Thursday, 24 January 2019

What's in a name?

I am delighted to introduce this guest blog post by Lisa Little, a member of the Lineage II Gleeson's of North Tipperary. Lisa has done some excellent research on her own particular direct male line which has taken her on an exciting adventure into the past, full of twists and turns. Lisa started out as a Little but ended up as a Gleason! And this is not an uncommon situation - many of us will find a surname or DNA switch (SDS or NPE) somewhere along our direct male line. Lisa used an ingenious approach (combining Y-DNA and autosomal DNA data) to elaborate this family mystery and discover where the surname switch occurred.

Thank you, Lisa, for sharing this wonderful story with us.
Maurice Gleeson
Jan 2019


What's in a name? that which we call a Gleason
By any other name would still be a Gleason . . .

The Story of Finding my Gleason Ancestry
By Lisa M Little



Benjamin J Little (1889-1989)


My maiden name is Little.  As a child, the name made me an easy target for a bully’s joke. Despite this, I have proudly kept this surname throughout my adult life.  Until 2006, I knew almost nothing of my Little ancestry.  My grandfather, Ben Little, was born in late 19thcentury San Francisco, California.  The documentary record of his early life was largely destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire.  There was a vague family story of Ben’s father abandoning him as a toddler, never to be heard of again.  In the pre-home computer age of the 1970s, my hunt for my Little great grandfather, turned up only a single document (Ben Little’s Baptismal Certificate from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church on Broadway in San Francisco) bearing my great grandfather’s name:  Eugenio Little.


Figure 1   Author's documented paternal lineage 
at start of research 
(Eugenio is a Spanish variant of Eugene)

Thirty years later, in 2006, I was living in Georgia, USA, far from my family in California when I got the news that my father was in the hospital following a heart attack.  Being so far away, and feeling the need to connect, I returned to my search for my Little ancestry.  Genealogy had changed in the meantime, resources were now online and DNA analysis was opening doors to the past.  I decided to have my father do a Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) Y-25 test in hopes that we would find a match among those who had tested and were participating in the Little Surname DNA Project.  Much to my disappointment, the results identified my father as R1b haplogroup but did not match a single Little in the project.  Despite this disappointment, with the help of the project administrator, the late Leo Little, we hit the genealogical jackpot.  Leo was able to connect my Eugenio with his Little lineage by finding a reference to him in Descendants of George Little, who came to Newbury, Massachusetts, in 1640 by George Thomas Little1.  All of a sudden, I had generations of Littles to become acquainted with --- Littles who were early colonists in North America, Littles who fought in the Revolutionary War, even Littles who had participated in the Salem Witch Trials.  Following the paper trail to George Little now occupied my time and the DNA test slipped from my memory.


Figure 2   Cover of George Little genealogy 
which includes reference to Eugene M Little

Then, in November of 2013, I received an email from a FTDNA project administrator who, having reviewed my father’s Y-DNA results, suggested that he was likely to have the Z255 mutation, associated with the Irish Sea Haplotype.  By this time, I was teaching basic genetic structure and function to community college students in Southern California and thought testing for the mutation might prove useful as a teaching aid.  So, I ordered the Z255 SNP test from FTDNA. The test came back positive!  With these results in hand, I decided it was time to revisit the Little Surname DNA Project results page.  Surely, after so many years another descendant of George Little must have tested and joined the project.  Alas, still no match!  I asked myself how this could be the case.  The published George Little genealogy was over 600 pages long and included more than 6,400 descendants.  Surely, there was a living descendant apart from my father who had done a DNA test.

It was obviously time to put some real energy into figuring out what the DNA results were telling me.  Reviewing my father’s Y-25 DNA matches didn’t make any sense – not a single Little among all those genetic matches.  In fact, five of his 25 matches had the last name Gleason/Gleeson.  Only two other surnames had multiple matches:  Fennessy with two matches and Salisbury with three matches.  My head was spinning!  Obviously, I had more work to do to understand the results.  

A few months later, I was reading a post on the ISOGG website by Fannie Barnes Linder, entitled The Shock of Our Lives!  Ms. Linder told the story of receiving her brother’s DNA results only to find the top 16 matches all shared the same surname, not the surname of her brother, nor their father.  What she had discovered was a non-paternity event (NPE) in her paternal lineage.  According to ISOGG wiki, a non-paternity event is “any event which has caused a break in the link between an hereditary surname and the Y-chromosome in a son using a different surname from that of his biological father.”2  Suddenly, everything fell into place!  The lightbulb went off in my head!  No Little surname matches, but five Gleason/Gleeson matches!  My father was not a genetic Descendant of George Little.  Rather, he was the genetic descendant of some unknown Gleason.  No!  As a genetic genealogy novice, I didn’t trust my reading of the results.  So I turned to my friend, David Lyttle, who was at the time the DNA test consultant for Clan Little North America.  After reviewing my assembled data, he agreed I must be onto something.

