What have we shown people? How have we helped? Here are some examples our past customers would like us to share with you.

Surprising Roots, Forgotten Ethnicity

A German-American family in Minnesota had the father tested for Y-DNA. He was also tested for mtDNA (= his mother’s direct female line). His wife, who has English, Irish, and French ancestry, was also tested for mtDNA (= the mtDNA of the adult children).  The father’s results were interesting —for example, they learned which of the dozen deep ancestries of the Germans their male line descends from.


But the mother’s mtDNA surprised everyone. She is in mtDNA Haplogroup A. Hg A is an East Asian mtDNA haplogroup; Hg A originated there and its highest numbers are also there.  MtDNA Hg A can also be found in parts of Europe in very small numbers.  It was presumably taken there by groups like the Huns, Avars, Pechnegs, Mongols, and possibly Turks. However, when mtDNA Hg A is found in Europe it is always as the branch A4.*  Crucially, this European-American family—the mother and her siblings and her adult children—are not in Hg A4 but in Hg A2.  This can mean only one thing:  Their direct maternal line does not reach back to Europe and European settlers, but to the Native Peoples of the Americas.


They had no idea that they had Native American ancestry, let alone that it was through the direct female line. The results are a happy surprise for everyone. Like the Norwegian-American family whose ancestor founded a well known Scottish clan, they are pleased and proud with the knowledge. The analysis is amazing, but actually not that surprising: their French ancestry is French Canadian. The French in the ‘New’ World, especially early trappers and explorers, were open-minded about marrying Native people.  Many French-Canadians (as well as many African-Americans) have some Native American ancestry.


We can get even more specific than just saying this French-Canadian family’s direct female line is Native American. Judging by their sub-branch and by the ethnicity of their matches, their native ancestry goes back to the Algonquian Peoples.  Ethnic groups like the Abenaki, Mi’kmaq, Massachusett, Narragansett, Wampanoag, Mohican, Powhatan, Lenape, Menominee, Chippewa (Ojibwe), Cree, Blackfoot, Arapaho, Gros Ventre (A’aninin) and Cheyenne are all Algonquian peoples in language, culture, and ‘blood.’ If you have French-Canadian ancestry, you too could easily have a direct female line (or other line) that is Native American.


As this family’s mtDNA Haplogroup is Native American, the first woman in their haplogroup or ‘clan’ was born in East Asia. However, how and when did this East Asian lineage make it to North America? And, how and when did this lineage come to East Asia in the first place? If humankind originated in Africa or the Middle East, which paths did they take? These answers are also part of their story and what they discovered with Footsteps of Ancestors.


*The only exception to this ‘rule’ occurs in an isolated region of Europe 1,000 miles (1,600 km) from the mainland: there are small numbers of Hg A2 people found in Iceland due to Greenlander Inuit contact over the centuries.*

Cousins in an Unexpected Land

A Norwegian-American family in the Upper Midwest and Northwest had their Y-DNA tested with our guidance.  When their results came back their haplogroup (their branch on the human family tree) wasn’t surprising. They are in Y-DNA Haplogroup I, the oldest Y-DNA lineage in Europe.  More specifically, they are in haplogroup branch I1d. This is a common subgroup in Scandinavia, and so when I1d is found outside of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden it is a good indicator of Scandinavian –especially Viking (Norse and Dane)– settlement.


Although their haplogroup and subbranch were not surprising, their many living matches were notable. Where would you expect most of their living matches to be? Scandinavia and some in the United States? This is exactly what the family expected.  The great surprise is that most of their living matches, by far, are from Northern England and especially Scotland.  And, even though these matches and their families have a dozen surnames, one surname and its variants keeps appearing over and over: MacNeil(l) / McNeil(l).


The MacNeil(l)s of Scotland are famous. There are actually two clans, the MacNeils of Taynish (on the Argyle Peninsula) and the MacNeils of Barra (one of the Outer Hebrides islands). Historians, genealogists, and clan members have debated for centuries whether the MacNeils of Barra and the MacNeils of Taynish are related. Are they merely two branches of the same clan?  Are they different clans, but stemming from the same ancestral people and so are distantly related?  Or, are they totally unrelated?  Now we know.


This Norwegian-American family has many dozens of MacNeil(l) matches and therefore many hundreds, if not thousands, of MacNeill relatives in Scotland and around the world.  What appears to have happened is that one of the MacNeill clans was founded by a Norseman around 1,000 years (40 generations) ago.


This Norseman, call him Niall, left brothers in Southern Norway behind. One of these Viking brothers is the x-great grandfather of the ethnic Norwegian family in the United States today. Our Norwegian-American customers had no idea they had any paternal cousins in Scotland.  Not only that, but they had no idea that one of their x-great uncles had in fact founded a famous Scottish clan.  If you are Scottish, do you have a Viking direct forefather?  Genetic testing can show.

However, their story is even older than any Norse or Dane Vikings and Scottish Clans. How did this male line come to Scandinavia in the first place?  Where did they live before that?  This is also part of their story and is also part of the amazing discovery the family uncovered with Footsteps of Ancestors.


