An expanded version of this article, including the genealogical aspects written for the Speak family, is available here. There is significantly more DNA information and analysis in this article, including STR values and autosomal analysis which can sometimes augment Y DNA results.
The goal of the Association broadly was to share research and to determine if, and how, the various Speak lines in America were related. The “rumor” was that the family was from England, but no one knew for sure. We didn’t even know who was actually “in” the family, or how many different families there might be.
The good news is that to answer these types of questions, you don’t need a huge study, and with today’s tools, you certainly don’t need 18 years. Don’t let that part scare you. In fact, any Speak(e)(s) man who takes a Y-DNA test today will have the answer plopped into his lap thanks to earlier testers.
When I established the Speaks DNA Project, our goal was stated, in part, as follows:
This project was begun to determine the various Speak(e)(s) lines around the world. According to family legend, the original ancestor came to England with William the Conqueror and his last name then was L’Espec. It was later spelled Speke and then the derivatives of Speake, Speak, Speakes, and Speaks carried by descendants today.
We knew there was a Thomas Speak (c1634-1681) who settled in St. Mary’s County, MD by 1661 and had two sons, John the InnKeeper or InnHolder (1665-1731) and Bowling (c1674-1755), named after his mother’s birth surname.
Fast forwarding two or three generations, my ancestor, Nicholas Speak or Speaks was born about 1782 and was first found in Washington County, Virginia in 1804 when he married Sarah Faires. That’s a long way from Maryland. Who was Nicholas? Who were his parents? How did Nicholas get to Washington County, Virginia? There aren’t any other Speaks men, or women, in Washington County. Was he dropped fully grown by the stork?
In 2005, I attended my first Speaks Family Association Convention and gave an introductory talk about Y-DNA. Speaks males volunteered to test.
By the 2006 Convention, we had 8 Y-DNA testers.
At first, everything was fine. Two testers each from Thomas the Immigrant through sons John and Bowling.
- Thomas, Bowling and then two different sons. They matched.
- Thomas, John, and his son Richard. They matched too.
- All four men above match each other.
Everything’s good, right?
Not so fast…
Then, a father/son pair tested who were also supposed to descend from the Thomas, Bowling, and Thomas line. Thankfully, they matched each other, but they did NOT match the other descendants of Thomas the Immigrant.
Because we had multiple men through both of Thomas the Immigrant’s sons, we had confirmed the Y-DNA STR marker signature of Thomas – which means that the father/son pair had experienced a genetic disconnect, or, they were actually descended from a different Speak line.
That wasn’t all though. Two more men tested who believed they descended from Thomas the Immigrant through John and then Richard. They didn’t match each other, nor any of the other men either.
This was a difficult, painful situation, and not what was anticipated. Of course, I reviewed the results privately with the men involved before presenting them at the convention, and only did so with their permission.
In an effort to identify their genealogical lines, we discovered seven other mentions of early colonial Speak immigrants, including one named Thomas.
Over time, we would discover additional Y-DNA genetic Speak lines.
Y-DNA also revealed an amazing new cousin, Henry, who didn’t know who his father was, but thanks to DNA, discovered he is a genetic Speaks AND identified his father.
In 2006, our Y-DNA haplogroup was known only as I1b1. We knew it was fairly rare and found in the rough Dinaric Alps border region between Bosnia and Croatia.
We weren’t wrong. We were just early. Our ancestors didn’t stop in the Alps.
Haplogroups have come a long way since that time.
Today, using the new maps in the Discover tool, the migration path into Europe-proper looks like this.
By the 2009 Convention, more Speaks men were taking Y-DNA tests, but we still had no idea where the Speaks line originated overseas.
The Holy Grail
The Holy Grail of Y-DNA testing is often a match with a man either from the “old country,” wherever that is, or someone who unquestionably knows where their ancestor is from. Through a match with them, other testers get to jump the pond too.
In early 2010, a man in New Zealand was interested in taking a Y-DNA test and knew where, in England, his ancestors originated.
A few weeks later, the New Zealand tester matched our Thomas Speaks, the Immigrant, line, which meant our ancestors might be from where his ancestors were from. Where was that?
