We are at T minus 30 days for our long overdue trip to Scotland! I say it’s overdue because we’ve been trying to get there for about five years. Well, it’s finally happening.
That’s all for the travel plans, I’ll have more, hopefully when we’re there. The two issues that will make it difficult will be lack of internet connection and that I’m only bringing my tablet, not my laptop, so I may need Wifey’s help in transcribing stuff. You think my regular typing is bad, wait until you see if from a virtual keyboard!
Genealogy – specifically DNA. (Disclaimer: I am very new to this whole DNA stuff. My conclusions may be way off. Please correct anything in the comments.) I have posted about genealogy and DNA before, but this time I have some specifics.
Most of my testing has been done through Family Tree DNA (FTDNA from here on out). The main reason I used them instead of Ancestry (which I have also used), is that FTDNA does Y – DNA testing. For those that don’t know the difference, Y-DNA is a male only test. The Y (and X) chromosome are sex chromosomes. Men have one Y chromosome and one X chromosome, women have two X chromosomes. Each father passes an almost exact copy of his Y-DNA to his sons.
The other types of DNA testing that are common are Mitochondrial (mtDNA) and Autosomal (atDNA). I won’t go into specifics of each test, but everyone can do these types of tests. Ancestry does atDNA, and FTDNA calls their atDNA “Family Finder”. These kinds of tests look at genetically stored data that give you a greater sense of where your origins are. They can help you find cousins, half siblings (that maybe you didn’t about), and also help adoptees find birth parents. But are accurate to only five to seven generations back. Y-DNA and mtDNA can go back (generally) thousands of years.
But I’m interested in finding where my male line comes from. I have several goals in this endeavor;
- Find the “Immigrant Ancestor”. Who, and maybe why, did they leave wherever they called home? And when?
- Where did the ancestor come from? Family stories indicated Scotland. According to my dad, specifically Argyll. Of course, Argyll is a large area in the southeast part of Scotland. Not exactly a simple place.
- Do we have any connection to older peoples living in whatever area I find?
- Can we go beyond that time? Was it even possible since there wouldn’t be any written records.
I did my first Y-DNA test with FTDNA way back in 2008. More than 11 years ago now. The first test gave me a very generic Y-DNA Haplogroup of R-M269. Think of a haplogroup as a branch on a tree.
The R-M269 haplogroup is the most common group in Europe for males. It is estimated to have arisen about 11,000 BCE. And makes up a large part of the R1b main branch of the haplotree. The image below may help.
Starting near the top of the image, you’ll see the M269 subclade, just left of center in the red. Follow that straight down and near the bottom of the red go left to the big P312 in dark green with yellow letters. From there continue left to the light green with yellow letters L21. Now it gets a little harder. From L21, you go down and slightly right to DF13, then a little more right you’ll find Z39589. Almost there, don’t give up, as we zig just a tad right to Z251 and stop there, for now. My line continues down from here, but this tree doesn’t go that far.
About eight branches further down the tree you will, hopefully, find BY69143, just not on that image above. That’s as far as my DNA can be traced at the moment. It’s referred to a “Terminal SNP”. But it’s anything but terminal. In the less than 6 weeks since my last test has been completed, I have moved “downstream” two branches. It’s a constantly changing environment.
So, lets jump back up to my lists of goals. How does this DNA test help me? I was hoping to find a cousin with the Campbell surname that had some more of a paper trail than I have. The biggest problem that I have encountered in this genealogy quest, which I started back in 1999 before DNA tests were commercially available, is the fact that my father was an only child. That means I had no Campbell uncles. I knew his father’s name, but that was about all.
I was lucky that my dad’s mother had many pictures and notes from her late husband. And then just by chance I found my oldest sister’s baby book in a long-forgotten box at our mom’s house. In those pages I found my great-grandfather’s name. That allowed me to find him, and my grandfather and his siblings in census records in the correct area of Pennsylvania. But not the next generation. I had several leads on that generation, but I couldn’t nail it down. Basically, I was looking at two men, a James R. Campbell and a Richard Campbell. Each of those men had different fathers.
Enter DNA. My hope was that one of my grandfather’s siblings’ son’s (my great uncle’s) had done a DNA test, AND that we would match enough to be sure of our findings. That cousin hopefully also had a good paper trail to help me along. Yeah, it was pretty one sided at this point.
However, I do believe that any one named “Campbell” is deathly afraid of taking a DNA test! I had absolutely no matches with a Campbell surname. Nothing, not even a fourth or fifth cousin. I guess they were afraid of being charged with cattle theft or some such thing from medieval Scotland. Only thing left for me to do was to order a more advance test. And wait… Lots of waiting with this DNA stuff.
