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Genographic Project Results

The Genographic Project identified my Y-Chromosome as being Haplogroup J2 (M172). From early “Eurasian Adam”, the group that left Africa for the Middle East is identified as M168, during their Middle East stay, the group is known as M89 and, while traveling westward on both the North shore and South shore of the Mediterranean, the group is categorized as M172. The Mediterranean period was about 10,000 years ago, or about 8,000 BC.

Today, descendents of this line appear in the highest frequencies in the Middle East, North Africa and Ethiopia, and at a much lower frequency in Europe, where it is observed exclusively in the Mediterranean area. About 20% of the males in Southern Italy carry this marker, along with 10% of the men in Southern Spain. Both Haplogroup J and its sub-group J2 are found at a combined frequency of around 30% among Jewish individuals. The Group is of Semitic background.

The term Semitic is a recent one, in terms of deep ancestry, and probably did not exist 10,000 years ago, when our ancestors lived around the Mediterranean. So I looked up what it means in modern times. Detailed and specific background commentary to our "van Santen" heritage follows later.

Quick History

50,000 Years ago:

Ancestor: Earliest male to which all living males today can be traced (M189)
Place: Africa (Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia)
Number of Homo Sapiens: about 10,000
Climate: Retreat of African Ice Age
Tools: Stone
Skills: Some art, advanced conceptual skills
As temperatures increased and conditions became more moist, animals expanded their range and people followed them right out of Africa and into the Middle East. Intellect increased, language developed, people learned to plan, to cooperate and, to exploit resources. They began to replace other hominids.

45,000 Years ago:

Ancestor: the male that gave rise to M89, a marker found in 90 to 95% of all non-Africans
Place: North Africa, Middle East
Number of Homo Sapiens: Tens of thousands
Climate: Semi-arid grass plains
Tools: Stone, ivory, wood
Africa turned colder once again and the Saharan Desert gateway would be impassable for 20,000 years. Smaller groups followed coastlines eastwards and eventually ended up in Australia. Our ancestors stayed around the Middle East.

15,000 to 10,000 Years ago:

Ancestor: Patriarch of Haplogroup J2
Place: Fertile Crescent (the floodplain of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, today's Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq
Climate: Ice Age ending
Number of Homo Sapiens: Millions
Tools & Skills: Neolithic Revolution
This person's descendants sparked the Neolithic Revolution, that is, the change from nomadic hunters-gatherers to settled agriculturalists. Being able to control their own food supply was a turning point for human evolution. It was the beginning of civilization: occupation of a single territory, more complex social organizations, creation of larger communities and the rise of modern communities and cities. Early farming successes spawned population booms and started migration throughout the Mediterranean world.

10,000 Years ago:

Ancestor: The male that started the marker M172
Place: Fertile Crescent, Middle East
Climate: Ice Age ending
Number of Homo Sapiens: A few million
People with this marker are found today in North Africa, the Middle East and Southern Europe. In southern Italy, 20% of the population carry this marker. In Spain, 10% have it. Among Jewish individuals, 30% have the J and J2 Haplo Groups.
Artifacts found around Jericho and Jerusalem have established permanent human settlements at around 8,500 BC and demonstrate a relatively quick change from hunter-gatherers tribes to settled life.

Background of Semitism (from Internet research):

There are good reasons why I include a very lengthy description of Semitism. First, the term is misunderstood by many and I would like to set it straight (although I'm not an expert by any means). Second, it may come as a complete surprise to many family members and people with the van Santen surname that indeed this is our background. Just as surprising as it may be to people new to genealogy and DNA tracing, that everyone living today comes from an African background and dark skin colour. Therefore, allow me to share with you the very detailed information I found on the Internet:

Semitic (from the Biblical "Shem") was first used to refer to a language family of largely Middle Eastern origin, now called the Semitic languages. This family includes the ancient and modern forms of Amharic, Arabic, Aramaic, Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, Akkadian, Ge'ez, Hebrew, Maltese, Syriac, Tigrinya, etc.

As language studies are interwoven with cultural studies, the term also came to describe the extended cultures and ethnicities, as well as the history of these varied peoples as associated by close geographic and linguistic distribution. The late 19th century term "anti-Semitism" came to be used in reference specifically to anti-Jewish sentiment, further complicating the understood meaning and boundaries of the term.

Semitic Origin?

The term Semite was proposed at first to refer to the languages related to Hebrew by Ludwig Schlözer, in Eichhorn's "Repertorium", vol. VIII (Leipzig, 1781), p. 161. Through Eichhorn the name then came into general usage (cf. his "Einleitung in das Alte Testament" (Leipzig, 1787), I, p. 45. In his "Gesch. der neuen Sprachenkunde", pt. I (Göttingen, 1807) it had already become a fixed technical term. (The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIII).

