Explorations in Sanders Family DNA Research



1.  Sanders of Randolph and Montgomery, Y-DNA Group 17

2.  Sanders of Randolph, Chatham, and Goochland, Y-DNA Group 2

3.  Other Sanders groups at the Sanders/Saunders Y-DNA project

4.  Do Y-DNA tests reveal three Lewis Sanders were living in Fairfax County, Virginia. in the early 1700s?

5.  Types of DNA testing 

6. Sanders haplogroup chart by Charley Sanders

7.  History of the Sanders haplogroup lineage, an article by Charley Sanders

Sanders of Randolph and Montgomery, Y-DNA Group 17

The Sanders/Saunders project at FTDNA was begun in the spring of 2004 by Justin M. Sanders, a professor at the University of South Alabama. Though Justin and I knew from family tradition that we were related, we did not have a good paper trail at the inception of the project on our lines of descent from a common ancestor.

At that time, I was still accepting the work of a researcher in the 1990s who assumed that my great-grandfather Isaac Sanders (1817, Randolph County, N.C.-after 1880, Prentiss County, Mississippi) was the son of Francis Sanders (1782, Montgomery County, N.C.-about 1860, Hempstead County, Arkansas). Although I accepted the previous research, which turned out to be incorrect in the end, all I knew for certain at that time was that my great grandfather Isaac was born about 1817 in North Carolina and died in Booneville, Mississippi, after 1880. Justin knew from family tradition that his line went back to a Benjamin Sanders who was born in the mid-1760s in Anson County, North Carolina and who died about 1849 in Jackson County, Alabama.

We also knew that my grandfather, Jesse Sanders (1845, Tishomingo County, Mississipp-1903, Henderson County, Texas), and Justin’s great-great grandfather, Levi Lindsey Sanders (1837, Jackson County, Alabama-1917, Van Zandt County, Texas), lived about ten miles apart in Texas for over thirty years and considered each other relatives and often visited each other. In 2004, what we did not have through family tradition was the exact nature of their kinship-whether first or second cousin or uncle and nephew or some other relationship.

We also had quite a bit of information from other family traditions and genealogical research that the Sanders of Jackson County, Alabama; Randolph County, North Carolina; and Montgomery County, North Carolina, were all related in some way, but no one had placed all of this material together. With the help of volunteers who agreed to submit to Y-DNA testing, the FamilyTree Y-DNA Sanders/Saunders project eventually gave us the material we needed to construct a family tree that, with the addition of expanded research paper records, explains how the main branches of our Sanders family were interconnected.

The first discovery from the 2004 test was that Justin and I were closely related. We differed by only one marker on the 37-marker test, and that was one of the fast-mutating markers. Eventually, we expanded the test to 67 markers, and there again, there was only that one marker difference.  Later, as other participants took the Y-DNA test and matched me and Justin, I discovered that the marker by which I differed from Justin was one in which I differed from everyone else in our Sanders line and that the mutation was a recent one, occurring in my father’s generation or in mine. This proved that the relationship between Justin’s ancestor Levi Lindsey and my ancestor Jesse was considerably closer than anyone had realized previously.

Elsewhere at this Web site, I have recounted the story of how I came to believe, based on both the paper trail and DNA evidence, that Justin’s third great grandfather, Benjamin Sanders (1804-1866), was also the brother of my great grandfather Isaac Sanders (1817-after 1880). As the scope of the DNA testing expanded with more volunteers from different branches of our Sanders family, we were able to confirm the paper trail that was developed through our new discoveries in documentary research.

I will briefly give a chronological account of the DNA tests in the years after 2004. I don’t intend to represent this as inclusive of all the testing that was done but only as a highlight of the progress through the years.

2004. A 12 marker tests revealed that a descendant of Francis Sanders (1755-1820), brother of the Reverend Moses Sanders, had a 12-marker match to my ancestor Isaac Sanders (1817-1880) and Justin’s ancestor Benjamin (1804-1866). This was the beginning of what we later called Y-DNA group 17.  We now have over forty individuals in Group 17 who have joined the  Sanders/Saunders project and who have agreed to a public listing of their test results at the  Sanders/Saunders  project page, and there are several hundred other members who have tested and been assigned to other Sanders groups or remain ungrouped because they have yet to match another individual.

2006. In the spring, an upgrade to 37 markers was done to the test of the descendant of Francis (1755-1820) and the participant did not match the descendants of Benjamin and Isaac. In March 2008, the DNA lab re-analyzed the test and concluded that there was a match after all. There appears to be a pretty solid paper trail from Francis, brother of the Reverend Moses, to the participant, and therefore the March 2008 reassessment was gratifying. Further information about the paper trail can be found in an article written by Jim Sanders for a series of Jefferson County, Illinois, family histories. Based on this example of an error in evaluating Y-DNA results, Justin Sanders, administrator of the Sanders DNA project, suggested caution in accepting DNA tests that run counter to solid paper trails. This result from 2008 also suggests that a single Y-DNA test may not always be relevant in isolation, without confirmatory evidence from other tests or a paper trail.

2006. In July a test established that Benjamin Sanders (1766-1849), who lived in Montgomery and Randolph counties in North Carolina and later in Jackson County, Alabama, belongs in the same Y-DNA Group 17 as a descendant of William Aaron Saunders (1735-1782) of Montgomery County, North Carolina. This result offers further evidence that Benjamin is the same person as the "Ben Saunders" mentioned in the letter written in the 1890s by Thomas Bailey Saunders (1816-1902), a descendant of William Aaron. That letter is described in more detail elsewhere at this Web site. 

2006. In August, a test established that Francis Sanders (1782-about 1860) of Randolph County, North Carolina, and Jackson County, Alabama, was also from the same Sanders line, Y-DNA Group 17, as Benjamin Sanders (1766-1849) and William Aaron Saunders (1735-1783).  My paper trail research leads me to believe that Francis and Benjamin were brothers.

2006. In November 2006, a test revealed that James Sanders (about 1740-about 1810) of Spartanburg County, South Carolina, belongs to Y-DNA Group 17.  According to family tradition passed down among his descendants, James was of Scottish ancestry. James appears to have had a brother in Spartanburg named Patrick (about 1734-about 1810) and a sister named Sarah, and these siblings may have been the children of William and Susannah Sanders who first appear in the tax list of 1764 in Anson County, North Carolina. Many of James' relatives moved to Spartanburg, South Carolina and later to Rutherford County, North Carolina.

2007. October 2007 and February 2008 tests provided evidence that descendants of John and David Sanders, sons of the Reverend Moses Sanders (1741-1817), match the descendants of William Aaron and Isaac Saunders. A test in January 2007 revealed that descendants of Lewis Sanders, Jr. (1724-1792), of Fairfax County, Virginia, belong in this group.

2008. A test completed in the spring revealed that Jesse Sanders (1773-1848) of Moore County, North Carolina, is related to Y-DNA Group 17. In March, there was a match with a descendant of Jesse Holloway (1808, Kentucky-1883, Lawrence County, Tennessee). The actual descent here probably goes back to Jesse Sanders (1780, Montgomery County, N.C.-1839, Lawrence County, Tennessee). In December 2008 there was a match with a descendant of William Davis (1801, England-1869, Davis County, Utah).

2010. A descendant of John W. Sanders (1812-1869) of Fannin County, Georgia is added to Group 17.

2012. A descendant of William Sanders (about 1797-1870, of Caswell County, North Carolina and Cumberland County, Illinois is added to Group 17. This participant was a descendant of William's son Avis Sanders (1820-after 1880). 

2012.  In April a test revealed that descendants of George W. Sanders (1785—1852) of Winston County, Mississippi are in Group 17.

2013. In December 2013 a descendant of Henry Lafayette Sanders (1854, Winston County, Mississippi-1893, Texas) of Burnet CountyTexas, was added to Group 17.

2015. In February a descendant of John A. Sanders (1849, North Carolina-1929) of Polk County, Arkansas, matched the others in Group 17.

2015. In October a test added to our group the descendants of Elijah Sanders (1801-about 1850) and John Randall Sanders (about 1804-about 1847), two brothers who married two sisters, Catherine and Phoebe Eaton. Their families moved to Jack County, Texas, in the 1850s.  

2015. In the fall, there the addition of my first cousin, one removed, a descendant of my grandfather Jesse Sanders (1846-1903) of Murchison, Texas, Jesse being a grandson of Benjamin Sanders of Jackson County, Alabama.

2016. A test in January 2016 confirmed a match to Group 17 of descendants of Francis F. Sanders (1801-1875) of Barry County, Missouri. Francis married Hester Ledbetter.

2016. In May 2016 there was a test of a mystery branch of our Sanders family in Comanche County, Oklahoma. The participant was adopted and had no information about his birth parents.  Autosomal testing and newly discovered paper documentation confirmed that the participant was a descendant of Stephen C. Sanders (1812-1894) of Washington County, Arkansas. Stephen was a son of Nimrod Saunders and a grandson of William Aaron Saunders.

2016. Another branch of the family was discovered in September 2016 with a match with a descendant of Aaron Sanders (1813-1881) who died in Winn Parish, Louisiana.

2016. Also in September, another mystery branch was revealed with the test of a descendant of Ira Lee Maltba (1884-1962) of Gaston County, North Carolina. The identity of Ira Lee's father is unknown, but that individual may have been a son of Aaron Riley Saunders (1822-1887) of Wilkes and Caldwell Counties in North Carolina.  Aaron Riley Saunders was in turn a son of Charles Sanders of Wilkes County, but there is no paper trail connecting Charles to the other Sanders in Group 17.

2017. A test in February provided a match of Group 17 with a descendant of Jeremiah Sanders (1821, Virginia--1896, Missouri). A test in April 2017 provided another match with a descendant of William Aaron Sanders (1735, Virginia-1782, Montgomery County, North Carolina) through his son Nimrod and grandson Stephen C. Sanders (1812, North Carolina-1894, Arkansas). A test in July 2017 found a match of the great grandson of Crispin (or Christian) Sanders (1827, Pittsylvania County, Virginia-1923, Dallas County, Arkansas) with Group 17. A test in December 2017 found a match with a descendant of Hiram Sanders (about 1800, Georgia-about 1859, Union County, Illinois).

