1200 years back in time

A genealog­i­cal DNA test of my Y-​chromosomes showed answers to where my pater­nal ances­tors orig­i­nated from. This resulted in a won­der­ful jour­ney through his­tory dis­cov­er­ing my roots and the ori­gin of my Suhr family.

A DNA-​test opens up a whole new world for geneal­o­gists, the genes pro­vide answers that no church books can. But it may well be a dead end if you’re unlucky. In my case, I was lucky and got a great story about the ori­gins of Bernt Suhr born in 1615. The records show noth­ing about his ancestry.

There are dif­fer­ent lev­els of these tests and the most exten­sive one checks every­thing that can be found on the Y-​DNA, it pro­vides answers to the very last small twig on the great DNA fam­ily tree where the root is ”Adam”. In my case, I ended up on a twig named FGC22501 and from it goes a cou­ple of small branches out to the leaf I am on called R-​A7496. What is inter­est­ing here is that FGC22501 can be doc­u­mented back to the year 200 AD in York, Eng­land, where an archae­o­log­i­cal find of a man has DNA FGC22501. It shows that this man, who was a Roman glad­i­a­tor, and I have a com­mon ances­tor some hun­dred years ear­lier, in all prob­a­bil­ity from the area around Lux­em­bourg and the Moselle Val­ley. There are also many traces of Celts with sev­eral DNA-​matches from the south of Eng­land. If you go a few steps fur­ther back in time, you end up in north­west­ern Italy /​south­east France about 4500 years ago.

With other men that have done the same test and are in this group, you can see a con­nec­tion on which branch each one is.

FGC22501 tree

The dia­gram above shows how the last twigs of the DNA tree where I belong looks, my last twig called R-​FGC42130 and its ori­gins is in Bel­gium and Ger­many, the twig in under (R FGC42129) has a one in Bel­gium which have their ances­try doc­u­mented to around the year 800 AD. This means that our branches are likely to merge with a com­mon ances­tor between 600 AD and 800 AD. What makes it more inter­est­ing and gives an his­tor­i­cal insight is the com­mon social classes that we have in com­mon. We have peo­ple who worked closely with the rulers who for cen­turies con­trolled in these areas. What we know about my old­est known ances­tor is that he got employed at the court of the Prince of Den­mark Fred­er­ick1, when the Prince in 1635 became bishop of Bre­men. Not just any­one may be con­sid­ered for such a ser­vice but this sug­gests that Bernt Suhr belonged to a class and a guild that moved in those cir­cles, and prob­a­bly had a good rep­u­ta­tion for being able to get this ser­vice. The Dan­ish name for the ser­vice is ”Hof­fuerer” which trans­lates to But­ler. At this time, But­ler was more an assis­tant or offi­cial who took care of some parts of the duties around the court. This type of pro­fes­sion was a guild that was inher­ited and here comes the inter­est­ing part, my imme­di­ate match in the DNA-​tree, R-​FGC42129, he also has the same ori­gin in the same guild around the rulers in the region Bel­gium /​Lux­em­bourg. This name has been traced back to around the year 800 AD.

Other names that could be traced back gives clues to the Frank­ish king­dom that was divided to three sons in the West Fran­cia, Mid­dle Fran­cia and East Fran­cia king­doms. This was later to become France and Ger­many and between them a cor­ri­dor from Switzer­land up to Bre­men. Here in this cor­ri­dor lived my ances­tors and the area was sub­jected to many wars between the two other king­doms. Here we have the house of Regi­nar2 in Mid Francia.

The name Suhr has its ori­gin in the name Saur, Sour or Sauer which Bernt Suhr wrote it as when he came to Den­mark, Suhr is writ­ten at the end of his life and his sons have since then used this spelling. The name is really the same, but with dif­fer­ent spellings where Sauer is a Low Ger­man vari­ant which has its lin­guis­tic region in today’s north-​western Ger­many and Hol­land. The name also pro­vides a link to the area Lux­em­bourg /​Mosel val­ley. There is a river that runs as a bor­der between Bel­gium and Lux­em­bourg, which flows into the Mosel river, the river is called in Ger­man and Lux­em­bour­gish Sauer3 or Sûre in French. We now have a con­nec­tion with the DNA that indi­cates an ori­gin in this area and the name that be related to the name of the river.