The word "Semitic" is an adjective derived from Shem, one of the three sons of Noah in the Bible (Genesis 5.32, 6.10, 10.21), or more precisely from the Greek form of that name, namely Sem; the noun from referring to a person is Semite. The negative form of the adjective, anti-Semitic, is almost always used as a misnomer to mean "anti-Jewish" specifically.

The concept of a "Semitic" peoples is derived from Biblical accounts of the origins of the cultures known to the ancient Hebrews. Those closest to them in culture and language were generally deemed to be descended from their forefather Shem. Enemies were often said to be descendants of his cursed brother Ham. In Genesis 10:21-31, Shem is described as the father of Aram, Asshur, and others: the Biblical ancestors of the Aramaeans, Assyrians, Babylonians, Chaldeans, Sabaeans, and Hebrews, etc., all of whose languages are closely related. The language family containing them was therefore named Semitic by linguists. However, the Canaanites and Amorites also spoke a language belonging to this family and are therefore also termed Semitic in linguistics despite being described in Genesis as sons of Ham (See Sons of Noah). Shem is also described in Genesis as the father of the Elamites and the descendants of Lud, whose languages were not Semitic.

The hypothetical Proto-Semitic people, ancestral to the speakers of the historical Semitic languages in the Middle East are thought to have been originally from either the Arabian Peninsula (particularly around Yemen) or the Ethiopian Highlands (home of "Adam" - Ed.), but its homeland is still much debated and uncertain.

Ancient Semitic peoples

Akkadians appear ca. 2,500 BC and amalgamate with Mesopotamian populations into the Assyrians of the late Bronze Age;
Eblaites 23rd century BC
Aramaeans from the 14th century BC, evolve into the Syriacs of the early centuries AD
Ugarites 14th to 12th centuries BC

Canaanite nations of the early Iron Age

Amorites --
Ammonites --
Edomites --
Hebrews founded the kingdom of Israel and Judah, the remnants of which became the Jews of Late Antiquity.
Moabites --
Phoenicians --
Sabaeans of Yemen and Ethiopia, from ca. the 9th century BC, evolving into Semitic Ethiopian peoples from the 5th century BC
Arabs appearing from the 5th century BC as Nabataeans

My comment here: Note that 10,000 years ago, or 8,000 BC, our ancestors are known to have already left the Middle East and to have traveled further westward on both the North and South sides of the Mediterranean.


Semitic peoples in modern and ancient historic times have covered a broad area bridging Africa, Western Asia and the Arabian Peninsula. The earliest historic (written) evidence of them are found in the Fertile Crescent, an area encompassing the Babylonian and Assyrian civilizations along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, extending northwest into southern Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and the Levant along the eastern Mediterranean. Today this same region is populated by Arabic speakers except for Israel, where modern Hebrew was reintroduced in the 20th century as the national language.

Early traces of Semitic speakers are found, too, in South Arabian inscriptions in Yemen, Eritrea, Northern Ethiopia and later, in Roman times, in Nabataean inscriptions from Petra (modern Jordan) south into Arabia. Here, too, Arabic has largely won out over the original Semitic tongues. Semitic languages and peoples are also found in the Horn of Africa, especially Eritrea and Ethiopia, the last great holdout of South Semitic languages. Later expansions of Semitic languages also spread into North Africa at two widely separated periods.

The first expansion occurred with the ancient Phoenicians, the name given by the Greeks to the Canaanites, along the southern Mediterranean Sea all the way to the Atlantic Ocean (colonies which included ancient Rome's nemesis Carthage). The second, a millennium later, occurred with the expansion of the Muslim armies and Arabic in the 7th-8th centuries AD, which, at their height, controlled the Hispanic Peninsula and Sicily. Arab Muslim expansion is also responsible for modern Arabic's presence from Mauretania, on the Atlantic coast of West Africa, to the Red Sea in the northeastern corner of Africa, and its reach south along the Nile River through traditionally non-Semitic territory, as far as the northern half of Sudan, where, as the national language, non-Arab Sudanese even farther south must learn it. Semitic languages today are also spoken in Malta (where an Italian-influenced dialect of North African Arabic is spoken) and on the island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean between Yemen and Somalia, where a dying vestige of South Arabian is spoken in the form of Soqotri.


In a religious context, the term Semitic can refer to the religions associated with the speakers of these languages: thus Judaism, Christianity and Islam are often described as "Semitic religions," though the term Abrahamic religions is more commonly used today. A truly comprehensive account of "Semitic" religions would include the polytheistic Ancient Semitic religions (such as the religions of Adad, Hadad) that flourished in the Middle East before the Abrahamic religions.

