DNA Testing and What's It's All About
This is all about genealogy and using science to prove your family tree by finding people who match your genetic signature, and discovering your ancient ethnic and geographic origins. The genealogical DNA databases are small but growing, making it easier to find matches, and the technology is advancing rapidly, making the tests more and more affordable. The testing company selected for the projects mentioned below has now tested the Y-DNA of over 200,000 men. And in time, you will find "lost cousins" who match your DNA signature and with whom you share a common ancestor. Of course the DNA test by itself won't tell you who that ancestor was (that's genealogy!), but the test will help you to focus your genealogical research on family lines with genetic links to your own.
The DNA tests used in the projects discussed here are simple, harmless, and have no privacy implications.
If you are interested in using DNA testing to help with your family history and genealogy research but are concerned that there might be privacy issues, please click here to read about the privacy and medical implications of DNA testing for genealogical purposes. You will also see in detail some of my own DNA test results. (On a practical level, there are, in fact, no privacy issues when doing standard genealogical DNA tests on the Y-chromosome, but read the explanation to understand why.)
For further information about using DNA to help your family history research, please see the lists of sources near the bottom
of this page.
Now, About Those DNA Projects ...
My Paternal Line — POTTER
With a surname like Potter, my family had always thought that our paternal line was Anglo-Saxon. A standard 67-marker test, plus a few extra, of my Y-chromosome DNA finds that we are instead of Scandinavian origin, Haplogroup I1a1b1a1e1 (following the current ISOGG proposal) characterised by polymorphisms L22+, P109+. and FGC14187/Y4045+ This is also referred to as haplogroup I1-Y4045+. Research on the various ethnic origins ("deep ancestry") of men belonging to subgroups of Haplogroup I1 is on-going, but sub-group I1a1 is thought generally to be around three to four thousand years old and to have originated in northwest Europe. The P109 sub-group was early thought to have a Norse association but more recent research suggests a southern Scandinavian origin with association of Danish Vikings.
If you are a male with the surname Potter, I encourage you to have a similar test done on your Y-DNA, or that of a son, or brother, or father, or uncle, or male Potter cousin. And please join the Potter Surname DNA Project so that you and other Potters can see which of us share common ancient ancestors.
My Maternal Line
A genetic test of the genealogically-significant markers in my mitochondrial DNA
finds that my maternal line belongs to haplogroup H5e1a, associated with people who settled
in central and eastern Europe some thousands of years ago. In a way, this is consistent
with my paper-trail genealogy which strongly suggests that my maternal line is of
Palatine German origin. The women in my maternal line are (going backward) :
Lillian STEWART, born 1892 near Tintern, Ontario, Canada
Theste HUNTSMAN, born 1858 in Clinton Township, Ontario, Canada
Hannah MOOTE (or Muth), born 1830 in Clinton Twp, Ontario, Canada
Elisabeth CROW (or Groh), born about 1790 in Pelham Twp, Ontario, Canada, and
Magdalena MEYER, probably born in Bethel Twp, Pennsylvania, USA.
If your direct maternal line includes any of these women then we are cousins and you, too, belong to mt-haplogroup H5e1a.
Other Family Lines Tested
In 1881 the Foad families were very localized in southeast England, suggesting that perhaps there was a single founder of all the Foad families there. To test this possibility, a Foad Surname DNA Project has been begun, hosted by our selected testing company, Family Tree DNA (FTDNA). Test results based on 67 Y-DNA STR markers and a number of polymorphisms (SNPs) indicate that the first project participant belongs to y-Haplogroup I1*, an ancient genetic group. We have now tested eight other Foad and Foat men and all but three of them match fairly closely on these 67 markers and belong to haplogroup I1*. Do all Foad descendants share a common genetic ancestor from this line? Only the testing of more Foads and Foats will answer this question.
