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Sons of the Legion?

Do some or most Riehle male lineages, and other identified lineages with surnames Mettler, Brentz and Sigle (now more commonly Siegle), descend from a man recruited by the Roman Legions from the Balkans in or about the Second Century CE? Are you a descendant of that recruit?

This Article has Four Objectives:

Our Ancestor?
  • To introduce the hypothesis that men from the Balkans, recruited as mercenaries into the Roman Legions in or around the second century CE, carried their regionally prevalent E-V13 Y-DNA to various garrison areas within the empire.
  • To consider specific genetic evidence suggesting that certain men of an identified E-V13 haplogroup subclade, not closely related to each other but with ancestral and probably regional ties within the Balkans, were recruited into the legions during this second century timeframe and were dispatched to various such garrison areas across western Europe.
  • To consider related genetic evidence suggesting that among recruits from this subclade was a man dispatched to the Swabian region; that a man who descended from this recruit later originated a further identified mutation, defining a new Y-DNA subclade; and that several subsequent descendants from this new subclade included men who took on the following identified surnames:
    • Riehle, Riele, Rhule, Riehl, Reel or similar
    • Sigle, Siegle, Siegel, Sigel, Siglin, Siegler, Seigler, Seagle, or similar
    • Brentz, Printz, Prince or similar
    • Mettler, Metler, Mitler, or similar
      (Each of the above represents a single surname lineage with varied spelling)
  • To encourage additional men with Riehle, Sigle, Brentz and Mettler surnames, or derivatives of these surnames, to do Y-DNA genetic testing.

Summary of Relevant Genetic Science and Testing

It is beyond the scope of this article to provide even a moderately good explanation of the human Y-chromosome and the varied haplogroups that characterize these chromosomes across the species. Nonetheless we present here some introductory remarks concerning concepts which are relevant to the balance of this article. For a more general introduction to the topic, see Wikipedia or a host of other sites you can find through an online search.

  • A commonly accepted but unproven theory holds that all males living today descend from a single man (“Adam”) who lived in Africa between 237,000 and 581,000 years ago. Adam is placed in Haplogroup “A” with all other haplogroups branching out from there. (See the full Y-DNA Haplotree with its many branches.)
  • New mutations have continued to occur over the centuries with each new mutation carried by a proportionally smaller subset of the species. The more recent the mutation (relative to its predecessor mutations), the fewer men will carry it.
  • As more men have their Y-DNA analyzed, more are matched to any given haplogroup. However each individual has “private” variants which are not associated with currently-defined haplogroups. With still more tests, the identification of private variants in multiple testers leads to a such a variant, or groups of variants, being labeled and placed on the haplotree in a new subclade.
  • As a result, the most granular levels of haplogroup identification continue to change as additional variant details are identified and labeled. With the explosion of individuals getting tested and the very detailed tests that are now available through services such as Family Tree DNA, deeply nested haplogroup subclades based on ever more rare mutations are being documented.
  • The more detailed one’s haplogroup subclade identification (variant profile) the fewer men will match that profile. A more detailed subclade identification also means the men included in the subclade are more closely related, having descended from a common ancestor in whom the most recent, subclade-defining mutation originated.

Y-DNA test results managed by the several individuals responsible for this webpage are within one or two such defining mutations and this group communicates with additional identified Family Tree Y-DNA participants within these haplogroups. The tested men represented here were the most closely related with each other out of the universe of over 60,000 “Big-Y” DNA test subjects at Family Tree DNA at the time this webpage was prepared.

High Level Internet Review of Research into the Spread of the E-V13 Haplogroup from the Balkans via Roman Military Expansion and Recruiting

We did not originate the theory that men of the E-V13 haplogroup were recruited by Rome and garrisoned along the Rhine and in Britain. And while we have not exhausted the review of literature related to E-V13 migration from the Balkans to the west via Roman military expansion, we are aware of several references in which the topic is explored:

Specific Genetic Evidence of a Relatively Small Subclade of E-V13, Likely Originating in the Balkans, Being Spread to Multiple Regions of the Western Roman Empire Early in the First Millennium – E-V13 Subclade: E-BY4793

All modern members of the E-V13 Haplogroup are believed to descend from a common male ancestor who lived approximately 5,500 years ago, almost certainly in the Balkans. Several subclades further out on the haplotree we find E-BY4793, with about 4.5% of identified E-V13 test participants within the Family Tree Y-DNA test group.