Armed with this new NPE hypothesis, my research had three initial goals:  1) do more advanced testing, 2) reach out to close genetic matches in order to identify the North American Gleason lineage to which I belong and 3) explore the timing of the non-paternity event.

Still doubting the validity of my Gleason hypothesis, in the spring of 2014 I ordered a Y-67 DNA test.  Results were posted on June 6th:  of 23 matches, four were Gleason/Gleesons, with Genetic Distance (GD) values of 2 to 7.  The following day, June 7th, another Gleason match appeared, with GD 1.
  
TABLE 1:  FTDNA Y-67 Matches on June 7, 2014
Surname
# matches
GD
Gleason
1
1
Gleeson
1
2
Gleeson
2
5
Doty, Johnston, Myrick, Tripp
4
6
Anthony, Daley, Fennessy, Fitzpatrick, Gleason, Hogan-Wilbur, McCarthy, McCloughan, Myrick (2), Phelps (3), Whitmore (2), Wyght
16
7

have come to realize that Hestia, the Greek goddess of the hearth and family, is surely smiling upon me and guiding the search for my ancestry.  The two closest matches (or rather the administrators of the matches’ DNA kits) turned out to be genealogy experts who would become my teachers and partners in the search for our shared origins.  The closest match was Herbert L Gleason Jr (HLG/G55), the father and father-in-law of a couple who own Heirlines Family History & Genealogy in Salt Lake City, Mary Gleason Petty & James Petty .  The second closest match was father of none other than our Gleason/Gleeson DNA Project co-administrator and professional genetic genealogist, Dr. Maurice Gleeson. I again hit the genealogy jackpot! Thank you, Hestia!  On June 6th I sent my first email to Maurice and on the 8th received a message from Mary Gleason Petty.  In a matter of days, I discovered that my (genetic) paternal ancestors were Irish and that I fit somewhere into a North American Gleason lineage whose patriarch was James Gleason (1775-1805) of Dorchester, Massachusetts (See Figure 3).

Figure 3   Mary Gleason Petty's Paternal Lineage

Over the next year Y-111, Big Y, and Family Finder genetic tests were completed on my father.  With each new set of results, the evidence of my Gleason ancestry grew stronger (See Table 2).  And, yes, I became more and more addicted to genetic testing.

TABLE 2:  FTDNA Y-111 Matches on September 16, 2014
Surname (Kit #/Project ID)
GD
Gleason (338070/G55/HLG)
3
Gleeson (N74958/G21)
6
Gleeson (334030/G54)
7
Gleason (N101540/G39)
9


Analysis of my father’s Y-111 STR mutations placed our paternal ancestors within Lineage II – Gleesons of North Tipperary, Ireland.  This evidence, coupled with Big Y SNP mutations, narrowed his position within Lineage II to Branch B (See Figure 4).  The details of this placement within the Gleason/Gleeson Mutation History Tree have been described in Maurice’s blog post dated 8 July 2018, A Closer Look at Branch B - New Y-DNA Results.

Figure 4   Detail of Lineage II Branch B Relationships. 
RTL = G57, HLG = G55

The Family Finder (FF) test, completed in July of 2015, identified Mary Gleason Petty’s father (HLG/G55) as my father’s (RTL/G57) 3rd to 5th cousin, with 40 shared centiMorgans (cM).  Assuming the two men were of the same generation, due to their similar ages, the FF results suggested that they shared a 2nd great grandfather to 4th great grandfather.  James Gleason of Dorchester, MA (1772-1805) would be their 3rd great grandfather. James had two sons and six grandsons. I simply didn’t have enough genetic data to narrow down where my paternal lineage fit into Mary’s family tree. The best I could do is try to find a geographic overlap between Mary’s Gleasons and my Littles.  One possible overlap became evident:  James Gleason (1772-1805) had a grandson, James Henry Gleason, who had settled in Monterey, California in 1846 and married a Californiobeauty.  While James Henry Gleason died 28 years before my grandfather was born, he did have four sons who might be worth a closer look.

