Y-Haplogroup Frequencies in the Flemish Population

 

 

Gerhard Mertens

 

Abstract

The Flemish are the Dutch-speaking population of the northern part of Belgium and make up 60% of the population.  Estimated figures for present-day Americans with Flemish roots amount to more than 1 million.  We performed a population genetic study on 113 unrelated Flemish males, who were typed for 12 Y chromosome STRs (DYS19, DYS385 a/b, DYS389 I, DYS389 II, DYS390, DYS391, DYS392, DYS393, DYS437, DYS438 and DYS439).  With these 12-locus haplotypes, we deduced the corresponding haplogroup using Whit Athey’s Haplogroup Predictor. This yielded the following distribution, typical for a population with northwest European origin: Haplogroup R1b 56.6%, Haplogroup I 28.3%, Haplogroup J 6.2%, Haplogroup E3b 4.4%, Haplogroup G 3.5%, and Haplogroup L 0.9%.

 

 

 

Address for correspondence: [email protected]

 

Received:  June 11, 2007; accepted:  July 19, 2007.

 

 

 

 


Introduction

 

The term Flemings (Dutch: Vlamingen) is primarily used to refer to the ethnic group native to Flanders (the northern half of Belgium, historically part of the Southern Netherlands), which in total numbers about 6 million people in Belgium (the majority of the 10 million Belgians).  In addition, the term also refers to ethnic Flemings in French Flanders (mainly in the Département du Nord of present-day France), in the southern part of the Dutch province of Zeeland known as Zeeuws-Vlaanderen and in other Flemish communities around the world.  The Flemings have their language in common with the Dutch, and thus remain relatively well aware of their northern neighbours with whom they have shared significant parts of their history.  It is generally believed, based on historical linguistics, that the Flemings mainly descend from the invading Germanic tribes, rather than from the Gaulish tribes who lived in the same region before Roman times.  At first sight, Flemish culture is defined by its West Germanic language, Dutch, as opposed to the language and culture of their mostly Francophone compatriots within Belgium.

 

The Flemish diaspora consists of Flemish emigrants and their descendants in countries such as France, the United States, Britain, Canada, Indonesia, Australia, South Africa and Latin America.

 

During the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, when the territory of present-day Flanders was the setting for an impressive economic and cultural boom, many artists and craftsmen sought to introduce their skills elsewhere, particularly in southern Europe.  Flemish settlers introduced the first printing presses into Spain and Portugal.  The Flemish contribution to the developing and populating of the Azores was so conspicuous that for a long time the archipelago was referred to as the Flemish Islands.

 

Following in the wake of the explorers, Flemish missionaries such as Pieter van Gent (1480-1572) in Mexico, Joos de Rijcke (1498-1578) in Ecuador, Ferdinand Verbiest (1623-1688) in China, Constant Lievens (1856-1893) in India, Pierre-Jean De Smet (1801-1873) in the United States, and Jozef de Veuster (1840-1889) in Molokai built a reputation in various overseas countries that continues even to this day.

 

A combination of a demographic explosion and inadequate economic growth resulted in an emigration from Flanders that started in the mid 19th century and continued up to the First World War.  It was something that every family faced sooner or later.  Not only did it involve the so-called lower classes of the population, but also non-lower-class people, who found a future overseas in teacher-training colleges and colleges of engineering and agriculture.  Louis Cruis, for example, was a Flemish engineer who led expeditions to lay down the boundaries of Brazil and the city limits of the capital, Brasilia.

 

The destination of the majority of Flemish emigrants was France.  There are an estimated 1,250,000 people with a Flemish surname in France.  The Nord and Pas-de-Calais departments, however, were parts of historic Flanders before France annexed the region in 1656.

 

In the United States and Canada today, there are more than 1 million Americans who clearly have Flemish roots.  In Michigan, the Gazette van Detroit is still published by Flemings in Dutch and English (Wikipedia, 2007).

