Friday, January 1, 2016

The Enigmatic Sinclairs - Original Research Makes It the Top Resource for Sinclair Researchers

As you can see, I've already marked a ton of information in my copy

Gerald Sinclair and Rondo B B Me's new book The Enigmatic Sinclairs is, in a word, extraordinary.  

Before its publication, researchers like me relied on books like:

R.W. Saint-Clair’s The Saint-Clairs of the Isles, being a History of the Sea-Kings of Orkney and their Scottish Successors of the Sirname of Sinclair - published in 1898

Thomas Sinclairs, The Sinclairs of England - published in 1887

Leonard Morrison's Sinclair Family - published in 1896

Each of these books is useful in its own way. Saint-Clairs of the Isles relied much on the work of Father Richard Augustus Hay who was a solid researcher. Sinclairs of England has some good information mixed with speculative, unsupported leaps. Sinclair Family picks up much of the same myth-making which is in the other two about Rollo the viking being our common ancestor and our Norse origins. That said, each is useful and I recommend them all as part of your research library.

Now we have something entirely new - years and years of newly researched facts written into an incredibly readable, thoroughly engrossing resource which I recommend every genealogist own and study - even if you're not a Sinclair, just to learn and then use Gerry and Rondo's methodology.

Sinclair DNA is just numbers without such historical facts

I've said it many times - DNA without solid records research is just a string of numbers. Now we've got a surprising new resource for a ton of historical facts. But the book doesn't stop with the facts. Rondo and Gerry fully researched and understand the historical background within which the Sinclairs had to navigate. Their story is told in the context of the time in which these medieval Sinclairs lived. Rondo and Gerry clarify the connections between the facts and write the history of our family that was in real danger of being assumed, glossed over, and forgotten by the past 5 generations, especially our Dan Brown generation.

Listen to my interviews with Rondo and Gerry

Gerry and Rondo have agreed to do a series of podcast interviews with me to discuss their book, their conclusions, and more. These will remain up for as long as I maintain this website and likely longer.

Podcast 1 -

Forgive the ad in the first 30 seconds. Blog Talk Radio has to make a bit of money.

Podcast 2 - 

An ad starts this show out as well. Please be patient.





Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father’s Day to the Sinclair DNA Study


Every year since 2004, when Stan and I started the Sinclair DNA study, I call my dad up and say, “Thanks for the YDNA, Pops.”

Every year I once again explain what it’s all about and how DNA helps solve genealogy questions. What we involved in here, friends, is a very obsessive hobby. Not many people understand it, even those who gave us our DNA.

As I think back over the last 11 years, we’ve learned a great deal about the fathers of our fathers. We could never have done this without the men and women in our family who have embraced this new methodology so completely.

Now, with Family Tree DNA’s Big Y test, we’re able to get all the data that can be extracted from our DNA and compare it to others to learn the final branches of our family trees.

In my own L193 study, Gary and I have both taken the Big Y. We now know our “Family SNP.” Because we both descend from Alexander Sinkler, and we both took the Big Y test, we now know our terminal (family) SNP is ZS4576. It will be instructive to learn the timing of the MacRae family, just above us who currently show the non-terminal SNP ZS4585.

(Click to enlarge)
Up right above the L193 SNP in the chart is the name Jolley. Apparently that name has Norman origins and shows up in medieval records there and in England (Yorkshire, for instance).

Alternative spellings of the name:

  • Giolif
  • Jolliffe
  • Joliff
  • Jolyman
  • Jolyf
  • Yoly

So, being obsessive, I'm now looking into medieval records for any mentions of benefaction of the Giolif family to medieval abbeys and priories.

I recommend that every lineage in our study get two people to take the Big Y. Then you will know your own family SNP, and it can be compared to the others in the study. For those who are already in the YDNA study, it’s $565. It is literally the last test you will ever have to take.

Click here to access the full chart from above.

Jolliff Family Website


Sunday, December 29, 2013

William the Conqueror DNA?