Note that unlike some European ethnic groups, the Scottish are good at remembering their older roots.  Most Scottish and Scottish-Americans, -Canadians, -New Zealanders, and -Australians know the Scottish people have the ‘blood’ of Picts, Gaels (Celts from N. Ireland), Angles and Saxons (how Scots is related to English, a Germanic language), and Norse and Dane Vikings.  (Amazingly, several Scottish Clans have Medieval Hungarian roots, and many also know this fact.)


This composite nature of the Scottish is also true for other European groups, and indeed most ethnic groups around the world.  The Spanish, Russians, and Germans for example, are also composite people.  In other words, they have older roots in various ancient groups.  If you are German-American, which people do your even older paternal or maternal roots go back to?  Ethnic Germans have not always existed.  What came before that?  Being ethnic German actually means you have even older ancestors from many different groups who contributed to the ‘blood’ and heritage of the German people. Which ancestral group does your direct male or female line descend from?


From most recent to the oldest, your deeper lineage could be:  Sorb or Wend (Slavic groups), Jewish, Roma, Viking, Finn/Lapp, Hun, Alan, Magyar, Mongol, Irish and English lay clergy, Roman (a mix of Italic Indo-Europeans, Etruscans, and Greek settlers), Ancient Germanic tribes like the Saxons, Franks, Goths, and Vandals; Ancient Celtic tribes like the Boii, Helvetii, and Belgae; the first proto-Indo-Europeans; the Agriculture Bringers; or all the way back to the Native Paleolithic Europeans.


Which of these ancient peoples were your direct line ancestors?  That is the story hidden in your genes which we can help reveal and explain.

Two Lineages Distinguished

There are two well-known D—- families from Virginia, dating to the early Colonial Era. Both families still have members in the state, and branches of both have spread out to the rest of the country. Today the surnames are spelled the same, and some of the surname variants were the same two centuries ago.


Before they moved to the ‘New’ World, one of the families included a well-known scientist in England. He was the first person to describe the Copernican System (the Earth and other planets revolve around the Sun) in English. However, he did not agree with the old idea of a sphere of fixed stars, which Copernicus had still believed to be true. Instead, this English scientist believed the many stars were vastly different distances from the earth —which today we know to be true. Thomas D. was also the first person to verbalize what is called the Dark Sky Postulate. It goes as follows: “If there are a very large or infinite number of stars completely surrounding the Earth… why is the night sky dark instead of brightly lit?”*


The other family also has famous ancestors in Britain. One, Simon D., a barrister, wrote a well-known treatise on legal rights and responsibilities of clergy and parishioners in the Church of England. Simon was a colorful character in 17th Century (1600s) England. Although he was the High Sheriff of Derbyshire, he continued to wear his barrister robes while riding the countryside on horseback… considered a strange thing at the time.


He had even more colorful friends, including Noah Bullock, who built an ark on the River Derwent and gave his sons the names Shem, Ham, and Japhet. After being accused of fraud, Bullock was reported to the High Sheriff. As they were friends, Simon warned him that people had caught on to his coin forging. Bullock sank his ark and escaped justice. There is still a pub called Noah’s Ark in Derby. Note that much of the historical connections of both families was unknown to its modern-day members. Footsteps of Ancestors helped them reclaim this knowledge.


It was assumed by members on both sides that these two well-known Virginia families could be related, i.e. different families of the same English ‘clan.’ We now know that they have the same haplogroup (= branch on the human family tree, in this case the Y-DNA tree), and that is R1b. However, remarkably, the families are not closely related even though they are in the same haplogroup and have the same surname. These two Colonial American families are distinct. How they differ is in their haplotype, or subbranching at R1b. (In fact, both families are R1b1a2 but their haplotypes differ by a value of one or two values at five of the twelve basic STR markers.) They do share a common male ancestor, but not in recent genealogical time. Their lineages split in ancient times, before surnames were even common in Western Europe. And, linguistic digging also shows their surnames have different etymologies and so they could not be different branches of the same English clan.


However, their story is even older than any Medieval and Early Modern English history. How and when did these male lines get to Britain in the first place? Where did they live before that? This is also part of their story and is also part of the amazing discovery the family uncovered with Footsteps of Ancestors.


This story of the two Virginia founding clans is a good example of how genetic testing and analysis (its comparison to history, documented genealogy, linguistics, etc.) can distinguish or separate families. However, genetic genealogy often brings people together. It proves relationships almost as often as it proves that families are distinct. This is especially true in the case of adopted people or families whose family history/story has been lost in recent genetic time.


*Of course, the reason is because even though there are an immense number of stars, the Universe is virtually infinite (and curved) in all directions, and so a line of site from the earth doesn’t necessarily lead to a star.  Space is literally full of a lot of empty space.  Secondly, most of the stars in the Universe are grouped into other galaxies, not in our own.  Finally, because there are opaque regions and objects (such as clouds of dust and gas) the light from many stars in our galaxy is blocked from view.  The center of our own galaxy is very bright but we cannot see its visible light from Earth.