R1a1 (Hg3, Eu19) is, along with Q, the only haplogroup that can unequivocably be linked to a
Norse ancestry, and more specifically to the west coast of Norway.  It is virtually unknown in
the Celtic regions such as Ireland (only 10 in a recent sample of 1200), and barely makes an
appearance in Friesland, but occurs at a relatively high frequency in the Scandanavian
countries: over 25%, in Norway, 20% in Sweden, and 15% in Denmark.  Curiously those who
have a haplotype within this haplogroup often have fairly close matches in Mongolia, India,
Siberia, and Eastern Europe (where it attains its highest frequency of over 50% in Poland and
the Ukraine).  It is believed that the haplogroup emerged among the Kurgan peoples of the
Eurasian Stepes (the Ukraine), where their ancestors had dalied during the Last Glacial
Maximum (although India has also been proposed).  From there they spread north, south and
east - but little further than what is today Poland.  It is anticipated that about a third of
individuals from Shetland with "son" names will be assigned to the  R1a haplogroup, an as
yet unknown number of them being of European origin, and others with Asian or Siberian -
like haplotypes found in 40% of Norwegian R1a1, and matching the general "Somerled"
(Lord of the Isles) type seen in his descendants of the surname McDonald.

If perchance someone with a Scottish surname is R1a, then clearly their ancestors on the
Scottish Mainland were descendants of a Norse Viking who settled in that part of the world.  
It is anticipated that very few with Scottish surnames will have this haplogroup.

Q (Hg1,  Eu40) This is one unequivocal Norse signature that has only recently been recognized
as such - since Q is typically found only in those from Eastern Asia or North America.  The
Project Administrator was alerted to the probability of finding Q in the present work since in
one unpublished study of Shetland haplotypes, the researchers found a relatively large
number (just under 10%) of participants with haplogroup Q - the same percentage seen with
the much more common Norse I haplogroup.

Typically those with a Q haplotype will have matches in Iceland, Norway, the Faroe Islands
with Orkney showing a much smaller percentage.  The Norwegian Q is very rare there (about
1%) and found more frequently in the north of the country than in the south.  The only reason
that the present work is able to identify Q is the Haplogroup Database of FTDNA which
shows each participant's matches, which have been SNP tested to show haplogroup, by

There has been no scientific investigation of the Norse Q.  In Helgason's article on the
haplotypes of Iceland, there are 13 of the 181 samples which are labelled R1b - Branch A, but
which are actually Q.  Thus slightly less than 1% of this Icelandic sample were Q - similar to
Norway.  A reasonable estimate for Shetland would be about 4%, making it likely that due to
the "founder effect" Shetland has more Q percentage - wise than other Norse communities.

K   (Hg26, Eu16) One of the mystery haplogroups that was unexpected in Shetland is K.  It is
typically found in low numbers, and in the Middle East, east to the Causasus Mountains,
south to India, and west to Italy.  When a participant was found to have this haplogroup,
various hypotheses were considered (including descendant of a Roman Legionnaire).  
However, knowing that some R1a, and all Q came from Central Asia, this Asian origin
interpretation would work if, and only if, it could be found in Norwegian samples.  This view
was bolstered with the finding of a sole 9/9 marker match for the participant, worldwide, in
Azerbaijan.  Of the few samples that tested for K in a Norwegian sample is Passarino's 202
study of Norwegian mtDNA and Y-DNA.  Of this sample of 72, a single Eu16, now known
formally as K*(xK2, N3, L, P), was typed.  Thus K is found in Norway, and so the haplogroup
likely arrived in Shetland with the Vikings, particularly since the participant has an aboriginal
Shetland surname.

R1a1 plus Q plus K The best evidence we have to date is that, although not investigated
scientifically, is that the Q and K arrived with R1a from the same population source in the
Altai region of Russian Siberia.  It is likely that what we are seeing with Q and K are very
rare Scandanavian haplogroups whose origins were long ago in Asia.  If this is true, then it is
very unusual that there does not seem to be any Q or K along the overland pathways to
Norway (e.g., in Western Russia) - but there is Q, along with R1a in the region of Kurdistan,
and among a signficant percentage of Ashkenazi Jews.  In a recent study of Eurasian
populations, no Q was seen the the sample from Norway, and the only European region where
any Q was observed was Hungary with 2.6%.  In all probability the homeland of the Norse Q
lies in Siberia where it is seen at 66.4% among the Selkups and 93.7% among the Kets.  Also
interesting in the regard is that the Selkups have 19.1% R1a.  Another local candidate group
is the Altaians who have 46.9% R1a, and 17.3% Q.  Thus it would appear that some of the
Viking R1a originated in Eastern Europe in locations such as Poland, and that their close
genetic matches will be in countries like Poland, the Czech Republic, and the Ukraine.  Others
should have more matches in their land of origin - Siberia.  The Administrator's uncle has a
rare R1a signature with no matches at the 12 / 12 or 11 / 12 levels.  However, at the next step
up he has no matches in Eastern Europe, but 19 in the Russian Siberian Altai - clearly
pointing to the region spawning his Viking -era Norse DNA.
Return to Project
To Project Data