(We wish to point out that this E-V13 test group, which is a portion of the broader Family-Tree Y-DNA testing population, is not necessarily representative of the total E-V13 population or of the male population in general. This test population is skewed to whatever extent by test participants who are more likely to be North American or Western European.)

E-BY4793 split off from its parent E-FGC11450 approximately 2900 years ago (+/- 550, with 84% likelihood prior to 652 BCE and 97.5% likelihood before 425 BCE). This places the associated mutation comfortably prior to the early CE era when the Roman military became increasingly staffed by mercenaries from around the empire. It also predates all but the earliest spread of E-V13 during the Hellenization era. Moreover, we do not find evidence of E-BY4793 in Sicily, Southern Italy or other areas of the Mediterranean outside the Balkans. Any such area would be expected to have a strong presence of the subclade had it originated there. So while the evidence is not absolutely conclusive, this timing and the spread of the E-BY4793 mutation suggests it originated in the Balkans.

Subsequent to the new E-BY4793 mutation there would have been at least several hundred years before the Romans began significant recruitment in the Balkans, so the mutation would have had enough time to spread modestly within whatever region it first occurred. By the time the Romans began recruitment, men with the E-BY4793 mutation would have been unlikely to recognize many of their fellows as relatives but there would likely have been somewhat of a regional concentration of such men. As the Romans began to recruit military manpower from the Balkans and if we are correct that the Romans recruited from an area with a pool of E-BY4793 men, this regional proximity might have made it more likely that a significant number of such men were recruited over a number of decades and dispatched to a variety of garrison areas.

While we don’t know for certain the E-BY4793 mutation occurred in the Balkans, we have even less certainty about where in the Balkans it took place. Clues do exist however, with E-V13 currently at it’s highest concentration in Kosovo (45%) and among Kosovar Albanians (44%), making northern Albania an area for consideration. Where exactly this E-BY4793 mutation occurred and where recruits with this variant might have been recruited is not central to the main focus of this article however so for those interested, we take these questions elsewhere for further consideration.

Given the disproportionate American and Western Europeans participation within the study group it is hardly surprising that subclades of E-BY4793 show test-subjects with identified roots traced through Western Europe, but there are also branches (subclades) showing test-subjects primarily in eastern Europe and in the Balkans. Subclades of E-BY4793 which originated after the second century CE tend to show test subjects from dispersed locations, but wherever the location, within each such subclade, the ancestral origins of the test-subjects are similar or historically related.

Note that techniques for determining “ancestral origins” or “genealogical origins” generally provide insights going back only a few hundred years (as opposed to thousands), so while the ancestors to which such test-subjects trace their Y-DNA may have lived hundreds of years ago, this would be quite recent in the context of Y-DNA genetic mutations. In each of the cases discussed below, we trace one or more mutation that almost certainly occurred after the second century CE but well before the dates of the identified genealogical origins.

Finally, please also note that its parent haplogroup, E-FGC11450, originated not long before E-BY4793 and shows similar dispersions among its other subclades, so while we could look at these other subclades of E-FGC11450 using a similar analysis (and others may wish to do so), we will focus on E-BY4793, given that this subclade is the one from which our subclades of interest derived.

The following lists E-BY4793 subclades and the test-subjects’ genealogical origins:

(Note: Click on links to visualize the origination of subclades and recent ancestry of test-subjects. In each case the subclade under consideration will be highlighted by a red circle rather than other subclades with blue circles.)

