When I started researching the Newell family of “The Dock”,  Bareneed, Newfoundland there were no DNA test. These tests came along in subsequent years and have resulted in significant changes in genealogical research. Initially, there was a feeling that DNA would solve all the mysteries but like most new technologies it simply deepened them.

Background on my Family

This section presents a overview of what I know about the origins of my family; more complete information on my family history can be found under “The Dock” Tab on this Web Site. My earliest fully documented ancestor is my ggg-grandfather Philip Newell (AKA Noel, Nule) who was married in Harbour Grace, Newfoundland in 1784.  I  have an original copy (dated 1820) of Philip’s grant to his land in ‘The Dock’ , Bareneed, Newfoundland that references his having cleared the land in the 1780s.  There are also other references to Philip in other government and church records dating from this period.  There is also some indirect evidence (from Philip’s marriage record) that his father’s names was James.  Philip is my earliest fully documented ancestor; however, there were Newells and Noels in Newfoundland as early as the 17th century.

There is no direct evidence regarding Philip’s origins but there are family stories that suggest that our family may have come from the Channel Islands (the Noels of Harbour Grace also have the same story). However, there are other stories in our family suggesting England and even Wales.  Many families from the Conception Bay area of Newfoundland trace their roots back to southwest England, the  Channel Islands , Cornwall and Ireland.

Background on DNA Test

I have tested my DNA with National Geographic DNA , Family Tree DNA, Ancestry DNA and YSEQ, and these test have answered some questions but opened up many new questions. Before I start discussing my results I need to provide some background information on DNA test. There are currently three types of DNA that are generally used for genealogical research.

The first type is Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) found outside the nucleus of the cell. This type of DNA is found in the human egg but not in sperm  so it is passed down almost unchanged from a mother to her children, allowing you to trace your maternal ancestry. Males have their mothers mtDNA but do not pass it on to their children. National Geographic identified my mtDNA  haplogroup (more on haplogroups under Y-DNA below) as U5B2A1B which is associated with NW Europe (UK, Germany, Ireland and Scandinavia). Since the focus of this Web Site is on the Newell family, I won’t focus on my mitochondrial DNA, which comes from my mothers side, but there is one interesting  story re a distant relative.  Cheddar Man, a Mesolithic individual from prehistoric Britain dating to 9,150 years before the present, was determined to have belonged to Haplogroup U5 the parent of my mt-DNA sub-group. .

The other type of  DNA used in genealogy is contained in the cell nucleus and is packaged in 23 pairs of chromosomes. For DNA based genealogical research this nucleic DNA  is divided into autosomal and Y-DNA depending on which chromosomes it is packaged in. The first 22 chromosome pairs are the  autosomal  chromosomes. In these each member of the pair has the same structure: however, in the 23rd pair (the sex chromosomes) the structure differs depending on your sex.  If you are female you have a pair of  X  chromosomes; however, if you are male you have a X and a Y. The Y is smaller than the X so the two members of the pair differ. Whether you are male or female is determined by your fathers sperm which can contain either X or Y.  If  a sperm containing a X fertilizes the egg then you become female (XX) but if a sperm containing a Y fertilizes the egg then you become male (XY).  DNA from the Y member of the 23rd pair of chromosomes in males is the other type of nucleic DNA used in genealogical research since this DNA only comes from your father and was passed down from his father like the family name in European cultures. Females do not have Y DNA so they cannot do this test.

The Autosomal DNA which is inherited from the autosomal chromosomes (chromosomes 1-22) contain most of the DNA which determine how we look and function (the main exception is which sex we are, which is determined by the 23rd pair).  In humans and most other complex organisms, one copy of each autosomal chromosome is inherited from the female parent and the other from the male parent. This explains why children inherit some of their traits from their mother and others from their father. Basically you randomly get half of your autosomal DNA from each parent who got half from each of theirs so you got approximately 1/4 of your DNA from each grandparent and 1/8 from each great grandparent. Test of autosomal DNA gives us a measure of the DNA we inherited from all of our ancestors but since it gets diluted in each generation it is less useful in identifying matching ancestors beyond  4 generations since the amount of DNA from each great-great-grandparent is so small (see Table).

Common Ancestor Number of  each Relationship Common  DNA
parents 2 siblings 50.0%
grandparents 4 1st cousin 25.0%
g-grandparents 8 2nd cousin 12.5%
gg- gandparents 16 3rd cousin 6.3%
ggg-grandparents 32 4th cousin 3.1%

Here is what Ancestry DNA says about matching 4th cousins:

Our analysis of your DNA predicts that the person you match with is probably your fourth cousin.  The exact relationship however could vary. It could be a third cousin once removed, or perhaps a fifth or sixth cousin. For relationships this distant from you, there is greater statistical variation in our prediction. It’s most likely to be a fourth cousin type of relationship (which are separated by ten degrees or ten people), but the relationship could range from six to twelve degrees of separation. It’s interesting to note that (at this degree of separation) we are accurately able to predict only about 71% of the possible relatives that are out there—in other words there is a 29% chance that our DNA analysis can NOT recognize an actual relative of yours. One way to be more certain that the DNA testing captures as many relatives as possible is to have multiple members of your immediate family tested.

The actual percent and location of DNA inherited from each parent can vary and so there are other methods (e.g. centiMorgans) that can be used to measure DNA connections (see:

My Ancestry DNA Results

I recently tested my  autosomal  DNA with Ancestry DNA.  The Ancestry site allows you to search their database for DNA matches with other people who have tested their autosomal DNA with them. This search revealed  2nd, 3rd and 4th cousin matches for  people on my tree (e.g. several Snelgroves on my mothers side and Newells from ‘The Dock’ on my fathers side).

One of the advantages of DNA is that it provides the possibility of identifying links to early Newells (not in my tree) or Newells from outside ‘The Dock’. In this regard 4th and 5th cousin matches are the most interesting since these are cases where I share a 3X or 4X grandparent with the match. On the Newell side my 3X great grandparents are Philip and Amy who are my earliest documented Newell ancestors. My 4th & 5th cousin matches to people with Newell’s in their tree include several that have links to ‘The Dock’ and others with links to other communities in Newfoundland. Perhaps, the most interesting was a 4th cousin Newell match who is descended from James son of Philip.

There were several  matches to people with Newell ancestors from Clarke’s Beach, situated near ‘The Dock’, and this is not unexpected since some Newells from ‘The Dock’ moved there. There were also several links to people from Burnt Head situated on the opposite side of Bay-de-Grave from ‘The Dock’. There include a link to an Ann Newell (b. 1819) who married a Morgan at Burnt Head,  but no indication that she was a Newell from Burnt Head (she could have been a Newell from ‘The Dock’). There were several links to Newell/Noel/Noall from Brigus / Georgetown including:

  • several that trace back to Stephen Noall of Brigus born c. 1826;
  • several that trace back to Patience Noel of Brigus, born c1804;
  • several that trace back, though different family lines, to James Henry Noall of Brigus born 1836;
  • several that trace back to late 19th century Roman Catholic Newells/Noels from Turks Gut/Mary’s Vale/ Conception Harbour (all near Georgetown) and
  • a possible but not confirmed link to Agnes Noel (b 1866) of Brigus, daughter of John Noal b 1837.

The first three of these link back to John Noel  of Brigus born 1790s or his father; however, these links may come from my other Newfoundland ancestors (e.g. Norman, Wells) that have links to Brigus and intermarried with the Antle and Bartlett families of Brigus.

There were several links to Newells from Pouch Cove but nothing  definitive enough to prove a connection between the Newells of Pouch Cove and  ‘The Dock’. Interestingly, the links to Pouch Cove are at the 4th cousin level (only one at 5th who was clearly further removed) suggesting the link might be through a child of Philip (or another non Newell ggg grandparent) and not from an earlier link.  It is also interesting that I get links to Thornes of Pouch Cove (see below).  There were also a number of 4th and 5th cousin links to Newells from St. John’s (not Pouch Cove) including a Margaret Newell (c.1790-1888) who married Richard Stanley Cross (originally from UK and a lieutenant in the Army) at St. John’s. Based on the matches and her date of birth Margaret might be a a daughter of Philip.

The largest set of 4th and 5th cousin Newell matches are with individuals with links to the Newells of Trinity. The bulk of these matches were at the 5th cousin level (more on 5th cousin matches in a subsequent section) and the 4th cousin matches might reflect cases with multiple DNA connections (Trinity Newell plus another).

Other non Newell DNA matches can help in sorting out my links that might be confused with Newell. I found a number of 4th cousin matches for relatives of Caroline Wells from Salmon Cove (my great grandmother who married John Newell) and  for the Dawe (AKA Daw) family of Port-de-Grave that are likely link to ancestors of my Grandmother (fathers mother) Clara Andrews from Port-de-Grave.  Interestingly, I only get 4th + cousin matches to Andrews but by researching matches that did not publish their trees I found 2nd and 3rd cousin matches that have Andrews ancestors. These are both related to a 4th cousin match (further removed) and I suspect that the 2nd and 3rd cousin matches may also be connected to me through non Andrews connections (poss Snelgrove). All of these matches link to Lorenzo Andrews b. 1868 at Harbour Grace who was the son of Robert and Ann Andrews. Robert is a common name in my grandmothers family tree but at this time I cannot find a definitive connection. Since there is some uncertainty  in my early Andrews tree (see my Andrews research) I am continuing to search for this connection.