2018. A test in February 2018 found a match with another descendant of Henry Lafayette Sanders (1854, Winston County, Mississippi-1893, Texas). A test in August 2018 confirmed that Peter Sanders (1781, North Carolina-1864, Wright County, Missouri) belongs to our group. A test in September 2018 matched Group 17 with the descendants of Thomas Edward Ledbetter (1889-1969) of Cabarrus County, North Carolina.

2019. A test in February was of another descendant of Moses Martin Sanders (1803, Georgia-1878, Utah), the grandson of the Reverend Moses Sanders (1743, Virginia-1817, Georgia). In May 2019, a test confirmed a descent of the participant from Jesse Sanders (1780, Montgomery County, N.C.-1839, Lawrence County, Tennessee.  Jesse was a grandson of Isaac Saunders, brother of the Reverend Moses Sanders. In September there was a match with a descendant of Aaron Sanders (1772, Caswell County, North Carolina-1854, Caswell County, North Carolina).

2020. A test in December matched a descendant of John Franklin Sanders (1859, North Carolina-1925, Marion County, Tennessee, with our Group 17.

2021. A test in April placed John Calvin Sanders (1825, Tennessee—1889, Ouachita Parish, Louisiana) in our group. A test in May confirmed that descendants of Daniel Sanders (1717, Virginia-1764, Fairfax County, Virginia) are also in Group 17. A Big-Y test in July confirmed the 2007 test of another participant that placed Lewis Sanders Jr. (1724-1793) in this group.

The preceding list is not intended to be a complete listing of all tests in our Group 17. In addition to possible inadvertent omissions, it does not include, for example, all tests that were upgraded over the years nor some matches that were inconclusive. Still, it appears clear that, so far as I can tell, our Sanders family has probably had more participants in Y-DNA testing than any other Sanders family.

Conclusions from Y-DNA tests of the Y-DNA Group 17

At the time of the initial Y-DNA tests of descendants of the Sanders of Randolph and Montgomery in 2004, the paper trail was still somewhat fluid and discoveries concerning the paper trail unfolded in the following years in tandem with revelations from the DNA tests. In 2004, we knew basically from family tradition and initial documentation that the following men who lived in Randolph and Montgomery counties in the later part of the 18th century and/or the early 19th century were connected in some way:

Moses Sanders, William Aaron Saunders, Isaac Saunders, and Francis Sanders, presumably all brothers, according to family tradition. There were varying traditions and research on descent from these people to the present, some based on facts, and some based on dubious sources. Although there was a family tradition that this Moses Sanders was a Baptist preacher, there was no consensus about whether he was the same person as the Baptist preacher who died in Georgia in 1817.

Joseph Sanders, who died in Randolph County in 1803.

Francis Sanders, who was born in 1782 and who married Joseph’s daughter Rachel Sanders in 1804.

Benjamin Sanders, who was born in the 1760 and who died in Jackson County, Alabama in the 1840s.

Isaac Sanders, who was born in 1817 in Randolph County.

What we did not have in 2004 was a solid paper trail on how these men were related or the identities of their fathers. The first DNA tests in 2004 gave us a monumental advance with the revelation that Joseph Sanders was not related to Group 17. This was probably the most astonishing Y-DNA discovery in the history of our group. Many of Joseph’s children married children or grandchildren of Isaac Saunders but there was no Y-DNA relationship between these two Sanders men. Without this discovery, which was made possible only by DNA testing, it’s unlikely we would ever have been able to construct an adequate paper trail.  I like to point out, as an example of the perils of assuming a DNA connection based on geographical proximity, that when I was a child, my family lived near door to an entirely unrelated Sanders family.

In the years between 2004 and 2022, there have been many advances in constructing a paper trail, and through Big-Y tests we have been able to establish greater precision in the identification of haplogroups in the branches of the family.

Haplogroups, in the broadest sense, are tribes within the human family, linked by a common ancestor. Men, of course, have one Y and one X chromosome, whereas women have two X chromosomes. Although the Y chromosome is very stable, random mutation do occur and these mutations (called SNPs) are passed down to one’s descendants. In time, those descendants have mutations and therefore new subgroups develop from the original haplogroup. One of the most ancient and common haplogroups in Europe is R1b and this is the haplogroup to which our Group 17 belongs. Genetic scientists have identified many branches of this haplogroup but most of them originated well before surnames came into common use. Still, though  thre recent advance of Big-Y DNA testing, we have been able to identify some of the haplogroup branches of our Sanders line.

The oldest branch which can be identified with the Sanders Group 17 is haplogroup FT167504, and the most distant ancestor that we know from the paper trail and tradition is Lewis Sanders (born about 1680, presumably in Scotland). We don’t know the exact date FT167504 originated, but this haplogroup is definitely over three hundred years old and it probably did not originate with Lewis himself but with one of his ancestors. Charley Sanders, who is also a descendant of haplogroup FT167504, has prepared an analysis of the genetic predecessors of this haplogroup, a chart that provides a summary of this branching from prehistoric times to the period of European colonization, and a chart that delineates the DNA haplogroup branches of the family tree in America. DNA testing alone, of course, cannot identify the names of specific individuals who lived in the past, but our paper trail research has identified many progenitors of the various branches of the family. In the list of progenitors that follows, I will give, if known through Big-Y testing, the name of the haplogroup of any known branch that derives from FT167504.

Sanders Progenitors in  Group  17

The Reverend Moses Sanders. In 2007 a test revealed that the Reverend Moses Sanders who died in 1817 in Georgia was after all, the same person as the Moses Sanders of Montgomery County, North Carolina. A paper trail confirmation of this discovery had been prepared a few years earlier by Elden Hurst but had not been widely disseminated to researchers

Subsequently, tests have been done on descendants of two of the Reverend Moses Sanders’ sons: John Sanders (1787, NC-1848, Tishomingo County, Mississippi) and David Sanders (1775, NC-1815, New Orleans). The participant from John's line was a descendant of John's son, Josiah Hardin Sanders (1829-1863). There have been at least three tests on descendants of David Sanders, one on descendants of David's son William Hamilton Sanders (1805-1836), and two on a descendants of David's son Moses Martin Sanders (1803-1878). One of these tests was a Big Y test, which is the most extensive Y-DNA test.  Haplogroup: FT357996 (confirmed)

Francis Sanders. Four tests have been completed on descendants of the Reverend Moses’ brother Francis Sanders (1755-1820). One participant was descended from Francis’ son Silas Sanders (1785, NC-1836, Jefferson County, Illinois) through Silas' son Theophilus (1814, Tennessee-1894, Colorado). One test was on a descendant of Francis through his son Peter Sanders (1781-1864). Two other tests were on descendants of Francis’s putative sons, Elijah (1800, Georgia-about 1849, Texas) and Hiram (1801, Georgia-1859, Union County, Illinois). Haplogroup: FT357996 (presumed)

William Aaron Saunders. At least three participants are descendants of the Reverend Moses Sanders’ brother, William Aaron Saunders (1735, NC-1783).  One test was on a descendant of William Aaron’s son Nimrod (1780, NC-1860, Alabama) through Nimrod's son Thomas Bailey Saunders. Another test was with a descendant of Thomas Bailey Saunders' brother Stephen C. Sanders (1812-1894) and this test helped resolve the paternity of still another who had been adopted and therefore unaware of the identity of his Sanders father and descent from Stephen C. Sanders until the tests were conducted. Haplogroup: FT357996 (confirmed)

Isaac Saunders (1737-1825). The Reverend Moses Sanders, Francis Sanders, and William Aaron Saunders were brothers of Isaac Saunders.  Four tests have been done on two descendants of Isaac's son Benjamin (1766, NC-1849, Alabama) and these are especially close matches. Two were of descendants of Benjamin's son, Benjamin, Jr. (1804-1866) and two were on descendants of Benjamin's grandson Jesse (1845-1903). Two tests have been done on descendants of the older Isaac's son Francis (1782-about 1860). One was on a descendant of Francis' son John Francis Sanders (1805-1875) and one was on a descendant of Francis' son William Patrick Sanders (1819-about 1865). A test was done in September 2010 on a descendant of Sampson Saunders, son of Jacob, son of Isaac (1737-1825). In January 2014 a test was completed on a descendant of another son of Jacob, Jesse Sanders (1780-1839), who moved to Lawrence County, Tennessee. This descendant was through Jesse's son, also named Jacob. In May 2019 another test was done by another descendant of the line from Jacob through Jesse to Jacob of Lawrence County, Tennessee. Another test on a descendant of the Hollowell family of Lawrence County, Tennessee, suggests that the Hollowell line descends from Jacob Sanders’ son Jesse (more about his below).  Haplogroup: FT357996 (confirmed0

Lewis Sanders (1724, Stafford County, Virginia-1793, Fairfax County, Virginia) There have been two tests of descendants of Lewis through his son Benjamin (1760, Fairfax County, Virginia-1835, Brooke County, Virginia. One descends from Benjamin’s grandson John (1812, Virginia-1875, Martin County, Indiana) and one descends from Benjamin’s grandson James (1829, Tuscarawas County, Ohio-1913, Martin County, Indiana). These tests reveal a close relationship to descendants in Caswell and Rockingham Counties in North Carolina of a James Sanders (about 1730, Virginia-about 1786, Caswell County, North Carolina).  This James of Caswell may have been a brother to Lewis (1724-1793), though we have no paper trail (more on this below). Haplogroup: FTA1999 (confirmed)

John W. Sanders (1812-1869). John W. lived in Polk County, Tennessee and in Gilmer and Fannin County, Georgia. The test is a Big-Y test on a descendant of John's son, Jesse Berry Sanders (1850-1930). There is no paper trail from John W. back to any of the four brothers or to Lewis Sanders. Research as of fall 2021 indicates that John was a son of a James Sanders (about 1760-about 1839) of Macon County, North Carolina, and this James may have been a son of the James (1730-1786) who was the progenitor of Smith, Taylor, Aaron, and Mason of Caswell County, North Carolina. Haplogroup: FTA1999 (confirmed)

Jesse Sanders. (1775, NC-1848, Moore County, North Carolina). Two tests have been completed on descendants of Jesse Sanders of Moore County. Both were the more complete Big-Y test, and these tests helped establish that Jesse’s branch of the family does not descend from Isaac Saunders of Randolph County, North Carolina, nor from the father of Isaac, but there is still a possibility that Jesse descends from Isaac’s putative uncle William Sanders of Spartanburg, South Carolina (more on this in my article on Jesse Sanders, elsewhere at this Web site). Haplogroup FT167504, then 201099. (confirmed)