Ethnicity and race

A stylised T and O map, depicts Asia as the home of the descendents of Shem (Sem). Africa is ascribed to Ham and Europe to Japheth. In Medieval Europe, all Asian peoples were thought of as descendents of Shem. By the nineteenth century, the term Semitic was confined to the ethnic groups who have historically spoken Semitic languages. These peoples were often considered to be a distinct race. However, some anti-Semitic racial theorists of the time argued that the Semitic peoples arose from the blurring of distinctions between previously separate races. This supposed process was referred to as Semiticization by the race-theorist Arthur de Gobineau. The notion that Semitic identity was a product of racial "confusion" was later taken up by the Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg.

Modern science, in contrast, identifies an ethnic group's common physical descent through genetic research, and analysis of the Semitic peoples suggests that they share a significant common ancestry. Though no significant common mitochondrial results have been yielded, Y-chromosomal links between Near-Eastern peoples like the Arabs, Syrians and Jews have proved fruitful, despite differences contributed from other groups (see Y-chromosomal Aaron). Although population genetics is still a young science, it seems to indicate that a significant proportion of these peoples' ancestry comes from a common Near Eastern population to which (despite the differences with the Biblical genealogy) the term Semitic has been applied.

What does this mean to us?

While the Genographic Project allowed me to find out about ancestral travels out of Africa, it was not until I received more information following the transfer of my personal information to the Family Tree DNA Project that things became much more relevant in terms of living connections around the world.

My initial DNA test was based on a 12 Marker Y Chromosome DNA analysis and the Family Tree DNA Project looked for exact matches to this. Would you believe that I quickly found eleven exact matches from people that have already participated in this Project! None of these people have the same surname as I do, yet we have perfect DNA matches. We are now finding the basis for how we may be related. There are six from the U.S. (Ward) with ties to another three in the UK (Wardle), and two others from the U.S. (Cole and Worley). The names Ward, Wardle and Worley obviously may be of similar derivation.

I subsequently went for the 37 Marker test to help further refine the matches. Even with this additional refinement, we remain "close" matches, in DNA terms "One Step Mutations" and "Two Step Mutations" and so forth - suggesting a common ancestor within a relatively close span of time. Isn't this intriguing and does it not make YOU want to participate in this detective work?

There is one caution about this analysis. When our ancestors lived around the Mediterranean around 10,000 years ago, there were only a "few million" people living in Europe and the genetic pool was not very diverse, meaning that many people must have had similar DNA types, and must have been related to common ancestry not that far back, perhaps within a few generations.

The interesting part is that my Haplogroup J2 (M172) is actually quite rare in Europe even today. Most of Europe was settled by hunters-gatherers who, after having left Africa, traveled East from the Middle East towards Mongolia, then North to the edge of the glaciers, then West towards what is now known as Europe. We know about these travels because not everyone kept on traveling over the centuries, many stayed behind at various locations and National Geographic DNA analysis of present local populations in some very remote areas have established this pattern.

My ancestors, on the contrary, took a shorter route to the Southern parts of Europe and North Africa and along the way, invented domestication and farming. Incidentally, they were also the primary settlers in areas that we now consider the cradle of modern civilization and democracy, namely today's Egypt, Greece and Italy. Imagine, our ancestors were at all of these locations in 8,000 BC, which is just prior to or at the time of these great civilizations!

Haplogroup J2 (our "tribe")

Haplogroup J2 is a subclade of haplogroup J. The Capelli study found J2 in modest proportions in Great Britain, ranging from zero in Ireland, the Orkneys, northern Scotland and the Hebrides - to 7 percent in Pitlochry. Pitlochry is in the Central Highlands of Perthshire, so the presence of J2 here was somewhat puzzling. It probably has multiple sources. Much of the Roman settlement on the Scottish frontier was in Perthshire - indeed, Perth was originally a Roman town. Some of the J2 component in Pitlochry may have derived from the Flemish settlements in Aberdeen and Edinburgh, as many of the Flemish merchants there were of Sephardic origin. Levels of J2 ranging from 4 to 6 percent are also found in exactly the same areas that had relatively high levels of E3b - the former Roman settlements of Faversham, Southwell and Uttoxeter. Many conscripts from the Middle East served in the Roman Army, including The Company of Syrian Archers stationed in Cumbria, and a unit of Iraqi boatmen who served in Northumbria. Many of these troops may have settled down alongside their Saxon cohorts after the Roman Empire withdrew from Britain. Similarly, I suspect various pockets in Europe to have similar origins.

The "Van Santen" name - possible origins

The very name "Van Santen" means "from" or "of" Santen. The only Santen found (now known as "Xanten") is an ancient walled German town with a strong Roman history, at one time strategically located on the Rhine river (the river has since altered course somewhat). My genealogy is well-documented to the early 1500's from where my earliest known ancestor had settled by the 16th Century, near the mouth of the same Rhine river, and the furthest west one could have gone short of crossing the channel to England.