I decided to focus some effort on the timing question:  When did the Gleason Y-DNA enter my Little lineage?    My first working hypothesis was:  My father (RTL/G57) was the first genetic Gleason and, thus, would not be a Y-chromosome match to his brothers.  (Forgive me Grandma Little for ever considering such a thing!)  As both of my paternal uncles passed away prior to my DNA discovery, I turned to one of their sons (G64 in Figure 4) for a Y-DNA test.  In May of 2015 my cousin’s Y-37 results were published:  a perfect match (GD = 0) to my father.  With my initial hypothesis rejected, I moved onto the prior generation. This is where I hit a brick wall. My grandfather, Ben Little, had no full male siblings.  There were half-brothers from his mother’s second marriage, but they would not share the same Y-DNA.  I moved back to Eugene Little’s generation in search of another living male descendant. Unfortunately, Eugene and his younger brother, Arthur Little, never had any male children that could be traced in the genealogical record.  My search for a living descendant of George Little continued generation by generation and took me from California to Maine, spanning 240 years.  Finally, a single living descendant was identified.  Then came time for that dreaded exchange, “Hello, I am a distant cousin.  Would you be willing to do a DNA test for me?”  This is a question that always leaves me feeling uneasy.  However, in this case, the answer was, ‘Yes’.  No hesitation.  In October of 2015, the FTNDA Y-37 results told us that my father and the Little 4th cousin are not a genetic match. These results pinpointed a 100-year period during which the Gleason Y-DNA could have been introduced into my paternal ancestry.  The problem remained that my exhaustive research of the Little family tree had failed to identify another living direct male descendant whom I could approach for DNA testing.  I began to create fanciful storylines with the genealogical evidence that was available:  Eugene Little’s grandmother got pregnant after an encounter with a Gleason man and was hurriedly married off to her first cousin. Ok, I’ll admit I have an over active imagination.  It’s just more fun to imagine a romance story than to admit I had hit the brick wall and saw few strategies to surmount it.

While in 2015 this Little “4th cousin” did not have a Y-DNA match to another male within the Little DNA Project, who claims descent from George Little of Newbury, MA, in January of 2019 a GD 1/37 match was made.  The two men share George Little’s oldest son as their most recent common ancestor, making them 8th cousins.  Taken together, the Y-DNA results for the two men have now established a genetic profile for their Little lineage to which future descendants of George Little can be matched.


Figure 5   Possible locations of the Surname / DNA Switch (SDS a.k.a. NPE)
The switch happened somewhere on the Little Direct Male Line ... but where?
FF suggests a connection to HLG / G55 via common 2x to 4x great grandparents (red bracket on left)
Y-DNA of Little cousins rules out switch prior to Benjamin Little 1802-1907 & after Benjamin Little 1889-1989
Green indicates Gleason Lineage II Y-DNA, Orange indicates Little Y-DNA
(click to enlarge)

Faced with a seeming insurmountable challenge, during the Spring of 2016 I was excited to hear that Maurice Gleeson was visiting Southern California.  At last, after two years of email exchanges with my mentor, I had the opportunity to meet him in person and discuss future research strategies.  During a delightful lunch, that included Mary Gleason Petty’s sister, Martha (a mini Gleason family reunion), Maurice suggested that I do the Ancestry.com autosomal DNA test on my father.  Perhaps, wading into another database would prove helpful.  

Eureka! In May of 2016 I opened my father’s newly published Ancestry.com DNA results on my computer.  As I scrolled down the list of matches, my reaction was, “You have to be kidding me!”  Many usernames were simple initials.  It was going to take some real time investment to find Gleason matches with only last initials to go by.  My initial panic was unwarranted as among the 3rd cousin matches was an individual with a ‘G’ surname initial and a kit manager with the surname Gleason. Correspondence with the kit manager confirmed that the individual was a descendant of James Henry Gleason (JHG) of Monterey, California.  This match and my father shared 118 centiMorgans over three segments, a considerably closer autosomal match than to Mary’s father of 40 cM.  Could I hope that one of the four sons of JHG could be my genetic great grandfather?

This is where I needed to bring the genealogical record together with the genetic data.  Eugene Little was born in 1853 in Maine.  JHG was born in Plymouth, MA in 1823, making him old enough to have been Eugene’s biological father.  However, JHG’s youth has been well documented and published in a book entitled Beloved Sister:  Letters by James Henry Gleason from California and the Sandwich Islands, 1841-1859.JHG was a continent away when Eugene was conceived and born.  JHG’s four sons were born between 1850 and 1860, making them 39 to 29 at the time my grandfather, Ben Little, was born.  The timing is right for one of James’ sons to be my genetic great grandfather but what other evidence could be brought to bear?  

If one of these four Gleason men was my grandfather’s biological parent, I should also find genetic matches to descendants of their mother’s family.  I mentioned above that she, Mariana Catarina Demetria Watson, was a Californio beauty.  Many early European settlers in California married into prosperous Mexican families prior to US control of the territory.  JHG’s father-in-law, James E Watson, was among this group.  James Watson, an Englishman of Scottish origin, arrived in California in the 1820s and set up a hide and tallow business.  He married Marianna Escamilla in 1830 and in 1850, he purchased the Rancho San Benito in the Salinas Valley.  I began to search my father’s Ancestry.com DNA matches for descendants of the Watson and Escamilla families.  

This is where Ancestry.com DNA Circles can be a useful aid in exploring hypothesized relationships.  After updating my linked family tree to include JHG and his wife, as well as her Watson/Escamilla parents, a DNA Circle was generated that included several individuals who trace their ancestry to Marianna Escamilla.  Today, that DNA Circle includes 21 members.

