Are you interested in having your DNA tested as well?
Further ReadingTo learn more about Genealogy, Genetics and DNA, a good place to start is the Frequently Asked Questions section of the "Family Tree DNA" website. Of special interest are the articles: "Understanding your 12 markers" and "Understanding Your mtDNA(PLUS) Results". Bookmarks to helpful websites can be found in the Links and Resources section of my website. You can also find a bibliography of books, CD-Roms, magazines and research papers (some of which are referred to in the detail section).
The Genographic Project
I have submitted DNA samples to The National Geographic's Genographic Project for testing, requesting a Y-chromosone DNA test, which determines the ethnic and geographic origins of one's male ancestors, ie transmitted by a father to his sons
It took a long time to receive the results. Perhaps they got totally confused by my mixed heritage. After many weeks, the following posting appeared on the National Geographic result website:
Additional Testing Required
Your sample has completed the DNA analysis phase of testing. However, during quality control your initial results failed to clearly indicate your haplogroup. We must perform additional testing to accurately determine your deep ancestral lineage. This is not uncommon, but will delay the posting of your results by two to three weeks.
We appreciate your patience. Please also note that this delay is a sign of the Project's success in increasing the diversity of samples in our database.
If we find that there is a problem at any point during the processing of your sample, you will receive an updated message when you log in to check your status.
My Adam: More questions: Liguistic, Tribal and DNA
In the mean time, I have many more questions. Many more questions than answers. My family tree being virtually complete on paper (back to Europe and Asia), my male ancestry (or Y-chromosome DNA line) should look like this. All except Claas Jansz (Europe), and my son Nicolas Todd Janse van Rensburg (Canada), were born in South Africa:
Who was Claas Jansz? You can read more about our progenitor "Claas Jansz" and the early Janse van Rensburg history elsewhere. However, many questions have not been answered yet - and may never be answered. Where in Europe did Claas Jansz come from? Where did he live before migrating to the Cape? We speculate that Claas Jansz came from Rensburg - or a place with a similar name. (Van Rensburg means "from Rensburg"). Is that Rijnsburg, Netherlands; Rendsburg, Germany or somewhere else? (And there are several cities and villages in Europe with similar names!)
In official documents of the time, various spellings were used for Claas's adopted surname "Rensburg", including Rensburg, Reensburg, Rhuynsburgh, Rynsburg, Rinsburg, Rijnsburg, Rensenbur, Renseburg. Using the "sound-like" functionality of the Legacy Geo-Location module, I found the following place names which sound like "Rensburg":
I found no cities or towns sounding like "Rensburg" in either Denmark or the Netherlands through this method. (Some of these place names are shown on the map below. As you can see, they are not that far apart).
Rendsburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany is now generally assumed to be Claas Jansz’ place of origin, but this has never been proven. Linguistically, the "new" surname is important. From a sound point of view, the pronunciation of Rendsburg in Schleswig-Holstein is almost intact in our surname Van Rensburg (minus the [d]), in contrast with the sound-change that would have had to have happened to change the [ei] in Rijnsburg to [ê] in Ren(d)sburg. Rendsburg can be considered a possibility as Claas Jansz’ place of origin.
It is known that "Jansz" is not a surname, but a patronym. In other words, Claas most probably did not have a surname - in accordance with tradition in many parts of northern Europe at the time. We can only conclude that Claas’ father's first name was "Jan". Claas was Jan’s son, or in Dutch "Jan se zoon", Jansz.
But who were his parents? Looking at the names of Claas’ children, we can speculate about the names of his parents. His father's full name was probably Johannes, because that is the name of the eldest son of Claas. In accordance with tradition, his mother's name was probably Cecilia, as Claas’ eldest daughter was named Cecilia. Given that Claas’ second son was named Hendrik, and depending on Claas’ own birth order, his father could have been either Jan Claasen or Jan Hendriksz, while his grandfather would have been named with either Claas or Hendrik as a first name. Similarly, his mother Cecilis’s patronym could have been Hendriksz, Claasen, or something else.
What language did they speak? Danish, Dutch, Frisian, or perhaps German? Does the form of the patronym "Jansz" indicate Dutch descent? Did he spell his name Claas, Claes, or Claus? This is interesting because Claes or Klaes is a Frisian spelling form, Claus or Klaus is Danish or German, while Claas or Klaas is Dutch or German. The inset in the above map (detail of the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein, near Rendsburg) shows where North-Frisian is spoken around the Rendsburg area in Schleswig-Holstein today. Rendsburg itself is not included in this North-Frisian language speaking area. Six signatures of Claas Jansz are currently available. The image below is from André van Rensburg, with thanks. Numbering the signatures below as 1-3 in the left column, and 4-6 in the right column, number 2 looks like Claes, and number 5 looks like Claus. So not much luck with this approach. (Uwe Jacobsen, a researcher from Kiel, Germany reads the signatures as: 3x Clas Jans (left side), Clas Jans, Clas Janßen, Clas Jansen (right side)).