Hoping to further refine the determination of the haplogroup of these men, we have begun some special testing of them. Two have had their 67 STR marker tests extended to 111 markers and we continue to test the men for new polymorphisms (SNPs) as they are discovered. We are hopeful that eventually their haplogroup and ethnic origin will be redefined as a smaller subgroup of the large and amorphous haplogroup I1*. It already looks like they might be part of a new subgroup tentatively called I1a3a1a by ISOGG, or I1-Z140 according to their terminal polymorphism.
If you are a male Foad or Foat I would encourage you to join the Foad Surname DNA Project and have your Y-DNA tested. If you are a woman interested in the results of this project, you can encourage a Foad or Foat brother, father, grandfather, uncle, or a male Foad or Foat cousin to join. Please visit our Foad Surname DNA Project Website for more information and contact me with any questions.
We have begun a project that is open to all male Huntsmans of whatever origin in order to determine the ancient origins of all Huntsman family lines and to find matches with their lost cousins. While the names Huntsman and Hunteman are thought to have an occupational origin, the names are not common and it is possible that the number of family founders is small, so that many living Huntsmans and Huntemeans would be descended from the same founder. If you are a male Huntsman or Hunteman, please consider joining this research project. Visit the project Website at Huntsman Surname DNA Project for more information and contact me with any questions. If you are a woman interested in the results of this project, you can encourage a Huntsman or Hunteman brother, father, grandfather, uncle, or a male Huntsman or Hunteman cousin to join.
A distant cousin in my Huntsman family has been tested for the standard 67 Y-chromosome genealogical markers and a number of polymorphisms and results show that he belongs to Haplogroup N1c1, also known as N-M178, characteristic of men living today in southern Finland and the Baltic region.
Four other Huntsman men have been tested and found to be related to each other. Two of them were known to be related before being tested but the others were not. These four all belong to Haplogroup R1b1a2a1a1a, also known as R-U106. This haplogroup is common among men of western European origin.
In addition, our first Hunteman has been tested for 37 markers and found to belong to haplogroup I1*, also known as I-M253. Men in this group often have Scandinavian origins.
The Mugford surname is thought to have originated in England, from the name of a place which no longer exists. In England (1881) they were generally localized in eastern Cornwall and western Devonshire, suggesting that the place of origin might have been there. In Canada the Mugford families were generally localized in eastern Newfoundland and in Labrador. In other parts of the world Mugfords are quite scattered. This situation raises natural questions about how many founders there might have been.
Test results for a male Mugford (the last surviving male in his family line) have found that he belongs to Haplogroup "R1a1a1". Results for three other participants are (unexpectedly!) closely matched to the first, indicating that they all probably shared a common Mugford ancestor within a genealogical timeframe. Three of these men have documented origins in the Conception Bay area of Newfoundland. A fourth man with roots in Devonshire has been found to match these three on most of the 67 markers. A fifth man with roots in the Bonavista Bay area of Newfoundland matches the first four. So all five of these men are related (although some distantly) and apparently have origins in Devon, England.
We have begun to do some special tests on selected members of this R1a group, hoping to eventually refine their haplogroup determination to some small subgroup of R1a1a1. So far it looks like they might belong to the subgroup for which ISOGG has proposed the label R1a1a1b1a3a, or R1a-L448. The ancient ethnic characteristics of this particular group have not been discovered yet but earlier results certainly indicated a Scandinavian origin, possibly "Norse Viking/Scot" as described by one researcher.
Three other Mugfords have now been tested as well and each of them belongs to a different branch of haplogroup R1b, common among men with origins in western Europe. One of them has roots in Prince Edward Island, Canada. Only testing of more Mugford men can connect more family lines and answer the question about how many Mugford founders there might have been. At present we are especially interested in testing Mugford men from England and Prince Edward Island, although of course all Mugfords are of interest to our project.
If you are a male Mugford and would like to take part in this project, please visit the Mugford Surname DNA Project webpage for more information, and contact me directly with your questions. If you are a woman interested in the results of this project, you can encourage a Mugford brother, father, grandfather, uncle, or a male Mugford cousin to join.