James Sanders (1740, Virginia-1810, Spartanburg, South Carolina). James appears to be a son of William Sanders (about 1713, Virginia-after 1773, Spartanburg, S.C.). William may have been a son of Lewis (1680-1727) of Fairfax County, Virginia.  We have one test of a confirmed descendant of James, and another test of a descendant of another James Sanders (1766, North Carolina-1820, Madison County, Kentucky) who may or may not be a son of James of Spartanburg. Haplogroup: FT167504 (confirmed)

Daniel Sanders (about 1717, Stafford Co., Virginia-1764, Fairfax Co., Virginia). Strong and reliable family tradition assert that Daniel was the son of a Lewis Sanders who was born about 1680 in Scotland and who died in Fairfax County, Virginia. A Big Y test was completed in 2021 of one of his descendants. Haplogroup: FT167504 (confirmed)

Robert Sanders (1801, NC-1882, Izzard County, Arkansas). Robert was born in North Carolina. He married Mary Haney about 1849 in Mississippi and the first record of him is the 1850 census. He and his family moved to Izard County, Arkansas, in the late 1850s, and he died there in 1882. Two DNA tests have been done on his descendants and one was a Big-Y test which established that Robert belongs with the Caswell branch of the Sanders family.  We have no direct paper tail but autosomal matches indicate a connection to Taylor Sanders of Caswell County, North Carolina, and Jackson County, Tennessee. Robert may be a son of Taylor. Haplogroup: FTA1999 (confirmed)

William Sanders (about 1797, Caswell County, NC-1870, Cumberland County, Illinois). This participant was a descendant of William's son Avis Sanders (1820-after 1880). We have no paper trail back to the four brothers or to Lewis Sanders on this connection.  William seems to have been related to Mason, Taylor, and Aaron Sanders of Caswell County, North Carolina and research in 2021 indicates he is very likely a son of Mason Sanders of Caswell. A Big-Y test, also in 2021 places him squarely in the Caswell branch of the family with the descendants of James Sanders (1730-1786). Haplogroup FTA1999 (confirmed)

George W. Sanders (1785, Virginia--1852, Winston County, Mississippi). George may have been a son of Isaac Sanders of Leake County, Mississippi, and this Isaac may have been a son of Isaac Saunders (1737-1825) of Randolph County.  Two tests have been done, and one of these tests was a Big-Y test. Haplogroup: FT-357996 (confirmed)

Henry Lafayette Sanders (born about 1854, death date unknown but after 1893, presumably in Texas). Henry Lafayette Sanders is first documented in his 1878 marriage to Mollie Melvina Slaughter in Burnet County, Texas in 1878. One possibility is that he may be the same person as Henry L. Sanders, the son of Thomas Jefferson Sanders of Winston County, Mississippi.  This confirmation would be on better ground if we had census records on the Henry Lafayette Sanders in Texas and an established year of birth, but we do not. In addition to the Y-DNA test, an autosomal DNA test has confirmed a close cousin relationship between a Sanders descendant of Thomas Jefferson Sanders and a Sanders descendant of Henry Lafayette.  The first Y-DNA was of a descendant of Henry Lafayette's son Oscar; the second test was from a descendant of Henry's son William Lindsay Sanders. Once of these tests was a Big-Y test. One autosomal test was of a female descendant of Henry's son William Lindsay Sanders. Haplogroup FT357996 (confirmed)

John A. Sanders (1849, North Carolina-1929, Polk County, Arkansas). The parents of John are unknown. The earliest known record of him is his marriage in 1871 in McNairy County, Tennessee, to Flora Ann Woods. In 1880 he was in Hardeman County, Tennessee. There are numerous Web postings that he was the son of Joseph Sanders of Pasquotank County, North Carolina, but this is almost certainly not true because Joseph's son, though born in the same year as John of Polk County, appears to have died between 1850 and 1860. (1 test on this line.)  Haplogroup: unknown

Elijah Sanders (about 1801, Tennessee-about 1847, Arkansas). His parents are unknown. Family tradition is that his wife was Catherine "Katy" Eaton and that she was the sister of Phoebe Eaton who married John Randall Sanders, Elijah's brother. Elijah died before 1850 and his widow and the children moved to Texas. Catherine Eaton was killed November 26, 1860 in Jack County, Texas, when Indians raided the area. The Y-DNA participant is a descendant of Elijah's son John Randall Sanders who married Phoebe Clark. Elijah and his brother John seem to have had some connection with and may have been sons of Francis Sanders, brother of the Reverend Moses Sanders. Most of these Sanders lived at one time in Greene County, Arkansas. Haplogroup: unknown

Francis F. Sanders (1801, Kentucky-1875, Missouri). His parents are unknown. He is believed to have died in Barry County, Missouri. According to the death certificate of one of his daughters, his wife's name was Hester "Hettie" Ledbetter. At least nine Y-DNA tests have been done on this branch of the family, some at the Big Y level. Francis appears to be closely related to George W. Sanders (1769-1845, Lowndes County, Mississippi). George is probably the grandfather of John Calvin Sanders (1825-1880, Ouachita Parish, Louisiana) whose male Sanders descendants are in haplogroup  FT168431(confirmed). Haplogroup for Francis: FT168431, then FT365196 (confirmed)

Aaron Sanders (1813, Tennessee-1881, Winn County, Louisiana). Aaron's father was Isaac Sanders who died in Leake County, Mississippi. This test is at the Big Y level. Aaron had a twin brother named Moses and several other brothers and sisters but although there is one Big-Y test of one of Aaron’s descendants, more Y-DNA tests are needed to establish that some of the other sons attributed to Isaac are really his. Haplogroup: FT57996 (confirmed)

Jeremiah Sanders (1821, Virginia-1896, Callaway County, Missouri. His birthplace in Virginia has been established from census data but the county of birth and the name of his parents are unknown. The Y-DNA test suggest he is closely related to the descendants of William Sanders who died in 1815 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. Haplogroup: 309353 (confirmed)

Joshua Sanders (about 1799, Pittsylvania County, Virginia--1854, Marshall County, Mississippi).  Joshua appears almost certainly to have been the father of Crispin A. Sanders (1827-1923), who is the great grandfather of the Y-DNA participant. The father of Joshua is not known, but Joshua may have been a brother to a Jeremiah Sanders (1800, Pittsylvania County, Virginia--about 1845, Rutherford County, Tennessee) and to Isaac D. Sanders (1792, Pittsylvania County, Virginia--1839, Rutherford County, Tennessee). All three--Joshua, Jeremiah, and Isaac--were in Rutherford County in the late 1830s. These men may be sons of Jesse Saunders of Pittsylvania who was a son of William Saunders who died in 1815 in Pittsylvania. A descendant of Jeremiah has a 12 marker Y-DNA test match to our Sanders group but we need more markers to make certain that Jeremiah belongs in this Sanders line. Haplogroup: unknown, presumed FT309353 (confirmed)

William Saunders (about 1740-1815, Pittsylvania County, Virginia). There are two tests of descendants of William through different sons of William's great grandson, Nathaniel B. Saunders, Jr. One test was done in July 2019 and one in July 2015. There is also a test of a descendant of William's son Francis and  three tests of descendants of two other putative sons. There are two more tests of individuals who descend either from William directly or from his putative father, Thomas Sanders of Fairfax, for a total of eight tests in all for this branch of the family. Haplogroup: FT309353 (confirmed)

Hiram Sanders (about 1800 Georgia-about 1859, Union County, Illinois). The test participant descends from Hiram's son Archibald McDaniel Sanders. This test was in December 2017. Hiram may be a son of Francis Sanders, brother of the Reverend Moses Sanders but there is no paper trail. Haplogroup: unknown, presumed FT357996

Peter Sanders (1781, North Carolina-1864, Wright County, Missouri). The participant was a descendant of Peter's son John Archibald Sanders through John Archibald's son Levi Sanders who was born in 1835 in Illinois. This test was completed in August 2018. The paper trail is that Peter was a son of Francis Sanders, brother of the Reverend Moses Sanders. Haplogroup: unknown, presumed FT357996

Aaron Sanders (1772-1854, Caswell County, North Carolina). This test in August 2019 establishes that Aaron is part of the Sanders of Randolph and Montgomery group. Aaron appears to have some connection to Smith Sanders, Mason Sanders, and Taylor Sanders of Caswell or Rockingham counties. The participant descends through Aaron's son, Lewis Calvin Sanders. Haplogroup: unknown, presumed FTA1999

William Thomas “Tom” Sanders (1871, Erath County, Texas-1957, McLennan County, Texas).  I have included this progenitor, though we do not yet have a Y-DNA participant at FTDNA. My grandfather, Jesse Sanders, married in 1871 in Erath County and my father said that Jesse had relatives there, but we have never been able to identity who those relatives may have been. The father of William T. Sanders was probably one of them, and there is a tradition in the participant’s family that the father of William Thomas was named William, too, but there are no paper records regarding this William. The participant’s test was done at Ancestry.com in 2010. Haplogroup: unknown, presumed FT357996

Anomalous matches with no Sanders surname in YDNA Group 17

Jesse Holloway (1808, KY-1883, Lawrence County, Tennessee). With this YDNA test, a presumed descendant of Jesse Holloway is a match to the Sanders of Randolph and Montgomery. We don't have enough documentation at the current time to tell whether the line of descent goes back to Jesse Holloway and if he was a biological Sanders or if one of his presumed descendants was actually fathered by a Sanders. These Holloways were close associates of the descendants of Jesse Sanders (1780, NC-1839, Lawrence County, Tennessee). Jesse was the son of Jacob Saunders and a grandson of Isaac, brother of the Reverend Moses Sanders. A Holloway descendant matches on 67 out of 67 markers with a descendant of Jesse Sanders and Jesse may very well have been the ancestor of the Holloway who took the test.  Haplogroup: unknown, presumed FT357996

Another anomalous match is with a descendant of William Davis and Elizabeth Bishop who were living in Utah in the 1850s not far from Moses Martin Sanders, grandson of the Reverend Moses Sanders. There is no paper trail, and it is possible that the geographical proximity is a coincidence and the common ancestor may actually have lived centuries ago. Haplogroup: FT26442 (confirmed)

A third similar match with no known Sanders ancestor is the September 2016 test of a descendant of Ira Lee Maltba (1884-1962). As mentioned previously, Ira Lee’s Maltba’s father is unknown and he assumed his mother's maiden name. There was a Sanders family living in the vicinity but we do not know if that Sanders family was related to the Sanders of Randolph and Montgomery. We only know that Ira Lee was related to Group 17. Haplogroup: unknown, presumed FT357996.

