When I was investigating the material for what would become my book, “The Missing Years of Jesus“, it made sense to explore as many avenues of this baffling subject as I possibly could. However, the notion that the most famous person who has ever lived could have visited Britain “in ancient time” was not one that many academics were eager to be involved with, as I learned from the frosty and frequently non-existent responses to some of my queries. This meant that some intriguing material failed to make it into my book, simply because I was unable to investigate and evaluate it properly.
There were however exceptions to the general attitude of disdain that I encountered, while one person in particular could not have been more helpful. The various legends spoke of Jesus arriving in the West of England by boat, so I assumed that he’d journeyed by sea from one of the major ports in the eastern Mediterranean.
This region was the homeland of the Phoenicians, arguably the greatest seafarers in human history, so I asked my friend Salim if he could assist me in any way. Salim runs A Bequest Unearthed, a website that comprises the largest amount of information on the ancient Phoenicians on the internet and he pointed me towards numerous items of interest, most of which eventually appeared in “The Missing Years of Jesus”.
The book was published last year, but as anyone who visits this site will be aware, I continue to look into the subject of “Jesus in Britain”, partly out of continued curiosity, but also because new material continues to come in with surprising regularity. A few weeks ago, Salim wrote to me to pass on details of someone who had contacted him, and so it is that I’m now publishing extracts of a truly fascinating letter that I was sent by a gentleman named Keith Wilce-Davies.
There are compelling reasons for Jesus to have thought it a good idea to leave his homeland around the age of 12, while those around him doubtless thought along identical lines. There are many compelling reasons for thinking that Britain, the Island to the North, would have been the sole destination of choice for Jesus, while there are detailed and credible legends of him living and working with the ancient Britons in the west of the island.
Not only that, but there are hints of this visit in ecclesiastical records and there are also the enigmatic Tunic Crosses in Cornwall. Instead of the figure of a crucified adult male as an obligatory adornment to a wooden cross, these strange structures show instead what appears to be a youth with his arms raised, as if preaching, while there are many other curiosities to be found in the west of England.
When Jesus reappears in the gospels aged 30 or thereabouts, he displays certain notable characteristics, any one of which he could have individually acquired in a number of locations. To my mind, however, the only place where he could have acquired them all over a period of time was in Britain, which is precisely where so many detailed legends and other evidence place him. All that is lacking is some kind of genetic proof that Phoenicians and Jews travelled to Britain “in ancient time”, but it appears that cold science has now provided further evidence of this. So, I’ll let Keith tell his story in his own words and you can make of it what you will.
“My motivation for testing my DNA came from my interest in tracing my family and constructing my Family Tree. I have been tracing my family for a few years and after reading about DNA testing and watching TV programs, one in particular that caught my attention was about the National Geographic Genographic Project. It appealed to me to let them do the testing, because it not only gave me the information I was looking for, but it also added to our greater knowledge of the movement of human beings around the planet.”
Keith then goes on to say that when he first decided to try to trace his family, he did so out of curiosity and because of medical reasons. He describes two inherited ailments that haven’t really bothered him, but he’s certain that one of them was passed down to him by females on one side of his family.
“I had a feeling it had been passed to me by my mother but I had no proof of this, so tracing my Wilce family and later testing my DNA would give me a clue. My mother was born a Wilce and the family are from the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, but her mother was Mary Morgan who came from Ross-On-Wye. The Wilce family are from Walford, Hope Mansel, Ruardean, and the Mitcheldean area of Gloucester.
My Father was born in Milford Haven and the Davies family are from the Marloes, Dale and Herbrandston Villages. I was born in Shepherd’s Bush in London, but I regard Marloes as my actual home; I moved from London when I was 14 years old and I never returned, whereas Marloes has always been a constant in my life.”
Keith goes on to describe a curious nautical tale that he came across: “During my investigations into my family history, I found that there was a story from my Wilce side that had been handed down about two brothers from Heliogoland that had been shipwrecked in the West Country, early in the 17th century. Up until recently, the furthest back I’d managed to trace a Wilce family member was in 1615, but I have now found traces of the Wilce name before this in London. Who knows whether there is any partial truth in this story, but it’s interesting none the less.”
He goes on to explain some thoughts and misgivings he’d had about the idea of DNA testing: “My Grandmother on my father’s side was born a Folland; this name is actually a Norwegian ‘Farm’ name and they came from an area called Folland on the Island of Averoy, off the coast of Norway. The sad fact is I can’t test for either of these DNAs, so I was left with the Morgan and Davies testing.
My Mitochondrial DNA from the Morgan lineage appeared to be uninteresting, in the sense that it would probably show some English/Welsh European, possibly Scandinavian Ancestry, along, I felt, with most of the English/Welsh population. I thought that my Y Chromosome Davies Lineage would probably be the same, so I was a bit unenthusiastic doing the tests, but I did them anyway, with low expectations.”
I don’t know what Keith anticipated by way of results, but I’m assuming that his low expectations were of an unremarkable lineage with no foreign or otherwise “exotic” elements…
“Imagine my surprise when my MT DNA came back as possible Ashkenazi Jewish Ancestry, Haplogroup K, semi refined to K2b, and my Y Chromosome DNA as Haplogroup T-M70 with possible Phoenician Ancestry! Shocked wasn’t the word for it. My MT Haplogroup K DNA, through Family Tree DNA, yielded a total of 2780 Matches worldwide, with 900 close matches. My Y DNA yielded only 2 matches!
Of course, these are only matches against those that have tested their DNA, but even so I was staggered by the rarity of my Male DNA lineage. In Wales the percentage of the population with the T-M70 DNA is only half a percent around 2,000 people. The percentages are very small in Europe; 0.5% in England and Scotland, it’s a bit higher in southern Spain and the South of France, and it’s very high in Ibiza and Sicily. Of course, it’s found in Turkey, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt and other parts of the Middle East.”
