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  Houghton DNA Database

       We continue to need male Houghton/Haughton surname descendants willing to participate in the ongoing development of the Houghton DNA database which will help to genetically identify the multiple American Houghton/Haughton lines, particularly those of the descendants of Ralph and John Houghton of Lancaster MA, John Houghton of New Jersey, Alfred Haughton, etc. We currently have 8 volunteers who have donated their DNA sample for the following lines: Ralph Houghton (1), John Houghton (2), John Houghton of NJ (1), Jotham Houghton of NY (2), Jonathan of VT (1), and Reuben Houghton of IA (1) lines. There is now preliminary evidence that the 3 major Houghton lines (John and Ralph Houghton of Lancaster MA, and John Houghton of  NJ) are genetically unrelated. Two unrelated lines, of Reuben Houghton and Jotham Houghton, appear to be genetically related to John Houghton of Lancaster MA.

Genealogical research has begun relying on the biological fact that the Y chromosome (the male sex chromosome) is passed virtually unchanged from father to son down through 500 generations. It is possible to do a simple DNA analysis on two men and learn whether the two are related on the paternal side or not. By testing direct male-line descendants of the early Houghton/Haughton immigrants, we can learn whether the immigrants were in fact related. It is necessary to test several descendants for each immigrant in order to get accurate results. If it turns out that the Houghton/Haughton immigrants were from different families, then it would be possible to do two very interesting things: (1) any living male Houghton/Haughton could take the DNA test and find out which Houghton/Haughton family line is his, and (2) testing Houghtons/Haughtons in England could provide direct proof of which Houghton/Haughtons immigrants are related to which Houghtons in the country of origin.

The DNA test measures the lengths of 12 (or 25 or 37) specific sequences (often called loci or markers) on the Y chromosome. These sequences don't have any genetic function, and so the test will not reveal any physical characteristics, genetic diseases, or innate tendencies. It will only reveal whether the test subjects are related to each other. Since this test applies to the Y chromosome, the test subjects have to be male and, in particular, have to have the Houghton surname (with a few exceptions due to adoptions, name changes, and such). So the first request for volunteers is for male Houghtons or Haughtons who are direct male-line descendants of a Houghton or Haughton ancestor. If you are interested in helping the study, but are not a potential male testee yourself, there are still things you can do. The various possibilities are listed below, and you just have to move down the list until you find one that fits your situation. 
  1. If you are female, you are not elgible for Y Chromosome testing;
  2. If you are male, but not a Houghton or Haughton, you are not elgible for testing, and you can skip #4 and #5;
  3. If you are male and married to a Houghton or Haughton, then just take your wife's perspective for the rest of the list;
  4. If you are female and have a Houghton or Haughton father - try to persuade him to participate for your sake;
  5. If you are female and have a Houghton or Haughton brother - also can be persuaded...
  6. If you have a Houghton or Haughton uncle or male 1st cousin - you just have to ask nicely and/or appeal to their interest (if any) in family history...
  7. If you have a male Houghton or Haughton 2nd cousin or 1st cousin once removed...
  8. and so on...(always searching for a direct male Houghton or Haughton ancestor)

The goal of all of this is to inititally come up with (collectively) at least two male-line descendants of each identifiable Houghton or Haughton  "founder," (i.e. Ralph or John Houghton of Lancaster, MA, John Houghton of New Jersey, Alfred Haughton) preferably through at least two different sons of the founder. Assuming that the DNA test results agree for the documented descendants of the progenitor, we can "reconstruct" the haplotype (DNA pattern) for that progenitor and then compare against the haplotypes of other progenitors to see if they were related. (For an introduction to the field of DNA-assisted genealogy, visit Chris Pomery's DNA web page.) Consider, for example, the two Houghtons (John and Ralph) who came to Massachusetts in the 1600's and settled in Lancaster, MA. Many people have assumed that  these two were cousins (or are related to the Hoghton Tower Hoghtons), but noone had any  genealogically valid proof of this relationship. The current DNA project has given preliminary evidence that these two Houghtons were in fact not related. Genetic testing has moved the whole question from the realm of speculation to the realm of fact.

I have arranged with FamilyTree DNA (FTDNA) to get a reduced, group rate of $99 (plus shipping) per 12-locus DNA test to members of our Houghton project (or $169 (plus shipping) per 25-locus test (more accurate); or $229 (plus shipping) per 37-locus test (most accurate)). The volunteer would need to pay the above amount to FTDNA. The test kit is very simple and comes in the mail with complete instructions: basically, it contains two little swabs to be rubbed on the inside of the mouth to collect some loose cells. The swabs are then popped into a container and mailed back to the lab, which processes the DNA information. The kit comes with an optional release form that requests FTDNA to give your email address to any present or future Houghton or Haughton testee who matches you exactly on the DNA test (as well as donating the results to the Houghton Surname DNA Project). If you decide not to sign the release form, your privacy will be absolutely protected, and FTDNA will not notify you or anyone else about matches with your DNA. 

If you are ready to purchase and donate your DNA analysis to the Houghton DNA Project:

1) Make sure you have contributed your ancestry data to the Houghton Project (send to Charles J. Vella by email below)

2) Click on:  Join Houghton DNA Project

For questions or more information, contact me: Charles J. Vella, Ph.D.

[Thanks to John F. Chandler for much of the above description]

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