Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Stephen Hopkins: Saxon DNA?

   As we approach Thanksgiving, it’s a great time to write about our Mayflower ancestors.  So far, I have found two on my wife's side, Stephen Hopkins and Stephen Hopkins.  Ok, that’s really just one, but I have two lines that trace back to him.   This isn’t unusual, estimates put the count of Stephen Hopkins’ descendants at about 2 million Americans.

   What can Stephen Hopkins’ DNA tell us about his origins and his ancestors?  First, I should say that no one has a sample of Stephen’s DNA.  What we know about Stephen comes from tests completed by his male-line descendants with corroborating genealogical paper trails.  The Hopkins families are members of y-DNA haplogroup R1b, the largest genetic population in Europe.  R1b is often associated with the Celtic and Gallic tribes.  Hopkins’ DNA may be able to shed additional light on his birthplace, extend his genealogy further by tapping into an older family line or tell us about his deep ancestral origins.

   One of the first things I like to do is compare the haplotype, (the numeric markers from a y-DNA test) against a public database like ySearch.org.  The goal is to find other parallel lines of Hopkins with ancestry that predates Stephen.  This would allow us to work forward in time, connecting to Stephen and his father John, breaking through the current brick wall.  Unfortunately, no such records exist.

   What we do get from ySearch is list of genetic cousins and their ancestral locations.  Plotting these locations generates a distribution from Kent to Cornwall across southern England.  The highest concentration of cousins is in the historic Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex.  The current research on Stephen Hopkins has him baptized in Hampshire, the heart of Wessex.

   What kind of R1b was Hopkins?  Was he a Celt, a Gaul, an Anglo-Saxon or something completely different?  One way to get close to the answer is to look at his genetic cousins again.  Since R1b is such a large group, it is important to focus on both the haplotype and SNP that defines his R1b subgroup.  The SNP that best defines Stephen is S493, which on the 2012 haplogroup tree is R1b1a2a1a1a2.  With the explosion of new SNPs identification and the rapidly expanding and changing subgroup nomenclature, researchers are advocating the use of the SNP rather than subgroup as a naming convention.  Let’s call Stephen Hopkins R-S493.

   When I take all these genetic cousins and run them through TribeMapper®, a pattern forms.  Ancestors start to pile up on either side of the English Channel and an approximate date of migration emerges.  Here’s where we pull out our history books.  If the date were about 2,500 years ago, I would say this was a Celtic migration.  If the date were 2,000 years ago, I might say these were Gaels fleeing the Romans.   The calculations come out to be about 1,500 years ago, putting this migration in line with the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain.

   Why stop there?  What flavor of Anglo-Saxon are we talking about?  Angle, Saxon, Jute?  The great thing about tribe mapping is that we can continuously turn back the clock and get a new picture.  If we find a Danish connection, then we might say Jutes or an association to the Angeln region of Germany, we could say Angles.  We have to be careful as those names and locations were just a snapshot in time when ancient historians catalogued Germanic tribes.  Those tribes, like all tribes, were just passing through.

   Stephen Hopkins’ DNA points to a genetic cluster in modern day Lithuania and Latvia.   This data most closely correlates to the Saxons and their origins on the Baltic coast.  Continuing this process gives us the following migration map.

   The R-S493 data takes us through Finland, Sweden and back to the mainland Europe to the Iberian Peninsula.  This puts the origin of R-S493 in Iberia about 4,000 years ago ± 500 years.

   We can’t be certain that Stephen Hopkins has Saxon DNA.  We can’t even say that all Saxons were haplogroup R1b.  It’s unlikely that they were a single homogenous ethnic group, but the core of the tribe would have had strong familial and genetic ties.  Were Hopkins’ ancestors at the core of this tribe or part of the fringe, picked up along the way?  A broader study of DNA associated with the same places and times would be required to answer that question.

   If we look at the surname Hopkins, its origins are from Hobbes-kin and even further back to the Germanic name Hrodberht.  Stephen Hopkins and his closest genetic cousins are found in the historic Kingdom of Wessex (West Saxons).  Time-wise, there is a correlation to the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain.  We can even make a connection to the proto-Saxons along the Baltic coast.  I’m going out on a limb and calling Hopkins a Saxon.

   That Saxon bloodline remained adventurous and served Stephen well as he voyaged to Bermuda, Jamestown and Plymouth colony.

   It’s never obvious where DNA will lead.  Each tribe mapping is an adventure in itself.

© Michael R. Maglio and OriginsDNA

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Myles Standish: Mayflower DNA

My genealogy has one Mayflower passenger, Stephen Hopkins. Seven other passengers are cousins in one manner or another, Doty, Howland, More, Mullins, Standish, Warren and Winslow. Twenty-four of the Mayflower families have living descendants. I have collected the y-DNA records for fifteen of them. (For more on this process watch this short video) It was no surprise to find eight R1b Celts and four I1 Scandinavians among them. But, the three I2a Balkans intrigued me.

The one name that stood out as I2a was Myles Standish. Every first grader knows that name. My first thought was that Myles was descended from a member of the Roman Legions. Perhaps he was a Scythian or Sarmatian. I needed to identify the Standish family tribe and when they arrived in England. If I was lucky, I’d be able to bracket the immigration of his ancestor to the 1st or 2nd century, the height of the Roman conquest.

As the DNA records started to compile using TribeMapper® analysis, an initial pattern developed showing historic habitation on either side of Hadrian’s Wall. This was the beginning of a great migration story and potentially the end to the dispute of Myles Standish’s origins. Researchers have placed Standish’s birthplace as either Lancashire or the Isle of Man. Based on the data, Lancashire emerges as the most likely location. There was no genetic indication that the Isle of Man was a possibility.