This past week, I discovered a web post called "Conquering William's DNA." I was immediately skeptical. After all, William the Conqueror (WC) left no well-defined male lineage to trace; and thousands of unrelated people (of completely unrelated SNPs) claim descent from him. When I started reading the blog post, I quickly gave up my skepticism.

The blog is run by Michael Maglio, a professional genealogist, writer, and speaker. He's got 30 years of experience in genealogy.

Michael used 37-alleles to define a Modal Haplotype. A modal haplotype may be determined for any genealogical surname group or pool of test subjects. Said simply, it's a well-defined group based on specific parameters.

After analyzing 3,800 YDNA samples, Michael arrived at a total of 27 names, in the image he created at the right.

One of the coolest techniques Michael used in his study was a scatter plot. You can see the plot on his website and the explanation that makes it so useful. He expected to find well-defined clusters rather than a large mass. The I1 haplogroup showed a large mass with no clustering. This means they all relate to one another at a time well before the Conqueror.

The R1b group of names he chose showed clear clustering.  Michael also used a "control group" just to be sure. Using genetic distance among the smaller cluster, he was able to claim that they relate about the time of WC.

In a comment exchange on the blog, Michael mentioned that the 37-marker modal shows a L21 correlation. He plans to extend this modal out to 67 markers.

The William the Conqueror Modal vs Sinclair DNA


I used Michael's WC Modal compared to an Excel spreadsheet of our full list of Sinclair DNA participants to see which showed up.

First, I simply worked left to right across the alleles. This produced a 31/37 match with our Glasgow Lineage (L21, L193).
We're off on these particular markers from his WC Modal:
Our DYS 456 - 570 = 17,16,19,17
CDYa-b = 36, 37

Then, allowing for a mutation on DYS 390, which we've seen in our Caithness Lineage.
I allowed for DYS390 to equal all options.
I allowed for DYS458 to equal 16 & 17.
DYS 389ii to equal all options.
DYS439 equal all options.
DYS 391 equal all options.
DYS19 equal all options.

Even opening up all of the above alleles to other possibilities, I still end up showing our L21 Lineages matching Michael's William the Conqueror Modal DNA.


My earlier attempts at this used a less scientific method to try to understand the families of WC. They included studying those families who were granted the best / largest land holdings in post-Conquest England. That research led to a list that included:
Beaumont, Gifford, and Warenne (Warren), among others.

I also studied the names on the Auchinleck Manuscript. Unlike the Battle Abbey Roll, it's a slightly more reliable document of those who came with WC.

Back in March 2009, I posted this web page attempting to identify the DNA of the Conqueror by understanding the families with good claims to a direct paternal connection. This required a lot of research. My best candidates were:
Devereaux
Hereford
Norton
Pearsall
Clifford
Ramsey

Richard II's DNA?


It's important to understand that this isn't necessarily the DNA of William the Conqueror, or his grandfather Richard II. Michael points out that Giffard and Beaumont are descendants of Duvelina, Gunnora's sister. Gunnora was Richard I's wife/concubine. So the YDNA we're seeing may be from the close circle of William the Conqueror.

According to Dudo of Saint-Quentin, Gunnora was of noble Danish origin. This fits nicely with the family of Warenne (Warren). I wrote a great deal about the Warenne family on our website at this link.




Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The timing of DNA testing

We've just received the latest important SNP for our St Clair of Herdmanston test subject. He's confirmed P310+, P312-.

This is important because it's definitive. Even though the time frame that this SNP mutation occurred is quite old (about 4,300 years), it's absolutely certain that he shares an ancestor with everyone else who has this SNP.

How long does it take?

Explaining the timeline and order of events in DNA testing for genealogy helps new folks understand what to expect. I'll use our new St. Clair of Herdmanston test subject as an example.

