Y-DNA Haplogroup E: E1b1b and E1b1a

Jayne Ekins

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Y-DNA haplogroup E, with subgroups E1b1b and E1b1a, is the most common Y-chromosome haplogroup in Africa. Explore its deep origins, variant names (E-M2, E-M215, and E-V58), global spread to Europe and the Americas, and and consider the best YDNA test for African origins.

The genetic heritage of Africa is unfathomably deep and fascinating to explore. Haplogroup E is the most common Y-chromosome clade in Africa, and has made its way around many other parts of the world too, both anciently and also with other more modern migrations.

Before diving in, you may want to review the concepts of SNPs and Y-DNA haplogroups here. Okay? Good, now we’ll take a look at this tree.

Y-chromosome Haplogroup Tree 2021

Haplogroup E is old, having emerged more than 70,000 years ago, likely in East Africa. Today descendants of this original ancient group remain highly concentrated in many regions of Africa, giving insight into the archaic movements of people on the continent. The less frequent, but long-established presence of members of haplogroup E in the Near East and Europe demonstrate other ancient migrations of the haplogroup out of the African continent. This is also the most common Y-DNA haplogroup for current-day African Americans, in both North and South America. Haplogroup E has something to say about myriads of people over vast swaths of the globe.


Haplogroup E1b1b, E-M215 or E-M35

One of its most common subbranches, called E1b1b, is defined by the SNP E-M215, and these terms are often used synonymously. E1b1b can also be referred to by another SNP, called E-M35, which defines its major subbranch. E-M35 was discovered before E-M215, and almost all people with the E-M215 mutation also have the E-M35 mutation. The take-away is that E1b1b, E-M215 and E-M35 are often used to loosely refer to the same Y-haplogroup subbranch.

On the African continent, E-M215 is found at very high frequency in North Africa, approaching 80% prevalence in some areas across the region. In the horn of Africa, not only is E-M215 very frequent in Ethiopia and Somalia (40-80%), but a high number of different sub-variations of the group are found locally too, suggesting this area is a place of ancient origin for the group. Limited southward migration brought E-M215 to isolated populations in South Africa. And there was also spread of E-M215 westward along land and possibly maritime routes into Europe, representing the last major migration of ancient Africans into Europe.

Haplogroup subbranch E-M215 in Europe

Current day concentrations of people in haplogroup E1b1b, E-M215 mutation. (Y heatmap developed by Hunter Provyn and Thomas Krahn and found at Phylogeographer.com. Used with permission.)

The age of E-M215 in Europe is estimated at 10,000 years, with highest concentrations found in Kosovo (up to 45%), other Balkan nations, Greece and Southern Italy. This is a very specific genetic sub-cluster of E1b1b and from its peak frequency in Kosovo, declines steadily westward across Southern Europe. This expansion from the Balkans is the major contributing event to the presence of E-M215 in contemporary Europe. This haplogroup has a long presence in the Near East as well, as demonstrated by its occurrence in ancient remains in the Levant and mummies in Egypt. Today a significant contingent of Ashkenazi (20%) and Sephardi (30%) Jews belong to a specific sub-haplogroup of E-M215 defined by the mutation E-M123, supporting this as a major founding lineage of the Jewish people. This widespread, ancient haplogroup has made a significant imprint on the African continent and also many parts surrounding the Mediterranean. And then in far-away southern Africa, a notable satellite of E-M215 is found in The Lake Tanganyika region of Tanzania and Congo. The E1b1b haplogroup has been busy getting around for a long time!

You’ll recognize some of history’s notables that trace their paternal heritage to haplogroup E1b1b, including Italian Renaissance painter Caravaggio, the first-in-flight Wright Brothers, Albert Einstein, US President Lyndon Johnson, and the one and only Napoleon Bonaparte.



Haplogroup subbranch E1b1a, E-M2 and E-V38

Current day concentrations of people in haplogroup E1b1a, E-M2 mutation. (Y heatmap developed by Hunter Provyn and Thomas Krahn and found at Phylogeographer.com. Used with permission.)

Haplogroup E1b1a is an ancient brother to E1b1b, but has left a completely different fingerprint on the world today. These branches split from one another around 47,500 years ago in the horn of Africa, followed by the emergence of prominent SNP mutation E-M2 which gained footing there. The SNP mutation that actually defines E1b1a is called E-V38, but the vast majority of its members belong to the subbranch defined by E-M2. E1b1a is often referred to by the SNP name E-M2 rather than E-V38, even though E-M2 defines its major subbranch. Historically, the terms E1b1a and E-M2 were used interchangeably for some time, because E-V38 was discovered later and E-M2 is so numerous within E1b1a. This naming convention proved hard to break, so E1b1a and E-M2 are still terms that are loosely used to refer to each other.