Gisburn? Where the heck was Gisburn?
Gisburn is a tiny, ancient village in Lancashire, England located in the Ribble Valley on the old Roman road. It appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Ghiseburne and is believed to have been established in the 9th century.
This was no longer speculation or unsourced oral history, but actual genetic evidence.
We knew that Thomas Speake, the Immigrant, was Catholic. Maryland was a safe haven for Catholics hoping to escape persecution in England.
Thomas was rumored to have been born to a John, but we had no idea where that rumor arose.
Was our Thomas born in Gisburn too?
Shortly, we discovered that St. Mary’s Church in Gisburn held 50 marked Speaks burials in addition to many unmarked graves.
Next, we discovered that the records of St. Mary’s and All Saints Church in Whalley, eleven miles from Gisburn, held pages and pages of Speak family records. The earliest Speak burial there was in 1540.
In 2011, the SFA Convention was held near Thomas and Bowlng Speak’s land in Charles County, Maryland. My Convention presentation contained a surprise – the information about our Gisburn match, and what we had found. A Y-DNA match, plus church records, and graves. How could that get better?
I showed this cemetery map from St. Mary’s Church in Gisburn, where our New Zealand cousin’s family was buried.
It felt like we were so excruciatingly close, but still so far away.
We knew unquestionably that we were in the neighborhood, but where was our Thomas born?
Who was his family?
I closed with this photo of St. Mary’s in Gisburn and famously said, “I don’t know about you, but I want to stand there.”
It was a throw-away comment, or so I thought, but as it turned out, it wasn’t.
2013 – The Trip Home
Two years later, our Convention was held in Lancashire, and indeed, I got to stand there.
So did our Speak cousin from New Zealand whose Y-DNA test bulldozed this brick wall for us. To be clear, had this ONE PERSON not tested, we would NOT have known where to dig for records, or where to visit.
St. Mary’s Church was surrounded by the cemetery, with many Speak stones. The church itself was built as a defensive structure sometime before 1135 with built-in arrowslits for archers in many locations, including the tower. Our family history was thick and rich here.
St. Mary’s Church in Whalley
Our next stop was St. Mary’s Church in Whalley, where Henry Speke was granted a lease in 1540.
This church is ancient, built in the 1200s, replacing an earlier church in the same location, and stunningly beautiful.
The little green men carved into the wooden choir seats are a wink and a nod to an earlier pagan era. Our ancestors would have known that era too.
In addition to the churches in Gisburn and Whalley, we visited St. Leonard’s Church in Downham which is a chapelry of the church in Whalley.
This church, in the shadow of Pendle Hill, proved to be quite important to our hunt for family.
Downham, on the north side of Pendle Hill was small then, and remains a crossroad village today with a population of about 150 people, including Twiston.
Twiston is located less than 3 miles away, yet it’s extremely remote, at the foot or perhaps on the side of Pendle Hill.
During our visit, Lord Clitheroe provided us with a transcription of the Downham church records wherein one Thomas Speak was baptized on January 1, 1633/34, born to Joannis, the Latin form of John, in nearby Twiston.
Is this Thomas our Thomas the Immigrant who was born about that same time? We still don’t know. There are clues but they are inconclusive and some conflict with each other.
Records in this area are incomplete. A substantial battle was fought in Whalley in 1643. Churches were often used for quartering soldiers and horses. Minister’s notes could well have been displaced, or books destroyed entirely. There could easily have been more than one Thomas born about this time.
Probate files show that in 1615, “John Speake of Twiston, husbandman” mentions his son William and William’s children, including John who was the administrator of his will. For John to be an administrator, he had to be age 21 or over, so born in 1594 or earlier. Some John Speak married Elizabeth Biesley at Whalley in 1622 and is believed to be the John Speak Sr. recorded in Downham Parish Registers.
The Whalley, Gisburn, and Twiston Speake families are closely connected. The difference may well be that our Thomas’s line remained secretly Catholic, so preferred the “uninhabited” areas of the remote Twiston countryside. Even today, Gisburn is described as being “rural, surrounded by hilly and relatively unpopulated areas.” And that’s Gisburn, with more than 500 residents. Downham is much smaller, about 20% of the size of Gisburn.