If Standish’s ancestors had been conscripted into the Roman Legion, then I would expect their migration pattern to appear scattered like a diaspora. Fathers and brothers and their descendants would be spread across the Roman empire. There would be no focus for the data points representing the period 2,000 years ago.

The actual data points told a different story. They remained focused. At the end of the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago, Myles Standish’s ancestors were living in the Balkans. As the ice receded, they journeyed up the Danube River, a major migration highway, until they reached the upper Rhine. The upper Rhine was a Neolithic way station for many tribes coming up the Danube or out of Iberia. The area served as a stopover before continuing over the Alps or down the Rhine. The Standish tribe chose to follow the Rhine down to the North Sea.

Between 2,000 and 3,000 years ago, Standish’s ancestors crossed into England and made their way up the Thames to its source. My theory is that they were pushed ever westward by successive waves of immigrants. They found Wales to be well populated already and ventured north to where we find the most recent genetic evidence, in Lancashire.

My initial theory that Standish’s ancestor was brought to England as part of the Roman Legion, to reinforce the troops at Hadrian’s Wall, was wrong. It is always good to have a theory to work toward, but don’t let preconceived ideas get in the way of new evidence. Now that we know that Standish’s origins are pre-Roman we can consider that his family is one of the native tribes of Britain. The most likely Lancashire tribe would be the Setantii, which is a sub-tribe of the Brigantes.

Each one of our ancestors has a unique migration story to tell. Their travels overlap with events that we have read about in history books.

Where did you come from?

© Michael R. Maglio and OriginsDNA

What’s in My gDNA Toolbox

If I were talking about my regular genealogy toolbox, I would be listing links to all the great websites with digital records (e.g. FamilySearch). I would also talk about great repositories like NARA, BPL or the Mass Archives. Or, I would mention tips and techniques like Nearest Neighbor and the Hidden Treasures in old photos.

Now that we are adding DNA as a tool for genealogy, we have to pack a new toolbox.

The Databases – record sources to compare your DNA against

· Ysearch.org – Y-DNA database
· Mitosearch.org – mtDNA database
· FTDNA.com – DNA Project database
· WorldFamilies.net – DNA Project database
· SMGF.org – DNA Project database

The Testing Companies – many different testing companies that are not all equal – do your homework

· FTDNA.com – DNA testing (my favorite)
· 23andMe.com – DNA testing
· SMGF.org – DNA testing
· Ancestry.com – DNA testing
· GeneTree.com - DNA testing

Sources of gDNA Knowledge – There are many areas of genetic genealogy that are open for interpretation. Read everything and come to your own conclusions.

· ISoGG.org – Advocates for the use of genetics as a tool for genealogical research
· Wikipedia - Haplogroup details
· nationalgeographic.com/genographic

Analysis Tools – DNA results love to be compared and analyzed

· hprg.com/hapest5/index.html – Whit Athey’s Haplogroup predictor
· mymcgee.com/tools/ - Dean McGee’s Y-DNA comparison tools
· www.math.mun.ca/~dapike/FF23utils/ - David Pike’s autosomal comparison tools
· http://gedmatch.com/ - Autosomal comparison tools
· PHYLIP – phylogenetic tree creation

DNA Data Management – you need to organize and manage your DNA records

· Legacy Family Tree – supports DNA records (the one I use)
· Family Tree Maker, RootsMagic, Ancestral Quest and The Master Genealogist – supports DNA
· Excel – spreadsheet tools

· Google Maps – User defined maps – you never know when you might want to build your own custom map

This is hardly an exhaustive list. I use most of these tools on a weekly basis. I’m always looking for new tools (or creating ones that don’t exist).

What's in your toolbox? Let me know what tools you are using.


Armenia, DNA and Ethnicity

Self-identity, what culture or ethnicity do you identify with? Your current culture? Your immigrant ancestor’s culture? Perhaps you identify with a culture buried deep in your DNA.

See this article as a great primer on the differences between - Ethnicity, Nationality, Race, Heritage, and Culture.

Culturally, my wife is an American. I could even say that she is a New Englander. She grew up in an Armenian family, but she doesn’t know the language. What she does identify with is the food and family. Her immigrant grandfather, Reuben, was born in Turkey. Turkish was his nationality, but culturally he associated deeply with the Armenian heritage that was strong in Adana.

Nations redraw their lines, form and dissolve over the course of decades. If you had lived in central Europe over the past few hundred years, one day you might be French and the next day German, only to be French again in a week.

How long does it take us to lose our ethnicity? If I took my family to Armenia and we stayed there for three or four generations, would they think of themselves as Armenian American Armenians. I doubt it. Each generation would absorb the culture around them to a greater degree. Given enough time, some descendants might think that it was just family mythology that they ever lived in the US. We’ve always been here.

We are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants. That goes for the entire planet.

If I look at another side of my wife’s family, they’ve been in America for over 350 years. Their immigrant ancestor, Edward Clark, was ethnically English. In turn, Edward’s immigrant ancestor was Norman and the immigrant ancestor before that was Danish. I can keep going back, Iberia, Asia and Africa. Which culture should they identify with? Nationality is fleeting and uncertain. Ethnicity is in your genes, embrace all the cultures of your ancestors.

About 50,000 years ago, there were no humans in Armenia, or for that matter, Asia Minor. Over the intervening years, folks trickled in from every direction. Let’s look at the current distribution of Armenian y-DNA.

