Recently, I was contacted by a Greg Pierson, who was adopted but whose biological family was the Avance family, of Anderson Co., TN. He was interested in determining the link between the Avance family and the Avent family, so he set up a DNA project on the website familytreedna.com, and then requested members of the Avent or Avance families to participate. Participants so far are his biological brother, with the last name of Avance, a Gerald W. Avance (whose earliest known ancestors came from TN), a Roy Avants (whose earliest known ancestors came from SC and TN), and two members of the Avent family - myself, and a Robert Avent from the MS Avent family.
Robert Avent's participation was particularly important because the link between the MS Avents and Col. Thomas Avent has never been definitively proven. The founder of the two oldest MS Avent families was a Peter Avent, who first shows up in Talbot Co., GA, in the 1830's. While it seems very likely that this Peter Avent was a descendant of Col. Thomas Avent, no proof of this Peter Avent's parents has ever been found. Circumstantial evidence has made it seem likely that he was a grandson of Col. Thomas' son Peter, but documentary evidence for this has not been found.
My participation in this project was necessary because, like most NC Avents, my descent from Col. Thomas is rock-solid, and has been proven by hard documentary evidence. Therefore, if the DNA of the Avances, Roy Avants and of Robert Avent of MS matched mine, it would suggest that the Avance family, the Avants family and the MS Avents were likely descended from Col. Thomas. The results are in, and they either match or very closely match, so I believe it can be stated with a reasonable degree of certainty that the Avance family of Anderson Co., TN, the Avants family of TN and the MS Avents are likely descended from Col. Thomas Avent of VA. Here are the actual test results (I am #4, Robert Avent of MS is #3):
It should be explained here that the test used was a "Y DNA" test. This test looks at the "Y" chromosome, which is passed down through the male line, unchanged through the centuries, from father to son. (There are actually occasional mutations, but they are relatively uncommon).
The most significant information here is the entry in the "Haplo" column, which is I2B1. "Haplo" refers to "haplogroup", which in our case is the letter "I". For our purposes, a haplogroup can be thought of as the ancient "tribe" to which your ancestors belonged. Each haplogroup can be traced back to a single individual, whose DNA mutated in a unique way at some time in the distant past, usually at least 15-25,000 years ago. Geneticists and anthropologists have mapped the migrations of these "tribes", so once you know your haplogroup, it is possible to know to which ethnic group you belong, and roughly when and where your "tribe" migrated throughout its history.
The study of genetics is a rapidly changing science, and in just the past year or less our haplogroup has been renamed from "I1C" to "I1B2A" to "I2B1", for reasons too technical to go into here .One type of marker on the Y chromosome is called a SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism), and a characteristic of SNPs is that they mutate relatively infrequently, which makes them very useful in identifying members of subgroups within a haplogroup. The SNP mutation that characterizes the I2B group is a positive test for a marker named M223. Greg Pierson has tested positive for M223, and I'm going to assume for now that this would also be true for the other individuals who are participating in the DNA study. That being the case, since the terminology of haplogroups is changing so rapidly, I'm going to refer to our haplogroup as I-M223, rather than I2B1.
If I were the only Avent tested so far, our identification of the haplogroup of Col. Thomas Avent would be a lot less certain, since it is always possible that, unknown to me, one of my ancestors between Col. Thomas and myself could have been adopted, or could have had a father other than the one we expect. Fortunately, it appears that the most recent common ancestor between Robert Avent of MS and myself is, in fact, Col. Thomas, and since Robert and I have a perfect match on our DNA (for the first 12 markers, anyway) that makes it much more likely that Thomas Avent also belonged to haplogroup I-M223.