James Herbert Bougher (1914-1994). He was born in Manitoba, Canada, and the test results from his grandson who was the participant lead us to believe the Sanders ancestor may be very distant from the Fairfax Sanders descendants. This line may go back to Samuel Cole Saunders (about 1770-after 1830) whose birthplace is unknown but who died in Ontario, Canada. Or, future Big-Y tests may establish that this line is not a genetic Sanders line at all. This test was in August 2018. Haplogroup: FT26442 (confirmed)

Thomas Edward Ledbetter (1889--1969) of Cabarrus County, North Carolina. This test was in September 2018. We do not have a paper trail on how Thomas Ledbetter connects to our Sanders family, but there were Sanders from the Group 17 line living in Cabarrus County in the 1890s. Haplogroup: unknown, presumed FT357996.

There are two tests of individuals born in the 1950s in Virginia who were adopted and who know nothing of their Sanders ancestors. 

In 2019 and 2020, there were numerous Y-DNA tests within our Sanders line that were upgraded to the Big Y test. One advantage of the big Y test is that the mutations (called SNPs) do not ordinarily back mutate or converge as can sometimes happen with the 12,25,37, or 111 marker tests; therefore, it is possible to determine with some precision which other participants share a mutation and to arrange the mutations in groups (called haplogroups). Although it cannot determine parentage directly if there is no solid paper trail, the big Y test can effectively rule out parentage, assuming enough participants have taken the tests to establish a pattern.


Sanders of Randolph, Chatham, and Goochland, Y-DNA Group 2  

This group is genetically distinct from Group 17 in the male Y-DNA line, but there was substantial intermarriage between the two groups. Testing done in the first years of the FTDNA project revealed that that the following progenitors in Group 2 had a common Sanders ancestor:

Joseph Sanders                         1755, NC--1803, Randolph County, North Carolina

William Sanders                        1740, NC--1790, Chatham County, North Carolina

We have no paper trail that indicates how Joseph and William were related. It is possible they were brothers as their descendants have a close match, and Randolph and Chatham are adjoining counties.  Many descendants of Joseph Sanders intermarried into the Sanders line of the four brothers (Aaron, Moses, Isaac, and Francis) of YDNA Group 17. For example, five of the seven children of Joseph Sanders married children or grandchildren of Isaac Saunders (1737-1825) of Group 17. There have been numerous DNA tests of descendants of William Saunders and two tests of descendants of Joseph, one through Joseph's son George, and one through Joseph's son, Joseph, Jr.

After the early tests that showed a match between Joseph of Randolph and William of Chatham, subsequent tests in March 2017 found that descendants of John W. Sanders (1858, Rome, Floyd County, Georgia--1915, Washington County, Indiana) belong to the Randolph/Chatham group. John W. Sanders was probably a great grandson of William of Chatham but we have no certain paper trail. His parents were probably Joseph Sanders and Permelia Bone, and his grandparents were probably Jonathan Sanders and Lucy Adair. Jonathan may have been a son of either Jesse or Joseph Sanders, sons of William of Chatham.

A test in February 2017 shows a match of descendants of Joseph of Randolph and William of Chatham to a participant who descends from John Saunders (1764-1848) and Elizabeth Hancock of Goochland County, Virginia. This is a promising development, but John's parents are unknown. The participant descends through John's son, John, Jr., (1764-1848) who was a Revolutionary War veteran. The descent is then through the younger John's son Jesse and Jesse's son John Anderson Sanders who died in Gallia County, Ohio in 1905. This best was upgraded to the Big-Y test in 2021.

Another test shows that descendants of William Saul Sanders (1893, King William County, Virginia-1983, Maryland) belong to the Sanders of Randolph, Chatham, and Goochland line. William Saul Sanders appears to be a descendant of Charles Saunders who was born in 1821 in Virginia, dying about 1875 in King William County, Virginia.

A test in 2021 suggests a connection between Group 2 and Emanuel Saunders (1791-1870, Devonshire, England).

Big-Y testing completed in the year 2021 places John of Goochland and William of Chatham descendants in haplogroup FTB41175, which derives from FT1633. We are hoping to eventually have a Big-Y test for a descendant of Joseph Sanders of Randolph.


Other  Sanders Groups at the Sanders/Saunders Y-DNA Project

So far, we have discussed Y-DNA Group 17 (Sanders of Randolph and Montgomery) and Y-DNA Group 2 (Sanders of Randolph, Chatham, and Goochland). These are the Sanders lines in my own ancestry and therefore of primary concern to me. The FTDNA project has also identified through Y-DNA testing several other lines, chiefly in the American South. In all, we have about forty different Sanders groups. Among the largest or most often cited in genealogical literature are the following:

Y-DNA Group 14.  The earliest identified progenitor of this group is John of Nansemond County, Virginia (1625-about 1706). His family is mentioned in John Bennett Boddie’s six volume work Historical Southern Families. Another progenitor in this group is Joel Sanders (about 1720-1782) who married Charity Hollowell. Joel and his wife were Quakers. Another progenitor in this group is the American Revolutionary war patriot Henry Sanders (1751-1834) who married Dica Blake.

Y-DNA Group 39.  This is the group of one of the most famous Sanders progenitors in America, Edward Saunders (1625-1681), who arrived in Virginia on the ship “Safety” in the year 1635. His family tree is traced by Elizabeth Blair Stubbs in the book Early Settlers of Alabama, first published in 1899.

Y-DNA Group 35. This is also one of the famous Sanders families in America, the line of James and William Saunders of Loudoun County who married in the 1730s the sisters Sarah and Elizabeth Gunnell. This is the line of Governor Jared Young Sanders (1869-1944) of Louisiana and of senator and governor Alvin Saunders of Nebraska (1817-1899). Alvin Saunders’ daughter married the son of President Benjamin Harrison.

Group 20.  This is one of the few groups that appears to have a non-European ancestry. The progenitor here is John W. Saunders (about 1800-about 1885) of Tishomingo County, Mississippi.  The haplogroup is C-M216, which is often associated with American Indians.

 Group 15.  This is the group of the line of Sanders discussed in Ralph Allan Sanders’ book Sanders: A Thousand Year History. (2017). Ralph Sanders was assisted by his sisters Carole Sanders and Peggy Sanders van der Heide. The late Ralph Sanders (1941-2021) was a descendant of Nathaniel Sanders, an immigrant who died in 1731 in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. This is also the group of the American diplomat George Nicholas Sanders (1812-1873).

Group 10. This group goes back to Tobias Saunders, an immigrant from Buckinghamshire who died in 1695 in Rhode Island.

Group 19. This group appears to go back to two brothers named Samuel (born about 1734) and Joseph who are believed to have migrated to North Carolina from Scotland. Other ancestors in this group are Miles Sanders who married Rachel Curtiss and who died in Macon County, North Carolina, and Lemuel Sanders who died about 1795 in Lincoln County, North Carolina. Despite many online family trees to the contrary, this group does not descend from John Sanders of Nansemond, Virginia.

Group 24. This group appears to be descended from a William Sanders who died in 1803 in Robertson County, Tennessee.

Group 6.  This goes back to a Sanderson family that arrived in Massachusetts in the 1600s.

Group 5. There are two known progenitors of this group. One is a Thomas Sanders who married a Mary Perry in Bute County, North Carolina.  The other is a William Sanders who died in 1811 in Pendleton County, South Carolina.  Thomas and William may have been brothers.

Although a new group has not yet been created, we also know that the descendants of James Saunders (about 1665-about 1717) and Sarah Scrimshire of New Kent County, Virginia, are a separate group.

--Gary B. Sanders, February 2022 (The original article was in February 2014; revisions in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021)


Do Y-DNA tests reveal three Lewis Sanders were living in Fairfax County, Virginia, in the early 1700s?

Big-Y DNA tests completed in the summer of 2021 necessitate a review of our prior conclusions about the Sanders family who lived in Fairfax, Virginia in the early 1700s. Previously, while there were several anomalies, it is possible to develop a scenario by which all the Sanders belonging to our FTDNA Group 17 were descendants of Lewis Sanders (born about 1680) and his wife Nellie O’Daniel. 

These tests were done on descendants of the following progenitors:

 Lewis Sanders (about 1724, Stafford County, Virginia-about 1791, Fairfax, Va.)

James Sanders (about 1730, Virginia-about 1786, Caswell County, N.C.)

John W. Sanders (about 1810, Tennessee-about 1869, Fannin Co., Georgia)

For reasons that I have explained elsewhere, I believe John W. Sanders is most likely a grandson of James Sanders of Caswell. Therefore, there are only two men whose parentage we need to determine: James of Caswell (1730) and Lewis of Fairfax (1724)

The confusion arises because the new tests place all three progenitors in haplogroup FTA1999 and there is an additional SNP also attached to it, FTA2037. Both of these are downstream from haplogroup FT167504 which is the haplogroup from which our Sanders in FTDNA Group 17 derives. Although it is not yet settled how often a new SNP (a kind of mutation) develops, it is known that new SNP mutations are fairly rare. One estimate is that on the average we could expect one every seventy to eighty years. Mutations, of course, are random, and it is therefore possible that one could occur every generation in a row for several generations. It would be extremely rare, however, for two new mutations to occur in one individual.

We know that James (1730) and Lewis (1724) have two SNPs that do not occur in their parental haplogroup of FT167504. Therefore, if they are brothers, as we assume, then their father must have had both of these extra SNPs when he was born, including one that he inherited from his father, and one that occurred at his birth. It is highly unlikely that their father was born with two new extra SNPs, so we can conclude that their grandfather provided one extra SNP to the ancestral 167504 and their father provided the other one. But this wreaks havoc with our previous chronology.

