Frisian Genetics: Abstracts and Summaries

by Kevin Alan Brook

Family Tree DNA - Genetic testing service
Family Tree DNA: Genetic Testing Service
Frisian, Dutch, German, English, and members of other ethnic groups sign up with this site to learn how they're related to other families and ethnic groups, both near and far. Some of those who test their mtDNA and/or Y-DNA join specific projects like the "Netherlands Dual DNA Project". Also available is the "Ostfriesland DNA Project" for families from East Frisia, not necessarily all ethnic Frisians, and the "Frisian Waddenproject" for families from Friesland and the Frisian Isles (Wadden Sea Islands).

The Frisian people live in coastal areas near the North Sea in Europe. Originally part of an independent nation of Frisia, part of the land was overcome by the sea and the Frisians later fell under the rule of foreign peoples. Today there are West/Westlauwers Frisians (in Fryslân in the Netherlands), North Frisians (in Nordfriesland in Germany, which was part of Denmark until 1864), Saterland Frisians (in Saterland in Germany), and East Frisians (in Lower Saxony in Germany) who speak distinctive languages and dialects. Some Frisians adopted the languages of their neighbors and intermarried with them while others have preserved their language and traditions.

The Old Frisian language was similar to Old English, and similarities between the modern forms of the languages still exist. Some examples from West Frisian: wyt (white in English), út (out), aard (earth), fjild (field), djip (deep), troch (through), wrâld (world), iepening (opening). The Schiermonnikoog dialect of West Frisian is even more interesting with words like after (meaning after; compare with standard West Frisian "efter"), heich (meaning high; compare with standard West Frisian "heech"), striete (meaning street; compare with standard West Frisian "strjitte"), yte (meaning to eat), daid (meaning dead), and daar (meaning door). I find that West Frisian sounds gentler than Dutch and German.

Genetically, R1b haplogroups are very commonly found in the Y chromosomes of Frisian males just as in the males of other ethnic groups in this geographic region (Atlantic-bordering Europe). As one would expect, participants in the Frisian Waddenproject often have R1b.

The "Frisian Modal Haplotype" (FMH), called R1b-8, was discovered by Kenneth Nordtvedt and is tested by looking at only 6 markers. Below R1b-8 on the genetic tree is R-U106, and a level below R-U106 on the tree are subclades including R-L47, R-L48, R-L48x, and R-L148.

The primary Frisian Y-DNA haplogroup is the R1b subclade called U106/S21, defined by its mutations U106 (and L48) and negative for P312. It's coded by Family Tree DNA as haplogroup R1b1b2a1a. Its subclades include R1a1b1b2a1a1, R1a1b1b2a1a2, R1a1b1b2a1a3, and R1a1b1b2a1a4. U106 is also found among partial descendants of Frisians like English people, as well as in parts of Benelux, Germany, and Denmark.

Some other Frisian men have the Y-DNA haplogroup I1 which is most common in Scandinavia.

A particular ethnic North Frisian from Nordfriesland has the following element proportions in the Eurogenes K15 calculator: 43.67% North Sea, 26.63% Atlantic, 11.6% Baltic, 9.37% Eastern European, 5.69% West Mediterranean, plus three noise-level false elements. In its oracle, this person is closest overall to West Norwegians, much closer than to North Dutch or Danish people, and is still further away from ethnic North Germans. This person's top 3 scores in Eurogenes K13 are: 55.45% North Atlantic, 25.92% Baltic, and 9.33% West Mediterranean.

In GEDmatch's forum, a West Frisian woman from the Netherlands named Elske shared with us her estimates in multiple calculators, including that Eurogenes K15 assigned her 46.45% North Sea, 24.52% Atlantic, 9.14% Baltic, 5.87% Eastern European, 6.05% West Mediterranean, plus two smaller elements. In its oracle, she's closest overall to West Norwegians and much closer to them than to North Dutch, Danish, English, or North German people. Her top 3 scores in Eurogenes K13 are: 54.88% North Atlantic, 22.89% Baltic, and 9.25% West Mediterranean. But her upper-level cousin matches in MyHeritage and GEDmatch are people from the Netherlands, including Frisians, and her matching reference population was declared to be Friesland by MyHeritage, as expected from her family tree. Elske's mtDNA haplogroup is H5a1.

Some West Frisians, including Elske, carry at least one T red hair allele in the R160W (rs1805008, Arg160Trp) gene.

Major studies of Frisians

Michael E. Weale, Deborah A. Weiss, Rolf F. Jager, Neil Bradman, and Mark G. Thomas. "Y Chromosome Evidence for Anglo-Saxon Mass Migration." Molecular Biology and Evolution 19:7 (2002): pages 1008-1021.
      English and Welsh people are among those studied and compared to each other. They also collected samples from Norwegians and Frisians. The Frisian samples came from 94 males who live in Friesland in the northern part of the Netherlands.

Excerpt from the Abstract:

"When we compared our data with an additional 177 samples collected in Friesland and Norway, we found that the Central English and Frisian samples were statistically indistinguishable."

Excerpt from the Discussion section:

"The best explanation for our findings is that the Anglo-Saxon cultural transition in Central England coincided with a mass immigration from the continent. Such an event would simultaneously explain both the high Central English-Frisian affinity and the low Central English-North Welsh affinity."

  • Family Tree DNA Genealogy by Genetics, Ltd. - This site is an affiliate
  • Netherlands Genealogy and Family History Resources
  • MyHeritage's Netherlands Family History Records Collection

  • The Frisians: A Xenophobe's Guide by Eric Hoekstra
  • The Owl's Nest: Folktales from Friesland by Dorothy Gladys Spicer
  • Frisian and Free: Study of an Ethnic Minority of the Netherlands by Cynthia Keppley Mahmood
  • The Frisian Language and Literature: A Historical Study by Waterman Thomas Hewett
  • Flag of the Province of Fryslân
  • Lapel Pin with Flag of the Province of Fryslân

  • Genetics of the Dutch
  • Genetics of Danes
  • Genetics of Jewish (Israelite) People