The Best and Worst of 2015 – Genetic Genealogy Year in Review

2015 Best and Worst

For the past three years I’ve written a year-in-review article. You can see just how much the landscape has changed in the 2012, 2013 and 2014 versions.

This year, I’ve added a few specific “award” categories for people or firms that I feel need to be specially recognized as outstanding in one direction or the other.

In past years, some news items, announcements and innovations turned out to be very important like the Genographic Project and GedMatch, and others, well, not so much. Who among us has tested their full genome today, for example, or even their exome?  And would you do with that information if you did?

And then there are the deaths, like the Sorenson database and Ancestry’s own Y and mitochondrial data base. I still shudder to think how much we’ve lost at the corporate hands of Ancestry.

In past years, there have often been big new announcements facilitated by new technology. In many ways, the big fish have been caught in a technology sense.  Those big fish are autosomal DNA and the Big Y types of tests.  Both of these have created an avalanche of data and we, personally and as a community, are still trying to sort through what all of this means genealogically and how to best utilize the information.  Now we need tools.

This is probably illustrated most aptly by the expansion of the Y tree.

The SNP Tsunami Growing Pains Continue

2015 snp tsunami

Going from 800+ SNPs in 2012 to more than 35,000 SNPs today has introduced its own set of problems. First, there are multiple trees in existence, completely or partially maintained by different organizations for different purposes.  Needless to say, these trees are not in sync with each other.  The criteria for adding a SNP to the tree is decided by the owner or steward of that tree, and there is no agreement as to the definition of a valid SNP or how many instances of that SNP need to be in existence to be added to the tree.

This angst has been taking place for the most part outside of the public view, but it exists just the same.

For example, 23andMe still uses the old haplogroup names like R1b which have not been used in years elsewhere. Family Tree DNA is catching up with updating their tree, working with haplogroup administrators to be sure only high quality, proven SNPs are added to branches.  ISOGG maintains another tree (one branch shown above) that’s publicly available, utilizing volunteers per haplogroup and sometimes per subgroup.  Other individuals and organizations maintain other trees, or branches of trees, some very accurate and some adding a new “branch” with as little as one result.

The good news is that this will shake itself out. Personally, I’m voting for the more conservative approach for public reference trees to avoid “pollution” and a lot of shifting and changing downstream when it’s discovered that the single instance of a SNP is either invalid or in a different branch location.  However, you have to start with an experimental or speculative tree before you can prove that a SNP is where it belongs or needs to be moved, so each of the trees has its own purpose.

The full trees I utilize are the Family Tree DNA tree, available for customers, the ISOGG tree and Ray Banks’ tree which includes locations where the SNPs are found when the geographic location is localized. Within haplogroup projects, I tend to use a speculative tree assembled by the administrators, if one is available.  The haplogroup admins generally know more about their haplogroup or branch than anyone else.

The bad news is that this situation hasn’t shaken itself out yet, and due to the magnitude of the elephant at hand, I don’t think it will anytime soon. As this shuffling and shaking occurs, we learn more about where the SNPs are found today in the world, where they aren’t found, which SNPs are “family” or “clan” SNPs and the timeframes in which they were born.

In other words, this is a learning process for all involved – albeit a slow and frustrating one. However, we are making progress and the tree becomes more robust and accurate every year.

We may be having growing pains, but growing pains aren’t necessarily a bad thing and are necessary for growth.

Thank you to the hundreds of volunteers who work on these trees, and in particular, to Alice Fairhurst who has spearheaded the ISOGG tree for the past nine years. Alice retired from that volunteer position this year and is shown below after receiving two much-deserved awards for her service at the Family Tree DNA Conference in November.

2015 ftdna fairhurst 2

Best Innovative Use of Integrated Data

2015 smileDr. Maurice Gleeson receives an award this year for the best genealogical use of integrated types of data. He has utilized just about every tool he can find to wring as much information as possible out of Y DNA results.  Not only that, but he has taken great pains to share that information with us in presentations in the US and overseas, and by creating a video, noted in the article below.  Thanks so much Maurice.

Making Sense of Y Data

Estes pedigree

The advent of massive amounts of Y DNA data has been both wonderful and perplexing. We as genetic genealogists want to know as much about our family as possible, including what the combination of STR and SNP markers means to us.  In other words, we don’t want two separate “test results” but a genealogical marriage of the two.

I took a look at this from the perspective of the Estes DNA project. Of course, everyone else will view those results through the lens of their own surname or haplogroup project.

Estes Big Y DNA Results
https://dna-explained.com/2015/03/26/estes-big-y-dna-results/

At the Family Tree DNA Conference in November, James Irvine and Maurice Gleeson both presented sessions on utilizing a combination of STR and SNP data and various tools in analyzing their individual projects.

Maurice’s presentation was titled “Combining SNPs, STRs and Genealogy to build a Surname Origins Tree.”
http://www.slideshare.net/FamilyTreeDNA/building-a-mutation-history-tree

Maurice created a wonderful video that includes a lot of information about working with Y DNA results. I would consider this one of the very best Y DNA presentations I’ve ever seen, and thanks to Maurice, it’s available as a video here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvyHY4R6DwE&feature=youtu.be

You can view more of Maurice’s work at:
http://gleesondna.blogspot.com/2015/08/genetic-distance-genetic-families.html

James Irvine’s presentation was titled “Surname Projects – Some Fresh Ideas.” http://www.slideshare.net/FamilyTreeDNA/y-dna-surname-projects-some-fresh-ideas

Another excellent presentation discussing Y DNA results was “YDNA maps Scandinavian Family Trees from Medieval Times and the Viking Age” by Peter Sjolund.
http://www.slideshare.net/FamilyTreeDNA/ydna-maps-scandinavian-family-trees-from-medieval-times-and-the-viking-age

Peter’s session at the genealogy conference in Sweden this year was packed. This photo, compliments of Katherine Borges, shows the room and the level of interest in Y-DNA and the messages it holds for genetic genealogists.

sweden 2015

This type of work is the wave of the future, although hopefully it won’t be so manually intensive. However, the process of discovery is by definition laborious.  From this early work will one day emerge reproducible methodologies, the fruits of which we will all enjoy.

Haplogroup Definitions and Discoveries Continue

A4 mutations

Often, haplogroup work flies under the radar today and gets dwarfed by some of the larger citizen science projects, but this work is fundamentally important. In 2015, we made discoveries about haplogroups A4 and C, for example.

Haplogroup A4 Unpeeled – European, Jewish, Asian and Native American
https://dna-explained.com/2015/03/05/haplogroup-a4-unpeeled-european-jewish-asian-and-native-american/

New Haplogroup C Native American Subgroups
https://dna-explained.com/2015/03/11/new-haplogroup-c-native-american-subgroups/

Native American Haplogroup C Update – Progress
https://dna-explained.com/2015/08/25/native-american-haplogroup-c-update-progress/

These aren’t the only discoveries, by any stretch of the imagination. For example, Mike Wadna, administrator for the Haplogroup R1b Project reports that there are now over 1500 SNPs on the R1b tree at Family Tree DNA – which is just about twice as many as were known in total for the entire Y tree in 2012 before the Genographic project was introduced.

The new Y DNA SNP Packs being introduced by Family Tree DNA which test more than 100 SNPs for about $100 will go a very long way in helping participants obtain haplogroup assignments further down the tree without doing the significantly more expensive Big Y test. For example, the R1b-DF49XM222 SNP Pack tests 157 SNPs for $109.  Of course, if you want to discover your own private line of SNPs, you’ll have to take the Big Y.  SNP Packs can only test what is already known and the Big Y is a test of discovery.

                       Best Blog2015 smile

Jim Bartlett, hands down, receives this award for his new and wonderful blog, Segmentology.

                             Making Sense of Autosomal DNA

segmentology

Our autosomal DNA results provide us with matches at each of the vendors and at GedMatch, but what do we DO with all those matches and how to we utilize the genetic match information? How to we translate those matches into ancestral information.  And once we’ve assigned a common ancestor to a match with an individual, how does that match affect other matches on that same segment?

2015 has been the year of sorting through the pieces and defining terms like IBS (identical by state, which covers both identical by population and identical by chance) and IBD (identical by descent). There has been a lot written this year.

Jim Bartlett, a long-time autosomal researcher has introduced his new blog, Segmentology, to discuss his journey through mapping ancestors to his DNA segments. To the best of my knowledge, Jim has mapped more of his chromosomes than any other researcher, more than 80% to specific ancestors – and all of us can leverage Jim’s lessons learned.

Segmentology.org by Jim Bartlett
https://dna-explained.com/2015/05/12/segmentology-org-by-jim-bartlett/

When you visit Jim’s site, please take a look at all of his articles. He and I and others may differ slightly in the details our approach, but the basics are the same and his examples are wonderful.

Autosomal DNA Testing – What Now?
https://dna-explained.com/2015/08/07/autosomal-dna-testing-101-what-now/

Autosomal DNA Testing 101 – Tips and Tricks for Contact Success
https://dna-explained.com/2015/08/11/autosomal-dna-testing-101-tips-and-tricks-for-contact-success/

How Phasing Works and Determining IBS vs IBD Matches
https://dna-explained.com/2015/01/02/how-phasing-works-and-determining-ibd-versus-ibs-matches/

Just One Cousin
https://dna-explained.com/2015/01/11/just-one-cousin/

Demystifying Autosomal DNA Matching
https://dna-explained.com/2015/01/17/demystifying-autosomal-dna-matching/

A Study Using Small Segment Matching
https://dna-explained.com/2015/01/21/a-study-utilizing-small-segment-matching/

Finally, A How-To Class for Working with Autosomal Results
https://dna-explained.com/2015/02/10/finally-a-how-to-class-for-working-with-autosomal-dna-results/

Parent-Child Non-Matching Autosomal DNA Segments
https://dna-explained.com/2015/05/14/parent-child-non-matching-autosomal-dna-segments/

A Match List Does Not an Ancestor Make
https://dna-explained.com/2015/05/19/a-match-list-does-not-an-ancestor-make/

4 Generation Inheritance Study
https://dna-explained.com/2015/08/23/4-generation-inheritance-study/

Phasing Yourself
https://dna-explained.com/2015/08/27/phasing-yourself/

Autosomal DNA Matching Confidence Spectrum
https://dna-explained.com/2015/09/25/autosomal-dna-matching-confidence-spectrum/

Earlier in the year, there was a lot of discussion and dissention about the definition of and use of small segments. I utilize them, carefully, generally in conjunction with larger segments.  Others don’t.  Here’s my advice.  Don’t get yourself hung up on this.  You probably won’t need or use small segments until you get done with the larger segments, meaning low-hanging fruit, or unless you are doing a very specific research project.  By the time you get to that point, you’ll understand this topic and you’ll realize that the various researchers agree about far more than they disagree, and you can make your own decision based on your individual circumstances. If you’re entirely endogamous, small segments may just make you crazy.  However, if you’re chasing a colonial American ancestor, then you may need those small segments to identify or confirm that ancestor.

It is unfortunate, however, that all of the relevant articles are not represented in the ISOGG wiki, allowing people to fully educate themselves. Hopefully this can be updated shortly with the additional articles, listed above and from Jim Bartlett’s blog, published during this past year.

Recreating the Dead

James Crumley overlapping segments

James and Catherne Crumley segments above, compliments of Kitty Cooper’s tools

As we learn more about how to use autosomal DNA, we have begun to reconstruct our ancestors from the DNA of their descendants. Not as in cloning, but as in attributing DNA found in multiple descendants that originate from a common ancestor, or ancestral couple.  The first foray into this arena was GedMatch with their Lazarus tool.

Lazarus – Putting Humpty Dumpty Back Together Again
https://dna-explained.com/2015/01/14/lazarus-putting-humpty-dumpty-back-together-again/

I have taken a bit of a different proof approach wherein I recreated an ancestor, James Crumley, born in 1712 from the matching DNA of roughly 30 of his descendants.
http://www.slideshare.net/FamilyTreeDNA/roberta-estes-crumley-y-dna

I did the same thing, on an experimental smaller scale about a year ago with my ancestor, Henry Bolton.
https://dna-explained.com/2014/11/10/henry-bolton-c1759-1846-kidnapped-revolutionary-war-veteran-52-ancestors-45/

This is the way of the future in genetic genealogy, and I’ll be writing more about the Crumley project and the reconstruction of James Crumley in 2016.

                         Lump Of Coal Award(s)2015 frown

This category is a “special category” that is exactly what you think it is. Yep, this is the award no one wants.  We have a tie for the Lump of Coal Award this year between Ancestry and 23andMe.

               Ancestry Becomes the J.R. Ewing of the Genealogy World

2015 Larry Hagman

Attribution : © Glenn Francis, http://www.PacificProDigital.com

Some of you may remember J.R. Ewing on the television show called Dallas that ran from 1978 through 1991. J.R. Ewing, a greedy and unethical oil tycoon was one of the main characters.  The series was utterly mesmerizing, and literally everyone tuned in.  We all, and I mean universally, hated J.R. Ewing for what he unfeelingly and selfishly did to his family and others.  Finally, in a cliffhanger end of the season episode, someone shot J.R. Ewing.  OMG!!!  We didn’t know who.  We didn’t know if J.R. lived or died.  Speculation was rampant.  “Who shot JR?” was the theme on t-shirts everyplace that summer.  J.R. Ewing, over time, became the man all of America loved to hate.

Ancestry has become the J.R. Ewing of the genealogy world for the same reasons.

In essence, in the genetic genealogy world, Ancestry introduced a substandard DNA product, which remains substandard years later with no chromosome browser or comparison tools that we need….and they have the unmitigated audacity to try to convince us we really don’t need those tools anyway. Kind of like trying to convince someone with a car that they don’t need tires.

Worse, yet, they’ve introduced “better” tools (New Ancestor Discoveries), as in tools that were going to be better than a chromosome browser.  New Ancestor Discoveries “gives us” ancestors that aren’t ours. Sadly, there are many genealogists being led down the wrong path with no compass available.

Ancestry’s history of corporate stewardship is abysmal and continues with the obsolescence of various products and services including the Sorenson DNA database, their own Y and mtDNA database, MyFamily and most recently, Family Tree Maker. While the Family Tree Maker announcement has been met with great gnashing of teeth and angst among their customers, there are other software programs available.  Ancestry’s choices to obsolete the DNA data bases is irrecoverable and a huge loss to the genetic genealogy community.  That information is lost forever and not available elsewhere – a priceless, irreplaceable international treasure intentionally trashed.

If Ancestry had not bought up nearly all of the competing resources, people would be cancelling their subscriptions in droves to use another company – any other company. But there really is no one else anymore.  Ancestry knows this, so they have become the J.R. Ewing of the genealogy world – uncaring about the effects of their decisions on their customers or the community as a whole.  It’s hard for me to believe they have knowingly created such wholesale animosity within their own customer base.  I think having a job as a customer service rep at Ancestry would be an extremely undesirable job right now.  Many customers are furious and Ancestry has managed to upset pretty much everyone one way or another in 2015.

