Saturday, 24 August 2019

Project Update 2019 - Part 2: Bridging the Gap

In the first part of this update, we illustrated how Genetic Family 1 (GF1, the Limerick Spearin's) sit on a very isolated branch of the Tree of Mankind with very few clues as to the origins of the group. Big Y testing by the outliers in GF1 (namely Laveaud, Wall, Graham, & Church) might provide some additional pointers but we might be more successful in addressing the question by targeted recruitment of English Spearing's and European Spiering's (targeted outreach via Facebook is ongoing).

In this update we will look at building a "family tree" for the Limerick Spearin's of Genetic Family 1 (GF1) using their DNA data to reconstruct the branching structure of the tree back to the Early Limerick Spearin's (Mathew, Nicholas & Luke, the presumed sons of George Spearin born in London in 1646).

Can we bridge the gap?

Most of the GF1 members have well-characterised Brick Walls in their family trees at around about 1800. Before the 1800 timepoint, there is a gap of about 2-4 missing generations - Mathew, Nicholas & Luke were probably born in the late 1660s, their children in the 1690s-1700s, their children in the 1710s-1720s (Missing Generation 1), their children about 1740 (Missing Generation 2), their children about 1770 (Missing Generation 3), and their children were the Brick Wall ancestors we see in the family trees of many members of GF1.

Slide from Project Update YouTube video (2015)

One intriguing question is: would it be possible to bridge the gap by using DNA? In other words, could we use DNA to help define the branching pattern among the 14 members? If we could, we might be able to say that one group of families descend from 1 son, another group from another son, and a third group from the third son. We might never be able to say which son was which (Mathew, Nicholas or Luke) but knowing the branching structure of the tree would help us focus our research. We might never be able to identify every ancestor in the 3-4 missing generations but the DNA could potentially provide a framework (i.e. the branching structure) for the missing generations.


It is possible that both Y-DNA and Family Finder results (i.e. autosomal DNA) might be helpful in defining the branching structure. Let's take a look at Y-DNA data first.  

Using Y-DNA to extend the Family Tree into the gap

A previous attempt was made in 2015 to build a "family tree" based on Y-DNA data (specifically the STR results generated by the standard Y-DNA-37 test - see diagram below). This is reviewed in this YouTube video here. Since then, a few additional members have joined the project, others have upgraded from the 37-marker test to the 67 marker test (Y-DNA-67) or 111 marker test (Y-DNA-111), and we have additional SNP data available (thanks to Big Y testing of 2 project members which is reviewed in a series of earlier blog posts starting here).

Family Tree for the Limerick Spearin's (GF1) based on Y-DNA data (2015)

There is also a new online tool called the SAPP tool which allows us to combine genealogical data, STR data, and SNP data together in order to produce a "best fit" family tree for everyone in GF1. Using this new tool, a family tree containing data from the 14 Spearin's of GF1 was produced - see below; details in footnote [1]. Sadly, it does not give us much more information than what we had already produced in the earlier version of the "family tree". However, it does give a more accurate date for the overall MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor) for the entire group, namely 1750 (range 1650-1850), which roughly ties in with the known genealogy.

The "best fit" family tree generated by the SAPP tool (Spearin_7 MHT)
Note: the ID numbers reflect: the order of the group members on the Results Page, their initials,
the last 4 digits of their kit number, and the family to which they belong.
(click to enlarge)

Translating this diagram into a more user-friendly version gives us the family tree diagram below. This shows the following features:
  • the Y18109 9-SNP Block discussed in the previous post (which was presumably also carried by George Spearin who was born back in 1646)
  • the various branches with their STR mutations identified from the standard Y-DNA results
  • the family ID  for each of the 14 members (you can see the pedigree for each family here) as well as the individual ID numbers (initials and last 4 digits of the kit number) and the S numbers used for SAPP
  • the number of STRs tested by each member
  • the Private / Unique SNPs possessed by the 2 members who have done the Big Y-500 test [2]
  • the number of potential STR mutations identified among the additional STR markers (up to 450) included in the Big Y-500 test (note that this test has been updated to the Big Y-700 as of 2019 and this new test is anticipated to detect about 50% more SNPs than the Big Y-500 and provide up to 200 additional STR markers)

User-friendly version of the "best fit" family tree generated by the SAPP tool.Shared mutations are highlighted, but only orange highlight 
indicates branch-defining shared mutations.
(click to enlarge)

There are several important points to note about this "best fit" family tree:
  • Despite the STR & SNP testing carried out to date, the DNA has been practically of no help in defining specific branches:
    • DNA predicts a branching point (CDYb>42) within the ON1 family (George 1775), which we already knew about from the known genealogy.
    • And it predicts another branch (pre-1790) based on a mutation in the STR marker CDYb (it decreases in value from 41 to 40) which suggests that families ON2, NSW2 & NJ1 share a more recent common ancestor than the other families. However the CDYb marker is notorious for flipping back and forth in value from generation to generation so this may be a false conclusion and I don't trust it.
  • There are 20 mutations identified via STR testing (up to 111 STRs) and (at least) an additional 3 mutations identified via the extra STRs tested as part of the Big Y-500 test. [3] This gives a total of 23 STR mutations.
  • Most of the 23 STR mutations are not shared i.e. they occur in a single individual.
  • There are 11 shared mutations, and of these, 5 of them are potentially branch-defining (CDYb<40 is shared by 3 people and CDYb>42 is shared by 2 people). The rest (6) are Parallel Mutations i.e. the same mutation occurs by chance in two separate lines of descent (413b>23, CDYa>34, & 712>21, each occurring in 2 people).

The Way Forward with STRs?

In order to define branching points within the "best fit" family tree, we need a lot of mutations (both STR & SNP) that are shared by some members but not by others. And so far we have only identified 2 branch-defining STR mutations (CDYb<40 and CDYb>42, discussed above). So what are the chances of identifying additional branch-defining mutations via more extensive Y-DNA testing (e.g. by upgrading to 111 STR markers, and/or doing the Big Y-700 test)? And would this allow us to define the branching structure of the missing 3-4 generations?

The short answer is: we wouldn't know until we did it, and the chances are probably low.

Here's why.

14 mutations were identified among 14 people who tested the first 37 STR markers (markers 1 to 37)
4 mutations were identified among the 7 people who tested the next 30 markers (markers 38-67; n=30)
2 mutations were identified among the 2 people who tested the next 43 markers (markers 68-111; n=43)
3 mutations were identified among 2 people in the Big Y-500 STR panel (markers 112-561; n=450)
This is summarised in the table below.

STR mutations (yellow/green) among the 14 members of GF1

From this we can calculate crude mutation rates as follows:
  • Markers 1-37 ... ... 14 / (37 x 14) = 0.02702   = 27 / 1000
  • Markers 38-67 ...    4 / (30 x 7) = 0.0190476  = 19 / 1000
  • Markers 68-111 ...  2 / (43 x 2) = 0.0232558  = 23 / 1000
  • Markers 112-561 ... 3 / (450 x 2) = 0.003333 = 3.3 / 1000

This suggests that most mutations will occur among the first 37 markers (which supports the use of the Y-DNA-37 test as the standard initial test for those joining the project). However it also suggests that a significant number of mutations would also be found by testing to 67 markers and 111 markers (although this conclusion is based on only 7 and 2 participants respectively).  The STR Panel associated with the Big Y-500 test has the lowest mutation rate, but because there are 450 STR markers in this panel, it will still generate significant numbers of mutations. Upgrading from Y-DNA-37 to Y-DNA-111 would cost about $190 whereas the Big Y-700 test would cost about $500 so both options are costly.