 

To improve our knowledge of the paternal origins of the Flemish people, we undertook a population genetics study on a representative sample of Flemings.  The resulting Y-STR data provide a means to estimate the frequency of the major Y chromosome haplogroups.

 

Methods

 

Buccal swabs were collected from 113 unrelated Flemish males, representing the alleged fathers from paternity cases.  Flemish identity was determined by family name and place of birth.  Informed consent was obtained, allowing us to use the data for population genetic studies, albeit anonymously.

 

DNA was extracted using the Qiamp DNA kit (Greenspoon et al, 1998).  DNA was amplified using the Power Plex®Y kit following the manufacturer’s instructions.  This kit coamplifies 12 short tandem repeats (STR) of the Y chromosome, including the markers defined as the “European minimal haplotype” (Gill et al, 2001) (DYS19, DYS385 a/b, DYS389I, DYS389II, DYS390, DYS391, DYS392 and DYS393), plus two loci (DYS438 and DYS439) added to this panel by the SWGDAM (Lee et al, 2004), and DYS437.  Amplification products were subsequently analysed by capillary electrophoresis on an ABI 3100 Genetic Analyzer (Mansfield et al, 1998).  Alleles were named according to the recommendations of the DNA Commission of the International Society for Forensic Genetics (Bär et al, 1997).

 

For each of these 12-marker haplotypes, the corresponding Y haplogroup was deduced using Whit Athey’s Haplogroup Predictor version 5 (2006).

 

Results

 

The table in the Appendix shows the 105 different 12-locus Y-STR haplotypes observed in the sample of 113 Flemings.  Of these, 99 haplotypes occurred once, 4 haplotypes were counted twice, and 2 haplotypes were observed in three males.

 

Concerning the reliability of the haplogroup estimates, the Haplogroup Predictor yielded a median “score” of 67, with a standard deviation of 18.  This implies a generally good “fitness” score.  Indeed, values above 50 indicate a “good” fit, while values between 20 and 50 indicate a “fair” fit, according to the program’s author.  Using the Bayesian approach, a priori taking into account the northwest European origin of this population, the median posterior probability for the predicted haplotype is 100% (!), with a  standard deviation of 5.6%.  Another illustration of this issue is the fact that 95 of the 113 Bayesian haplogroup probabilities exceeded 99%.

 

Table 1 and Figures 1 and 2 give the distribution of haplogroups in the sample of 113 Flemish men.  The most frequent haplogroup, as is true for all of northwest Europe, is Haplogroup R1b—56.6% of the total.  The next most frequent haplogroup at 19.5% was I1a, while third was I1b2a (formerly known as I1c), again in agreement with previous estimates in neighboring populations.   Haplogroups E3b, G2, I1b1b, J2a1b, J2a1k, J2b, and L were observed in small numbers (representing 1-5% each).  Haplogroups E3a, G5, H, I1b1 (x I1b1b), I1b2 (x I1b2a), J1, J2a1 (x J2a1b, J2a1k), K2, N, Q, and R1a were included in the analysis, but were not detected in the sample.  Note that when the haplogroup count in a sample is observed or expected to be only a few, then there is little statistical significance in finding one, two, or three haplotypes in that haplogroup, or in not finding it at all in the sample.  This may explain the fact that not a single case of haplogroup R1a was observed in this population sample of modest size.

 

 

Table 1  Distribution of Y-haplogroups in 113 Flemings

 

Haplogroup

Number

%

E3b

5

4.4

G2

4

3.5

I1a

22

19.5

I1b1

1

0.9

I1b2a

9

8.0

J2a1b

2

1.8

J2a1k

3

2.7

J2b

2

1.8

L

1

0.9

R1b

64

56.6

 

113

100

 

 

 

Figure 1  Graphical Representation of Haplogroup Frequencies from Table 1

 

 

 

 

Figure 2  Distribution of Haplogroups Obtained by Lumping Together the Subclades of Haplogroups I and J

 

 


Acknowledgement

 

Whit Athey is acknowledged for his expert assistance in the application of the Haplogroup Predictor program.