J1c & J2a
Arabic / Semitic
I2a & R1a

This is a snapshot of modern Armenia. Without analyzing individual haplotypes from this dataset, it is difficult to determine which group arrived first. More than likely each group had multiple waves of immigration across history. I’ve created the map below for you to get a feel for the origin and flow of the major haplogroups.

It’s not unusual for groups J1c, J2a and G2a to have high percentages. Those groups also have their origins in that region. The large portion of R1b can be attributed to the crusaders passing through for hundreds of years. Many of the taverns in this region have signs that say, ‘Alexander the Great slept here’. His empire would have contributed the E1b DNA as they conquered eastward and the Dravidian DNA flowed back toward Greece with the spoils. The Roman and Byzantine influence brought the Balkan DNA. The Huns also stopped by on their way to conquer Eastern Europe.

My wife can count Armenian as part of her heritage, with roots on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. Someday I will find her living Armenian cousins in order to get DNA tests. Those results will allow me to identify her deeper ancestral ethnicity.

On another line, she is descended from four generations of Sea Captains from Maine with Scottish origins. Should my wife self-identify with all the cultures of her ancestors? Probably not. Should she learn about and understand all those cultures? Definitely. We can pick and choose the best parts of our ancestral heritage and create our own unique ethnic identity. She has a love for the ocean that didn’t come from any early family experience. It’s in her DNA.

Your Mother's Mother

Deep Into DNA*

Your mother’s ancestry can be extremely challenging. Most of us live in a patrilineal society. The wife and the children take the surname of the husband. History shows us that recording the maiden name of the wife was often an afterthought. We have all tried traditional genealogy for our mother’s line. Some of us can go back a couple of generations and have hit brick walls. Some of us have researched a dozen generations. Mitochondrial DNA testing can aid a genealogist in discovering those lost surnames and validating your research.

Two months ago, I wrote about y-DNA and its use in tracing your paternal line. Mitochondrial DNA testing looks at your maternal line. There are many similarities and just as many differences between the two tests.

...continued at The In-Depth Genealogist with a free membership.

*The Deep Into DNA article series is published each month in The In-Depth Genealogist Newsletter and will demystify genetic genealogy and make sense out of DNA testing terminology. Each month we will talk about the types of tests available from major labs and show relevant examples on how to use DNA in your genealogy research.


Your Father's Father

Deep Into DNA*

Raise your hand if you’d like to know more about your surname and your father’s ancestry. I’m raising mine!

Most of us live in a patrilineal society. The wife and the children take the surname of the husband. We can’t help but to associate with our father’s family, his clan. The males in the family will inherit the Y chromosome virtually unchanged, though genetically, we can only attribute a small fraction of our overall DNA to that patrilineal line. Psychologically though, 50% of our ethnic identity comes from dad.

We have all tried traditional genealogy for our father’s line. Some of us go back a couple of generations and some of us have researched a dozen generations. A few of us are adopted and know nothing about our paternity. Y-DNA testing has benefits that aid a genealogist in all these situations...

...continued at The In-Depth Genealogist with a free membership.

*The Deep Into DNA article series is published each month in The In-Depth Genealogist Newsletter and will demystify genetic genealogy and make sense out of DNA testing terminology. Each month we will talk about the types of tests available from major labs and show relevant examples on how to use DNA in your genealogy research.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Vandals DNA: Leaving Genetic Graffiti Across Europe

   I have been fascinated by barbarian history since my sixth grade Social Studies teacher, Mr. Rose, handed me the textbook on the subject.  I still read everything I can on the topic.  The biggest draw is the mystery of where each tribe came from, appearing out of the shadow of mythology and for many, disappearing into obscurity.  I’m finding that DNA can help answer the questions of ‘Where are they now?’ and ‘Where did they come from?’

   The word barbarian is first seen in the Greek language as barbaros.  One possible origin of the word is that it was coined from the sound of the language used by these nomadic tribes – ‘bar bar bar’.  The Vandals (Vandali) appear in the history books as early as 166 AD and are described as an East Germanic tribe.  The theories on their origins include having Scandinavian roots in the parish of Vendel, Sweden or Germanic roots with a connection to the word meaning to wander (wandeln).

   Even if the Vandals’ name wasn’t derived from the word wandeln, wandering was what they did the most.  Perhaps chased is a better description.  Around 300 AD, the Goths fought with the Vandals and pushed them west along the Danube River.  By 400 AD, the Huns pushed the Vandals further west to the Rhine River.  At the Rhine, the Vandals fought with the Franks, won and moved into Aquitaine (western France), pillaging and plundering the whole way.

Historical Vandali migration

   I’m reminded of an old cartoon where the barbarian leader is addressing his troops – ‘This time, remember: pillage, then burn.’  The term vandalism is directly attributed to the Vandals’ ruthless pillaging and destruction of culturally significant objects.

   In 409 AD, the Vandals crossed into the Iberian Peninsula, only to be chased by the Visigoths and the Roman army into North Africa in 429 AD.  Over the next decades, the Vandals conquered North Africa and made Carthage their capital.  From there they invaded Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and in 455 AD they sacked Rome. Fortunes fade, the Vandals were defeated by the Byzantine Empire in 534 AD and disappeared into history.  The name Vandals may have disappeared but the people didn’t.  They were either assimilated into the local cultures or dispersed as slaves, the spoils of war.

