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The Hurst Surname DNA Project at FamilyTreeDNA was begun in 2001. Apparently as a pure coincidence the first four Hursts to test turned out to have perfect 37-marker matches. None of those four have ever met. Two of the four have a clear paper genealogy trail to Absalom Hurst born in 1750 in Stafford County, Virginia. The other two are also members of the family usually called the “Hursts of Shenandoah.” There are now 15 project members from this family who have matching Y-DNA – half of the matches are perfect.


There were two Hurst families in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia during the 1700s. One which included Absalom Hurst, his brother John “Mill Creek” Hurst, and their father Thomas, originally from Stafford County, lived in the southern part of Shenandoah County which is now Page County. The other family headed by William “Brindle Bill” Hurst, which included his two sons William and Capt. John, lived in the northern part which is now Warren County. For decades the theory was that these families were related, but as of the beginning of the DNA testing a respected genealogist had concluded that they were not related. The Y-DNA results proved they were definitely related, again demonstrated by perfect 37-marker matches.


A century-old theory was that the “Hursts of Shenandoah” were descended from an English Henry Hurst of a particular line from Leckhampstead Parish, Buckinghamshire, England. Although English genealogists had presented evidence against this, it was (and, unfortunately, still is) believed by many American Hurst genealogists. But Y-DNA test results for three Hursts from this line proved to be completely different from our line. It’s difficult to get people to give up a “paper trail” going back to the year 1500.


Of course, not all American Hursts have the same Y-DNA. We have now identified seven easily distinguishable lines, most represented by one test with a unique “haplotype” or DNA signature. One of these “singletons” is a claimed descendant of Tobias Hurst, the first Hurst to come to American in 1618.


Another man from Northern Virginia started as a singleton. Quite independently tests were run on known descendants of two men from Southwest Virginia. One of the ancestors was William Hurst Jr., son of William Hurst Sr. They were the founders of a line known as the “Carroll County Hursts.” The other ancestor, Joseph Hurst, lived in nearby Wythe County, so he had not been accepted as another son of William Sr., even though there was one deed connecting all three. Not only did the two descendants have a perfect match, but they were very close to the Hurst from Northern Virginia. That was not surprising because William Sr. had married in Northern Virginia. Another possible son of William Sr. was a Samuel Hurst who also lived across the line in Wythe County. The test results for his descendant came out in between the Carroll and Northern Virginia Hursts, so it’s unclear how Samuel was related to the others. There are now a total of eight men who have results in this group; the others have not established a connection with Virginia. Two have a perfect match, but have not found a connection – yet. For background, see Carroll County Hursts.


While most of our members have the surname Hurst, we also have members named Hirst, Hust, and Husk.


Eight men and women have tested their mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which tracks the direct maternal line, with the Hurst project. Some of the women had previously sponsored Y-DNA tests for male relatives. Others, with female Hurst ancestors, were part of a project originally designed to determine whether two women named Kelly, probably born in Wythe County, Virginia, 200 years ago, were sisters. Matching mtDNA test results, along with paper genealogy, showed that they were. The mother of those two was named Elizabeth Cummins. Since the wife of William Hurst Sr. above was named Rachel Cummins and there were other connections with the Cummins-Kelly family in Wythe County, a direct maternal descendant of Rachel Cummins Hurst was found and tested. Her mtDNA was one marker off from the Kelly descendants, showing a relationship, but not exactly what it was. For details, see Kelly Sisters Project Results.


Results for Y-DNA and mtDNA are posted on the Hurst Surname DNA Project Website. Note that the “Hursts of Shenandoah” are Group A, with codes beginning with A01. The English Hursts are Group B. The Carroll County/Northern Virginia Hursts are Group E. The other groups usually have only one member - so far.