Today E-M2 is the most common and diversified haplogroup in West Africa (70-97%), and also has moderate prominence in Central Africa, the African Great Lakes region and South Africa (20-60%).


Ancient migration routes of Haplogroup E1b1a

A well-recognized event called the Bantu expansion spread its language and also genetic characteristics from North Africa through an east-west corridor, and also south in two waves of migration 2,000-3,000 years ago. This movement displaced other populations’ genetic traits with the now very prominent E-M2, and arrived in South Africa as early as 300 CE. E-M2 is found in Africa outside of this main path, but with much lower prevalence in North and East Africa (1-10%).

E-M2 travels globally

E-M2 also moved anciently into the Middle East and Mediterranean island groups, seen today in low frequencies in some of these communities around 1-2% occurrence.

The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade also brought E-M2 to the Americas beginning 400 years ago. With the strong predominance of this haplogroup in West Central Africa (70-97%) where the embarkments took place, many enslaved men bore the E-M2 genetic signature and brought it to different parts of the Americas.

Atlas of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, Wikimedia Commons image provided by KuroNekoNiyah, used under CC BY-SA 4.0, no changes made.

Incidence of E-M2 in total male population by country

For about 35% of African Americans who perform Y-chromosome testing, they find that their Y-chromosome is of European origin. This reflects the now better-acknowledged and brutal practices of sexual exploitation of African women by white people in the Americas. For the remaining 65% of African Americans who find an African origin for their Y-chromosomal lineage, the most common haplogroup discovered is E-M2. The total prevalence of E-M2 among males in countries in the Americas varies widely, but likely indicates paternal ancestry traced to the the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

Specific subbranches of E-M2 and other completely different haplogroups of African origin are found in the Americas that can be traced to the same era of forced migration. A study in 2020 of a small establishment called Palenque near Cartegena, Colombia found four different deeply divergent African Y-chromosome lineages among the small population of current-day descendants of the slave trade. This is reflective of people arriving in the settlement who were forcibly gathered from many diverse locations in Africa, and then embarked from a multitude of different ports along the west coast of Africa. This same trend is observed throughout all of the Americas: there are some focal points of migrations from certain African populations, but this occurs against the backdrop of diversity of African Y-chromosomal lineages resulting from people being gathered from many African locations and then scattered on the new continent.

YDNA Testing for African Origins

What’s the best DNA test to obtain your Y-chromosomal haplotype? Take the YDNA test from Family Tree DNA.

Learn More about YDNA Testing


If you are considering Y-chromosome testing with an eye specific to African heritage, consider the company African Ancestry, which hosts the largest database of African Y-chromosomal and mtDNA lineages, and is 100% Black-owned. They do not provide any autosomal testing, but will trace your paternal or maternal line with specificity to 30 countries and several hundred ethnic groups, the strongest resolution available for African Y-DNA and mtDNA analysis. See their coverage of different countries and lineages within the continent.


Should you take a DNA test with African Ancestry or one of the other major companies? People looking for African roots are able to receive their Y-haplogroup by testing at Family Tree DNA,* 23andMe, and Living DNA. African Ancestry provides further interpretation to inform clients of the names of specific ethnic groups and lineages to which the Y-haplogroup is likely to be related. BUT if you’re interested in working with YDNA matches–those who share your YDNA signature–you’ll need to take a YDNA test with Family Tree DNA.

Whichever company you choose to analyze your Y-DNA, you are sure to discover new insights about your family spanning millennia. It is an epic history that you are now carrying forward in your own genome. Go see what you can discover!

Should you take a YDNA test? Learn for free

Start your YDNA journey for free! Our YDNA FREE Get Started Course will help you consider the many ways YDNA might help you answer your questions about your family history. The Get Started course is an excerpt from our YDNA for Genealogy Course, which takes you deeper into understanding Y-haplogroups and using them in genealogy research (as well as other topics such as YDNA matching, surname project participation, and when to use Big Y).

