Norwegian Genetics: Abstracts and Summaries

by Kevin Alan Brook

Family Tree DNA - Genetic testing service
Family Tree DNA: Genetic Testing Service
Norwegians have a big presence on this site along with Danes, Swedes, Germans, Scots, and other European peoples. By joining, you can find out your genetic profile and look for matches in other families and ethnic groups. Norwegians who get their personal mtDNA and/or Y-DNA tested with this company are invited to join "The Norway Project - Norgesprosjektet".

Norwegian people reside in the northwestern Scandinavian country of Norway (Norge), bordered by land on eastern and southern edges by Sweden, Finland, and Russia, and across water from Denmark. The Norwegian language is in the North Germanic family and is closely related to Swedish and Danish.

Icelanders are largely descended from male Norwegian migrants to medieval Iceland. Many people living in northern Scotland and the islands of Orkney and Shetland have partial descent from Norwegian settlers as well.

In "The Norway Project", the most common Y-DNA (paternal) haplogroups are I1, R1a, R1b, and N. I1 is Scandinavia's most common Y-DNA haplogroup and it probably originated in Denmark. Some members of the project belong to subclades like I1d1 and I1d3a. R1a, common in eastern Europe, is also found in this project in subclades like R1a1a and R1a1a1. R1b, common in western Europe, is also found in this project in subclades like R1b1a2a1a1a, R1b1a2a1a1b4, and R1b1a2a1a1b4f. N1c1 is a subclade found in this project and it's especially common among Finns, Estonians, and Saami so it's believed to have come from intermarriage with Saami men. Less common haplogroups that members have include, among others, E1b1b1a1b, G2a3b1a2a, G2a3b1a, I2b1a1, I2b1, J1, J2b, Q1a3, and Q1a3a. E and J haplogroups have Middle Eastern origins, while Q may originate in Central Asia or Siberia, and G2a3b1 subclades probably originate in either Iran or the Caucasus region.

Research by B. Berger, S. Willuweit, et al. confirmed that pre-modern Norwegian men also possessed I1, R1a, R1b, and Q.

The project's most common mtDNA (maternal) lineages are H, J, K, T2, U5, and V. Within these, mtDNA subclades found in group members include H1c1, H1e, H2a2b1, H4a1a, H6a1a, H7, H11a, H13a1a1, J1c1b, J1c2, J2a1a1b, K1a4a1, T2b, and U5b3b. Other mtDNA haplogroups include I1a, I4, T1, T1a, U1b, U2, U2e, U4a1, X, and Z1a. H is the most common mtDNA haplogroup in Norwegians according to published studies, at a frequency of about 40%.

Among 23andMe's customers, 8-10% of Norwegians carry the T red hair allele in the R160W gene, 8-10% carry the T red hair allele in the R151C gene, and 0-2% carry the C red hair allele in the D294H gene.

Major studies of Norwegians

Edmund Gilbert, Seamus O'Reilly, Michael Merrigan, Darren McGettigan, Anne M. Molloy, Lawrence C. Brody, Walter Bodmer, Katarzyna Hutnik, Sean Ennis, Daniel J. Lawson, James F. Wilson, and Gianpiero L. Cavalleri. "The Irish DNA Atlas: Revealing Fine-Scale Population Structure and History within Ireland." Scientific Reports 7 (December 8, 2017): article number 17199.
       In Supplementary Table 6, the authors use fineStructure population clusters to autosomally model Norwegians. They found a major contribution of descent from Denmark, smaller contributions in descending order from Poland, Wales, and France, and very small contributions from Germany, Finland, Scotland, etc. Very little of their genetics originated from Sweden.

Giuseppe Passarino, Gianpiero L. Cavalleri, Alice A. Lin, Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Anne-Lise Børresen-Dale, and Peter A. Underhill. "Different genetic components in the Norwegian population revealed by the analysis of mtDNA and Y chromosome polymorphisms." European Journal of Human Genetics 10:9 (September 2002): pages 521-529.
       The scientists studied Norwegians' maternal and paternal lineages using DNA technology. Overall, Norwegians are genetically similar to Germans. They concluded, for instance, that the mtDNA haplogroup J, found among 10% of Norwegians, was probably "brought by the Germanic migrations to Norway." They also showed that 75% of Norwegian men have one of the Y-DNA haplotypes Eu7 and Eu18, which are both common in Germany. They found that the non-Germanic Saami people contributed "mtDNAs with the 16144,16189, 16270 motif" to Norwegians. Additionally, in terms of Y-DNA, "The presence of Eu14 in Norway suggests that some admixture between Norwegians and the Finno-Ugric Uralic speakers of Scandinavia (Saami, Finns) has occurred." (Eu14 is very common in Finland.) Excerpts from the Abstract:

"[...] Both mtDNA and Y chromosome polymorphisms showed a noticeable genetic affinity between Norwegians and central Europeans, especially Germans. [...] Although Y chromosome binary and microsatellite data indicate that 80% of the haplotypes are closely related to Central and western Europeans, the remainder share a unique binary marker (M17) common in eastern Europeans with informative microsatellite haplotypes suggesting a different demographic history. Other minor genetic influences on the Norwegian population from Uralic speakers and Mediterranean populations were also highlighted."