Our paper trail in Stafford (later Fairfax) County suggests that the father of Lewis (1724) was another Lewis who acquired land in Fairfax in 1728. This Lewis was probably the father of James of Caswell, too, if we go by the Big-Y evidence.

The paper trail from Lewis of the 1728 land acquisition to his son Lewis who acquired land near his father in 1749 is quite good. I do not see any reason to question the documentation that leads us to the conclusion, but if anyone else has an alternative theory, I try to keep an open mind.

So, who was the Lewis of the 1728 land deal, the father of Lewis (1724) and James (1730)?

In the past, other researchers and I have always concluded that he was obviously the same person as Lewis (1680) who married Nellie O’Daniel and who was the father of Daniel Sanders of Fairfax.  Daniel was born about 1717 and died in 1764.  There is a very substantial family tradition that is supported by a very old family Bible record that Daniel was the son of a Lewis Sanders who was born about 1680, came to America about 1706, married Nellie O’Daniel, and fathered a son named Daniel. We have Big-Y DNA evidence that the descendants of Daniel Sanders are in haplogroup FT167504. They do not have the two SNPs (FTA1999, FTA2037) that descendants of Lewis of Fairfax (1724) and James of Caswell (1730) have. Therefore, Lewis, the father of the two brothers cannot also be the same person as Lewis, father of Daniel Sanders.

Let us look again at some of the evidence for a Lewis Sanders in Stafford or Fairfax in the early part of the eighteenth century.This is basically what we have in the period before 1730:

In 1716, a Lewis Sanders (or possibly, a Lewis Sanderson) is recorded in Stafford County, from which Fairfax was later created, as a witness to the will of John West.

1721. There is a reference to a Sanders whose first name is uncertain but may be Lewis.  This is in Prince William County and Lewis is listed as a chain carrier for surveyor James Thomas.

1724. A Lewis Sanders is mentioned in a deed of William Gowen of Stafford County as “my well-beloved friend, Lewis Sanders, of the County of Stafford.” Lewis was given power of attorney to act on behalf of William Gowen. Stafford County Deed Book 1, page 125.

In 1728, a Lewis Sanders receives a lease of land from George Mason.  From Jim Sanders 2009 work on the Sanders of Fairfax. In 1750 this property is identified as a 100-acre lease obtained in 1728 from George Mason. FHL Fische noting “Surveys of Fairfax.”  Page 27.

 So far as I and other researchers can tell, these are the only references to a Lewis Sanders before the 1730s. There is therefore no indication of more than one Lewis Sanders who is of age in Stafford County. It is possible, of course, that someone could live a life with little or no legal intervention and never appear in land or legal records. It is even possible there could have been two or more individuals above the age of twenty-one and named Lewis Sanders in the county with neither of them appearing in records, though this is less likely.

Nevertheless, as Jim Sanders said, “We do not find the designation ‘Lewis Sr or Jr’ between 1716 and 1749 (1749 Grant to Lewis Jr). Meaning, only one Lewis. From 1749 until June 1759, we notice these designations frequently in the Court Records.  Meaning, two Lewises.” On the other land, there are indications from the land records of the 1740s that probably refer to the younger Lewis (1724) rather than the older one of the 1728 land lease from George Mason, even though the junior and senior designations are not used. And there are also a few references to a Lewis Sanders in the 1730s that do not mention any designation of a junior or a senior.

In 1750 Lewis, Sr., transferred the property back to the Mason family. In 1749, Lewis Sanders, Jr., acquired land very near or adjacent to the land of the 1728 grant.  From Jim Sanders’ 2009 work on the Sanders of Fairfax:

Daniel Sanders and Lewis Sanders, probably Senior, of Prince William County, are Chain carriers for an August 1739 warrant and December Survey for Samuel Stone. The property is on the Popes Head Run and the Waters of Accotinct and is adjacent to Col. George Mason’s plantation and the Ox Road.  It is also adjacent to the 1749 Fairfax Grant to Lewis Sanders Jr.Surveyor James Thomas. Abstracts of VA’s Northern Neck Warrants and Surveys, Volume III.

We have so far established that that Lewis, Jr. (1724) had a father named Lewis who acquired land from George Mason in 1728. We have established that Daniel Sanders had a father named Lewis (1680). The Big-Y DNA tests indicates that their respective fathers must be different men because one of these men named Lewis Sanders (father of Lewis, born 1724) had two SNP mutations that the other Lewis (father of Daniel, born 1717) did not have. I do not see any other way to explain this discrepancy other than to assume two adult individuals named Lewis living in Stafford County in the 1720s.

We know the father of Lewis (born about 1724) was still alive in 1749 because he transferred his 1728 land grant back to the Mason family. Throughout the 1750s, records refer to a Lewis, Sr., and Lewis, Jr., so the father must have been alive until about 1760 or later. There seems to be a good paper trail of land ownership between Lewis of the 1728 land grant and and his son Lewis, Jr. (1724-1793).

If we assume that all the records of the 1730s and later refer to these two Lewis Sanders (the one of the 1728 land grant and his son, born 1724), how do we explain where Lewis (1680, father of Daniel) was living, assuming he was still alive? One possibility is that he died between the 1724 will of William Gowan and the 1728 grant of land by George Mason to the other Lewis Sanders. If he had still been alive in 1728, presumably one of the two Lewis Sanders would have been given the senior or junior designation. Junior and senior, of course, in those days did not necessarily mean father and son, just that one man was older than the other.

The 1749 List of Tithables of the Truro Parish compiled by the Reverend Charles Green has only one Lewis Sanders mentioned but there is one Sanders on the list whose given name is not given. Perhaps this unknown Sanders is the younger Lewis.

To continue this scenario, here are the putative children of the early Lewis (1680)

William, born about 1713, died after 1773

Francis, born about 1715, died after 1760

Daniel, born about 1717, died 1764

Isaac, born about 1720 died after 1744

George, born about 1722, died after 1774

Of these, Daniel is almost certainly the son of this Lewis who married Nellie O’Daniel. Francis is very probably a son. The father of the others is far less certain but still a possibility. The wife of this Lewis Sanders may have lived much longer than her husband, and she may have pretty much raised the children by herself.  She may be the elderly Eleanor Sanders for whom another Lewis Sanders received church funds in Fairfax for her support in 1771. We previously assumed the 1771 Eleanor was the mother of the Lewis who is referenced in the 1771 document, but she may have been a penniless great aunt.

On the other hand, it is also possible the Lewis who married Nellie O’Daniel may have survived well into the 1730s and that his absence from legal or land records was due to his non-involvement in land acquisitions or legal actions. Many records from this time are missing. In 1745 a Lewis Sanders was mentioned as exempt from paying taxes in the Truro Parish Vestry Minutes. Could this be the Lewis who was supposedly born in 1680 and who married Eleanor O’Daniel? If so, he was probably exempt from paying taxes because of illness, and he may have died shortly thereafter.

The other Lewis, the one of the 1728 land lease, appears to have died after 1760 because most of the references after that year appear to refer to his son, the Lewis who was born about 1724.  Toward the end of the century, once again, there are references to a Lewis, Jr., and a Lewis, Sr., but neither of these are likely to be a reference to the one of the 1728 land grant.

The only two sons of the Lewis of the 1728 land grant that can be proposed, if not confirmed, by the Big-Y-tests are these:

 Lewis (about 1724--1793)

James (about 1730—about 1786)

For this Lewis to have acquired land in 1728, he must have been at least in his early twenties, and I think a date of about 1703 or 1704 for his birth year would be appropriate. It is possible that he was born in Scotland and did not even come to America until he was of age in the mid-1720s. Maybe he lived with the family of his uncle Lewis and his aunt-by-marriage Nellie and her children when he first arrived. This is just speculation, of course.

There are several other family traditions in our Sanders family about a specific individual who was an immigrant ancestor but none appear to be of much help in determining the identity of the various Lewis Sanders in Fairfax. One is the 1890s account of Thomas Bailey Saunders of Texas who mentioned two brothers in Virginia among his ancestors. Whether this rather garbled and fanciful account of the brothers fighting Blackbeard the Pirate is based on an authentic tradition of two immigrant brothers or is a garbled elaboration of a story passed down through generations, is not clear.

Another account of an immigrant ancestor was passed down in the family that descends from Thomas Sanders (ancestor of the Pittsylvania branch of our family) and it relates that Thomas was kidnapped in the early 1700s and brought to Fairfax County, Virginia against his will. Nevertheless, if the tradition that Lewis who married Nellie O’Daniel was an immigrant who came to America in 1706 is correct, it would be reasonable that some of his relatives back in Scotland, hearing of his success and life in America, might have gone to America, also.

In this tentative reconstruction, I would propose an Unknown Sanders, who was born in 1650 or earlier in Scotland.  He probably died in Scotland, also. He had these sons:

Unknown Sanders, born about 1675 who had a son named Lewis, born about 1703 and dying after 1760. This Lewis had sons named Lewis (1724) and James (1730).

Unknown Sanders, born about 1677, who had a son named Thomas, born about 1705. Thomas had a  son named William, born about 1740 and ancestor of the Pittsylvania branch.

Lewis Sanders, born about 1680, who had sons named Daniel, Francis, and several others.

In this scenario, there would be three immigrants to America:

Lewis (1703-1761), came to America before 1728, his first cousin,

Thomas (1705-1772) kidnapped and brought to America as a teenager,

Lewis (1680-1727 came to America about 1706, uncle of the first Lewis and of Thomas

I don’t know whether my tentative scenario fits the reality of the situation. I doubt that the existence of an uncle and nephew, both named Lewis Sanders, living in Stafford County in the 1720s can ever be confirmed. I do think this scenario is compatible the Y-DNA evidence and the paper trail without conflicting with either one. There may well be other scenarios that do the same.

And, one final possibility: FTDNA could have made a mistake, though I don’t think this is likely. I know of one occasion over ten years ago where they released results for a participant and those results caused us a year or more of confusion while we tried to work out an explanation that would be compatible both with our old paper trail and with the new DNA results. In the end, in a surprise move, FTDNA modified their results and the new results were compatible with what our paper trail had always shown.

--Gary B. Sanders
 (this article was written July 2021, revised February 2022)



Types of DNA Testing

We assume that most readers of these articles will have a basic understanding of DNA testing, but a brief introduction may nevertheless be of some benefit to those who are unfamiliar with the terminology.

