My Dad’s Norwegian great great grandfather, Lars Monsen, was originally from the Bergen area we had been told. He left his ship to marry a girl from Farsund and then settled in Kristiansand. My cousin Dick and I tried to find records about him, but this name was quite common in Hordaland (think Tom Smith). There were 10 candidates for our Lars in the Bergen area, so I used Y DNA testing to figure out which one he was. This is discussed in several previous blog posts (click here and here)
Kristiansand Boat Basin 2015
Sigmund, a friend in Norway, found a paternal line descendant of Ole Monsen Åstveit, my suspected 5rh grandfather. Then Sigmund sent him a Y 37 marker test from Family Tree DNA. This cousin, Einar, and my father subsequently matched at 3 steps, meaning there were three STR markers that were different. Since the common ancestors lived in the 1700s this seemed reasonable, especially after I looked at each of the markers and found them to be faster mutators (click here for that article). On the other hand, my second cousin, also in the R1b haplogroup, matches a 5th cousin of his, descended from an ancestor in the 1600s, at zero steps. Basically any match in the 0-3 range is usually recent enough for the genealogies to line up.
For Christmas this past year, I gave myself the gift of upgrading Einar’s Y STR test to the BigY700 at Family Tree DNA. I had long since upgraded my Dad and that upgrade included more STR markers. For more about the different Y tests try my article Why Y? (irresistible title!) which has links to more resources as well. This upgrade also took Einar’s STR test from 37 markers to 111. Imagine my surprise when I found that at 111 markers they still had only a 3 step difference!
However the purpose of the BigY700 is to look at SNPs rather than the STRs. The SNPs will tell you more about your deeper paternal line ancestry. It is also a good way to confirm a STR match. Another reason to do the big Y is that when you have an active project administrator, you will be able to see the bigger patterns and branches of your section of the Y tree. There are projects for specific surnames as well as for regions and haplogroups and subsets of haplogroups. You can join projects at Family Tree DNA from your dashboard by clicking Group Projects then Join a Project, as shown below.
When I first started playing with clustering of my Ancestry DNA matches long ago, I found a group of presumed relatives descended from one Thorkhild Westbye of South Imjelt farm in Skougar, Vestfold. These people were not known to be my relatives, so something in my documented tree or their tree was likely incorrect. It so happens that my great great grandad Jørgen Wold, father of my great grandmother Maren Wold Lee, was the foreman on that farm.
My Ancestry DNA clusters from long ago – Added naming is mine
I blogged about the mystery of our DNA matches to the Westby(e) family a while back (click here) and my theory that Jorgen’s father was a Westbye, not the father of record. One of my action items was to find a male line Westbye who would test his Y, since that chromosome passes almost unchanged from father to son (click here for more about the Y) and can be used for deeper ancestry and paternal lines. Autosomal DNA is accurate for close matches but cannot distinguish in this case: between a half third and a half fourth cousin.
If the Y DNA were to match my Wold male line cousin Mike, who has tested, this would help confirm that Jorgen’s father is the Westbye and he and Thorkhild are half brothers. Looking at their eyes in the picture below, they could easily be closely related. If the Y does not match, then likely Torkhild Westbye was my great grandmother Maren’s father, not Jørgen. This would mean that our small matches to Jorgen’s mother’s side could be from some other further back ancestor. Although a failure to have a Y match could also indicate some other break in the line, so I would need more testers …
After much searching of family trees on Ancestry I was unable to find a male Westbye in America to test. However the tree at GENI provided me with a number of Norwegian relatives, one of whom has a great tree at MyHeritage. Thus I was able to contact him.
Sometimes testing the Y chromosome can help when you are looking for a missing father, grandfather, or further back as long as you have a tester descended on the male only line. Remember the Y is passed father to son, so any changes are rare and are caused by mutations not recombination. Typically a man would start with a Y 37 STR marker test at Family Tree DNA to see if this avenue is worth pursuing. A STR test gets the most recent changes rather than the haplogroup, thus can suggest a surname. Click here for my article explaining Y testing.
The Y results will not help if no other men from that Y lineage have tested unless you have a theory. In that case you need to test someone else descended on the male only line from the presumed ancestor.
Y testing can be very useful when the unknown parentage occured many generations ago, such that autosomal testing may not be able to solve it.
If your ancestors have been in the USA for some time then a Y 37 STR marker test may find a probable last name. In that case there may be a surname project with other Y testers at Family Tree DNA. I recommend contacting the admins of that project as they can often be a great help in your quest. However if you are from a population group which has only had inherited surnames for two hundred years or less, quite likely you will have no luck.
Father’s day is always an occasion for the DNA testing companies to offer discounts on their kits and this year is no different. Give Dad a DNA kit is the message. Why should you? Well his autosomal DNA might find cousins you had lost track of, discover ethnicity you were curious about, or solve an unknown parent mystery. After all, he is one generation closer to your ancestors. I tested my late father long ago and am grateful to have that information. Click here for my evaluations of the different autosomal testing companies.
Dad and I in about 1953 (he was in the Air Force)
Only men have a Y chromosome and there are tests for just the Y. Those tests can give you information about your surname and your deep father line ancestry. Family Tree DNA is the place to test just the Y although both LivingDNA and 23andme will give you a high level Y haplogroup, plus there are tools to determine the haplogroup from an AncestryDNA or MyHeritage test (discussed at the end of this post).
If you know what a Y haplogroup is you can skip this paragraph … The 23rd pair of chromosomes is an XX for a woman and an XY for a man. The problem or benefit is that there is no second Y for that Y to recombine with. Thus unlike the other 22 chromosomes a man’s parents give him, the Y is unchanged from his Dad’s and his Dad’s and his Dad’s and so on, except for mutations. Those little changes accumulate over thousands of years and allow scientists to catalog the Y and trace the migration of mankind around the globe. Each set of Y mutations is assigned to a haplogroup, and subgroup, which can tell you where your ancestors came from thousands of years back. Here is the latest diagram from the
wikipedia article on Y
Y haplogroup world expansion – start at the big Y in Africa (A was the first haplogroup) -image from wikipedia by Maulucioni [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]
If you are of European origin then click here for the Eupedia articles on each haplogroup
Today being the last day of the year, I always sit down and give money to the charities I care about, online of course. My husband even let me give to my local PBS station since I watch their evening news most nights as well as many other programs like Downton Abbey, Keeping Up Appearances, and Nova.
This year I also gave to a fascinating DNA project; the ongoing search for Y haplogroup A00 and its branches in Cameroon. I love crowd funding; what a fun way to support those things that interest you. Click the image to join me supporting this one.
Here is an excerpt from the email my facebook friend genetic genealogist Bonnie Schrack sent out recently which caught my eye:
“On our next field trip, in January, Matthew will sample peoples to the
West, the Banyang and Ejagham.
Our exciting news is that Thomas Krahn will be traveling to Cameroon in
January, and will accompany Matthew! They’ll also visit villages
previously sampled, to return results to the men already tested,
something almost never done in traditional academic studies. We, as
genetic genealogists, see them as individuals, not just sources of raw
material. They are interested in learning about their paternal lineages,
and we are trying to learn as much as possible about the A00-bearing
families and their history.”
The Y haplogroup A00 was discovered by citizen scientists and that truly excites me. The history of the migrations of our ancestors is written in our DNA and I really love being part of this.