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Kathe Richards (Wendish DNA): GEDmatch certainly is daunting at first glance. It offers very little explanation. The best thing …
Ron Roggenburk (Wendish DNA): Thank you all for responding so quickly and with so much detail. It will take me some time to diges…
Richard Gruetzner… (Wendish DNA): (continuation of previous response) Not present Southeast…
Richard Gruetzner… (Wendish DNA): Hello Ron, Kathe’s comments and suggestions are spot on. I also recommend uploading your results …
Kathe Richards (Wendish DNA): Good Morning, Ronald! It is certainly possible that some or many of your ancestors are Wendish or …
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« Spirit of the Wends | Home | A Museum to Tell the … »

Wendish DNA

Tuesday 10 October 2017 at 01:15 am.

I have been tracing my family for some years, including the Roggenbucks. (Roggenburk is a variant adopted by those Roggenbucks who emigrated to the Cleveland area.)  My great grandfather Albert emigrated from Flötenstein, a small town three quarters of the way along a line from Berlin to Danzig, where many Roggenbucks lived.  Flötenstein was in West Prussia and today is called Koczala in Poland.  Other names in the Roggenbuck line I know of include Mischnick, Kanthak, Spors and Dorau.

I have been tracing my family for some years, including the Roggenbucks. (Roggenburk is a variant adopted by those Roggenbucks who emigrated to the Cleveland area.)  My great grandfather Albert emigrated from Flötenstein, a small town three quarters of the way along a line from Berlin to Danzig, where many Roggenbucks lived.  Flötenstein was in West Prussia and today is called Koczala in Poland.  Other names in the Roggenbuck line I know of include Mischnick, Kanthak, Spors and Dorau.

Roggenbucks were originally found in the 13th Century in the marshes east of Hamburg (Bütlingen), then in the Stralsund (Greifswald) area, but appeared to have moved slowly eastward, usually within 60 miles of the Baltic Sea.  There was never any doubt that I was German.

Recently, however, I took a DNA test which showed surprisingly few German genes —  inasmuch as my maternal grandmother was also German.  Another two of my Roggenburk second cousins — who have no relation to my maternal grandmother — showed no German genes! (My results: 48% Great Britain, 19% Ireland, 11% Eastern Europe, 10% Western Europe, 6% Scandinavia.)  My maternal grandmother's surname was Wuthenow.

So here is a theory:  Perhaps the Roggenbucks are genetically Wendish and not German.  The area occupied by the Wends coincides with the area where Roggenbucks are found. The absorption of the Wendish culture by German culture must make it difficult to determine nowadays who is German and who is Wendish.  Also, I can’t explain why no German genes didn’t get into the pool.  It seems odd that some Roggenbucks did not marry ethnic Germans, but maybe living in Wendish villages favored marrying other Wends.

Ancestry.com has a Beta program to further isolate your origins.  My sister generated the genetic community Poles in Pomerania. This appears to reinforce the notion that perhaps the Roggenbucks are of Slavic origin, not German.

So my questions to you are:

1. Is it likely that my ancestors are really Wendish and not German?

2. If Germanization of the Roggenbucks occurred early on, would the Wend roots likely be unknown to recent generations, and

3. Among the historic documents you know, is there any evidence that some Wendish people adopted the name Roggenbuck in response to German pressure to do so?

I remain grateful for any response you can offer.

five comments

Kathe Richards

Good Morning, Ronald!

It is certainly possible that some or many of your ancestors are Wendish or possibly Polish. They were in the right place at the right time! And the Wends did intermarry with Germans. It’s a possibility worth exploring.

In general, the predictions made by the major genealogical services regarding ancestry should be taken with a grain of salt. They all use different formulas to make their predictions, and the predictions are based upon current populations, which could vary significantly from the genetic profiles of the people who were there in the past. Ancestry classifies Wends as Eastern European, which could cover a lot of ground. Ancestry’s recent “genetic communities” tool, by the way, has been well accepted by the genetic genealogy community. The persons in your sister’s match list could give you some clues.

Probably the best way of evaluating your results would be to look at your matches. The origins of your matches are likely to give a better picture of your history than the heritage estimates from the testing companies.

Some Wends used German names since from time to time it was politically and socially useful to do so. And it is quite possible that recent kin would not know of a Wendish heritage. I thought I was German until my mother told me the story of the Wends and the migration to Texas. Many Central Texas Wends still think they are German.

Have you considered uploading your DNA data to GEDmatch? This is a volunteer run site that offers tools to do genetic analysis that are not available on Ancestry, including a chromosome browser, which allows people to compare specific chromosomes and segments and find the probable ancestors from which these were inherited. Another GEDmatch advantage is the data comes from people who have tested at other companies and tend to be more interested in the genealogical aspects of DNA. You can find out quite a bit about it by googling “GEDmatch”. The International Society of Genetic Genealogists” (ISOGG) site is particularly helpful. To register and upload data, go to GEDmatch.com. If you are interested, I can send instructions, though the instructions on the site are quite good. My kit number there is T831490. (I am 50 Polish) is also on GEDmatch. One or the other might produce a match with your data.)

