DNA links

DNA and genealogy

Will writes: Liz and I took DNA tests as part of our family history research. I used FTDNA for my Y-DNA and MtDNA and Liz and I both used Ancestry for “family finder” (autosomal) tests.

So which is best? The family finder, the newest of the three, is brilliant, especially for beginners and intermediates. It drags a net over the surface of your gene pool and lets you glimpse back up to seven generations. Liz confirmed her Colby ancestors in Lowestoft while I turned up several near-relatives.

The most powerful part of family finder is the ability to search by surname. I traced several cousins who could add photos and stories to our tree. You need to spend a bit of time searching and messaging but that is all part of the fun of family history.

My Y-DNA results were interesting. This test looks up the male line, where surnames are usually passed from father to son. It enabled me to rule in and rule out various connections. Best of all it confirmed I had a centuries-old link to the Bramhills of the Isle of Epworth in Lincolnshire — on the other side of the country to my crowd in Liverpool.

Intriguingly, it signalled a relationship with the Carrington family, possibly from as long as 700 years ago. The Bramhill name almost certainly comes from Bramall Hall while Carrington is from the manor of Carrington. The locations are just 15 miles apart, southwest of Manchester. It is feasible that two brothers began working on the separate farms just as surnames took hold and people took on the place-name of where they lived or worked.

The MtDNA test traces mother’s mother’s mother. It is not value for money for most genealogists. MtDNA does not mutate as fast as Y-DNA and you cannot follow a line with the same surname. The slow rate of mutation means I have “relatives” with a genetic distance (GD) of zero whose connection must be many centuries if not millennia old.

How do I know? My female line is Welsh and they are Welsh speakers. I believe they have lived in the southern corner of Anglesey for at least 200 years. The MtDNA throws up people from central Germany and other spots in mainland Europe.

My closest GD0 is from someone whose maternal line is Scottish. Yes, there is a chance that 6 x great granny paddled down the Irish Sea in a coracle 400 years ago but it is improbable. It is far more likely that our ancestors were sisters caught up in the maelstrom as Brythonic kings feuded over land in the vacuum left by Rexit, the Roman departure from Britain.

Were our ancestral sisters peasants or princesses? We may never know … unless an archaeologist turns up a royal palace and a skeleton from a high status burial gives us a match.

If you are trying to understand what your DNA test means I can recommend these four short pieces written by CeCe Moore, a genetic genealogist. 

Y-DNA: the male line

MtDNA the female line

Autosomal/family finder a shallow scrape of your family history

Your ethnicity results how accurate are they?

Quick reference: Bramhill

BramhillUnwinProssorWilliamsMulveyRoberts, BakerLloyd

Quick reference: Hudson