Tuesday, November 12, 2013

An approach to FTDNA's Big Y test

Over the coming week, I'll be contacting many of you to see if we can pool our resources within our Lineages so we can get a couple people in each Lineage to take the new Big Y test from Family Tree DNA.

If you've read any of my notes, website posts, or listened to our Blog Talk Radio shows then you know I'm obsessed by SNPs. These are the definitive way to prove relationships back before the credible use of genealogical records.

Any claims made before the 1500s in records research are highly suspect, yet people keep making them. SNPs can provide certainty, but many of us are stuck with our SNPs. I've been stuck with L193 for several years. L193 dates to about 800 to 1,000 years ago, so it's been useful. But it would certainly be helpful to break apart my L193 Group A1 into sub groups roughly correlated to a more recent time frame. L193 Group A1 is a group that was deduced using, first, L193 and then using STR markers to make an educated guess at subgroups.

Rather than test for static, known SNPs, FTDNA's Big Y test will identify new ones that are more recent.

The new test will provide results on 10,000,000 base-pairs and approximately 25,000 SNPs on the Y chromosome.

The price of the test is reduced through the end of November to $495. It's normally $695.

No new swab is required as long as the sample in storage is in good shape.

Bennett Greenspan, Chairman of FTDNA says, “If the WTY (Walk the Y) was the moon shot, then this is the mission to Mars.”


Several of our lineages have "cracked open" thanks to SNP testing. Now we know that the S21 Lineage is actually several groups - Argyle, Caithness, and our Z9 participant. We have used a SNP to confirm our Herdmanston Lineage and it has several extraordinary name matches. We've identified our Exeter New Hampshire Lineage and it has some extremely interesting name matches. All of this is thanks to the willingness of our participants to use SNP testing.

With this SNP testing, we will finally get progress on our Argyle Z2 Lineage, our E1b Lineage, and many others.

In a radio interview a couple years ago, Bennett Greenspan told me we're very close to connecting the branches of the DNA tree to the leaves. You and I are the leaves. The branches are our ancestors in the middle ages.

I hope many of you will join this important chapter in our DNA study.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Surname Soup

The Engrailed Cross on a St Clair grave in
Herdmanston Chapel.
Photo by Steve St. Clair, October 2012.

(click to enlarge)
Digging around in medieval records can be both fascinating and frustrating at the same time.

The newest page on the St Clair / Sinclair DNA website is about our recently proven Herdmanston St Clairs, now proven to be P310+, U106-, P312- (otherwise known as L11*).

Today, as I was looking through the lengthy list of names on the Family Tree DNA study page that includes L11, I was struck by two names -
  • Mandeville
  • Wishart
Because they share the L11* SNP (Wishart needs to confirm) with our Herdmanston St Clairs, it's safe to say they share a common ancestor - at least until further SNPs are discovered. But then I remembered the witnesses to a particular record of some importance in our family - the granting of the lands of Roslin to the Sinclair family.

14 September 1279, Traquair - "Alexander, king of Scots, gives notice that, since Henry of Roslin, tenant of his lands of Roslin (MLO) and Catcune (nr Borthwick, MLO), has resigned and quitclaimed these lands to him by rod and staff, he has given to William Sinclair, knight, said lands of Roslin and Catcune, doing service of half a knight"
The witnesses to this grant of land could be instructive:

  • Robert Wishart, bishop of Glasgow (d.1316) 
  • William Fraser, bishop of St Andrews (d.1297) 
  • Gilbert de Umfraville, earl of Angus (d.1307)
  • William Comyn of Kilbride (d.c.1283)
  • Simon Fraser (d.1291×92)
  • Bernard Mowat (son of Michael)
  • William Bisset, knight (late 13C)
  • Patrick Graham, knight (d.1296)
Source - People of Medieval Scotland. Their source, Newbattle Registrum, Cartae originales, no. 6 - RRS, iv, no. 126

Saint-Clair-sur-Elle, in the department of Manche,
on the Cotetin Peninsula, France (click to enlarge)
Witnesses to land records often had a personal connection with the grantee; sometimes a blood connection. For instance, Hamo St. Clair (who received the creation of the baronies of Eaton Socon and Walkern) was closely allied with de Mandeville (Vincent, p. 243). There's a great article on Eaton Socon at British History Online

There's a great paper on this St. Clair / Mandeville connection in the 1998 Proceedings of the Battle Conference.  I own this book and highly recommend you buy it. A footnote on page 243 states "The St Clair family, for whom the baronies of Eaton Socon and Walkern were created, were former tenants of Eudo Dapifer, both in England and their birthplace, Saint-Clair-sur-Elle, dep. Manche;" (Anglo Norman Studies, p. 243)  They credit Lewis C. Loyd's Origins of Some Anglo-Norman Families, which I also recommend buying.