I can understand Keith’s reaction upon learning that he had Phoenician and Jewish ancestry, so it didn’t surprise me when I read his next thoughts on the possible implications of this.
“2,000 people in Wales could mean one common ancestor 80 generations, 2,000 years ago? It’s not beyond the bounds of probability.” Indeed not.
“National Geographic say that it is believed the Phoenicians carried the DNA around the Mediterranean. I’ve read a bit recently and it appears the Sidonians spread around the eastern to central Mediterranean and when the Tyrians became dominant, it was these people that ventured further afield and had ties with the West Country.
The two matches I have at the moment are brothers that live in America, Walter & Claude Mitchell, but they know very little of their Ancestry because they were adopted; all they know is that a grandfather of theirs moved from Canada to the United States in the late 1800′s. There is the American connection with Milford being constructed by American Whalers just over 200 years ago. The other connections are of course the Flemish Mercenaries that William the Conqueror paid by giving them a ‘little bit of England’ which turned out to be Pembrokeshire and it was a Flemish Marcher Lord that built the Castle at Haverfordwest.”
Keith then wrote about the difficulties of gleaning information on his forebears: “The earliest Davies male Ancestor I have found so far is James Davies, born in Herbrandston in 1799. It’s not easy tracing family in Wales because there isn’t a site like the Forest of Dean website where all the info from that area is readily accessible. Ancestry.co are getting better with Welsh information so I’m hopeful in finding out more in the future. The last time I checked, the family history society for the area is run by a Reverend somebody or other and you have to make individual requests to him and he charges you for the privilege. Me and the Church are not on speaking terms, so to speak, so I’m reluctant to add to their coffers!”
This last part by Keith amused me greatly, because I always remember that when my Dad wished to convey a sensation of speed to me, he would tell me that such-and-such travelled “faster than a parson’s soul to Hell!” That aside, Keith had some intriguing information to tell me about his own father and about the affinity for water possessed by other members of his family:
“My father was a Diesel Engineer and he learnt his trade on fishing boats in the docks at Milford Haven. He joined the Army in the 1930′s and was in REME and never went back to live there. My father was mad about the sea and ships; when I was a child in London, we would go down to the Docks in London and just sit and watch the boats coming and going. My brother, who was 9 years older than me, went to Nautical School in Kent and was an officer in the Merchant Navy for a lot of years, then after he left the Navy, he joined the RAF and was stationed at Holyhead in the Air Sea Rescue centre on the high speed rescue boats.”
Keith then told me about how he wanted to join the Royal Navy when he left school at 16, but was unable to because of illness. However, he added “My wife and I are making plans to return to Milford Haven in the next couple of years, as both my wife and myself like to be near the sea. My youngest daughter did a degree in Cardiff University and worked for P&O as a Finance Officer on their cruise ships. She left to help us with our family business, but every now and again she says she’s going back to sea!”
Of course, it was strange to read of a man with genetic links to the Phoenicians, the greatest mariners in history, having such an affinity with the sea, so it was again no surprise when Keith wondered out loud “Is it in our blood?”
Keith then supplied me with his details for the National Geographic site so that I could check everything for myself, but it was hardly necessary to verify what he had to say. He’s planning to have further tests done so as to be more precise in the Haplogroup designation and he generously added:
“I hope that this helps; if there is anything else you want, please let me know. Actually, I have to say that this DNA information has changed the way I feel about myself and my family, and I’m extremely proud to be the offspring of Phoenician and possible Jewish Ancestry”.
Nearly 30 years ago, I came across the book The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail, which contained much talk of ‘bloodlines’, while there’s another link dealing with supposed Jesus bloodlines that shows just how much interest there’s been in this subject over the last 30 years or so. There’s also the vexed question of the Turin Shroud, where it seems that no one can agree on whether or not there are human blood stains present – if there were, and if they proved to be from a male who lived in the Middle East about 2,000 years ago, then the implications are astonishing, as can be instantly seen by entering ‘Turin Shroud DNA’ or some variant into a search engine.
However, despite the length of time that these investigations have been going on for and despite the intense interest in the subject, I’m simply not aware that anyone looking into any of these ‘Jesus bloodlines’ has ever come up with any scientific proof whatsoever to back up their assertions.
By way of complete contrast, less than a year after my book was published and without me even going in search of such material, a gentleman has now written to me giving details of DNA tests carried out by such a respected institution as the National Geographic Genographic Project. Of course, everyone will have their own opinion on this matter and I’m assuming that each person will read into it what they wish or do not wish to see.
To try to prevent any misunderstandings about the nature of this post, it’s worth spelling out precisely what information it contains in its simplest possible form, which is this: A man whose family are from south-west Wales has had his DNA tested by a reputable foundation and as a result, he’s discovered that somewhere along the line, he has Phoenician and Jewish ancestry.
All the evidence that I’ve seen, most of which is presented in the pages of my book, tells me that early in the first century AD, Jesus and Joseph of Arimathea came to Britain aboard a Phoenician galley, just as the folklore and legends maintain. So, I would simply ask this – do the results of the DNA tests detailed above, as carried out by the National Geographic Genographic Project, make this scenario more likely, or less likely?
My grateful thanks to Keith Wilce-Davies for taking the time and trouble to write to me with his fascinating story, while I’m also further indebted to my friend Salim from A Bequest Unearthed. My warm thanks also to Angie Lake for the photographs of the painting of Phoenicians coming ashore “in ancient time” and to Juris Ozols & MOJO for the maps showing Phoenicia, the Mediterranean, the West of England and South Wales.