Hugs in the Churchyard – Thanks to Y DNA

Isn’t this just a wonderful picture? Even though the picture is of two very excited female cousins, it’s all because of Y DNA. Don’t tell anyone, but I think we might have jumped up and down a few times too (wink), with very good reason!

This exuberant photo is my cousin, Mary and me, in the cemetery of the church in Downham, Lancashire, England where our ancestor, Thomas Speake was baptized in 1634. How we got here is truly a genetic journey, and we couldn’t have done it without our Speak male cousins who were all too willing to help by Y DNA testing!

Mary and I share ancestor, Nicholas Speaks, who was born in 1782 in Charles County, Maryland and migrated as a child with his father to Washington County, Virginia where he married Sarah Faires. The young couple homesteaded in Lee County, Virginia, establishing the first Methodist Church in the area about 1822.

When Cousin Mary and I began our genealogy journey, along with a few other cousins, years ago, we didn’t have any information prior to Lee County. Where did Nicholas come from and who were his parents?

Over the years, our line was traced back to Maryland in the 1600s to immigrant Thomas Speak. However, we were truly stuck in Maryland, with absolutely no idea where Thomas originated in the UK. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Several Speak men Y DNA tested when DNA testing became available, and then the wait began. A few years later, they matched a man who lived in New Zealand. The Speak cousin from New Zealand knew a lot more about his ancestors in England than we did since they migrated to New Zealand in the 1800s, not the 1600s like our Thomas Speak.

Our newly discovered cousin from down-under pointed us to the little town of Gisburn, where his Speak ancestor was born and baptized. Our Thomas’s baptismal record wasn’t in Gisburn, but working in a circle in surrounding communities turned up Thomas’s baptismal record in 1634 in the tiny village of Downham, just 4 miles distant.

The baptismal record further told us that Thomas was from an even smaller village, if that’s even possible.  Twiston is more of a farming hamlet (shown below), a mile or so away from Downham down a tiny road so twisty that anything larger than a passenger vehicle can’t navigate the road.  Let’s just say I have personal knowledge of this issue:)

Two years later, after our amazing DNA discovery, followed by confirming record discoveries, about 20 descendants of the Speak family of Gisburn and Downham, including our New Zealand cousin, arranged a tour back to our homeland. We met in London, having rented a bus and driver, and off we went to Lancashire on a journey back in time.

This amazing adventure truly was the trip of a lifetime, a dream come true, with cousins near and dear to my heart, finding and honoring our common ancestral homeland.

All, thanks to Y DNA. Y DNA isn’t always a sprint, although sometimes you have an important immediate match. Y DNA is sometimes more of a wait and be patient proposition, as the DNA results are constantly fishing for you – but it’s so, so, worth the wait.

I hope that you too get to hug your cousin in the cemetery where your ancestors are buried on a journey someplace you could never have imagined. But you’ll never get to hug in that cemetery if you don’t start the journey by testing. I couldn’t test myself, being a female, but I surely could test my cousins – and I have – lots of them!

All of genetic genealogy is a collaborative journey and you never know which new tester will make that fateful difference!

With Father’s Day on the horizon, there’s no better time to test your male lines that haven’t yet tested. You truly never know what wonderful adventure or new cousin is waiting. Give the gift of discovery. Click here to order at Family Tree DNA.



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20 thoughts on “Hugs in the Churchyard – Thanks to Y DNA

  1. Thank you so much for this! I plan to share this with male cousins who might be interested in testing.Too many are reluctant because they’ve heard somewhere that STR panels are outdated and all but worthless. “It ain’t necessarily so” – especially if many other men with the same surname have already tested and been grouped under a surname project.

    • I have to admit I feel like I’ve read a few discussions about how STR panels are inaccurate, usually with the idea of convergence thrown into the mix. But to date I’ve tested my dad’s Y-DNA to Y-67 plus SNP testing to find three lastname-location IDs, so it’s been very rewarding! I’d like to get Y-DNA testing done on my mother’s paternal side, but I’m just easing cousins into the entire concept of DNA testing first. Thanks for your story, Roberta!