Xanten is a now an historic town in the North Rhine-Westphalia state of Germany, located in the district of Wesel, known for its Archaeogical Park as well as its mediaeval city centre with Xanten Cathedral. It is visited by approximately 800.000 tourists a year.

First settlements by isolated tribes can be dated to around the year 2000 BC. Around 15 BC the Roman camp Castra Vetera was created on the Fürstenberg near today's locality Birten. It was intended to be a base for campaigns into Germania. Until its destruction during the uprising of the Batavians in 70 AD it was occupied by 8,000 to 10,000 legionaries, and was the main base of the Classis germanica.

After the destruction of Castra Vetera a second camp became established at the Bislicher Insel, named "Castra Vetera II", which became the base camp of Legio VI Victrix. A nearby created settlement, which was inhabited by 10,000 to 15,000 usually former legionaries, was given the rights of a Colonia in 110 by the Roman emperor Trajan, who also renamed the city into Colonia Ulpia Traiana. The colonia became the second most important commercial post in the province of Germania Inferior, only exceeded by Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium (today's Cologne). In 122, Vetera II became the camp of Legio XXX Ulpia Victrix, which replaced Legio VI Victrix, which had been moved to Britannia.

In 275 the colonia was almost destroyed by Germanic tribes. Thereupon in the area of the colonia a new city was established, named "Tricensimae", which was meant to be smaller but fortified and more easily defended. At the beginning of the 5th century, assaults by Germanic tribes rapidly increased, with the result that the colonia was finally given up. According to the legend of the Nibelungs, Siegfried of Xanten was born later on ze Santen an dem Rhîne. The Christian Viktor of Xanten is supposed to have been executed together with 360 further members of the Theban Legion in 363 near today's town of Birten, as they refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods. Since then Viktor of Xanten has been considered by the Roman Catholic Church to be a martyr, and later a patron protecting the cathedral established over his assumed burial place.

The Middle Ages
In the 5th century the Franks began to settle in the area of today's Xanten, but only as rural settlements. In the second half of the 8th Century a church was built on the grounds of an old cemetery of the ancient Roman colony and called "Sanctos (super Rhenum)" (also mentioned as "ad Sanctum"). The name "place of saints" was derived from the assumed grave of the martyr Viktor of Xanten and is the source of today's city name of "Xanten". After the establishment of a convent to the south, what became today's town centre grew into existence. In 939 troops, under King Otto I, defeated Franconian, Saxon and Lotharingian troops under Heinrich I in the "Battle of Xanten". Following the "Battle of Andernach" the same year, and the "Battle of Birten" in 936, the Rhineland was annexed to the kingdom of Otto I. While Xanten with its rich "Viktor Convent" was still being besieged by Normans in 863, the place in 1122 already appears as part of a trading network at the Lower Rhine. On July 15, 1228, Xanten was given city rights by the Archbishop of Cologne, Heinrich of Molenark.

Xanten had a Jewish community in early medieval times. Two massacres of Jews occurred during the First Crusade, on (June 1 and 27, 1096). On the latter occasion some Jews committed suicide in order to escape the fury of the Crusaders.

Friedrich of Hochstaden lay the foundation stone for the gothic cathedral called St. Viktor, which was finally completed after 281 years of construction in 1263. By the end of the 14th Century, Xanten was surrounded by a city wall.

In 1392 the northern part of the city came into the possession of the dukes of Cleves, while the southern part was still possessed by the Archbishop of Cologne. The division of Xanten was a cause of a conflict between Cleves and Cologne, which ended when the whole of Xanten was awarded to the Duchy of Cleves in 1444.

After being taken by the dukes of Cleves, in the wake of war and crop failure, the number of inhabitants slumped from 5,000 at the beginning of the 16th Century to approximately 2,500 by the end of the 18th Century. The Rhine had been a basis of Xanten's status as a trading city until the river bed shifted away from the city, causing its economic situation to deteriorate. Interestingly, the first evidence we have of my family "van (from) Santen" is around the time of this exodus, with our earliest documentable ancestor showing up near the north bank of the mouth of the Rhine on the Atlantic coast of South Holland.

During this period the river even flooded and destroyed the locality of Birten several times. The section Marienbaum, however, became the most ancient place of pilgrimage on the Lower Rhine between 1430 and 1441. In 1460, a monastery of the "Birgitten" was established, with an abbey church called "St. Mariä Himmelfahrt" (English: Assumption of St. Mary) which still serves as a parish church to the present.

Protestantism arrived in 1572, but at the beginning of the 20th century just 5% of the population were of Protestant denomination. By the beginning of the 21st century, the Protestant population increased to some 20%. As Xanten fell to the duke of Brandenburg in the 17th century, the Protestant church was placed on an equal footing with the Catholic church, as comfirmed by the Contract of Xanten on 12 November 1614. Thereupon a church was built at the "Großer Markt", which was expanded by a spire in 1622.