Adventure in Ancient DNA Part 2: Bridging the Gap

This post is based on the exquisite research of Vanessa Verbeeck of Belgium, who is the primary author. Because we are working in the past with sometimes scant historical records the work is speculative in nature but grounded in facts.


Long before the Romans occupied central Europe the area was held by ancient Celtic Tribes. As we explored in the last post we have discovered our FGC22501 SNP in a 4,000 year old skeleton in Prague. And later not far from there we find 2 skeletons dated about 290-250 BC both from Radovesice, Czech Republic which are FGC22501 as well. This would have been the stronghold of the Boii Tribe which later spread south and west. This map (used with permission) I have annotated to show some of the Boii pockets and the Celtic Tribes that occupied the area where we find our later FGC22501 ancestors.

Annotated detail of a Larger Map by. ‘P L Kessler / The History Files (’

Below is a coin called a rainbow cup. These were Celtic gold and silver coins found in areas dominated by the La Tène culture (c. 5th century BCE – 1st century BCE in central Europe). They are bowl shaped and marked with symbols and patterns. Please note the ring patterns on the bowl side of this coin.

Rainbow cups courtesy of Numisantica Creative Commons

Follow the rings:

Our Celtic Boii warriors moved due west from the their stronghold in the current Czech Republic to the areas occupied by the Leuci, Mediomatrici and the Ligones with him they either mixed or were their ancestors. [See first map] The Celts held and traded slaves as a commodity and this practice continued until the African slave trade in 1500s became established. The combined county/diocese of Verdun was a slave hub in the Middle Ages. After the Vikings, slaves from England and northern Europe were traded in Verdun. During the 9th & 10th centuries Viking and Russian merchants traded East Slavic slaves to Denmark where they were sold to Jewish and Arab slave traders who took them to Verdun and Léon. So we must not forget how much mixing was going on in this area for centuries. And this may account for the spread of FGC22501 across Europe. The following map shows the territory as occupied by celtic Tribes as it came under later rulers. It seems that a long progression of FGC22501 men held positions as successive constables, seneschals, marshalls, and/or governors in this region.

Annotated map by Vanessa showing the Coats of Arms and those with the rings as seen in Celtic coin above Overlay of Google map

We start with Matilda of Saxony, countess of Flanders From Wikipedia: She was the daughter of Hermann Billung. She first married Baldwin III, count of Flanders, with whom she had one son:

  • Arnulf II, Count of Flanders

After Baldwin’s death, Matilda married Godfrey I, Count of Verdun, with whom she had several children:

  • Frederick (d. 1022), count of Verdun
  • Godfrey (d. 1023), duke of Lower Lorraine (1012–1023)
  • Adalberon (d. 988), bishop of Verdun (984–988)
  • Herman of Ename (d. 1024), count of Brabant (retired as a monk in the abbey of Verdun abt. 1022)
  • Gothelo (d. 1044), margrave of Antwerp, duke of Lower (1023–1044) and later also Upper (1033–1044) Lorraine
  • Ermengarde (d. 1042), married Otto of Hammerstein, count in the Wettergau
  • Ermentrude, married Arnold de Rumigny (d. 1010), lord of Florennes
  • Adela, married Count Godizo of Aspelt. Their daughter Irmgard married Berthold von Walbeck

Matilda died on 25 May 1008 and was buried in Ghent. Mathilde, daughter of the Saxon duke, in her second marriage became “mistress of Verdun” and she was granting arms with 5 rings we have a symbol of celtic origin about 200 years before the lion flags popped up after the crusades. This suggests the region had already been using rings in their arms/shields/flags long before. After the collapse of ancient Lorrain and the division of it between France and Germany, there remained three independent states : Champagne (French speaking), Bar (Patois (flat regional mixed with Celtic/Germanic remnants) speaking, Lorrain (Patois and German speaking) [Shown in the three larger arms on Map].

Champagne went to the French king around 1245, Bar was split by the river Meuse belonging West to the French king and East to the German emperor as overlords and Lorraine belonging to the German emperor as overlord. So the territory did not match the language same as in Belgium where Flanders belonging to the French influence spoke Flemish (Germanic language) and Wallonia belonging to the German influence speaking Walloon (Latin language). The blue line to the left with 5 smaller arms : these were the successive constables, seneschals, marshalls, and/or governors between 1200-1300 for the counts of Champagne.  There were so many killed at an early age either in local wars either and during the crusades.  A branch of the Dampierre with the two lions became counts of Flanders and the descendants of Vienne-le-Chateau (de Louppy) with the 5 rings became the counselors, masters of accounts and chancellors of Flanders and Bar known as van der Beke/van der Niepen.  This is where it gets interesting as we can trace back multiple members of the FGC22501 project to van der Beke/van der Niepen. They had been peers already in the county of Champagne and remained attached for centuries after. When members of Bar and Flanders married and lived in the Nieppe castle : Dampierre (Flanders), Bar and de Louppy (van der Beke/van der Niepen) consolidated.

Nieppe Castle Butkens-Harrewijn-1726

Bar existed longer as an independent state, we can see the arms from the successive constables, seneschals, marshalls, governors between 1250-1450.  The blue M-line with 5 annulets/rings.  The arms of : Moncelle-les-Lunéville, Ornes, Chardogne, Louppy-le-Château, Azannes et Soumazanes (Thyl) were all used by van der Beke. Verdun seems to have been the hub from which the 5 rings were  radiating: the diocese of Verdun and the county of Verdun.  Likely the diocese was a black cross on silver and the ancient county blue with 6 silver rings. At one time they were consolidated under supervision of the bishop. Hence the county must have been divided in 4 pairies (peerages) under the bishop of Verdun (red area on the map).  From two I could find historical records : ornes (silver, 5 annulets gules) and Haudainville (lazul, 5 annulets silver).  Ornes and the others belong to the list of 30 villages ‘died for France’ in 1916 after complete destruction.  Many of them were never rebuild and only kept an administrative name and postal code in remembrance. We do find 5 rings also in the Bitburg/Vianden area, it is not clear if this belonged to a larger Celtic or split Celtic region with the Verdun region.

In the absence of other evidence we tend to believe the rings along with more ancient DNA discoveries are key to tracing our Celtic origins.

Kelly Wheaton © 2022 in collaboration with Vanessa Verbeeck. All Right Reserved.

2 Comments on “Adventure in Ancient DNA Part 2: Bridging the Gap”

  1. So nicely put … “with sometimes scant historical records the work is speculative in nature but grounded in facts.” Although much more recent, I find the same in working with rural early New York records; to fail to develop and share such information, is, I believe a disservice to the development of family history, as long at it’s transparent, as you have clearly highlighted up front.

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