What do we know about Twiston?
Twiston is too small to even be called a hamlet. The original farm and corn mill was owned originally by Whalley Abbey at least since the 1300s and stands near an old lime kiln, probably in use since Roman times.
This is where you know the earth holds the DNA of your ancestors, and their blood watered the landscape.
When the Speak family lived here, it was considered a “wild and lawless region” by local authorities, probably due in part to its remoteness – not to mention the (ahem) rebellious nature of the inhabitants.
If you were a Catholic, living in a hotbed of “recussants,” and trying to be invisible, Twiston, nestled at the base of Pendle Hill would be a location where you might be able to successfully disappear among those of like mind.
Yes, of course, you’d show up, hold your nose, and baptize your baby in the Anglican church because you needed to, but then you would retreat into the deep hillside woodlands until another mandatory church appearance was required.
The road to Twiston was twisty, rock-lined, and extremely narrow, with rock walls on both sides. If only these ancient buildings and stone walls could speak, share their stories, and reveal their secrets.
Old documents, however, do provide some insight.
This document, originally penned in Latin, was provided by the Lancashire archives.
John Speak, in 1609, was a farmer, with a house (messauge), garden, orchard, 10 acres of farmland, 5 of meadow, and 10 acres of pasture.
Indeed, Twiston is where John Speak lived. If the Thomas born in Twiston to Joannis, Latin for John, in 1633 and baptized on January 1, 1633/34 in old St. Leonard’s Church in Downham is our Thomas, this is his birth location.
For our family, this is, indeed, hallowed ground.
Prior to our visit, we published small ads in local newspapers and contacted historical societies. We found several Speak(e)(s) families and invited them to dinner where the after-dinner speaker explained all about DNA testing. You probably can’t see them clearly, but there are numerous DNA kits lying on the table, just waiting for people to have a swab party.
Our guests brought their family histories, and one of those families traced their line to…you guessed it…Twiston.
Five men from separate Speak families tested. None of them knew of any connection between their families, and all presumed they were not related.
I carried those men’s DNA tests back in my hand luggage like the gold that they were.
They were wrong. All five men matched each other’s Y-DNA and our Thomas Speake line. We got busy connecting the dots genealogically, as best we could given the paucity of extant records.
- Two of our men descended from Henry Speak born in 1650 who married Alice Hill and lived in Downham/Twiston.
- Two of our men descended from John Speak born about 1540 who married Elina Singleton and lived in Whalley.
- Two of our men, including our New Zealand tester, descend from John born sometime around 1700, probably in Gisburn where his son, James, was born about 1745.
We indeed confirmed that we had found our way “home” and that our Speake family has lived there a long time. But how long?
2022 DNA Analysis
Today, the Speaks family DNA Project has 146 members comprised of:
- 105 autosomal testers
- 32 Speak Y-DNA testers
- 24 of whom are Thomas the Immigrant descendants
- 8 Big Y testers
Over the years, we’ve added another goal. We need to determine HOW a man named Aaron Lucky Speaks is related to the rest of us.
Autosomal DNA confirms that Aaron Luckey is related, but we need more information.
Aaron Lucky is first found in 1787 purchasing land and on the 1790 Iredell County, NC census. We finally located a Y-DNA tester and confirmed that his paternal line is indeed the Lancashire Speaks line, but how?
After discovering that all 5 Lancashire Speaks men descend from the same family as Thomas the Immigrant, we spent a great deal of time trying to both sort them out, and tie the family lines together using STR 25-111 markers, with very limited success.
Can Y-DNA make that connection for us, even though the records can’t?
Yes, but we needed to upgrade several testers, preferably multiple people from each line to the Big Y-700 test.
The Y-DNA Block Tree
When men take or upgrade to a Big Y-700 DNA test, they receive the most detailed information possible, including all available (700+) STR markers plus the most refined haplogroup, including newly discovered mutations in their own test, placing them as a leaf on the very tip of their branch of the tree of mankind.