A search for relatives of Patience Porter, my 2X great grandmother, who married John Newell Sr. produced a large number of 3rd, 4th and 5th cousin Porter matches but this data was difficult to interpret since my other relatives from the Port-de-Grave area (Andrews, Daw(e), Anthony, Snow and Batten) also intermarried with her Porter relatives. This likely accounts for the 3rd cousin matches which may have DNA from several of these families. Overall, the Porter matches point to the Port-de-Grave area (including Hibb’s Cove and Blow-me-Down) as suggested by the historical data. There was also a large number of matches linked to Conception Bay South; an area that was settled in the early 1800s by people from the Port-de-Grave area. Other clusters are linked to Spaniard’s Bay (likely through marriages) and the Elliston (originally Bird Island Cove)  near Bonavista. Several individuals in this cluster are associated with Sara Jane Porter (1760-1849) from Elliston who married George Oldford of Trinity; interestingly, George Oldfords mother was Mary Hannah Newell from Trinity.

The Ancestry test may also have provided  evidence for a theory first presented to me by Harold Newell  in 1971. Harold noted that on the same day when Philip Noel (Newell) married  Amy Batton at St. Pauls’ Church, Harbour Grace, Nfld. in November 1784 a William Button (Batton) married a Mary Noel. Harold suggested that it was a case of siblings marrying siblings in double marriage ; however, there was no hard evidence for this (see my discussion of ‘The Early Newells‘ under ‘The Dock’ Tab on this site). The Ancestry DNA test may have found  evidence for this. I had a 3rd or 4th cousin match (Confidence: Extremely High) with a person that traces back to a Isaac Batten of ‘The Dock’ born c 1869 (see his details in 1921 census below).

Name Age
Isaac Batten b. c 1869 52
E Jessie Batten 42
Lemuel Batten 19
Mary E Batten 17
Elizabeth C Batten 9
Maxwell R W Batten 5
Arthur E Batten 2
Mildred Batten 1

This Isaac was likely the Isaac born at the Dock on the 2nd. Oct. 1868 to John (1837-1900) & Elizabeth Batten nee Titford.  Based on the fact that the common ancestor would be one generation earlier than Philip (my ggg grandfather) I was expecting a relationship at the 4th or 5th cousin level so a match at a 3rd or 4th cousins was surprising since there were no other family names that were common to our trees.  After some deliberation I remembered that this was a case of siblings marrying siblings. As a result the children of both couples would have similar DNA (both shared Newell & Batten DNA). This would mean that the DNA would reflect a later common ancestor (less dilution of DNA). Two Newell 3rd cousins and a 4th cousin descended from James son of Philip also have this person as a match.

There were several  several 4th/5th cousin matches that related to families not in my tree but who could be candidates for missing  gg or ggg grandparents. These include several local families like French (links to Batten) and  Mugford (poss Newell, Batten & French links). One name that was unexpected was Thorne which had several distant DNA matches to the Thorns of Torbay and New Harbour, Trinity Bay. Both of these families trace roots back to John Thorne, an agent for Trinity merchant Benjamin Lester. Thorne was established in New Harbour, Trinity Bay by the 1770s. There is some Newell family history that suggests a connection to the Newells of Trinity but not those of Bonavista. The Thorns of Harbour Grace were merchants that had strong connections with several families in ‘The Dock’ including building the schooner Thorne in Bareneed c 1818.  In addition, my family had business connections to the Nuttall family (of Harbour Grace and Brigus) who were related to the Thornes (see Merchant Connections).

One totally unexpected connection was an apparent link to John Neville who was married at St. John’s (RC church) in 1805.  A 3rd cousin (related to Nathaniel Newell of the Dock) also found this link which suggest it predates our common gg grandfather (John son of Philip).


30-Oct 1805 St. John’s NEVIL, John Parish of Dunbrody, Co. Wexford CORBIT, Anne St. John’s William &
Anne McDonnell

John Nevil (later Neville) was from Co. Wexford, Ireland. The early Nevilles of  Wexford were a Norman family that is frequently referenced as Newell in early (per 1700) English documents (I have researched the Irish Newells and plan to do a section on them in future).  However, the DNA connection might also be through his wife Anne Corbit who may be related to the Corban  (Corbett/Corbit/Corbet/Corbin) family of ‘The Dock’ (Bartholomew Corban was settled there in the 1770s); I get several 5th cousin DNA matches to this family.

One set of non Newell connections that is especially interesting are a number of 3rd, 4th to 5th cousin matches to Noels from Harbour Grace.  Peter Noel, who has done considerable research on the Noels of Harbour Grace, has speculated about a connection between the two families. Peter and I did Y-DNA test (more on this later) that suggest a possible distant connection that would likely be well beyond the 5th cousin level (I am not sure if  he did the Ancestry autosomal test but I think he did a similar test with Family tree). After further research, I suspect that my autosomal DNA links to Noels may come through my mother’s ancestors who were Snelgroves and Cakes from the Harbour Grace area who intermarried with several Noels from this area or from the ancestors of my grandmother Clara Andrews.

Other names with possible Y-DNA connection (see Y-DNA Section) that produce a significant number  5th+ cousin level (possible distant link)  are Clark/Clarke and Cheek.  These names are not in my tree so this could reflect a  distant link or just genetic noise (see next paragraph).  The Y-DNA Clark connection links back to Dorset/Devon where many of my ancestors have their roots. The Cheek Y-DNA connection links back to the early colonial period in the Southeast USA.

One factor that  confuses autosomal results for people with roots in Conception Bay North is that there were a limited number of families that settled in this area during the 18th century and not a lot of subsequent in-migration. As a result many people with deep roots in the Dock will share some DNA ( around the 5th cousin level) with almost everyone else.  This occurs since any person will have 32 ggg-grandparents and this is close to the number of family names in the Dock (and neighboring communities) during the 18th century so the probability of any two two people with deep roots in the Dock sharing some DNA is high.

Search for the Ancestors of Philip Newell (using matches to distant cousins)

The biggest mystery in my family tree is identifying where the ancestors of my 3X great grandfather Philp Newell came from. The only information we have is that his father’s name might have been James.  Any DNA matches at the 4th cousin level would have Philip or one of his children (if they are removed from me) as the common Ancestor. The search for Philip’s origins must; therefore, focus on what Ancestry DNA referees to as “Distant Cousins” (5th or greater cousins).  As indicated earlier these matches are near the limit of DNA testing. This does not mean that the people who match me at the  5th cousin level are not  related but that I may have many 5th cousins that will not show up on the test. Similarly, there might be a 5th cousin relative who is a match to me but  one of my more recent Newell  cousins might not have this person as a match.  Another challenge is that there is no certainty that Philip’s  family name was Newell.  We know that Philip was sometimes referred to as Noel or Nuel and that the names Newell, Newall, Newill, Noel, Nowell, Newhall, Knowle, Knoll, Knowles,  Knowlton, Nevil and Neville were frequently confused in early documents.  Given this, we must investigate all of these as possible family names for Distant Cousins.
The good news is that, unlike Y-DNA matches (see later discussion), I had a large population of autosomal 5th + cousin matches with at least one of these names in their tree. Having a match with one of these names does not necessarily establish a link through that name but does make this person a candidate for one of my Newell ancestors. Another issue to be aware of is that establishing a match involves matching DNA  (generally reliable) and finding a name in a persons published family tree. The reliability of the info in most family trees starts to drop off after 6 or 7 generations; so while it is relatively certain that I match that persons DNA it is much less certain that that person has one of these names (especially if it is not the paternal family name).
My methodology was to sort my list of Distant DNA matches for each of the candidate names which gives a list of people matching my DNA with this name in their tree. I then excluded matches that had made their tree private unless I obtained info from them and individuals with very limited data in their tree (e.g. just a name but no location & or dates). In cases where there were multiple matches with same tree (same admin) I only used the first reference. Of the names I searched only four produced significant numbers of matches; these were: Newell, Knowles, Noel and Neville. Others like Nowell, Newall, Nevil and Knoll had limited number of matches and frequently included another name so are likely a different spelling of one of the more common names. (e.g.  Nowell>Noel; Newall>Newell; Nevil>Neville; Knoll> Knowles) The following Table summarizes the earliest known  location for each distant cousin match:
Newell Knowles Noel Neville
Region Location 5th Cousins 5th Cousins 5th Cousins 5th Cousins Totals
Conception Bay Dock 2 2
Burnt Head 0
Clarkes Beach 1 1
North River 1 1
HGC 30 30
Brigus 5 4 9
Other Nfld Pouch Cove 1 1
St John’s 3 4 7
Grates Cove 3 3
Trinity 7 7
Sum All NL 19 0 37 5 61
CAN QC 4 4
ON 1 1 2
NS 5 7 12
Maine 1 2 3
MA 7 16 23
CT 7 4 11
RI 4 4
NH 1 1
VT 4 0 4
Sum New England 19 27 0 63
Virginia + 3 2 9 14 28
Other USA 4 3 1 8
Other Countries Bahamas 2 2
South England Isle of Wight 1 12
Jersey 2
Dorset 1
Devon 1 1
Kent 1
London 1
Suffolk 1
Hampshire 1
Susex 1
Buckinghamshire 1
North England & Scotland Yorkshire 1 1 17
Durham 1 1
Scotland 2
Lancashire 4 3
Derbyshire 1 3
N Ireland 1 10
Ireland 9
Sum All UK & Ireland 10 11 3 15
SUM ALL 60 52 54 35 201
The Table shows that Newell had slightly more distant cousin matches that met the criteria outlined above and Neville the lowest but this is somewhat misleading. Some names had significantly more matches from Newfoundland than others. This is significant since a 5th cousin match from Newfoundland might not represent a 5th  cousin but a 4th cousin once or twice removed; in addition, it might represent a link to one of my non Newell ancestors from Newfoundland (many predate the Newells in Newfoundland). In this case we might be detecting descendants of Philip or perhaps other Newfoundland descendants of Philip’s parents (James and Ann?) or other non Newell ancestors. The Noel 5th cousin matches stand out with the highest proportion of earliest ancestors being from Newfoundland. Further, most of these listed Carbonear or Harbour Grace as the earliest known ancestral home and many identified Clement Noel as their ancestor. This large number of distant DNA matches might be considered as supporting the theory that the Newells of ‘The Dock’ were really Harbour Grace Noels; however, the problem is that my mothers ancestors (Snelgrove, Cake, Herald and Smith) were all from the same area as the Noels and many intermarried with the Noels (evidence from 2nd, 3rd & 4th cousin matches).  This makes it impossible to separate out these matches; further, selective searches on many Noel 5th cousin matches show shared matches with these non Noel individuals in my tree. Likewise my matches to Noels of Grates Cove and Brigus (AKA Newell) can be explained by other connections. My Y-DNA (separate test discussed later in this document) suggest a possible distant (not in range of the Ancestry test) connection to the Noels of Harbour Grace (Peter Noel); however, my DNA link to the distant Ancestry matches likely did not come from my direct paternal ancestor.