  • Subclade E-FT342418 reflects a mutation in a man who lived around 1000 CE. Nearly all of his tested descendants have male ancestry out of Switzerland, suggesting that sometime before this mutation a male ancestor might have migrated from the Balkans to what is now Switzerland. Our hypothesis is that this individual may have been associated with the Roman Legions.
  • The E-FT242083 mutation originated between 1162 and 1623 (~95% confidence) with a point estimate of 1427. Related test subjects show ancestry clustered in the British Isles. Our theorized Balkan recruit would have arrived well before this, likely in the first half of the first millennium, and along with most Roman military personnel in ancient Britain, would likely have been garrisoned in what is now England. Some descendants of this recruit appear to have migrated west to Wales and Ireland while test subjects with a subsequent mutation (~17th century) are traced to England and Scotland.
  • E-Z38485 most likely split off from E-BY4793 after the third century, with two further subclades, one showing testers with roots in Scotland and the other showing roots in Sweden. The subclade tied to the testers with only Swedish ancestry originated after the era when Vikings had gathered slaves from throughout Britain.
  • E-PH345 originated about 500 CE with the only test subject’s ancestral link identified as Albania, indicating that relatively recent male lineage ancestors of the test subject had still been located in that area of the Balkans. Despite the disproportionate representation of Western Europeans, this confirms that ancestors of some E-BY4793 subclade test subjects remained in the Balkans beyond the period of Roman recruitment and throughout the middle ages. It also suggests the possible homeland of our E-BY4793 recruits
  • E-FT70140 originated in or around the 14th century and shows only test subjects of English, Scottish and American ancestry.
  • E-BY4891 also originated after the Viking era and shows tester descendants only from Norway, where the mutation likely originated.
  • E-BY165986 (the primary focus of our discussion and addressed in more detail below) shows descendants with ancestors from the area of modern Germany. On further review, all, or nearly all, such ancestors appear to have links to the historic area of Swabia.

As anyone following the haplogroup links in the above section will recognize, the information related to each subclade represents a small sample with incomplete data. Certainly nothing is proven in this review. With that said, we do see a pattern in which the test-subjects within each of a number of subclades of E-BY4793 are showing concentrations of their ancestors connecting nicely back to individual garrison areas within the Roman Empire. The exception to this, which also fits the hypothesis, is one subclade apparently remaining primarily in the Balkans (i.e., never recruited). As more men from the relevant area of the Balkans are tested by Family Tree DNA, we would expect to see many more mutations originating in that homeland.

So while far from proven, our hypothesis that the Roman Legions recruited men with E-V13 Y-DNA from the Balkans and garrisoned them around the empire is not inconsistent with these data. Certainly a number of mutations did occur from among the men of the E-BY4793 haplogroup, with the various mutations dispersed widely across Western Europe, but with descendant carriers of each mutation linked with one another in geographic proximity.

A Further Discussion of the Apparent Migration of One Such Individual to the Swabian Region, Subsequent to which an E-BY4793 Subclade Originated in that Region – E-BY4793 Subclad: E-BY165986

As touched upon above, E-BY165986, a subclade of E-BY4793, is just one of the many such subclads that can be tied to areas garrisoned by the Roman military. We are theorizing that this E-BY165986 subclade may have originated in Swabia. We use the term Swabia or Swabian to represent the territory encompassed by parts of the modern German State of Baden-Wuttemberg to the north of Lake Constance and parts Northeastern Switzerland south of the lake. The name was used intermittently from the first century C.E. into modern times with ever evolving territorial associations but for our purposes we are referring to the area described above.

Through much of its early history Roman forces remained to the west and south of the Rhine River, but by the Second Century CE, the area east of the Rhine (Latin: Rhenus) was subjugated by the Imperial Military (See Map). Military dominance around Lake Constance was established by 15 BCE and continued into the fifth century.

E-BY165986 originated with a mutation in a man living between 64 and 1013 CE (95% confidence, with 84% confidence he was born after 342 CE). One of the several test subjects tied to this subclade identifies his earliest paternal line ancestor as born in America during colonial times but with a name of German or Swiss-German origin. All other test subjects who are able to identify the homeland of their male lineage ancestors trace that lineage to the area of modern Germany.

The name of German or Swiss-German origin is Mettler. A test-subject with this name descends from Philip Metler who was born in Colonial New Jersey on Aug 19, 1765. No information is known about this individual’s Old World ancestry other than the likely Germanic origins of the name, but searching Google Maps for ‘Mitler’ and ‘Mittler’ we find place names and surnames in Switzerland and various parts of Germany including Baden-Württemberg. This tested individual and one other with an ancestral surname Brentz (with ancestry reported to be from the Baden/Swabian area of Germany) are in the E-BY165986 haplogroup but in no further subclades, so we refer to this as the E-BY165986* haplogroup.

Another of the tested individuals, with the surname Riehle, is in a subclade of E-BY165986, identified as E-FTB1593 (or E-FTB1593*). This haplogroup is statistically determined to have originated during a period similar to the origination of E-BY165986 but clearly sometime after that preceding mutation. The test-subject’s identified male ancestors descend through the town of Wagshurst near the Rhine River in the old principality of Baden. The Wagshurst ancestors of this individual are shown here. The individual has coordinated testing with a male 6th cousin, once removed (common ancestor born 1697) to confirm the cousin’s Y-DNA as nearly identical, establishing that male lineage ancestors from the 1600’s shared the E-FTB1593 haplogroup.

