Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Visigoths: My Chaves Roots Before Spain

One of the benefits of genetic genealogy is the ability to dig deeper into your past. In my case, I already discovered through my Y-DNA that I descend from Pedro Gomez Duran y Chaves – the progenitor of the New Mexico Chavez family.

Pedro Gomez Duran y Chaves was born about 1560 in the southern Spanish village of Valverde de Llerenes. Thanks to DNA, I can trace my genealogy before the time of Christ – and further north of the Iberian Peninsula to Nordic lands of Northwestern Europe.

My Y-DNA, which traces my male lineage, confirms that I am part of the “I” haplogroup, specifically the I1 sub-haplogroup. That sub-haplogroup helped genetic researcher Angel Cervantes to match me with other descendants of the New Mexico Chaves family. Just as important, the sub-haplogroup suggests that I descend from gothic ancestors, mostly likely the Visigoths.

When Cervantes told me about the Visigoth connection, I was embarrassed to admit that I was ignorant of the history of this East Germanic tribe. I felt a little better when nobody else was the wiser during a recent lecture that Cervantes gave in Albuquerque.
Visigoth Migration
Long before arriving in Iberia, which is now called Spain, the Visigoths’ ancient homeland was Gutthiuda, or Gothland, in what is modern-day Sweden, according to Cervantes. They were one of two main branches of the Goths; the other was the Ostrogoths. The Visigoths were one of the first to live their ancient homeland, between the time of Christ and about 300, and migrate southeast to the Balkans, where they were considered by the Roman Empire to be one of several barbarian tribes. The Visigoths participated in several wars with the Roman Empire. They eventually made their way to Italy and sacked Rome in 410.

Around the same time, two other tribes, the Vandals and the Suebi, took control of the Iberian Peninsula. They would rule the peninsula for nearly 100 years, before the Visigoths moved west from Italy and eventually displaced the older tribes in Iberia. The Visigoths eventually lost territory in Gaul to the Franks. So, in 1507, the Visigoths’ kingdom was limited primarily to the Iberian Peninsula.
Visigoth Tremisses

Interestingly, more than 1,500 years later, about 13 percent of modern-day Spaniards are thought to have descended from one of these three Nordic tribes – the Suebi, Vandals or the Visigoths.

One unexpected remnant of the Visigoths that I inherited, albeit unknowingly, is my given name. The Spanish translation of my name is Gilberto, which to my surprise, is one of several names that originate from the now-extinct, ancient East Germanic language of the Visigoths, according to Cervantes. He said many names date back the language, including those ending in “o”, such as Rodrigo, Ricardo, and Fernando; and those ending in “ildo” or “ilda,” such as Hermenegildo, Regildo, Hilda and Gilda. Some surnames, such as Guzman, Gutierrez and Valdez, also originate from the language of the Visigoths.

The modern-day Germans and Dutch speak a language that originates from an ancient Western Germanic language.

The Visigoths and the Vandals were both Arian Christians, and they did not believe in the Trinity. Interestingly, the Visigoths were the only non-Roman-Greco people with a bible written in their own language, with their own alphabet, according to Cervantes. The Visigoths eventually embraced Catholicism in Iberia toward the end of the 6th Century.

I’m sure that, over time, I’ll learn more and appreciate more about the history of my ancestors during ancient times – the good, the bad and the ugly. One thing I’m learning is how my ancestors were persecuted and the persecutors in history. For example, the Visigoths were considered barbarians and persecuted by the Roman Empire. More than 1,000 years later, the Spanish descendants of the Visigoths and many others, persecuted indigenous Indian tribes of the New World, including my maternal ancestors, the Chichimeca Indians north of Mexico City that were also considered to be barbarians.


  1. Great post Gilberto...Very interesting.

  2. I imagine this as an awesome surprise, given how formidable the Visigoths are. Congrats for having found those aspects of your lineage. May you continue to look further into it and draw out even much more evidence. Though, this can take a lot of informational grunt work, there are softwares for that. Good luck!

    Ruby Badcoe @ Williams Data Management