The Roggenbuck name is not familiar to me. That would not be surprising since most of my research has been in Texas. There are major communities of Wends in Texas and Australia in addition to the original community that continues to exist in Upper and Lower Lusatia. Maybe Weldon and Richard are more familiar with the name.

I hope this information has been useful. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me!


Kathe Richards - 10/10/2017 01:22
Richard Gruetzner

Hello Ron,

Kathe’s comments and suggestions are spot on. I also recommend uploading your results to GEDMatch. Not only can it be useful to you but it expands the database and thus can help everybody in the genealogy research field.

Now to expand on Kathe’s comments and give a little history along the way.

If you go back in time, say to around the 7th or 8th century AD, and look at the peoples of what in the late 20th century was called East Germany or the German Democratic Republic, you will find the “Wends” as the major population group in that area. They occupied everything from the shores of the Baltic to south of modern day Saxony. They comprised numerous tribes of Slavic peoples, all of which were later called Wends by the Germans. There really isn’t a single “Wendish” people. That term today is used by us to refer to the remnants of these old Slavic tribes that had managed to avoid being completely assimilated by the Germanic forces in the and retained the use of the “Wendish” language. Today, these are found in the Lusatian areas of the eastern portions of modern Germany. The big German push to remove the Wends was initiated in the late ninth and early tenth century. This was actually referred to as the Wendish Crusade and was a bitterly fought battle, especially in the area along the Baltic coast where the Roggenbucks originated. The Wends were either killed, driven-off or Christianized by the Germans who then settled the area, inter-married over time and “Germanized” the area.

Another thing we must keep in mind is that the area called Germany has been a cross-roads for population migrations and marching armies since time began. The Goths marched across East Germany from Scandinavia down to Rome in order to sack Rome. They left DNA all along the way, some of them likely dropping off and settling in the area as well. The Vikings settled along the Baltic coast in trading outposts and in raiding expeditions. (More about them later.) In more recent times, French and Russian armies marched back and forth across Germany. You get the picture. So there has always been intermingling of DNA from various groups and no “pure” strain has ever existed.

Now back to DNA test results. As Kathe mentioned, the results reported by the various testing companies vary due to the way they define the result areas, the number of people taking their brand of test and the samples of current populations they use as a standard.

I have tested with Ancestry and with Family Tree and the results as reported are not identical. In actual fact, the percentages reported have actually changed over time as their databases have grown! I started my testing with Ancestry, which offered only the one test and then later took a full range of tests with Family Tree who offer more specific tests in addition to a similar test as offered by Ancestry. Let me compare the results from the two tests:

Ancestry Family Tree
West European 23
East European 47
Scandinavia 11
Great Britain 11 Not present
Ireland 3% Not present
Finland/NW Russia

Richard Gruetzner - 10/10/2017 01:25
Richard Gruetzner

(continuation of previous response)
Not present Southeast European 4
East European 10
Southeast European 7%

Now to speak about my family tree as documented by genealogical research: Of the 16 2x-great grandparents, 6 are proven Wendish, 9 are German and 1 is believed to be English. Of the 9 Germans, 3 are from the Mecklenburg-Schwerin area close to the Baltic shore and could very well be “Germanized” Wends. The other Germans came from non-Wendish areas of Germany.

So how does one make sense of this mish-mash of percentages and groupings? I have found it useful to delve deeper into the DNA that that given by the test from Ancestry. I took the Family tree tests for the Y-DNA and the one for X-DNA. These tests give you what is called your haplogroup. This is the genetic branch that you are descended from. Alphabetic letters are assigned to the haplogroups by the genetic age of the groups. Older lines have letters closer to A, newer lines are farther from A. The lines are the results of genetic mutations which create new variations and these various groups can be tracked via genetic migration patterns showing where groups went and the “races” that developed out of those lines over the eons.