Later Van Rensburg generations used different froms of Jansz, such as Jansze, Janse and Jansen, almost interchangeably it seems. Claas himself was sometimes referred to as Nikolaus, and his first grandson was baptised as Nicolaus. However, the variations in his signatures and the uncertainty about the spelling of Rensburg make a conclusive answer about his descent difficult.
We know that Denmark, Norway, and Sweden was settled by the Vikings many centuries ago. Norway's first settlers arrived around 11,000 years ago with the end of the ice age. The Viking era was roughly between AD 793 and 1263. Was our Claas Jansz descended from the Vikings?
The Schleswig-Holstein area has been in dispute between Germany and Denmark for centuries. Between 1460 and 1867, Rendsburg was mostly under Danish control, and it was a garrison town. Another interesting historical/political fact has to do with Norway's status at this time. In 1380, Norway was absorbed into a union with Denmark that lasted more than 400 years. Denmark ceded Norway to Sweden in 1814. This history is important for the rest of this DNA story.
Claas Jansz was born about 1661, right in the middle of the 400-year period of Danish control over Rendsburg, Schleswig-Holstein and over Norway. If Claas was indeed from Rendsburg, it is conceivable (but not proven) that he (or his parents) could have moved there from another part of Denmark, including from Norway.
About the city of Rendsburg, we know that it underwent a lot of (mostly military) construction at the end of the 17th century (late 1600s). So there was probably much economic activity at the time - and perhaps many jobs. Why did Claas Jansz, as a middle-aged man, leave Rendsburg at that time to start a new life in a strange, "untamed" place on a different continent? When he got married at the Cape in 1708 he was about 47 years old. Rather old to get married for the fist time in the early 18th century. Was he married before he left Rendsburg - or perhaps somewhere else? Asia perhaps? Did he leave another family behind? If so, what happened to them?
Given Claas Jansz' known history as a soldier and the assumption that he originated from Schleswig-Holstein, it is possible that he took part in the Great Northern War (1700-1721). In this war, Sweden's first campaign was against Denmark-Norway. For this campaign Sweden secured the support of England and the Netherlands, both maritime powers concerned about Denmark's threat. The involvement of the Netherlands in this war in Scandinavia and the Baltic may perhaps have provided Claas Jansz an opportunity to sail to the Cape, and this may be the reason why he landed at the Cape in 1708.
However, with Rendsburg and Rijnsburg genealogists may have been looking in the wrong place all this time. What if "Rensburg" (or something similar) was not the name of a city or town, but the name of a farm! This is a possibility which has not been investigated further yet. We know that Claas left the uniform behind to become a farmer in the Cape almost as soon as what he could. Perhaps he had a farming background in the old country, as a farmer he was quite successful at it in the new country. According to a paper published by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it was common practise for Norwegians to adopt a farm name as a third name.
The Y-Chromosome Results, Finally. Haplogroup "I1a"
Postscript: The Disavantages of Being a Viking.
Unfortunately, not everything about being Scandanavian and Viking is fun, as it turns out. A few months after receiving my DNA results - and completely unrelated to my genealogical research - I underwent a medical procedure in Canada due to an injury sustained after a freak accident at home.
During the treatment and healing process, a rare and very specific affliction was diagnosed, which primarily affects, wait for it, "males of Scandinavian ancestry, particularly those of Viking descent.". A propensity to develop the condition is passed on through families. Though bad news, this diagnosis does seem to point to the validity of the y-DNA test results.
However, this is where privacy issues become a factor with DNA research, and so I will not disclose any details about this condition on this website. People sharing my surname (and therefore ancestry) can contact me in private about this if concerned, but there is no reason to be alarmed. The affliction is not dangerous, often no treatment is necessary, but it may cause discomfort over time. Unfortunately the condition can apparently be exacerbated by the type of injury and surgery I experienced. Oh well, I think I'll have another cold one.
Family Tree DNA
I wanted to dig further, so I requested follow up tests from the laboratory that performs the tests for The National Geographic's Genographic Project, namely Family Tree DNA. I also wanted to know more about my unknown female ancestors.
My Eve: More questions: Liguistic, tribal and DNA.