FamilyTreeDNA  is the sponsor of the Sanders/Saunders Y-DNA project. Information about the Sanders/Saunders project at FTDNA and a chart of the results from current participants can be found at the project page:  Sanders FamilyTreeDNA project.

For a technical perspective on DNA testing, see the article "Welcome to Genetic Testing" at GeneticsAnd.US. The blogs of Roberta Estes and Jim Owston are useful, but one also may find much other helpful information online.

Y-DNA testing is the most useful for genealogy, but it can only be taken by men. Y-DNA is passed down from father to son virtually unchanged just as surnames are. Like all DNA, it does change through mutations, of course, but it usually changes so slowly that even after three or four hundred years, there will probably be a match on 90 per cent or more of tested markers with a distant cousin. This is what makes Y-DNA testing the gold standard in genealogy. 

For example, if a man takes Y-DNA test and he matches at a certain number of markers (companies test anywhere from 12 to hundreds of markers) with another living man who took the same test and if both of them hve the Sanders surname, one can be almost certain that at some point in the past they had a common male ancestor who had the last name of Sanders. The recent development of Big-Y tests has greatly expanded our ability to track the history of different branches within family trees. 

Another type of test is the MTDNA test. This can be taken by men and women. Unlike Y-DNA, it traces ancestry through the female line, that is from one’s mother to her mother, to her mother, etc. Since surnames are not passed down this way, it is a much more limited test than a Y-DNA test and is of little use in genealogy, though it has some anthropological value.

The third type of DNA testing is the autosomal test, called the Family Finder test at FTDNA. This test can be taken by men or women and it is used to determine if one shares genetic material with other living people who may be close cousins or more distant relatives. It is less useful in finding out if the participant is related to someone who lived several generations ago. I know of a recent case in which one of my Sanders cousins, (who didn't know he was a Sanders until he took the test, found his biological parents through using an autosomal test. This test is pretty good in finding one’s 1st, 2nd or 3rd cousins, but has less reliability the farther back in time one goes. 

At the 4th or 5th cousin level, there is only a fifty per cent chance that enough genetic material will even show up to suggest the possibility of a relationship. That's because after you get past our parents and grandparents, what we inherit from any particular ancestor is pretty random (except for Y-DNA, which, as I mentioned previously, doesn't change much in hundreds of years). The major problem with autosomal tests is that unless you already have a solid paper trail on how you are related, you cannot determine with much certainty which surname led to the DNA match when you are dealing with the distant past, such as a hundred or more years ago.

Gary B. Sanders
February 2022


History of the Sanders haplogroup lineage
By Charley Sanders

All of our male Sanders ancestors who migrated to Stafford, Fairfax and Loudoun Counties in Virginia from group 17 of the Sanders/Saunders surname project at Family Tree DNA descend from haplogroup R-FT167504. This haplogroup represents a mutation in the Y-chromosome of our common ancestor, which only males carry in their DNA and is only inherited by their sons. This characteristic of male-only mutations has allowed scientists to trace the genealogy and migratory patterns of entire groups of people across the world. I'd like to discuss the dynamics of these mutations in the Sanders family of Group 17 and back-date our haplogroup lineage to give a sense of history and culture to our genetic ancestors.

There are currently 35 male testers in group 17 who have had advanced testing of their Y-chromosome at the time of the writing of this article. Based on the number of unique nucleotide mutations in their Y-chromosome in addition to our Sanders group mutation, named R-FT167504, I've calculated that our family on average experiences a unique nucleotide mutation, known as a Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP), every other generation or once every 65 years. This number is based on an assumed average of eight generations from the earliest known immigrant ancestor to the tester and an average birth year of the tester around 1950.

When did haplogroup R-FT167504 form?

We have a few clues and a few ways to calculate when this haplogroup formed. Based on the average mutation rate in group 17, and using known common ancestors with known birth dates, FT167504 is an average of 5.44 mutations from present. Using the average of 65 years per mutation and an average birth year for our testers of 1950, we arrive at a date of 1596 for the formation of FT167504. But, does this date make sense?

Three Sanders ancestors give us the best standard we can use to evaluate this date. These Sanders are Francis of Fairfax (1715-1760), Lewis Jr of Fairfax (1723-1792) and James of Caswell (1731-1786). Before extensive Y-DNA testing of the descendants of these three Sanders it was thought that all three of them may have been sons of Lewis of Fairfax, the father of Daniel (1721-1764). Now however, the test results seem to suggest a different relationship.

The descendants of Francis all possess a SNP forming haplogroup R-FT357996 that the tester descending from Daniel does not. This haplogroup is one SNP downstream from R-FT167504. What this means is that, assuming Francis was Daniel's brother, this dates haplogroup FT357996 to the year Francis was born, about 1715.

However, the descendants of James and Lewis Jr share haplogroup R-FTA1999, which is two SNPs downstream from R-FT167504. This poses a problem to the theory that Lewis Jr was the son of Daniel's father Lewis. If Lewis Jr was the brother of Daniel, then he would have had to have been the father of James of Caswell, requiring him to have been born much earlier and to have been born with two SNPs, a result that is statistically improbable.

We are left to conclude that Lewis Jr had a father named Lewis, born about 1703, who was a nephew or cousin of Daniel's father Lewis. This gives a date of 1703 to FTA1999. With the formation dates of FT357996 (one SNP downstream from FT167504) and FTA1999 (two SNPs downstream from FT167504) we are able to estimate (given 65 years per SNP) that R-FT167504 formed between 1573 and 1650. This seems to confirm the date of 1596 we calculated using the average mutations from the testers in group 17 and their average birth year. Rounding up we can assume group 17's haplogroup R-FT167504 formed around 1600 AD.

How old is the Sanders surname for group 17?

Surnames first began to be used in England after the Norman conquest and the introduction of the Doomsday book in 1086 AD. They were used in their system of feudalism for landowning nobility and the gentry class. Feudalism wasn't instituted in Scotland until around 1150 AD. However, most commoners in England didn't begin to use surnames until the 15th century and many Scottish and Welsh commoners didn't use surnames until the 17th century or later.

Where did the Sanders of Group 17 immigrate from and do we come from a noble or a genteel stock? Y-DNA testing and our haplogroup lineage offer clues to these questions.

The best that we have in the form of documentation comes from a Bible in the line of Daniel, son of Lewis of Fairfax, which states that Lewis was born 1680 in Scotland and migrated to Virginia in 1706. There are other family traditions that state that their Sanders immigrant ancestor came from England. What evidence is there from our haplogroup ancestry?

The haplogroup immediately upstream from group 17's haplogroup FT167504 is R-FT26577. This haplogroup is four SNPs upstream from FT167504. That would imply that FT26577 formed around 1340 AD. There are two testers in this group. One tester bears the surname of Davis and traces his Davis surname back to a Richard Davis born 1540 in Herefordshire, England. The other tester has a different surname and forms a haplogroup with Davis one SNP downstream of FT26577. That would date their common ancestor around 1405 AD.

This would imply both that their common ancestor didn't use a surname by 1405 and our common ancestor of 1340 also didn't use a surname. That is why we find three different surname descendants from FT26577 with no evidence for Sanders being the original surname in 1340. This would also imply that our Sanders ancestors were likely neither nobility nor members of the gentry class but of the common people. The evidence seems to suggest that the Sanders surname for group 17 didn't come into usage until the 15th -17th century.

It's interesting to note that there is one tester belonging to haplogroup R-V3286, which is three SNPs upstream from FT26577, that lives in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland. This would date its formation to 1145, exactly around the time surnames began to be used in Scotland among the gentry and nobles. 

King Alexander I of Scotland reigned between 1107 - 1124 AD and was a widely popular king. Alexander was an odd name for a Scottish king because it was an Anglo-Saxon pronunciation and spelling while the Gaelic version, the language spoken in Scotland, was Alasdair. But Alexander's mother was a Saxon princess from Wessex and his name was meant to gain favor with that kingdom. So, I'm sure many parents began naming their children after this king. Sander is a shortened version of "Alexander," and once surname usage began, children of Alexander began to be known as Sanders, while children of Alasdair in Scotland took on the surname of MacAlester.This means the father of our first common ancestor with the surname of Sanders was named Alexander. 

It's said that the Sanders surname first began to be used by Scottish knights returning from the Holy Land after the Third Crusade (1189-1192 AD) under King Richard the Lionheart (1157-1199). Could V3286 represent the original patriarch of our family or perhaps even the son of Alexander? The evidence to date seems to say no. But it's intriguing that this haplogroup dates to precisely the time that surnames began to be used in Scotland. Does it denote a different surname from a noble family we are unaware of yet? More research and future test results are needed. Perhaps one day we will find a noble Sanders family in Scotland that descends from another branch downstream from V3286. Currently, Sanders is a single surname descending from this group, which also includes Green, McKellar, Davis and Bougher.

This raises a question as to where FT26577 formed? Richard Davis was born 1540 in Herefordshire, England. Did FT26577 form two hundred years earlier in Herefordshire, England or did our common ancestor with our Davis relatives, who was born about 1340, live in Scotland and a later descendant then moved to Herefordshire, England? The evidence seems to point to a common ancestry originating in Scotland.

Where did our ancestors come from before Scotland?

At this point, I think a chart is needed to help us keep track of our haplogroup lineage. Please refer to this chart for the prior discussed haplogroups FT167504, FT26577 and V3286 as well as the soon to be discussed haplogroups taking us back to the Bellbeaker invasion of Great Britain and Ireland:


Haplogroup R-BY61036 is the next haplogroup upstream from V3286 with two testers branching off from this group, both with the surname Lowe. This haplogroup is thirteen SNPs upstream from V3286 and I date it around 400 A.D., the end of the Roman occupation of England. Where did this haplogroup form?

It's hard to know for sure where this haplogroup formed because the only two testers branching off from this haplogroup trace their ancestry back to a Thomas Low (1605-1677) who was born in Suffolk County in Southeastern England. His family could have migrated there from anywhere in the 1200 years since the haplogroup formed. If we had more testers with different surnames branching off from this haplogroup we might be able to triangulate a location.

As it turns out, the haplogroup just upstream has many more testers and gives us a clue as to where our ancestors lived before Scotland. R-Z2195 has an additional downstream haplogroup named R-Z2189 with 67 additional testers all identifying their ancestry with Spain, Portugal or a number of Latin-American countries. This is the clue that helps us understand where our ancestors lived before Scotland.