   To figure out ‘Who were the Vandals?’, first I had to figure out ‘Where are they now?’  Based on their historic origins, the Vandals would probably fall into a small group of y-DNA haplogroups.  The ethnic descriptions that I’m using are overly simplistic, just enough to give you a feel for the possible cultures present.


   We can’t assume that the Vandals were genetically homogenous.  At various times they were associated and allied with the Alani and Suevi tribes.  Any DNA trail found, could just as easily belong to a group along for the ride.  I started researching all these haplogroups along the Vandals’ 400-year migration route to find a DNA footprint. The key datasets included records from Sicily, Sardinia, Tunisia, Spain, France and Germany.  These locations create a triangle of migratory patterns, clockwise, counterclockwise and dispersion.  If these sets have evidence of Vandals DNA, there should be a counterclockwise flow around Europe and a west to east flow across the Mediterranean.  Immediately I was able to remove haplogroup N from the running, there were no records.

   I have to admit that going into this project I thought that the Scandinavian I1 haplogroup would be my most likely suspect.  I had built a picture in my mind that all the Germanic tribes had come out of Scandinavia.  I researched this group first, looking for genetic flow across time. Usually I work with an individual record and trace backward through time.  For this project, I’m analyzing large groups in multiple datasets.  At a high level I’m searching for DNA that has migrated from Germany, through France and Spain to Tunisia and then to Sicily and Sardinia.

   Using TMRCA (time to most recent common ancestor) and my own TribeMapper techniques, I was able to identify that the Scandinavian I1 haplogroup formed a parallel dispersion pattern.  The y-DNA genes flowed from Germany down into the Italian peninsula and into the Iberian Peninsula at roughly the same time.  Haplogroups G2a and R1a also fall into this category of dispersion.  These DNA records don’t fit the pattern of the Vandals’ migration.

I1, G2a & R1a migration pattern

   The R1b Celtic-Iberian haplogroup proved more difficult to decipher.  This is a major group in Europe, representing over 60% of the Western European population.  For over 10,000 years, there has been a strong flow out of the Iberian Peninsula toward the British Isles, Germany and Scandinavia.  Detecting a counterflow against that tide is problematic.  The apparent direction of migration across the datasets I researched shows a clockwise pattern out of Spain, into France and Germany and then down the Italian peninsula.  R1b doesn’t look like our Vandals, but I’m going to reserve judgment until better analysis tools are developed.

R1b migration pattern

   I’ve left haplogroup I2a, the Danubians, for last because they have the best correlation to the Vandals.  Their genetic migration does show a counterclockwise flow from Germany, through France and Spain and into Sicily and Sardinia.  This DNA can be found in the historic Vandali regions of Aquitaine, Galicia, Lusitania and Andalusia.  Haplogroup I2a is a dominant Germanic group associated with the Danube River, giving them the nickname Danubian.  This matches the Vandals earliest historical references.

I2a migration pattern

   Myles Standish of Mayflower fame was also haplogroup I2a.  Standish is not closely related to the DNA that I am chasing.  His tribe and the Vandals parted ways over 5,000 years ago.

   Have I found the Vandals, Alans or Suevi?  So far, I have been looking at the past 2,000 years.  If I expand the datasets and research back further in time, additional patterns appear.   The DNA takes me to Georgia, Armenia and Iran.  The timing and the location of these records put us in the historic Alani homeland on the Asian steppe.  The Huns were also responsible for driving the Alans west into Europe around 300 AD.  I’ve been looking for Vandals and I’ve found the Alans instead.

   The I2a1 tribal haplotype that I have identified has remained relatively unchanged for thousands of years and has allowed me to follow a migration in and out of Asia and across Europe.  I cannot say that I have found the DNA of all the Alans or that the Alans were only haplogroup I2a.  The correlations that I have made are based on records currently available and it is impossible to say what additional future DNA records may reveal.

   The mystery of the Vandals remains a mystery.  I now have an unexpected peek at a piece of the Alani origins and migrations.  When clients want to know more about their DNA, I can check them against this data.  I’d love to be able to get to a point where I can tell folks - ‘Hey, you’re a Visigoth!’  One of the biggest parts of DNA testing beyond finding family, is connecting ourselves to history, knowing that your ancestors played a role.

© Origin Hunters & OriginsDNA

The DNA of John Cutter West: Connected and Disconnected

   Bill West, author of the blog series ‘West in New England’, has been writing about his ggg-grandfather, John Cutter West, for over five years.  Bill calls him ‘The Elusive John C.’

   Some genealogies connect John Cutter West as the son of Paul West and Hannah Crowell of Liverpool, Nova Scotia.  It has also been suggested that he could be the grandson of Josiah West and Elizabeth Griffith of Plymouth, MA.  Both Paul and Josiah are descended from Francis West of Salisbury, England who immigrated to Duxbury, MA.

   Bill West completed a 37-marker y-DNA test and his results came back as haplogroup J2.  Multiple descendants of Francis West have also been tested.  Their results indicate that Francis West was a member of haplogroup R1b.  Bill is related to Francis West in the same way that J2 is related to R1b, but you have to go back 40,000 years ago to find that family connection rather than 400 years.  DNA results can be a double-edged sword.  They can prove your connection or just as easily disprove your assumptions.

   One of the most exciting events in DNA testing is when you receive your results showing multiple matches with your surname.  If you have already researched a dozen generations, the test is confirmation.  If you are just getting started, the test connects you with cousins.  Or, if you were adopted, getting matches to multiple records with a surname you weren’t expecting will lead you on a path of discovery.  In a survey of major DNA databases, Bill’s genetic record didn’t have any close matches.  The wonderful part of y-DNA testing is the ability to dig deeper.