This DNA-​tree shows my rela­tion with some of the near­est branches. Suhr can here come from two branches, require DNA-​samples from other men to more closely deter­mine which branch I belong too. Either it comes directly from the vom Maas­gau or via von Hes­sen, we have the Swedish king4 Fred­er­ick I of who is a mem­ber of the house von Hes­sen. Fred­er­ick was born in Kas­sel, Ger­many lying roughly between Bre­men and the Moselle Val­ley, this give us a geo­graph­i­cal con­nec­tion as well.

Now remains the work to try to find where Bernt Suhr came from before Bre­men and who his par­ents were.

A close DNA-​relative

A month after my BIG-​Y DNA test was fin­ished, there appeared a new name on the match list, a Dan­ish man with a dif­fer­ent last name. The DNA test shows that we still are quite closely related, our branches should have been con­nected some 400 years ago. He lives in the part of Den­mark, where the fam­ily Suhr has been liv­ing more or less all the time. It remains for us to find his ances­try back in time, the old­est found so far was born around 1785 to 1790. Prob­a­bly this is a descen­dant of one of Bernt Suhrs three other sons (other than the one I come from), or from Bernt’s brother called Claus. One pos­si­bil­ity is that it is an ille­git­i­mate son born some­time between 1660 and 1785. This is cer­tainly an excit­ing lead that we later will have more answers on when this man will do the big test later this year.

We are also wait­ing for a response from another man who is a descen­dant of Bernt Suhr and 7th cousin to me, this is a suf­fi­cient dis­tance to show some dif­fer­ences and then give a time­line, the com­par­i­son with the Dan­ish man will be inter­est­ing too.

Geo­graphic DNA-​trails

The map below shows how peo­ple moved and thereby spread their DNA over Europe, we also know how long time it takes for a new DNA-​branch to emerge. In this way one can cal­cu­late back in time and obtain a his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive that tells when and where one’s ances­tors lived.

Now they take DNA-​samples on archae­o­log­i­cal find­ings and thanks to this we get time mark­ers that pro­vide answers to a cer­tain time and that there were peo­ple in a place with a cer­tain DNA group. In our case, we know that a Roman glad­i­a­tor lived around the year 200 AD in the city of York and he had hap­logroup FGC22501. His­tor­i­cally, we know that the Romans had a base in the city of Trier in the Moselle val­ley near Lux­em­bourg, we also know that many oth­ers with the same hap­logroup has an ori­gin in this area. The hap­logroup FGC22501 appeared about 2500 years ago as a new branch under U152 /​L2 in the tree of our DNA. L2 has its roots in north­ern Switzer­land and the next branch up is located in north­ern Italy.

Today there are a num­ber of males that have this hap­logroup and many of them are from the UK. They prob­a­bly got there in stages as there are some dif­fer­ences in DNA that can be divided into two groups. The first group can be traced back to Roman times in the British Isles. The sec­ond phase occurred with William the Conqueror’s foray into Eng­land in 1066, some of the sol­diers had roots in north­ern Belgium.

The map shows how Charlemagne’s Frank­ish king­dom 843 years were divided to his three sons. The pink part called West Fran­co­nia and there was Charles King, the Mid­dle Fran­co­nia, the green area, had a son Lothar. In the east, had a son Louis’s East Fran­co­nia which today is Ger­many. Mid­dle Fran­co­nia soon became an area that the other two would like to have con­trol over, and this resulted in many wars over the years also pop­u­la­tion movements.

From this time onwards, we know more about the ances­tors that we in this group have. There will be more and more results from dif­fer­ent people’s DNA tests that pro­vide more answers on how we are linked genet­i­cally and with that we get more knowl­edge about our origins.

FGC22501 utbredning en

A spe­cial thanks to Fredric Veer­beck for his research in to our com­mon ancestry.


  1. https://​en​.wikipedia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​F​r​e​d​e​r​i​c​k​_​I​I​I​_​o​f​_​D​e​n​m​a​r​k
  2. https://​en​.wikipedia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​H​o​u​s​e​_​o​f​_​R​e​g​i​n​a​r
  3. https://​en​.wikipedia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​S​a​u​e​r
  4. https://​en​.wikipedia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​F​r​e​d​e​r​i​c​k​_​I​_​o​f​_​S​w​e​d​e​n