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DNA Genealogy

We'll focus mostly on Y-DNA, as this site is about the Taylor surname, passed down by males.

Genetic Genealogy

Genetic genealogy is the name for the field of study using DNA patterns to identify specific ancestors within a genealogical time frame -- the last 800 to 1,000 years. A related, but separate, field is "genetic anthropology" which uses DNA to trace the developments & migrations of the human race during pre-historic times.

Basic principle

The basic principle of each field is that both Y-DNA (from fathers) & mtDNA (from mothers) are passed down to offspring almost without change through many generations. Genetic genealogy consists of looking for sufficient similarities in DNA patterns to say that two patterns are essentially the same.


How it Works

When two or more DNA test results are compared and found to be identical (or nearly so) we conclude that the individuals from which the samples come share a common ancestor. The comparison is made based on the number of loci tested in common. (One can't compare data versus no data.)

Step-by-step:

  1. Order a test from a reputable company with good after-test service and a Taylor surname project. Decide how many markers you want tested.
  2. Receive the test (sample) kit in the mail. It will consist of a pair of cheek swabs, instructions, and a container to mail the samples back.
  3. Swab the inside of your cheek as instructed, put the swabs in the container & mail it back to the laboratory.
  4. Receive your individual results in the mail or by e-mail.
  5. Compare your results with others to find matches and determine the genetic distance. Here is where the payoff comes and where a project support group can be very helpful.
  6. If you find matches, focus your documentary research on identifying the most recent common male ancestor.

How much testing do I need?

DNA testing costs money; there's no denying it. And, it's a waste to spend more on it than you need to. The typical 12-marker panel (the minimum offered) costs about $150; a 37-marker panel about $350. The 12-marker panel is less than half the cost of the 37 markers.

However, more of a waste is to spend some money and not get the benefits. And, there are ways to save money and still get a good result. So, we'll make some recommendations for Taylors considering Y-DNA testing:

We'll start with these facts:

  1. Taylor is a common surname and was even more common in the past  than it is presently, after immigration introduced more surnames. Name alone isn't a factor to discriminate one family line from another.
     
  2. Most Taylors are of English, Scots or Irish descent & fall into the R1b haplogroup, for whom the first 12 markers tested may match many people with no common ancestry for thousands of years. {If you already know that you're not R1b, you could probably get away with the smaller test.}
     
  3. More markers provide a greater base for confidence in a CMA and may allow more precise determination of the probable TMRCMA. (See Rule 2 below.)
     
  4. Upgrading a Y-DNA test to additional markers is more expensive than ordering sufficient markers initially. {We do recommend upgrading, however, if you have a 12-marker test resulting in many "false positive" matches. }

Recommendations

  1. We recommend an "industrial-strength"  initial Y-DNA test for Taylors, no fewer than 25 markers and 37 markers is better. A 24 of 25 (or 35 of 37) marker match is considered indicative of of a CMA where an 11 of 12 match is not.
     
  2. We recommend joining a Taylor Surname Project at the testing company of your choice. This will get you a better price on the testing and may yield better after-test service, depending on the activity of the project's volunteers. For example, the current FTDNA price for a 37-marker Y-DNA test as part of the Taylor Surname  project is $259, a saving of $90 over the non-project price.
     
  3. We recommend following up your test results by posting them to a free database such as www.ysearch.org &/or www.ybase.org. This will give you the ability to find matches among those tested by other companies and potentially maximizes the payoff from your investment.

Who to have do the test?

There are several companies in this field and sometimes the choices are bewildering. While we have our own preferences, we recommend that you evaluate the options and make up your own mind. Charles Kerschner's website gives a list and links under the heading "Testing Companies and Organizations"; scroll down his page to find it.

Also see a sub-page, http://www.kerchner.com/kerchdna.htm, or http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~bonsteinandgilpin/dna/ydnaco.htm.  These pages give information to help select & contact a testing company.

We have been happy about our experience with Family Tree DNA. It has excellent technical standards, good service and a fine group of Taylor Surname Project volunteers (including me) for post-test support.


Interpreting results:

Making sense out of the report you get back from the laboratory and turning it into usable information is the most difficult, and often frustrating, part of the process. Your results mean nothing except in comparison to others. A greatly over-simplified view of interpretation is this:

We'll continue this discussion below, after you've had a chance to get some basic concepts.


Definitions

Some terms are essential to understanding genetic genealogy:


More on Interpretation

So, you have your Y-DNA results for at least 25 markers in hand or on the website and you want to know if any others in this computer database share a CMA with you.

What do we mean by identical, minor differences & major differences?

Probabilities:

DNA questions such as "Do I and another person share a common ancestor?" and "When might that ancestor have lived?" are subject to answer by the application of probability theory. For an article on this subject see "Probabilities in DNA". 


The Abraham Line

One line of Taylors is descended from sons of an Abraham Taylor of Baltimore County, Maryland; the sons arrived in Craven County in 1729 and enough of their descendants have been tested to establish Abraham's haplotype. Approximately 10 men throughout North America  have been found to share the haplotype and most documented as his heirs. (One or two seem to have descended from another branch that remained in England longer.) Click here to view this haplotype.


Genetic Anthropology

Genetic anthropology also uses Y-DNA & mtDNA, with somewhat different techniques & purposes. It seeks to trace the broad outlines of human development & migration in prehistoric times. Essentially, it identifies haplogroups and their prevalence in various parts of the world to determine how the haplogroups relate to each other and how ancient groups of people migrated. It is sometimes referred to as "deep ancestry".

Genetic anthropology, for example, provides the scientific basis for the book, "The Seven Daughters of Eve".

This is an important field of study, contributing much to our understanding of the human race. It is, however, not genealogy; it is anthropology. Someday, the fields of genetic genealogy and genetic anthropology may connect; that day is not now nor in the near future.


"Tribal" Ancestry

Yet a third use of DNA analysis is to attempt to identify the genetic origins of ALL of our ancestors, by proportion. This field uses autosomal DNA and matches patterns found against databases of prevalence of those patterns. It might be thought of as a middle ground between genetic genealogy (specific ancestors) and genetic anthropology (deep ancestry).

Reports generated with this technique typically contain places of origin and percentages of ancestry. For African-Americans, it may identify African tribes of association.

This approach is sometimes sought by those who have little hope of finding specific ancestors by the usual genealogical techniques.

This author is skeptical, for these reasons:

  1. It is not genealogy. We define genealogy as study to identify specific individuals as our ancestors and facts about them. This approach can not satisfy the definition.
     
  2. Inheritance of autosomal DNA is insufficiently understood. Overall, the science has not advanced significantly since Mendel's studies of white & red flowers. On average, over a sufficiently large group, inheritance seems to be half from mothers & half from fathers; but averages are inapplicable to individuals. We do not know the rules which govern what percentage we get from our maternal grandfather versus our paternal grandmother. If we do not know this, we can not reason backward to prior generations.
     
  3. Adequacy of the databases from which conclusions are drawn is suspect. Only a very small fraction of the world's population has undergone any sort of DNA testing and even fewer have had autosomal DNA tested.
     
  4. Proprietary technology is undisclosed. We do not know how the reports are arrived at and independent scientists can not evaluate the methodology or methodologies.

Some results reported on mailing lists seem (to say the least) bizarre. One might not be able to absolutely rule out that one's English third-great-grandmother had an affair with a Chinese sailor (e.g., "3% Asian") during the Victorian era, but the chance seems remote in the usual instances.

In short, a Ouija board is a cheaper alternative, and possibly as accurate.


Other Sites & Resources

Here are websites which the author has found to be helpful and authoritative:


Contact Author

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