    • Even if STR are outdated, knowing a man is R-U106 won’t make him closely related to Charles Capet and his many European king descendants. FTDNA gives y-DNA matches to compare our result with, which they are still the only company to do, if my knowledge isn’t outdated.

      As for working with SNPs, unless one pays for Y-Full, Big-Y or the like (is there any others?), one only gets over a thousand years from anything genealogically relevant. If they volunteer to pay the bill, why not, but otherwise, either they want to help or not.

      That being said, maybe it would be wise for FTDNA to add a basic SNP test to y37, y67 and y111.

  2. Lovely story Roberta. I ordered a Y DNA kit for my brother in the Christmas sale, because he said he was interested. But getting him to actually take the test is another story. It’s like not eating for an hour beforehand is some sort of hardship. Anyone would think I had asked for his spare kidney rather than a bit of saliva. Anyone have any ideas to encourage him?

  3. I did the opposite, I’ve been partying in Normandy, with friends I met on internet, for something not genealogy or DNA related. A few months later, I discover one of my ancestor came from that very village. Asking the friend, he confirm the surname was still all over the place in the villages around and he had a few among his own ancestors.

    To think my ancestor could have stand in the very kitchen I was partying, maybe even partying herself (it was an old house, the year of the construction was written on it, although it would have been rather new when my ancestor left).

  4. I noticed all your disclosures on how you are not paid etc. Just so you are aware there is a report on the Family Tree DNA forum that a project member who asked you a standard question about their halpogroup results received a reply by you (the administrator of that project) to pay a consulting fee to receive an answer to their question. I hope and believe this to be a misunderstanding by you or the person who received the reply and if not I hope a new administrator for that project can be found.

    • I don’t follow the forum, so I’m not aware. I never require anyone to pay for a standard question. That’s why I write articles, to answer standards questions, for free. If it’s the person I’m thinking it is, they did not ask a standard question, but asked for haplogroup specific research into a rare haplogroup subgroup I am not familiar with off of the top of my head. I offered to do their research for a quick consult. They did not indicate they were a project member, but still, custom research is custom research and should not be expected of any project administrator, for free. Furthermore, the person then replied that they wanted a free answer but didn’t want to pay because they did not think it would further their research. So they wanted me to work for free on an answer that they didn’t think would benefit them and wasn’t worth their time, but was somehow worth mine.

      • So a project member of your Haplogroup project asks a question about a Haplogroup branch that the project covers appearing in Europe and your reply is asking for money for an answer? This seems like a standard question to me and answering them for free falls within your obligations as an administrator. No, you are not obligated to research the answer if you don’t know but a reply asking for money and advertising your consulting services is inappropriate and against FTDNA administrator guidelines.

        “Project Administrators shall not:
        ….Use a DNA project to promote a business or commercial interest outside of the Family Tree DNA affiliate program.”

        “It is your responsibility to:
        Refer project members to Family Tree DNA staff to answer questions if you do not know the answer.”

        So you are not supposed to be promoting yourself or using a project for your own services. You should stop promoting your business to project members when they contact you with a question as you are in violation of FTDNA’s guidelines and you should consider stepping down on all projects you administer.

        • I believe I said that I had no idea if this person was a project member or not, but I would assume not since they were asking about a haplogroup of a project I don’t manage. Secondly, they were asking for someone else, not themselves, and never said a word about anyone being a project member of any of my projects. I manage the haplogroup A4 and A10 projects which are focused on Native American research, and they were asking about a different haplogroup, A8a, with the person being from Italy – clearly not Native. Third, DNAexplain is an affiliate business. Fourth, I did not and do not use my projects to promote my own services. It is not my responsibility to research for this person. I did not and have not violated any guidelines.

  5. I love everything about this post. Thank you for sharing Roberta! I really hoping for a Y-DNA miracle of my own. Fingers crossed! So far it’s been enlightening on some surprising bits of info – like the fact that this line is Jewish and we had no idea – but no matches that have any helpful info yet.

  6. Very interesting. John Speake would have been alive at the time of my novel in the area. Can’t say I encountered the name in my research but my memory may be failing me.

  7. and a good source for local info at the start of the 17th century is…
    ‘The journal of Nicholas Assheton, of Downham, in the County of Lancaster, Esq.’, Chetham Society (1848)

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