Social and cultural factors had a critical role in determining the genetic structure of Europe. Therefore, socially stratified populations may help to focus on specific episodes of European demographic history. In this study, we use uniparental markers to analyse the genetic structure of Partecipanza in San Giovanni in Persiceto (Northern Italy), a peculiar institution whose origins date back to the Middle Ages and whose members form the patrilineal descent of a group of founder families. From a maternal point of view (mtDNA), Partecipanza is genetically homogeneous with the rest of the population. However, we observed a significant differentiation for Y-chromosomes. In addition, by comparing 17 Y-STR profiles with deep-rooted paternal pedigrees, we estimated a Y-STR mutation rate equal to 3.90 * 10(-3) mutations per STR per generation and an average generation duration time of 33.38 years. When we used these values for tentative dating, we estimated 1300-600 years ago for the origins of the Partecipanza. These results, together with a peculiar Y-chromosomal composition and historical evidence, suggest that Germanic populations (Lombards in particular) settled in the area during the Migration Period (400-800 AD, approximately) and may have had an important role in the foundation of this community.