 

 


Electronic-Database Information

 

http://www.hprg.com/hapest5/           Haplogroup Predictor Program

 

 

References

 

Athey TW (2005)  Haplogroup prediction using an allele-frequency approach.  J Genetic Genealogy, 1:1-7.

 

Athey TW (2006)  Haplogroup prediction from Y-STR values using a Bayesian-allele-frequency approach.  J Genetic Genealogy, 2:34-39.

 

Bär W, Brinkmann B, Budowle B, Carracedo A, Gill P, Lincoln P, Mayr W, Olaisen B (1997) DNA recommendations - Further report of the DNA commission of the ISFH regarding the use of short tandem repeat systems, Int J Legal Med 110:175-176.

 

Flemish people (2007).  In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Flemish_people

 

Gill P, Brenner C, Brinkmann B, Budowle B, Carracedo A, Jobling MA, de Knijff P, Kayser M, Krawczak M, Mayr WR, Morling N, Olaisen B, Pascali V, Prinz M, Roewer L, Schneider PM, Sajantila A, Tyler-Smith C (2001) DNA commission of the International Society of Forensic Genetics: recommendations on forensic analysis using Y-chromosome STRs.  Int J Legal Med 114:305-309.

 

Greenspoon SA, Scarpetta MA, Drayton ML, Turek SA (1998) QIAamp spin columns as a method of DNA isolation for forensic casework.  J Forensic Sci 43:1024-1030.

 

Lee D, Sims G, Newman J, Laad C, Smerick S, Barna C, Gross A, Butler J, Prinz M, Hartmann J, Kinsey P, Figarelli D, Ballantyne J (2004) Report on the current activities of the Scientific Working Group on DNA Analysis Methods Y-STR Subcommittee.  For Sci Comm 6(3).

 

Mansfield ES, Robertson JM, Vainer M (1998) Analysis of multiplexed short tandem repeat (STR) systems using capillary electrophoresis.  Electrophoresis 19:101-107.

 

 

 

 