Another group of tested individuals have surnames derived from Sigle (today more commonly Siegle) and are in a subclade of E-FTB1593 identified as E-FTB885. Two of these men are within a further subclade, recently defined as E-FTB742. Using documentary evidence and Y-DNA testing, they have confirmed their male line back to the early 16th century in the old Duchy of Württemberg, to an ancestor with the name Siglin living in the area of Grossheppach. Additional evidence suggests possible descent from the 13th and 14th-century Siglin/Sigelin family of the nearby free imperial city of Esslingen (currently an unconfirmed theory and a work in progress). More information is available on request.

Descendants of the Riehle, Siegle, Brentz and Mettler lineages are cooperating in the publication and maintenance of this webpage. Additional test subjects have been recruited and will be added here as information can be analyzed and documented. It is our intent to continue to broaden and share what we know about the descendants of the individual who came to the Swabia area early in the first millennium, who we hypothesize my have been a Roman military recruit. We welcome questions and comments below and if you believe you too may be a descendant of this lineage we ask you to read through the following section and consider Y-DNA testing.

Appeal for Assistance to Ascertain the Extent of our Balkan Lineage in Association with These and Other Surnames

We know the tested individuals with the four groups of surnames as referenced here share a common ancestor. Testing by additional men with these names will determine if such men are also descendants of this same ancestor. Moreover, such testing will help determine the extent to which a significant portion of men with these surnames carry the mutations in question. And in cases where testing does not provide a match to the mutations in question, it will identify other haplogroups which are nonetheless found among families with these various surnames and will provide a basis for new genetic genealogical enquiry and documentation.

Appeal for Assistance: Surname Mettler (Metler, Mitler or similar)

We are interested in anyone with these above listed surnames to participate in Y-DNA testing. Please contact us with a comment below, which will be kept private as appropriate and only published with your permission. A fuller discussion of the suggested Testing Program is provided below.

Appeal for Assistance: Surname: Brentz (Printz, Prince or similar)

We are interested in anyone with the above listed surnames to participate in Y-DNA testing, and genealogically inquisitive members of the Prince/Printz/Brentz family certainly come to mind here. Members of this lineage have traced roots back to the American Revolution and beyond to Germany and we hope to firm up links back beyond that time through Y-DNA testing. Please contact us with a comment below, which will be kept private as appropriate. A fuller discussion of the suggested Testing Program is provided below.

Appeal for Assistance: Surname Riehle (Riele, Rhule, Riehl, Reel or similar)

Aside for the Wagshurst lineage, we have several known Riehle lineages descending from men and women who emigrated from Baden and Wurttemberg. For each of these lineages we have either no available Y-DNA Haplogroup information or only uncertain or contradictory information. We are aware of no Y-DNA or genealogical evidence to connect any of these lineages to the Wagshurst Riehle’s, for whom the E-V13 subclade E-FTB1593 is known to dominate. As a result, we are looking for test participants from family segments with the following Baden-based ancestry:

We have no Y-DNA data for several Family Segments listed above. There is information on the Bartholomew line which leaves us with inconsistent haplogroup results. We would like to get additional haplogroup data, especially for all male-to-male lineage descendants (Riehle surname) of Bartholomew Riehle’s sons as follows:

  • George Riehle – 1822–1858 – with sons:
    • William A. Riehle (1854–1940)
    • Anzell Riehle (1856–1938)
    • John Riehle (1858–1942)
  • Henry (Heinrich) Riehle – 1846–1933 – with sons:
    • Joseph Bartholomew Riehle (1872–1955) 
    • George Lawrence Riehle (1884–1963)

We are also looking for Riehle’s from the following Württemberg lineages, with at least some members of the Mähringen Riehle families indicating haplogroup R-M405. We would like confirmatory information about this haplogroup and/or to gather information about additional haplogroups out of this region, potentially including E-V13:

Establishing Riehle E-V13/FTB1593 links into Württemberg would provide new insights into migration patterns across the various surname lineages over the first two millennia.

Notwithstanding the above specifics, we are interested in anyone with the Riehle, Rhule, Riehl, Reel or similar surnames to participate. Please contact us with a comment below, which will be kept private as appropriate and only published with your permission.