4/3/2013 - Kit reached FTDNA's lab. (see a tour of the lab here)
4/16/2013 - 12 marker STR results completed
4/24/2013 - 25 marker STR results completed
4/25/2013 - 37 marker STR results completed
5/3/2013 - 67 marker STR results completed

Once his 37 or 67 STR markers were completed, I could look at the results and make an educated guess as to which SNP test he should take.

4/28/2013 - Ordered the P310 SNP test
5/16/2013 - P310 results completed
5/18/2013 - Ordered the P312 SNP test
6/17/2013 - P312 results complete

STRs first. SNPs next.

STRs are the gateway into DNA for genealogy. They point the way and help to determine recent relatedness. But too many people are using them to make claims. The reason they're unreliable for such claims is that the markers (otherwise known as alleles) mutate. They can mutate up or down. They can mutate on the same marker multiple times. And some of them mutate quite quickly. On average, they're now believed to mutate about once every 300 - 500 years.

SNPs are single-nucleotide polymorphisms. DNA folks just call them "snips" for short. They are believed to only mutate once, and then never again. This makes them much more useful for understanding ancient relatedness. Experts like Tim Janzen calculate the time to most recent common ancestor (TMRCA) for many of the SNP groups, then project administrators like me look at their calculations and apply them to our studies. These SNP experts look to studies like ours to verify their theories and to point the way to more SNPs.

The Sinclair St Clair DNA study is now focused heavily on SNPs. We encourage our members to test out to at least 67-markers so that we can more accurately predict which of the $39 SNP tests they should take.

Even when your STR markers are saying you match someone in a recent time-frame, it's important to verify it with a SNP test. We've read about one test subject who matched someone on 61 of 67 markers, and naturally assumed they were related. They weren't, and SNPs proved it. In fact, they don't share a common ancestor for several thousand years.

Read the full DNA and historical report on the Herdmanston lineage of the St. Clair family here.





Monday, March 4, 2013

A Reminder for Sinclair DNA Researchers

From time to time, I look up on the wall of my office where I keep the following pinned up -

"Objectivity in science is a value that informs how science is practiced and how scientific truths are created. It is the idea that scientists, in attempting to uncover truths about the natural world, must aspire to eliminate personal biases, a priori commitments, emotional involvement, etc. Objectivity is often attributed to the property of scientific measurement, as the accuracy of a measurement can be tested independent from the individual scientist who first reports it." source 

A DNA study is by its very nature a scientific enquiry. How are you approaching yours? Are you:
  • Looking for proof of a conclusion you've already reached?
  • Emotionally involved in the titles or nobility your ancient ancestors might have held?
  • Starting with the surname you were given and immediately looking back at medieval people who held the same surname?
Or are you:
  • Starting by finding two records for each person in your family history - grandparents, their parents, and so forth?
  • Using reasonable methodology to look across the divide from where you're stuck to where you MIGHT connect?
  • Forming loose hypotheses based on DNA SNPs rather than STRs?
  • Testing those hypotheses using reliable historical resources rather than those created in the 1800s by questionable historians? (note: I'm sure there are some good ones from the 1800s)
  • Precisely quoting your sources so others can independently repeat your research and question your conclusions?
Source - Wikipedia "Objectivity (science)"



Monday, February 18, 2013

Sinclair DNA Shows Kerr Connections

If your Sinclair DNA is showing the L21 SNP, then don't' be surprised if you see the name Kerr in your name matches. One of our Sinclair DNA L21 member shows a match with a Kerr on 33 out of 37 markers tested. Another member matches a Kerr/Carr participant on 103 of 111 markers. That is an extremely close match. 

According to the author Bruce A. McAndrew, a cadet line of the St Clair family of Herdmanston held the barony of Cessford from 1376 to 1416.

The lands of Cessford are in the border region, about 13 miles north of Jedburgh Abbey. Later, in 1450, powerful Cessford Castle was built here by Andrew Ker.

Did the Sinclairs leave their DNA here in Cessford?
Did a Kerr take the name Sinclair from the local St Clair land baron?
We don't have enough evidence to make a decision at this point.