The only other men “in that branch neighborhood” are their closest relatives. Sometimes they match exactly and are sometimes separated by a single or few mutations. Testers with 30 or fewer mutations difference are shown on the Block Tree by name. Eight Speaks men have taken or upgraded to the Big Y test, providing information via matching that we desperately needed.
This Big Y block tree view shown below is from the perspective of a descendant of Nicholas Speaks (b1782) and includes the various mutations that define branches, shown as building blocks. Each person shown on the Block Tree is a match to the tester with 30 or fewer mutations difference.
Think of haplogroups as umbrellas. Each umbrella shelters and includes everything beneath it.
At the top of this block tree, we have one solid blue block that forms an umbrella over all three branches beneath it. The top mutation name is I-BY14004, which is the haplogroup name associated with that block.
We have determined that all of the Speak men descended from the Lancashire line are members of haplogroup I-BY14004 and therefore, fall under that umbrella. The other haplogroup names in the same block mean that as other men test, a new branch may split off beneath the I-BY14004 branch.
Next, let’s look at the blue block at far left.
The Lancashire men, meaning those who live there, plus our New Zealand tester, also carry additional mutations that define haplogroup I-BY14009, which means that our Thomas the Immigrant line split off from theirs before that mutation was formed.
They all have that mutation, and Thomas didn’t, but he has a mutation that they don’t. This is how the tree forms branches.
Thomas the Immigrant’s line has the mutation defining haplogroup I-FTA21638, forming an umbrella over both of Thomas the Immigrant’s sons – meaning descendants of both sons carry this mutation.
Bowling’s line is defined by haplogroup I-BY215064, but John’s line does not carry this mutation, so John’s descendants are NOT members of this haplogroup, which turns out to be quite important.
We are very fortunate that one of Thomas’s sons, Bowling, developed a mutation, because it allows us to differentiate between Bowling and his brother, John’s, descendants easily if testers take the Big Y test.
Those teal Private Variants are haplogroups-in-waiting, meaning that when someone else tests, and matches that variant, it will be named and become a haplogroup, splitting the tree in that location by forming a new branch.
Aaron Luckey Speak
As you can see, the descendants of Aaron Lucky Speak, bracketed in blue above, carry the Bowling line mutation, so Aaron Luckey descends from one of Bowling’s sons. That makes sense, especially since two of Bowling’s grandsons are also found in Iredell County during the same timeframe and are candidates to be Aaron Luckey’s father.
Thomas the Immigrant (tan band top row) is shown with son, Bowling, who carries haplogroup BY215064. Bowling’s descendants are tan too, near the bottom.
Thomas’s son, John the InnKeeper, shown in the blue bar does NOT have the BY215064 mutation that defines Bowling’s group.
However, the bright green Aaron Lucky line, disconnected at far right, does have the Bowling mutation, BY215064, so this places Aaron Luckey someplace beneath Bowling, meaning his descendant. We just don’t know where he fits yet. The key word is yet.
Can STR Markers Be Utilized for Lineage Grouping?
Sometimes we can utilize STR marker mutations for subgrouping within haplogroups, but in this case, we cannot because STR mutations in this family have:
- Occurred independently in different lines
- Potentially back mutated
Between both of these issues, STR mutations are inconsistent and, therefore, in this case, entirely unreliable. I have found this phenomenon repeatedly in DNA projects that I manage where the genealogy line of descent is known and documented.
Let’s analyze the STR mutations.
I’ve created a table based on our 26 Y-DNA testers. However, not everyone tested at 111 markers, so there is a mix.
You can view the Speak DNA Project results, here.
I’ve divided the testers into the same groupings indicated by genealogy combined with the Big Y SNP mutations, which do agree with each other. Those groups are:
- The Lancaster men that never left, except for the New Zealand tester whose ancestor left just two generations ago. They all share a defining SNP which provides them with an identifying haplogroup that the American line does not have.
- The Thomas the Immigrant line through son Bowling.
- The Aaron Luckey line who descends, somehow, from Bowling.
- The Thomas the Immigrant line through son John the InnKeeper.