In another blog post I wrote back in February 2013, I discussed how some of these same names all showed up in a DNA SNP group called L257+. That SNP isn't in our Sinclair DNA study at all.

But now these surnames are showing a direct hit with our St Clair Herdmanston Lineage.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Sources - 
"Anglo-Norman Studies XXI: Proceedings of the Battle Conference 1998" edited by Christopher Harper-Bill, Boydell & Brewer, 1999  ISBN 0 85115 745 9

POMS - website, People of Medieval Scotland

Vincent, Nicholas, "Warin and Henry Fitz Gerald, The King's Chamberlains" The Origins of the Fitzgeralds Revisited. Presented to "Anglo-Norman Studies 21: Proceedings of the Battle Conference 1998," edited by Christopher Harper-Bill, Boydell & Brewer, 1999

Sunday, February 10, 2013

An Open and Shut Case?

Axiom: As classically conceived, an axiom is a premise so evident as to be accepted as true without controversy. As used in modern logic, an axiom is simply a premise or starting point for reasoning. source

 Proving connections between medieval people is quite difficult. Often the records no longer exist and even the best genealogists must be content with an educated guess. Luckily, there are techniques one can use to make these guesses more certain.

In 2011, I began research, now on the Sinclair DNA website, into possible name connections. The page is called A Confluence of Surnames. The approach was to look for consistencies in families who gifted land to abbeys and priories.

In late January, I found a blog posting on a Yahoo group, called Crispin Cousins, which validated this approach. They had written several research axioms. Two are listed here:

  1. Benefactors to ecclesiastical institutions are kin of the founder 
  2. Primary witnesses (ie, not including those witnessing on behalf of the of institution) of ecclesiastical charters are invariably kin of the primary benefactor; by extension, of course, also kin of the founder source

There have been strong reasons to believe in connections between the Vaux family of Scotland and the Vere family of England. But the Vaux / Vance family DNA project administrators are careful to make no claims without documented facts.

If one starts with the above axioms, then researches Monasticon Anglicanum and Keats-Rohan, it's easy to claim that Aubrey de Vere, who founded Colne Priory c. 1100, is directly related to Herueus de Vallibus (Vaux) who gave land of Belcamp, Essex to Colne Priory.(Keats, p.756)

Aubrey de Vere founded Colne Priory.
Herueus de Vaux, a tenant of Bigod in Essex, gave lands to Colne Priory.
Open and shut case, right?

Furthermore, starting with those axioms, it's easy to claim other names are directly related by blood to Aubrey de Vere:
Hugh de Munchensi
Richard de Beauchamp
Roger Bigot (of whom the Vaux held much land)
William de Mandeville earl of Essex
Adeliza de Vere
Peter de Burgate

It's certainly very interesting. But I don't think we can prove it as a fact unless we have more data; such as DNA data.

Further Reading:
Apparently, nothing much remains of Colne Priory. There's a great article on it at this link.

Sources -
Keats-Rohan, K.S.B. Domesday Descendants: A Prosopography of Persons Occurring in English Documents 1066-1166 II: Pipe Rolls to `Cartae Baronum' (Vol 2) (Hardcover), Boydell Press (April 15, 2002) ISBN-10: 0851158633, ISBN-13: 978-0851158631

Monasticon Anglicanum: A History of the Abbies and Other Monasteries ... By John Caley, Bulkeley Bandinel, Sir Henry Ellis, Longman, 1823 via Google Books

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sinclair DNA Follows the Money

The latest video outlines a way to track down ancient family connections. It seems our St. Clair ancestors in England were attempting to buy their way into heaven. Hopefully our Sinclair DNA study will be able to prove or disprove a historic connection between these surnames.