Caithness, northernmost part of mainland Scotland

Sinclair Groupings - Our Caithness, Shetland and Orkney Families

Click any one of these as we try to figure out the various Scottish Groups' complete path through time
Click to see all points of origin for this lineage Click to see where these various haplotypes' lineages may have formed You're on this page now

From the beginning Scotland was made up of coastal settlements. To go inland meant forest and swamps, and wild animals. Jarlshof, in Shetland, had inhabitants as far back as 4000 years ago. They subsisted on sheep and cattle, eating mainly shellfish and seafood. (1)  (all sources on this page below)

David Faux, administrator of a remarkable DNA study of the Shetlands, has written that the first archaeological evidence of humans on the Shetland Islands dates to about 4,000 BC. Like many areas, the Romans provided the only surviving written record of these lands and their peoples. In about 100 BC, they recorded that the occupants of Shetland were the “Picts.”  These people were also found as far south as Pentland Hills and, thus, must have also inhabited Caithness. (2)

Of course, you’re probably wondering why I speak of the ancient settlements of Caithness since it’s accepted fact that our family arrived in Orkney and Caithness no sooner than 1390. However, I believe the ancestors of some in our family were in fact living in Caithness, Shetland and the Orkneys before the family of Rosslyn moved north to accept the title 1st Earl of Orkney by King Håkon on 2 August 1379, having subdued those lands.(3) How they acquired the surname is not clear, possibly from the Laird.

When you examine the “Lineages” link at the left, you’ll see that the Anglo-Saxon Visigoth invader group arrived in England from 400-1,000 AD and began to migrate north as far as Orkney and the Shetlands. I am certain they were on the lands of Caithness, and on the Orkneys and Shetlands before the Rosslyn folks arrived.

"Caithness had been intermittently held, presumably always as fief of Scotland, by the Norse Earls of Orkney, at least since the days of the childhood of Thorfinn Sigurdsson in c 1020, but possibly already several decades before. The modern reconstruction of holders of peerage earldoms do not usually include those of Mormaerdom of Caithness...[these] were a distinct mormaerdom in medieval Scotland in that it generally was held by a "foreign" prince, the Norsemen Earl of Orkney, the ruler of neighboring "Norwegian" province....although there is no essential difference between them and, for example, those of mormaers of Lennox, mormaers of Strathearn and mormaers of Angus." (4) 

Why No Sinclair R1a Haplotype in Scotland?

While I know that, in Europe, R1a is found primarily in the eastern part of the continent, it is still found in northern Scandinavia and may represent 35% of the population there.(6)  So one would expect to find it show a greater density in those areas of Viking incursions. Yet it's not strong in the UK. From this Rootsweb site, you can see that many important families of Scotland were in fact of R1a origins. Note they are primarily of the western Isles  -

"The MacDonalds have determined that their progenitor, Somerled, belonged to haplogroup R1a (of the same Central Asian motif) and the Douglas's progenitor, Willem de Douglas, recently turned up R1a according to the Clan Douglas DNA project. It seems this holds true for most of the pseudo-aristocracy of Scandinavia. R1a is found at levels of less than 1% in most regions of Ireland, and at levels of 3-5% in England, and only slightly higher in Scotland. The highest concentrations of this haplogroup are seen in areas of Britain colonized by the Norse Vikings. One of the leading DNA experts has called R1a the only sure proof of Norse Viking origins when seen in men of deep British ancestry." (5)

That last sentence is the key. We are not of deep British ancestry. Likely all of us, with the possible exception of the E1b1 Lineage and the DYS390=25 Lineage, merged into the "Germanic soup" of Europe after the LGM. And this, I believe, is one of the key stories of our family. You'll see in the link at left "Assessing Family Stories" that I have done a great deal of research on whether or not we are Norse. I believe that many of our lineages spent time there. How much time is up for debate, as in the Anglo-Saxon Visigoth Invader Lineage.

I've written my genealogy. I'm not qualified to write yours.

Will someone step forward to help clarify the genealogy story of Caithness with good records research?  Send thoughts or the complete write-up to me at the Contact link above-right. I'll add the DNA overview to the story. Alternatively, let's all help to work it out in the Google Group rooms.

What we'd expect
to see in the DNA
(1) Given the age of human inhabitation of these lands, and the number of times they were     invaded we'd expect to see several different haplotypes in the population and, possibly,     in our family of this area. As it turns out, we do. our I1 group, our AMH (R1b) group, the     A-S-Visogoth, DYS390=23 group, the DYS390=25 group.
(2) I think the DNA bears out the full story of our family's history in Caithness -
     - Migration of Anglo-Saxon Visogoths into this area
     - Invasion of the I1 Anglo-Saxon Norse (See I1 Lineage - Ken Nordtvedt)
     - The arrival of the Henry St. Clair of Rosslyn, his family and heirs
     - The arrival of the other claimants to the Earldom. There were at least three,
       and they may represent completely different haplotypes.
(3) Lack of certain DNA signatures can be just as important as those we find. We have
     no R1a haplotype in our family project as of this writing. This is important.

Sources - 

(1) Website – "Scottish Origins,…to William Wallace," a service of Scotweb, 


(3) Website - Undiscovered Scotland, “Henry Sinclair, 1st Earl of Orkney

(4) Wikipedia - Earl of Caithness

(5) Rootsweb, Freepages, A Haplogroup page

(6) Europedia -

Other sources -

Nature, International Weekly Journal of Science, “Early Man in Scotland,” nature 57, 234-237 (06 January 1998) | doi:10.1038/057234a0

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