During and before the Roman occupation of Southern Britain, there was a Celtic kingdom known as Dumnonia that occupied the Cornwall peninsula. They were allowed to keep their kings and govern their people during Roman occupation so long as they paid tribute.

Dumnonia was known for its tin mines and had established sea trade routes with France, Spain and Ireland. Some of our ancestors must have been sea traders or at least chose to use these sea trade routes to relocate to Spain where many of their descendants still live. To read more about this trading circuit click here.

After Rome abandoned Britain in 410 A.D., Anglo-Saxons began to raid and invade England. It seems that this is when our ancestors migrated to Scotland while other relatives stayed behind and eventually migrated East to Suffolk County.

Who were the Dumnonii?

It will be helpful to date haplogroup Z2195 in order to understand the nature and character of the Dumnonii in relation to our ancestors. Z2195 is 40 SNPs upstream from our Sanders haplogroup FT167504. But Z2195 is no longer in the vacuum of few testers to gauge its formation date. Z2189 seems to be the older brother of our ancestors' haplogroup BY61036 because there appear to be many haplogroup lineages in Z2189 with a far greater number of SNPs than us.

In fact, the lineage with the most SNPs has 62 compared to our average of 44. That's 50% more SNPs. So, since I have not calculated their average rate of SNP mutations, I chose to see how other professionals date haplogroup Z2195. It turns out that they assign it a formation date of 1200 BC.

So, mutations are random but this one lineage has 62 SNPs over 3150 years. That's 50 years per SNP compared to our Sanders family SNP rate of 65 years. That's either to be expected due to the randomness of mutations or it’s possible that this is evidence of multiple SNP mutations in a single generation. I would expect that, even with mutations being random, given a long enough time every lineage would find a standard average mutation rate.

A formation date of 1200 BC for Z2195 in the Cornwall peninsula is significant because the haplogroup just upstream is R-ZZ5_1 and this haplogroup has been shown to have formed in Wales around 1900 BC. So, our ancestors lived in Wales for 700 years and suddenly migrated to the Cornwall peninsula. Why?

Recent studies of middle to late Bronze Age and Iron Age skeletons in Britain have shown a mass migration into England and Wales from France beginning around 1200 BC. This migration was so large that it accounts for 50% of the population in England and Wales by the Iron Age. A migration of this size couldn't help but influence the language spoken.

In fact, the researchers have proposed that this migration shifted the language in England and Wales from the Goidelic spoken in Ireland to Brythonic which is a Celtic language more similar to the language the Gauls of France used to speak. Welsh tradition names these Brythonic speaking people who migrated to England, Wales and Cornwall, but not Scotland, the Cymry. It's likely that clashes broke out with the Goidelic inhabitants until the Brythonic speaking Cymry were the dominant culture. This likely triggered our ancestors to migrate south out of Wales to Cornwall.

1200 BC is also significant because there were migrations occurring all throughout Europe and the Mediterranean that led to the late Bronze age collapse of nearly all civilizations that existed then. Dorians migrated South into Mycenean Greece causing their civilization to collapse. Thracians migrated into Turkey ending the Hittites. Celts of the Hallstatt culture migrated to Italy and formed the Villanova culture. Their language eventually became Latin. Sea peoples invaded Egypt and nearly caused their civilization to collapse. It's theorized that these sea peoples were also the Philistines who settled in the land of Caanan and made war with the Israelites during the time of the judges. See map.

What caused this mass migration of people? Evidence shows that climate change in Europe caused famines and drought. The Mediterranean forest dwindled and contracted during this time. This caused entire people groups to migrate in search of a better living.

The Dumnonii name is derived from a Gaulish word meaning "the masters" or "the dominators" and is a cognate with the Latin "dominus" ("master" or "owner"). It is a militaristic name for a Brythonic tribe that dominated the Cornwall peninsula from 1200 BC until after the occupation by the Romans. Because the tribal name is Brythonic, it is believed that the dominant ruling elite originated with the Celtic Cymry migrants that came from France and overpowered the Goidelic Celts that had previously claimed the peninsula. Perhaps this is also a reason some of our ancestors' relatives eventually migrated to Spain.

Tin trade in Dumnonia became more organized by 1100 BC when the Phoenicians settled Gades (Cadiz) to conduct trading with the Dumnonii. Smelted Cornish tin was exported from the ancient trading port of Ictis and shipped to Gades.

Our ancestors lived with the Brythonic Dumnonii for 1600 years until Rome left Britain and the Anglo-Saxons began their invasion. Before then we lived 700 years in Wales speaking an earlier form of Goidelic.

How did our ancestors come to live in Wales?

Haplogroup R-Z2534 was formed in Ireland around 1975 BC. Our ancestors invaded Ireland from Great Britain around 2000 BC. They finished their conquest of the island in less than a hundred years. Once the conquest was over, our direct ancestors migrated to Wales where they took up residency. However, some of the descendants of Z2534 remained in Ireland.

Our relatives who remained in Ireland after its conquest eventually formed their own Gaelic Irish tribe known as the Dalcassians. Years later Brian Boru (941-1014), the king of this tribe, ended the Viking domination of Ireland and united the island, eventually becoming High King of Ireland from 1002 to 1014 AD. He is the patriarch of the O'Brien dynasty and is widely regarded as the most successful and unifying monarch of medieval Ireland.

One of our ancestors, who migrated to Wales after the conquest of Ireland, formed haplogroup R-ZZ5_1 in 1900 BC. To give you an idea of when in history our conquest of Ireland and migration to Wales took place, the third dynasty of Ur of the Sumerian empire was founded in 2060 BC. Babylonia developed their mathematical system in 2000 BC. Amenemhat I, the first king of the 12th dynasty, founded the Middle Kingdom in Egypt n 1991 B.C. The Minoan Middle period, which was the high point in Minoan culture, began in 1900 BC. And our distant Indo-European relatives, the Mycenaeans, invaded the Greek peninsula in 1900 BC. taking it away from the Minoans, which would eventually lead to the end of the Minoan civilization.

One notable descendant of ZZ5_1 is George Washington (1732-1799) who was the main general for American forces in the revolutionary War for freedom from Great Britain. George went on to become the first president and founding father of the United States of America and served in that capacity from 1789 to 1797. In one sense he mirrored for the United States what Brian Boru had done for Ireland.

Bellbeaker invasion of Britain 

Please refer to the haplotree of R-L21 (https://www.eupedia.com/images/content/R1b-L21-tree.png) for the haplogroup chart for this section. You can see how our haplotree connects to this chart under S868, which is another name for Z2534. This haplogroup can be found on the right-hand side of the chart. However, let's go to the top of the chart and discuss haplogroup L21.

L21 formed in Western Europe around 2300 B.C. To get a sense of when this was in history, the Sumerian empire had just fallen and the Akkadian empire under Sargon the Great (2334-2279 BC) was on the ascendancy. His empire would unite Akkadian and Sumerian speaking peoples under one rule. This is also around the time that the stone pillars making up Stonehenge were raised in place.

L21 is best known as the progenitor of the Atlantic Celts, those Celts who occupied France and the British Isles. It was formed in the Corded Ware culture of Germany, which is named after its distinctive pottery. However, L21 and his descendants continued to migrate west and was in France by 2200 BC. This early split from the main Proto-Celtic branch around Germany explains why their Goidelic language diverged so much from the later Brythonic language that would migrate to Southern Britain. This is also around the time that Jacob the Hebrew journeyed to Egypt to escape a severe famine in Caanan. This famine was caused by an aridification event so severe it is thought to have cause the collapse of the Old Kingdom in Egypt as well as the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia.

In France, the descendants of L21 ran into the Stone Age farming Bellbeaker culture, also named after its distinctive pottery. We easily conquered these people and took many of their women to be our concubines. Rather than spread the pottery methods of the Corded Ware culture of Germany, we adopted the new methods used by the Bellbeaker culture.

By the time we settled in France, our ancestors mutated to haplogroup DF13 and ZZ10. One of our "brother" haplogroups is Z39589. This haplogroup is significant for two reasons. The first is that this is the ancestral haplogroup for group 2 in our Sanders/Saunders Y-DNA project. The second is that this haplogroup also contains lineages that have many more SNPs than ours.

Our lineage has an average of 56 SNPs downstream from DF13. Given that DF13 formed around 2250 BC our average mutation rate is 75 years per SNP. Z39589 has a lineage with 90 SNPs downstream from DF13. That's an average of 47 years per SNP. That's quite a fast mutation rate to maintain over more than four millennia. Either this is another example of how random mutations can produce a variety of mutation rates in different lineages or this is an example of how multiple Y-chromosome mutations can happen in a single generation sometimes. How frequently a generation can have more than one Y-chromosome mutation is a question that I don't believe has been answered in the scientific community just yet.

Many descendants from L21 invaded Britain around 2100 BC. When we invaded, we brought the Bellbeaker culture and Bronze Age technology with us and spread it all throughout the British Isles. For historical reference, this is around the time Joseph, the son of Jacob the Hebrew, was sold into slavery in Egypt.

Our haplogroup at the time of the invasion was ZZ10. Group 2 were at haplogroup Z39589. Was group 2's ancestor our brother at the time? Were we cousins? At this time, we shared a common ancestor with each other less than a hundred years removed. One thing is for sure. We migrated together. After a hundred years of conquest, our two groups had made our way north to Galloway in Southwestern Scotland. Our family had mutated to haplogroup Z253 around 2050 BC in the vicinity of Galloway. Group 2 mutated to DF49 around 2000 BC in the same area.

However, our ancestors then sailed to Ireland and continued their conquest around 2000 BC while the ancestors of Group 2 settled down in Galloway. After another hundred years of conquest in Ireland it was time to settle down. That's when we migrated to Wales in 1900 BC. For historical reference, Moses was born about forty years later in 1860 BC, early in the reign of Amenemhat III. Eighty years later he would lead the Hebrews out of Egypt and forty years after that, Joshua would begin his conquest of the land of Caanan. However, our conquest of the British Isles had been completed 160 years before Joshua even started his invasion of Caanan.