AncestryDNA Has Now Thoroughly Lost Its Mind
https://digginupgraves.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/ancestrydna-has-now-thoroughly-lost-its-mind/

Kenny, Kenny, Kenny
https://digginupgraves.wordpress.com/2015/04/10/kenny-kenny-kenny/

Dear Kenny – Any Suggestions for our New Ancestor Discoveries?
https://digginupgraves.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/dear-kenny-any-suggestions-for-our-new-ancestor-discoveries/

RIP Sorenson – A Crushing Loss
https://dna-explained.com/2015/05/15/rip-sorenson-a-crushing-loss/

Of Babies and Bathwater
http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/05/17/of-babies-and-bathwater/

Facts Matter
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/05/03/facts-matter/

Getting the Most Out of AncestryDNA
https://dna-explained.com/2015/02/02/getting-the-most-out-of-ancestrydna/

Ancestry Gave Me a New DNA Ancestor and It’s Wrong
https://dna-explained.com/2015/04/03/ancestry-gave-me-a-new-dna-ancestor-and-its-wrong/

Testing Ancestry’s Amazing New Ancestor DNA Claim
https://dna-explained.com/2015/04/07/testing-ancestrys-amazing-new-ancestor-dna-claim/

Dissecting AncestryDNA Circles and New Ancestors
https://dna-explained.com/2015/04/09/dissecting-ancestrydna-circles-and-new-ancestors/

Squaring the Circle
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/03/29/squaring-the-circle/

Still Waiting for the Holy Grail
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/04/05/still-waiting-for-the-holy-grail/

A Dozen Ancestors That Aren’t aka Bad NADs
https://dna-explained.com/2015/04/14/a-dozen-ancestors-that-arent-aka-bad-nads/

The Logic and Birth of a Bad NAD (New Ancestor Discovery)
https://dna-explained.com/2015/08/12/the-logic-and-birth-of-a-bad-nad-new-ancestor-discovery/

Circling the Shews
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/05/24/circling-the-shews/

Naughty Bad NADs Sneak Home Under Cover of Darkness
https://dna-explained.com/2015/08/24/naughty-bad-nads-sneak-home-under-cover-of-darkness/

Ancestry Shared Matches Combined with New Ancestor Discoveries
https://dna-explained.com/2015/08/28/ancestry-shared-matches-combined-with-new-ancestor-discoveries/

Ancestry Shakey Leaf Disappearing Matches: Now You See Them – Now You Don’t
https://dna-explained.com/2015/09/24/ancestry-shakey-leaf-disappearing-matches-now-you-see-them-now-you-dont/

Ancestry’s New Amount of Shared DNA – What Does It Really Mean?
https://dna-explained.com/2015/11/06/ancestrys-new-amount-of-shared-dna-what-does-it-really-mean/

The Winds of Change
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/11/08/the-winds-of-change/

Confusion – Family Tree Maker, Family Tree DNA and Ancestry.com
https://dna-explained.com/2015/12/13/confusion-family-tree-maker-family-tree-dna-and-ancestry-com/

DNA: good news, bad news
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/01/11/dna-good-news-bad-news/

Check out the Alternatives
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/12/09/check-out-the-alternatives/

GeneAwards 2015
http://www.tamurajones.net/GeneAwards2015.xhtml

23andMe Betrays Genealogists

2015 broken heart

In October, 23andMe announced that it has reached an agreement with the FDA about reporting some health information such as carrier status and traits to their clients. As a part of or perhaps as a result of that agreement, 23andMe is dramatically changing the user experience.

In some aspects, the process will be simplified for genealogists with a universal opt-in. However, other functions are being removed and the price has doubled.  New advertising says little or nothing about genealogy and is entirely medically focused.  That combined with the move of the trees offsite to MyHeritage seems to signal that 23andMe has lost any commitment they had to the genetic genealogy community, effectively abandoning the group entirely that pulled their collective bacon out of the fire. This is somehow greatly ironic in light of the fact that it was the genetic genealogy community through their testing recommendations that kept 23andMe in business for the two years, from November of 2013 through October of 2015 when the FDA had the health portion of their testing shut down.  This is a mighty fine thank you.

As a result of the changes at 23andMe relative to genealogy, the genetic genealogy community has largely withdrawn their support and recommendations to test at 23andMe in favor of Ancestry and Family Tree DNA.

Kelly Wheaton, writing on the Facebook ISOGG group along with other places has very succinctly summed up the situation:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/isogg/permalink/10153873250057922/

You can also view Kelly’s related posts from earlier in December and their comments at:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/isogg/permalink/10153830929022922/
and…
https://www.facebook.com/groups/isogg/permalink/10153828722587922/

My account at 23andMe has not yet been converted to the new format, so I cannot personally comment on the format changes yet, but I will write about the experience in 2016 after my account is converted.

Furthermore, I will also be writing a new autosomal vendor testing comparison article after their new platform is released.

I Hate 23andMe
https://digginupgraves.wordpress.com/2015/06/14/i-hate-23andme/

23andMe to Get Makeover After Agreement With FDA
https://dna-explained.com/2015/10/21/23andme-to-get-a-makeover-after-agreement-with-fda/

23andMe Metamorphosis
http://throughthetreesblog.tumblr.com/post/131724191762/the-23andme-metamorphosis

The Changes at 23andMe
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/10/25/the-changes-at-23andme/

The 23and Me Transition – The First Step
https://dna-explained.com/2015/11/05/the-23andme-transition-first-step-november-11th/

The Winds of Change
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/11/08/the-winds-of-change/

Why Autosomal Response Rate Really Does Matter
https://dna-explained.com/2015/02/24/why-autosomal-response-rate-really-does-matter/

Heads Up About the 23andMe Meltdown
https://dna-explained.com/2015/12/04/heads-up-about-the-23andme-meltdown/

Now…and not now
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/12/06/now-and-not-now/

                             Cone of Shame Award 2015 frown

Another award this year is the Cone of Shame award which is also awarded to both Ancestry and 23andMe for their methodology of obtaining “consent” to sell their customers’, meaning our, DNA and associated information.

Genetic Genealogy Data Gets Sold

2015 shame

Unfortunately, 2015 has been the year that the goals of both 23andMe and Ancestry have become clear in terms of our DNA data. While 23andMe has always been at least somewhat focused on health, Ancestry never was previously, but has now hired a health officer and teamed with Calico for medical genetics research.

Now, both Ancestry and 23andMe have made research arrangements and state in their release and privacy verbiage that all customers must electronically sign (or click through) when purchasing their DNA tests that they can sell, at minimum, your anonymized DNA data, without any further consent.  And there is no opt-out at that level.

They can also use our DNA and data internally, meaning that 23andMe’s dream of creating and patenting new drugs can come true based on your DNA that you submitted for genealogical purposes, even if they never sell it to anyone else.

In an interview in November, 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki said the following:

23andMe is now looking at expanding beyond the development of DNA testing and exploring the possibility of developing its own medications. In July, the company raised $79 million to partly fund that effort. Additionally, the funding will likely help the company continue with the development of its new therapeutics division. In March, 23andMe began to delve into the therapeutics market, to create a third pillar behind the company’s personal genetics tests and sales of genetic data to pharmaceutical companies.

Given that the future of genetic genealogy at these two companies seems to be tied to the sale of their customer’s genetic and other information, which, based on the above, is very clearly worth big bucks, I feel that the fact that these companies are selling and utilizing their customer’s information in this manner should be fully disclosed. Even more appropriate, the DNA information should not be sold or utilized for research without an informed consent that would traditionally be used for research subjects.

Within the past few days, I wrote an article, providing specifics and calling on both companies to do the following.

  1. To minimally create transparent, understandable verbiage that informs their customers before the end of the purchase process that their DNA will be sold or utilized for unspecified research with the intention of financial gain and that there is no opt-out. However, a preferred plan of action would be a combination of 2 and 3, below.
  2. Implement a plan where customer DNA can never be utilized for anything other than to deliver the services to the consumers that they purchased unless a separate, fully informed consent authorization is signed for each research project, without coercion, meaning that the client does not have to sign the consent to obtain any of the DNA testing or services.
  3. To immediately stop utilizing the DNA information and results from customers who have already tested until they have signed an appropriate informed consent form for each research project in which their DNA or other information will be utilized.

And Now Ancestry Health
https://dna-explained.com/2015/06/06/and-now-ancestry-health/

Opting Out
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/07/26/opting-out/

Ancestry Terms of Use Updated
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/07/07/ancestry-terms-of-use-updated/

AncestryDNA Doings
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/07/05/ancestrydna-doings/

Heads Up About the 23andMe Meltdown
https://dna-explained.com/2015/12/04/heads-up-about-the-23andme-meltdown/

23andMe and Ancestry and Selling Your DNA Information
https://dna-explained.com/2015/12/30/23andme-ancestry-and-selling-your-dna-information/

                      Citizen Science Leadership Award   2015 smile

The Citizen Science Leadership Award this year goes to Blaine Bettinger for initiating the Shared cM Project, a crowdsourced project which benefits everyone.

Citizen Scientists Continue to Push the Edges of the Envelope with the Shared cM Project

Citizen scientists, in the words of Dr. Doron Behar, “are not amateurs.” In fact, citizen scientists have been contributing mightily and pushing the edge of the genetic genealogy frontier consistently now for 15 years.  This trend continues, with new discoveries and new ways of viewing and utilizing information we already have.

For example, Blaine Bettinger’s Shared cM Project was begun in March and continues today. This important project has provided real life information as to the real matching amounts and ranges between people of different relationships, such as first cousins, for example, as compared to theoretical match amounts.  This wonderful project produced results such as this:

2015 shared cM

I don’t think Blaine initially expected this project to continue, but it has and you can read about it, see the rest of the results, and contribute your own data here. Blaine has written several other articles on this topic as well, available at the same link.

Am I Weird or What?
https://dna-explained.com/2015/03/07/am-i-weird-or-what/

Jim Owston analyzed fourth cousins and other near distant relationships in his Owston one-name study:
https://owston.wordpress.com/2015/08/10/an-analysis-of-fourth-cousins-and-other-near-distant-relatives/

I provided distant cousin information in the Crumley surname study:
http://www.slideshare.net/FamilyTreeDNA/roberta-estes-crumley-y-dna

I hope more genetic genealogists will compile and contribute this type of real world data as we move forward. If you have compiled something like this, the Surname DNA Journal is peer reviewed and always looking for quality articles for publication.

Privacy, Law Enforcement and DNA

2015 privacy

Unfortunately, in May, a situation by which Y DNA was utilized in a murder investigation was reported in a sensationalist “scare” type fashion.  This action provided cause, ammunition or an excuse for Ancestry to remove the Sorenson data base from public view.

I find this exceedingly, exceedingly unfortunate. Given Ancestry’s history with obsoleting older data bases instead of updating them, I’m suspecting this was an opportune moment for Ancestry to be able to withdraw this database, removing a support or upgrade problem from their plate and blame the problem on either law enforcement or the associated reporting.

I haven’t said much about this situation, in part because I’m not a lawyer and in part because the topic is so controversial and there is no possible benefit since the damage has already been done. Unfortunately, nothing anyone can say or has said will bring back the Sorenson (or Ancestry) data bases and arguments would be for naught.  We already beat this dead horse a year ago when Ancestry obsoleted their own data base.  On this topic, be sure to read Judy Russell’s articles and her sources as well for the “rest of the story.”

Privacy, the Police and DNA
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/02/08/privacy-the-police-and-dna/

Big Easy DNA Not So Easy
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/03/15/big-easy-dna-not-so-easy/

Of Babies and Bathwater
http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/05/17/of-babies-and-bathwater/

Facts Matter
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/05/03/facts-matter/

Genetic genealogy standards from within the community were already in the works prior to the Idaho case, referenced above, and were subsequently published as guidelines.

Announcing Genetic Genealogy Standards
http://thegeneticgenealogist.com/2015/01/10/announcing-genetic-genealogy-standards/

The standards themselves:
http://www.thegeneticgenealogist.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Genetic-Genealogy-Standards.pdf

Ancient DNA Results Continue to Amass

“Moorleiche3-Schloss-Gottorf” by Commander-pirx at de.wikipedia – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Ancient DNA is difficult to recover and even more difficult to sequence, reassembling tiny little blocks of broken apart DNA into an ancient human genome.

However, each year we see a few more samples and we are beginning to repaint the picture of human population movement, which is different than we thought it would be.

One of the best summaries of the ancient ancestry field was Michael Hammer’s presentation at the Family Tree DNA Conference in November titled “R1B and the Peopling of Europe: an Ancient DNA Update.” His slides are available here:
http://www.slideshare.net/FamilyTreeDNA/r1b-and-the-people-of-europe-an-ancient-dna-update

One of the best ongoing sources for this information is Dienekes’ Anthropology Blog. He covered most of the new articles and there have been several.  That’s the good news and the bad news, all rolled into one. http://dienekes.blogspot.com/

I have covered several that were of particular interest to the evolution of Europeans and Native Americans.

Yamnaya, Light Skinned Brown Eyed….Ancestors?
https://dna-explained.com/2015/06/15/yamnaya-light-skinned-brown-eyed-ancestors/

Kennewick Man is Native American
https://dna-explained.com/2015/06/18/kennewick-man-is-native-american/

Botocudo – Ancient Remains from Brazil
https://dna-explained.com/2015/07/02/botocudo-ancient-remains-from-brazil/

Some Native had Oceanic Ancestors
https://dna-explained.com/2015/07/22/some-native-americans-had-oceanic-ancestors/

Homo Naledi – A New Species Discovered
https://dna-explained.com/2015/09/11/homo-naledi-a-new-species-discovered/

Massive Pre-Contact Grave in California Yields Disappointing Results
https://dna-explained.com/2015/10/20/mass-pre-contact-native-grave-in-california-yields-disappointing-results/

I know of several projects involving ancient DNA that are in process now, so 2016 promises to be a wonderful ancient DNA year!

Education

2015 education

Many, many new people discover genetic genealogy every day and education continues to be an ongoing and increasing need. It’s a wonderful sign that all major conferences now include genetic genealogy, many with a specific track.

The European conferences have done a great deal to bring genetic genealogy testing to Europeans. European testing benefits those of us whose ancestors were European before immigrating to North America.  This year, ISOGG volunteers staffed booths and gave presentations at genealogy conferences in Birmingham, England, Dublin, Ireland and in Nyköping, Sweden, shown below, photo compliments of Catherine Borges.

ISOGG volunteers

Several great new online educational opportunities arose this year, outside of conferences, for which I’m very grateful.