 Through more SNP testing and lots of records research, we hope to get the answers.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The "Holy Grail" of DNA?

A study of People of Medieval Scotland and several other medieval records bring up a cast of characters you might wish were in your SNP name matches. In this case, there is one SNP group that has a very interesting set of names matching them.

On the U106 group, there's a cluster called - Z18> Z14> Z372> L257+

    (I should point out, no Sinclair family members currently in the DNA study share an ancestor with this group for over 2,000 years)


Among the 27 total names listed on the Family Tree DNA public study (as of today), are:
Dunbar
Mandeville (armorial bearings at right)
Cockburn
Ridale (Ridel)
Roche
Matheson
Preston

There's another group dedicated to Z18+ L257+ people. This group uses the four alleles of DYS464x to divide the group even further, and this separates these names. Some of the TMRCA's they're arriving at are as recent as 327 years ago. For my area of interest, that's too recent. (Never thought I'd say that about DNA :)

If I'm reading correctly, the TMRCA for L257+ is 2,298 years ago. (source)
They also have:
Fraser
Cockburn
Dunbar
Mandeville
Riddell
Preston
Roche

This is like a Who's Who of families in medieval England and Scotland. 

The reason I got so interested is, after looking up the Ridel surname in Keats-Rohan's Prosopography, I found that Ridel and Basset were different surnames among brothers. They were directly of the same father. Specifically, (Keats, p. 1107) Gaufrid Ridel was the son of Richard Basset of Great Weldon, Northamptonshire.

Another Ridel / Basset connection - In c. 1120, Matildis Ridel married Richard Basset.(Keats, p. 1108)

The Basset family became very important in Scotland. They're interesting because they witnessed a land exchange of Roslin and Catcune. "Alexander, king of Scots, gives notice that, since Henry of Roslin, tenant of his lands of Roslin (MLO) and Catcune (nr Borthwick, MLO), has resigned and quitclaimed these lands to him by rod and staff, he has given to William Sinclair, knight, said lands of Roslin and Catcune, doing service of half a knight." (Source)

The Fraser family also witnessed that grant from Alexander III.

The Mandeville family got me very interested because Hamo St. Clair (who received the creation of the baronies of Eaton Socon and Walkern) was closely alligned with de Mandeville. (Vincent, p. 243) 

The contributions of the Dunbar and Cockburn families to early Scottish history under Alexander III are well known.

The Roche family is interesting to me based on their history in England.

In a previous blog post, I mentioned G.W.S. Barrow and a paper "Companions of the Atheling." Barrow credits Malcolm Ceannmor as welcoming a group who opposed William the Conqueror. His list:
Lindsay
Vaux
Ramsay
Lovel
Touris
Prestoun
Sandelandis
Bisset
Sulis
Wardlaw
Maxol (Maxwell)
and many others unspecified.

I think we should keep an eye on this L257+ SNP.  With more Saint Clair participation in England, we could someday see a match with this group.

Printed Sources - 

Barrow, G.W.S., "Companions of the Atheling" a paper presented to Anglo-Norman Studies, Proceedings of the Battle Conference 2002, Volume 25," edited by John Gillingham, The Boydell Press, 2003 ISBN 0 85115 941 9

Vincent, Nicholas, "Warin and Henry Fitz Gerald, The King's Chamberlains" The Origins of the Fitzgeralds Revisited. Presented to "Anglo-Norman Studies 21: Proceedings of the Battle Conference 1998," edited by Christopher Harper-Bill, Boydell & Brewer, 1999

Keats-Rohan, K.S.B. Domesday Descendants: A Prosopography of Persons Occurring in English Documents 1066-1166 II: Pipe Rolls to `Cartae Baronum' (Vol 2) (Hardcover), Boydell Press (April 15, 2002) ISBN-10: 0851158633, ISBN-13: 978-0851158631