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Holden DNA Genealogy Project - Interpreting Results

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The type of DNA testing useful to genealogists is the Y-STR (Y-Chromosome Short Tandem Repeat) test.  Scientists have found specific markers on the Y-chromosome where they can count the number of “repeats” of base pair sequences.  The numbers of repeats are called alleles.  The label for the location on the Y-chromosome where the short tandem repeats are counted is called a DYS marker.  DYS stands for D (designated), Y (Y-chromosome), and S (segment).  Family Tree DNA has chosen these particular locations because they mutate at different rates and thus are useful in determining relationships.  DNA tests determine that men with the same surname are related, or not related, because the number of repeats at certain locations, labeled as DYS numbers, in the “junk” DNA area between genes are the same or different.

A person taking a Y-STR DNA test will get back a series of 12, 25, 37, or 59 numbers (alleles) depending on which test they ordered.  These numbers are entered on the results table to compare with others who have taken the test.  If two males are an exact, or a close, match then they are related.  If they are not a match, then they are not related.

The results table for the Holden DNA project contains various numbers.  The column headings show the DYS marker names (such as DYS 393, DYS 390, etc.).  Alleles vary based on results of the DNA test and are represented on the table by numbers such as 14, 22, 14, 10, etc.  Thus the results table shows some Holden men to have 14 repeats on the DYS 393 marker and 22 repeats on the DYS 390 marker, etc. while others have 14 repeats on the 393 marker and 23 repeats on the 390 marker, etc.  DNA test results are organized in the results table according to kinship groups of related individuals.

DNA tests can be used to estimate the number of generations back to the most recent common ancestor:

Probability for Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) (from

Number of matching markers
50% probability
that the MRCA was no longer than this number of generations
90% probability
that the MRCA was no longer than this number of generations 
95% probability
that the MRCA was no longer than this number of generations
10 of 10 16.5 56 72
12 of 12 7 23 29
25 of 25 3 10 13
37 of 37 2 to 3 5
59 of 59
1 to 2

An exact match on 59 out of 59 markers means that there is a 90% probability that the great-great grandfather (or someone more recent) was the common ancestor between the two people who match, and a 95% probability that the most recent common ancestor was the great-great-great grandfather (or someone more recent).

For example, if two people match on all 25 markers, there is a 50% probability that their most recent common ancestor (MRCA) was no longer than 3 generations ago and a 90% probability that their MRCA was within the last 10 generations.  The estimated number of generations to the MRCA can be narrowed down by upgrading the test to more markers.

Matching test results can be used to confirm previous genealogy research.  In other instances, the relationship between matching participants is not known and might point the way for further research.  Likewise, people who were thought to be related (but whose DNA test results put them in different kinship groups), now know that they are not related and can focus their future genealogy research on other lines.  Genealogy information about each kinship group is shown below to help people tie together their lines and look for additional areas to research:


HOLDEN Results - Kinship Group A

 ID# Ancestors and locations where ancestors lived
A 001 John HOLDEN > Charles Gardner > Spencer > Jonathan 1823 - 1863 > John Wesley > 001’s father > 001
USA – Loudoun and Fairfax Counties VA, NC, Rutherford County TN, AL, Bedford County TN ...
A 002 John HOLDEN > Charles Gardner > Charles >  Charles 1810 > John David > Charles Wade > 002’s father > 002
USA – Loudoun and Fairfax Counties VA, NC, Rutherford County TN, Maury County TN, Giles County TN, Lamar County TX, Erath County TX, Comanche County TX ...
A 003 John HOLDEN > Charles Gardner > Charles >  Charles 1810 > John David > John Walter > 003’s father > 003
USA – Loudoun and Fairfax Counties VA, NC, Rutherford County TN, Maury County TN, Giles County TN, Lamar County TX, Erath County TX, Comanche County TX ...
A 004 John HOLDEN > Charles Gardner > Dennis 1799 – 1845 > Francis Columbus > Dennis Oscar > 004’s father > 004
USA – Loudoun and Fairfax Counties VA, NC, Rutherford County TN, Hood County TX ...
A 007 Charles Gardner HOLDEN > Dennis 1799 – 1845 > Francis Columbus > Albert Herschell > 007’s father > 007
USA – Fairfax County VA, Rutherford County TN, Hood County TX, Tarrant County TX, Somervell County TX ...
A 009 John HOLDEN > Charles Gardner > Joseph about 1792/1795 – 1850 > James Dennis > Elburn Calvin > John William > 009’s father > 009
USA – Loudoun and Fairfax Counties VA, NC, Rutherford County TN, Lauderdale County AL, Panola County MS ...
Joseph HOLDEN > John Mastin > George Washington 1815-1866 > George Washington Jr. > Henry Britton > Carl Ray > 016's father  > 016
USA - East Baton Rouge Parish LA > Hamilton County TN ... 