DNA Lectures YouTube Channel
https://dna-explained.com/2015/04/26/dna-lectures-youtube-channel/

Allen County Public Library Online Resources
https://dna-explained.com/2015/06/03/allen-county-public-library-online-resources/

DNA Data Organization Tools and Who’s on First
https://dna-explained.com/2015/09/08/dna-data-organization-tools-and-whos-on-first/

Genetic Genealogy Educational Resource List
https://dna-explained.com/2015/12/03/genetic-genealogy-educational-resource-list/

Genetic Genealogy Ireland Videos
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHnW2NAfPIA2KUipZ_PlUlw

DNA Lectures – Who Do You Think You Are
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7HQSiSkiy7ujlkgQER1FYw

Ongoing and Online Classes in how to utilize both Y and autosomal DNA
http://www.dnaadoption.com/index.php?page=online-classes

Education Award

2015 smile Family Tree DNA receives the Education Award this year along with a huge vote of gratitude for their 11 years of genetic genealogy conferences. They are the only testing or genealogy company to hold a conference of this type and they do a fantastic job.  Furthermore, they sponsor additional educational events by providing the “theater” for DNA presentations at international events such as the Who Do You Think You Are conference in England.  Thank you Family Tree DNA.

Family Tree DNA Conference

ftdna 2015

The Family Tree DNA Conference, held in November, was a hit once again. I’m not a typical genealogy conference person.  My focus is on genetic genealogy, so I want to attend a conference where I can learn something new, something leading edge about the science of genetic genealogy – and that conference is definitely the Family Tree DNA conference.

Furthermore, Family Tree DNA offers tours of their lab on the Monday following the conference for attendees, and actively solicits input on their products and features from conference attendees and project administrators.

2015 FTDNA lab

Family Tree DNA 11th International Conference – The Best Yet
https://dna-explained.com/2015/11/18/2015-family-tree-dna-11th-international-conference-the-best-yet/

All of the conference presentations that were provided by the presenters have been made available by Family Tree DNA at:
http://www.slideshare.net/FamilyTreeDNA?utm_campaign=website&utm_source=sendgrid.com&utm_medium=email

2016 Genetic Genealogy Wish List

2015 wish list

In 2014, I presented a wish list for 2015 and it didn’t do very well.  Will my 2015 list for 2016 fare any better?

  • Ancestry restores Sorenson and their own Y and mtDNA data bases in some format or contributes to an independent organization like ISOGG.
  • Ancestry provides chromosome browser.
  • Ancestry removes or revamps Timber in order to restore legitimate matches removed by Timber algorithm.
  • Fully informed consent (per research project) implemented by 23andMe and Ancestry, and any other vendor who might aspire to sell consumer DNA or related information, without coercion, and not as a prerequisite for purchasing a DNA testing product. DNA and information will not be shared or utilized internally or externally without informed consent and current DNA information will cease being used in this fashion until informed consent is granted by customers who have already tested.
  • Improved ethnicity reporting at all vendors including ancient samples and additional reference samples for Native Americans.
  • Autosomal Triangulation tools at all vendors.
  • Big Y and STR integration and analysis enhancement at Family Tree DNA.
  • Ancestor Reconstruction
  • Mitochondrial and Y DNA search tools by ancestor and ancestral line at Family Tree DNA.
  • Improved tree at Family Tree DNA – along with new search capabilities.
  • 23andMe restores lost capabilities, drops price, makes changes and adds features previously submitted as suggestions by community ambassadors.
  • More tools (This is equivalent to “bring me some surprises” on my Santa list as a kid.)

My own goals haven’t changed much over the years. I still just want to be able to confirm my genealogy, to learn as much as I can about each ancestor, and to break down brick walls and fill in gaps.

I’m very hopeful each year as more tools and methodologies emerge.  More people test, each one providing a unique opportunity to match and to understand our past, individually and collectively.  Every year genetic genealogy gets better!  I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store.

Here’s wishing you a very Happy and Ancestrally Prosperous New Year!

2015 happy new year

Estes Big Y DNA Results

In late 2013, a new Y DNA product called the Big Y was introduced by Family Tree DNA.  The goal of this new test was to read virtually all of the Y chromosome that was useful for genealogical purposes.

I decided to wait and see how useful this tool actually was, and how to effectively use the information before delving into a family study, in part, because the individuals tests are quite expensive. We began our Estes Big Y family study in 2014 and I have now completed a report for family members.  With their permission, I’m sharing this information with the hope that other groups will see the potential in combining STR and full sequence SNP testing for family groups.

The temptation, of course, especially in the case of the Estes lineage is to see if we could reach back further in time to see if we can connect with, confirm or dispel the persistent myth that the Estes line is descended from the d’Este family line of Italy.  Of course, if there was a direct line male from that family that existed, or was willing to test, that would answer the question in a heartbeat but that’s not the case.

The belief that the Estes family was descended from the d’Este’s is an old one and not just limited to the American Estes family or the Estes family itself.

Long-time Estes researcher and archivist, David Powell, gathered several instances where various families in England used the d’Este name, at least one of which was suggested by King James himself.

King James I of England and Scotland (reigned from 1603 to 1625) was convinced that a gentleman in his service by the name of East was in fact a descendent of the d’Este family and suggested he change his name to Este. One did not gainsay a suggestion from the king in those days!

Even earlier, the English printer Thomas East (1540-1608) used the names East, Est, Este and Easte and hinted at a connection with the d’Este family, although his motivations were much more obvious – he made his fame publishing Italian music in England and suggesting a connection to the d’Este’s would certainly not have adversely affected his sales! Thomas’ son, Michael (1580-1680), who was a composer in his own right, also used the names East, Est, Este and Easte.

Somewhat more recent was the case of Sir Augustus d’Este (1794-1848), who despite the surname, was pure English. Augustus was son of the Duke of Sussex and the daughter of the Earl of Dunmore. The marriage of his parents was without the King’s consent and he (George III) subsequently annulled the marriage, thus making Augustus illegitimate *after* his birth.  After the annulment, Augustus and his sister were given the name d’Este by their father, a name that was “anciently belonging to the House of Brunswick”. There were several other instances where English aristocrats named Este or East changed their name to d’Este, including one family in the 1800’s that changed their name from East and claimed the non-existent title “Baron d’Este.”

The Big Y test holds out the promise, or at least the possibility, of being able to connect the outside limits of the standard genealogy Y DNA STR tests and bridge the hundreds to a couple thousand year gap between STR testing and haplogroup definitions.

In our case, we needed to know where our ancestors were and what they were doing, genetically, between about 500BC and 1495AD when we both find them (coming forward in time) and lose them (going backward in time) in Deal, Kent, England.

Had they been in Kent forever, without a surname or with a surname, but not reflected in the available records, or had they truly been royalty on the continent and recently immigrated?

In the article, Nycholas Ewstas (c1495-1533) English Progenitor, I found and compiled the various list of Estes/d’Este ancestral stories.  The most reasonable seems to be found in David Powell’s article, “Origins of the Estes/Eastes Family Name,” as follows:

“…Francesco of Este, who was the son of Marquis Leonello [1407-1450], left Ferrara [1471] to go and live in Burgundy, by the will of Duke Ercole [Francesco’s uncle, who succeeded Leonello] .. and, in order that he should go at once, he gave him horses and clothes and 500 ducats more; and this was done because His Excellency had some suspicions of him .. ‘Francesco .. went to Burgundy and afterward to England’. These were the words written on the back of the picture of Francesco found in a collection of paintings near Ferrara.”

Many of the details are similar to earlier stories. But why would Francesco flee Italy? In 1471 Francesco’s brother, Ericolo, led a revolt in an attempt to overthrow Duke Ercole. The attempt was unsuccessful and in typical royal tradition, Ericolo lost his head and Francesco exiled, if only because he was Ericolo’s brother. Did Francesco really travel to England? The only evidence for this is the writing in the back of the painting, the existence of which is unconfirmed. Essentially the same story is told by Charles Estes in his book:

“.. Francesco Esteuse (born c.1440), the illegitimate son of Leonnello d’Este. Francesco was living in Burgundy. In the time of Duke Borso he came to Ferrara, and at Borso’s death was declared rebellious by Ercole because of efforts made by his brother, Ericolo, to seize power. Francesco returned to Burgundy and was heard of no more from that time (1471). As the time coincided with that when Edward conquered [sic] England with the aid of Burgundy, it was possible that Francesco followed Edward and after Edward’s victory made England his home.”

I checked with the Metropolitan Museum of Art who indicated no such notation on the painting and provided additional information showing that it’s likely that Francesco died in Burgundy.

If Francesco was the progenitor of the Estes family of Kent, who were mariners, the family in one generation, in essence, in one fell swoop, went from royalty to peasantry in Kent.  Nicholas was born in 1495 and two other Estes men, Richard and Thomas, found nearby, born about the same time.  Extremely unlikely, but not impossible.

The d’Este family of Italy was said by Edward Gibbon in his “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” to originate from the Roman Attii family, which migrated from Rome to Este to defend Italy against Goths. However there is no evidence to support this hypothesis.

The names of the early members of the family indicate that a Frankish origin is much more likely. The first known member of the house was Margrave Adalbert of Mainz, known only as father of Oberto I, Count palatine of Italy, who died around 975. Oberto’s grandson Albert Azzo II, Margrave of Milan (996–1097) built a castle at Este, near Padua, below, and named himself after it.

Este Castle

The city of Mainz is the capital of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany. It was the capital of the Electorate of Mainz at the time of the Holy Roman Empire which began in 962. In antiquity Mainz was a Roman fort city which commanded the west bank of the Rhine and formed part of the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire; it was founded as a military post by the Romans in the late 1st century BC and became the provincial capital of Germania Superior.

Mainz Germany

The city is located on the river Rhine at its confluence with the Main opposite Wiesbaden, in the western part of the Frankfurt Rhine-Main.  The painting above shows Mainz looking toward the Rhine, across the old part of the city, in 1890.

There is absolutely no question that the Romans occupied Mainz as the remnants of architectural structures such as Roman City gates from the 4th century and Roman aqueducts (below) permeate the landscape yet today.

Mainz Roman aquaducts

The town of Frankfurt was adjacent Mainz and the name of Frankfurt on Main is derived from the Franconofurd of the Germanic tribe of the Franks plus Furt, meaning ford,  where the river was shallow enough to be crossed by wading. The Alemanni and Franks lived there and by 794 Charlemagne presided over an imperial assembly and church synod, at which Franconofurd (-furt -vurd) was first mentioned.

The Franks and the Alemanni were both Germanic tribes.  The Alemanni were found in what is today German Swabis and Baden, French Alsace, German-speaking Switzerland and Austrian Voralberg.  Their name means “all men” as they were a Germanic confederation tribe.  One historian, Walafrid Strabo, a monk of the Abbey of St Gall wrote in the 9th century that only foreigners called the Alemanni by that name, that they called themselves the Suebi.

This map shows the approximate location of the original Frankish tribes in the third century.

Frankish Tribes 3rd Century

“Carte des peuples francs (IIIe siècle)” by Odejea – Own work, d’après : Patrick Peron, Laurence Charlotte Feiffer, Les Francs (tome 1 – A la conquête de la Gaule), Armand Collon Editeur, Paris, 1987, isbn 2-200-37070-6. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Franks, who eventually conquered the Alemanni, were found predominately in northeastern Europe in what is now Belgium and the Netherlands along the lower and middle Rhine, extending into what is now France.

Another source claims that the Italian d’Este family roots were found as the Marquis of Sicily, affiliated with Lombardy, which was ruled by the Lombards. If this is true, the Lombards were also descendants of the Suebi, having originated in Scandinavia, and the Franks defeated the Lombards as well, so either way, the DNA would appear in the same locale.

Lombard Migration

“Lombard Migration” by Castagna – Own elaboration from Image: Europe satellite orthographic.jpg. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

Relative to the Estes family of Kent, if they do descend from the d’Este family of Italy, based on this information, their Y DNA should look like and correlate with that of either Italians or Germanic tribes such as the Franks and the Suebi.

Aside from answering this origins question that has burned for years, what other types of information might we learn from Big Y testing?

  • Does the Estes family have any mutations that are unique? In other words, specific SNP mutations have evolved in the Estes family and would, in combination with other SNPs and STRs, identify us uniquely. Someday, in hundreds of years, as we have many descendants, these individual SNPs found only in our family line will define our own haplogroup.
  • What other families are the closest to the Estes family?
  • When and where did we “split” with those other families? Does their family history help define or identify ours?
  • Can SNP mutations in combination with STR mutations help identify specific lineages within the Estes family? This is particularly important for people who don’t know which ancestral line they descend from.

These same questions would be relevant for any family interested in doing a Big Y DNA study.

The Estes family is fortunate that we have several people who are interested in the deep history of the family, and were willing to pay for the Big Y test, along with the full 111 marker Y STR tests to facilitate our research and understanding.

The Estes family is first found in Kent, England in 1495 with Nicholas whose name was spelled variably, as were all names at that time.  Estes is spelled in many ways such as Ewstas, Eustace, Estes, Eastes, Estice and more.  I am using Estes for consistency.

I have created a pedigree chart of sorts to show the descent of the Estes Big Y testers.

Estes pedigree

Robert Estes and Anne Woodward had two sons, Silvester and Robert, who have descendants Big Y testing today.

Silvester had two sons, Richard and Abraham who have descendants who have Y DNA tested, but only Abraham’s descendants have taken the Big Y test.  Robert had son Matthew whose descendant also took the Big Y test.  Note that Abraham and Matthew are shown in green which indicates that they immigrated to America.  Richard, in blue, between Abraham and Matthew did not immigrate and his descendants did not take the Big Y test.

Of Abraham’s sons, we have Y DNA tested descendants from 7 sons, but only descendants of 5 sons are participating in the Big Y project.  We are uncertain of the direct lineage of kit 199378 as noted by the ? with Elisha’s name in his ancestry.  We know positively from his DNA results that he is biologically an Estes, but he could be descended from a different son.

We are also very fortunate that we have been able through several volunteers and professional genealogists to document the Estes line reliably both back in time into Kent and forward in time to current through several lines.

The Estes DNA project is somewhat unique in the fact that we have 10, 11 and 12 generations to work with in each line.  Our closest participants are 7th cousins and our furthest, 10th cousins once removed.  We have a total of 65 separate DNA transmission events that have occurred, counting each birth in each line as one transmission event, introducing the possibility of either STR mutations or new SNPS in each new generation.

STR mutations show up in the traditional 12, 25, 37, 67 and 111 marker panels.  SNP mutations  show up in the Big Y report as either SNPs or Novel Variants which is a newly discovered SNP that has not yet been assigned an official SNP name, assuming is isn’t just a family occurrence.

Let’s look at the STR markers first.

All of our participants except one extended to 111 markers and that individual tested at 67.  Of the 111 markers, 97 marker locations have identical marker values in all participants, so have no mutations in any line since our common ancestor lived.  Of course, this means that our common ancestor carried this same value at this DNA location.

I created a virtual Estes ancestor, in green, below, by utilizing the most common values of the descendants and compared everyone against that ancestor.  Of course, this is a bit skewed because we have several descendants of Silvester’s line through Abraham and only one descendant of Robert through Matthew.

Estes ancestral Y

The reconstructed or triangulated ancestral value is shown in green, at the top, and the results that don’t match that value are highlighted.  I can’t show all 111 markers here, but enough that you get the idea.  You can see all of the Estes STR test results on the Estes DNA project page.