Appendix

Haplotypes of 12 Y-STR Loci in a Sample of 113 Flemish Males

Haplotype

n

DYS

19

DYS

385

DYS

389I

DYS

389II

DYS

390

DYS

391

DYS

392

DYS

393

DYS

437

DYS

438

DYS

439

Predicted

Haplo-

Group

H1

1

12

11, 14

13

29

23

10

13

13

15

12

13

R1b

H2

1

13

12, 15

13

29

22

9

11

13

14

10

12

E3b

H3

1

13

13, 14

14

30

24

9

11

13

14

10

10

E3b

H4

1

13

13, 17

13

30

24

10

11

13

14

10

12

E3b

H5

1

13

16, 17

13

31

24

10

11

13

14

10

13

E3b

H6

1

13

16, 18

13

30

24

10

11

13

14

10

13

E3b

H7

1

14

11, 11

13

29

25

10

13

13

15

12

13

R1b

H8

1

14

11, 12

13

29

23

11

13

13

15

12

12

R1b

H9

1

14

11, 13

13

28

24

11

13

13

15

12

12

R1b

H10

1

14

11, 13

13

29

23

11

13

13

15

12

12

R1b

H11

1

14

11, 13

13

29

24

11

13

13

15

12

10

R1b

H12

1

14

11, 13

13

29

24

11

13

13

15

12

12

R1b

H13

1

14

11, 14

12

28

23

10

11

13

16

10

12

I1a

H14

1

14

11, 14

13

28

23

10

13

13

15

12

11

R1b

H15

1

14

11, 14

13

28

24

11

13

13

15

12

14

R1b

H16

1

14

11, 14

13

29

23

11

13

13

14

12

12

R1b

H17

1

14

11, 14

13

29

23

11

13

13

15

12

12

R1b

H18

1

14

11, 14

13

29

23

11

13

14

15

12

12

R1b

H19

1

14

11, 14

13

29

24

10

13

13

15

13

13

R1b

H20

1

14

11, 14

13

29

24

11

13

12

14

12

11

R1b

H21

1

14

11, 14

13

29

24

11

13

13

14

12

11

R1b

H22

1

14

11, 14

13

29

24

11

13

13

14

12

13

R1b

H23

1

14

11, 14

13

29

24

11

13

13

15

12

11

R1b

H24

2

14

11, 14

13

29

24

11

13

13

15

12

12

R1b

H25

1

14

11, 14

13

29

24

11

13

13

15

12

13

R1b

H26

1

14

11, 14

13

29

24

11

13

13

15

13

13

R1b

H27

1

14

11, 14

13

29

24

11

13

15

15

12

11

R1b

H28

2

14

11, 14

13

29

25

11

13

13

15

12

11

R1b

H29

1

14

11, 14

13

29

25

11

13

13

15

12

12

R1b

H30

1

14

11, 14

13

30

23

11

13

13

15

12

11

R1b

H31

1

14

11, 14

13

31

24

10

13

13

15

12

11

R1b

H32

1

14

11, 14

14

30

23

10

13

13

15

12

12

R1b

H33

1

14

11, 14

14

30

23

11

13

13

15

12

12

R1b

H34

1

14

11, 14

14

30

24

11

13

13

15

12

12

R1b

H35

1

14

11, 14

14

30

25

11

13

14

14

12

13

R1b

H36

1

14

11, 14

14

31

23

11

14

13

15

12

13

R1b

H37

1

14

11, 15

13

28

23

10

13

13

15

12

11

R1b

H38

1

14

11, 15

13

28

24

11

13

13

14

12

12

R1b

H39

1

14

11, 15

13

29

23

11

13

13

14

12

12

R1b

H40

1

14

11, 15

13

29

23

11

13

14

14

12

12

R1b

H41

1

14

11, 15

13

29

23

11

14

13

15

12

12

R1b

H42

1

14

11, 15

13

29

24

11

13

13

15

12

11

R1b

H43

2

14

11, 15

13

29

24

11

13

13

15

12

12

R1b

H44

1

14

11, 15

13

29

24

11

13

13

16

12

11

R1b

H45

1

14

11, 15

13

30

24

11

13

13

15

12

12

R1b

H46

1

14

11, 15

13

30

25

10

13

13

14

12

12

R1b

H47

1

14

11, 15

13

31

23

11

13

13

16

12

12

R1b

H48

1

14

11, 15

14

30

24

10

14

13

15

12

13

R1b

H49

1

14

11, 16

13

29

23

11

13

14

15

12

12

R1b

H50

1

14

12, 13

14

31

24

10

13

13

15

12

12

R1b

H51

1

14

12, 14

12

28

24

10

13

13

15

12

11

R1b

H52

1

14

12, 14

13

28

23

11

13

13

15

12

11

R1b

H53

1

14

12, 14

13

29

24

11

13

13

15

12

12

R1b

H54

1

14

12, 14

13

29

25

11

13

13

14

12