Of the 23 STR mutations identified thus far, 11 (48%) were shared mutations, and of these 6 (26%) were Parallel Mutations (according to the "best fit" family tree) and 5 of them (22%) were branch-defining mutations, arranged in 2 sets - 2 people shared CDYb>42, and 3 people shared CDYb<40. (And to repeat, the latter may be a false finding as the CDY markers are very fast-mutating markers and may shift back and forth in value from one generation to the next).

So, based on these data, we would predict that testing everyone to 111 markers would generate a further  (4+12=) 16 mutations, and of these about 20-25% (3-4) would be shared, branch defining mutations. And about 40% of these (1-2) would be in the period of the 3-4 missing generations (approximately 1690 to 1800). And you need at least 2 people with a shared mutation to form a new branch, so the most we could hope to identify with STR markers is 1 new branch.

But this is merely an estimate based on the data we have so far. The final picture (if everyone upgraded) could look considerably better ... or considerably worse.

Could SNPs help?

Similarly, if everyone did the Big Y-700 test, what's the best we could hope? How many unique SNP mutations might it reveal?

The 2 members who did the Big Y test are reported to have 2 unique SNP mutations each. [2] Even if all the group members had 2 new mutations each (28 in total), not all of them would be branch defining within the 1690-1800 time period of the missing generations. We could guesstimate that 50% (14) of the new mutations would be unique (private) SNPs to individual members, and 50% would be shared (i.e. branch-defining) with other project members, but only about 25% (7) would be in the missing generations period (1690-1800). This gives us only 7 branch-defining SNPs ... but this is just a guestimate.

And as it takes a minimum of 2 shared mutations to define a branch, only a maximum of 3 branches could thus be defined within the time period of the missing generations. And this would allow us to separate the 14 members into 3 distinct family subgroups (at most) within the 1690-1800 time period.

So we could define 1 new branch with STRs and a maximum of 3 with SNPs (potentially), and this gives a maximum of 4 new branches within the 1690-1800 time period. And that might help considerably to answer the question: can we bridge the gap?

But this is only an estimate.

And is it worth it?

What do you think?


This has been a very useful exercise. But there remains considerable doubt as to whether upgrading everyone to 111 markers or the Big Y would produce meaningful results. And it would only have the best chance of working if everyone upgraded (and we know that not everyone will) because we always need something to compare the results to - a single result in isolation is essentially worthless. Currently (for comparative purposes) we have 14 sets of Y-37 results, 7 sets of Y-67 results, 2 sets of Y-111 results, and 2 sets of Big Y-500 results.

I am currently using the General Fund to upgrade 2 members (the ones who did the Big Y test) from Y-DNA-67 to Y-DNA-111. It only costs $29 each and it may produce some interesting results so it is worth doing. It would bring the total number of members who have done the Y-111 test to 4.

However, cost is an important consideration. The cost of everyone upgrading to the Big Y-700 would be in the region of $6000 (for 12 people). And that is a lot of ice cream. Would the money be better spent elsewhere?

Therefore I would not recommend upgrading to Y-DNA-111 or doing the Big Y-700 test unless you are particularly curious. And the reason for not recommending this is because there are serious doubts as to whether it is capable of addressing the particular issue at hand i.e. trying to bridge the gap of the 3-4 missing generations by defining the branching structure of the family tree in that particular tranche of time (1690-1800).

Might we be better using Family Finder data (i.e. autosomal DNA, atDNA)? This will be explored in the next blog post.

Hang in there!

Do good things come to those who wait?
Maurice Gleeson
Aug 2019

Footnotes, Sources & Links

[1] the SAPP tree was generated in a series of steps. A Mutation History Tree (MHT) was generated for each step from Step 2 onwards and a sense-check was performed.
  1. firstly a text file was generated with the crude data
  2. floating STRs (from results transferred from HeritageDNA) were removed, missing values (markers 31-35) for S03 were taken from S05 (same person, duplicate test), labels were added
  3. Z166 modal was used as an anchor, SNP & genealogy data was added
  4. floating STRs were restored & missing STRs (tentatively) imputed from GF1 modal
  5. CDYa&b were ignored
  6. CDYa&b were reactivated, outliers ignored, S03 ignored (duplicate of S05), George 1775 added
  7. CDYa&b changed in Z166 modal from 34-39 to 33-41 to reflect GF1 modal, MDKA birth locations added where known

[2] The 2 members who have done the Big Y share the 9-SNP Block headed by Y18109. Presumably all of these SNPs were shared by the overall common ancestor for GF1 (which we presume to be George Spearin born in London in 1646, son of George Spearin & Rebecca Carter).

These 2 project members also appear to several "Private" SNPs i.e SNP markers that are unique to each of them individually (and not shared by anyone else in the entire FTDNA database). However, because of the way FTDNA present the data, it can be very difficult to identify which unique SNP belongs to which person:
  • The GA1 member (PMS-4729) has 1 unnamed variant 
    • 8480410 = Y47137 (discovered by YFULL in 2015) 
  • The LIM10 member (JS-1223) has 2 unnamed variants
    • 4503779 = BY58131 (discovered by FTDNA in 2018)
    • 8769214 = Y47666 (discovered by YFULL in 2015)
From this we might expect them to have 3 Non-Matching Variants but only 2 are recorded in their respective Big Y results:
  • ZS2445 (position 14,706,801; discovered by Victor Was in 2014) ... where did that come from?!
  • 8480410 = Y47137 (discovered by YFULL in 2015)
The first SNP was discovered in 2014, a year before the 2 members tested (Aug 2015), so this is probably not unique to our 2 project members. But we simply don't know. The second SNP is probably a unique SNP possessed by the GA1 member (PMS-4729).

And this highlights the problem with the way FTDNA present the Big Y results - you can never be sure if the SNPs are a) genuine / reliable; b) unique / private SNPs; and c) to which particular individual do they belong.

However, both these members have had their Big Y results re-analysed by YFULL and here is what YFULL says:
  • GA1 member (PMS-4729)  has the YFULL ID YF04104.
    • He has 1 private/unique SNP of acceptable quality ... Y47137
    • He also has 42 unique SNPs of ambiguous quality and 1 of low quality. 
  • LIM10 member (JS-1223) has the YFULL ID YF04316.
    • He has 2 unique SNPs of "best quality, namely ... Y47666 (as above) & BY58131 (as above)
    • He has 1 private/unique SNP of acceptable quality ... Y54303 (where did that come from??)
    • He also has 9 unique SNPs of ambiguous quality and 1 of low quality. 
So from the above, it would seem that YFULL identifies 3 unique SNPs (of best or acceptable quality) for the LIM10 member and 1 unique SNP (of acceptable quality) for the GA1 member. This give 4 in total between the 2 members, and thus an average of 2 per member ... and this latter figure is consistent with what FTDNA describe in the Big Y Block Tree, namely: Private Variants ... Average: 2

It is only by comparing these assessments to additional Big Y data that we can judge which of these SNPs are important and which ones are not.