Figure 6   Ancestry's DNA Circle
for my (genetic) great great grandmother

Being a genetic match to 20+ descendants of Marianna Escamilla strongly supports the idea that one of her grandsons was the biological father of Ben Little.  The DNA evidence had revealed a NPE and led me to my genetic Gleason family.  The task that lies ahead is figuring out which of the four sons of James Henry Gleason met another Mexican beauty, Ben’s mother Librada Solano, and conceived my grandfather. If I could locate a living grandchild of each of the four brothers, three of them would be 2nd cousins to my father, and one of them would be a half-1st cousin. Autosomal DNA testing of each should distinguish between them: 2nd cousins share on average 220 cM, while half-1st cousins have an average 440 shared centiMorgans.

That part of my journey is for a future blog post.

Figure 7   The current draft of my (genetic) family tree on my father's side


Endnotes:
1 Little, G. Thomas. (1882). Descendants of George Little: who came to Newbury, Massachusetts, in 1640. Auburn, ME: George Thomas Little.
International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki:  Non-paternity event.  Page last modified 17 July 2018.  Page accessed  21 January 2019.
Californio (plural Californios) = A Spanish-speaking resident of the now US state of California during the period of Spanish and Mexican rule, roughly from the late 17th to mid-19th centuries.
Gleason, James Henry (1978) Beloved Sister: The letters of James Henry Gleason, 1841-1859, from Alta California and the Sandwich Islands, with a brief account of his voyage in 1841 via Cape Horn to Oahu and California. Glendale, CA:  A. H. Clark Co.



Lisa M Little
Jan 2019







Monday, 31 December 2018

Big Y results for Lineage III (West Clare Gleeson's)

Big Y results recently came back for project member 191141, a member of Lineage III - the Gleeson's from West Clare (specifically the area around Coore & Connolly). This is a very close-knit group with few mutations, which suggests that they all share a common ancestor shortly before 1800. The origins of this group were first discussed in a blog post from July 2016, and a subsequent blog post (June 2018) detailed the genealogical information gathered for this group thanks to the sterling efforts of Bill Gleeson.

The 5 members of Lineage III

The new Big Y results indicate that his "terminal SNP marker" is indeed DC127 as previously predicted. This characterises a sub-branch below the SNP marker L226 which is the hallmark of the O'Brien clan from Clare and thus Brian Boru.

A SNP Progression is the sequence of SNPs that characterise each branching point on the Tree of Mankind from the major Haplogroup SNP (R-P312 in this case) down to the most downstream branch of the Tree of Mankind (i.e. the branch on which you currently sit). The SNP Progression for Lineage III is as follows:
  • R-P312/S116 > Z290 > L21/S145 > DF13 > ZZ10 > Z253 > Z2534 > BY25450 > FGC5618 > FGC5625 > L226 > FGC5660 > Z17669 > A10950 > DC127
So what does this new information tell us?

Additional analysis of this member's results was undertaken by the team at The Big Tree. You can see this branch and it's nearby genetic neighbours here and in the diagram below.

The Lineage III member sits on the branch on the far left
(click to enlarge)

What stands out is the genetic connection to several surnames with a strong presence in county Clare, including McNamara, O'Malley, Curry, Hehir, McInerney & Slattery:
  • McNamara - this is an important sept of the Dál gCais, connected with the O'Briens and thus related to Brian Boru.
  • O'Malley - there was an important O'Malley clan in the old kingdom of Thomond, near Limerick city (just south of county Clare).
  • Curry - a sept bearing this surname was prominent in Thomond (and is reflected in the surname distribution map below).
  • Hehir - concentrated in the Clare/Limerick area. MacLysaght states that they were a sept of Clare which originated with the Uí Fidhgheinte of Limerick.
  • McInerney - these were a major sept of county Clare and remain concentrated there to this day.
  • Slattery - these were a sept of East Clare. The name is numerous in northern part of the province of Munster.
The strong genetic association with surnames from Clare suggests that the DNA origins of the Lineage III Gleeson's is indeed in county Clare, where many of them still live today.

Surname Distribution Maps based on Griffith's Valuation (mid-1800s)
(from www.johngrenham.com)

We can attempt to date the various branching points in the SNP Progression for Lineage III members. Here is a reminder of the SNP Progression and we will be looking at the dates for just the last few branches:
  • R-P312/S116 > Z290 > L21/S145 > DF13 > ZZ10 > Z253 > Z2534 > BY25450 > FGC5618 > FGC5625 > L226 > FGC5660 > Z17669 > A10950 > DC127
Some dates have been calculated by the Big Tree. Here are the crude dates for the following branching points:
  • P312 ...      <4620 ybp (years before present) = sometime around 2670 BC
  • L226 …     <1900 ybp (years before present) = before 50 AD
  • Z17669 ...  <1810 ybp = pre-140 AD approximately
  • A10950 … <1350 ybp = pre-600 AD approx.
  • DC29 …    <1090 ybp = pre-900 AD approx.
  • DC31 …    <840 ybp   = pre-1100 AD approx.
  • DC30 …    <740 ybp   = pre-1200 AD approx.