We had killed more than ninety per cent of the mehn in Britian amd Ireland. However, modern archeological testing of bones from that time period would show that thirty per cent of our DNA had incorporated Early European Farmer DNA, which indicates that the majority of the women with whom we had children were from these Early European Farmers.

It wasn't until 1100 BC that the ancestors of Group 2 migrated to Northern Ireland. This was during the time of the Late Bronze Age collapse when the Cymry began migrating in large numbers to Southern Britain. It may be that it took them a hundred years before they reached Galloway and this may be the cause for the sudden migration of Group 2 to Northern Ireland.

They migrated to Northern Ireland because they had relatives descending from DF49 who had invaded Ireland along with our ancestors in 2000 BC. Group 2's relatives ended up conquering and settling there. They ended up being known in genetics as Irish type I. These are the Irish of the Ui Neil dynasty; those descending from Nial of the Nine Hostages, a historical king of Tara who died in 405 AD. This dynasty ruled Northern Ireland from the 6th to the 10th centuries.

Another famous man who descended from Irish type I was Joseph Smith (1805-1844), the founder of the Mormon religion. This is significant because a descendant of one of the four Sanders brothers of Randolph and Montgomery (Group17), Moses Martin Sanders (1803-1878), ended up traveling with Joseph Smith to Far West, Missouri and then to Nauvoo, Illinois where he was one of his neighbors. Moses was a part of the Mormon faith near the beginning of the religions' founding.

Group 2 seems to remain in Ireland from 1100 BC until modern times. It's most likely that they emigrated from Ireland to the United States, although I believe there's a Sanders in Cornwall that shares a common ancestor with Group 2.


Our Indo-European Ancestors

Please refer to the haplotree of R1b(https://eupedia.com/images/content/R1b-tree.png) for the haplogroup chart for this section. You can see how our haplogroup R-L21 for the Atlantic Celts connects to this larger chart at the bottom left-hand side of the chart. Also, it would be helpful to trace the migration of our ancestors across Europe with this migration map (https://eupedia.com/images/content/R1b-migration-map.jpg). You can read more about R1b at Eupedia. Let's talk a little about our cultural heritage.

Before our ancestors invaded Britain as the first Celtic group to do so, we were the original Indo-European group to invade Europe and spread our language and culture to the entire continent. Not only is Celtic an Indo-European language, but so is Latin, Germanic, Greek, Slavic and the language of the ancient Hittites. What was it about our ancestors that caused them to conquer an entire continent and spread their language and culture to the near exclusion of all others? That's what we will explore in this section.

To get a better sense of our culture, it would be useful to contrast it with the culture that was present in Europe before we invaded. This takes us back to when the Ice Age was at its maximum extent. R1b, which is haplogroup R-M343 at the top of the chart, was formed in Northern Iran just East of the Caspian Sea.

We were nomadic hunter-gatherers who also hunted mammoths. Other hunter-gatherers had already populated Europe south of the Great ice sheets. When mammoths went extinct our people migrated west to Northern Mesopotamia where we hunted bison and aurochs. Mesopotamia had become crowded as agriculture had allowed people to settle in cities and grow their populations. Because of larger populations in Mesopotamia, our ancestors learned not to indiscriminately kill the herds we were following. We were the first to learn to domesticate and tame cattle, yet we remained nomadic.

As populations in Mesopotamia continued to grow and expand, our ancestors were forced to migrate. One group, R-M335, migrated west to Anatolia but their group didn't find a lot of success in the mountainous landscape of Turkey and they remained small. Another group, R-V88, migrated south through the Levant and on into Africa. Our ancestors were part of the third group, R-P297, who migrated north crossing the Caucasus mountains between the Black and Caspian Seas into the vast Pontic-Caspian Steppe, which provided ideal grazing grounds for our cattle. There our group divided. One group, R-M73, migrated East to central Asia while our ancestors, R-M269, remained in the Pontic Steppe between the Dnieper and Volga rivers. This is where our proto-Indo-European language developed.

While we grazed our cattle on the Pontic Steppe, agriculturalists expanded through Anatolia into Greece and throughout Europe. As they expanded, they pushed the hunter-gatherers of Europe further and further north as they lost land to these Early European Farmers (EEF). The first major civilization that developed from these EEF were the Minoans based in Crete. Their influence covered all of Greece.

The major difference in culture between the hunter-gatherers and the EEF is that with the success of agriculture, women increased their power in society. Women were primarily the farmers and this remained so until the invention of the plow used with oxen. Societies in the EEF were matrilineal. Women were the heads of households. This was also reflected in their religion which was based on earth worship and fertility rites.

Minoan religion focused on the dominant figure of a mother goddess, with whom a younger male consort is associated. Most contexts show the male figure as a worshiper. Unfortunately, the absence of readable texts from that period leave us without a name for their primary goddess or her consort. The religion was run by priestesses rather than priests. They may have practiced ritual male sacrifices as the remains of a 17-year-old boy was found bound on a raised platform having died from blood loss with a 15-inch bronze dagger found among his bones. Their palaces were the temples of their religion and religious ritual was one of their main purposes. They also used rural sacred caves for their religious rites.

While historians and archeologists have long been skeptical of an outright matriarchy of society, the prominence of female roles over male ones suggests the Minoans were indeed a matriarchal society. No evidence has been found of a Minoan army. There is little evidence of ancient Minoan fortifications. Minoan weapons in large part appear to be ceremonial in use and impractical for actual warfare.

EEF culture in other parts of Europe appear to share many cultural similarities. The Basques of the Pyrenees mountains were also matrilineal. They worshipped a subterranean mother goddess, named Mari, who brings fertility to the land. She has a consort named Sugaar, a god of storms and thunder, who was her husband. Their religion was also run by priestesses named Sorginak who acted as midwives. They were shamen similar to the Celtic Druids who used medicinal plants to cure sicknesses. Early European Farmers either cremated their dead or buried them in collective graves.

By contrast, our ancestors buried each person individually and high-ranking graves were placed in a funeral chamber and topped by a circular mound, called a "kurgan". Because of this practice, our ancestors on the Pontic Steppe have been called the Kurgan culture. The men of our culture were the pastoralists watching the herds of cattle we had domesticated while the women had learned how to farm while we had been in Mesopotamia, however, most of the food we ate were animal products.

We domesticated sheep and goats and we began using wool to make our clothing. We were the first to domesticate the horse and began horseback riding which soon became a defining element of our culture. Soon, the use of horses to raid distant villages began an ethic code valuing individual heroic feats in war (these ethic values are known from the old Indo-European texts, like the Rig Veda, Avesta, or the Mycenaean and Hittite literature). With men in charge of domesticating and working with the animals, we developed a patrilinear and patriarchal society that was strongly hierarchical.

Our religion reflected this. The head deity of our pantheon was Dyews Phter, whose name literally means, "Sky Father". The sky was thought of as the dwelling of the gods rather than the earth. As the sky stretched across the entire land, the sky father was thought of as all-seeing. The sun was thought to be the "eye of Dyews." There was an all-male priesthood with the chief serving as the high priest. They practiced ritual animal sacrifices in hopes of winning the sky father's favor.

We established trade routes in the Balkans and began importing copper. Suddenly, through influence from Assyria and western Iran, our ancestors developed the world's first Bronze Age society. We adopted wagons from Mesopotamia to transport food and tents giving us a more mobile lifestyle. This mobility would lead to our invasion of Europe where whole tribes could pick up and migrate several miles in a day.

An elite class began to develop with larger and larger collections of cattle, horses and copper and bronze objects signifying status. Men were given more sumptuous tombs than women, even among children, and differences in hierarchy are obvious between burials. The kurgans for chieftains included distinctive posturing of the dead on the back with knees raised and oriented toward the northeast. The body was typically accompanied by weapons (maces, axes, daggers), horse bones, and a dismantled wagon (or later chariot). Kurgan burials would become a dominant feature of ancient Indo-European societies and were widely used by the Celts, Romans, Germanic tribes, and Scythians, among others.

It was climate change, resulting in colder winters, that first pushed our ancestors west throughout Europe, seeking milder pastures for their herds. In addition, failed crops led to famines and internal disturbances among our people. We began our large-scale migration to Western Europe around 2500 BC with haplogroup R-L23. For historical reference, the Great pyramid of Giza was completed in 2560 BC. The city-state of Assur was founded about 2500 BC and the Sumerian empire was beginning its last dynastic period. The Biblical Abraham was born around 2500 BC.

We decimated the male population of Europe at that time killing off about 90% of the men. The women of Europe fared better. Our superiority wasn't cultural but militaristic, thanks to horses, wagons, bronze weapons and an ethic code valuing individual heroic feats in war. We replaced Stone Age and Coper Age cultures with our Bronze Age culture, with simpler pottery, less farming, more herding, new rituals (single graves) and new values (patrilinear society, warrior heroes). The Scythians are direct descendants of our Indo-European nomads. They were known to collect scalps from the people they killed, first decorating the reigns on their horses and then sewing together the human scalps to make a cape of human hair for the warrior.

Haplogroup R-U106 formed around 2400 BC in Germany and their descendants became the Germanic speaking peoples of Northern Europe. For historical reference, Abraham migrated from Ur of the Chaldees to the land of Caanan around 2425 BC. As I mentioned earlier, our Celtic ancestors of R-L21 went on to invade Britain in 2100 BC and then Ireland in 2000 BC. Our Indo-European relatives in the Balkans of haplogroup R-Z2103 invaded Turkey in 2000 BC and became the Hittite civilization. Then they invaded Greece in 1800 BC and destroyed the Minoan civilization and became the Mycenaean Greeks.

Our ancestors were an inventive and ambitious people. They spread the Indo-European language all throughout Europe. They invaded and conquered the British Isles. They settled in Wales for 700 years until the great migration in the late Bronze age. They migrated to the Cornwall peninsula and settled in the kingdom of Dumnonia for 1,600 years until the Romans left Britain and the Anglo-Saxons began their invasions. They migrated to Scotland and likely settled there for 1,300 years until Lewis and his relatives migrated to Virginia in 1706. From Virginia our family have migrated all throughout the United States from coast to coast. Where we go from here, only God knows, but our surname project has laid down the groundwork to be able to track it as our Y-DNA continues to mutate.

February 2022
Charley Sanders

Other files, articles, and pictures:  Sanders of Randolph and Montgomery 


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