Charles Gardner Holden (born circa 1751/1752) lived in Loudoun and Fairfax Counties, VA, NC, perhaps went back and forth from TN to AL, and settled in Rutherford County, TN.  He married Sallie Smotherman and their children (not in order) were George W. (moved to KY), Charles, Spencer, Dennis, Joseph (moved to AL), Jourdan, and Sarah (Sally).  Matching test results from descendants of four of his sons (Charles, Dennis, Joseph, and Spencer) confirm the DNA pattern for Charles Gardner Holden.  Additional people who know that they are descended from Charles Gardner Holden do not need to be tested and can assume that their results would be the same as those already done.  The only reason for testing further people in this line would be for those who are unsure of their genealogy data and want to prove if there is a relationship or not.  However, others whose Holden ancestors came from Middle Tennessee or North Alabama may want to be tested to see if they match this kinship group or are from an unrelated family.

Recent research shows that the father of Charles Gardner Holden was John Holden who lived in Loudoun County, VA in the 1760’s and may have been in Fauquier County, VA in the 1770’s and Prince William County, VA in the 1780’s.  He had a son named Joseph and possibly another named John.  One family story indicates that earlier generations may have been from Maryland.  It would be interesting to test other Holden families from Northern Virginia or Maryland to see if there is any relationship.

Prior to DNA testing, participants #002 and 003 did not know they were related to others in this kinship group. The test showed an exact match, therefore a relationship. Additional genealogy research enabled them to prove the link to Charles Gardner Holden's son - Charles and thus they were able to add four generations to their Holden family tree.

Results for participant 016 were surprising in that there had been no known connection between the Louisiana Holdens and the Tennessee Holdens. Upgrading to 37 markers shows us that they are a match on 34 out of 37 markers. There is a relationship, but not as close a relationship as between the others who are an exact match. This Holden family is found in the Feliciana Parish of Louisiana as early as 1810 before it was a state.  It is not known when they arrived, but John Mastin Holden's marriage license from Baton Rouge in 1809 states that he was born in North Carolina, which at that time also included what is now Tennessee.  This provides additional evidence that this family is somehow related to the Virginia/North Carolina/Tennessee Holdens who are the central core of this kinship group. They might be related to Jackson Holden who fought in the Mexican War and lived close to GWH in 1850. George Washington Holden, Sr. also had two brothers, Hiram and John Mastin who moved west to Texas ca. 1850, and this John Mastin is found in Montgomery County, Texas as late as 1880. We are looking for additional tests of Holdens from LA and TX to see if they are a match.

An interesting fact about the participants in Kinship Group A is that their DNA results are very rare. They match to each other but did not match, or even closely match, anyone else in the worldwide database of over 7,500 samples used to predict a person’s haplogroup. For that reason, an extra SNP test was done for participant number 001. The results show marker P19+, but were not able to determine a subgroup of haplogroup I. He, and all the other people in Kinship Group A since they have matching tests, are P19+ and part of haplogroup I.

Participant 016 in kinship group A is a genetic distance of 11 away from participant 022 in kinship group B1 when looking at 37 markers (participants 001 and 022 are even less closely related – a genetic distance of 13). But when looking the 12 marker test, they are further apart – a genetic distance of 5. It is significant that the markers that are different between 016 and 022 are those which mutate more slowly, whereas the markers that are different between 022 and others in kinship groups B1 and B2 are those that mutate more quickly. Thus the participants in kinship group A, though very, very, very distantly related to those in kinship group B, are so distantly related that they are shown as a separate group from kinship group B. Knowing that participants 016 and 022 do not share a common ancestor within the last eight generations, the probability that they share a common ancestor within the last 12 generations is 0.3%, 18 generations is 4.82%, 24 generations is 20.55%, and 30 generations is 45.12%. Figuring an average of 25 years per generation, 016 and 022 may have shared a common ancestor 800 or more years ago, and the others in kinship group A are even more distantly related than this. Kinship groups A and B are so distantly related that they are shown as different groups.

HOLDEN Results - Kinship Group B

All of the people in Kinship Group B are related to each other, but this group is divided into two subgroups because those in subgroup B1 are only distantly related to those in subgroup B2.