Dates for the more downstream branches can be crudely estimated using similar methodology (i.e. crudely, 150 years per SNP, average birth year of participants assumed to be about 1950). The 3 people on the DC127 branch have 23 unique SNPs between them (Smith 8, Johnson 9, & Gleeson 6). This suggests that the common ancestor for Smith, Johnson & Gleeson is about 750-1250 years ago.

Incorporating all these dates into the Big Tree diagram gives us the following branching structure with crude dates (allow several hundred years on either side of the estimate).

Crude dates for each of the branching points in the Lineage III portion of the Tree of Mankind

Although these dates are crude, it seems pretty clear that the connection between the Lineage III Gleeson's and their genetic neighbours (McNamara, O'Malley, etc) is before the time of surnames (i.e. pre-1000 AD or thereabouts). However, the connection with the Smith and Johnson individuals is much less clear. Neither of these names is an Irish surname and this suggests that there may have been an SDS (Surname or DNA Switch / NPE) somewhere along their direct male line.

The Lineage III member has Y-STR matches with a Maloney (GD 8/111) and a Smith (Genetic Distance 6/111), both of whom have tested positive for DC127 (so presumably this Smith is the same one in the Big Tree diagram above). The Maloney individual has not yet uploaded his results to the Big Tree so I have sent him an email with instructions. This may add a lot of additional detail to the current picture.

The Maloney individual belongs to Group 2 of the Maloney DNA Project (of which I also happen to be the Administrator). This Maloney Group 2 (11 members in total) is more genetically diverse than Gleeson Lineage III ... i.e. they are an older group and the common ancestor for these Maloney's is likely to be 400-600 years ago. It would be useful to have a second person from this group do the Big Y test as this would help clarify a Maloney-specific DNA marker and could also indicate when the Maloney Group 2 and Gleeson Lineage III split away from each other. In other words, it might help answer the question: which came first - the Maloney chicken or the Gleeson egg?

Group 2 of the Maloney DNA Project, showing the genetic diversity within the group

Maloney is also a Dalcassian name (i.e. it is associated with the clan known as the Dal gCais, of which Brian Boru is the most well-known member). These Maloney's were chiefs of the district around Kiltanon, in the barony of Tulla, in east county Clare. This further reinforces the likely Clare origins of Lineage III.

The distribution of Maloney surname variants in the mid-1800s
(from www.johngrenham.com)

The connection with the Maloney's is interesting for another reason too. Some of the historical texts dealing with the origins of the Gleeson surname in Ireland (in particular those of Dermot F Gleeson) report that there is an association with the surname Moloughney (supposedly originating in Muskerry, an area around northern Cork and extending toward south Tipperary). This particular surname variant is said to be an old Tipperary surname, and Tipperary is the ancestral homeland for the Gleeson's of Lineage II. So does this provide evidence of a connection between the two Gleeson Lineages (II & III)? or does it indicate some confusion in the historically reported origins of the two different lineages? or is this merely a coincidence? Something to be borne in mind as our research into the wider Gleeson"clan" continues.

DC127+ individuals in the L226 Haplogroup Project
(click to enlarge)

Lastly, the L226 project lists several people as testing positive for DC127, and a new name appears among this group, namely Cusack. There are at least two origins for this latter name (according to MacLysaght):
  • it is of Anglo-Norman origin (from de Cussac) arising in the 13th century
  • it is a naive sept originating in county Clare (from the Irish Mac Iosóg)
It seems likely that the Cusack listed in the L226 project belongs to the latter of these groups. And this further emphasises a strong Clare connection for the Gleeson's of Lineage III.

The Cusack surname (mid-1800s)
(from www.johngrenham.com)


Maurice Gleeson
Dec 2018






Tuesday, 13 November 2018

FTDNA Thanksgiving Sale

There are some incredible discounts in the current FTDNA Sale which lasts from now until Nov 22nd. And there will probably be a Christmas Sale after that. So now is the time to start thinking about getting that upgrade or that extra kit.

Below are the sale prices and they are the lowest I have ever seen.
Y37 for just $99 ...
Family Finder for just $49 ...
and $100-140 off Big Y upgrades.

This feels more like Crazy Eddie's Second Hand Car Deals!

If you have any questions about your own particular situation, just drop me an email.