Many of the Neville distant DNA matches are from St. John’s and appear to be connected to 4th cousin matches to John Neville, birth c.1776, Wexford, Ireland who married Anne Colbert at St John’s, Newfoundland in 1805.  As I indicated earlier this DNA connection may be through his wife. It should also be noted that Philip Corbett (AKA Corbin) of Bareneed was part owner of the schooner Thorne which was built in Bareneed (see my web page on Merchant Connections).  However, one other link to a Thomas Neville of North River (near the Dock) raises the possibility of a connection with the North River Nevilles.

The Newell matches to Newfoundland have peaks associated with Brigus, St. John’s and Trinity. The Brigus connection to Newell and Noel may come from my mothers family. Her father was a Norman from Bay Roberts but his family roots were likely in Brigus. I get lots of matches to early Brigus families like Antles, Bartletts and Noel.  The St. John’s connections may come from a sibling, child or grandchild of Philip who moved to St. John’s or from another connection like Neville or Thorne. The Trinity connection is the most interesting since my father  suggested that there might be a family connection to the Newells of Trinity, Nfld. but not to those of Bonavista.  If you trace back the links they all connect to children of Jonah Newell  1728 – 1799 and his  wife Hannah Mears  1736 – 1788 of Trinity (I get a number of distant DNA matches to people with the Mears name).  My DNA matches also include a significant number of matches to other family names associated with Trinity and the Newell family including: Thorne,  OldfordFifieldAbbott, Jones  and Newhook.
The issue with these matches to Jonah Newell is that, despite in-depth research on the Newells of Trinity, it is difficult to make a connection. Jonah had a son James who died young and there is no evidence he is the link. My father indicated that we had some connection to the Newhooks of Trinity Bay and the DNA show a connection to Charles and Catherine Newhook from New Harbour, Trinity Bay.  Catherine was a daughter of Jonah so this is just another connection back to Jonah. The Newhooks were famous shipbuilders in Trinity Bay and the DNA connection back to John Thorne of Trinity may be connected in some way since, as indicated earlier, a schooner Thorne was built at Bareneed c 1818.
My DNA connections, regardless of family name, include people connected with many towns in Trinity Bay (see Table below). These connections are strongest at the 4th and 5th cousin level suggesting a links with one or more of my ggg grandparents or possibly earlier. It should be noted that many of the communities listed were originally settled by people from Trinity.
DNA Link to Cousins
2nd 3rd 4th 5th+
Bonavista 3 47 0
Catalina Trinity Bay 16 6
Elliston Trinity Bay 1 5 3
Port Rexton Trinity Bay 1 4
Trinity Trinity Bay 1 40 9
Norman’s Cove Trinity Bay 4 4
Old Perlican Trinity Bay 15 14
New Perlican Trinity Bay 1 15 7
New Harbour Trinity Bay 1 19 7
Dildo Trinity Bay 1 9 5
Heart’s Content Trinity Bay 24 11
Grate’s Cove Trinity Bay 21 7
Saint Jones Within Trinity Bay 3 2
Some of my DNA connections  to  Grate’s Cove and Old Perlican may have come from my mothers side (Snelgrove, her grandfather’s family) via a direct or indirect (through Benson or Smith) link to the ancestors of Daniel Noel/Newell of Grate’s Cove.  This link or the links to the Newells of Trinity might also explain some of the early DNA links to Newells of St. John’s.
The objective of this analysis was to identify possible family origins in the UK; however, the Newell distant DNA matches do not have a clear signature in the UK or Ireland. There were a limited number of matches compared to those for New England and Nova Scotia and apart from a peak in Lancashire they were scattered across the UK. It is interesting that Knowles also has a peak in Lancashire and overall for all 4 names there is a higher frequency of matches for these four names from the North of England & Scotland than from the south of England (even more significant when adjusted for population). My Y-DNA results (discussed later in this document) that focus on paternal  DNA also suggest a stronger connection to the north of England and south Scotland than to the south of England (note: this only applies to my Newell ancestors since many of my other ancestors roots trace back to Devon and Dorset).
If we focus on non Newfoundland matches then Knowles has the highest number (52) followed by Newell (41), Neville (30) and Noel (17). Drilling down further both Newell and Knowles had more than half of the non Nfld. matches from New England plus Nova Scotia while Noel and Neville had none from these areas! Noel and especially Neville had a high proportion of non Nfld. matches that trace their roots back to early colonial Virginia and surrounding states (note connection to Cheek distant Y-DNA matches discussed earlier). Noel also had several matches with connections to Quebec.
Knowles has the most interesting pattern of North American (excluding Nfld.) matches. The Knowles matches are focused on Chatham, Barnstaple, Massachusetts (located at the “elbow” of Cape Cod, Chatham was a shipping, fishing and whaling center) and Shelburne, Nova Scotia. This is not a random connection since the area around Shelburne was settled in the 1760s by families from Barnstaple and Nantucket, Mass. (see: A History of Barrington township and vicinity, Shelburne County, Nova Scotia, 1604-1870).
The book “The Knowles Family of Eastham, Mass.”  by C.T. Libby states that a:  Richard Knowles was first located on the New England records of Plymouth, Massachusetts in January of 1638. He married Ruth Bower  on 15 August 1639 and they later settled in Eastham, Massachusetts (Near Barnstaple). Other sources suggest that Richard was possibly from  Lancashire, England.  The family names of the settlers that moved to Shelburne County, Nova Scotia in the 1760s included:  Knowles, Smith, Paine, Snow, Hopkins, Crowell, Freeman and Harding . Another name that is frequently associated with the Knowles DNA matches is Smith. The Smiths were another family from Barnstaple Mass. and intermarried with the Knowles in Nova Scotia.  Thankful Knowles married David Smith and they are the ancestors of several Nova Scotia DNA matches.  The links to Knowles, while centered on the Barnstaple and Shelbourne areas, extends to other Knowles throughout New England and Nova Scotia. In addition, I also get significant numbers of DNA matches to other families linked to the Knowles of Barnstaple and Shelbourne (e.g. Freeman, Doane, Paine, Snow, Folger, Nickerson, Coffin, Harding and Smith).  Smith and Snow are both in my Newfoundland tree so I get both sets of matches for them.  The link to these other families is that they share a common heritage with the Knowles over 6-7 generations and in many cases  intermarrying with them several times over different generations and as a result they share common DNA.
While the case for a direct link to Knowles is strong there is the possibility that this DNA link comes indirectly through non Knowles families in my tree. One interesting possibility is that there might be a Newell connection in Nova Scotia or Massachusetts.  A large number of Newells from ‘The Dock’, including my grandparents, moved to Cape Breton, NS and Massachusetts in the mid to late 1800s. However, these Newells would be 2nd, 3rd or possibly 4th cousins plus the diversity of connections to the Knowles (spread over large geographic area and different families) makes this unlikely. One especially interesting connection is that one of my great aunts (Albert’s sister) married a Smith from Nova Scotia (they likely met in Mass.) and this family of Smiths trace their roots to the Knowles who moved to Nova Scotia from Barnstaple, Mass.; however, this connection would be at the 2nd cousin level. There are five 5th cousin links to Newells of Nova Scotia.  In four of these cases the common ancestor is Henry Newell born 1755 in Boston  who married a Smith from Chatham, Barnstaple, Mass. [home of Knowles] and subsequently moved to Nova Scotia;  in the remaining case a later Newell b 1819 in the same town as the others (poss relative) married a Nickerson (name linked to Knowles). The tree for one of these matches traces Henry back to Newhalls of Lynn, Mass; an area where many of the Newells from the Dock moved to in the 1800s. However, this tree includes many family names associated with Knowles & Barnstaple so it is possible Henry was a Knowle.
The remaining option is a connection through one of my non Newell ancestors.  Perhaps my Smith or Snow ancestors from Newfoundland are related to the Smiths and Snows from Massachusetts; however, both of these families have deep roots in Newfoundland and there is no suggestion of links to New England (still possible).  I recently investigated the possibility of a link through the Freeman family of St. John’s (William Sr. b c. 1755 and Jr. b 1785). The Freeman name is very closely tied to the Knowles of Barnstaple, Mass. and Nova Scotia and William Freeman Junior is connected to several of my non Newell ancestral families in the Port de Grave area (e.g. Batten and Andrews). In addition, William Senior and Junior have possible connections to the Newells of St. John’s. See my Ancestry tree for William Freeman and my Web Page on William Freeman  for more information. Despite numerous DNA links to the Freeman name in Mass. and Devon, I was not able to identify a DNA link to William Freeman of St. John’s. However, there were possible DNA connections to the Freeman families of Salmon Cove (now Champney’s West) , Trinity Bay and Twillingate. I could not find a connection between these familes and William Freeman of St. John’s.
One way to isolate the Knowles connection is to compare my results with those for other Newell relatives. A 3rd cousin once removed had 6 matches to Knowles, all 5-8th cousins, all Great Britain as main ethnicity, ties to Massachusettes and a 3rd cousin had  two 4th cousins and over 70 in the distant cousin category that linked to Knowles.  The rapid drop off between a 3rd cousin and a 3rd once removed is not surprising since distant cousins are near the edge of detection.  This does support the conclusion that the connection to Knowles is real and is since these 3rd cousins predate my Andrews ancestors it rules this out as a primary cause of my matches; however, a Andrews connection might be amplifying my DNA link to Knowles.