Comparing against the recreated ancestor, Matthew’s descendant, kit 166011, only has 7 mutations difference from our recreated Estes Y ancestor.  At 111 markers, this averages out to about one STR mutation every 1.5-2 generations.

The chart below shows Matthew’s descendant kit, 166011, compared to all of Abraham’s descendants.  Matthew’s descendant, of course, is the kit furthest genealogically from Abraham’s descendants.

The number in the intersecting cells shows the number of mutations at both 67 and 111 markers compared to kit 166011.

Kit Numbers 9993 13805 244708 366707 199378
166011 at 67 6 6 6 6 5
166011 at 111 10 10 11 11 No test

When compared to each other, and not the ancestral values, kits 244708 and 366707 are not shown as matches to kit 166011 at 111 markers at Family Tree DNA, but are at 67 markers.  When possible, I match participants to a recreated ancestor (on my spreadsheet) as opposed to matching to each other within a surname project, because it gives us a common starting point, providing a more realistic picture of how the DNA mutated to be what it is today in each line.

The Kent Estes Y DNA falls within haplogroup R-L21.  From Eupedia, here’s a map of where haplogroup R-L21 is found.

R-L21

L21 is known for being Celtic, not Germanic, meaning not the same as Franks and Suebi.  Scholars are not unified in their interpretation of the maximum influence of the Celts.  Some show no influence at all in Italy, some show a slight eastern coastal influence and this genetic maps shows a Sicilian influence.

However, because nothing in genealogy can every be straightforward, and people are always migrating from place to place, there is one known exception.

According to Barry Cunliffe’s book, “The Celts, a Very Short Introduction”, in 391 BC Celts “who had their homes beyond the Alps streamed through the passes in great strength and seized the territory that lay between the Appennine mountains and the Alps” according to Diodorus Siculus. The Po Valley and the rest of northern Italy (known to the Romans as Cisalpine Gaul) was inhabited by Celtic-speakers.  While Este is somewhat north of this region, Este history indicates that there were fights with the Celts and then assimilation to some extent, so all is not entirely black and white.

The descendants of these invading Celts, having inhabited Italy for approximately 2500 years would be expected, today, to have some defining mutations that would differentiate them from their more northern European kinsmen and they would form a cluster or subgroup, perhaps a sub-haplogroup.

However, if the d’Este family was from the Mainz region of Germany, then Celtic influence in the Po Valley is irrelevant to their Y DNA.  Unfortunately, because this history is cast in warm jello, at best, we need to consider all possibilities.

The various haplogroup project administrators are working very hard to analyze all of the Big Y results within their haplogroup projects and to make sense of them.  By making sense of them, I mean in regards to the haplogroup and haplotree as a whole, not as individuals.  The point of individual testing is to provide information that citizen scientists can utilize to flesh out the haplotree, which in turn fleshes out the history of our ancestors.  So it’s a symbiotic relationship.

The Y DNA haplotree has gone from about 800 branches to 12,000 branches with the announcement of the Genographic 2.0 test in July of 2012 to over 35,000 SNPs that the Big Y is compared against.  And that doesn’t count the thousands of new SNPs discovered and yet unnamed and unplaced on the tree.

This scientific onslaught has been termed the “SNP tsumani” and it truly is.  It’s one of those wonderful, terrible, events – simply because there is so much good information it overwhelms us.  Fortunately, the force of the tsunami is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the haplotree is broken into haplogroups and subgroups and many volunteer administrators are working feverishly to assemble the results in a reasonable manner, determining what is a leaf, a twig and a branch of the tree.

Mike Walsh is one of the administrators who maintains the L21 project and tree and has been extremely helpful in this process, providing both guidance and analysis.  The project administrators have access to the results of all of the project participants, something individuals don’t have, so the project administrator’s assistance and perspective is invaluable.  We’d be lost without them

Mike has created an extended tree of the R-L21 haplogroup

R-L21 tree crop

The Estes men are here, in the DF49 group indicated by the red arrow.

The Estes men have tested positive for SNPs which include:

  • L21
  • DF13
  • DF49

Downstream, meaning closer in time to us, the haplogroup DF49 project administrator, Peter M. Op den Velde Boots, has created a tree rooted from the DF49 mutation.

I’m pleased to say that we are on that tree as well, towards the right hand side.  The ZP SNPs on this tree are placeholder names created by the administrator so he could create a tree until an official name is issued for Z SNP locations.

DF49 tree crop2

The interesting thing is that Mike Walsh had predicted that both the Estes and a few other surnames would fall into a common subgroup based on our unusual values at three different STR markers:

  • 460<=10
  • 413=23,24
  • 534>=17

Surnames that fell into Mike’s cluster based on Y STR marker values include:

  • Gallagher (Ireland)
  • Churchville (Ireland)
  • Killeen/Killian (Ireland)
  • Hall (England)
  • Mahon (Ireland)
  • Estes (England)

We’re seeing a lot of Irish names, and Ireland was settled by Celtic people.

Initially, the Estes men matched each other fairly closely, but had many differences from any other individuals who had tested.  I have bolded the Matthew descendant kit that is the furthest from the other men who descend from Abraham.

SNP Differences With Other Estes Men

John 244708 Edward 13805 Garmon 9993 Emory III366707 Howard 166011 Dennis 199378
John 244708 x 1 (Z2001) 0 2 (Z2001, F1314) 1 (Z2001) 2 (Z2001, PF682)
Edward 13805 1 (Z2001) x 0 1 (F1314) 0 0
Garmon 9993 0 0 x 1 (F1314) 0 0
Emory III 366707 2 (Z2001, F1314) 1 (F1314) 1 (F1314) x 1 (F1314) 1 (F1314)
Howard 166011 1 (Z2001) 0 0 1 (F1314) x 0
Dennis 199378 2 (Z2001, PF682) 0 0 1 (F1314) 0 x

SNPs are haplogroup subgroup defining mutations.  SNPs with a number assigned, as shown above, prefixed by a capital letter, means that the SNP has been registered and the originating letter indicates the lab in which it was found.  SNPs discovered in Big Y testing are prefixed by BY for example.

Not all SNPs with numbers assigned have been placed on the haplogroup tree, nor will they all be placed on the tree.  Some may be determined to be private or personal SNPs or not widespread enough to be of general interest.  One certainly doesn’t want the tree to become so subdivided that family members with the same surname and known ancestor wind up in different haplogroups, appearing to not be related.  Or maybe we have to redefine how we think of a haplogroup.

Case in point, these men with known, proven common Estes ancestors have differences on three SNPs, shown in the columns, below.

Estes Men Unique SNP Mutations

Z2001 F1314 PF682
John 244708 Yes No Yes
Garmon 9993 ? No ?
Edward 13805 No No ?
Emory III 366707 No Yes ?
Dennis 199378 No No No
Howard 166011 No No ?

What does this mean?

This means that John has developed two SNP mutations that none of the other Estes men have, unless some of the men with no-callls at that location, indicated by a ?, have that mutation.  The common ancestor of all of the Estes participants except Howard is Abraham Estes, so SNP Z2001 and PF682 have occurred in John’s line someplace since Abraham.

PF682 is quite interesting in that two Estes men, both descendants of Abraham did have results for this location, one with an ancestral value (Dennis) and one with a derived, or mutated, value (John.)  What is so interesting is that the four other men had ambiguous or unclear results at this location. In this case, I would simply disregard this SNP entirely since the results of reading this location seem to be unreliable.

Emory III, also a descendant of Abraham has developed a mutation at location F1314.

In these cases, these SNPs would fall into the category of line marker mutations that are found in that family’s line, but not in the other Estes lines.  These are similar to STR line marker mutations as well.

The next type of SNP mutation reported in the Big Y results are called Novel Variants.  Novel Variants are SNPs that haven’t yet been named, because they have just recently been discovered in the past few months in the testing process.  The Big Y test compares everyone against a data base of 36,288 known SNPs.  The balance of mutations found, called novel variants, are discoveries in the testing process.

Shared Novel Variants Between Estes Men

John 244708 Edward 13805 Garmon 9993 Emory III 366707 Howard 166011 Dennis 199378
John 244708 x 88 84 89 89 84
Edward 13805 88 x 84 88 89 85
Garmon 9993 84 84 x 83 84 81
Emory III 366707 89 88 83 x 89 87
Howard 166011 89 89 84 89 x 86
Dennis 199378 84 85 81 87 86 x

In essence, the Estes family has 30 differences from the DF49 base.  Translated, that means that in essence, our Estes family line broke away from the DF49 parent haplogroup about twice as long ago as the infamous M222 subclade named after Niall of the Nine Hostages.  So, our ancestor was the ancestor of Niall of the Nine Hostages too, some 4000 years or so ago.

Finally, a Gallagher male tested, and the Gallagher and Estes families share a block of DNA that no one else shares that is comprised of 18 different individual mutations.  As these things go, this is a huge number.

The numbers below are “addresses” on the Y chromosome because SNP names have not yet been assigned.  The first letter listed is the ancestral value and the second is the mutated value found in the Estes/Gallagher combined group.

  • 07457863-C-T
  • 07618400-G-A
  • 07738519-G-A
  • 07956143-A-G
  • 08432298-A-G
  • 14005952-AATAAATAA-A
  • 14029772-C-T
  • 15436998-C-T
  • 15549360-A-C
  • 16286264-C-T
  • 17833232-TT-T
  • 18417378-G-A
  • 18638729-A-G
  • 19402586-G-A
  • 22115259-T-C
  • 22445270-G-A
  • 22445271-A-G
  • 23560522-G-A

This DNA will very likely define a new subclade of haplogroup R and has been submitted to obtain SNP names for these mutation locations for the Estes/Gallagher subclade.  Unfortunately, they will not call it the Estes/Gallagher subclade, but we can for now:)

The Estes line still shares another dozen SNPs between themselves that are not yet shared by any other surname.  At this point, those are considered family SNPs, but if others test and those SNPs are found outside the Estes family, they too will receive SNP names and become a new subclade.

So how long ago did all of this happen?  When did we split, genetically, from the people who would become the Gallaghers?

The estimates for the number of average years per SNP creation vary, but range from 110 to 170.  Utilizing this range, when comparing how long ago the Gallagher and the Estes family shared a common ancestor, we find that our common ancestor lived between 1320 and 2040 years ago.  What we don’t know is whether that ancestor lived on continental Europe or in the British Isles.  Certainly, this was before the adoption of surnames.

Another interesting aspect of this testing is that the Estes and Gallagher families don’t match above 12 markers, but they do match at 12 markers with one mutation difference.  If the Estes and Gallagher participants weren’t in the same haplogroup project, they wouldn’t even see this match since they do have 1 difference at 12 markers and only exact 12 marker matches are shown outside of projects.  This shows that sometimes very basic STR testing can reach far back in time if (multiple) mutations haven’t occurred in those first 12 markers.

I was interested to check the TIP calculator to see how closely in terms of generations the calculator expected the common ancestor to be at the 50th percentile, meaning the point at which the common ancestors is equally as likely to be earlier as later.  The calculator indicated that 17 generations was at the 50th percentile, so about 425 to 510 years ago, allowing 25-30 years per generation.  At 24 generations, or 600-720 years, which is as far as the calculator reaches, the likelihood of a common ancestor was still only at 68% and the TIP calculator would reach the 100th percentile at about the 34th generation, or 850-1020 years – if it reached that far.

It’s interesting to compare the results of the two tools.  Both agree that the common ancestor is far back in time, and extrapolating now, very likely before the advent or surnames.  The SNP estimate of 1320-2040 does not overlap with the STR estimate of 850-1020 – although in all fairness, a 12 marker TIP estimate is expecting a lot in terms of this kind of extrapolation.

After the Gallagher and Estes lines split, probably between 1300 and 2000 years ago, or between 700AD and the time of Christ, did the Estes men then find their way to Italy by the year 900 when the d’Este family is unquestionably found in Italy, and back again to Europe before we find Nicholas in Kent in 1495AD?  It’s possible, but quite unlikely.  We also have found absolutely no DNA, either utilizing STR markers or SNPs that suggest any connection with any line in or near Italy.

The Estes line is and was unquestionably L21, a haplogroup closely allied with the Celts for the past 4,000 to 5,000 years, with no indication of an Italian branch.  Unless very unexpected new data arises, I think the Estes family can put the d’Este family story away, at least as far as cold storage – unless new data arises in the form of a proven male Y-line d’Este descendant testing or matching Italian L21 DNA participants.

As it turns out, the DNA was simply the final blow to the d’Este story.  As I worked with English and European historical records, and in particular records of wealthy nobles and lesser nobles, I came to realize that children were an asset of the families to be married off for political and social favor.  This sounds terrible by today’s cultural standards, but by the standards of the times in which our ancestors were living, politically advantageously arranged marriages were the best way to provide for your children’s well-being as well as your own.  What this means to us is that no royal d’Este family member would ever have fallen into the working, peasant class.  Even if they weren’t loved or even liked, they were still valuable and would simply have been married off far away.  Our Estes family was a group of hard-working mariners in Deal, certainly not nobility.  And now we know, they were Celts in Europe before they were Deal mariners.

Our more realistic claim to royalty, albeit very distant, lies in the fact that our ancestors were also the ancestors of the Irish King, Niall of the Nine Hostages, King of Tara who died about the year 405 and was the progenitor of the Ui Neill family that dominated Ireland from the 6th to the 10th centuries.  Niall of the Nine Hostages and his descendants were very prolific, with about 3 million people being descendants.  This means that the Estes family is distant cousins to just about everyone.  It indeed, is a very small world, made smaller by the connections we can now make via DNA.

celtic tree

Sylvester Estes (c1522-1579), Fisherman of Deal, 52 Ancestors #29

Sylvester Estes was born probably in or near Deal, Kent, England about 1522, well before baptismal records were kept, beginning in 1559.  He would have married before that time as well, so we don’t know his wife’s maiden name, only that her name was Jone.  Their marriage date of 1545 is estimated based on the birth year of their first known child in 1547 and his birth date estimate is based on that as well, so he could have been born earlier.  Jone Eustes, Sylvester’s wife, was buried on May 15, 1561 at St. Leonard’s Church in Deal, Kent.  Her grave is not marked.  Tombstones were not being used at that time in history.

st Leonard sylvester

Sylvester, described as “emeritus fisherman,” died and was buried on June 7, 1579 in the churchyard at Ringwould, his last name spelled Eastye.  His grave is unmarked as well.

st nicholas ringwould sylvester

What little we do know about Sylvester, aside from his death and burial, comes from a court record.

On December 10, 1549, Sylvester, along with John Lamond, appeared before the Consistory Court of Canterbury (approximately 20 miles from Deal), charged by the Rector of Deal for not paying their tithes from their herring catch.  Lamond asserted that “in the time of his rememberance … he paid no tithe.” Sylvester responded that in the past two years he and his colleagues had taken two or three “last” (a dozen 6-9 pound barrels) and that “the school of herring hath always comined there away but they had not netteth there to take them well before that time.” It has been suggested that the failure to pay the tithe was a political gesture, rather than just oversight, church tithes becoming increasingly unpopular at that time.