So, what do we know about the I-M223 "tribe"? (Bear in mind that genetic genealogy is a relatively new science, so none of this can be taken as definitive or proven beyond doubt.) It is a relatively uncommon group, and is purely European and was one of the earliest groups to settle in what is now Europe. It seems to have migrated out of the Middle East around 27,000 years ago north and west into modern-day Europe, then moving southward as the Ice Age set in, finally taking refuge about 10,000 years ago somewhere in southern (modern-day) Europe, most likely somewhere in the Balkans, though possibly in modern-day France or Spain. Then, as the Ice Age ended and the glacial ice retreated northward, this group moved northward as well, finally ending up in the northwest of modern-day Germany and in Denmark.. Paraphrased from a website which is now gone:
The I2B clan is thought to have branched from our original progenitor before the last glacial maximum approx. 14,000-18,000 years ago within the Upper Palaeolithic community. It may have refuged in southern France to escape the last Ice Age. This area is well known as the winter refuge of the western Gravettian culture, whose stable diet was reindeer. As the ice melted, herds of large game migrated north in the search of new grass lands. Early tribes naturally followed their tracks in the seasonal quest for resources. It is believed that I2B may well be associated with the early Celtic Iron Age migrations throughout Europe and this is believed to account for the present location of I2B. The age and spread of I2B, suggests that it was an early member of the migrations north from its southern Ice Age refuge in France. I2B is found at its highest concentration in north-western Europe within present day Denmark and NW Germany, and along the North Atlantic coast.
Here is a map showing the concentration of the various SNPs, with M223 circled:
The I2B line is definitely European, very early arrivals (Gravettian stone tool period) about 22000 years ago from the Anatolia-Middle East staging area, living south of the ice sheet at various latitudes as the ice moved south for a couple of millenia, then moving northwards and westwards after about 18,000 years ago as the ice retreated.
And, from here:
Haplogroup "I" is found at very low levels in the Celtic areas (Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, northwestern Spain, etc.) and at relatively high levels in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland. It likely originated among the group who "wintered" in Franco/Iberia & the western Balkans during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) (about 20,000 years ago). As the glaciers retreated, people with this haplotype, together with many others, moved northward. For those who possess an "I" haplotype, it is uncertain whether this DNA signature reflects an Anglo/Saxon, Danish, Viking or Norse heritage, though the values of DYS 390 suggest a 22 for Anglo/Saxon territory and a 23 for Norse/Viking territory.
The line "...it is uncertain whether this DNA signature reflects an Anglo/Saxon, Danish, Viking or Norse heritage, though the values of DYS 390 suggest a 22 for Anglo/Saxon Territory and a 23 for Norse/Viking territory" is particularly interesting because, as you can see in the chart of Avance/Avent DNA above, the value that we have in DYS 390 is "23", which puts us with the Norse and Vikings of Scandinavia.
Here is a map showing the likely path of its migrations (from Stephen P. Morse's excellent website) (bear in mind that "I1C" is the old name for I-M223):
Here is a map showing where the I-M223 DNA is most commonly found today:
According to a 2008 study (Karafet, et. al.), "Haplogroup I2b has been found in over 4% of the population only in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, England (not including Wales or Cornwall), Scotland, and the southern tips of Sweden and Norway in Northwest Europe; the provinces of Normandy, Maine, Anjou, and Perche in northwestern France; the province of Provence in southeastern France; the regions of Tuscany, Umbria, and Latium in Italy; and Moldavia and the area around Russia's Ryazan Oblast and Republic of Mordovia in Eastern Europe. "
It has long been speculated that the forebears of the Avents emigrated to England from France, though there is no hard evidence to back this up. Given what recent DNA studies have found, this theory cannot be ruled out, though it is at least equally likely that they came directly from somewhere in NW Europe. As stated earlier, our DNA contains a 23 in marker 390, which suggests that we have a Nordic/Scandinavian origin, rather than an Anglo/Saxon one, which makes it somewhat more likely that we emigrated to modern-day Britain from NW Europe or Scandinavia, rather than directly from modern-day France, but more extensive DNA testing and analysis is necessary before this question can be answered with any certainty.
Where do we go from here? This is a great opportunity for those individuals whose surname is a variant of Avent (Avant, Avants, Aven, Avin, Avents, etc.) to determine whether or not they are actually a part of the Avent family. Members of the Avance and Avants families have participated in the DNA study and their results indicate that they are likely descendants of Col. Thomas Avent. It would also be extremely interesting to have a British Avent from the Devonshire family tested, as this might be the only way we will ever know the origins of Col. Thomas Avent. If you are interested, contact the Webmaster at or Greg Pierson at