Country of Origin

The one other feature provided by the Ancestry DNA autosomal test is determining the geographic origin of your ancestors; however, while this feature is frequently cited in their advertisements it needs to be put into context. This type of estimate is possible since in pre-industrial societies people generally married within their cultural/ethnic/geographic groups. Due to the mixing of DNA with each generation certain autosomal genetic markers spread through the population so for example people from Germany have different markers than those from Italy.

The DNA testing companies use statistical analysis of Markers (SNP) in the DNA to relate these to geography (see:

to determine your origin. The more genetically different the people from different regions are the easier it is to pinpoint origins. The following diagram and map shows how people from different European countries differ using one of these methods:


The DNA clusters (on left) are associated with different countries (see codes on right).

When a DNA testing company says you are 50% German and 50 % Italian  it means that those are the proportion of these specific markers in your autosomal DNA.  This could reflect that one of your grandparents had roots in  Germany and the other in  Italy.  One important point to remember is that there are a limited number markers used to identify country of origin and these markers may not be passed on in the same proportions to different children. In the example above another child of this couple might test as 70^% German and 30 % Italian which would indicate that this child inherited more German markers (see the following  site for a real life example:  ).

My recent Ancestry DNA autosomal test identified me as 41% Scandinavian, 31% Celtic (Ireland, Scotland and Wales) and 15% British (Anglo Saxon). My Newell relatives should note that the autosomal results include DNA from my mothers side (e.g. Norman and Snelgrove families) plus my fathers mother’s family (Andrews etc.) and all other earlier non Newell ancestors so their country of origin autosomal results will differ from these since their non Newell ancestors will differ from mine.

Several years ago I did the National Geographic autosomal DNA test which used a slightly different methodology  to identify the geographic origins of my ancestors.  This test identified my closest matching region as Denmark which agrees with the Ancestry results since Denmark is part of the Ancestry DNA Scandinavian region.  However, National Geographic identified my second matching region as Germany (National Geographic only gives two regions). This second region is different from the Ancestry results which indicated  Celtic (31%) and UK Anglo Saxion (15%); however, this difference can be explained by differences in methodology.

Some countries have relatively unique DNA signatures (e.g. Poland and Italy); while others overlap. DNA signatures for the UK, the Netherlands  and Northern Germany are relatively similar. The UK and Ireland have some genetic components that are unique and some that are shared with their Northwest European neighbors. This pattern of DNA for the UK reflects the different groups of people (Ancient Britons, Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, Danish, Viking, Norman French, etc) that make up the population of the UK (See: ).  DNA from northwest Europe (Germany, Denmark and Belgium) can account for over 40% of the DNA in parts of the UK.  Ireland has a slightly less varied DNA profile with a larger Celtic component, a Scandinavian component from the Vikings and later (post 1500) DNA from the UK.

It should also be noted that the Ancestry region for  Britain includes Normandy, Belgium, the Netherlands and the NW Rhine in Germany (see Map below) and  these areas overlap with the  National Geographic German region.

Therefore, the differences between the two test likely reflect the differences in methodology for selecting regions.

Within the Great Britain region Ancestry identified a focus on the south coast of  Britain. This is not surprising since many of my ancestors trace their roots back to Dorset, Devon and the Channel Islands. Ancestry also identified links between my ancestors and New England and Nova Scotia and states that Nova Scotia & Massachusetts are “specific places in this region where your family might have lived“. This latter remark is especially interesting given the earlier analysis of my 5th cousin Newell and Knowles matches.

My Y-DNA test results (tracking the deep roots of my early Newell ancestors).

As I indicated earlier Y-DNA from the 23rd sex chromosome found in males is passed down from father to son (like traditional family names) so it is frequently used in genealogical research to trace family history.  Essentially,  what these test do is look for small changes in the DNA that are specific to a group of people (either large group like Western Europeans or a small group like a family). These changes are technically mutations but remember that these mutations are a normal process that is continually occurring in all organisms and  that in almost all cases have neither positive or negative effects. There are two different types of changes that these test track.

The first is looking for small changes in DNA coding called  single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP), these are variation in a single nucleotide that occurs at a specific position in the genome (see: Basically, these are changes in the underlying coding units for DNA which are generally represented by the letters A,C,T and G.  Changes in this coding happen relatively infrequently in all individuals and subsequently get passed on to their children. In genealogical DNA research they look for changes in SNPs that are associated with different populations of  people which indicate that some distant ancestor of this group had this change and it got passed on to all his (Y-DNA) children. This is refereed to as the founder effect (see: ).  An analogy might be looking through millions of copies of a best selling book looking for a specific letter in a word on a page (Typo) that differs between copies. This difference would indicate that copies with this typo were produced in a different version/edition of the book. In medical DNA they use a similar technique to search for changes in SNPs that are associated with a particular disease; normally these are different SNPs from those used in genealogical research.

Changes in the SNPs used in anthropological / genealogical research can be used to track the movements of people over long time frames (movement out of Africa ~100,000 yr BP) or shorter time frames (formation of Irish clan groups within the past few millennia).  We all carry DNA markers that trace our origins in Africa and for most Europeans even our Neanderthal ancestors.  Researchers have classified different  groups of  people around the world into groups based on their SNP markers. These groups are referred to as Haplogroups  (see: ). Most people of European ancestry share a significant proportion of their DNA markers with ancestors that lived in the area near the Caspian Sea during the last Ice Age  ~25,000 years BP.   This group, which I belong to,  is a Y-DNA Haplogroup identified as R  (note: different Haplogroup codes used for Y-DNA and mtDNA but some of the letters used overlap).  The following map shows the migration routes for different Y Haplogroups including R.


and the following shows more detail for the R Haplogroup.

Note: maps like these change as new research is conducted.