Note that tracking the male lines is simplified by the fact that the Y chromosome always comes from the father, thus your surname line can be tracked easily. A female’s line will be mixes of X chromosomes that may have come from the mother or the father and thus can get much more genetically diffused. The haplogroup assigned by Family Tree to my Y chromosome family is I-M253 with I being the major group and M253 being a sub-group assigned to my specific variation group. The I-M253 haplogroup has been determined to be what is named the “Norman” line by Family Tree. This refers to the Normans who settled in the coastal areas of modern day France known as Normandy. So does this make me French? No. The original Normans were actually Vikings who settled and established trading posts there, just as they did all over Europe (including the Baltic coast), Russia, the Ukraine, England, Ireland, Spain, Greenland…….you get the picture. Note that the earlier Gothic tribes were also predecessors of some Viking populations and also settled in or traveled through eastern portions of Germany. Note also that there is some genetic evidence that this I-haplogroup line actually migrated up through France and then up into Scandinavia to become the Vikings and then the returning Viking descendants evolved into the M253 sub-haplogroup which came to be called the Norman group. So did my Gruetzner ancestor who was Wendish (I actually have the birth records that record the Wendish form of the Gruetzner name before it was Germanized into Gruetzner) come from a Viking/Norman trader or raider or was he part of the group of French settlers that Germans moved into pagan Wendish lands to help settle Christians in the area following the crusade? Anyhow, the Gruetzner family was/became Wendish as is shown by birth records.

Now I have a question. In your message, you state that you showed few German genes and your second cousins showed no German genes. How do you say this? None of the tests break out “German” genes but rather show only West European or East European and so forth. What were the percentages shown by the cousins?

To your original question: German or Wendish? My recommendation would be to have a Y chromosome test done at Family Tree to determine your haplogroup. This may give you a better idea of your paternal line. From the results you wrote, I suspect you are very possibly going to have Viking related origins unless you have some other ancestors from England and Ireland that aren’t mentioned. The Baltic coast has very mixed groupings due to the Wends, Germans, Vikings, other Slavic groups all existing in the area at one time or another.

The other thought I leave with you is one from Dr. Wilson of Rice University who once said that it would be more useful to determine race groupings by language than blood.

Richard Gruetzner

Richard Gruetzner - 10/10/2017 01:29
Ron Roggenburk

Thank you all for responding so quickly and with so much detail. It will take me some time to digest and research the suggestions you provided. Meanwhile, I can add some more information I did not include in my first email.

I have used the reference to German genes to refer to Ancestry’s “Europe West” category, making the assumption that in my case the German component is dominant.

I have submitted my Ancestry results to GEDmatch. My Kit Number is A149282. I must say I am at a loss to glean much information from the results.

I also submitted my Ancestry results to MyHeritage which showed the following ethnicities: English 77.0; and East European 23.0%.

In the meantime, I shall consider taking the FamilyTree Y-DNA test.

Thanks again.

Ron Roggenburk

Ron Roggenburk - 10/10/2017 01:31
Kathe Richards

GEDmatch certainly is daunting at first glance. It offers very little explanation. The best thing to do is experiment and examine the results. The ones I have found most useful and might interest you are:

The one-to-many report that lists all of your matches in order of closeness. It also estimates the generations separating the match and provides links to the one-to-many report for each match, for both autosomal and X data. The entries that are marked GED or WIKI have links to user submitted GEDCOM data or genealogy Wiki pages. Newer entries are shown in shades of green depending upon recency. The pedigree page for the people who show GED are often good sources for the locations of these people’s ancestors.

One-to-one is useful to see exactly where your results match another selected person. This verifies the amount of DNA shared and may give hints as to which of your lines the person is probably in. This would depend upon your having some idea of what chunks of DNA you inherited from whom. I have used comparisons between my siblings and cousins and myself to try to figure out which parts of each chromosome most likely can be assigned to a particular grandparent. (Visual phasing)

The two admixture options might be of interest to you. The heritage admixture function allows you to pick from a list of types of ethnicity estimators. There is not much detail given about each of them, but more detail is available on other web sites — in particular I think the ISOGG wiki has some good information on this. This is like the Ancestry ethnicity estimates but based on different reference groups and population studies. The admixture oracles with specific populations will allow you to choose the population you wish to be compared to. If you leave the box blank, you can select from a list. I selected “sorb” which is the same as “wend” and got a quite interesting profile.

I have used the triangulation utilities in the Tier 1 group to identify groups of matches who match me and also each other. These triangulation groups are likely to share a common ancestral couple. The amount of shared DNA can provide a (very) rough estimate of how distant the matches are. Of course, to figure out which specific ancestral couple the group matches requires old fashioned genealogical research.

The ultimate point, of course, is to meet your goal or answer your question. If you are looking for paternal ethnicity, the Y test might be helpful. But since Y DNA is inherited only along the male line, what you will be seeing are people who are in that direct line — in other words people who are direct male descendants of your father, grandfather ggrandfather, etc.. Unfortunately, it depends upon there being people who have tested who are in your line. People are generally much less likely to have done the Y test, so you may get no matches from it.

It’s possible you already know all this, but I’m hoping that at least some of it is helpful! And if you find that some of what I’ve written is faulty or inconsistent, do let me know! This is complicated stuff, and I’m still learning!

Best wishes,


Kathe Richards - 10/10/2017 17:06

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