Out of nowhere I received an email one day. I did have a Campbell cousin that had completed a Y-DNA test. Not from a sibling of my grandfather not even my great-grandfather. But from a sibling of my great-great-grandfather. Just like that the problem of which man was my 2x great-grandfather was solved. James Richard Campbell was my line, and a different Richard Campbell (not the one I was also researching) was this cousin’s line.
This cousin had records too! He had lived in Pennsylvania before retiring here to Florida. He could back everything up with history! Needless to say, I commenced to doing the genealogy happy-dance (you don’t want to see that). Oh, this newly discovered 2x great was a junior. At least that takes some of the guess work out of his father’s name. But my cousin also had his information as well. James Richard Campbell, Sr. was quickly entered as 3x great-grandfather. Now, how to get that next generation?
Another great DNA site is GEDMatch. They don’t offer any DNA testing, you just upload your DNA data to the site. They have so many free and paid tools that will allow you to search their database of uploads for matches. You can do a wide one-to-many search or even compare two kits on a one-to-one basis. GEDMatch takes uploads of DNA data from several different DNA testing companies. You’re still limited by only being able to compare kits from folks that uploaded, and agreed to allow their kits to be searched, you can match folks that have tested at different companies. Ancestry and 23 and Me, do not allow the uploading of DNA to their databases. GEDMatch takes both of those company’s results and several others. By using my DNA, my older brother’s DNA, and this cousin’s DNA, we were able to find another cousin. This time way down in South Africa.
This cousin had the next generation. Once again, the unusual name and the senior/junior come into play. John Campbell. Really? Now there are two John Campbell’s to look for. A father and son. Out of what, maybe 10,000,000 listed in archives strewn all over the internet? Most old records don’t list things such as a senior or junior. Just the names. This new cousin claims to have a passenger list of when this Campbell family came over, but looking at the reference, I’m not positive about this claim. But that’s another job, and another post.
This gave me a partial answer to the first question. I now have two possibilities of the “Immigrant Ancestor”. It was either my newly discovered 3x great, or his father. The “two John’s”. If this is making your head spin, you can imagine how I was feeling. I put all this away for a bit to just look at DNA to see if I could get any answers to my goals.
All these Campbell’s do come from Scotland. The lead we have on John Sr., states he was born in 1745 in Perth, Scotland. Well, that’s not in Argyll on any map, in any time frame. Not a big deal, as the Campbell Clan is quite large, and has several branches. Maybe I am a descendant from one of the cadet branches.
Going back to FTDNA and the Campbell discussion group, I ask if there is a way via DNA to see if one belongs to the right haplogoup that indicates which, if any, Campbell one can trace back to. Sadly, it appears that I do not belong to the Argyll subclade (R-FGC10125), my path branches off right after the Z39589 subclade a couple of thousand years ago. Hey – not a problem. This just means that some ancestor in the way back past either swore an oath of loyalty to the clan chief, was absorbed into the clan (either peacefully or…), or maybe married into the clan and took the name. If I can go back to the mid 1700’s and still find Campbell in my direct line. I’m good with that.
So, if not Argyll, where does my line come from? I do have a DNA marker, S145/M529/L21. This marker, usually just listed as L21, is highly correlated with the geography of ancient Celts. In the words of Bill Murray “I’ve got that going for me.” Just where is the L21 most prevalent? Seems to be in area of Stirling and Falkirk, Scotland. Which is just southwest of Perth! Hey! I may be on to something here. It would appear to my untrained eye that my line stayed in the lowlands area and those with the Argyll marker continued westward across the island. But I’m just guessing here. Could be the other way around for all I know.
All in all, it means my Y-DNA Haplogroup is R1b1a1a2a1a2. At least that’s the last one I can find. I believe that stops at subclade R-P312, and there are 13 further mutations I have listed to get me to the R-BY69143 SNP.
It does appear that I am a Scot, as the top image says. I don’t have to go back 100 generations to find Scots roots. But I can, my DNA points to a Copper or Iron Age Scots ancestry. Wifey too has Scots heritage. Of course, I can’t test her Y-DNA (she doesn’t have any). Her brother has done the Ancestry test, but Ancestry doesn’t give raw data, only their visuals and estimates. Which leaves me unsure of their Y-DNA Haplogroup. Maybe one day I can afford to have him to the Big Y-700 at FTDNA. We’ll probably find out our tribes fought each other all the time!
In a way, this trip to Scotland will be a homecoming.
If you are using any of the DNA resources I’ve mentioned and wish to contact me about those sites, please use the links below to contact me on social media (Twitter works best), or leave a comment. I would be very happy to see if there is anything we can do to help each other!
Resources I used for this:
Books: (All links go to Amazon – I am not an affiliate. I get nothing if you buy from these links.
Genetic Genealogy In Practice
The Scots: A Genetic Journey
Celts: The History and Legacy of One of the Oldest Cultures in Europe
The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry
Saxons, Vikings and Celts: The Genetic Roots of Britian and Ireland
A History of Scotland