[3] There may be more STR mutations among the 450 additional STR markers that come with the Big Y-500 test but we would need at least one more person to do the Big Y test in order to ascertain this. This is because at least 3 people are needed to generate the modal value for each STR marker.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Project Update 2019 - Part 1: the Tree of Mankind

The Spearin Surname Project has been running for some 8 years now and has already succeeded in answering several important questions about the first group within the project - Genetic Family 1. We have established the following:
  • all Spearin's with origins in Limerick are genetically related and go back to a family of Spierin brothers who probably arrived in Limerick in the late 1600s. Before that they are linked to a family of goldsmiths in London going back into the mid-1500s, and before that there are links to Flanders where they possibly followed the profession of bookbinding.
  • several variants of the name are all closely genetically related - Spearin, Speerin, Speiran, Spearing, Speering, Spierin, & Sperin.
  • the common ancestor to the whole group was probably born about 1650.

However there are several questions that remain unanswered:

1) Where did they originate? Are their roots in Flanders (modern Belgium) as the genealogical data suggests, or alternatively are they descended from English Spearing's (a surname concentrated in and around south-west England)?

2) How are the various families among the Limerick Spearin's related to each other? Many hit a Brick Wall at the 1800 timepoint in their individual family research - can we use DNA to try to establish who is more closely related to whom?

The good news is that it may now be possible to address this second question and that will be explored in the second part of this update. For now, let's look at where we are with the project.


The project currently boasts 112 members. Recruitment to the project has been steady over the past year with approximately 1 new member joining each month. The most frequent test in the project is the Family Finder test (70) followed by the Y-DNA test (63) and mtDNA (23).

The Project Recruitment Graph shows steady recruitment to the project
(click to enlarge)

Genetic Groups

The Y-DNA test explores only the direct male line and thus follows the surname. Members who have tested with Y-DNA have been divided into genetic families on the project's Results Page.

The largest group is Genetic Family 1 - the Limerick Spearin's. There are 20 members in this group. Fifteen (15) of them belong to a "core group" of Spearin's (one is a duplicate so there are only 14 individuals) and 5 are outliers (with non-Spearin surnames) who have been included in the group for comparison purposes (more on them later). The 20 group members and the results of their first 37 STR markers are below.

There are very few mutations (pink & blue squares) among the core group members (indicating a tightly knit group) and a lot more mutations among the outliers (indicating a more distant relationship to the core group).

Placement on the Tree of Mankind

Genetic Family 1 belongs to Haplogroup I and the subgroup I-M223 (which used to be called I2b1 and is now called I2a2a). Two members of the core group have previously undertaken the Big Y-500 test and have both tested positive for the Terminal SNP Y18109. The SNP Progression* associated with this SNP is as follows:
  • Core Group ... I-M223 > CTS616 > CTS10057 > Z161 > L801 > Z165 > CTS6433 > S2364 > S2361 > Z171 > CTS8584 > Z185 > Z180 > Z166 / L1198 > Y17535 > Y18109
* A SNP Progression is simply the sequence of SNP markers that characterises each branching point on the Tree of Mankind, starting "upstream" at the level of the Haplogroup (I in this case) and progressing all the way "downstream" (i.e. towards the present day) to the Terminal SNP. Comparing SNP Progressions helps us see exactly where each Terminal SNP sits on the Tree of Mankind and helps identify the SNP of the common ancestor between 2 or more people.

This particular subgroup of Haplogroup I could be associated with a variety of early Western European tribal groups, such as the Franks, Anglo-Saxons, Goths and Vikings. However there is (currently) insufficient evidence to say which of the origin theories is more likely - the Flanders origin theory or the English origin theory. You can read more about the deeper origins of this subgroup on Eupedia here.

The section of the Haplogroup I tree where the Limerick Spearin's sit (green arrow).
The common ancestor (L801) is about 4000 years ago and started in Germany.
(click to enlarge)

We can see where the Y18109 branch sits on the Tree of Mankind on FTDNA's new Big Y Block Tree (below). The Y18109 branch is characterised by not 1 SNP but 9 i.e. it is a 9-SNP Block and the first SNP is Y18109. The others are Y18112/3/4/5/6/7/8 and BY37502.

From the diagram below it appears that the nearest genetic neighbours to the Limerick Spearin's are two men, one called Bowden (with origins in England) and the other called Murdock (with origins in Scotland) and they sit on the upstream branch Y18110. Their common ancestor with the Limerick Spearin's lived about 1100 years ago** (i.e. pre-surnames).

Beyond that, the next neighbours are a man (probably called Braz) from Portugal and 2 men from Cuba, and their common ancestor with the Limerick Spearin's would have lived about 2150 years ago and sat on the upstream branch Y17535. Two other people may also sit on or below this branch - Laveaud & Manning (according to the I-M223 Haplogroup Project).

**This time estimate is crudely calculated by counting the number of SNPs up to the shared branching point and multiplying this by 100 years per SNP i.e. 11 x 100 = 1100. A value of 130 years per SNP might be more appropriate and this would give a TMRCA estimate of 11 x130 = 1430 years ago. TMRCA stands for Time to Most recent Common Ancestor. The TMRCA calculation for the Y17535 branch above it is as follows: [1100 + (5 x100)] + [27 x100] / 2

The Big Y Block Tree - the Spearin's (Irish flag) sit on branch Y18109
and the nearest neighbours sit on the branch above (Y18110)
(click to enlarge)

So the Limerick Spearin's sit on a relatively isolated branch of the Tree of Mankind with only very few genetic neighbours. And of particular note, there are no neighbours from Belgium or the surrounding areas. So there is no data to suggest an origin for the group in Flanders. In fact, the nearest genetic neighbours are English & Scottish which might suggest a British origin for the Limerick Spearin's ... but I would be reluctant to draw any firm conclusions on the basis of only 2 matches. Simply put, we need more matches with more data.

Thus there is still only limited genetic evidence regarding the deeper origins of the Limerick Spearin's (i.e. prior to Limerick and London). Several project members have recent ancestral origins in Belgium, Netherlands & Germany but none of them match the Limerick Spearin's. Hopefully as more people join the project we will get one or more matches between the Limerick Spearin's and someone who has either Flemish or English ancestry and that will help definitively settle the origins question.

The Outliers

We now turn to the 5 outliers in Genetic Family 1. They all have differing surnames: Flodmark, Laveaud, Wall, Graham, and Church. The question is: are these very distantly related individuals or has there been a relatively recent Surname or DNA Switch (SDS)?

In the first scenario, the common ancestor between the outlier and the core group would have lived >1000 years ago, before the time of surnames. In the second scenario, a switch in DNA or surname could have occurred sometime within the last 1000 years. This could have been due to an adoption, a legal name change, a young widow remarrying, etc, etc. And it could have happened either way i.e. Spearin DNA became associated with a different surname, or different DNA became associated with the Spearin surname. It's a classic case of: which came first - the chicken or the egg?

But we can help answer the questions with SNP-marker testing (such as the Big Y) and two members of the the core group have done this. They share the Terminal SNP Y18109 whereas the Flodmark member has the Terminal SNP BY46958. These are on very distinct branches of the Tree of Mankind, a fact that is appreciated when you compare their abbreviated SNP Progressions* ...

  • Core Group ... I-M223 >> Z161 >> Z166 / L1198 > Y17535 > Y18109
  • Flodmark ...... I-M223 >> Z161 >> Z166 / L1198 > FT73935 > BY46958

In the above case the common ancestor would have tested positive for the SNP marker Z166 (a.k.a. L1198) and this is at least 2900 years old. So clearly, the connection between the Flodmark member and the core group is before the time of surnames (roughly 1000 years ago in Ireland) and does not represent a recent Surname or DNA Switch (e.g. adoption, illegitimacy, infidelity).