Cool! Sign Me Up for the YDNA FREE Get Started Course


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<a href="https://www.yourdnaguide.com/author/jayne-ekins" target="_self">Jayne Ekins</a>

Jayne Ekins

Jayne has been in the field of genetic genealogy since its beginnings as part of the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation. She has lectured throughout the United States and international venues on the applications of molecular biology to elucidating ancient and recent genealogical connections. She has authored and co-authored many peer-reviewed scientific publications, as well as general articles on genetic genealogy. It is a pleasure for her to see the accelerating developments in genetic genealogy, and the wide accessibility and application it has for the average human curious about their origins.


  1. The Flat

    Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon on a daily basis. It’s always helpful to read through content from other authors and use something from their web sites.

    • Lucian obrien

      e1b1a is associated with kemetic spirituality and dogon spirituality

      • YaYa Brice

        E1B1A is the ISRAELITES Haplogroup

        • Tracy Moore

          Yes it is

        • Eugene Young

          100 % correct

  2. Kiana

    I love learning about haplogroups and the many mutations they go through as people move and change. Although they represent such a small and tiny part of a person’s genome, it’s still interesting. With haplogroup E1b1b, I recently read that the possible origin could be North Africa or Northeast Africa. It seems like this field is still always evolving, which makes me want to learn even more.

  3. Gage Childers

    hello friends

    I was wondering if there is any new connection to haplogroup E-PF6747, or haplogroup E-L29 also known as haplogroup E-m84 in northwestern Europe. I am a white American male, and most of my known ancestors come form England and Scotland, and my DNA results on 23 and me have me as 81.4 percent British and Irish, 10.5 percent French and German, 4.7 percent Scandinavian, and 2.9 percent broadly Northwestern European. My Ancestry DNA results have me at 54 percent England and Northwestern Europe, 22 percent Scotland, 14 percent Norway, and 10 percent Wales. I have nothing that connects me to the Mediterranean, Africa, or the Middle East, but i hear that some of the oldest populations in North East Wales have had this haplogroup that is rare in Northwestern Europe. Could this haplogroup still have come with some of the original inhabitants of Britain?

    • Diahan Southard

      Hi Gage, YDNA goes much much deeper than our ethnicity results. So both results can be indicative of your personal history, but just at different time periods. I hope that clears things up!

  4. Lee Smith

    Is it true, E-V38 / E1b1a is connected to the Lemba Tribe in Africa.

    • Danielle Francis

      Hi Lee, I am not sure, but it would be interesting to investigate more into that!

      • Presley

        Do you think you could investigate into the Edo tribe of Nigeria, there’s not much info on their dna as they only have a population of about a few million, but since I come from that tribe I’d love to know

    • YaYa Brice

      Yes it is True The Lemba have 2 main YDNA which is J1 and E1B1A but they have others also.But J1 and E1B1A are the two prominent.

  5. Pyrrho

    “The total prevalence of E-M2 among males in countries in the Americas varies widely, but likely indicates paternal ancestry traced to the the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.”

    This is not the case. There’s evidence that shows West Africans migrated to the Americas before the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

    • Danielle Francis

      Thanks for sharing that insight!

  6. ann oxbridge

    I came to this site after learning that the remains of Ramses the Third of Egypt were tested and he was found to have the haplogroup, E1B1a, proving of course that he was African. Thank you for a very informative article.

    • MS

      Well… Testing established Akhenaton, Tut-Ankh-Amon, and other kings of the 18th Dynasty, were part of the R1b branch, which is typical of nowadays’ Western Europeans (linked to Indo-European migrations), including the Habsburgs, the house of Wettin, George Bush… and boxer Muhammad Ali. At the same time, R1b is prevalent in Southern Chad, Northern Cameroon, and Northern Nigeria. Conversely, the testing of Egyptian priests from the 12th dynasty showed they belonged to the H2 haplogroup, which was mostly prevalent in Europe and Asia.

      Therefore, the Y-haplogroup doesn’t say much about someone’s perceived ethnicity, and it certainly doesn’t make someone more or less “African” (whatever being “African”, or “European, or “Asian” means…).

  7. Veemanathan Ramachandran

    Bantu expansion: What is Bantu language?. Is it ancient Tamil language from Pandiya kingdom coexisted in Indian Peninsula. I have a genuine doubt.

    • Your DNA Guide

      Unfortunately we are not language experts – we speak the language of DNA! 🙂 However, I did a quick search and found a result from Britannica. The link to the information is below, I hope it helps!