The second Map  shows how the R Haplogroup further subdivided as the people  migrated into Europe after the Ice Age ended. Different groups took different routes and these can be identified since they had slightly different changes in their DNA (SNPs).  One of the earliest splits was between groups identified as R1a and R1b.  The R1a group had its origins (change in SNPs) around 20,000  yr BP and people with this SNP took a route that resulted in them having the highest modern frequency in Eastern Europe (Slavic areas); however, some R1a individuals migrated south into the Middle East and India.  Another branch of  the R  Haplogroup  took a more southerly route into Europe (possibly passing north of the Black Sea) and then moved north into Western Europe; this group, which I belong to, is classified as R1b. The people carrying the R1b SNPs were not the first people to move into Western Europe (see:  ) but today Western Europe is dominated by the downstream subclades of R1b  especially R1b1a1a2 (R-M269). It should be noted that once you move into subclades (subgroups) of a Haplogroup the current methodology is to identify them by the code for the specific SNP that defines then (e.g M269). Sometime after the R1b (M269) people had started thir migration into Europe (around 5500 BP) they separated into two more subgroups (identified by SNPs).  The group identified by the SNP  U106 moved north into NW Europe and is now the most frequent group in the Germanic parts of Europe.

A second sub group defined by the L21 SNP , which likely also had origins in Germany, migrated west into France, the UK and Ireland (see below). It should be noted that there is some controversy regarding the origins and migration routes for L21 , with alternate theories speculating an origin in the Basque region of Spain and others suggesting an Irish origin.


National Geographic DNA Test

My National Geographic (Genographic 2.0) Y-DNA test was positive for the L21 SNP which puts me in the L21 Haplogroup. People with the L21 SNP arrived in Britain and Ireland around 4500 BP and displaced the previous male residences, becoming the dominant Y-Haplogroup in Ireland, the west of England, Wales, Scotland and Brittany.  Lower levels of L21 in the Netherlands and along the Rhine River in Germany may reflect the migration route of these people.  The L21 Haplogroup is well represented  in the DNA databases (likely due to the number of Irish Americans searching for roots) and a number of subclades have been identified below L21 .  Most of these subclades have origins in Ireland and are associated with Irish Clans (see: and developed after L21 arrived in Ireland.  My National Geographic DNA test tested for many of these but I was not positive for any of the main Irish subclades (see below).

Figure: Some L21 Subclades with the SNPs National Geographic tested as Negative underlined in red.

A negative test at the top of the SNP tree rules out the subclades below.  It should be noted that research has been ongoing since I did this test and new subclades have been identified. I recently did a new test for L21 subclades with YSEQ  ( .

UPDATE March 2018:

The results of my YSEQ DNA L21 Superclade Orientation Panel test are in and my final haplogroup is R1b-FGC17907*  (all currently known downstream branches have been confirmed negative).  FGC17907 is downstream of  DF13 and was not identified when I did the National Geographic DNA test.  The tree for FGC17907 is: L21>DF13>Z39589>S1051>FGC17907.   Family tree DNA list S1051 as the terminal SNP on its tree but at this time little is known about this subclade.  On their diagram of the L21 tree Family tree DNA places S1051 in the Bell Beaker category rather than the Celtic catagory. On various Internet discussion groups there is some suggestion regarding a Scottish origin for S1051 but this is still speculative.

In addition to testing for SNPs in the autosomal DNA  the National Geographic DNA results also include SNP results for mtDNA and Y-DNA. As part of their analysis they plot your closest matches for each. Unfortunately, only a few of these have shared their personal information (family origins). For those Y -DNA matches that did give information on family origin here are the results:

  1. On my father’s side, my ancestry is primarily German and Austrian
  2. My great-grandfather was from the Rhine Valley, Wachenheim an der Rhein
  3. My dad’s ancestors as far back as northern England, then to Northern Scotland.   Our most distant “Traceable” ancestors on my fathers side, were probably Nordic.
  4. The direct male line of my fathers side was from the Stuttgart area in Germany
  5. In 1684, my ancestor boarded a ship in Inverness, Scotland and came to New Jersey 
  6. My father was born in Providence RI. He believed that his family emigrated first to Northern Ireland
  7. My paternal g-g-grandfather was a tenant farmer in the Lower Ards, County Down, Ireland.  Surname: Gordon  [my note: Scottish surname with Norman roots]
  8. Paternal line: gggg grandfather born mid 1700s in North Yorkshire, North-East England. My surname is found at highest frequency in various parts of Northern England and South-East Scotland. I have read that it’s associated with the ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Bernicia (North-East England) – not sure of the evidence. Paternal line were mainly blonde and blue-eyed
  9. My father was born in Scotland, but his family is wholly Irish in origin. His paternal grandparents hailed from the area north of Monaghan Town, Co. Monaghan.
  10. My great-grandfather was born in Rosignol, Belgium.
  11. Family has possible links to Kent,  England

Although there is insufficient data to make a definitive conclusion, this data does suggest closer Y-DNA (Newell family) links to either northwest Europe or the English /Scottish border region than to Ireland.  Given the absence of any uniquely Irish L21 subclades and my Y-DNA SNP results, the National Geographic test suggest a possible family origin in northwest Europe followed by a possible migration of some members of this group to England/Scotland.  In addition, some of this English/Scottish group may have been subsequently migrated into Ireland during the  17th and 18th centuries.  Given the above, my Newell ancestors that moved to Newfoundland in the 18th century may have originated from any of these areas.

FamilyTree Y-DNA STR Test

The focus of the National Geographic test is using SNPs to identify Haplogroups that can be used to map longer term migration routes for early people and it is not designed to track family origins; however, other test exist that are better suited to this purpose. These test focused on Y-DNA and test for  short tandem repeats (STR) found on the Y chromosome rather than SNPs used by National Geographic.   In 2012 I did a 12 marker Y-DNA STR test with FamilytreeDNA (upgraded to a 67 marker test in 2013). The STR tested by FamilytreeDNA are sections of the genetic code that get repeated and are passed down from father to son with the Y-DNA. Only males have Y chromosomes and these get passed from father to son and so can be used to track family name connections. Like SNP these STR can be used as markers to identify groups of people. They differ from SNP in that they change over shorter time frames than SNP and can be used to track more recent family groups . These markers are scattered through your genetic code and are identified by the letters DYS followed by a number e.g. DYS-390 and have a value that indicates the number of repeats. The number of repeats in each marker remains relatively constant from one generation to the next so can be used to track relationships (see following).

 STR’s occur at specific locations on the y-chromosome, which are often referred to as loci, and are given names such as “DYS391.” STR’s occur when short segments of DNA sequences get repeated over and over along a portion of a chromosome. For example, DYS391 consists of repeats of the base sequence -GATA-. Once an STR exists, it may change by adding or subtracting a repeat or two during the replication process. Estimates of the frequency of changes range from less than 2 mutations per 1000 generations to over 7 per 1000 generations for each STR, depending on which marker. Thus over a long period of time, individuals will tend to have at least some differences in the values (number of repeats) on the various STR markers on their y-chromosome. If you look at 25 markers, there is about a 50% chance you will find at least 1 mutation in 9-10 generations (or, counting both up and down from the common ancestor, between yourself and a 4th cousin). DYS391 can have values ranging from 7 to 14 repeats, with 10 and 11 being common in populations with European ancestry. There have been over 200 STR markers identified on the y-chromosome, but not all are variable enough for genealogical purposes. Testing companies currently test between 10 and 110 markers.

The following Table gives the value (number of repeats) for my first 12 markers tested by FamilyTreeDNA and the Modal values for the L21, U106 and R1a Haplogroups:

Marker DYS 393 DYS 390 DYS 19/394 DYS 391 DYS 385a DYS 385b DYS 426 DYS 388 DYS 439 DYS 389-1 DYS 392 DYS 389-2
My values 13 22 14 11 11 15 12 12 12 14 13 30
L21 Modal 13 24 14 11 11 14 12 12 12 13 13 29
U106 Modal 13 23 14 11 11 14 12 12 12 13 13 29
R1a Modal 13 25 16 11 11 14 12 12 10 13 11 30

Note: In FamilyTreeDNA format DYS389-2 is the sum of DYS389-1 and the underlying value of DYS389-2 so values 14 and 30 for these only differ by one from values of  13 and 29 (in both case the real value of DYS389-2 is 16).

Based on the above, my first 12 markers are closer to the U106 (see earlier map) modal values than they are to the L21 modal values. In the past STR values were used to estimate subclades of R1b but today most companies only use SNPs to determine if someone is L21 or U106.