One of my Stewart family lines includes the descendants of John Fitz Stewart, believed to have been born about 1787 in New Brunswick, Canada, and his son, George Angus Stewart, born 13 February 1822, who married Elizabeth Jones VanDusen. The paternal line ancestors and descendants of these men have been found to belong to haplogroup R1b1a2a1a1b3a, or more simply R1b-DF13. Their branch of the haplotree ends in a branch formed by positive results for the successive polymorphisms (SNPs) P312 -> L21 -> DF13.
If you are a male Stewart, I recommend that you join the Stewart DNA Project to see if you are related to one of the many Stewart family lines represented there, or if you represent a new, perhaps unique, line of Stewarts.
For Further Information
For further information on using DNA tests to help your genealogical research, the following sources are recommended :
entry on genetic genealogy A good starting place.
- International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG)
A good source of factual and unbiased non-commercial information. Start by clicking on
their "Resources" and "For Newbies" buttons.
- Kerchner's tutorials Charles Kerchner's expert tutorials and links to other recommended sources of information on using DNA for genealogy.
- Independent DNA testing advice Richard Hill's personal and independent advice on DNA testing for genealogy. Richard also has experience in using DNA to investigate adoptions in a family tree.
- Debbie Kennett's blog expertly covering various topics in DNA testing and personal genomics, as well as her Cruwys/Cruse one-name genealogy study.
- Your Genetic Genealogist Blog postings by experienced genealogy researcher CeCe Moore.
And the following books are highly recommended :
- "The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy" by Blaine T. Bettinger, © 2017, Family Tree Books, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, ISBN-13 978-1-4403-4532-6, soft cover, pp 238. An excellent, detailed, up-to-date explanation of how DNA testing works for genealogy, with many diagrams and charts and references to additional sources. Highly recommended.
- "Genetic Genealogy, The Basics and Beyond" by Emily D. Aulicino, © 2013, AuthorHouse, Bloomington, IN, USA, ISBN 978-1-4918-4090-0, soft cover. A well-written and easy-to-read treatment of DNA testing for genealogy and its current applications. With illustrations and appendices. Highly recommended.
- "The Surnames Handbook" by Debbie Kennett, © 2012, The History Press, Stroud, Gloucestershire, U.K., ISBN 978 0 7524 6862 4, soft cover. Subtitled "A guide to family name research in the 21st century". Practical, well-written and up-to-date. The author (a genealogist with considerable experience) covers all aspects of genealogical surname research in Britain and the applicable DNA tests which can help. The chapter on DNA testing is excellent. Many helpful appendices, notes, bibliography, and index.
- "Surnames, DNA and Family History" by George Redmonds, Turi King and David Hey, © 2011, Oxford University Press, Oxford, ISBN 978-0-19-958264-8, hard cover. In two parts, the first about British surnames, their origins and evolution, the second about DNA testing, the techniques and what the tests can reveal about a surname. An excellent book, for its clarity, 'up-to-dateness', and coverage of all the important aspects of genetic genealogy, with many interesting and useful details not given in other books.
- "Trace Your Roots with DNA" by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak and Ann Turner, © 2004, Rodale, USA, ISBN 1-59486-006-8 paperback. Subtitled "Using genetic tests to explore your family tree". Although somewhat dated now, this is still an excellent introduction to genetic genealogy with real examples and lots of detail, written by a genealogist and a medical doctor with proven expertise in genetic genealogy.
- "DNA and Genealogy" by Colleen Fitzpatrick, PhD, and Andrew Yeiser, © 2005, Rice Book Press, California, USA, ISBN 0-9767160-1-1, paperback. A good introduction to the methods of genetic genealogy intended for people who manage DNA genealogy projects or are considering starting a project.
- "The Origins of the British" by Stephen Oppenheimer, © 2006, 2007, Robinson, London, ISBN 978-1-84529-482-2, paperback. With absolutely fascinating maps of migration and settlement, showing what can be accomplished with DNA in the study of our early origins, but based on a limited number of DNA markers and now seriously out of date. Would that Mr. Oppenheimer would do it all again using the extensive DNA databases now available!