Assessment of the other outliers is more difficult because none have done the Big Y test which would place them definitively on the Tree of Mankind and answer the question (in the same way that we have done for the Flodmark member above). So instead we have to rely on Genetic Distance (i.e. compare their STR marker values to those of the core group and thus calculate the number of steps away they are from an exact match to the core group). Here are the GD values for the remaining 4 outliers.

GD Matrix for Outliers shows Church & Wall may be related recently (green)
(Key: no. of markers tested in grey along the diagonal;
yellow = match, green = close match, white = no match)

Here are the conclusions we can draw from this comparison:
  • Wall and Church do not match the core group (GD 10/67 & 19/111) but may be related to each other within the last 200 years (GD 2/67, TMRCA via TiP Report = 1860 [90% range 1710-1950]). 
  • Laveaud is a match to the core group (GD 9/111) and has tested positive for Z166 (on a single SNP test) but there is no information on any SNP markers downstream of this. Hence it is not possible to say definitively that there is no recent connection (i.e. within the last 1000 years). The Laveau family name has a fascinating history that you can read about in this previous blog post here.
  • Graham is the closest to the core group (GD 5/67) but without Big Y  data it is impossible to say if the common ancestor is before or after the advent of surnames (i.e. about 1000 years ago). If it is after the advent of surnames, then which name was first associated with this particular DNA signature - Graham or Spearin? We simply can't tell for certain based purely on the DNA. However, as discussed in a previous post, there is a Surname or DNA Switch on Mr. Graham's direct male line - his father's father is unknown and the name Graham was taken from his paternal grandmother. So he could very well have a Spearin on his direct male line. The estimated Time to Most Recent Common Ancestor between Mr. Graham and the core group (using the TiP Report tool) is about 8 generations (with a 90% range of 3-16) which crudely translates as a common ancestor born about 1710 (90% range 1470-1860). So it is conceivable that he may be descended from the Limerick Spearin's. On the Family Finder test, he doesn't appear to match any known descendants of the Limerick Spearin's, so this suggests that any connection (if it exists) has to be no closer than 4th cousins. Ultimately it may be the Big Y test that will help confirm or refute this potential connection.

Conclusions & Next Steps

The Limerick Spearin's sit on an isolated branch of the Tree of Mankind. Further matches are needed to determine if they originally came from Flanders (as suggested by the genealogical evidence).

The outliers in Genetic Family 1 (Laveaud, Wall, Graham, Church) should consider undertaking the Big Y test. This will help place them on the Tree of Mankind which in turn will help answer the question: is their connection to the Limerick Spearin's after the advent of surnames (about 1000 years ago) or before it? If the connection is after the advent of surnames, then there has probably been a Surname or DNA Switch some time in the last 1000 years and that raises the question: which came first - the Spearin chicken or the foreign egg?

FTDNA just launched their Summer Sale and there are significant discounts on the Big Y test as well as upgrades to higher marker levels (67 and 111). So now would be a good time to take advantage of these discounts if you are thinking of upgrading.

However, we may be more successful in determining the origins of Group 1 by targeted testing of English Spearing's and European Spiering's. This is an ongoing task and the subject of occasional Facebook recruitment campaigns. Despite our efforts, all the Spearing's and Spiering's who have tested  so far have not shown any match to the Limerick Spearin's ... or each other. This suggests that there may be several distinct genetic signatures among both the English and the European groups. This will only become clear as more people test.

In the next part of the update we will take a closer look at the connections between the members of the core group of the Limerick Spearin's and explore techniques (using both Y-DNA and Family Finder data) to determine who is more closely related to whom.

Maurice Gleeson
Aug 2019 

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

FTDNA Thanksgiving Sale

There are some incredible discounts in the current FTDNA Sale which lasts from now until Nov 22nd. And there will probably be a Christmas Sale after that. So now is the time to start thinking about getting that upgrade or that extra kit.

Below are the sale prices and they are the lowest I have ever seen.
Y37 for just $99 ...
Family Finder for just $49 ...
and $100-140 off Big Y upgrades.

This feels more like Crazy Eddie's Second Hand Car Deals!

If you have any questions about your own particular situation, just drop me an email.

Maurice Gleeson
Nov 2018

Thursday, 30 November 2017

DNA reveals a major Welsh connection?

One of the main reasons for using DNA as a genealogical tool is to help you break through Brick Walls in your family tree research - those dead ends or roadblocks where you are currently stuck and can't go back any further. Only this year DNA helped me achieve a major breakthrough on one of my ancestral lines which has taken me on a wild adventure that is continuing to shock and surprise. This particular breakthrough throws new light on the Early Limerick Spierin's and the social circles in which they moved. And it also reveals that some of us within the project may have ties to the English monarchy.

The most useful of the three tests for genealogical purposes is the autosomal DNA test. We each have 46 chromosomes in every cell in our body and the autosomal DNA test assesses all 46 of these in women and 45 out of the 46 in men. (The remaining 46th chromosome in men is the Y chromosome and the Y-DNA test is the primary focus of the Spearin Surname Project).

I did my first autosomal DNA testing with FamilyTreeDNA back in 2010. I tested myself, my father and my maternal aunt. We each had several hundred matches, most of them distant relatives with no obvious common ancestor despite comparing respective family trees. This is what it was like in the early days of autosomal DNA testing - the various company databases were small and close matches were not common. That has all changed in recent years with currently about 9 million customers in the top three company databases (Ancestry 6 million, 23andMe 2 million, FamilyTreeDNA 1 million). This number is set to reach about 25 million by 2020 and more and more people will find close matches in the databases. By a close match I mean someone with whom you share a common ancestor in the relatively recent past, say up to a third cousin (and therefore common great great grandparents).

As time moved on, I tested several other family members, including more distant cousins. And several other distant cousins became interested in DNA testing and they paid for their own tests (all with FamilyTreeDNA). Then, about 2 years ago, it came to my notice that four of my family members who had tested all descended from the same ancestral couple - Patrick Spierin (PS) and Mary Morgan (MM), my great great great grandparents, and one of my Brick Walls. This is illustrated in the diagram below. The four family members were my Dad (MHG), his paternal first cousin (COC), his 2nd cousin once removed (KS), and his 2nd cousin twice removed (EW). The line of ascent from my Dad to PS & MM is indicated by the green rimmed boxes. It occurred to me that any matches that they shared in common with each other were likely to be related via PS & MM. And by contacting these shared matches, one of them might hold the clue that allowed me to break through the Brick Wall I had at that level and allow me to push my family tree back an extra generation.

Triangulating on Patrick Spierin & Mary Morgan

That was the theory at least. But could I prove it?

So as an experiment, I compared their respective lists of matches (each had about 1000 matches at this stage) and extracted those matches that any two of the four family members shared with each other. This was relatively easy to do as FamilyTreeDNA allows you to identify such Shared Matches and download them into a spreadsheet as an Excel or csv file. You can see the actual numbers of Shared Matches shared among the four family members in the diagram above. I ended up with a spreadsheet of 135 Shared Matches and after removing duplicates, I was left with 100 people.

I next wrote 100 individual emails to all the people on the list, explaining that they match two or more of my four family members, all of whom were descended from PS & MM and asking them if they had any Spierin or Morgan ancestors in their family tree.

The response rate to this exercise was pretty good and over the next several weeks I received 49 replies, trickling in slowly and tantalisingly. Each email reply was eagerly opened. Would this be the one that held the treasure? And each reply was a polite no. No Spierin ancestors, no Morgan ancestors. I quickly learnt to expect disappointment.

And then came the 50th reply. From Tony in Arizona.

"YES!! We have Morgan ancestors!"

