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:

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:
Mandeville (armorial bearings at right)
Ridale (Ridel)

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:

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:
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

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Note to a young St. Clair Researcher

 Today, I received an email from a young researcher in our family. She had found us via the Sinclair DNA website. Her note included some well-thought-out questions and points. I realized the answer I sent her may be of value for others, so I'm answering her here.

On Sat, Feb 2, 2013 at 12:29 AM,
....I was reading The Da Vinci Code and it mentions the St Clair's going back close to Anglo-Saxon period so I decided to do some research and I found your website. However, when I look up facts about us the only one I can seem to find consistent is that our origin is French which then changed to Scottish during the time of William the conquer. Also that it dates back to about 1060 ad and we we're in Normandy at some point. A few things in The Da Vinci Code mentions Templars and freemasons and I was wondering if you have some more information about our history considering you had historians helping your investigation. I would be really interested into learning some of the things you know.…

Hi M.,

Thanks for your note. That's very funny that your dad's name is the same as mine. I've found a few others out there as well.

First, the "mythical" history of the St. Clair family from the books Dan Brown likely used to research us. By the way, I used the spelling St. Clair when talking about the wider family because that was the spelling found in the oldest known surviving documents. That or "Saint Clair."

The books I mention above are fun to read. You can find them and many others at the Sources page on our Sinclair DNA website

A group is currently putting together what I’m sure will become the definitive books on the real history of the Saint Clairs in Normandy, England, and Scotland. If you watch our websites, you’ll learn more when it comes out.
  1. We St. Clairs, Sincelers, Sinclairs (etc.) are all descended from the Viking Rollo (Rhalf Granger), who invaded Normandy in 911. He was from Norway, so that makes us of Viking descent.
  2. We are supposed cousins of William the Conqueror, relating to his ancestor Richard I of France.
  3. We had at least 1 ancestor who crossed the English Channel in 1066 as a knight with William the Conqueror to defeat the English army at the Battle of Hastings.
  4. We supposedly have an ancestor, William 'The Seemly' Sinclair, who went to Scotland instead and later fought against William the Conqueror.
  5.  Our ancestors in both England and Scotland did well with the various kings and acquired lands and titles.
  6. In 1307, when King Philip 'the Fair' decided to take the land of the Knights Templar and rounded them up to burn them, some got word early and fled to Scotland, to Rosslyn in particular.
  7. The Sinclair family were closely involved in the order of the Knights Templar.
  8. These Templars supposedly had a great treasure which may have included either the Holy Grail or, according to Dan Brown, documents which can prove a supposed bloodline of a union of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdeline. The movie seems to indicate that they may have moved the body of Mary itself. Others think they moved the actual head of Jesus.
  9. All this was supposedly buried beneath Rosslyn Chapel, 7 miles south of Edinburgh, Scotland.
  10. William St. Clair, who directed the building of Rosslyn Chapel near his castle in 1446, built secret symbols into it as clues about the treasure.
  11. William's grandfather, Prince Henry Sinclair of northern Scotland, supposedly travelled with some of the treasure years earlier (1398) to keep it from the Catholic Inquisition. How the timing on this works out and why there was something left behind to be buried at Rosslyn 48 years later has never been adequately explained to me.
The history of the Saint Clairs is much more complex than those who wrote the books about us could have possibly have known. Because we have the family DNA study, we've got some unique data which those who wrote the old books about us didn't have. Here's what we've learned since 2004, when we began the DNA study -

There are 12 distinct branches of our family (so far), and likely will be more when we get additional participation from England and France (which we hope to do over the next 2 years).