Stewart Estes provides the following information about tithes, especially upon fish:

From the above history of Sylvester Eastes, it appears that he may have been an early tax protester. A tithe (from Old English teogoþa “tenth”) is a one-tenth part of something, paid as a usually voluntary contribution or as a tax or levy, usually to support a church. Historically tithes could be paid in kind, such as agricultural products. Farmers had to offer a tenth of their harvest, while craftsmen had to offer a tenth of their production.

In the Middle Ages the tithe from the Old Testament was expanded, through a differentiation between a Great Tithe and a Little Tithe. The Great Tithe was analogous to the tithe in the Bible where one had to tithe on grain and large farm animals. The Little Tithe added fruits of the field: kitchen herbs, fruit, vegetables and small farm animals.

After the Reformation the tithe was increasingly taken over from the church by the state. In England, church tithes remained until the 19th century. The right to receive tithes was granted to the English churches by King Ethelwulf in 855. The Saladin tithe was a royal tax, but assessed using ecclesiastical boundaries, in 1188. Tithes were given legal force by the Statute of Westminster of 1285. The Dissolution of the Monasteries led to the transfer of many tithe rights from the Church to secular landowners, and then in the 1530s to the Crown.

Tithes of fish (and mills) were the last survivors of what were referred to as personal tithes. Traditionally, fish taken from the sea or common rivers were not titheable under the principal that they were ferae naturae or wild animals. The only exception was if a local custom existed.

A 1549 statute made a tithe of fish payable only in parishes where it had customarily been paid within the past 40 years, such as those on the sea coast. This would likely include Kent. The system ended with the Tithe Commutation Act 1836, which replaced tithes with a rent charge decided by a Tithe Commission.

Based on church records, we know that Sylvester and Jone had 3 children.  It’s likely that they had several more who may have died or not been reflected in the records.  If they were married about 1545 and Jone died in 1561, according to the burial record, they would have had 16 years as a married couple to produce offspring, so they could have been expected to have had approximately 8 children.  The births of those children would only have been recorded in church records after 1559.  This suggests that there are several children born, and probably buried, as children.  However, given that daughter Jone was married in Ripple in 1563, it wouldn’t hurt to check the Ripple church records to see if Sylvester and Jone’s children were baptized there.  Marriages traditionally took place in the bride’s church, although just two years earlier, Jone’s mother, Jone, was buried at St. Leonard’s in Deal.

Jone’s untimely death in her 30s would have left Sylvester, a fisherman, with 3 young children and no wife.  His children, at the time of Jone’s death would have been 14, 12 and 6.  It’s likely that his mother, Anny, if she was still living, would have raised his children while he provided for the entire family by fishing.

The three known children of Sylvester Eastes and Jone are as follows:

1. Jone Eastye, born 1547, probably at Deal, Kent, married on 9 July 1563, at Ripple, Kent, located between Ringwould and Deal, to Henrye Baker, born in 1546, they had a daughter, Jone, who married her first cousin Henry Estes, the son of Jone’s brother.

2. Henry Eastye, a fisherman and master-owner of a pinasse (two masted vessel), the Mynion, born in 1549, at Deal, Kent. He married Mary Rand on July 3, 1574, in Deal. “Henry Eastice of the parish of Deale in the County of Kent fisherman,” made his will on April 30, 1590 at Deal. Mary was buried June 19, 1601 at St Leonard’s, Kent.

3. Robert Eastye, mariner, born about 1555 at Deal, Kent, died about 1616 at age 61 in Ringwould, Kent. He married Anne Woodward on December 2, 1591 at Sholden, Kent. Anne was born about 1574 (or in 1570), died between the making of her will on April 21, 1630 and when she was buried on May 18, 1630 at Ringwould. Robert and Anne spent the first few years of their married life at Sholden, moving to Ringwould about 1595.

Due to the change in the English religion from Catholic to Protestant, these children would have been baptized as Protestants, while Sylvester and Jone would have been baptized at Catholics.

In the Ringwould church records, Sylvester’s burial is the very first Estes record, recorded thus:

Jan. 7, 1579 – Silvester Eastye buried

This begs the question of why, with his wife buried at St.Leonard’s 18 years earlier, was Silvester buried at Ringwould?

The second Estes record at Ringwould doesn’t follow for another 17 years, and it’s the christening of Silvester, the son of Robert, who is the son of Silvester buried in January of 1579.  Between 1579 and 1596, Robert has married Anne Woodward at Shoulden in 1591, with their first child, Matthew being baptized there in 1592.

Sept. 26, 1596 – Silvester Estey, son of Robert, christened

Robert Estes and Anne Woodward continued to be members of St. Nicholas of Ringwould until Robert’s death about 1616.

Between 1561 when Jone was buried in Ringwould, to 1591 when Robert was married at Sholden, we have church records of this family involved with four different churches, albeit in close geographic proximity of a mile and a half range.  As you can see, below, the entire circle between all 4 locations, using today’s roads which are not the most direct routes, is only a total of 7 miles.

kent 4 villages

Changes

Sylvester saw a lot of changes in his lifetime.  His father died when he was 11 or 12, leaving his mother a widow.  Sylvester may well have been apprenticed to the mariners to learn a trade in order to be able to support himself, and possibly his widowed mother and younger siblings as well.

Changes were afoot in England itself as well.  England was in the process of politically becoming a Protestant nation with the King at the head of the church, instead of a Catholic nation with the Pope at the head of the church.  In the 1530s, Henry VIII wanted to remarry because his wife did not produce a male heir, and his Catholicism prevented that, especially when the Pope refused to annul his marriage.  As a result Henry renounced Catholicism and became Protestant, ordered the destruction of all things Catholic, such as monasteries and abbeys.  The churches “became” Protestant overnight, along with their parishioners.  In some places, of course, there was strong resistance and the resisters were called ‘recussants.’  That did not seem to be a problem in Kent.

In addition to the national issues, there were local and regional problems to contend with as well.

In October 1536, when Sylvester would have been about 14, four Flemish ships entered the Downs, landed and plundered the local boats of their “herrings, hogbushes, arrows and beer.”  A few days later, those same ships robbed a Deal fishing boat of its entire catch and then sent a pinnace ashore on St. Leonard’s Day (November 6  and feast day at Deal’s St. Leonard’s church) to cut the cable of Captain Rychardson’s boat and tow it away.  Rychardson’s inventory of his losses reflects a typical fishing boat of the time – two long bows, sheaves of arrows, barrels of beer, bread, candles, boots and bonnets.  Sylvester’s ship probably was provisioned with the same things.

Piracy, especially in the Downs was very troublesome during this time.  In 1536 Henry VII made it an offense punishable by death in some cases.

Queen Elizabeth, after coming to reign in 1558 did not take kindly to pirates either.  In one month alone, sometime after 1573, William Holstock, commander of the Queen’s Navy, captured pirates of several nationalities from 35 rogue ships and sent about 1000 captives ashore at Deal.  But then, he too turned rogue and captured 15 merchant ships.

In the 1539, Henry VIII ordered the construction of three castles to defend the Downs which were heavily exposed, faced Europe and were the most likely places for a Catholic army to make landfall in England.  Deal Castle was one of the castles, and still stands majestically today.  It was built, along with Sandown and Walmer Castle, in about 18 months in 1539 and 1540 utilizing 1400 men along with local laborers.

This was a very important, high profile project.  In fact, King Henry himself visited the Downs to “inspect his defences” on Easter Sunday in 1539.  He fully expected an invasion from Catholic Europe.

Sylvester would have been 17 or 18 at the time, a very impressionable age, and if he weren’t fishing already, he was surely involved in the castle construction.  If he was fishing, the influx of workers certainly created an unending market for their fish and probably just about anything else you could create to sell to the workers.  It would certainly have been an economic boon for the region around Deal.  It would have been an exciting time to be a young man as well – an era full of adventure.

After the castles’ construction, garrisons were assigned.  King Henry’s policy was to make any defense the responsibility of the local district and that garrisons were drawn from the area and officers were drawn from the local gentry.  Soldiers were expected to provide their own weapons – a dagger, sword, halberd and at their own expense.

The expected attack from Catholic Europe did not materialize in 1540, probably causing everyone along the Kent coastline to heave a collective sigh of relief.  Piracy and smuggling continued in the Downs, but the next threat from another nation would be Spain in 1588, nine years after Sylvester’s death.

Queen Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII, ascended the throne in 1558 and inspected the castles in Kent in 1573.  After leaving Dover, the Queen journeyed through Walmer and Deal before being carried on a litter along the Ancient Highway to Sandwich.  You can rest assured that every person who was able lined the roads to catch a glimpse of the Queen.

queen eliz litter

Perhaps Sylvester Estes, then 51 years old, was among them with his son Robert, just 18.  Did they see the Queen?

Mobility

I expected that we would find the Estes family in one church and that the family members would remain within that church for generations.  This also implies that they lived in the same location.  That’s not what we’ve found.  In the 5 known generations beginning with Nicholas and ending with Abraham Estes who immigrated to the US in 1673, we know that the Estes family participated in services in at least 8 churches, not including Sandwich where one can rest assured that Abraham attended church when he was an apprentice there.  That’s a lot of mobility for an early family whose main avenue for transportation would have been on foot.

It’s also somewhat unusual in that early vassalage arrangements would have precluded mobility between farms, let along between towns, and in essence kept the vassals tied to the lands of the monarchy or their lords in perpetuity.  Given that history, finding this much movement, even within a region, just a few years later is quite surprising.  Feudalism, meaning feudal land tenure, began to decline with the War of the Roses in the mid-1400s (1455-1485), effectively ended when the country became Protestant in 1536, but wasn’t abolished in England until 1660.  Under the feudal system, tenants, or vassals, would not have been allowed to move around from place to place.

So, why did they move?  Well, knowing the Estes family, perhaps because they couldn’t, then they could, and did, because they could.

This pattern of movement tells us that the Estes family was likely not tied to land, per se, at least not by the 1500s – so maybe tenant farmers working the lands of others, or craftsmen – or eventually, as we know, mariners.  Mariners are tied to the sea, not the land, so they would have lived relatively close to the shore.  Most of these churches and communities certainly fit that criteria.

The movement of people is more the norm, over time, than not, unless there is a constraining factor.  We do sometimes find families in villages nestled in the mountains of some remote location that haven’t left since the beginning of written records, which is often reflected in the very unusual markers in their Y DNA, suggesting a population bottleneck of sorts.  In other words, mutations happened but no one left to spread them around, so they are only found in a particular region.  For genealogists, these are blessings in disguise, because they can help us pinpoint locations where our ancestor lived, if enough people test.  They will, of course, carry different surnames today, but their DNA will match, especially on unusual markers that have mutated in that region.

We find that often people migrated in groups – probably family units – increasing their chances of survival if there are others available who have a vested interest in helping out if trouble loomed.  Someone else who wouldn’t hesitate to paint themselves blue and hurl projectiles at Caesar’s ships, if the need arose.

So, if we look at the more ancient aspect of the Estes DNA, what does it tell us?  Where did the Estes family come from, before the advent of surnames?  And does it tell us anything about the d’Este family myth?

Who Settled Near Deal?

Let’s start by looking at who settled in the Deal area.  We know that Ceasar said that in the year 55 this area was inhabited by “Belgic and Celtic” tribes, a mixture of Germanic and Celtic stock who had arrived on “these shores a generation before but had continued to trade with their counterparts on the continent.”  He says specifically that:

“The coast (was populated) by Belgic immigrants who came to plunder and make war – nearly all of them retaining the names of tribes from which they originated – and later settled to till the soil. They think it is wrong to eat hares or chickens or geese but they breed them as pets. As the cold is less severe, the climate is more temperate than in Gaul.”

Caesar tells us that his fleet encountered Celts hurling missiles from the soaring cliffs at Dover.  The fleet then sailed 8 miles, hugging the coast until they came to ‘low lying land’ (Saxon, ‘dylle’).

white cliffs map

Warring Britons, their naked bodies daubed with woad and their wild hair stiffened with lime relentlessly rode their sleek chariots into battle and drove the Romans from the shore.

celtic 2 wheel chariot

An Ancient Briton from Barnard’s New Complete & Authentic History of England, 1783, below.ancient briton

I can’t tell you how I wish someone had made a painting of that!  Naked men painted blue with spikey hair in a chariot.  Is that legal?

Caesar tells us more, and it’s complimentary in spite of the naked blue spikey factor.

“The most civilised people are those in Kent which is entirely a coastal area; they have much the same customs as the Gauls. Most of those living further inland do not sow corn but live on milk and flesh and wear clothes of animal skins. All the Britons, though, dye their skins with woad which produces a blue colour and thereby look all the more terrifying in battle.

By far the most civilized inhabitants are those living in Kent.  The population is large, the ground thickly studded with homesteads…and the cattle numerous.

They do not cut their hair but shave all the rest of the body except the head and upper lip. Wives are shared between groups of ten or twelve men, usually made up of brothers or fathers and sons. The children are reckoned as belonging to the man each girl marries first.”

Now, that would play havoc with the DNA is more ways than one.  So, you could wind up being the father to your own brother, or nephew….so you really could be your own grandpa.  Don’t ponder this too long – it will only make you crazy.

We know that the word Deal itself is derived from the Saxon word “dylle” meaning low lying land or “del” referring to a dale or valley.

A Druid shrine was found on the eastern slope of Mill Hill, just a few blocks from St. Leonard’s Church in Deal, rich in Celtic art from the second century BC.

In fact, the “Deal Warrior” was found here with his armour, wearing what looks to be a crown with a LaTene style of incised pattern.

deal warrior

The Celtic LaTene culture followed the Hallstatt in Iron Age Europe about 450BCE.

Halstatt latene 2

Above, an overview of the Hallstatt and La Tène cultural regions. The core Hallstatt territory (800 BCE) is shown in solid yellow, the area of influence by 500 BCE (HaD) in light yellow. The core territory of the La Tène culture (450 BCE) is shown in solid green, the eventual area of La Tène influence by 50 BCE in light green. The territories of some major Celtic tribes are labelled. Map drawn after Atlas of the Celtic World, by John Haywood (2001: 30–37).

celtic europe expansion

This map shows the Celtic expansion in Europe, including the British Isles, and Italy.

Ok, so are the Estes men Celtic?

The DNA

The good news is that the Estes STR markers are quite unique.  The bad news is that the Estes STR markers are quite unique.  The STR markers, or short tandem repeats, are the marker results that you receive when you order the 12, 25, 37, 67 or 111 marker tests from Family Tree DNA.

The Estes men don’t match men with other surnames at 111, 67 or 37 markers.  In fact, their marker values at that level are very unique.  The good news is that this means that it’s very easy to tell when someone matches the group, or doesn’t.  The bad news is that there are no breadcrumbs left by matching other people.

Breadcrumbs?  What do I mean by breadcrumbs?

