Are we Romans

In earlier columns I have queried whether we might be descended from Vikings or Normans, but just maybe we are descended from Romans!

I have finally received the male line results (after many months) of my second DNA test - this one carried out by BritainsDNA and much more detailed than the first one from a different company. I had the full works - my mother line (mtDNA) (which will not be applicable to any of you, of course); my male line (YDNA); and the test for redhead. Regarding the latter test, it seems I am a weak carrier of the gene strain.

However, the YDNA results reveal that I (and thus also my still living male direct paternal relations (two sons, three (of four) grandsons, one brother) am R1b-S28 (the S28 is a subgroup of S116), but my precise subgroup of S28 does not (yet) match any of the three or four known subgroups of S28. Now R1b is one of the most common haplogroups in Western Europe (and also found further afield in China, India and Russia), but S116 is smaller and associated with the Beaker People. However, S28 is smaller still and closely associated with the Germanic peoples of the Alpine regions of what is now Switzerland, North Italy and southern Germany (Bavaria)! Now this is presumably long before the Bavarian Raitts - but maybe not - they were there in the 13 and 1400s - but there are clearly shades of Rhaetia in here (see under Other Raitt Locations at bottom of page) - and what was that bit about the name Raitt being of German origin and meaning curly red hair?!  The Beaker People came to the UK thousands of years ago, of course, but it seems that the Amesbury Archer who dates from around 2300 BC and who died and was buried near Stonehenge in a rich grave (and was possibly a tourist there) came from the Alps and is also S28! 

So, assuming that DNA doesn’t lie (and the S28 was only “discovered” recently) and assuming I (and thus your Raitt male ancestors) am really “related” to earlier Raitts, then it might be that the old Victorian writers may have been right in some of their half-remembered thinking that the Raitts came from Germany along with Keith (Earl Marischal) to the Mearns (Kincardineshire) in Scotland. We know that Thomas Raitt was the King’s shield bearer and he was given lands in Dunnottar and the Uras around 1370 (40th year of David II’s reign) - but he is mentioned quite a bit earlier than this. So did they (Raitts and Keiths) arrive in the Mearns first from what is now Germany and later make their way up to Nairn as soldiers or mercenaries - and because there was still kith and kin in the Mearns is this why Archibald de Rait chose to flee there from Nairn around 1405 after killing the Thane of Cawdor?

Something else to throw into the mix is the following. It has now recently been established that at least one of the Roman legions in Britain was made up of men with the S28 subgroup - now this is a thousand years earlier than Thomas Raitt and Keith and Gervase de Rait etc - so do we originate from Roman soldiers? Are we the offspring of a legionnaire (who may have been a Germanic conscript from the Alpine area or who may have actually originated in Italy) who may have gazed down upon some young Scots lass from his watchtower on Hadrian’s Wall and subsequently wooed her and stayed on in Scotland after the Romans withdrew from Britain about 410 - or maybe we are the result of a bit of raping and pillaging that Roman soldiers undoubtedly carried out in their brief interlude in North East Scotland?

According the Alistair Moffat’s recent book The British: a Genetic Journey, five major DNA markers are likely to represent at least a partial sense of the genetic stamp of the Roman legions. The first of these almost certainly began to arrive in Britain much earlier, around 3000 BC and perhaps even earlier. Known as Alpine, R1b-S28 is found at a frequency of 13% in Italy, 6.5% in England and Wales and 4.3% in Scotland. It’s frequency makes it a probable candidate as a legacy of the legions arriving in AD 43 and departing in AD 410, particularly in those areas which the Romans occupied.

Coelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt

Sunday 9 February 2014