HOLDEN Results - Kinship Subgroup B1  

ID# Ancestors and locations where ancestors lived
B1 022 William HOLDEN 1502 – 1556 > William > William > William > Justinian born 1611 England, emigrated to Watertown MA in 1634
ENGLAND – Lindsay, Suffolk
Justinian HOLDEN 1611 – 1691 > John > Daniel > Samuel > Reuben > Amos Pritchard > Albert Moses > Henry Hoyt > 022’s father > 022
USA – Cambridge MA, Watertown MA, Concord MA, New Ipswich NH, Cincinnati OH …
 (Information about ancestors - pending receipt)

All of the people in Kinship Group B are related to each other, but this group is divided into two subgroups because those in subgroup B1 are only distantly related to those in subgroup B2.

Participant 022 is a descendant of Justinian Holden who, along with his brother Richard, arrived in Boston in 1634 on the ship “Francis” sailing from Ipswich, Suffolk England. Many people have genealogies showing that they are descended from this family, and others wonder if they are related. We would like to get a DNA test from a descendant of Richard. Matching results from these two distant cousins would confirm the DNA pattern for this family. Other people who wonder if they are related could take a DNA test to see if they match or not.

Participant 022 and 015 are one genetic distance apart on the 12 marker test, but a genetic distance of 10 when looking at 37 markers. Thus they are much more distantly related than other people in the Holden DNA project who are closer matches. Because the differences between 022 and 015 are on markers that mutate at faster rates than others, they are considered to be related and thus are both part of subgroup B1. But they are very distantly related. The probability that participants 022 and 015 share a common ancestor within the last 6 generations is 0.47%, 12 generations is 12.42%, 18 generations is 44.04%, and 24 generations is 74.22%. Figuring an average of 25 years per generation, it is likely that their common ancestor was 500 years or more ago.

HOLDEN Results - Kinship Subgroup B2

ID# Ancestors and locations where ancestors lived
B2 005 Richard HOLDEN 1777 – 1842 > Isaac > Isaac Callaway > James Alexander > 005’s father > 005
USA – Chatham County NC, Pendleton District SC, North GA, Lawrence and Jackson Counties AR, Pike County AR, Limestone County TX ...
B2 006 Richard HOLDEN 1797/1798 – 1860/1868 > Richard Andrew Jackson > 006’s father > 006
USA – SC, GA, TX, OK ...
Thomas HOLDEN c1694-c1771 > Isaac > Isaac > Thomas W. > Lucien Jerome > Preston Leonidas > 017's father > 017
USA - Orange County NC ...
B2 021 Richard HOLDEN 1777 – 1842 > Joseph > Francis Marion > James BuckHanna > Grover Cleveland > 021’s father > 021 
USA – Chatham County NC, Pendleton District SC, North GA, Fulton County GA, White County AR ...

All of the people in Kinship Group B are related to each other, but this group is divided into two subgroups because those in subgroup B1 are only distantly related to those in subgroup B2.

The participants in subgroup B2 whose ancestors came from North Carolina and South Carolina have somewhat similar DNA test results to participant 022 whose ancestors came from Suffolk England. The results show a relationship, but such a distant relationship that they are divided into subgroups B1 and B2. Participants 005 and 021 are three genetic distances apart from participant 022 on the 12 marker test, and they are 12 genetic distance apart when looking at results of the 37 marker test. When looking at 37 markers and when adding into the formula the fact that we know these participants do not share a common ancestor within the last six generations, the probability that participants 005 and 021 share a common ancestor with participant 022 within the past 12 generations is 2.7%, 18 generations is 19.09%, 24 generations is 47.8%, and 30 generations is 73.59%. Because their common ancestor was so long ago, they are divided into a separate subgroup from those in subgroup B1.

It is often difficult, especially in the Southern states, to find enough records in America during colonial times to be able to trace a family in the United States back to an immigrant ancestor and to the place that they came from before that. These families in subgroup B2 may never know who their immigrant ancestor was. The DNA test results, which are somewhat of a close match, show that if they skip past several generations then their ancestors likely came from Suffolk England, or if not that then the place where the ancestors of participant 022 came from before moving to Suffolk. But this is somewhat preliminary information until we get more test results of people from England or who can trace ancestors to England because another possibility is that Holdens with a similar DNA pattern had spread out to settle in other areas of England before this group of Holden ancestors settled in Suffolk.

