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When Wales Was Jewish

Monday, April 02, 2012

Short answer: pre-Roman times.

As is well known, Haplogroup E1b1b1 accounts for approximately 18% to 20% of Ashkenazi and 8.6% to 30% of Sephardic Y-chromosomes. This North African type appears to be one of the major founding lineages of the Jewish population.[i]

In Britain, this quintessential Jewish type (together with J, another telltale sign of Middle Eastern roots) is absent or negligible in many towns and regions but reported in elevated frequencies in Wales (Llanidloes 7%, Llangefni 5%), the Midlands (Southwell, Nottinghamshire 12%, Uttoxeter 8%), Faversham in Kent (9%), Dorchester in the West Country with historic harbors (7%), Midhurst in West Sussex commanding ancient sea-ports (5%)  and the Channel Islands, always an important crossroads of influences (5%).[ii] Bryan Sykes’ survey of paternal clans in England and Wales confirms significant traces of the E haplogroup which he dubs Eshu in southern England (4.9%) and Wales (3.1%).[iii] It reaches its highest point in Britain in Abergele, Wales (nearly 40%), an anomaly that has been attributed to Roman soldiers of Balkan origin but may have alternative and more complex explanations.

See our blog post "Right Church, Wrong Pew," arguing that the footprint of E in Britain is attributable to North African influence, not the descendants of Roman legionnaires from the Balkans.

In 2011, Llangefni  and Wrexham in North Wales became the focus of a call for local men to provide samples of their unusual DNA. A team of scientists lead by Andy Grierson and Robert Johnston from the University of Sheffield hoped to link the migration of men from the Mediterranean to the copper mined at Parys Mountain on Anglesey and on the Great Orme promontory nearby. A preliminary analysis of 500 participants showed 30% of the men carried E1b1b, compared to 1% of men elsewhere in the United Kingdom.[iv]

Significantly, Welsh tradition associates the Iron Age hilltop town on Conwy Mountain known as Castell Caer Seion with a settlement of ancient Jews. This site overlooks Conwy Bay on the north coast of Wales and lies on the ancient road between Prestatyn in Denbighshire and Bangor in Gwynedd opposite Angelsey.  In the Black Book of Caermarthen, the Welsh national bard Taliesin casually remarks in the persona of the battling hero,

When I return from Caer Seon,

From contending with Jews,

I will come to the city of Lleu and Gwidion.[v]

Lleu and Gwidion are the names of two other legendary figures; they are believed to be historical and to have lived in the early centuries of the Common Era or anterior to it.

It is hard to avoid the thought that the hilly area to the west of the town of Conwy, in North Wales was once inhabited by Jews.

[i] A. Nebel et al, "The Y Chromosome Pool of Jews as Part of the Genetic Landscape of the Middle East", American Journal of Human Genetics69.5(2001) 1095–1112. [ii] C. Capelli et al, “A Y Chromosome Census of the British Isles,”  Current Biology 13 (2003) 979–984. [iii] Bryan Sykes, Saxons, Vikings and Celts (Norton:  2007) 206, 290. [iv] “’Extraordinary’ Genetic Make-up of North-east Wales Men,” BBC News North East Wales, article retrieved Jan. 2012 at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-east-wales-14173910. On Dienekes’ Anthropology Blog there is speculation about whether the main sub-clade involved is Balkan or North African E; posts and comments retrieved Jan. 2012 at http://dienekes.blogspot.com/2011/07/eastern-mediterranean-marker-in.html. [v] William F. Skene, The Four Ancient Books of Wales (Edinburgh, 1868, republished 2007 by Forgotten Books) 206.

Stephen Blevins commented on 03-Apr-2012 05:02 AM

My DNA is E1b1b1, my most distant ancestor is William Blevins (Longhunter) from the area you mentioned. My autosomal DNA places my ancestors in the orkney islands of Scotland. I'm convinced that a tribe of Jews migrated from Israel to north to Scandinavia
or Denmark and may have been apart of the invasion by Vikings to Scotland before they were found in Wales as Poweys in the Northern Mountains. Blevins comes from Blethyn meaning little wolf or (Hero) look up Ap Blethyn of Gwynedd.

Belvins Descendant commented on 12-Apr-2012 02:05 PM

I was always told the Blevins came from Wales, but in checking this story out I was unable to verify it, nor could I find any substantiation of the etymology from Bleddyn ("son of wolf"). There is not a single Blevins in the Welsh census records, although
the name is found sparsely in Cheshire, Lancashire and other northern English counties. "Formby, Wales" is actually Formby in Merseyside in Lancashaire. The -dd- element in the Welsh name Bleddyn cannot be twisted into a -v-. So go figure.

Paul commented on 28-Apr-2012 08:46 PM

My mother is a descendant of Henry Cook I of Devon. His ascendants were among the first settlers of Massachusetts and Connecticut. A great Uncle, Lemuel Cook, was the oldest surviving Revolutionary War veteran when he died at 106 years of age. We recently
had my mother's autosomal dna analyzed and found strong population matches from the Balkans (Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Serbia, etc.) - which was very unexpected. There was also prominent representation form Spain and Portugal - not so unexpected. In my own
18 marker test, I had one Jewish III marker, though I can't say from whom. There is no known Judaism on either side. Sounds like your article might be describing the early Cooks. Interesting...

katarina cadieux commented on 13-Dec-2013 07:36 PM

well the language of the Welsh(Cymri)alone is very Hebraic.
here are some examples: Anudon(welsh)/ Aen Adon(hebrew)(without God)
Yni all sy-dda(welsh) / Ani El Saddai(hebrew)(I am almighty God)
Llai iachu yngwyddd achau ni(welsh) / Loa yichei neged acheinu(hebrew) ("Let him not live before our brethren")
An annos(welsh)/ ain ones(hebrew)(None did compel)
the amazing to me is how similar the words look and sound, the english is the meaning for both welsh and hebrew, their meaning are the same.
the welsh are a very ancient people even their name for themselves in their language has Crimea roots which many hebrew tribes migrated to.

Dafydd Gwilym W. Gates commented on 17-Feb-2014 11:58 AM

Katarina Cadieux 13 Dec 2013 wrote some examples to show how Welsh had parralels in Hebrew. I'm a first language Welsh speaker and couldn't make sense of the Welsh examples, I'm afraid, It wasn't Welsh.
So sorry, Dafydd

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