   Here is what we do know about Bill’s DNA.  Haplogroup J2 has origins in Mesopotamia about 18,500 years ago and it is associated with speakers of the Semitic languages.  The J2 haplogroup is widespread around the Mediterranean with connections to both Arabs and Jews.  Bill’s haplotype, the 37-markers from his test, are a genetic fingerprint that can help us find his tribe.

   I've developed a tool, TribeMapper®, which allows me to take a haplotype record and map ancestors across time and place.  One of the first clues we find is that Bill’s haplogroup is more uniquely related to subgroup J2b2.  Only a test looking for SNP M241 can prove J2b2 for certain.  My next step is to map the DNA to determine which J2b2 ethnicity Bill belongs.

   As I look at slices of time, 4,500 years ago Bill’s ancestors were in places like Turkey, Armenia, Syria and Saudi Arabia.  If I look at a branch of Bill’s tribe at about 3,000 years ago, I see a distinct correlation with locations like Cyprus, the coasts of Italy and Spain and the islands of the Azores.  These places match up with the colonies of the Phoenicians.  Phoenicia had origins in what is modern day Lebanon.  They were known for their extensive maritime trading culture. Phoenicians were not only sea travelling merchants with colonies around the Mediterranean, they had trade routes across Europe as well.  Bill’s closest DNA matches were part of a Phoenician branch that headed into central Europe.

   Looking at a period from 1,300 (Bill’s closest match) to 2,000 years ago, we see a pattern of migration into what is modern day Germany and more specifically those genetic connections appear in cities in the Hessen region.  Research into John Cutter West gives the appearance that he has English origins.  The DNA trail ends in southwest Germany.  We are still left with the fact that there are not enough DNA records to fill the gap between now and 1,300 years ago.  It is possible that Bill’s ancestors migrated further, from Germany to England.

   Now it’s time to move from facts to theory.  The closest DNA matches indicate a connection to the Hessen region of Germany.  An avenue worth investigating is whether one of those ancestors was a Hessian soldier that stayed in America after the Revolution.  Perhaps the reason there are no records of John Cutter West before his 1827 marriage record is that he was born under a different name, a more German sounding name.

   Sometimes DNA can help us make all the connections.  In the case of Bill West, he is still disconnected over the last 1,000 years.  That’s a big space of time with plenty of questions.  More folks are being tested every day and the DNA databases are growing.  Today the data shows that Bill has deep Phoenician roots and that those ancestors settled in the German region of Hessen.  Time and more data will help revise and refine this picture of Bill’s tribe.

© Origin Hunters & OriginsDNA

Friday, August 10, 2012

Genealogy Gold: McCarthy DNA

   Sometimes in genealogy, we go for the gold.  We try to figure out how we are descended from Presidents, royalty or other famous people.  In the US, if your last name were Adams, you might ask if you are related to the second President.  With a surname like Stewart/Stuart you could try to research back to UK royalty.  If you are Irish, some of those royal names are O’Neill, O’Brien or McCarthy.

   The last King in Ireland died in the 1600s.  For many of us it is incredibly difficult to go back beyond the 1800s in our Irish genealogy research.  The lack of paper records makes finding that connection to Irish royalty challenging.

   DNA is the next best answer to the lack of records.  Both regional and surname projects can collect enough genetic samples to build family trees.  Not in the same sense as child - father - grandfather etc., more in a phylogenetic sense.  A phylogenetic tree will show how individuals connect back to common ancestors and in turn, those common ancestors trace further back to another common connection.

   I have McCarthy ancestry and like everyone else I have researched as much as possible about one of my surnames.  Historically the surname comes from Carthaigh or Carthach, an 11th century King of Ireland and ancestor of the McCarthy Kings of Desmond (current day Cork and Kerry).  His son, Muireadhach, was the first to take on the Mac Carthaigh name.  Literally the ‘son of Carthaigh’.  In names like O’Neill or O’Brien, the O’ means grandson or descendant.

   Time to go for the gold.  How am I related to the Kings of Ireland?  Which DNA haplogroup do the McCarthys belong?  First, I found that a surname project existed on Family Tree DNA.  Then I started analyzing the data on the McCarthy Surname Study DNA site.  Nothing is ever simple.  There are six different haplogroup represented in the group, E1b, I1, I2a, I2b, R1a and R1b.  There are also four different R1b subgroups.  The site has R1b divided into Group A (SNP R-L21), Group B (SNP R-P314.2), Group C (SNP R-M222) and Group D (misc. others).  I would expect there to be multiple R1b subgroups as it is the most numerous haplogroup in Western Europe.

   Like the Olympics, there can only be one gold medal winner in this event.  Only one (or none) of these groups can be related to the original Carthaigh.  There are many reasons why there are multiple McCarthy haplogroups.  The Administrator of the McCarthy site, Nigel McCarthy, is well aware that there could be non-paternal events and has posted some possible situations where a McCarthy name could have arisen:

“•Soldiers, serfs, or slaves or hostages taken in battle and who remained with their captives, all under the tutelage of a McCarthy king, chief of chieftain, adopting this surname.
•Rape of McCarthy womenfolk by invading forces.
•Other illegitimacy.
•Adoption (e.g. by a chieftain of a sister’s orphaned children).
•Raiders such as Vikings being absorbed, a century or two after they settled in Ireland,  into the group which became the McCarthy family as they became “gaelicised”.
•Stepsons taking the McCarthy name of their new stepfather (early deaths of husbands or wives, and thus remarriages, were common).
•The sons of Cárthachs other than he who died in 1045 forming their surnames in a similar manner (although there is no explicit evidence of this).”
-source McCarthy Surname Study - Background

   Which genes are the royal McCarthy genes?  Other projects have been able to analyze DNA records and come back with an announcement that they have identified the haplotypes of Genghis Khan or Niall, ancestor of the O’Neill kings.  The same methods should work for the McCarthys.  If we consider the McCarthy DNA records as a random sample representing the larger population, then the groups with the larger number of records are more likely to be part of the royal group.  A wealthier family would have had more resources to provide for larger families, allowing for more descendants.