A DNA breadcrumb, in this instance, could be one of two things.  First, it could be an extended haplogroup SNP test that would tell me by virtue of who I match closely on STR markers that my ancestor’s haplogroup is likely to be the same as the other person who took the extended testing.  In other words, a poor man’s pseudo SNP test.  No such luck, in my case.

The second DNA breadcrumb would be the matches maps – where are the oldest ancestors of my closest matches found?  This can be important in locating on origin in continental Europe.  In my case, the closest not-Estes matches with locations are 12 and 25 markers.  It’s not that I can’t use these, it’s that they are far back in time, quite far sometimes, so far that the common ancestor may not be on the same twig of the Y tree, especially with haplogroup R, old R1b1a2.

And yes, of course, the Estes men are smack dab in the middle of haplogroup R – in fact, L21.

Estes Y hap

On the first map, below, the locations of the oldest known European ancestors of the Estes matches are shown.  There aren’t many in continental Europe.  Most are in the British Isles.  Keep in mind that none of these hold up (or perhaps didn’t test) above 25 markers, so the common ancestors with these individuals would be far back in time, hundreds to thousands of years – which is exactly what we are looking for – sometime around Caesar’s arrival in the year 55 when the woad covered Celts were pummeling his ships from the white cliffs of Dover.

estes matches map 25

The red balloons below show the oldest ancestors of 12 marker matches.

estes matches map 12

Hey, what are those two in Italy?

Turns out one is in Rome and other shows it’s in France, but it’s still in the right general location to perhaps be an indication that some of the Estes DNA is living in the region.  That doesn’t do anything to put to bed the oral history of the d’Este family.  In fact, it fans those flames a bit.  If those matches held above 12 markers, it would fan those flames a lot…..but they don’t.

However, the general distribution pattern indeed looks like the traditional “Celtic” L21 migration into the British Isles, shown below.

Eupedia L21

It is believed that subgroup L21 was born about 4000 years ago in the Celtic region of Europe, perhaps in Southwest Germany.

A few days ago, Britain’s DNA released information about L21 which equates to their SNP S145.

The map below, for S145 shows their Pretani distribution.  The best definition I could find for Pretani was that the earliest known reference to the people of the British Isles, made by the Greeks between 330 and 300 BC describes them as the Isles of the Pretani, the ‘Pretani’ thus becoming the most ancient inhabitants of Britain and Ireland to whom a definite name can be given. In Ireland these ancient British Pretani (or Britanni) were later to become known as the Cruthin, while in Scotland they became known as the Picts.

s145

While their map does not include any downstream variants, it still meshes with the Eupedia L21 map.  It looks like the Celts stepped ashore in England and started moving north and west and didn’t stop until they had to.  Of course, they were followed by Angles and Saxons and Romans and Normans so they did have some pressure to keep moving.  Apparently not all moved on, because there are still between 13% and 15% in the east and southeast of England, as determined by DNA testing of people whose 4 grandparents lived in that location – implying that they are not recent immigrants to the region.

So, what next?

Ok, so the Estes men are descended from Celts.  Now we at least know that much.

But I’d still like to know if my ancestors were d’Este Kings in Italy wearing crowns, Druid priests in England wearing crowns, or blue woad painted Celts with spiked hair driving chariots while defending the white cliffs of Dover.  Can’t you just see them here?

white cliffs of dover 2

I mean, it does make quite a bit of difference in the telling of the family story.

I want to know more.  I’d like to test for more SNPs to see if I can refine what we know, but which SNPs to test?

The Estes men have joined the R-L21 project and the British Isles by County project, and I’ve asked the administrator for haplogroup L21 for suggestions about how to test further.  Part of the decision about how to test will be financially based.  If he can tell me, based on his experience that what I really need to do is test one or two SNPs based on what he sees in terms of matching within other L21 subgroups, I’ll happily do that.  If he tells me that I need to do the Geno 2.0 or Big Y, I’ll probably do that as well, but I’ll be eating hotdogs and mac and cheese for a few weeks.  But hey, it’s grilling season and genealogy is way more important that eating!

In the L21 project, the Estes men, along with a few thousands of our closest friends are in the group titled “1. L21+ (L11>P312>L21; If you can, test for DF13 status).”  This means, in plain English – you need more testing, so that’s the answer I’m expecting.

What this means is that the testing results are too vanilla to narrow the location origin.  Below are the locations of the oldest ancestors of the “you need more testing” group.

l21 cluster

And for comparison, here’s a subclade of L21 – a group of people who share a terminal SNP further down the tree – and the locations of their most distant ancestors.  If what I’m looking for is a source on continental Europe – this is much more useful than the map above which shows the distribution of L21 over the past 4000 years or so.

l21 subgroup cluster

I did receive a recommendation from the haplogroup L21 project administrator.  Just what I was afraid of – the L21 project administrator wants 2 Big Yfull Y sequence tests from the Estes line – from hopefully our two most divergent men who are definitely from the same family.  This will show which of the SNPs or Novel Variants (personal or family SNPs) they share are actually haplotree branch SNPs and which are family only, meaning much more recent in time.  Makes sense.  I expected this advice, I was just hoping for a less expensive option, but as the administrator says, we are, indeed, the explorers in this new field.  Well, good thing we are Celts now isn’t it!

Now, all I have to find the appropriate Estes male candidates and the funds.  If you have an Estes in your family tree, you can contribute directly to the Estes DNA project towards the tests, which will be about $1200 in total.  Any amount is appreciated and it all helps.

To put this in perspective, raising these funds has to be easier than getting naked, shaving my body, painting myself blue and liming my hair while driving a chariot and throwing projectiles off of the white cliffs of Dover!!!

Big Y DNA Results Divide and Unite Haplogroup Q Native Americans

featherOne of my long standing goals has been to resurrect the lost heritage of the Native American people.  By this I mean, primarily, for genealogists who search for and can’t find  their Native ancestors.  My blog, www.nativeheritageproject.com, is one of the ways that I contribute towards that end.  Many times, records are buried, don’t exist at all, or don’t reflect anything about Native heritage.  While documents can be somewhat evasive and frustratingly vague, the Y DNA of the male descendants is not.  It’s rock solid.

The Native communities became admixed beginning with the first visits of Europeans to what would become the Americas.  Native people accepted mixed race individuals as full tribal members, based on the ethnicity of the mother.  Adoption also played a key role.  If a female, the mother, was an adopted white child, the mother was considered to be fully Native, as was her child, regardless of the ethnicity of the father.

Therefore, some people who test their DNA expecting to find Native genetics do not – they instead find European or African – but that alone does not mean that their ancestors were not tribal members.  It means that these individuals have to rely on non-genetic records to prove their ancestors Native heritage – or they need to test a different line – like the descendants of the mother, through all females, for example, for mitochondrial DNA.

On the other hand, some people are quite surprised when their DNA results come back as Native.  Many have heard a vague story, but often, they don’t have a clue as to which genealogical line, if any, the Native ancestry originated.  Native ancestry was often hidden because the laws that prevailed at the time sanctioned discrimination of many kinds against people “of color,” and if you weren’t entirely of European origin, you were “of color.”  Many admixed people, as soon as they could, “became” white socially and never looked back. Not until recently, the late 20th century, when discrimination had for the most part become a thing of the past and one could embrace their Native or African heritage without fear of legal or social reprisal.

Back in December of 2010, we found the defining SNP that divided haplogroup Q between Europeans and Native Americans.  At the time, this was a huge step forward, a collaboration between testing participants, haplogroup administrators, citizen scientists and Family Tree DNA.

This allowed us to determine who was, and was not included in Native American haplogroups, but it was also the tip of the iceberg.  You can see below just how much the tree has expanded and its branches have been shuffled.  This is a big part of the reason for the change from haplogroup names like Q1a3 to Q-M346.  For example, at one time or another the SNP M3 was associated with haplogroup names Q1a3a, Q1a3a1 and Q1a3a1a.  On the ISOGG tree below, today M3 is associated with Q1a2a1a1.

isogg q tree

The new Family Tree DNA 2014 tree is shown below for one of the Big Y participants whose terminal SNP is L568, found beneath SNP CTS1780 which is found beneath L4, which is beneath L213 which is beneath L474 which is beneath MEH2 which is beneath L232 which is, finally, beneath M242.

ftdna 2014 q tree

The introduction of the Big Y product from Family Tree DNA, which sequences a large portion of the Y chromosome, provided us with the opportunity to make huge strides in unraveling and deciphering the haplogroup Q (and C, the other male Native haplogroup in the Americas) tree.  I am hopeful that in time, and with enough people taking the Big Y test, that we will one day be able to at least sort participants into language and perhaps migration groups.

In November, 2013, we asked for the public and testers to support our call for funds to be able to order several Big Y tests.  The project administrators intentionally did not order tests in family groups, but attempted to scatter the tests to the far corners, so to speak, and to include at least one person from each disparate group we have in the haplogroup Q project, based on STR matches, or lack thereof, and previous SNP testing.

Thanks to the generosity of contributors, we were able to order several tests.  In addition, some participants were able to order their own tests, and did.  Thank you one and all.

The tests are back now, and with the new Big Y SNP matching, recently introduced by Family Tree DNA, comparisons are a LOT easier.

So, of course, I had to see what I could find by comparing the SNP results of the several gentlemen who tested.

To protect the privacy of everyone involved, I have reduced their names to initials.  I have included their terminal SNP as identified at Family Tree DNA as well as any tribal, ethnic or location information we have available for their most distant paternal ancestor.

There are two individuals who believe their ancestors are from Europe, and there is a very large group of European haplogroup Q members, but I’m not convinced that the actual biological ancestors of these two gentlemen are from Europe.  I have included both of these individuals as well. Let’s just say the jury is still out. As a control, I have also included a gentleman who actually lives in Poland.

native match clusters

Of the individuals above, SD, CT and CM are SNP matches.

CD, WJS and WBS are SNP matches with each other.

BG and ETW are also SNP matches to each other.

None of the rest of these individuals have SNP matches.  (Note, you can click to enlarge the chart.)

native snp matches

In the table above, the Non-Matching Known SNPs are shown with the number of Shared Novel Variants.  For example, SD and CT have 4 non-matching SNPS and share 161 Novel Variants and are noted as 4/161.

We can easily tell which of the known SNPs are nonmatching, because they are shown on the participants match page.

snp matches page

What we don’t know, and can’t tell, is how many Novel Variants these people share with each other, and how many they might share with the individuals that aren’t shown as matches.

Keep in mind that there may be individuals here that are not shown as matches to due no-calls.  Only people with up to and including 4 non-matching Known SNPs are counted as matches.  If you have the wrong combination of no-calls, or, aren’t in the same terminal haplogroup, you may not be shown as a match when you otherwise would be.

The other reason for my intense interest in the Novel Variants is to see if they are actually Novel, as in found only in a few people, or if they are more widespread.

I downloaded each person’s Novel Variants through the Export Utility (blue button to the right at the top of your personal page,) and combined the Novel Variants into a single spreadsheet.  I colorized each person’s result rows so that they would be easy to track.  I have redacted their names. The white row, below, is the individual who lives in Poland.

novel variant 1

There are a total of 3506 Novel Variants between these men.  When sorting, many clustered as you would expect.  There is the Algonguian group and what I’ve taken to calling the Borderlands group.  This group has someone whose ancestor was born in VA and two in SC.  I have documentation for the Virginia family having descendants in SC, so that makes sense.  The third group is an unusual combination of the gentleman who believes his ancestors are from Germany and the gentleman whose ancestors are found in a New Mexico Pueblo tribe, but whose ancestor was, likely, based on church records, a detribalized Plains Indian who had been kidnapped and sold.

Clusters that I felt needed some scrutiny, for one reason or another, I highlighted in yellow in the Terminal SNP column.  Obviously the Polish/Pueblo matching needs some attention.

Another very interesting type of match are several where either all or nearly all of the individuals share a Novel Variant – 15 or 16 of 16 total participants.  I don’t think these will remain Novel Variants very long.  They clearly need to be classified as SNPs.  I’m not sure about the process that Family Tree DNA will use to do this, but I’ll be finding out shortly.

Here’s an example where everyone shares this Novel Variant at location 7688075,except the gentleman who lives in Poland, the man who believes his ancestor is from Germany, and the Creek descendant.

novel variant 2

I was very surprised at how many Novel Variants appear in all 16 results of the participants, including the gentleman who lives in Poland – represented by the white row below.

novel variant 3

So, how were the Novel Variants distributed?

Category # of Variants Comments
Algonquian Group 140 This is to be expected since it’s within a specific group.  Any matches that include people outside the 3 Algonquian individuals are counted in a separate category.  These matches give us the ability to classify anyone who tests with these marker results as provisionally Algonquian.
Borderlands 83 This confirms that these three individuals are indeed a “group” of some sort.  This also gives us the ability to classify future participants using these mutations.
All or Nearly All – 15 or 16 Participants 80 These are clearly candidates for SNPs, and, given that they are found in the Native and the European groups, they appear to predate the division of haplogroup Q.
Several Native and European, Combined 45 This may or may not include the person who lives in Poland.  This group needs additional scrutiny to determine if it actually does exist in Europe, but given that there are more than 3 individuals with each of these Novel Variants, they need to be considered for SNPhood.
Pueblo/NC 1
Poland/Borderlands 2
Mexico/Algonquian 2
German/Pueblo 9 I wonder if this person is actually German.
Poland/Mexico 20 I wonder if this person’s ancestors are actually from Poland.
Algonquian, NC, Creek 1
Borderland, Mexico, Creek 1
Algonquian/Cherokee 1
All Native, no Euro 2
Algonquian, Borderlands, Mexico, NC 1
Algonquian, Mexico, Borderlands 1
Borderlands, Pueblo 1
Borderlands, Creek, NC 1
Algonquian, Cherokee, Mexico 3
Algonquian, Pueblo, Creek, Borderlands 1
Cherokee, NC 2
Algonquian, Borderlands 2
Borderlands, NC 1
Algonquian, NC 1
Polish/NC 10

Some of this distribution makes me question if these SNP mutations truly are a “once in the history of mankind” kind of thing.  For example, how did the same SNP appear in the Polish person and the NC person, or the Pueblo person, and not in the rest of the Native people?

New SNPs?

So, are you sitting down?

Based on these numbers, it looks like we have at least 125 new SNP candidates for  haplogroup Q.  If we count the Algonquian and the Borderlands groups of matches, that number rises to about 250.  This is very exciting.  Far, far more than I ever expected.  of these SNPS, about half will identify Native people, even Native groupings of people.  This is a huge step forward, a red letter day for Native American ancestry!

SNPs and STRs

Lastly, I wanted to see how the SNP matching compared to STR matching, or if it did at all, for these men.

Only two men match each other on any STR markers.  CD and WJS matched on 12 markers, but not on higher panels.  The TIP calculator estimated their common ancestor at the 50th percentile to be 17 generations, or between 425 and 510 years ago.  We all know how unrealistic it is to depend on the TIP calculator, but it’s the only tool we have in situations like this.