11

R1b

H55

1

14

12, 15

13

29

25

10

13

13

15

11

12

R1b

H56

1

14

13, 13

12

28

22

10

11

14

16

10

12

I1a

H57

3

14

13, 14

12

28

22

10

11

13

16

10

11

I1a

H58

1

14

13, 14

12

28

22

10

11

13

16

10

12

I1a

H59

1

14

13, 14

12

28

22

11

11

13

16

10

11

I1a

H60

1

14

13, 14

12

28

22

11

11

13

16

10

12

I1a

H61

1

14

13, 14

12

28

22

11

11

14

16

10

11

I1a

H62

1

14

13, 14

12

28

23

10

11

13

16

10

11

I1a

H63

1

14

13, 14

12

28

23

10

11

14

16

10

12

I1a

H64

1

14

13, 14

12

29

22

10

11

13

16

10

12

I1a

H65

1

14

13, 16

13

29

23

10

11

12

14

9

12

J2a1b

H66

1

14

14, 14

12

28

22

10

11

13

16

10

12

I1a

H67

1

14

14, 14

12

28

23

10

11

13

16

10

11

I1a

H68

1

14

14, 15

12

28

22

10

11

14

16

10

12

I1a

H69

1

14

14, 15

13

30

24

11

14

13

15

12

12

R1b

H70

1

14

14, 15

13

31

25

11

13

13

15

12

12

R1b

H71

1

14

14, 16

13

30

24

10

11

12

15

8

12

J2a1b

H72

1

14

15, 15

14

32

23

10

12

14

14

10

11

I1b

H73

1

14

16, 16

11

27

23

10

13

13

16

10

11

L

H74

1

14

9, 14

13

29

23

11

13

13

15

12

11

R1b

H75

1

15

11, 13

13

29

23

10

13

14

15

12

12

R1b

H76

2

15

11, 14

13

29

23

11

13

13

15

12

11

R1b

H77

1

15

11, 14

13

29

24

11

13

12

14

12

14

R1b

H78

1

15

11, 14

13

29

24

12

13

13

15

12

12

R1b

H79

1

15

11, 14

14

30

24

11

13

14

15

12

11

R1b

H80

1

15

11, 14

14

31

27

11

13

13

15

12

12

R1b

H81

1

15

12, 16

13

29

24

9

11

12

14

9

12

J2a1k

H82

3

15

13, 14

12

28

22

10

11

13

15

10

11

I1a

H83

1

15

13, 14

12

28

22

10

11

13

16

10

11

I1a

H84

1

15

13, 14

12

28

22

10

11

14

16

10

11

I1a

H85

1

15

13, 16

13

29

24

9

11

12

14

9

11

J2a1k

H86

1

15

13, 18

12

29

24

10

11

14

16

10

11

G2

H87

1

15

14, 14

12

28

22

11

11

13

16

10

11

I1a

H88

1

15

14, 14

12

29

22

10

11

14

16

10

12

I1a

H89

1

15

14, 16

12

28

24

10

11

12

15

9

12

J2b

H90

1

15

15, 16

13

30

23

10

12

15

14

10

11

I1b2a

H91

1

15

15, 16

13

31

23

10

12

13

14

10

12

I1b2a

H92

1

15

15, 17

12

28

23

11

12

14

15

10

11

I1b2a

H93

1

15

16, 16

13

31

23

10

12

13

14

10

12

I1b2a

H94

1

15

16, 18

12

27

24

10

11

12

14

9

11

J2b

H95

1

15

17, 17

14

31

22

10

12

14

14

10

11

I1b2a

H96

1

16

11, 14

13

29

23

10

13

13

15

12

11

R1b

H97

1

16

11, 15

12

28

21

11

11

14

16

10

11

G2

H98

1

16

11, 16

14

30

23

11

13

13

15

12

12

R1b

H99

1

16

12, 13

12

28

22

10

11

13

16

10

11

I1a

H100

1

16

14, 14

12

29

23

10

12

15

15

10

10

I1b2a

H101

1

16

14, 17

12

28

22

10

10

14

16

10

12

G2

H102

1

16

14, 17

13

30

24

9

11

12

14

9

12

J2a1k

H103

1

16

14.2, 16

14

30

23

10

12

13

15

10

11

I1b2a

H104

1

16

15, 15

13

29

23

11

12

13

14

10

11

I1b2a

H105

1

17

12, 12

13

28

23

10

11

13

15

10

12

I1b1b

 

NOTE:  It is sometimes difficult to distinguish G2 from I1a using this 12-marker set, and there were two haplotypes (H84 and H86) that could possibly be either G2 or I1a.  One was called as G2 and one as I1a.  Haplogroup predictions for haplotypes where the Bayesian probability was less than 90% (but all were greater than 60%) are shown in red and italics