- Two men who have provided no genealogy
We already know that Aaron Luckey descends from Bowling, somehow, but I’m keeping them separate just in case STR values can be helpful.
Let’s look at a total of five STR markers where multiple descendants have experienced mutations and see if we can discern any message. The mutations in the bright yellow Lancashire groups on the project page are summarized and analyzed in the chart, below.
You read the chart below, as follows:
- For marker DYS-19, the testers who have a value of 16 – then the numbers indicated the number of testers in that group with that value. The Lancaster group has 5, the Bowling group has 7, the Aaron Luckey group has 4, and so forth.
- The next row, colored the same, shows the value of 17 for marker DYS19.
- Rows for values of the same marker are colored the same.
This chart does not include several markers where there are one-offs, meaning one mutation in the entire group, or one in each of two different groups that are different from each other. This chart includes markers with mutations that occur in multiple descendants only.
If these mutations were predictive and could be used for lineage assignment, we would expect to see the same mutation only within one of the lines, descended from a common ancestor, consistently, and not scattered across multiple lines.
Let’s start our analysis with the only marker that may be consistently predictive in this group. Marker DYS389ii has an ancestral value of 28, We know this because that value is consistently found in all of the Speaks descendants. A value of 29 is ONLY found in the 4 descendants of Aaron Luckey, and the value of 29 is consistently found in all of his known descendants who have tested. Therefore, it could be predictive.
However, given the nature of STR mutations, it’s difficult to place a lot of confidence in STR-based lineage predictions. Let’s look at the other four markers.
- Marker DYS19 has a value of 16 in every line, which would be the ancestral value. However, we also find a mutation of 17 in 1 of Bowling’s children, and in 2 of John the InnKeeper’s descendants. That can’t be lineage-defining.
- Looking at the CDY a/b marker, we find one instance of 35/36, which is a one-off. I wouldn’t have included it if I wasn’t using the other two combinations as examples. The values of 36/36 are found in every line except for the one with no genealogy and only one person has tested at 111 markers. A value of 36/37 is found in only the Bowling line, but not the Aaron Luckey line. The MRCA, or most recent common ancestor between the Bowling descendants is his son, Thomas of Zachia. The best candidates for Aaron Luckey’s father are two of Thomas of Zachia’s sons, but his descendants have a hodgepodge mixture of the two values, so this, again, cannot be a lineage-defining marker.
- Looking at DYS534, we see a 15 in one of Bowling’s descendants and in 4 of John the InnKeeper’s descendants. Obviously not lineage-specific. There’s a value of 16 in every line which would be ancestral.
- A value of 33 at DYS710 is found in every lineage, so would be the ancestral value. The value of 34 is found once in each line except for Bowling, which precludes it from being lineage-defining.
Inconsistent lineage results is one of the best reasons to purchase or upgrade to the Big Y-700 test.
Unfortunately, STR placement and lineage determination can be very deceptive and lead genealogists astray. At one time, we didn’t have advanced tools like the Big Y, but today we do.
STR Tests Are Useful When…
To be clear, STR marker tests, meaning the 37 and 111 marker tests available for purchase today, ARE very useful for:
- Matching other testers
- Identifying surnames of interest
- Ruling out a connection, meaning determining that you don’t match a particular line
- Introductory testing with limited funds that provides matching, a high-level haplogroup, and additional tools. You can always upgrade to the Big Y-700 test.
However, the Big Y-700 is necessary to place groups of people reliably into lineages and determine relationships accurately.
In some cases, autosomal DNA is useful, but in this case, autosomal doesn’t augment Y-DNA due, in part, to record loss and incomplete genealogy in the generations following Thomas of Zachia.
Family Finder Autosomal Analysis
In total, we have the following total Family Finder testers whose genealogy is confirmed:
- 8 Aaron Luckey
- 6 Lancashire testers
- 15 John the InnKeeper testers
- 33 Bowling testers
An autosomal analysis shows that Aaron Luckey Speak’s descendants match each other (green to green) most closely than they match either of Thomas the Immigrant’s sons, Bowling (tan) or John’s (blue) descendants. We would expect Aaron Luckey’s descendants to match each other the most closely, of course.
