Big Y’s from FTDNA. In the Fall of 2015 I contacted Bennett Greenspan founder of FTDNA about starting a FGC22501 specific project officially called: “R-U152-FGC22501.” When approved in October we began with 10 members. A year later we had 53. With discoveries like the Roman Gladiators and the advent of more testing particularly the Deep Clade tests of FTDNA in 2017 we got more matches to FGC22501. Today we have over 140 members who have tested positive for FGC22501. They are widespread coming from Italy, Denmark, Germany, Romania, Sweden, England, Ireland, Wales and Belarus! So what we thought might be a fairly small project has turned out to be quite broad.

Unetice Culture

While the discovery of an ancient skeleton of York who was FGC22501 from 100-400 AD is very exciting imagine when we connected to a 4,000 year old skeleton in Prague dated from 2200-1700 BC! That was like hitting the lottery. This is the oldest remains with which we connect and places our oldest ancestors FGC22500 within the Unetice culture which inhabited the area around Prague from 2300-1600 BC. Here is where things get a bit confusing. We have terminology which we use to describe people: they may be a culture, a language, the pottery, housing, armaments or burial types. These often yield overlapping, imprecise description of the people we are trying to describe.

The Unetice Culture is a Bronze Age Culture approx. 2300-1600 BCE (Before Present Eon). They overlap with the Bell Beaker culture. The Unetice inhabited ten pockets or subgroups [See Wiki]. Ours is called the Bohemian sub group. This is the described group of the skeleton known as I7202 [our FGC22500 match]. This is our starting point [for now] for our branch of the R1b>U152>L2 tree. The Únětice culture had trade links with the British Wessex culture. Únětice metalsmiths may have been produced goods found in Brittany, Cornwall and as far south as Butzbach, Hessen Germany. Amber was also traded. So anyone thinking these folks didn’t get around is mistaken. DNA has shown Unetice individuals were very closely related to peoples of the Yamnaya cultureBell Beaker culture and Corded Ware culture. I would venture to say that a given individual might carry genetic materials from a mixture of cultures which were probably less discrete than we who like to categorize would like them to be. The Unetice culture gets absorbed or becomes the Tumulus Culture which was known for its burial mounds with a time frame about 1200-600 years BCE and overlapping in time frame with the Urnfield Culture who had cremated burial remains 1300-750 BCE.

Unetice culture Czech Republic by EdmundSquirrel under the Creative Commons

Our next big clue comes from 2 recently DNA sequenced remains I14984 dated 330-280 BC and I15951 dated about 290-250 BC both from Radovesice, Czech Republic. So in 1300-2000 years and only about 28 miles apart we find two FGC22501+ individuals who are also FGC22538+ and FGC22516+. More on them in a moment. But I want to point out that FGC22538 and Y37444 are the two MAJOR subgroups of FGC22501. The later being parent clade of the York Skeleton 6DRIF-22. And the former being the parent of these two Skeletons from Radovesice as well as one additional ancient skeleton who is also FGC22538+ that being I18837 dated from 320-200 BC from Kópháza-Széles, Hungary, all three of them from the La Tene culture which rose out of the more widespread Hallstatt Cultural influence. Barry Cunliffe in his book The Ancient Celts in 1997 noted localization of La Tène culture during the 5th century BCE when there arose two zones of power and innovation: “a Marne – Moselle zone” in the west with trading links to the Po Valley and Golasecca culture of Northern Italy and the “Bohemian zone” in the east with separate links to the Adriatic and  Venetic culture of northeastern Italy. It may be that these account for our various branches.

The Hallstatt and La Tène Cultures Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0

And I would venture to guess this is where we can make our first association with the Celtic Tribe: the Boii. We are dependent on the Romans for any descriptions of these early Celtic speaking tribes so there existence in history may be later than their existence in fact. But the appear in the earliest records about the 6th century BCE. Which seems just in time to account for our group of FGC22501 skeletons and their progeny. The Boii’s name is thought to mean fierce warrior or cow herder.

Boii coin from c 100 BC
Boii territories and movements by Trigaranus Creative Commons

The above map shows movements and territories held by the Boii. The ? on the upper left looks like the “Marne – Moselle zone” which may account for the eventual concentration there. The lack of ancient remains and current testers in France certainly hampers are ability to read the tea leaves. My guess is that from the cradle in Bohemia FGC22501 spread far and wide. And it may have spread quite early during trade with Britain, or later incursions by the Romans or Normans. It is not likely that one story accounts for all the spread either as some may have been through trade, marriage alliances, larger scale population movements, greener pastures or even slave traders. None of these YDNA Haplogroups are found in strict isolation. What we can say is that FGC22501 is found in the areas of Celtic speakers. Pockets may have flourished in remote areas like the Italian Alps not subject to invaders; whereas other areas may have been overtaken by outsiders and forced movement elsewhere. This is a current look at our project and the spread of FGC22501

My Google Maps Screenshot The darker the color the more ancient the results

We have been very lucky that the latest DNA of 793 newly analyzed individuals from ancient graves yielded 3 new matches for FGC22501. That makes our total for ancient DNA that are FGC22501+ at 5! The study from which this new data comes, finds a large-scale migration likely from somewhere in France to the southern part of Great Britain, or modern-day England and Wales, that eventually replaced about 50 percent of the ancestry of the island during the Late Bronze Age (1200 to 800 B.C.).” So obviously humans did like to move around.

This story does not end here. However I wanted to get something out that traces the broad outlines and shows what is possible in 8 years by ameteur genetic genealogists. Many thanks to Rich, Vanessa, Jan, Jerry and all those that have participated and shared freely. There is some previous information available here. Please feel to comment or drop me a line.

Kelly Wheaton © 2022. All Rights Reserved

6 Comments on “Adventures in Ancient YDNA: R1b> U152>L2 to Celtic FGC22501”

  1. My maternal grandfather was U152 Z36. I was assured this was Belgae as ‘all Z36’ were. On FtDNA’s new Discovery tool I find that he is linked to 4 Swiss, 1 German and 1 Swede at Y700 but we do have a match of the same name in the same village location in a.d 1740 at Y67. I was amused that this ‘Gentleman’ was a Goldsmith, very Celtic interest after all that time too. Sadly, whilst that Y67 match is a distant cousin of mine on Family Finder, my grandfather was a humble Mill Worker in the North West of England although the family name has been linked to Normans and the family tree done by someone else is spectacular. Tongue in cheek but there is a book ‘Parkinson family of Lancashire’ to back it up….still tongue in cheek. My ‘Norman’ father (maiden name Jordan) turned out to be the illegitimate son of a widow, married name Jordan.
    Anyway, back to the matches on the Continent, we share an Ancestor in a.d 700 with a generous variable date of 450 years so end of the Roman era is a possibility. Or did he go with the Swede? How would he become a Norman?…so many questions I can’t answer. Was he a Celt turned Viking turned Norman? Maybe he was and that’s why people have to get to Y700 to even have a chance of answers.

  2. Pingback: Unexpected Roman History Lesson While Traveling in France | Wheaton Wood

  3. Pingback: Serendipity: Time Travel with the Romans with a Twist of DNA | Wheaton Wood

  4. Pingback: New Speculations on the Origins of Robert WHEATON: Part One | Wheaton Wood

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