   Looking at the McCarthy site, haplogroup R1b Groups A and B have the most records.  At first glance, the other haplogroups seem to be ruled out for lack of representation.  An analysis of the haplotypes within these haplogroups gives us additional evidence.  The E1b group shows a clear pattern of migration from Greece through Italy, Germany, England and Scotland before arriving in Ireland.  This is consistent with the Alexandrian origin of E1b and the timing fits with Rome’s incursion into the region.

   Haplogroup I2b shows a migration from the Danube River region through Germany, England, Scotland and into Northern Ireland.  They appear to have arrived before the Romans.  Haplogroup R1a originated from Eastern Europe and took a different path via Normandy, Devon/Cornwall, into Ireland through Cork.  Their timing fits the Norman invasion of Ireland about 900 years ago.

   If we calculate the time to most recent common ancestor (TMRCA) for Groups A and B, we see that within each group they are closely related.  For each group, their common ancestor lived about 1,000 years ago, which coincides with Carthaigh’s timeframe.  Comparing the two groups against each other shows a common ancestor over 2,800 years ago.  Both groups have the right ancestral timing.  Group A has DNA that is associated with Southern Ireland and an analysis across a larger R1b tribal haplotype indicates that this group entered Ireland over 2,600 years ago.  The same analysis of Group B indicates that they entered Ireland about 500 years later.  Group A has been in Ireland longer and occupy the ancestral region of Desmond.

   So far, we have circumstantial evidence.  We need something more concrete.  We can get a clue from the historic royal genealogies.  The McCarthys were more than just a royal family.  They were a dynasty.  Along with the surname McCarthy, there were also the Sullivans, Callaghans, Keeffes, Donoghues and Donovans that made up the larger related genetic dynasty.  Looking at each group in the context of the larger genetic pool of records and surnames shows that Group A has a close DNA connection to the dynastic surnames and Group B does not.  This method was a key factor in the O’Neill project.

   The evidence points to Group A as the descendants of the royal McCarthys.  The haplotype for Carthaigh is slightly different from the modal for the McCarthy Project Group A.  Considering the dynastic records, makes the values of DYS576=19 and DYS442=13.

   The pedigree of Carthaigh’s ancestors borders on mythology.  Many Irish pedigrees trace back to Milesius of Spain as the father of the Irish people.  Historians found it easy to dispute these claims as these records often are full of conflicting historical information, a lack of dates and obvious attempts to connect back to the Biblical genealogies.  As with most mythology, the Irish origins contain grains of truth.  Haplogroup R1b, which is predominant in Ireland, has its origins in Iberia (modern day Spain and Portugal).  The McCarthy Group A DNA data can be traced backward in time via STR mutations to their Spanish and Portuguese cousins.  Imagine two brothers at a farewell party on the slopes of the Pyrenees 3,000 years ago.  One brother has decided to go north to seek better fortunes and the other decided to stay behind.  The ancestors of each exist today for us to compare.

   The Irish do have ‘Spanish’ origins.  Some elements of that oral history remained intact over 3,000 years as the Iberian tribe migrated and settled in Ireland.  As with any oral tradition, embellishment can occur, especially when developing a royal pedigree to show divine right.

   McCarthy Group A was not the first Iberian tribe to land in Ireland and certainly not the last.  Group B arrived about 500-1,000 after Group A.  Irish mythology suggests that there were at least four previous waves of immigration to Ireland from the mainland.  The E1b McCarthy ancestors begin to show up around 2,000 years ago with the Roman invasion and the R1a McCarthys are associated with the Norman invasion of Ireland about 900 years ago.

   My next steps are to find my male McCarthy cousins and get them tested.  I’ll look for at least two, one from each of my g-granduncle’s surviving lines.  My McCarthys trace back to Kilmichael Parish in County Cork and my gg-grandfather, Florence McCarthy, has one of those names that repeats throughout McCarthy history.   I look forward to finding out which McCarthy DNA group I belong.

   If you are a McCarthy, please consider DNA testing and joining the McCarthy DNA Project.  Your data will help build a better understanding and a better genetic family tree of the McCarthy groups.  Along the way, we can learn more about our ethnicity and our Irish culture.  You may even want to change your surname back to its original Irish spelling, Súilleabháin (Sullivan), Ceallacháin (Callaghan), Donnchadha (Donoghue), Donnabhain (Donovan) or Mac Carthaigh.

© Origin Hunters & OriginsDNA

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Marie Antoinette: DNA Family History

   When we use DNA to research our family history, we have the potential to uncover quite a bit of information.  We could find living cousins, lost connections and deep ancestral origins.  There is also geographic information associated with your DNA.  When you start comparing your DNA to your Clan and your Tribe, you can map your recent old world origins and your migrations.