Maurice Gleeson
Nov 2018








Sunday, 8 July 2018

A Closer Look at Branch B - new Y-DNA results

Since the last version of the "family tree" for the Lineage II Gleeson's of North Tipperary, there have been some additional results. For Branch B, these include two new members (G123 & G127), new STR results, and new Z255 SNP Pack results. This post assesses these new results, explores how they impact on the overall structure of Branch B, and draws conclusions about what the DNA and genealogical data in combination tell us about the members of this branch and how they are related to each other.

Below is the previous configuration of Branch B (from Aug 2017). There are 5 members. All share the SNP marker Y16880. And below that, their STR mutations (on the right side of each line) suggest a "best fit" branching structure that attempts to explain how the various people are related to each other. There is also a TMRCA estimate in red underneath each branching point. TMRCA stands for Time to Most Recent Common Ancestor and is expressed as the number of generations back to the most recent common ancestor. Thus the common ancestor for G107 (MPG) and G55 (HLG) is estimated to be about 3 generations ago.

The previous structure of Branch B from version 3
of the Mutation History Tree (Aug 2017)
(click to enlarge)

What do we know from each family's genealogy?

Let's first take a look at the direct male line pedigrees for each of the individuals in Branch B, including the two new members (G123 & G127). A big thank you to the project members for supplying this essential information (most of which you will find on the Post Your Pedigree page).

The direct male line pedigrees of the members of Branch B
(click to enlarge)

There are 4 lines within Branch B and what is particularly important is the birth location of the MDKA (Most Distant Known Ancestor) of each line:
  • Line 1 ... Massachussetts, USA
  • Line 2 ... probably Tipperary, Ireland
  • Line 3 ... Ireland
  • Line 4 ... Tipperary, Ireland

We assume that the MDKA information in these pedigrees is correct, but it may not be. When records are scant (as happens beyond 1830 with Irish records), oftentimes the best we can do is make an educated guess regarding the approximate year of birth and (most importantly) birth location of the MDKA. Nevertheless, it would appear that the Irish immigrant ancestor for Line 1 would have been born no later than 1 generation prior to the MDKA for line 1 (i.e. no later than about 1750 in Ireland).

Now let's take a look at the DNA.

What do the new DNA results tell us?

I have previously used a visualisation method for delineating the branching structure within the overall "family tree" for Lineage II, supplemented with insights from Dave Vance's SAPP Programme (which automates the process of generating Mutation History Trees (MHT) based on mutations in the Y-DNA SNP & STR markers). On this occasion, I started with the SAPP Programme and refined the inputs with each version of the MHT it produced. You can read a detailed account together with a sequence of diagrams later in this post, but below I merely include the top-line results.

The Z255 SNP Pack results of new member G123 (EMG) indicate that he shares 2 SNPs which until now have only been present in my Dad (G21, MHG). So this has now characterised a new branch within Branch B (indicated by the blue line in the diagram). This illustrates how the Z255 SNP Pack can (in certain circumstances) be a useful substitute for the Big Y test. However, it won't reveal any private/unique SNPs possessed by the tester.

This new sub-branch makes the connection between G123/G127 and G21 quite a way back (about 10 generations, which is about 300 years, which suggests a common ancestor born about 1700). And this also means that G123/G127 are connected to Line 1 (G57, G64 ,G55) a few generations further back than that (maybe 11, 12 or 13 generations, or 1600) … more than likely. You can read a more detailed account of the TMRCA estimates in the more technical section below.

A subsequent post will explore the use of autosomal DNA (e.g. Family Finder results) to help clarify the suggested relationships between the various members of Branch B. We would expect no atDNA matches between any of the 4 lines, but we would expect some matches among the members of each line in turn.

Figure 8: the final figure - Version 4 of the MHT for Branch B. This may be refined when Version 4 of the Mutation History tree for the entire group is generated.



A Detailed Account of the Technical Bits

For those willing to brave a more detailed account of the technical aspects of how the Mutation History Tree for Branch B was generated, please knock yourself out below.

(click to enlarge)

Figure 1: this first version of a SAPP-generated Mutation History tree is based on STR values only, anchored by the group Modal Haplotype as a starting point. Note that known relatives are separated - G64 (LTL) belongs with G57 (RL) & G55 (HLG), and G123 (EMG) belongs with G127 (JG). This artificial separation of known family members may be due to the different number of STR markers compared (i.e. 37 vs 111).


(click to enlarge)
Figure 2: SNPs have been added to "anchor" the overall group. But this makes no difference at all because all the members of Branch B share the same SNP marker (Y16880). Note that the TMRCA estimates (Time to Most Recent Common Ancestor) suggest that the group has a MRCA born about 1800, but within the range of 1700 to 1950. These TMRCA estimates will always be inexact and unreliable, despite being statistically accurate.


(click to enlarge)
Figure 3: genealogical information is added, specifically the MRCAs (Most Recent Common Ancestors) - two of them for Line 1 (James1795 & Ben1889), and one for Line 3 (John 1887). And now the diagram begins to approximate what we know from the genealogy. The known relatives are correctly grouped together, and Line 2 (G107, MPG) and Line 4 (G21, MHG) are clearly identified as outliers.