Now, in light of DNA research, a more factual version of our Sinclair / St. Clair history -
    1. Hundreds of families think they descend from Rollo, William the Conqueror and that bunch.  People with completely different DNA haplogroups who don’t share a common ancestor for 35,000 years still think they share an ancestor who lived in 911 AD.  At least 3 or 4 of our branches were likely in Normandy during the time frame to make parts of the "mythical" story true. We know this based on their DNA SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms). Those can be traced and pinned loosely to a general geographic location during a general time frame. The other cool thing about SNPs is that other families who have matching ones can help us determine our history. If we have a Sinclair participant who matches, for instance, the Kincaid surname in a SNP study, then we can get an idea of when they match and the rough geography where they might share a common ancestor. This is important because, imagine we match a surname who had close ties with Rollo. Then we might be able to make some reasonable guesses.  The problem is no one knows for sure where Rollo came from. There are arguments that he’s from Scandinavia, and others that he’s from Denmark. One company called Explico claims to be getting permission to DNA test the ancient bones of Rollo’s grandchildren. Rollo’s bones are missing. That would help. A lot of these stories about being related to Rollo, the Templar Knights, etc. were invented in the 1700s and 1800s by supposed researchers who were selling phony genealogies to rich Scottish earls. Are we descended from Rollo? Hopefully, time will tell. Personally, I very much doubt it. Most researchers would tell you that true Norse DNA is either R1a (M420) or I (M253). But time, further testing, and good research may eventually lead to an answer.
    2. Are we related to William the Conqueror. Like the lengthy answer above, time will tell. Right now, no one in our family can honestly make such a claim.
    3. Were members of the Saint Clair family at the Battle of Hastings? Very likely. But even this is sketchy. The reason I say this is a lack of first-hand evidence. Many people might have benefited from forging the information to be found on ancient documents that were eventually copied into the Battle Abbey Roll or the Auchinleck Manuscript Roll, a similar document. Some researchers say the Battle Abbey Roll was a list of family names present at Hastings rather than a list of specific individuals. See the this Wikipedia page for an overview -
    4. While our cherished family stories tell of a William “The Seemly” Sinclair, there is zero documentary evidence that he ever existed. The name was almost certainly invented to bridge a gap in a very sloppy genealogy by the genealogists mentioned above so they could get a quick profit from an unsuspecting Scottish earl.
    5. This is true. Our ancestors in England and Scotland did quite well. They became important landowners. They witnessed important charters and documents (see the Declaration of Arbroath). And they would have been privy to conversations with important people of their time.
    6. The “rounding up” of the Knights Templars as portrayed in The Da Vinci Code is over-simplified In fact, it took months, even years, before all European countries imprisoned Templars. And the trials took place much later. My advice is to read - Barbara Frale, “The Templars, The Secret History Revealed” - Sharan Newman, “The Real History Behind the Templars” - Stephen Howarth “The Knights Templar”
    7. The Sinclair / St. Clair family cannot yet be proven to have had anything whatsoever to do with the Knights Templar. I’ve spent months looking through any available trial records to get to the bottom of this. While I’m certainly not done, so far I don’t see our surname in any records. To join the Templar Order, a man had to give up all his land and worldly possessions. The Saint Clair family being important in England and Scotland, I highly doubt they thought to give all that up.  But even without giving up their property, they could have donated lands to the order. Many other families did. After extensively digging, I’ve still found zero evidence our family made any donations whatsoever to the Templars. 
    8. The Great Treasure of the Templars – There’s actually no proof of a treasure, nor a fleet of Templar ships sneaking it out of Europe to Scotland. Zero actual proof. 
    9. Is that treasure now buried beneath Rosslyn Chapel?  Zero proof. 
    10. While Rosslyn has unusual symbols for a chapel, they’re probably not pointing to a treasure. For instance, there are many carvings of the “Green Man” in Rosslyn. This is not unique in European churches. See this Wikipedia page for a quick overview. A favorite of grail hunters is the carving of what is supposedly two men riding on a horse in Rosslyn. This is supposed to represent the Templar symbol of being a poor knight and sharing a horse. Only one problem: It’s one man riding a horse and one standing behind the flank of it. You can study a photo I took of it above. This is from a cast made by Rosslyn Chapel. 
    11. The story of Prince Henry Sinclair had become more an more popular in recent years. Unfortunately, despite some interesting circumstantial evidence, there is zero physical evidence. 
    Thanks for the note. I hope this wasn’t too much reading. 

    Please keep up with the DNA study at our blogs, website and social media. 

    Steve St. Clair