   You are not limited to your own DNA as you are researching.  As we work on our traditional genealogy, we may find famous ancestors, a Mayflower passenger here or a President there.  If you are descended from them then you can bet that hundreds of other people are also.  Many times one of those hundreds has had their DNA tested to confirm their relationship to that famous ancestor.  You can use that published data to add to your family history.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

   Let’s look at Marie Antoinette, while she has no living descendants, she makes a great example.  Tests from a lock of her hair and from her son’s preserved heart show her mitochondrial DNA to be haplogroup H, the most common group in Europe.

   Marie Antoinette’s results - HVR1 - 16519C and HVR2 - 152C, 194T, 263G, 315.1C

   Marie Antoinette’s maternal line has been documented back 25 generations to the 1100s.  You could still be related to her through this Germanic line of women.  There are twelve exact HVR1/HVR2 matches for Marie Antoinette on Mitosearch.org.  Even with an exact match, that common ancestor lived over 625 years ago, in the 1300s or earlier.

   On paper, Marie Antoinette’s ancestry goes back to the 1100s in the Holy Roman Empire (modern day Germany).  DNA can take us further.  One theory shows a correlation between HVR2 marker 152C and the Goth barbarian tribes.  The Goths were in no way a homogenous genetic group as they grew through mergers and acquisitions.  To say that one DNA marker defines a mixed group like the Goths may be hard to prove.

   If we look at the geographic data associated with Marie Antoinette’s maternal tribe, a pattern starts to emerge.  Take all the DNA records available, matches and close matches.  With each close mismatch, we can step backwards in time in roughly 625-year increments.   TribeMapper® analysis shows a genetic flow of ancestors from Scandinavia down through the Germanic heartland.  The timing of this flow, from 2200 to 1300 years ago suggests a connection to the Goth migrations.  While this is still not definitive proof, it is an additional element that could be used to build a case that Marie Antoinette was a Goth descendant.

   This is an example of the geographic data that can be harnessed from mitochondrial DNA.  The results with mtDNA tend to be more macro as there is less variability, which leads to less timeline resolution.  Y DNA has more variability and will produce maps in greater detail.  Our unique Tribal DNA will tell its own migration story and help tie us to history.

© Michael R. Maglio and OriginsDNA

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Autosomal Match Game

   Don’t get me wrong.  Autosomal DNA testing is a very valuable tool.  A match has the possibility of breaking through some very significant genealogical brick walls.  It’s important to understand what a match means or doesn’t mean.

   In a nutshell, we all have 46 chromosomes, 23 from mom and 23 from dad.  Two of those chromosomes are the sexy kind, X and Y.  We’ll ignore those for now.  In an autosomal test, the DNA sequences in your chromosomes are compared against everyone in the testing company’s database.  The goal is to find long matching sequences.  Depending on how long the sequences are and the total number of matching sequences, a calculation predicts the cousin relationship.

   Now here is where things get dicey…

   Take two full siblings (not twins).  At first glance, you might think that genetically they are a 100% match.  Dad gives these two siblings 23 chromosomes each, half of his DNA.  It’s not necessarily the same 23 chromosomes.  Mom does the same.    Let’s look at the two extremes.

   Imagine mom’s DNA as two chunks of 23 chromosomes each – A & B.  Dad has two chunks also – C & D.  Mom gives each child chunk A and dad gives each chunk D.  Both children will have A & D and will be exact genetic matches.

   What if mom gave one child A and one child B.  Then dad gave one child C and one child D.  The full siblings would be A & C and B & D, showing no match at all.  The truth is that a full sibling match will exist on a continuum somewhere in between.

   The probability that a sibling match would be 0% or 100% is extremely low.  Cousin matches are a different story.  In a perfect world, two 1st cousins could share 25% of their DNA.  Two 2nd cousins might have 1/8, 3rd cousins – 1/16, 4th – 1/32 and 5th cousins – 1/64 – a little more than 1% shared DNA.  The possibility of two cousins not sharing DNA or not sharing a long enough sequence to make a match gets higher.

   In my family, two Scottish brothers married two German cousins.  I am the grandson from one of these unions.  I have a cousin who is the grandson from the other marriage.  We are both 2nd cousins and 3rd cousins.  It is possible that we share 1/8 plus 1/16 for a total of 3/16th.  That much shared DNA could be reported on a test as being 1st cousins.

   The autosomal match game is not a perfect world.  If you don’t get a match and you think you should have, then test different cousins.   Adding more DNA samples could give a new set of results.  If you do get matches, the degree of the relationship can help set a starting point in looking for that common ancestor.

   DNA is just one of many tools we have as genealogists.  In the case of autosomal testing, DNA is just the beginning.  It will take traditional genealogy to get you to the prize.


Monday, April 30, 2012

My Cousin Otzi: A Story Written in DNA

   There has been a lot in the news lately about Cousin Otzi.   They talk about the fact that he had brown eyes, was lactose intolerant, was suffering from Lyme disease and that he was murdered.  What they don’t talk about was that he liked long walks along the glacier, a nice goat steak every once in a while and that he would give the pelt off his back for a friend.

   As soon as the world learned that they were going to test Otzi’s DNA the conjecture began.  Most folk assumed that Otzi would be part of haplogroup I (one of the earliest groups in Europe) or R1b (the largest genetic group in Western Europe).

   Europe is dominated by haplogroups I1, I2, R1a and R1b.  The rest of the landscape has a scattering of E, G, J and N.

   Otzi’s Y-DNA haplogroup was leaked late last year and confirmed two days ago as G2a2b (formerly G2a4).  My haplogroup is G2a3b.  This means that Otzi and I share a common G2a ancestor.

