Y-DNA update, Sep. 2019

Two groups       Flemish origin?       Inverness Lobbans         What’s next?

Developing hypotheses on origins of two Lobban groups from Y-DNA evidence (revised Sep. 2019)

Evidence for the two postulated groups

As noted on the Origins and History page, two origins for the Lobbans were postulated by both a Lord Lyon and Alan Rudge, and one of the goals of this project has been (and remains!) to test this hypothesis. We now have  data to support these two origins, though still preliminary because of the small number of samples–and there may be additional origins.  These two branches are not connected unless you go back more than 5,000 years–in other words, the  genetic connection is unrelated to surnames as it pre-dates them by millennia.  My draft All-Lobbans Tree is shown below, primarily, at this stage, to show the great separation between the two lines. On this page I will first argue for a Flemish origin for the NE Scotland Lobbans,  then show what we have learned about the Inverness Lobbans, and finally summarize what is coming up in this ongoing study.

All-Lobbans tree, showing prehistoric connection at L151 between Inverness Lobbans (single line on left) and NE Scotland Lobbans / Logan Project Limb 7 (cluster on right). The starting point of R-M269 was chosen because this is the level at which lower-level Y-DNA analyses place people; it includes almost all men of European origin. This is a work in progress and details will be updated as analyses are completed. Diagram by C.S. Lobban based on Family Tree DNA haplogroup table and our project’s Y-DNA analysis. Click to enlarge images.

Flemish origin for NE Scotland Lobbans?

DNA evidence

We have known since the beginning of the study that the NE Scotland Lobbans are part of U198, in turn part of U106,  characterized as “… most common among Germanic speakers, with a frequency peak in the Netherlands (every third man is U106+).” (Source)

More specifically, it is beginning to look like the NE Scotland Lobbans came from a single founder from the Continent, most likely Flemish or Dutch.  The evidence for this is comes from Big-Y matches who are in haplogroups that are upstream of the NE Scotland Lobbans (JFS0275 ). These groups are pre-surname (given that the most recent common ancestor of the four lines in JFS0275 was already back to about 1450 AD; see earlier results), so we expect different names when these DNA lines reach the present. However,  especially when we look at the earliest known ancestors of people testing into these higher groups, we may get a clue about where the group lived.

Block diagram for myself and my Big-Y matches as of Sep 2019, showing NE Scotland Lobbans and surrounding groups as a set of nested groups. The lists of numbers in each box are the shared SNPs for that group, any of which can potentially be used for a single-SNP test. Big Y Block Tree data from Family Tree DNA. Click to enlarge images.

The three people of interest here are in haplogroups R-Y136618 and R-JFS0282 (diagrams above and below).  In the block diagram above, the dark blue box at the top gives the common SNPs for R-JFS0266, which are shared by all groups below, and within that group are two subgroups defined by other sets of SNPs:  (1) R-Y136618, in which there are two men of Dutch heritage (one still living in the Netherlands), and (2) R-JFS0282, which includes one person of Irish origin, plus the NE Scotland Lobbans, R-JFS0275, and within them the Rothiemay Area Lobbans, R-BY227100.  In the diagram below I show the same relationships in tree-style.

Interpretive diagram of relationship between NE Scotland Lobbans and upstream haplogroups. JFS0282 origin is likely pre-surnames.

The surname of the person with Irish origin is actually reputed to have started in Wales and migrated to Ireland in the 13th Century [A Guide to Irish Names (1964) by Edward MacLysaght, cited by Forebears.com]. But this donor’s Y-chromosome is certainly in a “Germanic” part of the R1b tree, not the “Celtic” part (more below).  Thus, there is the possibility that his Y-chromosome origin goes back before Wales to pre-surname Flanders, as Flemish settlers are known to have gone to Wales in the 12th C., as to Scotland (French 2015). This name is specifically mentioned as being Cambro-Norman (Nolan, 2010),  but there may have been Flemings associated with the Normans who went to England and Wales with William the Conqueror.

While evidence for a Flemish origin for JSF0275  is not yet compelling on the basis of these three samples, I think it does allow us to make the origin hypothesis more specific. There are also historical reasons to focus on Flanders because of the long history between Scotland and Flanders/Holland, as summarized below.

Brief summary of Flemish-Scottish history

There was a long two-way exchange between Scotland and Flanders starting in the 11th Century (Dobson, Fleming, French references below). Flanders is part of Belgium now but the lands to the north had fluctuating borders in the past, until Holland was established in the 17th C., and Dutch was spoken as far south as Calais in what is now France. The Flemish language is still a dialect of Dutch, and I do not think it material to the argument whether the ancestor was from Flanders itself or neighboring Dutch-speaking areas. Nevertheless, on the basis of development and trade, the ancestor would more likely have migrated from Flanders.  Zeeland, Holland, where William Loban (1595–aft. 1637) established the Laban line, is adjacent to Flanders; all part of the Low Countries.