Holdens within subgroup B2 are much more closely related to others in the same subgroup than they are to those in subgroup B1. Participants 005 and 021 within subgroup B2 are an exact match on all 37 markers. The probability that they share a common ancestor within the past 5 generations is 89.48%, 6 generations is 93.29%, 9 generations is 98.26%, 12 generations is 99.55%, 22 generations is 100%. An exact or a very close match on the DNA test (and thus being shown in the results table within the same group or subgroup) indicates that the two people are more closely related.

The four participants of Kinship Group B represent the Holdens that we know to have been in Orange and Chatham Counties, NC prior to dispersing elsewhere.  Chatham County was formed from Orange County in 1770.  Their whereabouts prior to those two counties in North Carolina are unknown at this point.

The first known Holden of record in Orange County was Thomas Holden who was there at least by 1755 when he was listed as a taxpayer.  It is believed that Thomas died about 1771.  It is believed that participant 017 descends from him.  Participant 017’s known ancestor was Isaac Holden of Orange County who was born about 1762.  He probably was a Revolutionary War veteran.  The evidence suggests that Isaac was a grandson of Thomas.

A Richard Holden Sr. was in Chatham County as early as 1764.  He carries the “Sr.” designation because probate records indicate a son named Richard Jr.  Richard Sr. died about 1774.

A James Holden was in Chatham County as early as 1764 also.  It is believed that he died in Chatham County between 1782 and 1790.

Court records indicate that Thomas, Richard, and James served together on several road work crews.  The earliest record was August 1764 when they were working near the Haw River.  It remains to be seen if these three were brothers, but their appearance in the timeline makes it feasible.  Since Thomas and Richard had sons named Thomas and Richard, it is quite possible that the work crews were made up with the younger generation.

Most of the Holdens of Chatham County made their way to old Pendleton District, SC.  A Richard Holden was enumerated there in 1790.  He was born between 1740 and 1750 and lived in Pendleton for many years.  The evidence suggests that he was the Richard Holden Jr. mentioned above.  Another man who moved from Chatham County to Pendleton was Joshua Holden Sr. who was born between 1760 and 1765.  He also lived in Pendleton for many years.

Participants 005 and 021 (who are 4th cousins, one time removed) are descendants of Richard Holden who was born 1777.  He was in Pendleton District by 1800.  He moved to Georgia around 1820 and died here about 1842.  His father
has not been determined, but many believe that it was Richard Holden Jr. mentioned above.  These two lived near each other for a number of years in Pendleton District.

The ancestor of participant 006 was Richard A. Holden who was born about 1797/1798 and came out of Pendleton District.  He wound up in Wise Co., TX.  The father of this Richard has not been established, but Joshua appears to be a good bet.

It is believed that the Holden families of Wake and Franklin Counties, NC very likely were related to these Holdens whose ancestors were from Orange and Chatham Counties. Additional DNA tests for Holdens whose ancestors were from Wake and Franklin Counties would prove this theory.

HOLDEN Results - Kinship Group C

ID# Ancestors and locations where ancestors lived
C 008 Uriah HOLDEN about 1795 – 1866 > John William > Uriah R. > Artemas Lewis > 008’s father > 008
USA – Old Pendleton District SC, Gilmer and Fannin Counties GA ...

Previous researchers had thought that Uriah Holden was the son of Richard Holden (the ancestor of participant #005).  DNA tests for 008 and 005 do not match.  This is an example where DNA testing is valuable in proving that there is no relationship between people who lived in the same location and who had the same surname.

Since at the time of this writing, there are no matches for Uriah Holden of SC and GA, we need to list siblings and children in hopes that some other descendant will read of their connection and be encouraged to have DNA testing.  We are hoping to find matching test results from someone who is a descendant of Uriah’s brother Ozias to confirm the DNA pattern for this line.  Some researchers have thought that Uriah also had a much older brother John b. about 1788/89 but there is no documentation. Uriah had a brother Ozias, supposedly a twin.  They were born between 1795/98, place unknown.  The twins came from Old Pendleton District SC to GA in the very early 1800's, finally settling in Gilmer Co.  URIAH's children were:  Uriah (Jr.) b. 1818, Ozias b. 1820, John William b. 1822, Jesse Jefferson b. 1823, Rhoda Julie Ann b. 1825, Catherine b. 1837, Nancy b. 1830, Andrew J. (sometimes V.) b. 1832, Asbury P. b. 1836, Richard Nelson b. 1839, and Cecelia Wright (Wight) b. 1842.  OZIAS children were:  Lavada Malinda b. 1829, John Stephens b. 1831, Jane Emeline b. 1833, Sarah Ann b. 1835, James Leonard b. 1837, William Anderson b. 1839, Uriah Lewis b. 1841 (died young no descendants), Mary Drucilla b. 1846, Robert Alexander b. 1849.  If anyone can add information prior to 1795 or has corrections or additions to the siblings or children, please contact the coordinator of the Holden DNA project.