I was thrilled. Had the experiment worked? I quickly sent Tony a link to my online family tree so that he could see what information I had about Patrick Spierin & Mary Morgan. I knew that they were married in Tipperary in 1828 but I had no date or place of birth for either of them. Presumably they would have been born sometime between 1800-1810. They had several children and the baptism records revealed that Patrick Spierin was variously a Police Constable and a "Sargent at Arms". I searched for him in the records of the Royal Irish Constabulary but he was not there. It is probable that he served in the Peace Preservation Force (PPF, an armed militia) but sadly there are no surviving records related to the PPF. However I found mention of him on several occasions in local newspapers of the period. Apparently on one occasion he was involved in a riot and shot someone. And on another occasion (in 1838) he was the arresting officer in the notorious murder case of Wayland and Cooper, two local landlords who were set upon by the Whiteboys, a local vigilante gang that intimidated landlords who evicted tenants, for this was the time of many "agrarian outrages". Four men were charged with the murder and the case made constant headlines in the papers. Two of the men escaped, one died in prison, and one was hanged outside Clonmel gaol. The case sparked the Devon Commission enquiry into land ownership in Ireland.

But by 1845, Constable Patrick Spierin had had enough. He next appears in Dublin as a porter for the Great Southern and Western Railway. It may be that Tipperary was getting too hot for him. Maybe people singled him out as "the man who got Con Hickey hung", and so he left with his family and moved them to the relative safety of Ireland's capitol. And that is where they lived out their days. He died in 1872 and Mary in 1878.

And that was all the information I had on them. And this is what I shared with Tony from Arizona. I also asked if I could see where his Morgan line appeared in his tree. And that is where we hit a problem. Tony knew there was a Morgan connection but nobody in the family knew where it fitted in. But it was plainly written for all to see on the gravestone of the wife of John Morgan in St Laurence's Cemetery in Limerick.

The gravestone erected by John Morgan

The gravestone states that John Morgan's wife had died in 1879 (aged 78) and he had erected the stone in her memory. But also buried in the gave is John Morgan's great nephew, John O'Dwyer who tragically died in World War One on 23rd Feb 1917. Now Tony's family knew this great nephew well, and knew where he fitted into the more recent family tree, but nobody had any idea who John Morgan was nor how he was related to John O'Dwyer. Assuming that John Morgan was roughly the same age as his wife, he would have been born about 1800, which is around about the same time I estimated that my great great great grandmother Mary Morgan was born. Could it be possible that John and Mary were brother and sister?

Another member of Tony's family agreed to do a DNA test (Tony's first cousin) and she too came back as a match to some of my four family members. This certainly supported a family connection via the Morgan's but it was a distant match and we could never be sure that there wasn't some second connection on some other ancestral line in either of our respective family trees. And despite an exhaustive search of the usual genealogical records, we could not precisely place John Morgan in Tony's family tree.

Sadly, after several months of flurried activity, we were going nowhere and we put the research aside.

Two years later, I received the 51st response.

In fact, this was a new match, someone who had recently done an autosomal DNA test. And Andrew informed me that he too had a Morgan ancestor - Patrick Morgan, born about 1812. And he had served for many years in the Royal Irish Constabulary. Bells started going off. My Patrick Spierin had been in the Peace Preservation Force. Were the two men associated with some sort of traditional family occupation?

Andrew sent me Patrick's picture, taken in the 1860s, in all his fine regalia, including a wonderful ceremonial sword. Could Andrew's Patrick Morgan have been a brother to my Mary Morgan and Tony's John Morgan?

Photo of Patrick Morgan (c. 1867)

I took out all the old research and started emailing back and forth with Andrew. I searched online for new clues. I searched on Ancestry for records and other family trees containing Andrew's Patrick Morgan. No luck. I googled Patrick Morgan RIC and generated pages of search results. And then one of them caught my eye. It was a family tree on GENI ( And sure enough, there was a family tree that contained Andrew's Patrick Morgan. But wait ... it also had his parents! Oh wow, I thought, this could be a breakthrough for Andrew! And it also had siblings for Patrick Morgan, and sure enough one of them was a John Morgan, who was married to a Mary! Hey, that could be Tony's ancestor - that could be a real breakthrough for Tony! Two for the price of one! And then as I looked further along the line of siblings, I came to someone called Patrick Spierin, married to a Mary Morgan! Hey! Those are mine! What are you doing with my ancestors in your tree?!

The Morgan family tree on Geni ... with all the key players therein!
(click to enlarge)

After the initial shock, I searched desperately for sources. Where did this information come from? What wonderful records had I missed in my own research? But there were no sources. It was just a tree with names. I could not verify any of the information against independent primary sources. This was disappointing because this meant that the only way I could access the sources would be to contact the owner and the tree had been created in June 2009, eight years previously. I had severe doubts that any email I sent to the author of the tree might take another 8 years to be answered. I was disappointed and feared the worst. I wrote a brief email making gentle enquiries about the source of the information and sent off the email into the ether with few hopes of receiving an early response.

And how wrong I was! A few days later I received a wonderful reply from George. "You ask what my sources were" he said. "Quite simply, the notebooks of Professor Wardell". "Who was he?" I asked. The reply: "Professor of Military History in Trinity College Dublin at the turn of the century. He undertook a study of the Morgan surname in Ireland and had access to all the records that went up in smoke in the Public Records Office fire of 1922. And he recorded everything in his notebook. And I have his notebook."

George's source for the family tree was Prof Wardell's notebooks from the early 1900s

It is not very often that I stare at my computer in complete astonishment but this was one of those times. Could we actually have solved the mystery, united the three Morgan's as siblings, and pushed back the family tree one extra generation?

In fact we did much more than that.

George, Andrew and I started exchanging emails left, right and centre. Suddenly huge amounts of information started flooding in, not just from the notebooks of Prof Wardell that George had in his possession but from a whole array of associated records. And in fact Prof Wardell's notebooks not only established that our three Morgan ancestors were siblings, but it pushed the Morgan family tree back five generations to the Morgan's of Dunmoylan and Old Abbey. You see our Morgan's were landed gentry and went all the way back to Limerick in the 1600s. All the way back to Lieutenant Edward Morgan who in 1716 (or thereabouts) married Alice Spierin, daughter of Luke Spierin!

The Morgan's of Old Abbey - note the Luke Spierin connection

Not only that, but they claimed descent from the Morgan's of Tredegar in Wales, who have a pedigree that goes back to 1089.

Not only that, but on a recent visit to the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City, I discovered an old pedigree that states that the Morgan's of Tredegar are descended from "six Kings, five Lords, and a Ducke". And during that visit I met Jim who informed me that he too is descended from the Tredegar Morgan's (making us something like 13th cousins) and that some of our Morgan relatives (fellow Morgan descendants) include somebody called JP Morgan, someone else called Princess Diana, and someone else who was a Captain in the Caribbean and gave his name to a bottle of rum.

And because the first Morgan settler in Ireland married the daughter of Luke Spierin, any of her descendants will automatically tie in to the Morgan's of Tredegar and their connections to the English monarchy.

So I am still reeling. And suddenly we have an awful lot of fact-checking to do. And lots more blog posts to write!

But what incredible adventures awaits us!

Maurice Gleeson
Nov 2017

Friday, 17 November 2017

FTDNA Holiday Sale until Dec 31 2017

FamilyTreeDNA have launched their Annual Holiday Sale. This runs from the last day of the Annual FTDNA Conference (Nov 12th 2017) until the end of the year. So now is the time to buy FTDNA tests and take advantage of some of their lowest prices ever. They also make perfect Birthday, Thanksgiving & Christmas gifts for friends and family.