Actually, I know much less about my female line than the male line above. I don't even know enough to have good questions. My family tree being virtually complete on paper (back to Europe and Asia), my female ancestry (or mtDNA line) should look like this. All except Anna Groothenning (India), were born in South Africa:
Maria BOCK was born 1703, her father was Geringer. Maria herself had an illegitimate son by Nicolaas Bruyns. She later married Thomas Eysman (in 1720). She then married Frans Verkouter (in 1737), and had a daughter Anna Catharina in 1737. She married Arnoldus Vosloo (both of his parents were from mixed descent) in 1756, had a daughter Maria Elisabeth in 1773, and died very poor late 1811. The daughter married Barend Christoffel Spies in 1790, and had a daughter Wilhelmina Margaretha in 1813. She married Adolf Johannes Jonker in 1838, and had a daughter Maria Susanna Elizabeth in 1839. (The ancestry of the JONKERs is shrouded in mystery). She married Nicolaas Lourens Breytenbach, and had a daughter Cornelia Christina between 1861 an 1864. I know very little about any of these women, except that they all died young. Childbirth seems to have been a common cause.
Cornelia Christina Breytenbach married Willem Lambert Wright (from Scottish descent) in 1889. (The Wright's very interesting history is published elsewhere on this website). Their daughter Cornelia Christina was born in 1895. Willem Lambert fought in the Anglo Boer War - on the side of the Boers - in spite of his Scottish ancestry. Cornelia Christina Breytenbach and her children (including Cornelia Christina Wright) were interned in a British Concetration camp near Winburg during the ABO.
But who was Anna Groothenning? Currently I know very little about our female progenitor "Anna Groothenning" and her background. This article appeared in the Genealogical magazine "Familia" in 1976, and this article appeared in the same magazine in 2001.
We know that she was a slave, originally from Bengal India, who belonged to the German Hans Casper Geringer, who was rather wealthy. What was her ethnic group and language? I assume (but do not know for sure) that she belonged to the Bengali ethnic group. At this time I can only guess.
I also assume that she was a Muslim, before converting to Christianity and being baptised as an adult. The Muslims has had a very important role in the development of our language, Afrikaans, of course.
The book: Changing Hands (Online at Ancestry24) states: "The freeblack, Anna Groothenning, provided a female link in a partnership of three German frontiersmen. Anna who came from Bengal, was the slave of Hans Caspar Geringer, who applied for loan farms at Jan Witjeskraal and "in de duynen"' in partnership with Christian Bock. In 1709 Geringer manumitted Anna and her children, including one daughter by him, Maria Groothenning, and three children by his partner, Christian Bock. In 1713 Anna married Bock and had two more children. Bock died in 1716 and Geringer took on a new partner, the Swiss, Jacob Marik, by whom Anna also had a son".
Stamouers has a similar history: Christiaan BOK was from Wolfenbütel, North Germany. He was 27 and a soldier when he arrived at the Cape in 1696. He came out with Geringer and they became business partners. He had [...] children with ex-slave Anna van BENGAL also known as Anna GROOTHENNING. She and her child Anna was baptised 1 January 1713 [in Cape Town]. They got married 5 February 1713. Anna Groothenning came as a slave from Bengale and became the slave of the baker Hans Casper Geringer. Geringer had a child out of wedlock with Anna, this child was born in 1703 and was called Maria Groothenning / Maria Bock / Maria van die Kaap. In 1709 Anna Groothenning and her four children Michiel, Maria, Catharina and Johanna were manumitted 27 August 1709 by Geringer. Bok died in 1716. Geringer passed away in 1719. Anna then had an affair with Jacob Marik, and had a son. Marik and Geringer had some legal cases against one another.
The mtDNA Results, Finally. Haplogroup "M*"
Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation
I have also requested free tests for me and my family from the SMGF laboratory. Right now I am awaiting the testing and the results of these more detailed analyses. See below for more information.
I am also interested. How can I can I have my DNA tested?
I have started a surname project for males who share the (Janse(n)) van Rensburg surname, with Family Tree DNA. This will hopefully help to achieve a few things:
I therefore encourage others with a similar surname to exercise this option. People who are interested can choose the laboratory of their choice. However, I do recommend the following options:
For people who do not want to, or cannot spend the money, there is another option available free. Yes free!
I realise that some people may be concerned about privacy issues in relation to DNA tests. I am more concerned about privacy than most, but an satisfied that no-one can find out anything about me through DNA results. Have a look at my results. No bank account details are disclosed, and they do not test your DNA for health conditions or diseases. These tests are done purely for the purposes of genealogy.
More links about DNA (including to search databases) can be found in the links page of my website.
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