  8. Tim

    My Sub Branch comes off of E-BY9805 which is the closest that my Project Manager on FTDNA Published Publicly which can be found as a stub on Wikipedia. E-BY9805 is the Branch where the Slavs,Turks,and Germanic People split off at.

  9. Donna Robinson

    I finally took the plunge and had a male relative tested for our paternal line, the BigY at Family Tree DNA! E-M2 was the Y111 predicted haplogroup, and E-M4257 was the confirmed haplogroup. I’ve been at this for about 25 years and could not get past my 4th great grandfather. I really still can’t but I’m that much closer to figuring out how he arrived in Quebec, Canada in the 18th century! He was given a land grant in 1804, there’s no birth, marriage, death or burial records for him, just the odd mention of his children’s birth and baptisms and marriages. He’s mentioned in one Canadian Census record and that’s it, it hasn’t been much to go on! I’d love a nudge in the right direction!

    • Diahan Southard

      You didn’t mention anything about matches, so it’s hard to give you advice on a direction. The YDNA class could be a great next step for you! That could build your understanding of the results you are seeing and some ideas on where to go next! It will also give you ideas about other ways to use YDNA in your research.

      • Donna Robinson

        Another cousin did the BigY at the same time, it says 3 steps away, he’s a 2C2R. We have 1 Y67 match 1 step away, he’s a known cousin, 2C3R to my nephew (the BigY test taker). There are 2 at the Y37, 3 and 4 steps away, I’ve contacted them and the match at 3 steps got back to me, he’s in N. Carolina, African American, and he has Robinsons in his tree, but did not have a tree so I’ve been rebuilding that and have come to his Robinson connection, but it’s difficult because they were enslaved. At the 25 marker level, there are two others, one is at 1 step and the other 2 steps. I had been in contact with the one at 2 steps, 2 years ago, long before my nephew took the YDNA test and we’re working together to figure out our connection. Finally there’s 1 different name at the 12 marker level, I’ve manage to build out his tree and have also found Robinsons there, but can’t connect.

        I’ve watched a lot of your videos on youtube!! Lots of great information. It’s being suggested that my 4th gr-grandfather is the 2½ year old boy listed in the Book of Negroes at Nova Scotia under the name James Robertson with parents James Sr and Betsey, but there’s no way to prove that! My ancestor has no DOB, marriage, death info and only one census record, and a notary record for his land grant. Not much to go on.

  10. Nick Gorr

    I have this a try and ended up with e-y39151 downstream from e-l791, e-y2947 and 2962; strangely it turns into
    E-BY109865 and ends at E-Y39151.
    I knew my family to be Northern Italian and French, but fits a says Russian. Can anyone help with this.

  11. Vincent Brown

    Anyyone have any information on haplogroup E1B1A1A1C1B? It also shows E-516. But that subgroup shows under 1F1B.. I’m very confused.

  12. alondra johnson

    Your DNA Guide is wonderful unto having good information that helped me understand my E1B1A lineage is very powerful with Royalities. thank you.

  13. Mar Anu

    Does anybody know what haplogroup Emperor Haile Selassie and his paternal side and family Y haplogroup was and is then in his time and down to today I heard it was e1b1a7 is this true ?

    • King Selassie I

      Who told you this


    Hi everyone! My name is Edson Teodoro! Could you explain why I, as an Afro-descendant, had my terminal migration in Europe and not in Africa? Could the reason for this be a possible recent European rather than African paternal ancestor? E-V13, E-PH2792 HAPLOGROUP

    • Diahan Southard

      Hi! We would need to see more of your DNA results to really understand why. If you want to meet with one of our DNA Coaches, they could help you, or our YDNA class is another great resource!

  15. Doris Brown

    Wanted to get connected

  16. Sharon Speakman

    My brother did the Y700 as I have been stuck at a brick wall for 25 years. He is E-FB110789. It says we originated from Bulgaria. My brother began with the y37 and I upgraded him. At the y37, he had exact match with the common ancestor being the brother of my potential unproven ancestor. On the y700 test, we had one at 4 steps away but he has no tree, his email is no longer in service, and no state of residence is listed. I tried working up a tree working backwards but I really had nothing to go on. I did autosomal DNA and matched the niece as a 6th cousin of that y37 match with my brother. We have been in touch but no breakthroughs. Any suggestions?

    • Diahan Southard

      What ancestory are you looking for? Sometimes the only option is to wait for that key mystery match to test. If the ancestor is within the 3x great grandparent range or closer, you could always try having other relatives test to see if they gather in other matches you haven’t seen yet.


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