But there are still potential shortcomings. The diagram suggests that Line 4 (G21, MHG) is more closely related to Line 1 (G55, G57, G64 = HLG, RL, LTL) than to Line 2 or 3, and this seems counterintuitive given the huge number of mutations Line 4 (G21, MHG) has compared to the other lines.

Part of the problem may be that I have generated these diagrams for Branch B in isolation from the rest of the branches within Lineage II. A different configuration might result if all Lineage II members were included in this exercise.

(click to enlarge)
Figure 4: having now included all Lineage II members in the analysis, a new diagram is generated which looks essentially the same as the one above in Figure 3 ... except that member G107 has been moved to a completely separate branch of the tree (far left), beyond Y16880. This is probably due to the fact that G107 (MPG) has only tested to 37 marker level whereas most others in Branch B have tested to 111 markers.

So are we happy with G107 (MPG) being so far removed? How certain are we that he is correctly placed in Branch B? Is there any evidence to suggest he is better placed where SAPP has placed him? There are no easy answers to these questions. The new SAPP diagram suggests he is more closely related to G113 (GD 5/37), G70 (GD 7/37) and G05 (GD 7/37) than he is to the other members of Branch B (GD 1-2/37). This is counterintuitive and could only be explained by a significant number of parallel and back mutation being present ... which may be the case - we simply don't know.

So for now, I am going to assume that G107 is in fact more closely related to Branch B members and I will force a stronger likeness to Branch B members by assuming that his 38-111 STR marker panel is exactly the same as other members of Branch B. So having copied and pasted the values for these missing markers into the programme, this is the next diagram we get ...

(click to enlarge)
Figure 5: And now G107 (MPG) has been placed back in Branch B (where he probably belongs). But we have had to "fool" the SAPP Programme by forcing him onto a branch that it didn't want to put him on. We could confirm that we have placed him correctly if G107 (MPG) was to do the Big Y, the Z255 SNP Pack, or the Y16880 single SNP test.

The diagram still does not look quite right - G21 (Line 4) is still placed uncomfortably close to Line 1 members (G55, G57, G64) and this remains counterintuitive, given that G21 (MHG) has 5 STR mutations below "Node #45", suggesting that it is quite distant from Line 1 members (the Genetic Distance to members G55, G57, & G64 is 8/111, 6/111, and 2/37 respectively). This becomes even more clear when we add in the private/unique SNPs that Branch B members possess (based on the three Big Y results from this branch). G21 (MHG) has 5 unique/private SNPs whereas G57 (RL) has 2 and G55 (HLG) has 1. This is illustrated in the diagram below.

(click to enlarge)
Figure 6: this is the final "best fit" diagram from SAPP. Or at least it was until I noticed that FTDNA have made a mistake with the "current terminal SNP" of new member G123 (EMG, stated to be Y16880 on the Results Page). Looking at the results of his Z255 SNP Pack, he is not only positive for Y16880 (the overarching SNP for Branch B), but he also tests positive for 2 of the private/unique SNPs of member G21 (MHG, my Dad)! And now we have a whole new configuration ...

(click to enlarge)
Figure 7: And this latest version of the SAPP-generated Mutation History Tree seems to be much more aligned to my gut feel. My Dad G21 (Line 4) has been clearly separated from Line 1 (G55, G57, G64), and has been realigned to be closer to Line 3 (G123, G127). G107 (MPG, Line 2) is now more closely aligned with Line 1 (which makes more sense based on their small values for Genetic Distance i.e. 1-2/37).

Furthermore, compared to the STR mutations in Version 3 of the Mutation History Tree (Aug 2017), the Figure 7 diagram above is an improvement.

Further minor amendments were made when this final SAPP version was compared to Version 3 of the MHT for Lineage II - see Figure 8 (above & below). I think the refinements make logical sense but I will review this again when we come to creating Version 4 of the Mutation History Tree for Lineage II.


Figure 8: the final figure - Version 4 of the MHT for Branch B. The branching structure generated in Figure 7 is retained and there are only minor differences in the placement of STR mutations.

The take home messages from this exercise are as follows:
  • SAPP is only as good as the data you put in
  • it works best with a mixture of SNP data, STR data, and known genealogical data
  • TMRCA estimates for the branching points in the tree are crude, and will always be crude no matter how advanced DNA technology becomes. Nevertheless, they can be a useful guide when interpreted with caution.
  • The "best fit" family tree that results from building a Mutation History Tree is only one of several different configurations. It may not be a true representation of reality. But it is a starting point for discussion and further investigation. It is likely to change as more people join this branch and more data (STR & SNP) is generated.