Trade had already begun in the 11th Century, when St Margaret, Queen of Scotland (d. 1093) is recorded as having encouraged the immigration of foreign merchants (French 2015). (As a point of historical cross-reference, the Norman Conquest of England happened in 1066.)  In the 12th C., two Flemish knights helped Scottish King David I (1124–1153) suppress a rebellion in Moray and were rewarded with parts of the confiscated rebels’ lands. Dobson says:

There were, in all probability, other Flemings, retainers or similar, who accompanied Freskin and Berowald to settle in the old Celtic Province of Moray. However, this migration occurred before the adoption of surnames by the majority of the population, thus making it difficult to identify them as Flemish. (Ref: Dobson 2015, part 1)

There were thus many people in Scotland of Flemish descent, who eventually acquired surnames in their adopted country (Flandrensis & Fleming  2016), and this history supports the hypothesis that the Lobbans came from one such individual.

Alan Rudge’s specific founder hypothesis

Our hypothesis at the outset, taken from the work of Alan Rudge, was that the Lobbans in NE Scotland had a single founder, whom he named, who went from the Continent to Scotland in 1534 with one of the last Bishops of Kinloss and “Scottished” his name to Loban. It now seems unlikely that this is correct in detail, although it is intriguing that Kinloss was on the lands acquired by the Flemish knights (Dobson 2015, part 1). DNA cannot,  of course determine names and places of individuals, and it dates common ancestors only with an accuracy of ± 1 generation. The estimated date of our most recent common ancestor is 1450, and we are not sure yet whether that person was the founder. Perhaps a Lobban will turn up with a set of SNPs that puts him between JFS0282 and JFS0275, and we call him the founder. That date is already far enough before 1534 that even with the uncertainties in the estimate it is unlikely that the founder arrived as recently as 1534. However, we can modify the hypothesis by omitting the specifics of the individual and proposing that it was one man, probably from Flanders, possibly in the early-mid 1400s, who went to Scotland and founded the NE Scotland Lobban clan.

References for Flemish Origin

Dobson, D. 2015. The Flemish in Moray, parts one and two. In, University of St. Andrews blog Scotland and the Flemish People. https://flemish.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/2015/10/16/the-flemish-in-moray-part-one/ and https://flemish.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/2015/10/23/the-flemish-in-moray-part-2/

Flandrensis, J. & A. Fleming. 2016. Scottish Families with Possible Flemish Origins – A Summary. In, University of St. Andrews blog Scotland and the Flemish People. https://flemish.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/2016/03/04/scottish-families-with-possible-flemish-origins-a-summary/

Fleming, A. & R. Mason. 2019. Scotland and the Flemish People. Berlinn Ltd., London. https://www.birlinn.co.uk/Scotland-and-the-Flemish-People.html 

French, M. 2015. Flemish migration to Scotland in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods.  In, University of St. Andrews blog Scotland and the Flemish People. https://flemish.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/2015/12/04/flemish-migration-to-scotland-in-the-medieval-and-early-modern-periods/

[Nolan, K.] 2010.  Norman and Anglo-Norman surnames. DoChara Insider Guide to Ireland.


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Evidence for the Inverness Lobbans origin in the “Celtic” part of the tree

Although we have only one sample, it is one we sought by tracing descendants from Inverness area parish records from the 1700s until we found a line that had a family historian in it. That historian, Anthony Wilcox (story), found a suitable donor. Although he acknowledged the possibility that the ancestors before their earliest known ancestor in the Black Isle might have migrated from NE Scotland, it is clear from the analysis–so far narrowed to R-L1065–that this family is very remote from the NE Scotland Lobban haplotype, in the R-L21 group,  characterized as “predominantly British and Northwestern French subclade … often referred to as a ‘Celtic marker.’  It is most frequent in Ireland (50-90%), England (15-40%) and Bretagne (14%).” (Source)

Thus we are fairly confident that this sample represents the Inverness Lobbans, and it supports the conclusion that there are indeed these two unconnected lines within the Lobban/Loban Sept.  This person falls in Limb 3 of the Logan project, whereas the NE Scotland Lobbans are in Limb 7. We will need another Inverness Loban to match with the first sample before we are able to define the haplogroup and post the SNPs.

There remain the additional possibilities that (1) donor #6 represents a third line of descent (within R-U198 but separate from the NE Scotland haplogroup), and that (2) we may find still more lines. The total number of samples is still small!

What’s next?


We expect very soon to have a set of single-SNP tests that can be used for other Lobbans to cheaply find their haplogroup, or to determine that they are not in one of the three lines found so far.

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Page by Christopher S Lobban, posted 20 Apr 2019, revised 15 Sep.