A fuller discussion of the suggested Testing Program is provided below.

Appeal for Assistance: Surname Sigle (Siegle, Siegel, Sigel, Siglin, Siegler, Seigler, Seagle or similar)

As mentioned above, the Sigle/Siglin line confirmed to be a subclade of E-V13 originates in the area of Grossheppach around 1500, with additional evidence suggesting possible descent from the Siglin/Sigelin family of nearby Esslingen in the 13th and 14th centuries. Five members of the Grossheppach family have completed some level of Y-DNA testing (three of which with enough genetic detail to be included in the FamilyTreeDNA timeline) and thus provide a solid foundation as additional Y-DNA evidence is gathered. 

Individuals from various other similarly-named families have also tested, confirming no relationship with the Siglins of Grossheppach. Those unrelated lines appear to be: the Siegeles of Ditzingen (and possibly Gerlingen), the Siegels of Neudorf (near Karlsruhe), the Siegels of Altshausen (near Ravensburg), and the Siegels of Zaisenhausen (and possibly Tisheim, near Karlsruhe).

We seek testers with the surname Sigle, Siegle, Siegel, Sigel, Siglin, Siegler, Seigler, Seagle, or similar, particularly those with origins (or potential origins) in the following areas of southwestern Germany:

  • Esslingen
  • Stuttgart
  • Zuffenhausen
  • Plieningen
  • Backnang
  • Winnenden
  • Schwäbisch Gmünd
  • Pforzheim
  • Strasbourg (France)

As above, please contact us with a comment below, which will be kept private as appropriate and only published with your permission. For a more detailed discussion of the suggested testing, see below.

Testing Program

This investigation is not affiliated with any funding source. Any costs for this webpage or our support for the various testing initiatives come out of the pockets of the several hobbyists involved. Accordingly, we would hope that those interested in participating might fund their own testing. To the extent this might represent a burden however, we are willing, even anxious, to consider assisting with such costs.

We anticipate two steps in this process, as follows:

The first step might be to do a less-thorough (and less expensive) testing to determine the individual’s high-level haplogroup. Such testing would yield Y-haplogroup information for the individual but could also provide additional information for the participant depending on the specific testing program, such as for example 23andMe. Please note that not all DNA testing programs provide Haplogroup data and specifically, Ancestry.com does NOT provide such data. We encourage you to touch base with us about your priorities and options before taking this first test.

If you already know you are E-V13 or if you are keenly interested in more detailed Y-Haplogroup information, you may wish to skip this first step.

The second step, for those with confirmed high-level haplogroup information, would be to take the Big-Y 700 test from Family Tree DNA. This will place the participant into a specific subclade of E-V13 and either confirm a close relationship with one of the identified surname lineages or otherwise help to determine other haplogroups to which men with these surnames are linked.

Even if you do not anticipate additional testing, if you already know your haplogroup, please contact us in confidence.

It is indisputable that the study coordinators have common ancestors. Based on current data, there is a 95% probability that one such individual was born between 64 and 1013 CE with a point estimate of 602 CE and an 84% likelihood he lived after 342 CE. This common ancestor could be a descendant of the proposed legionary recruit, if indeed such a recruit existed, and although none of this proves the theory that a common male ancestor was indeed a recruit with the Roman Legions we will continue to explore this theory with others in the genetic genealogy community and will update this webpage as appropriate.

Regardless, your participation may provide information on how the various descendant lineages of our common ancestors dispersed geographically. Of even more interest, it will expand the understanding of Y-DNA links among various, less closely related family segments who share the identified surnames. We are confident that over time we will have increasing clarity about such intra-surname links and we invite you to participate in the research that will help build this understanding.

We hope you can participate in this research, helping us clarify the nature of our common ancestors. In the process you may find such participation advances your own genealogical research in ways that none of us anticipate.


Sources: Except for where otherwise indicated, the primary source for this discussion is the Family Tree DNA website, and primarily at the links given above and within the linked page for the various Y-DNA mutations. Additional detail about timeline probability ranges for the various mutations can be found by clicking “Scientific Details” from the menu to the left of each Family Tree DNA timeline graphic.


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Jim Riehle
Jim Riehle
November 18, 2022 10:07 pm

Does the science tell us when the Kosovo (EV-13) guy (or a direct male descendant) first fathered a boy in Baden? Can it tell us the mutation history of the present subclades?