2017 Holiday Sale Discounts

There are discounts on many of their products including upgrades on mtDNA and Y-DNA. The discounts represent approximately a 10-30% reduction from the usual price.

There is a special offer regarding the Big Y test. The usual price is $575 but there is a $100 discount in the sale. Further discounts are possible with the vouchers described below. But everyone who buys a Big Y test will automatically get a FREE upgrade to the Y-DNA-111 test. So if you have only tested your Y-DNA to the 37 marker level, buying the Big Y will get you a free upgrade to 111 markers (which would normally cost you $188).

Even if you haven't done a Y-DNA-37 test yet, you can order it at the Sale Price, and use a voucher for a further discount, and then once it has registered on the system, you can order the Big Y test and get the $100 Sale Price discount, and any additional voucher discount, and a free upgrade to 111 markers. This is a very good deal indeed!
So if you were very lucky, you could get the Y-DNA-37 for $109 (using a $20 voucher) plus the Big Y for $375 (using a $100 voucher) and the free upgrade to 111 markers. This wold normally cost $169 + $575 + $188 = $942 but you would be getting it for $484. This is only 51% of the price you would normally pay.

As mentioned above, you can use Holiday Reward vouchers to lower the sale prices even further. These will be issued every Monday until the end of the Sale but each voucher only lasts for 7 days so you have to use them quickly. In effect, this may reduce the cost of the Family Finder atDNA test to $49 and Y-DNA-37 to $109.

A $20 voucher for the Y-DNA-67 test

To access your voucher, simply log on to your FTDNA account and click on the Holiday Reward icon on your home page. If you make a purchase during the Sale, you frequently get a Bonus Reward as well. This gives further discounts on other tests.

And if you want to use the voucher for yourself, simply click on the Enjoy Rewards button and the product will be added to your Cart and the discount applied. Alternatively you can give the voucher to friends or family by clicking on the Share Rewards button. Each voucher can only be used once, and must be used before the weekly deadline.

A lot of people donate any vouchers they are not using so check the ISOGG Facebook group and Genetic Genealogy Ireland Facebook group for any unused vouchers that you might be able to take advantage of. Be warned, they go fast so you might have to try several before you find one that works.

Enjoy the Sale!

Maurice Gleeson
Nov 2017

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Vive la France! Another Project member, another clue?

A new project member has joined Genetic Family 1 (GF1, the Limerick Spearin's). Does he offer further clues as to the origins of the Spearin family?

His surname is Laveaud and he lives in France. He did the Y-DNA-37 test back in January 2015 and later upgraded it to 67 markers in May, and 111 markers in April 2016. He also did the I-M223 SNP Pack in March this year.

How close does he match?

He matches the members of the Spearin DNA Project very closely. There are 13 members in Genetic Family 1 (GF1) and he matches 2 of them at 111 markers, 5 of them at 67 markers, 2 of them at 37 markers, and all 13 of them at 25 markers. So this is a strong association.

The Genetic Distance between him and the two Spearin project members that he matches at the 111 marker level (200083 & 209996) is 8/111 and 9/111, and the estimated time back to the common ancestor between them all is about 9 generations (midpoint estimate) but with a 90% range of 4 to 16 generations. This roughy translates into an estimated year of birth for their common ancestor of 1680 (range 1470-1830; this assumes 30 years per generation and the average year of birth of project members being 1950).

So this means that his connection to the Spearin’s could be sometime in the 1600’s. This could be around the time they arrived in Ireland, or (more likely) before that time. In the early 1600s, we believe they lived in London, and before that, in the 1400s and 1500s, we believe they lived in Flanders (today’s northern Belgium). We are still looking for more people to do the DNA test in order to confirm this theory, and hopefully the more matches we get like our new member here, the more likely we can figure out where we all came from.

So how can a Laveaud be related to the Limerick Spearin's? 

There are several possibilities:
  • he is the result of an NPE* (his distant genetic ancestor was a Spearin)
  • we are the result of an NPE (our distant genetic ancestor was a Laveaud)
  • we spring from a common ancestor pre-surnames (e.g. some time before 1000 AD)
  • we are all victims of Convergence (i.e. by chance the match looks closer than it actually is)
But are there any clues from the evidence we have to date as to which of the above options it could be? Read on ...

* an NPE is a Non-Paternity Event and there are many possible causes (e.g. legal name change, surname switch, adoption, infidelity, illegitimacy, and many more). 

What do his I-M223 SNP Pack results show?

In a previous post, I described how the SNP Progression of the Limerick Spearin's has been clarified to be:
I- ... M438 > L460 > P214 > M223 > CTS10057 > Z161 > CTS6433 > Z78 > CTS8584 > Z185 > Z180 > L1198 = Z166 > Y17535 > Y18109 
The results of Mr Laveaud's I-M223 SNP Pack show that he is positive for Z166 and L1198 (upstream Spearin SNPs) but negative for all the SNPs below this ... or rather for all the SNPs below Z166 that were included in the Pack. And not all sub-Z166 SNPs were included. One very important SNP that is missing from the pack is the unique Spearin SNP marker Y18109, and the one immediately above it, Y17535 (in blue below).  And this is the area of the tree we are most interested in because anyone who sits on this branch (Y17535 or below) will help shed further light on where the Limerick Spearin's originated.  I have asked FTDNA to please add Y17535 to the I-M223 SNP Pack. I will update this blog post with their reply in due course.

The current position of the new member on the Haplotree
green = tested positive; red = tested negative; blue = test available;
black = test not done and not available

So, our new member could sit on one of the blue branches above, or some other branch currently not identified.

In fact, this is only half the story, because checking the same SNPs on YFULL reveals that Y17535 and Y18109 are the first of several SNPs in two SNP Blocks:
  • Y17535 block (5 SNPs) - Y17535, Y17536, Y17537, Y17941, Z21761
  • Y18109 block (10 SNPs) - Y18109 to Y18118

Furthermore, look at the formation dates that YFULL gives for these SNPs relevant to the Limerick Spearin's ... 
  • Z166 (L1198) was formed some time between 3000 - 2700 years ago
  • Y17535 was formed some time between 2700-2200 years ago 
  • Y18109 was formed some time between 2200 - 150 years ago, and this 

Given the close connection between the new member and the Limerick Spearin's (GD = 9/111), he should test positive for SNP Y17535 (which is over 2000 years old). However, there is a huge gap in the time estimate for the formation of Y18109 and this means that there is a strong chance that the new member will not test positive for this SNP marker. He may sit on an adjacent branch to the Spearin's that has not as yet been identified. But if he does test positive for Y18109, then it suggests a very close association, and makes the probability of an NPE more likely.

A lot of these questions would be answered if our new member did the Big Y test, but it is expensive ($575). So alternatively, it may be worthwhile for him to test for the single SNP Y17535 ($39). And if that is positive to test for Y18109 ($39), to see if he sits on the same branch of the Human Evolutionary Tree (Haplotree) as us Spearin's. It's a bit lonely out here!

We could ask other close neighbours to test on the Big Y or Y17535 - but the problem is trying to identify them. Of the GF1 project members who have tested out to 111 markers, our new Laveaud member is their only non-Spearin match. And at the 67 marker level, there are loads of matches (20+) with some of them obviously sitting on adjacent branches to the Limerick Spearin's that connect over 2000 years ago (e.g. branches Y6060 and PF5268). This indicates that there is a degree of "Downstream Convergence" among our 67-marker matches and it will be difficult to identify which of them are truly our closest neighbours. So testing people on these branches may not be of much help ... but it may be the only option we have.