Berit Myhre Dupuy, Margurethe Stenersen, Tim T. Lu, and Bjørnar Olaisen. "Geographical heterogeneity of Y-chromosomal lineages in Norway." Forensic Science International 164:1 (December 1, 2006): pages 10-19. First published online on December 7, 2005.
       The Y-DNA of 1766 unrelated Norwegian males was studied. The team found 726 different lineages, grouped into 7 haplogroups: P*(xR1a), BR(xDE, J, N3, P), R1a, N3, DE, J, and "one previously undescribed haplogroup (probably a subgroup within haplogroup P*(xR1a))." The haplogroups DE and J were found in minute frequencies, only 2% combined. The breakdown of the 4 top haplogroups was:
I1 = 37.3%
R1b = 31.3%
R1a = 26.3%
N3 = 3.8%
Haplogroup N3 was found at an elevated 11% of Norwegians from northern Norway (especially Finnmark where 18.6% of the Norwegians have it) whereas none of the Norwegians in southern Norway had it. Scientists believe N3 came to Norwegians through intermarriage with Saami and Finnish men, as based on data from all populations N3 "has been interpreted as a signature of Uralic Finno-Ugric speaking males migrating to northern Scandinavia about 4000-5000 years ago". Haplogroup R1a, which is common in East European populations, is most frequently encountered among Norwegians in eastern-central areas of Norway, reaching its peak (31% frequency) among those living in the Trøndelag region in central Norway. Haplogroup P*(xR1a) is most frequent among Norwegians in southwestern Norway. Haplogroup R1b is more prevalent in western and southern Norway, near the seacoast.

Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Paolo Menozzi, and Alberto Piazza. The History and Geography of Human Genes. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994.
       Their research shows that Norwegians are nearest to Germans and Dutch by genetic distance, followed closely behind by Danes, then Swedes, then English. These data are reportedly on page 270 in the table "Occidental/European genetic distances for reference purposes".

Wolfgang Haak, Iosif Lazaridis, Nick Patterson, Nadin Rohland, Swapan Mallick, Bastien Llamas, Guido Brandt, Susanne Nordenfelt, Eadaoin Harney, Kristin Stewardson, Qiaomei Fu, Alissa Mittnik, Eszter Bénffy, Christos Economou, Michael Francken, Susanne Friederich, Rafael Garrido Pena, Fredrik Hallgren, Valery Khartanovich, Aleksandr Khokhlov, Michael Kunst, Pavel Kuznetsov, Harald Meller, Oleg Mochalov, Vayacheslav Moiseyev, Nicole Nicklisch, Sandra L. Pichler, Roberto Risch, Manuel A. Rojo Guerra, Christina Roth, Anna Szécsényi-Nagy, Joachim Wahl, Matthias Meyer, Johannes Krause, Dorcas Brown, David Anthony, Alan Cooper, Kurt Werner Alt, and David E. Reich. "Massive migration from the steppe was a source for Indo-European languages in Europe." Nature 522:7555 (June 11, 2015): pages 207-211. First published online on March 2, 2015.
       These scientists compared the genomes of 69 European people who lived thousands of years ago with present-day Europeans. They found that Norwegians have a high degree of ancient Yamnaya ancestry, from the Yamna culture of the Ukrainian-Russian steppelands. In fact, Norwegians have more Yamnaya ancestry than the other Europeans tested: that's more than Lithuanians, Estonians, Icelanders, Scots, Czechs, Belarusians, Hungarians, and Ukrainians! Further discussion about this paper is here.

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

  • Norwegian-English (One Way) Dictionary by Einar Haugen
  • Langenscheidt Universal Dictionary Norwegian-English / English-Norwegian
  • Norwegian Verbs and Essentials of Grammar by Louis Janus
  • The Best of the Norwegian Heritage by Arland O. Fiske
  • DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Norway by Snorre Evensberget
  • Norway - Culture Smart! by Linda Davis March
  • Authentic Norwegian Cooking by Astrid Karlsen Scott
  • Norway Flag 3x5

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