It is possible that the Holdens who lived in Gilmer County, GA were related to the ones who settled in and around Taliaferro County, GA, see  Anyone who can trace a Holden ancestor to Taliaferro County, GA is encouraged to be tested.

HOLDEN Results - Kinship Group D

ID# Ancestors and locations where ancestors lived
D 010 Dennis HOLDREN/HOLDEN born about 1777 > John Dennis HOLDEN > Wesley Charles > John Dennis > 010’s father > 010
USA – ?PA, Hunterdon County NJ, Dearborn County IN ...
Dennis HOLDREN born 1776 NJ, died 1844 IN, married Mariah Andress 1800 > Moore HOLDEN > Dennis > James C. > Edgar W. > 013's father > 013
USA - ?PA, Hunterdon County NJ, IN, OH, KY, KS ... 
018  (Information about ancestors - pending receipt)
D 020  (Information about ancestors - pending receipt)

It is possible that Dennis Holdren’s father was Benjamin Holdron or Holdren b. about 1750, d. 1842.  Benjamin’s father is thought to be Matthais Holdren, b. about 1731 and resided in New Brunswick, Middlesex, NJ.  Matthais father may have been Henry Holdron.  Participants 010 and 013 are descended from two different sons of Dennis Holdren and the DNA match confirms their relationship.  They do not match and thus are not related to participant 011, descended from another Holdren in NJ.  There are Holdens in the same area who are not thought to be connected, but this could be verified by additional DNA tests by Holdens, Holdrens, and Holdrons with connections to the NJ, PA, NY tri-state area.

HOLDEN Results - Kinship Group E

ID# Ancestors and locations where ancestors lived
E 011 USA Henry HOLDREN born 1754 NJ > John HOLDREN 1806 NJ > Lester HAULDREN 1836 PA > John HAULDREN 1862 MI > 011's father > 011

Henry Holdren (1755 - 1855), 3rd great grandfather of #011, was born in Sussex County, NJ, died in Honesdale, Wayne County, PA.  He fought in the American Revolutionary War, married Elizabeth Harris and had nine children, including four boys.

Henry may have been a great grandson of William Holdren, who drowned in New Haarlem, NY on 7 December 1687.

The surname spelling changed from HOLDREN to HAULDREN.  It does not match (this person is not related) to any of the other tests so far.  A future match will help to show whether Holdren is a different surname or a variant of the Holden surname.  Other Holdrens are encouraged to be tested, especially a descendant of William Holdren or a descendant of one of Henry Holdren's other sons.

HOLDEN Results - Kinship Group F

ID# Ancestors and locations where ancestors lived
F 012 Eli H. HOLDEN 1831-1862 > William Charles > William Alfred > 012's father > 012
USA - TN, Muhlenberg, Marshall and McLean Counties KY, MO, WY, Potter County, TX ...

Family lore says this line of Holdens is of "Scots-Irish" descent. The oldest known ancestor is Eli H. Holden who married Sarah L. Pace in 1850 in Bedford County, TN.  It is unclear if Eli Holden was from Tennessee.  Eli and Sarah moved to Muhlenberg County, KY prior to the 1860 census. After fathering William Charles Holden, Eli joined the Union army in 1861 then died in 1862 while serving in the 3rd KY Cavalry. Surprisingly, participant #012 does not match #001 whose Holden ancestors were from Bedford County, TN during the same time period. The search continues for Eli's parents and the location they lived before middle Tennessee. Future matches may provide clues.

HOLDEN Results - Kinship Group G

ID# Ancestors and locations where ancestors lived
G 014 William HOLDEN born 1688 > Samuel > John > James > James > William > William born 1879 > 014's father England to Canada > 014 

Participant 014 has ancestors from Suffolk England. The brothers Richard and Justinian who came to Massachusetts in 1634 also trace back to Suffolk. The DNA test for 014 does not match to 022 (in kinship group B1) and thus they are not related. They descend from two different Holden families from Suffolk.

HOLDEN Results - Kinship Group H

ID# Ancestors and locations where ancestors lived
H 019  (Information about ancestors - pending receipt)

(Information - pending receipt)


Revised April 13, 2006