However, there is one ray of light. Our new member Laveaud matches two GF1 Spearin members (GD = 8/111 & 9/111) ... but also a third individual by the name of Razee, with ancestry from Rhode Island. He is kit 70816 in the diagram at the end. This match has a GD of 10/111 to Mr Laveaud and is positive for L1198 (roughly equivalent to Z166).  This could be the result of "downstream convergence" but there is some evidence to suggest that this is not the case. We will discuss this below.

But first, is there anybody among the array of people in the I-M223 Haplogroup Project that we could target for SNP testing? These people were grouped based on STR values initially and these groupings are continually being refined by additional SNP testing. The ones of interest to our GF1 are the ones that could possibly sit on our Y17535 branch or one of its sub-branches (only BY3098 has been identified so far). We are not that interested in those that sit on branches adjacent to Y17535 (i.e. Y6060, Z190 / S20905, P185_2, and PF5268) because they are likely to be too far back in time to be genealogically relevant (i.e. over 2000 years ago).

So ... this limits our field of interest to the groups known as :
  • Cont1 Group 1
  • Cont1 Group 1a
  • Cont1 Group 2
  • Cont1 Group 3 (our new Laveaud member has been placed here)

The Limerick Spearin's belong to subgroup Cont1h1. Several questions spring to mind: would it be possible to identify the most closely related GF1 matches among these subgroups and encourage them to test? Would a cladogram help? Has the cladogram changed over time as SNPs have become available, or have they verified the cladistic structure that was generated via STRs? i.e. how accurate were the STR-based estimates? I will discuss these points on the I-M223 Project's Activity Feed and with the I-M223 Project Administrators and feedback in due course.

The Limerick Spearin's belong to Cont1h1

Some Traditional Genealogy

Mr Laveaud's ancestry goes back to La Tremblade, an area on the west coast of France, south of La Rochelle and north of Bordeaux and the Garonne / Dore estuary. It is well known for its oyster farms.

From 1200 onward, the area became an international trading centre with merchants from England, Spain & Flanders, importing wool and exporting both wine and salt. Potentially, because of this trade, there could have been some contact between the merchant Spearin's from Flanders and the trading Laveaud's from France.

He can only trace back as far as his grandfather but the Laveaud surname has been in France since before the 1600s, and possibly at the start of surname formation in France, which was about 1100-1200. It is quite a common name because it means "the valley" and thus may have multiple different origins. 

La Rochelle was a Catholic fiefdom but the city of La Tremblade became Protestant around 1540 so it is probable that the Laveaud's were Protestants around 1600. Around 1650 La Rochelle came under the protection of Louis XIV because of its Catholic population which apparently included an Irish community. The Laveaud's probably became Catholics around 1680 with subsequent persecution and oppression. 

The Spearin's were most likely Protestant, definitely while in London, possibly in Flanders, and certainly on arrival in Limerick. Most became Catholic after several generations in Ireland. The reason this consideration of religion is important is that it may help us to ascertain if the Spearin's and Laveaud's were likely to have mixed socially.

La Tremblade was a big French port with much traffic going to Quebec (New France) from the 1600s onwards. Oyster-farming became a major industry around this time. In 1876, La Tremblade was the fifth Port of France just after la Rochelle.

The Razee Connection

The connection with Razee mentioned above is very interesting and potentially very important. He is kit 70816 in the diagram at the end. There is a family of Razé from France who owns oyster farms in La Tremblade! Are these the ancestors of the Razee from Rhode Island? Has he found his ancestral origin? From the TiP Report for our new member, it appears that the common ancestor between Laveaud and Razee was a little earlier than the common ancestor he shares with the Spearin group, perhaps about 1620 (range 1380-1770; 11 generations, range 6-19). However, these STR-based TMRCA estimates must be taken with a pinch of salt. The actual connection may be further back in time.

It would be useful if the Razee family from America did some additional DNA testing, specifically the Y17535 SNP ($39) and if that is negative, then the I-M223 SNP Pack ($119).  Also, it would be great if one of the Razé family from La Rochelle did the Y-DNA-37 test - this could confirm the origins of the American Razee family. I have written to the Administrator of the Razee Project and I offered her these suggestions.

I wonder where the name Razé originally came from? Below are some surname distribution maps for several variants of the name. These are from ... They appear to have come from Belgium or France, and a few of them may have become Rasey in England. In contrast, Laveaud is a French surname, with high concentrations near La Rochelle. There is a marked similarity of high surname density for the surnames Razé and Laveaud in the area of La Rochelle suggesting that people with these surnames lived in close proximity to each other.

Modern Surname Distribution Maps of
Razee, Rasey & Razé

Surname Distribution of Laveau & Laveaud

Other neighbours ... from Portugal & Cuba?

A recent response from the I-M223 Yahoo group was from a neighbour who sits on an adjacent branch (BY3098, Cont1h2) to the Limerick Spearin's of GF1 and our connection is some time in the last 2200 years. His YFULL ID is YF10785 (FTDNA kit 260237, surname Braz, MDKA Domingos Pires Preto, b. ~1600 - Penela da Beira, Portugal) and he reports that all his ancestors are from Portugal (up to 1600). So this suggests that maybe the Spearin's came from Portugal or maybe his family came from Flanders sometime between 200 BC and 1500 AD. I know that Spain had control of the Flanders area for a while (1581-1714) so maybe this is where there is a connection? or could it be via trade and merchants pre-1500? or maybe it is further back?

Also, there is another new neighbour on this adjacent BY3098 branch (Cont1h2) and he also appears to have origins from the Iberian Peninsula. His surname is Lopez-Carnicer (kit N16676) and his MDKA is Carlos San Justo Lopez Castillo (born 26 Oct 1797) and he is from Cuba. Presumably he was a Spanish or Portuguese emigrant.

So somewhere back in time these two branches (ours and the Iberian's) meet up - the question is where?

The answer probably lies in finding other close neighbours who can help fill in the pieces of this fascinating jigsaw puzzle. And that means encouraging more people to do SNP testing, either with the Big Y or the I-M223 SNP Pack.

Possible Next Steps
  1. date the Cont1h1 (BY3098) sub-branch (via I-M223 Project Admins & Activity Feed)?
  2. get the updated cladogram for the Cont1 group?
  3. identify who is nearest to our Cont1h1 branch among the Cont1 members without subgroups?
  4. target them for testing 1) Big Y; 2) single SNP Y17535? 3) I-M223 SNP Pack?
  5. write to RAZEE if no response from Project Administrator?

The subgroups below Z166 of possible relevance to GF1
(from the I-M223 Project)

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

New Project Member ... with clues to the Spearin origin?

Please welcome a new project member to Genetic Family 1 (GF1; the Limerick Spearin's). Member 458314 is not a Spearin, he's a Graham. But he is a fairly close match to the members of GF1. And he may hold clues to the origins of the Spearin's in GF1.

Evidence from STRs
Below is the summary of Mr Graham's Genetic Distance to other members of the Spearin Surname Project at the 67 marker level. He has a Genetic Distance (GD) of 5/67 with his closest match, 6/67 with 4 other members of GF1, and 7/67 with two other members. He also matches two people in the Ungrouped category but much more distantly (9/67 and 20/67).