Given that these are the only two men who do match on STR markers, albeit distantly, in a genealogical timeframe, let’s see what the estimates using the 150 years per SNP mutation comes up with.  This estimate is just that, devised by the haplogroup R-U106 project administrators, and others, based on their project findings.  150 years is actually the high end of the estimate, 98 being the lower end.  Of course, different haplogroups may vary and these results are very early.  Just saying.

CD has 207 high quality Novel Variants.  He shares 188 of those with WJS, leaving 19 unshared Novel Variants.  Utilizing this number, and multiplying by 150, this suggests that, if the 150 years per SNP is anyplace close to accurate, their common ancestor lived about 2850 years ago.  If you presume that both men are incurring mutations at the same rate in their independent lines, then you would divide the number of years in half, so the common ancestor would be more likely 1425 years ago.  If you use 100 years instead of 150, the higher number of years is 1900 and the half number is about 950 years.

It’s fun to speculate a bit, but until a lot more study has occurred, we won’t be able to reasonably estimate SNP age or age to common ancestor from this information.   Having said all of that, it’s not a long stretch from 710 years to 950 years.

It looks like STR markers are still the way to go for genealogical matching and that SNPS may help to pull together the deeper ancestry, migration patterns and perhaps define family lines.  I hope the day comes soon that I can order the Big Y for lots more project members.  Most of these men do have STR marker matches, and to men with both the same and different surnames.  I’d love to see the Big Y results for those individuals who match more closely in time.

This is still the tip of the iceberg.  There is a lot left to discover!  If you or a family member have haplogroup Q results, please consider ordering the Big Y.  It would make a wonderful gift and a great way to honor your ancestors!

You can also contribute to the American Indian project at this link:

https://www.familytreedna.com/group-general-fund-contribution.aspx?g=AIP

In order to donate to the haplogroup C-P39 project which also includes Native Americans, please click this link:

http://www.familytreedna.com/group-general-fund-contribution.aspx?g=Y-DNAC-P39

Big Y Matching

A few days ago, Family Tree DNA announced and implemented Big Y Matching between participants who have taken the Big Y test.

This is certainly welcome news.  Let’s take a look at Big Y matching, what it means and how to utilize the features.

First, there are really two different groups of people who will benefit from the Big Y tests.

People trying to sort through lines of a common and related surname – like the McDonald or Campbell families, for example – and haplogroup researchers and project administrators.

My own family, for example, is badly brick walled with Charles Campbell first found in Hawkins County, TN in the 1780s.  We know, via STR testing that indeed, he matches the Campbell Clan from Scotland, but we have no idea who is father might have been.  STR testing hasn’t been definitive enough on Charles’ two known sons’ descendants, so I’m very hopeful that someday enough Campbell men will test that we’ll be able between STR and SNP mutations to at least narrow the possible family lines.  If I’m incredibly lucky, maybe there will be a family line SNP (Novel Variant) and it won’t just narrow the line, it will give me a long-awaited answer by genetically announcing which line was his.  Could I be that lucky???  That’s like winning the genetic genealogy lottery!

For today, the Big Y test at $695 is expensive to run on an entire project of people, not to mention that many of the original participants in projects, the long-time hard-core genealogists, have since passed away.  We are now into our 15th years of genetic genealogy.

For those studying haplogroups, the Big Y is a huge sandbox and those researchers have lost no time whatsoever comparing various individuals’ SNPS, both known and novel, and creating haplogroup trees of those SNPs.  This is done by hand today, or maybe more accurately stated, by Excel.  This is “not fun” to put it mildly.  We owe these folks a huge debt of gratitude.  Their results are curated and posted, provisionally, on the ISOGG Tree.

There is an in-between group as well, and those are people who are working to establish relationships between people of different surnames.  In my case, Native American ancestors whose descendants have different surnames today, but who do share a common ancestor in some timeframe.  That timeframe of course could be anyplace from a couple hundred to several thousand years, since their entry into the Americas across Beringia someplace in the neighborhood of 12-15 thousand years ago.

The Big Y matching is extremely helpful to projects.

Let’s take a look.

Big Y Matches

Big Y landing

On your personal page, under “Other Results,” you’ll see the Big Y results.  Click on Results” and you’ll see the following page.

big y results

The Known SNPs and Novel Variants tabs have been there since release, but the Matching tab, top left, is new.

By clicking on the Matching tab, you will then see the men you match based on your terminal SNP as determined in the Big Y Known SNPs data base.  You will be matched to men who carry up to and including 4 mutations difference in known SNPs, and unlimited novel variant differences.  If you have a zero in the “Known SNP Difference” column, that means you have no differences at all in known SNPs.

big y matches cropped2

The individual being used for an example here has paternal ancestry from Hungary.  His terminal SNP is reported as R-CTS11962.  Therefore, all of the people he matches should also carry this same SNP as their terminal SNP.

This is actually quite interesting, because of his 10 exact matches, 9 of them have surnames or genealogy that suggests eastern European/Slavic ancestry.  The 10th, however, which happens to be his closest match, carries an English surname and reports their ancestor to be from Yorkshire, England.  His one mutation differences carry the same pattern, with one being from England and two of the other three from eastern Europe.

Our participant has 155 total Novel Variants, 135 high quality and 20 medium quality.  Only high quality are listed in the comparison.  Medium quality are not.

Ancestral Location Known SNP Difference Shared Novel Variants Non Matching Known SNPs
Yorkshire, England 0 134 None
Prussia 0 127 None
Ukraine 0 121 None
Poland 0 121 None
Belarus 0 119 None
Poland 0 116 None
Poland 0 116 None
Russian e-mail 0 113 None
Bulgaria 0 113 None
Slovakia 0 111 None
English surname 1 126 PF6085
Undetermined, poss German 1 121 F1816
Poland 1 118 F552
Poland 1 116 CTS10137
Prussia 2 122 CTS11840 PF4522
Poland 2 112 L1029 PR6932
Russia 3 116 CTS3184 L1029 PF3643
Poland 3 106 CTS11962 L1029 L260
Ukraine 3 105 CTS11962 L1029 L260
Poland 3 104 CTS11962 L1029 L260
Poland 3 100 CTS11962 L1029 L260
Poland 3 99 CTS11962 L1029 L260
Eastern European surname 3 98 CTS11962 L1029 L260
Poland/Germany 3 97 CTS11962 L1029 L260
Austria/Galacia 3 93 CTS11962 L1029 L260
Poland 4 97 CTS11562 CTS11962 L1029 L260

It’s also very interesting to note that his non-matching known SNPs tend to cluster.  Non-matching known SNPs can go in either direction – meaning that they could be absent in our participant and present in the rest, or vice versa.

l1029 search

It’s easy to tell.  In the Big Y Results, under Known SNPs, there is a search feature.  This means that it’s easy to search for SNPs and to determine their status.  For example, above, our participant does carry SNP L1029 (he’s derived or positive (+) for the mutation in question).  This means that our participant has developed L1029, and, it just so happens, also CTS11962 and L260, the three clustered SNPs, since these men shared a common ancestor.

It’s difficult not to speculate a little.  If the TMCRA Big Y SNP estimates are correct, this suggests that these 3 clustered SNPS occurred someplace between 4350 and about 5000 years ago, based on the range (93-106) of the number of high quality novel variant differences.  We’ll talk more about this in a minute.

f552 search

For SNP F552, our participant is negative, meaning that that other person has developed this SNP since their shared ancestor.  In fact, he’s negative for all of the other Known SNP differences.

Novel Variants

The Novel Variants are quite interesting.  Novel Variants are mutations that if found in enough people who are not related within a family group will someday become SNPs on the tree.  Think of them as ripening SNPs.

By clicking on the “Show All” dropdown box you can see the list of the participants novel variants and how many of his matches share that Novel Variant.

novel variant list

In this example, all 26 of our participant’s novel variants share 13142597.  I’m thinking that this Novel Variant will someday become classified as a SNP and not as a Novel Variant anymore.  When that happens, and no, we don’t know how often Family Tree DNA will be reviewing the Novel Variants for SNP candidates, it will no longer be in the Novel Variant list.  The Novel Variants are meant to be family, novel or lineage SNPs, not population based SNPS that apply to a wide variety of people.  Finding these, of course, and adding them to the human haplotree is the entire purpose of full sequence Y chromosomal testing.  Just look at tall of this new information about this man’s ancestors and the DNA that they passed on to this gentleman.

By scrolling down to the bottom of that list, we find that our participant has 8 different Novel Variants where he matches only one individual.  By clicking on the Novel Variant number, you can see who he matches.  Of those 8, 7 of them match to the man who carries the English surname and one matches to a gentleman from Prussia.

This information is extremely interesting, but it gets even more interesting when compared against STR matches.  Our participant has a fairly unusual haplotype above 12 markers.  He has three 67 marker matches, two 37 marker matches and thirty-three 25 marker matches.  None of the men he matches on the SNP test match him on any of those tests.  I did not check his 12 marker matches, because I felt that anyone who would invest the money in the Big Y would certainly have tested above 12 markers plus our participants has several hundred 12 marker matches.

The numbers being bantered around by people working with SNP information suggest that one Big Y mutation equals about 150 years.  If this is true, then his closest match, the English gentleman from Yorkshire, England would share an ancestor about 2850 years ago.  That is clearly beyond the reach of STR markers in terms of generational predictions, so maybe STR matches are not expected in this situation, IF, the 150 year per novel variant estimate is close to accurate.

Another interesting piece of information that can be deduced from this information is how many SNPs were actually found.

At the bottom of our participants page, under Known SNPs, it says “Showing 24 of…571 entries (filtered from 36,274 total entries.)”  We know that the entire data base of SNPs that Family Tree is utilizing, which includes but is not limited to the 12,000+ Geno 2.0 SNPs, is 36,274.  In other words, 36,274 are the number of SNPs available to be found and counted as a SNP because they have already been defined as such.  Any other SNPs discovered are counted as Novel Variants.

Not all available SNPs are found and read in this type of next generation test.  The number of “Matching SNPs” with each individual gives us an idea of how many SNPs actually were found and read at either a medium and high confidence level.  Low confidence SNPs and no-calls are eliminated from reporting.

Our participants best match matches him on 25,397 SNPs.  This leaves a total of 10,877 SNPs that were not called.

The Future

SNP Matching is a wonderful feature and a first in this industry.  A hearty thank you to Family Tree DNA!

However, like all passionate people, we are already looking ahead to see what can be and should be done.

Here are some suggestions and questions I have about how the future will unwrap relative to Big Y SNP testing and matching.

  1. Within surname projects, matching should be relatively easy, unless hundreds of people test. I would be happy to have that problem. Today, administrators are creating spreadsheets of matches and novel SNPs and attempting to “reverse engineer” trees. In family groups, those trees would be of Novel SNPs, and in haplogroup projects, those trees would be of both Known SNPs and Novel Variants and where the Novel SNPS slip in-between the known SNPs to create new branches and sub-branches of the haplotree. We, as a community, need some tools to assist in this endeavor, for both the surname project admin and the haplogroup project admin as well.
  2. As new SNPs are discovered in the future, one will not be retested on this platform. As new SNPs are added to the tree, this could affect the matching by terminal SNP. Family Tree DNA needs to be prepared to deal with this eventuality.
  3. As a community, we desperately need a better tool to determine our actual “terminal SNP” as opposed to the Geno 2.0 terminal SNP. Yes, I know the ISOGG tree is provisional, but the contributed tools initially provided by volunteers to search the ISOGG tree utilizing the known SNPs reported in Big Y no longer work. We desperately need something similar while Family Tree DNA is revamping its own tree. I would hope that Family Tree DNA could add something like a secondary “search ISOGG tree” function as a customer courtesy, even if it needs some disclaimer verbiage as to the provisional nature of the tree.
  4. With the number of SNPs being searched for and reported, no calls begin to become an issue, especially if the no-call happens to be on the terminal SNP. We need to be able to determine whether a non-match with someone is actually a non-match or could be as a result of a no-call, and without resorting to searching raw data files. Today, participants can order a SNP test of a SNP position that has been reported as a no-call, but one needs to first figure that out that it is a no-call by looking at the BAM and BED files, something that is beyond the capability of most genetic genealogists. Furthermore, in the case of a “suspicious” no-call, where, for example, individuals in the same surname project with the same surname and other matching SNPS and STRs, some type of “smart-matching” needs to be put into place to alert the participant and project admin of this situation so that they can decide up on a proper course of action. In other words, no-calls need to be reported and accounted for in some fashion, as they are important data points for the genetic genealogist.

I am extremely grateful to Family Tree DNA for their efforts and for Big Y matching.  After all, matching is the backbone of genetic genealogy.  This list is not a complaint list, in any sense.  Family Tree DNA has a very long history of being responsive to their client base and I fully expect they will do the same with the next step in the Big Y journey.

The story of our DNA is not yet told.  Where our STR matches are found and where our SNP matches are found tells the story of the migration of our ancestors.  Today, SNPs and STRs promise to overlap, and already have in some cases.  If I could, I would order a Big Y test for every individual that I sponsor and for every person in each of my projects. I feel that these tests, combined, will help immensely to complete the puzzle to which we have disparate pieces today.  I look forward to the day when the time to the most recent common ancestor can be calculated by utilizing the Y STR markers, the known SNPs and the Novel Variants.  In a very large sense, the future has arrived today.  Now, we just have to test and figure out how all of the puzzle pieces fit together.

If you haven’t yet ordered a Big Y, you can order here.  The more people who test, the larger the comparison data base, and the sooner we will all have the answers we seek.

Family Tree DNA Site Update Includes Y Enhancements and Renaming of myOrigins Regions

Today, Family Tree DNA released a list of updates that they have rolled to their site.

Here’s the list:

1. Added a privacy setting that will allow a user to opt out of Big Y matching.  By default, matching is enabled.  If someone opts out of matching they will not be able to see Big Y matches and other users will not see them.  The opt in/out setting is located in the myFTDNA Account Settings page, under the “Match and E-mail settings” tab.  Here is the setting:

big Y match

​2. Updated the retail price for Y-DNA25 from $229 to $109.  This will put it in line with our other Y-DNA product prices. Upgrade prices were also edited accordingly.

3. Created a SNP search feature on the Haplotree page to aid users in locating a SNP of interest.  It is located at the top right side of the Haplotree page.  The page will scroll down to the SNP being searched for and highlighted it with a yellow bar.  Even SNPs buried in the “More…” pop up will be searched!  Here is a pic of the search bar:

snp search 2

Here is what a successful search looks like:

snp search results

4. We restored Deep Clade Extended SNP results.  These results had disappeared from customer’s pages and will now be back.

5. We removed and are preventing a Y-DNA haplogroup badge from Y33 and Y46 transfers. A haplogroup prediction is not a part of the product description.  The transfer and upgrade products will still get a haplogroup prediction.

6. The myOrigin cluster names are being changed to be more familiar and recognizable names.  A temporary banner has also been added to the myOrigins page informing users of this change and offering a link to the Learn center containing information about these changes.  Here is the banner that is shown and the link if you would like to read more.

cluster banner

Charles Campbell (c1750 – c1825) and the Great Warrior Path – 52 Ancestors #19

When I discovered that I was going to be visiting Scotland in the fall of 2013, I couldn’t bypass the opportunity to visit the seat of the Clan Campbell.