   G2a2b, G2a3b and G2a are subgroups of G.  Every time a new mutation within a haplogroup is identified a subgroup gets created or expanded.  Here is an example of a long R1b subgroup - R1b1a2a1a1b.

   While Otzi’s haplotype hasn’t been published yet, I did review a number of G2a2b records with the same L91+ mutation.  I ran an MRCA (most recent common ancestor) between my data and this group of Otzi-like folk and a conservative estimate makes our connection about 7,200 years ago.  I can picture our ancestor, and at least two of his sons, sitting around a fire somewhere along the Danube River.

   I look forward to getting to know Cousin Otzi better.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Why Y-DNA?

   I talk about using DNA for genealogy often.  My favorite is the Y-DNA test.  It has the largest number of benefits for the researcher.  I also get quite a few discouraging comments about Y-DNA.

   Recently I was told that Y-DNA marker mutation rates were too unstable.  The comment might give the impression that Y-DNA testing was unreliable or unusable.  This is far from the truth.  The marker mutation rates are exactly what makes Y-DNA so valuable.  Without the mutations, we would all be one big happy/unhappy haplogroup.

   Another comment I hear is that Y-DNA only tests your paternal line and that is just a small fraction of your genealogy.  This is true.  But...

   My genealogy is more than just my paternal line.  I’m sure many of us can’t help but to associate deeply with our paternal line, our surname.  That deep association makes getting the Y-DNA test so important.
That doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped with my DNA.  I’ve also collected my father-in-law’s DNA.  I am planning to collect DNA from my mother’s male line and my mother-in-law’s male line, etc., etc.  It’s very possible to collect samples for hundreds of your surnames.  See the second half of my post on NPEs.

Here is a short list of reasons to get your Y-DNA tested:

   Cultural origins:  We focus a lot of our time on nationalities.  I’m Italian or I’m Irish.  Your nationality will only take you so many years into the past, depending on how old your nation is.  DNA testing (y-dna and mitochondrial) allows you to go further back in time to a cultural heritage – celtic, norse, phoenician or native American as examples.  Between my Y-DNA and my autosomal tests, I can tell you which Caucasus Mountain culture that I relate to.

   Traditional research validation:  You can have a great paper trail and have a bad genealogy.  There will be non-paternal events.  When you compare your Y-DNA test for your surname Brown and all the other matches, across a half dozen databases, come back with the surname Brown you will feel confident about your research.  If your matches come back with the surname Green, then you will have some work to do.

   Traditional research to find Y-DNA:  You will need to use traditional research to find all those cousins you need to get samples from.  You can also use your existing research to find the Y-DNA of your ancestors.  Typically every DNA database asks for the most distant paternal ancestor (Y-DNA) or maternal ancestor (mito).  If you search for your ancestors among these records you will then have the results of a test someone else has already completed.  I will be posting a mini-webinar on this subject to walk you through the process.

   Adoption research:  In the case of adoption, you are hoping to get that surprise surname.  In my research, I ran across a person by the name of Tom Doty.  In his profile, he stated that he had been adopted.  What made him stand out was that his DNA matched so closely with a very large Dodge surname study.  I contacted him and pointed him in the right direction.

   Discover living relatives:  Every match is a connection to a living cousin.  Odds are pretty good that one of you can help the other connect the dots on your common ancestry.

   Mapping your tribe:  As I mentioned earlier, it is the mutations in Y-DNA that give it the most value.  Using those mutations, you can trace your ancestors across time.  Using readily available tools, you can calculate that you and a group of individuals have a common ancestor 1000 years ago or 2000 years.  Map the ancestral locations of that group and look for patterns to emerge.  I gave a talk on this subject in March.

   All DNA tests have their pros and cons.  With a good understanding of the possibilities and the limitations, we can develop some new tricks that the DNA companies have never thought of.  If there is one thing that I have learned, it is that genealogists are very resourceful.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Migration Mapping: Eldred the Terrible

   Genetic genealogy has been very good at identifying distant origins and for making connections along paternal and maternal lines going back a half dozen centuries.  What seems to be missing is how we got from point A to point B.

'Eldridge' clan mapping

   At some distant place in time in every genealogy the surname becomes irrelevant.  The only way to go further back is to use DNA testing.  We have to rely on Clans and Tribes, genetically related groups of individuals, to get an understanding of our history.

   Pride in your historic nationality is wonderful and can tell you much about your family, but we are all descendants of nomads.  As nomads we belong to ancient cultures just as much as we belong to any one nationality.  To know what culture you are you need to know where your tribe was and when.

   When I had my DNA tested I learned that I was part of haplogroup G with origins in the Caucasus Mountains going back about 22,000 years.  I also learned that I had no close matches in the last few centuries.  That left me with very little to work with. So, I put on my analyst hat and developed a technique for plotting the migration path of my tribe at different periods in history.  I needed to answer how my people got from the Caucasus to a little village outside of Naples, Italy.

   I knew I had hit on something after my first mapping exercise.

'Maglio' clan mapping

   The individuals that I plotted lined up along the Rhine River and down the Apennines (with a few stragglers in Wales).  Successive maps, each going back further in time, showed a pattern along the Danube and around the Black Sea back to the Caucasus Mountains.  I now have my migration answers and a plausible correlation to the Etruscan metalworking culture.

   I have been using my technique to help my clients get a deeper understanding of their history and their culture.  For all of you with the surname Eldridge, Eldredge, Aldrich and variation, I have posted a sample report on my website - "The Genetic Genealogy of Eldridge"  

   I'd love to hear about other successes mapping genetic data across time.