The following Table gives the frequency of different values for each of the first 12 markers in the R1b Haplogroup (my values highlighted):


The distribution of the frequency of STR values is such that there is an approximate 1 in 12.5 chance of someone getting the modal R1b values for the first 12 markers by chance. Therefore; assuming that there are 100,000 R1b individuals that have tested the first 12 STR markers and made their data public  then there will be 8,000 people with the 12 modal R1b values (same as modal L21) and the true matches will be lost within the noise.  This is why the 12 marker test has been generally replaced by the 67 and more recently the 111 marker STR test. However, in my case the STR values are such (further from norm) that the chance of a random 12 marker match is approximately 1 in 100,000; therefore, in my case a match on the 12 markers is a good, but not perfect, indication of a relationship. When I first tested my 12 markers there were only 4 other individuals that were an exact (12 of 12) match. One was my 1st cousin Ted, another was Peter Noel who was from the Harbour Grace Noels (same geographic area as my family), one was a Mr. Clark with roots in Devon, England and the last, Mr Love,  had roots in Ireland. Subsequent testing ruled out Mr. Love (different subclade and significantly differences values for markers 13-67  (likely a random match on the first 12 markers tested). Mr Clark and my cousin Ted only tested 12 markers and are now both deceased. Earlier this year (2017) a 3rd cousin with roots in the Dock (John son of Philip is our common ancestor) did the Family Tree DNA test and we matched exactly on 66 of the 67 markers (what you would expect for 3rd cousins). My value for the different marker (DYS490) is so unusual that I had it retested with a different company YSEQ which confirmed the results. Excluding this one marker this gives a good baseline on the DNA profile for the Newells of ‘The Dock’.   A comparison of the 67 marker DNA results for the Dock (using my cousins value for DYS490)  with similar data for Peter Noel indicates that there is a 90 % probability of a common ancestor within the last 10-12 generations (likely before the families moved to Newfoundland).

As with most people that test their DNA for genealogical purposes my first line of research was looking for matches (or near matches in my case) with people with the same family name. The distant match with Peter Noel was expected since there was some earlier suggestion of a distant family connection. FamilyTreeDNA has sites where people with the same family name can post their results to search for connections.  However, when I compared my DNA (both 12 and 67 markers) with other Newells, Noels, Nevilles, etc there were no matches. The majority of people with these names were separated from me by 4+ markers on the first 12 markers and 20+ on 67 markers. The closest matches were a distance of 3 on the first 12 markers for one Newell (John Newell b. Crosswicks, NJ c. 1804) and one Neville from Cork, Ireland. A distance 3 on a 12 marker test is generally considered to be beyond even a distant family connection.

Given the scarcity of exact matches on the first 12 markers I expanded out looking for people (with any name) with a distance of 1 on a 12 marker test. I used 12 markers since up to recently this was the standard test and has the largest database. In the last few years 67 marker test and even 111 marker test have become more common but there is still a limited number of people who have tested beyond 12 markers. FamilyTreeDNA has a “Y-DNA Ancestor Origins” function that allows you to find the country of origin of people that match you. Using a distance of 1 on a 12 marker test (regardless of Haplogroup) I had 174 matches out of 180,164 people in the FamilyTreeDNA database that reported country of origin.  The results for European countries (Excluding US, Canada, etc) are presented below:

12 markers distance of 1
Country Match Total Country Total Percentage
England 71 40199 0.177%
United Kingdom 22 14464 0.152%
Germany 21 21284 0.099%
Ireland 12 26378 0.045%
Scotland 8 18909 0.042%
France 6 6199 0.097%
Netherlands 3 2801 0.107%
Spain 3 5490 0.055%
Sweden 3 6370 0.047%
Wales 2 3238 0.062%
Denmark 1 1468 0.068%
Norway 1 3490 0.029%
Poland 1 6707 0.015%
Portugal 1 1673 0.060%
Russia 1 7636 0.013%
Totals 156 166306 0.094%

It is important to note that the data in DNA databases have a bias towards North America, the UK and Ireland; this occurs since  Europeans are less likely to be tested and to make their data public.  For example, the UK and France have similar populations but the Table above has 76,810 people reporting UK origins versus only 6,199 for France. However, by comparing the number of matches to the number of people tested we can adjust for this effect. Using this measure we see that England has the highest ratio of my matches to people tested.  Excluding the UK (mixture of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) the next highest region is the Netherlands followed by Germany. Unfortunately, the FamilyTreeDNA site is limited to people who have tested with them and has limited capabilities to search.

Y-Search Mapping

There is a 3rd party site ( that FamilyTreeDNA allows people to upload their results to and which contains data from other testing companies. This site also has better search capabilities. The Y-Search DNA databases allowed me to filter down to people that gave location data below the country level (e.g. city, county or sub country region) . I did not include people who gave their origin as just England, Scotland or Wales. I used this data to map people in the UK and Ireland with a distance of 1 on my first 12 FamilyTreeDNA markers.  A match within 1 on a  12 marker test is not evidence for a close family connection (none of these had one of the related Newell family names) but might suggest distant relationships (common ancestor) over longer time frames (e.g before family names became standard in the 15th century). Only some of there people in the database were aware of their family origins (many like me just suspected origins in the UK) and some did not share information on origins. To correct for this I used other data on the Web (e.g. family name groups) and e-mail followup with individuals to get more information on their family origins.   I did a similar search 5 years ago and surprisingly many of the people in that search were no longer in the database so I merged the old and new data. To adjust for the under reporting in mainland Europe compared to the UK, I included  matches that differ by a distance of 2 out of 12 markers for mainland Europe. This also helps to capture possible earlier European origins (>1000 yrs BP).  The following map shows the data for the UK, Ireland and mainland Europe. Matches with a distance of 1 are indicated in red, those with a distance of  2 in blue (only plotted for Mainland Europe) and National Geographic SNP matches are in green.

The UK data had a cluster in the North and Midlands of England (with outliers in Scotland, Ireland and southwest England). Given the location of the UK cluster it suggest that the Newall spelling should be considered since it is more common in this area. Again, I should emphasize that a match at this level is not strong evidence of a common ancestor but just suggestive.  In terms of the variation from my 12 marker values most of the variation was in three markers DYS390, DYS385b and DYS389-1; these three markers are the ones where I am furtherest from the R1b norms.

There is more discussion of the UK and Irish patterns later in this report. I have shared a  Google Map (follow link) that contains all the UK and Irish data. The blue symbols show UK and Irish matches with a distance of 2 out of 12 markers. These distance of 2 matches follow the same pattern as the distance of 1 matches (in Red) except for additional small clusters near Chester, Bristol, SE England, SW Scotland and SW Ireland (Cork).

The mainland European data (especially the difference of 2 data) clusters in the Netherlands, Belgium, northwest Germany and the area along the Rhine River.  There are also outliers along the Atlantic coast of France and Eastern Europe.  While this pattern does not appear to fit any particular modern political area it does fit exceedingly well with an historical region. The following map shows the European DNA data and the boundary of the  Roman province of Belgica (Belgium gets its name from the same root).

Note: the Roman head symbols on the map represent Roman centers manned by Belgae,

The Data cluster along the Rhine fits the eastern boundary of Roman Belgica. In addition, a review of the history of this region and it’s people (see following) can explain many of the outliers.  Migration from Flanders between 1200 and 1600 may be responsible for the DNA matches (see map) in NE Germany and the Baltic region. For example:

  • From the 13th to the 15th centuries, Prussia invited several waves of Flemings along with Netherlands Dutch and Frisians to settle throughout the country (mainly along the Baltic Sea coast). In the 12th century, Fläming , a region in Germany southwest of Berlin in the historic state of Brandenburg was subsequently named for them (;
  • A landmark of Potsdam is the two-street Dutch Quarter (Holländisches Viertel), an ensemble of buildings that is unique in Europe, with about 150 houses built of red bricks in the Dutch style. It was built between 1734 and 1742 under the direction of Jan Bouman to be used by Dutch artisans and craftsmen who had been invited to settle here by King Frederick Wilhelm I (;
  • In 1595 Duke Karl,  requested the help of his Belgian friend, Wellam de Besche, to help develop the metallurgy industry of Sweden. After Karl became king in 1599, many Walloon immigrants arrived in Sweden to help achieve the royals’ dreams of developing the Swedish industry (;
  • In the High Middle Ages, groups people migrated to Pomerania during the Ostsiedlung. These migrants, consisting of Germans from what is now Northwestern Germany, Danes, Dutch and Flemings gradually outnumbering and assimilating the West Slavic tribes (

The migration of Flemings might also explain some of the DNA outliers in Southeastern Europe since Flemings also represented a small proportion of German-speaking Transylvanian Saxon settlement in the Romanian region of Transylvania, then under Austro-Hungarian rule from the 16th to 18th centuries. The  Austrian Hapsburgs, who ruled the Spanish Netherlands and Spain,  might also be responsible for some of the DNA matches in Spain by moving people around their empire.  The movement of Protestants away from regions annexed by Catholic France during the 16th, 17th and 18th  centuries may explain the clustering of DNA matches along the northern and eastern border of Belgica.



The Roman province of Belgica (AKA Gallia Belgica) gets its name from the Belgae;  a tribal confederation that occupied this area before the Romans arrived.  Much of what we know about the Belgae comes from Roman sources including Julius Caesar. Caesar had direct contact with the Belgae; having been almost defeated by the Nervii , one of the Belgae tribes,  at the Battle of the Sabis in 57 BC.