Campbell isn’t my maiden name, but it was the maiden name of my ancestor, Elizabeth Campbell born about 1802 who married in about 1820, probably in Claiborne County, TN, to Lazarus Dodson, born about 1795.  Elizabeth’s father was John Campbell, born 1772-1775 in Virginia and her mother was Jane “Jenny” Dobkins.  John’s brother is believed to be George Campbell, born around 1770-1771.  We are fairly certain that their father was one Charles Campbell who died before May 31, 1825 in Hawkins County, Tennessee when a survey for his neighbor mentions the heirs of Charles Campbell.

Charles Campbell was in Hawkins County by about 1788.  A Charles Campbell was mentioned in Sullivan County, the predecessor of Hawkins, as early as 1783, but we don’t know if it’s the same man.  The history of Charles Campbell’s Hawkins County land begins in 1783 when it was originally granted to Edmond Holt.

1783, Oct 25, 440 (pg 64 Tn Land Entries John Armstrong’s office) – Edmond Holt enters 300 ac on the South side of Holston river near the west end of Bays Mountain, includes a large spring near the mountain and runs about, includes Holt’s improvement at an Indian old War Ford, warrant issued June 7, 1784, grant to Mark Mitchell.

Hawkins view of Campbell land

This photo shows the area of Dodson’s creek from across the Holston River atop a high hill.  Dodson’s Creek, today, is located beside the TVA power plant.  In this photo, Dodson’s Creek would be just slightly to the right of the power plant in the distance.  You can’t see the Holston River in this photo, but it is just in front of the power plant.  This is a good representation of the rolling mountains of this region.  I stayed in this house for nearly a week while doing research in Hawkins County before realizing that the land I was looking at, daily, out the back door, off of the porch swing, was the land of both my Campbell and Dodson ancestors.  Talk about a jolting moment.

The Old War Ford is the crossing of the Holston River at the mouth of Dodson Creek where the Indians used to camp and cross, on the Great Warrior Path.

Indian war path

My cousin helped me locate the Great Warrior Path crossing and I took the  photos below during a visit to locate the Dodson and Campbell lands.

1790, May 26 – Mark Mitchell to Charles Campbell 100# Virginia money, Dodson’s Ck, Beginning at a synns on the nw side Bays mountain thence on Stokely Donelson’s, north 60 then west 218 poles to a small black and post oak on a flat Hill then south 30 west 219 to two white oaks in a flat, then s 60 east 218 poles to a stake then north 30 east 219 poles along Bays Mountain to the beginning containing 300 acres. Signed, wit John (I) Owen mark, William Wallen, George Campbell mark (kind of funny P), R. Mitchell (it appears that this transaction actually took place in 1788, but wasn’t registered until later.) south side of the Holston on the west fork of Dodson Creek.

Today, the road that originally led to the ford of the Holston River dead ends into a road and the part of the road that was the “ford” is gone.  A field exists in its place, and a historical marker, and that’s it.  Not even any memories as the ford was no longer needed when bridges were built, and by now, there have already been several generations of bridges.

old war ford

Here’s the field.  The trees grow along the river and help to control erosion from flooding today.  Walking up to the area, you can see the actual ford area, although there is nothing to give away the fact that this used to be a ford of the river.  The locals say there is bedrock here.

old war ford 2

This area is flood plain, so one would not live here.  The old cemetery where we believe Raleigh Dodson is buried is across the current road and up the hill.  The land where we think Charles Campbell lived is just up Dodson Creek from this area as well, but on somewhat higher ground.

Possible Campbell land

I believe this is or is very near the current day location of the Charles Campbell land.  Dodson Creek runs adjacent the road, and you have to cross the creek to get to the farmable land from the road.  You can see the makeshift bridge above.

Beautiful pool at the bend in Dodson Creek where it leaves the road.

Dodson Creek is beautiful and lush.

Dodson Creek 2

1793/1794 – Charles Campbell to George and John Campbell, all of Hawkins County, for 45#, 150 acres on the south side of the Holston, west fork of Dodson Ck beginning at 2 white oaks then (metes and bounds), signed, John Payne witness.

1802, Feb 26 – George Campbell and John Campbell of Hawkins County to Daniel Leyster (Leepter?, Seyster, Septer) of same, 225# tract on west fork of Dodson’s Creek being same place where said John Campbell now lives, 149 acres, then (metes and bounds) description. Both sign,  Witness, Charles Campbell, Michael Roark and William Paine.  Proven in May session 1802 by oath of Michael Roark (inferring that the sellers are gone from the area).

Is the difference between 149 and 150 acres a cemetery, a church or a school?

Dodson Creek is where Charles Campbell lived.  This is the Dodson family who John Campbell’s daughter, Elizabeth, would marry into a generation later in Claiborne County.  Dodson Creek was also just a few miles from Jacob Dobkins’ home, whose daughter’s George and John Campbell would marry.  Jacob Dobkins, George and John Campbell and their Dobkins wives would be in Claiborne County, Tennessee by 1802.

We believe Charles Campbell came from the Augusta or Rockingham County area of Virginia, but we don’t know for sure.  Unfortunately the deed where his heirs conveyed his land is recorded in the court record, but never in the deed book, so we have no idea who his heirs were.  The will of his neighbor, Michael Roark, who was born in Bucks County, PA and then lived in Rockingham Co., VA stated that he bought the land of Charles Campbell from his heirs joining the tract “I live on.”  Charles’ other neighbor was a Grigsby, and so was Michael Roark’s wife. It’s not unlikely that Charles Campbell was related to one or both of these men.

Michael Roark’s will dates August 25, 1834 and proven on February 4, 1839 says, among other things, that he leaves to grandson James Rork, son of John, tract of land that I now live on after wife and I die, son John 4 shares of tract of land that I bought of the heirs of Charles Campbell joining the tract I live on and containing about 150 acres. Unfortunately, the deed between the Campbell heirs and Michael Roark was never registered.

In a deed from Michael Roark to Neil and Simpson with John Scruggs as their trustee, registered July 17, 1835, where Michael Roark had in essence mortgaged his land in November of 1830 and by 1835 was unable to pay his debt.  The verbiage says in part that Michael not only conveys his land, which is described, but he adds “and also the interest I have in the shares of the 4 legatees of Charles Campbell, decd, to a tract of land lying on Dodson’s Creek.”  He does not say that his wife is a daughter of Charles Campbell, but it’s certainly possible.  He described one of the two tracts of Roark land he is conveying as having been conveyed to him by James Roark in 1811.

This 1835 entry tells us that Charles Campbell’s land apparently had not yet been sold and that there were at least 4 legatees.

Roark, Michael cabin

Years ago, in a book in the library in Hawkins County, I stumbled across this photo of a picture of the cabin of Michael Roark.  You know that Charles Campbell’s cabin didn’t look much different.  A quite elderly descendant of Michael, Libby Roark Schmalzreid, claimed that her grandfather built his house on this land, and is buried on a hill just above the home he built.  She was in her 90s more than half a decade ago, and never said who her grandfather was.  She did say on Rootsweb that the location is on Dodson Creek not far from Strahl.  Given that Michael Roark and Charles Campbell were neighbors, if we find Michael’s cabin, we can also find Charles land.  I mean his actual land, not just a general area.  On the map below, Dodson Creek is shown by the arrows, and Strahl is marked as well.  It’s about 2000 feet from Strahl to the red arrow below noting Dodson Creek.  Dodson Creek and its branches wanders all over this neighborhood.  So, if anyone knows who Libby’s grandfather was, where he built his house or where he is buried, please give me a shout.

Strahl

Perhaps the key to finding Charles Campbell back in Virginia is to find both Michael Roark and the Grigsby family as well.

On the 1783 Shenandoah Co., VA, tax list, we find both Charles Campbell and Jacob Dobkins in Alexander Hite’s district. Jacob Dobkins is the father of Jane “Jenny” Dobkins who would eventually marry John Campbell and her sister,  Elizabeth Dobkins who would marry George Campbell, believed to be the brother of John Campbell.

Of course, there were also 2 Charles Campbells in Rockingham County, VA in 1782 and 1 in Fayette and one in Lincoln, both in 1787.

Several years ago, we DNA tested both a male Campbell descendant of both John and George and confirmed that indeed, these line match each other as well as the Campbell clan line from Scotland and that the descendants of the lines of both men also match autosomally as cousins, further confirming that John and George were most likely brothers.  This was good news, because even though we don’t know the exact names of Charles ancestors, thanks to DNA, we still know the history of those ancestors before they immigrated, probably in the early 1700 with the first waves of the Scotch-Irish.

So, for me, the opportunity to visit the clan seat, and meet the current Duke of Argyll, the 26th chief of the Clan Campbell and the 12the Duke of Argyll, Torquhil Campbell, personally, was literally the chance of a lifetime.

The Duke, Torquhil Campbell, is much different from other aristocracy.  He lives at Inveraray Castle, the clan seat, but parts of the castle are open to the public.  In addition, the castle is his actual full time residence and he actively manages the estate, including signing books about Inveraray in the gift shop in the castle.

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You can’t miss him if he’s there, as he has on an apron that says “Duke.”  He’s a lot younger than I expected as well, born in 1968, but extremely gracious and welcoming.  There must be tens of thousands of Campbell descendants and many probably make their way back to Inverary like the butterflies return to Mexico every winter.

While I was visiting Inveraray, I purchased two books about the clan Campbell and a third, written by the Duke himself, about Inveraray. The Campbell clan origins are shrouded in myth and mists, as you might imagine, but let me share them with you anyway.

Campbell coat of arms

The first origin story, from a book called “Campbell, The Origins of the Clan Campbell and Their Place in History” by John Mackay, says :

“The first Campbells were a Scots family who crossed from Ireland to the land of the Picts.  The Clan Campbell originated from the name O’Duibhne, one of whose chiefs in ancient times was known as Diarmid and the name Campbell was first used in the 1050s in the reign of Malcolm Canmore after a sporran-bearer or purse-bearer to the king previously called Paul O’Duihne was dubbed with his new surname.

Historians after such obscure and legendary times, have agreed that the can name comes from the Gaelic ‘cam’ meaning crooked and ‘beul’ meaning the mouth, when it was the fashion to be surnamed from some unusual physical feature, in this case by the characteristic curved or crooked mouth of the family of what is certainly one of the oldest clan named in the Highlands.

It was the Marquis who insisted that he was descended from a Scots family in Ireland who had crossed to what was then mostly the land of Picts to establish the first Scots colony in the district of Dalriada – a comparatively small part of what we know today as Argyll at the heart of what would in time become the kingdom of Scotland.  It is marked by the fort of Dunadd, of the A816, a few miles north of Lochgilphead, set in the inlet called Loch Gilp off from Loch Fyne.”

Loch Fyne is where the current castle of Inveraray, clan seat, is located and where I visited.

The second source is a booklet called “Campbell, Your Clan Heritage,” by Alan McNie, which is condensed from a larger book, Highland Clans of Scotland by George –Eyre-Todd published in 1923.

It says:

“Behind Torrisdale in Kintyre rises a mountain named Ben an Tuire, the “Hill of the Boar.”  It takes its name from a famous event in Celtic legend.  There, according to tradition, Diarmid O’Duibhne slew the fierce boar which had ravaged the district.  Diarmid was of the time of the Ossianic heroes.

Diarmid is said to have been the ancestor of th race of O’Duibhne who owned the shores of Loch Awe, which were the original Oire Gaidheal, or Argyhll, the “Land of the Gael,”

The race is said to have ended in the reign of Alexander III in an heiress, Eva, daughter of Paul O’Duibhne, otherwise Paul of the Sporran so named because as the kings treasurer, he was supposed to carry the money-bag.  Eva married a certain Archibald of Gillespie Campbell, to whom she carried the possession of her house.  This tradition is supported by a charter of David II in 1368 which secured to Archibald Campbell of that date certain lands of Loch Awe ‘as freely as there were enjoyed by his ancestor, Duncan O’Diubhne.’

Who the original Archibald Campbell was remains a matter of dispute.  By some he is said to have been a Norman knight by the name of De Campo Bello.  The name Campo Bello, however, is not Norman but Italian.  It is out of all reason to suppose that an Italian ever made his way into the Highlands at such a time to secure a footing as a Highland Chief.”

This book then goes on to recite the “crooked mouth” story as well.

A third origin story is recorded in the book written by the current Duke, himself, “Inveraray Castle, Ancestral Home of the Dukes of Argyll.”  In this book, the Duke says:

“The Campbells, thought to be of British stock, from the Kingdom of Strathclyde, probably arrived in Argyll as part of a royal expedition in circa 1220.  They settled on Lochaweside where they were placed in charge of the king’s land in the area.

The Chief of Clan Campbell takes his Gaelic title of ‘MacCailein Mor’ from Colin Mor Campbell – ‘Colin the Great’ – who was killed in a quarrel with the MacDougalls of Lorne in 1296.

His son was Sir Neil Campbell, boon companion and brother-in-law to King Robert the Bruce, whose son, Sir Colin was rewarded in 1315 by the grant of the lands of Lochawe and Ardscotnish of which he now became Lord.

From Bruce’s time at least, their headquarters had been at the great castle of Innischonnell, on Loch Awe.   Around the mid 1400s, Sir Duncan Campbell of Lochawe, great-grandson of Sir Colon, moved his headquarters to Inveraray, controlling most of the landward communications of Argyll.”

From the Campbell DNA Project website, we find this pedigree chart of the Clan Campbell, beginning with the present Duke at the bottom.

Campbell pedigree

Let’s see if Y chromosome DNA results can tell us about the Campbell Clan history.

Originally, the DNA testing told us that the Campbell men were R1b1.  The predicted haplogroup was R1b1a2, now known as R-M269, but some of the Campbell men who have tested further are haplogroup R1b1a2a1b4, or R-L21.

Looking at my cousin’s matches map at 37 markers, below, the Campbell men cluster heavily around the Loch Lomond/Greenock region which is very close to the traditional Campbell seat of Inverary.

Campbell cluster

At 12 markers, the cluster near Greenock, slightly northwest of Glasgow, is quite pronounced.  Most of these matches are Campbell surnames.

Campbell Greenock cluster

Another item of interest is that several men in this cluster have tested for SNP L1335.  This is the SNP that Jim Wilson announced is an indicator of Pictish heritage, although it is widely thought that this was a marketing move with little solid data behind it.  Otherwise, Jim Wilson, a geneticist, would surely be publishing academically, not via press announcements from a company that has previously damaged their own credibility, several times.

Regardless, our Campbell group tested positive for this SNP.  I contacted Kevin Campbell, the Campbell DNA project administrator, who is equally as cautious about the Pictish label, but we both agree that this marker indicates ancient, “indigenous Scots,” and yes, they could be Picts.  Time will tell!

In the next few days, I’ll be writing about my visit to Inverary.  I hope you’ll join me!