The numbers in the cells are total matching centiMorgans/longest segment cM match.
Aaron Luckey’s descendants don’t collectively match John or Bowling’s descendants more closely than the other group using centiMorgans as the comparison. Although they match more of Bowling’s descendants (21%) than John’s (13%). This too would be expected since we know Aaron Luckey descends from Bowling’s line, not John’s.
At best, Aaron Luckey’s descendants are 8 or 9 generations removed from a common ancestor with other descendants of Thomas of Zachia, making them 6th or 7th cousins, plus another couple of generations back to Thomas the Immigrant. We can’t differentiate genetically between sibling ancestors or cousin lines at this distance.
Furthermore, we have a large gap in known descendants beneath Thomas of Zachia, other than Charles Beckworth Speak’s son Nicholas’s line. We have at least that many other testers in the project who don’t can’t confirm their Speaks ancestral lineage.
Combining genetic and genealogy information, we know that both Charles Beckworth Speak and Thomas Bowling Speak, in yellow, are found in Iredell County, NC. The children of Thomas of Zachia, shown in purple, are born in the 1730s and any one of them could potentially be the father of Aaron Luckey.
The men in green, including William, Bowling’s other son, are also candidates to be Aaron Luckey’s ancestor, although the two yellow men are more likely due to geographic proximity. They are both found in Iredell County.
We don’t know anything about William’s children, if any, nor much about Edward. John settled in Kentucky. Nicholas (green) stayed in Maryland.
There may be an additional generation between Charles Beckworth Speak (yellow) and Nicholas (born 1782), also named Charles. There’s a lot of uncertainty in this part of the tree.
It seems that Aaron’s middle name of Lucky is likely to be very significant. Aaron Luckey’s descendants may be able to search their autosomal matches for a Luckey family, found in both Iredell County AND Maryland, which may assist with further identification and may help identify Aaron’s father.
If all of the Speak men who took STR tests would upgrade to the Big Y, it’s probable that more branches would be discovered through those Private Variants, and it’s very likely that Aaron Luckey could be much more accurately placed on the tree. Another Aaron Luckey Speak Big Y-700 DNA tester would be useful too.
Connecting the Genetic Dots in England
What can we discern about the Speak family in the US and in Lancashire?
Reaching back in time, before Thomas the Immigrant was born about 1633, what can we tell about the Speak family, how they are connected, and when?
The Time Tree shows the haplogroups, in black above the profile dots. The scientifically calculated approximate dates of when those haplogroups were “born,” meaning when those mutations occurred, are found across the top.
I’ve added genealogical information, in red, at right.
- Reading from the bottom red dot, Bowling’s haplogroup was born about the year 1660. Bowling was indeed born in 1674, so that’s VERY close
- Moving back in time, Thomas’s haplogroup was born about 1617, and Thomas himself was born about 1633, but his birth certainly could have been a few years earlier.
- The Lancashire testers’ common haplogroup was born about 1636, and the earliest known ancestor of those men is Henry, born in Twiston in 1650.
- The common Speak ancestor of BOTH the Lancashire line and the Thomas the Immigrant line was born about 1334. The earliest record of any Speak was Henry Speke, of Whalley, born before 1520.
The lines of Thomas the Immigrant and the Lancashire men diverged sometime between about 1334, when the umbrella mutation for all Speaks lines was born, and about 1617 when we know the mutation defining the Thomas the Immigrant line formed and split off from the Lancashire line.
But that’s not all.
As I panned out and viewed the block tree more broadly, I noticed something.
This is quite small and difficult to read, so let me explain. At far left is the branch for our Speaks men. The common ancestor of that group was born about 1334 CE, meaning “current era,” as we’ve discussed.
Continuing up the tree, we see that the next haplogroup umbrella occurs about 1009 CE, then the year 850 at the top is the next umbrella, encompassing everything beneath.
Looking to the right, the farthest right blocks date to 1109 CE, then 1318 CE, then progressing on down the tree branch to the bottom, I see one surname in three separate blocks.
What is that name?
Here, let me enlarge the chart for you!