Caesar’s comments on the Belgae have caused confusion over their ethnicity. He describes them as different from the Gauls in language. He says that the bulk of them descended from tribes which long ago came across the Rhine from Germania. Yet their recorded tribal, personal and place-names are Celtic… They seem to have spoken a language similar to Gaulish… It seems that the Belgae had pushed into North-East Gaul from what had been Celtic-speaking lands east of the Rhine, under pressure from the expanding Germani. Thus their ancestry was from what the Romans called Germania, but they were Celts (

Basically, the Belgae occupied a transition zone between the proto-germanic tribes east of the Rhine and the Gauls (later French) to the southwest. Some researchers have even proposed that they were a separate people with a language that was neither Germanic or Celtic (See: Nordwestblock). It might not be a stretch to imagine the Belgae as a offshoot of the L21 people that crossed into Britan and Ireland  around 2500 BC  that remained behind and integrated with their U106  (proto-germanic) cousins in northwest Europe. It is clear that the Belgae were not a single people (they were made up of a number of different tribes) and might have included sufficient L21 people to account for the 10% of the modern population in Belgium and the Neatherlands with the L21 Haplogroup.  Remember, Y-DNA has very little to do with how we look (autosomal DNA accounts for this), language and culture. Both language and culture can be associated with Haplogroups but are really determined by the other people in the area where you live (after several generations most immigrants to the US are closer to ‘American” cultural norms than to the culture of their ancestors).

For several centuries prior to their defeat by the Romans the Belgae had their own period of expansion and colonization. The Belgae tribes that lived along the coast of what is now Belgium and the Neatherlands were seafarers (The  name of one Belgae tribe the Morini is thought to be Celtic meaning “those of the sea”). These Belgae tribes were perhaps the first ‘Viking’ style Raiders and established colonies along what is now the Atlantic coast of France (Normandy area); in southwest Britain and possibly in Ireland. Again we most rely on the Roman’s for our knowledge of these early Belgae colonies.  When the Roman’s  conquered Britain the Belgae were established in the area from the Isle of Wight to Bristol (see map below).


In Normandy there is a Belgae archaeological site at Camp du Canada, Fecamp, France.  The situation in Ireland is less well defined since the Romans never occupied Ireland; however, there are indications from the Irish annals and archaeological research  that Belgae tribes colonized  parts of Ireland in the centuries leading up to the Roman  invasion of  Britain (possibly the Fir Bolg culture).  This was up to 2000 years after the initial L21 “Celtic’ migration into Ireland.

The Roman conquest of the Belgae did not end their story but deepened it. The Romans respected the fighting capabilities of the Belgae and soon incorporated them into the Roman Legions that defended Roman Gaul from the Germanic tribes east of the Rhine. Belgae troops were stationed along the Rhine (as far south as present day Switzerland) and were incorporated into the Legions sent to defend Britain. The First Nervian Cohort in Britain (the Nervii were a Belgae tribe) was one-thousand strong and there were three other Nervian Cohorts in Britain These Nervii were stationed along the borders of Roman Britain ( Hadrian’s Wall and Welsh border).  Another Belgae tribe the  Treveri or Treviri  (from the lower valley of the Moselle) also supplied troops for the Roman Garrisons in Britain.  The Treveri supplied the Roman army with some of its most famous cavalry and interestingly there was a monument to one Insus son of Vodullus, citizen of the Treveri, cavalryman of the ala Augusta found in Lancaster, England

The inscription on the monument states that  Domitia his heir had this set up which indicates that these Roman auxiliary troops were established in Britain and had families. Given that the Roman period in Britain lasted more than 300 years it is possible that these Belgae troops lived in Britain for many generations.  It is also likely that although most true ‘Roman’ troops left Britain around 400 AD many of these auxiliaries and their descendants were left behind.  In the last decades before the last Roman troops left Britain they were pulled back from the northern border (Hadrian’s Wall) and likely concentrated around the major Roman towns in the north (Chester, York and Lincoln).

 The Roman withdrawal from Britain was a result of pressure from Irish, Welsh, Scottish and Saxon tribes. After 400 AD the Anglo-Saxons and later the Danes started to settle in Britain.  The Germanic people who settled Britain were not a single group but were a mixture of Saxons, Angles, Jutes and Frisians. During the period when the Saxons were first settling Britain (400-500 AD) it is possible that these settlers included some people from coastal Belgica; however, it will be another 600 years before there was significant migration from Belgica to Britain.

At the same time as the initial Anglo-Saxon  raids on Britain the Germanic tribes started to push into Roman Belgica. The Saxons were pushing down from the northeast  and the Ripuarian Franks were moving in from the east. Even before this period the Romans had allowed the Salian Franks to cross the Rhine and settle in what is now the Netherlands.   Over the next 300 years the Salian Franks morphed into the Merovingian dynasty eventually merging with the  Ripuarian Franks to become the Kingdom of the Franks, By the end of the 8th century the Franks had absorbed the Saxonx into their empire (see map).

Note Re Map: Austrasia was a territory which formed the northeastern section of the Merovingian Kingdom of the Franks during the 6th to 8th centuries. It was centred on the Meuse, Middle Rhine and the Moselle rivers, and was the original territory of the Ripuarian Frankish tribes prior to the unification of all Franks under the Salian Franks.


In 771 AD Charlemagne was crowned King of the Franks, and in 800 AD Pope Leo III  crowned Charlemagne emperor of the Romans.  Charlemagne ruled his empire from lands that were formerly parts of Roman Belgica. Considering that the Belgae considered themselves to be Germanic (and spoke a similar language), it is not unreasonable to assume that they integrated into the Saxon and Frankish culture.

Charlemagne’s Empire survived until his grandsons divided the empire into three parts in the mid 9th century.

By this point most of Roman Belgica was in the Kingdom of Lotharingia comprising the present-day Netherlands,  Belgium, Luxembourg, North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany), Rhineland-Palatinate (Germany), Saarland (Germany), and Lorraine (France). Lotharingia, like Roman Belgica, was a buffer zone between the Germanic and proto-French speaking parts of  Charlemagne’s Empire. By the 10th century Lotharingia was further divided (see map below) .

Lotharingia’s division in 959 

This map shows Flanders, originally part of Roman Belgica, as part of France; however, it’s unique history kept it separate (see following):

The county of Flanders began with Judith (844-870), daughter of the Carolingian king of the West Franks and Frankish Roman Emperor, Charles the Bald. Charles was one of Europe’s most powerful kings in the ninth century, having inherited the westernmost third of the mighty Carolingian empire following the Treaty of Verdun in AD 843. Judith married twice to English [Saxon] kings of Wessex (first to Aethulwulf and then to his son). Later she returned to the continental mainland and eloped with Baldwin Iron Arm. Charles disapproved, but Judith could not be induced to return so Charles relented and granted Flanders to the two of them.   Source:

Baldwin married Judith and was granted lands, which would evolve into the County of Flanders. Bauldwin was a  Margrave  (a medieval title for the military commander/duke assigned to maintain the defense of one of the border provinces of a kingdom).  At that time the Vikings were raiding along the coast and the French needed Bauldwin to protect their northern border. Flanders nominally belonged to the kingdom of France but the Margraves (later Counts) of Flanders exercised considerable independence. In 911 AD the Viking leader Rollo, who had invaded France,  became the Duke of Normandy and assumed a similar role.

In 1035 Baldwin V became Count of Flanders. By this time the Counts of Flanders played a pivotal role in French politics. From 1060 to 1067 Baldwin was the co-Regent with Anne of Kiev for his nephew-by-marriage Philip I of France, indicating the importance he had acquired in French politics. Baldwin was also father-in-law to William, Duke of Normandy (William the Conqueror), who had married his daughter Matilda. Flanders also played a pivotal role in Edward the Confessor’s (Saxon King of England) foreign policy,_Count_of_Flanders . 

When William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066 Flanders remained technically neutral but Bauldwin V did not stop many of his lesser Nobles from supporting his son-in-law William the Conqueror.  There are few written records of Flemings accompanying William in 1066 but analysis of Flemings holding Estates after the conquest show that they were likely well represented (see map).

After the conquest two  Flemmings held important post in northern England. Gerbod the Fleming became the 1st Earl of Chester and Gilbert de Gant (Ghent) became Earl of Lincoln.  Gerbold subsequently returned to Flanders where he fell into the hands of his enemies and was held captive; as a result King William I gave the earldom of Chester to a Norman Lord.  Not all Flemings that came with William became Earls, many minor officials and foot soldiers received smaller holdings. One of these was Archibald  (AKA Erchenbald , Archembald) le Fleming who received holdings in Devon (Bratton Fleming near Barnstaple).  Richardle Fleming, son of Archibald Fleming, of Devonshire, attended the Norman lord Hugh de Lacy to Ireland  (   Hugh de Lacy had substantial land holdings in Herefordshire and Shropshire, in England and following his participation in the Norman Invasion of Ireland (in 1172) he was granted the Lordship of Meath by  Henry II.  Undoubtedly, other Flemings found their way to Ireland with the Normans.  There is also a Scottish connection to the Flemings of Bratton. Baldwin the Fleming is thought to have been the son of Stephen Flandrensis of Bratton in Devonshire, expelled by Henry II in 1154. Baldwin became sheriff of Lanarkshire (scotland) and lord of Biggar, constructing a castle there ( .