TiP Report (at 67 markers) for new member 458314 showing his GD to his closest matches in the project
(click to enlarge)

Clicking on the TiP Report for his 7/67 matches reveals that the TMRCA (Time to Most recent Common Ancestor) is estimated to be about 12 generations ago (50% probability level) with a 90% range of 6-21 generations ago. That roughly equates with 360 years before present (90% range 180-630 ybp), which in turn gives a rough estimate of the birth year of the common ancestor of 1590 (90% range 1320-1770, assuming the average birth year of those tested is 1950).

So why does Mr Graham match the GF1 Spearin's?

There are several possible Scenarios based on the DNA alone:
  1. There may have been an NPE (non-paternity event, e.g. adoption, illegitimacy, etc) somewhere along the line and Mr Graham is actually a Spearin, and we all share a common Spearin ancestor born about 1590 (I say we because I too am a GF1 Spearin).
  2. We Spearin's in GF1 are actually all Graham's, and the NPE was on our line, not Mr Graham's.
  3. Mr Graham and the GF1 Spearin's are actually related prior to the common usage of surnames, which in the UK occurred around about 1200-1300. However, we see from his TMRCA estimate that there is a 95% probability that he is related to the GF1 Spearin's sometime after 1320, so this scenario seems unlikely.
  4. What we are looking at is in fact an example of Convergence. This is when the genetic profile of one person appears to be fairly close to that of another person but in fact there are hidden back mutations or parallel mutations within their profiles that make them related much further back than they seem.

So which of these scenarios is the most likely in Mr Graham's case?

Evidence from SNPs
Well, we might get some clues from the terminal SNP markers of his closest matches. Mr Graham's own terminal SNP is the upstream SNP M223 placing him firmly in Haplogroup I (along with the GF1 Spearin's).
  • At 67 markers, he has 19 matches whose terminal SNPs include L1198 (x1), PF5268 (x1), Y18109 (x2; both GF1), Y6060 (x1), and Z166 (x2; 1 from GF1).
  • At 37 markers, he has 11 matches including L1198 (x1) and Y18109 (x1; GF1)
  • At 25 markers, he has 44 matches including CTS6433 (x1), L1198 (x1), PF5268 (x1), Y18109 (x2; both GF1), and Z166 (x2; 1 from GF1).

All these terminal SNPs (except one) are on the same or adjacent branches of the human evolutionary tree to that on which the GF1 Spearin's sit. I've marked these branches with a red dot in the diagram below. The exception is SNP CTS6433 which is on the following branch:
  • I-M223 > CTS616 > CTS10057 > Z161 > CTS2392 > Z173 > CTS6433

So although the exception is still within the I-M223 haplogroup sub-clade (like the GF1 Spearin's), it is a completely different branch.

However, taking all the evidence into consideration, there seems to be little doubt that Mr. Graham will test positive for L1198 - the only question is which of the sub-branches does he sit on. Currently there appear to be 3 possibilities - Y6060, PF5268, and Y18109 (the GF1 Spearin's). To answer this question, there are several courses of action open to Mr Graham:
  • do the I-M223 SNP Pack ($119) - this will test for most of the relevant downstream SNPs (in pink below) but not all of them (in blue). Additional single SNP testing (e.g. for Y18109) might be indicated thereafter
  • do the Big Y test ($575, or wait for the sale when it is usually $475 or lower) and a YFULL reanalysis ($49) - this will assess most/all of the relevant SNPs and detect some new ones too

Placement on the Haplotree of the Terminal SNPs of Mr Graham's closest matches

If further SNP testing reveals that Mr Graham sits on one of the adjacent branches in the haplotree (e.g. Y6060), then the connection will be very far back in time (L1198 for example was formed 3000 years ago approximately - see diagram below), and if that is the case we are probably looking at is Scenario 4, Convergence.

However, if he sits on the same branch as the GF1 Spearin's (Y18109) then we can conclude that we are related within the past 2200 years (approximately) as this is when it is estimated that the SNP Y18109 was formed (see previous post). This is consistent with any of the first 3 scenarios above, but does not help us distinguish which scenario is the most likely.

Only by doing the Big Y test (and a YFULL reanalysis) would we get a better idea of which scenario is the most likely. If we compared his Big Y results to those of the GF1 Spearin's who have already done the Big Y test, we might find any of the following:
  • He sits on an adjacent branch, below L1198 or below Y17535 => the most likely scenario is Scenario 4: Convergence
  • He sits on branch Y18109, matches some of the 10 SNPs in the terminal SNP block, but does not match others. This splits up the Y18109 10-SNP block (as discussed in a previous post) and places him on a new adjacent branch with a branching point estimated to be either before the common usage of surnames (=> Scenario 3 is the most likely scenario i.e. he is related to the GF1 Spearin's before 1200-1300 AD) or after the common usage of surnames (=> Scenario 1 or 2 is most likely). Either way, the new branching point could be dated and would move everybody concerned further down the human evolutionary tree.
  • He sits on the Y18109 branch, matches all 10 SNPs in the terminal SNP block, but does not match any of the unique SNPs of those GF1 Spearin members already tested => Scenario 1 or 2 is most likely
  • As above, he sits on the Y18109 branch, matches all 10 SNPs in the terminal SNP block,  and in addition matches one of the existing Big Y-tested GF1 members on some of their unique SNPs => possibly Scenario 1 is the most likely and an NPE has occurred somewhere along Mr Graham's ancestral line. This would also create a new branching point which could be dated and would move (some of) us further downstream on the human evolutionary tree.

Branching points & Terminal SNP blocks below L1198

Genealogical evidence
So far, the discussion has merely focussed on the genetic evidence. But this is where we bring in the evidence from Mr. Graham's known genealogy. It is his grandson who manages his DNA results and here is what he says:
I submitted my Grandfather's YDNA to get tested as his father Edward Graham (+ Sister) took his Mother's maiden name "Graham" and he has no recorded Father on his birth record.

So once the results came in we had 9 good matches for Spearing, Speiran, Spearin, Speerin

Now the fun begins finding the link to a Spearin in New Zealand.

So clearly there is an NPE in the Graham line and it is at the level of Mr Graham's father (born in 1901 in New Zealand). The question is: does it go back to a Spearin or to some other surname?

One obvious course of action (as Mr Graham's grandson suggests) would be to search for a Spearin in New Zealand in 1901 who could have been Mr Graham's father's father. There are several potential candidates* in New Zealand around this time with the names Spearing and Sperring (more usually an English variant) but no one by the name of Spearin, Speiran, Speirin, or Spierin (more usually the Irish variant associated with the GF1 group). So, there is no clear signal currently that a GF1 Spearin was the father of Mr Graham's father.

Next Steps
One could try to track down some of the present day New Zealand Spearing's and encourage them to do a Y-DNA-37 test to see if there is a close match to Mr Graham. Or Mr Graham could do the Big Y test (and YFULL reanalysis) to see where he sits on the human evolutionary tree relative to the GF1 Spearin's.

The latter seems like the best course of action as it will give us the most information. It is likely to give us quite a bit of additional information about our relative positions on the haplotree but it won't answer all our questions - it may not identify any additional surname candidates for Mr Graham's father's father, and it may not give us any further clues to the ancestral origins of the GF1 Spearin's.

And as has been the case for many years, it will still be a waiting game to see if any closer matches to Mr Graham or the GF1 Spearin's emerge over time.

But one day, we will get there (in all likelihood). It is only a matter of time.

Maurice Gleeson
April 2016

* from the New Zealand Electoral Rolls 1853-1981 on Ancestry