Dating the Branching Points

TMRCA estimates can be calculated in several ways:
  • using genealogical information
  • using FTDNA's TiP Report tool (the orange icon beside each of your matches)
  • other STR-based methodology (such as the one employed by the SAPP Programme, namely Ken Nordvedt's Interclade Ageing methodology)
  • SNP-based calculations (such as that used by YFULL, which works out as about 150 years per SNP)
As a genealogist, none of them will give you what you want, namely: exactly how many generations back is the common ancestor? The best you will get is a midpoint estimate surrounded by an unhelpfully large range. But that is all we will ever be able to do. Increasing the number of STRs used to 500 will help reduce the range, but it may still be several hundred years on either side of the midpoint estimate. And from a genealogical perspective, that is not what we want.

There is also the danger that a crude timescale will fit in with our preconceived ideas and we will "make the data fit the story we want to hear". So there are loads of caveats around TMRCA estimates. Don't trust them.

Having said that, they can be a useful guide.

So for calculating the TMRCA estimates for the new Branch B family tree, I have used genealogical information in the first instance (in green) coupled with the STR-based SAPP-generated TMRCAs (in red). This may be refined further when Version 4 of the Mutation History Tree is generated for the entire membership of Lineage II.

Note that the TMRCA estimates generated by SAPP are very different to the TMRCAs based on known genealogy:

  • SAPP estimates the TMRCA between G123 (EMG) and G127 (JG) as 6 (5-7) gens = 1800 (1750-1800). In fact, they are uncle & nephew and the TMRCA is actually 1.5 generations.
  • SAPP estimates the TMRCA for G55 (HLG) and the known uncle/nephew pair G57/G64 to be 0 generations (range 0-0) = 1950 (range 1950-1950). The known number of generations between them is 4 generations.


Dating the A13103/BY14188 branch

The TMRCA estimate of 10 generations for both the Y16880 branch and the downstream A13103/BY14188 branch is derived from the SAPP-generated tree (see Figure 7 above and extract below). This gives the estimated TMRCA as 10 generations within a range of 5-10 generations (about 1700, with a range of 1550-1800). 

TMRCA estimates generated by SAPP


This TMRCA estimate for the A13103/BY14188 branch is also supported by the fact that G21 (MHG) has 3 private SNPs remaining that are still unique to him and no one else in the database (as yet). Allowing 150 years per SNP suggests that there is a 450 year period back to the MRCA for G21 & G123/G127. That takes us back to 1550. But caution is advised - the calculation is only based on 3 data points and could be out by several hundred years each way.

Using FTDNA's TiP Report tool, the TMRCA between G21 (MHG) and G127 (JG) at the 111-marker level gives a midpoint estimate of 9 generations (90% range 4-16 generations). Assuming the tester was born about 1950, and assuming 30 years per generation, this translates to a MRCA born about [1950-(30x9)] = 1680 (90% range  1470-1830). This estimate remains the same when adjusted for the minimum number of generations back to the common ancestor (based on known genealogies). This is a similar value to that generated by the SAPP Programme.

Dating the Y16880 branch

The various TMRCA estimates for the overarching Branch B-defining SNP (Y16880) are as follows:
  • 10 gens (range 5-14) based on SAPP
    • SAPP translates this as 1700 (1550-1800 AD)
  • 8 gens (90% range 4-15) based on TiP Report for G21 (MHG) & G57 (RL)
    • equates to 1710 (1500-1830)
  • 9 gens (90% range 5-15) based on revised TiP Report for G21 (MHG) & G57 (RL)
    • equates to 1680 (1500-1800)
  • 11 gens (90% range 6-19)  based on TiP Report (original & revised) for G21 (MHG) & G55 (HLG)
    • equates to 1620 (1380-1770)
  • 400 years ago (1600) based on SNPs and the average of the following:
    • 750 years ago based on SNPs for G21 (MHG)
    • 300 years ago based on SNPs for G57 (RL)
    • 150 years ago based on the single SNP for G55 (HLG)

Based on the TMRCA estimate of 1700 for the downstream A13103/BY14188 branch, it seems likely that the TMRCA estimate for the upstream Y16880 branch is likely to be several generations before this ... and this is supported by the SNP-based TMRCA estimate and 2 of the 3 TiP-based TMRCA estimates (which are all 111 marker comparisons).

Also, we need to bear in mind that there are 2 SNPs (A13103 & BY14188) between the A13103/BY14188 branch and the upstream Y16880 branch. And allowing for 150 years per SNP, this suggests that the Y16880 branch could be 300 years older (i.e. about 1400). Again, we need to be cautious about over-interpreting a result based on 2 datapoints.

In summary, the preponderance of the evidence suggests a date of about 1700 for the birth of the common ancestor of the A13103/BY14188 branch and a date of about 1600 for the common ancestor of the Y16880 branch.

Maurice Gleeson
July 2018