The name is Standish, as in Myles Standish, the Pilgrim.
Miles is our relative, and even though he has a different surname, we share a common ancestor, probably before surnames were adopted. Our genetic branches divided about the year 1000.
The Discover tool also provides Notable Connections for each haplogroup, so I entered one of the Speaks haplogroups, and sure enough, the closest Speak Notable Connection is Myles Standish 1584-1656.
And look, there’s the Standish Pew in Chorley, another church that we visited during our Lancashire trip because family members of Thomas Speake’s Catholic wife, Elizabeth Bowling, are found in the Chorley church records.
Our common ancestor with the Standish line was born in about the year 850. Our line split off, as did the Standish line about the year 1000. That’s about 1000 years ago, or 30-40 generations.
Our family names are still found in the Chorley church records
The Discover tool also provides Ancient Connections from archaeological digs, by haplogroup.
Sure enough, there’s an ancient sample on the Time Tree named Heslerton 20641.
Checking the Discover Ancient Connections, the man named Heslerton 20641 is found in West Heslerton, Yorkshire, and lived about the year 450-650, based on carbon dating.
The mutation identifying the common ancestor between the Speak/Standish men and Heslerton occurred about 2450 BCE, or 4500 years ago. Twiston and West Heslerton are only 83 miles apart.
Where Are We?
What have we learned from the information discovered through genealogy combined with Big Y testing?
- We found a Speek family in Whalley in 1385.
- One of our Lancashire testers descends from a John born about 1540 in Whalley.
- One of our Lancashire testers descends from Henry born about 1650 in Downham/Twiston
- Thomas Speake was baptized in Downham and born in Twiston in 1733.
- Our New Zealand tester’s ancestor was found in Gisburn, born about 1745.
All of these locations are within 15 miles of each other.
- Chorley, where the Standish family is found in the 1500s is located 17 miles South of Whalley. Thomas Speake’s wife, Elizabeth Bowlings’ family is found in the Chorley church records.
What about the L’Espec origin myth?
- The Speak family clearly did not arrive in 1066 with the Normans.
- We have no Scandinavian DNA matches.
- No place is the surname spelled L’Espec in any Lancashire regional records.
- The Speak family is in the Whalley/Chorley area by 1000 when the Speak/Standish lines diverged
- The common ancestor with the Standish family lived about the year 850, although that could have occurred elsewhere. Clearly, their common ancestor was in the Chorley/Whalley area by 1000 when their lines diverged.
The cemetery at Whalley includes Anglo-Saxon burials, circa 800-900. The Speak men, with no surname back then, greeted William the Conqueror and lived to tell the tale, along with their Standish cousins, of course. This, in essence, tells us that they were useful peasants, working the land and performing other labor tasks, and not landed gentry.
Little is known of Lancashire during this time, but we do know more generally that the Anglo-Saxons, a Germanic people, arrived in the 5th century when there was little else in this region.
Are our ancestors buried in these and other early Anglo-Saxon graves? I’d wager that the answer is yes. We are likely related one way or another to every family who lived in this region over many centuries.
Y-DNA connected the dots between recent cousins, connected them to their primary line in America, provided a lifeline back to Twiston, Whalley, and Gisburn, and then to the Anglo-Saxons – long before surnames.
Aaron Luckey Speak’s descendants now know that he descends, somehow, from Bowling, likely through one of two sons of Thomas of Zachia. They don’t have the entire answer yet, but they are within two generations, a lot closer than they were before.
Our ancestors are indeed speaking across the ages.
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- Legacy Family Tree Webinars – Genealogy and DNA classes, subscription-based, some free
- Legacy Family Tree Software – Genealogy software for your computer
- Newspapers.com – Search newspapers for your ancestors
- NewspaperArchive – Search different newspapers for your ancestors
- DNA for Native American Genealogy – by Roberta Estes, for those ordering the e-book from anyplace, or paperback within the United States
- DNA for Native American Genealogy – for those ordering the paperback outside the US
- Genealogical.com – Lots of wonderful genealogy research books
- Legacy Tree Genealogists – Professional genealogy research