In 12th and 13th centuries Flanders prospered as a center for cloth production. In 1302 the city states of Flanders defeated the French army at the Battle of the Golden Spurs. Two years later, the uprising was defeated and Flanders returned to control by the French Crown. In 1384 Flanders was united with Burgundy, and by the mid-15th century the Dukes of Burgundy ruled the greater part of the Belgian and Dutch Netherlands and lands along the Rhine (see map below).

Western Europe in 1470 (

While owing allegiance to the French crown, Burgundy’s aim was to found a powerful state between France and Germany. This effort was disrupted by the death in 1477 of the last Burgundian ruler, Charles the Bold  By 1556 the Burgundian Netherlands were being ruled by the Catholic Habsburg kings of Spain (successors to the Burgundians). By this time Flanders had been removed from the territory of the Kingdom of France, except that some western districts of Flanders came under French rule under successive treaties of 1659 , 1668, and 1678. Flanders ended up, uniquely, as the only territory that began the Middle Ages as part of France but ended them, as it still is, alienated from France. Today, most of historical Flanders, except for Picardy, is part of  Belgium   Source:


The connections between Flanders and England did not end with the Norman invasion.

Flanders suffered greatly after a series of storms.  During a tremendous storm on the coast of Flanders, the sand hills and embankments were in many places carried away, and the sea inundated a large tract of country  (Samuel Lewis)  .  This led a large number of Flemings to seek asylum in England, where they were welcomed by Henry I.

From the 13th century up to ~1500  various English Kings attempted to develop a cloth industry in England (at this time English cloth was poor quality and production was low). To overcome this they encouraged Flemish weavers to move to England. This migration was also spurred by the political upheavals in Flanders.

Flemish influence, however, can be postulated from an early date. Flemish weavers seem to have settled in the towns which grew up around the new Norman castles after the Conquest. Drogo of Bruere, a Fleming, obtained a large grant of land at Beverley from the Conqueror, and there was soon a settlement of Flemish weavers in that town, where they have given their name to the Flemingate. ‘Gilbert the Weaver and Baldwin the Tailor’ are names figuring in the list of settlers around the new abbey of Battle, and the names and trades seem to mark them down as Flemings. The evidence as to the gilds of weavers in London, Winchester, Marlborough, Beverley, and Lincoln, and the special disabilities of the weavers and dyers seem to show that they were aliens organized as a separate community under the protection of the crown. When in 1270 the wool trade to Flanders was interrupted, Henry III sought to induce Flemish weavers to settle in England, and with some success; for when a little later he issued orders to all Flemings to leave the country, he excepted ‘those workmen, who with our leave shall come into our land to make cloths’. The Norfolk worsted industry was founded at some date prior to 1315, probably with some settlement of Flemish weavers at the village of Worstead. (Source: 

There is one story that Philippa of Hainault, the Flemish wife of Edward III, had recommended the introduction of the weavers into England. (note: Her son was John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster (b. 1340)  whose  male heirs include English kings Henry IV, Henry V, and Henry VI  (House of Plantagenet).  He was called “John of Gaunt” because he was born in Ghent, Belgium).


“The Establishment of Flemish Weavers in Manchester A.D. 1363” by Ford Madox Brown, a mural at Manchester Town Hall. Manchester City Council. –

In 1331 special protection was granted to John Kemp a weaver of Flanders (possibly from Hainault, where Edward’s father in Law was the Duke) to settled in Kendal, Westmorland, England,

Kemp was much more than a simple weaver since it was reported that he brought 70 weavers and their families to Kendal (

During this period Flemish weavers  also settled in other areas of England, Scotland and Ireland, here are a few examples:

  • Honiton, Devon  grew to become an important market town, known for lace making that was introduced by Flemish immigrants in the Elizabethan era;
  • A census from 1440  shows French, Dutch and Flemish immigrants in south Devon port towns;
  • Three Flemish weavers from Diest in Belgium lived and worked in St Ives, Huntingdonshire, in the 1330s ;
  • In 1587 the Scottish Parliament passed a law in  that encouraged Flemish weavers to come to Scotland;
  • Roger Boyle, Earl of Orrery brought Dutch settlers to Ireland in 1660.

In addition, numerous UK families trace their roots back to Flanders; for example: The Doel family are almost certainly descended from Flemish Weavers from the village of Doel which is on the outskirts of Antwerp, Belgium. Their  immediate ancestors came from the Westbury/Trowbridge area of Wiltshire to Minchinhampton in Gloucestershire c. 1500s  ( .  

This pattern of early (pre 1600) immigrants assuming the name of their home town as their surname when they arrived in England was not uncommon. Early English records frequently identify immigrants by their first name and the town they came from. Several towns in areas linked to Roman Belgica  (including the Normandy region of France) have names related to Newell. These include:

  • Newel and Bad Neuenahr [Nieuwenaer] in Germany;
  • Nevele and Nivelles, Belgium [in England Neville frequently transcribed as Newell];
  • Nieuwaal (Newly), Netherlands;
  • Neuville-Ferrières,   Néville and  Néville-sur-Mer in  Normandy.

From the perspective of the Newells of ‘The Dock’ it is also significant that some have speculated that Béthune, France (near the border with Belgium and 86 km from Nevele) may be the origin of the Batten name and that Beauchamp, Belgium may be the origin of the Beacham name.

The start of the 16th century in Europe was marked by the start of the Protestant Reformation which split Europe into two irreconcilable camps. The map below shows that most areas that were formerly Roman Belgica reverted to their former role of border states but this time separating Protestant from Catholic Europe. This position between these two irreconcilable views of the world would force many residents of these areas to flee their homelands.

One result of the Protestant Reformation was that Catholic France underwent a major internal upheaval that led to the  French Wars of Religion that extended from 1562 to 1598.   It is estimated that three million people perished in this period.  During these wars the majority of  the Protestant French Huguenots were either killed, converted or fled France. This purging of Protestants from  France combined with France annexing territories along its northern and eastern border (parts of Flanders and along the Rhine) resulted in many Protestants that lived in former Belegic areas fleeing to either Holland, Germany or the UK.  Many religious refugees settled initially in large Protestant cities such as Geneva or Zurich then migrated to England, where Edward VI had in 1550 established London as a location for ‘Stranger Churches’, in which Calvinists from the Low Countries and France could practice their religion among their own people (

Lands Annexed by France 1552-1798.

Even though Henry VIII broke with Rome in the 1530s Protestant beliefs were not fully accepted in England until  the start of Elizabeth I Reign in 1558.   Some time between 1539 and the close of Henry VIII’s reign a  Nicholas Newell, a Frenchman living in St. Mary Woolchurch Parish, London was arrested for his religious beliefs;  he was presented to be a man far gone in the new sect, and that he was a great jester at the saints, and at our Lady (source: Fox’s Book of Martyrs, Vol 2).

Some early English immigration records are available for the years 1330-1550 (see and Newell appears in these as a Surname and a first name (these could be reversed).  Some examples include:

Newell, Colyn 6 April 1440 Norfolk, Ultra Aquam ward
Newell, Jacobus 10 September 1451 Middlesex
Newell, John 4 April 1440 Bedfordshire, Flitt hundred
Newell, John           12 October 1444 London, Bread Street ward
Newell, John van Teutonic June 1483 London, Dowgate ward
Turges, Newell   Fleming 15 December 1512
Frenssheman , Newell    French c. 28 May 1440 Sussex, Whalesborne hundred

Some related names include:

Frensshman, Noel French 11 July 1440
Hampshire, Copnor
Nevell, John Picard 1 July 1544 Abbeville
Nevell, Philip Norman 1 July 1544 [40 yrs in England] Cherbourg, [Normandy]
Nevell, Robert                          aft. 28 September 1441
Buckinghamshire, West Wycombe
Nevill, Martin Savoyard 1 July 1544
Noell, Geoffrey 12 July 1441
Kent, Hythe

An Internet search found a number of Dutch and Belgium people with names that could become Newell in England . These include:

  • Jan van Nieuwaal, in the service of the Dutch East India Company in 1763;
  • Jan Rutgers Nieuwal (Niwael), a 17th century Dutch painter;
  • Jacob Nouwelsz (NOELL), born Abt. 1599 in Sedan Andennes. France-Belgium, and died Abt. 1683 in Leiden, Holland;
  • Johannes Nouwels, born in Drongelen in 1770′ passed away on 10 Jul 1857 in Delft;
  • Cornelius Noell (Nowe), born 1622 Leiden, Leiden, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands;
  • Justus Hendrik Nevel, married 1786 at  Nijmegen, Gelderland, Nederlands;
  • Jan Nuls, a Dutch immigrant recorded at London in 1615 (




This section still under construction.