Our Unknown Scottish Ancestor “MacWho?” A DNA detective story.

Last update: Saturday, 28 July 2007

This is a joint genealogical effort to try to reconstruct family trees, which may contain errors. If you think you see something you want to copy, please also do me the favour of contacting the maker of this webpage (Andrew.Lancaster “at” skynet.be) to give me a chance to update you on the latest possibilities.

 

Here is a summary of the smaller group of people who have a surprising and unusual genealogical DNA match. Regular visitors should note that updates and corrections are made often.

 

I have emphasised the marker results that are most interesting, and the marker names that are known change most often (meaning they are relatively “fast changing” within family trees). These markers are STR markers that represent repeats or stutters in the Y chromosome DNA, passed from father to son. Please note that only men have Y chromosomes, and so the language below concerning fathers and sons is not sexist.

 

 

(Note that DYS389II includes DYS389I and so DYS389I and II of 14 and 30 is only one step from 13 and 29, with the difference only being from 14 to 13.)

1. The first remarks to make for traditional genealogists

 

With 37 markers tested on all lines, we can remark 3 very strong clusters amongst families with no known “paper trail” relationship yet:

a. The Porter, McLane, and Beatty group.

b. The Furry, Fergie, Fergus, Ferguson group. (All family names seemingly derived from the personal name Fergus.)

c. The 2 McClays.

 

The other three families are

d. A Wilson family which has not traced its ancestry out of the USA

e. A Wilson family in Scotland. (We separate the American and Scottish Wilsons, because genetically they further apart from each other than from any of the other families!)

f.  An Australian Livingstone family (Livingstone being a name associated with McClay).

 

It should be kept in mind that these results are very close as an overall group. Therefore it is difficult to be group the 6 branches above (a-f) into bigger groups sharing more recent common ancestry. There are however two fast moving markers, DYS449 and CDYa (also known as DYS724), which seem to follow the same pattern, making it likely that they show us two branches: one with high DYS449 values and low CDYa values, the other the reverse. This would put the McClays and Livingstones with the Fergus group, while the Wilsons would be split, with the Scottish family closer to the Fergie/Furry group, and the American family closer to the McLane/Porter group.

 

Based on what has been found to be normal in many surname projects, they could easily belong to one large family, or to put it in the jargon, just looking at the distance between these people it is reasonably likely that they have a common ancestor in times when historical records exist.

 

But remember that our interest is not just because we are close, but also because we are (a) rather unusual and (b) seemingly localised to Scotland or perhaps even one part of Scotland.

 

2. Where we sit in the greater scheme of things

 

After quite a few tests and re-tests by Family Tree DNA, who did the STR tests, we now know from tests by both them and DNA Heritage that this group is part of the R1b1c haplogroup (sometimes called R1b3) of the family tree of all human fathers and sons (defined by SNP mutation M269). More recently our Livingstone family have had more extensive testing done by Ethnoancestry, and received the following NEGATIVE results:-

M160, M65, S21, S28, S29, SRY2627, M126, M37, M153

 

So despite appearances, this is an offshoot of the most common patrilineal “family” in Western Europe. This particular offshoot or mini-cluster probably all descend from a man (we call him “MacWho?” for fun) in Scotland sometime in the last 1000 years, and quite possibly as recently as 600 years ago.  But the link to our fellow mainstream M269 paternity is likely to be thousands of years ago.

3. The markers in the table and what they mean

 

Looking at the 37 markers used by our initial lab, Family Tree DNA, the results add up to a genetic distance from “Modal” (most common) R1b1c of about 13, which is significant. Three of the Porters are from the Sorenson database and gave us a first indication about what we can expect for 11 other markers commonly used in genealogy, and showing three more deviations from R1b1c modal, bringing us to 16 mismatches out of 48 markers. We continue to test on both these and other markers using DNA Fingerprint and other labs.

 

We break the 37 markers up into the 3 standard Family Tree DNA packages purchased by most of our group, and then discuss the others…

 

1. The first 12 markers. Looking at the most commonly tested markers, the unusual values for this variety and their differences from R1b modal are as follows. (The numbers given about how uncommon these are come from Whit Athey’s analysis.)

DYS390 = 25 instead of 24 (approximately 15% of R1b people in Western Europe have such a value, so this is not very uncommon).

DYS391 = 10 instead of 11 (again this is not uncommon, approximately 32% of R1b people share this value).

DYS385a-b = 15-15 instead of 11-14 (this has been checked using the Kittler test to ensure there are 2 separate DYS385 markers). This is extremely uncommon.

DYS439 = 11 instead of 12 (about 15% of R1b people have this particular value)

 

We must then consider the markers in combination (many cases with big variations from modal are of course only different on one marker) and then we find they are extremely rare.

 

Some remarks about this: First 390, 391 and 392 are rather stable, and the combination 25/10/13 is relatively unusual. Secondly, the 385 result is extremely unusual in R1b, though once again it is found. To state it differently, the above people are the only people we are aware of in any database with the combination of 25/10/13 and 385=15, 15. On the www.yhrd.org database of haplotypes, not only are there no matches, there are also no matches for one step neighbours, nor any matches for 2 step neighbours. (This database is poor for Scottish data.) So even the “normal looking” “cousins” shown above for comparison actually have quite a rare haplotype (see above).

 

The values for DYS385 require more discussion. What seems to have happened is a type of mutation which is now considered more common than previously thought. Generally in genealogy (as in the table above) we use STR mutations, such as DYS390, which are small segments of “stutter” that change by one repeat up or down reasonably often from father to son for example from 25 to 24 repeats. For considering more ancient roots, we speak of SNP mutations such as M269. These are much more rare, but simpler to understand, being small transcription errors from father to son. What we are dealing with here seems to be what is known as a recLOH” mutation where a backup copy of a segment of DNA overwrites its brother copy making big-seeming changes in a single step. This seems to be particularly important and complex on the sex-determining Y chromosome, because these do not come in pairs like our other nuclear DNA.

 

In this case what we are postulating is that an ancient “MacWho” had a father who had a set of DYS385 values which were a more common 11 and 15, and one of these was over-written by the other giving the current 15 and 15, which is extremely distinctive.

 

2. With 25 markers, we also see two quite unusual variations from what is normally seen in R1b:

DYS458 = 15 instead of 17. This is rare. About 2% of R1b men in Western Europe have this value for this marker.

DYS449 = 30 or 31 instead of 29. About 11% of Western European R1b men have this value for this marker.

 

We also did an extended test of the DYS464 group of markers, to look for the distinctive “g-> c” SNP mutation found nearby at least one of the DYS464 markers in nearly all R1b individuals. We found them. In the terminology of the testing company (DNA Fingerprint) these extended test for our Renfrewshire Wilson were 15c-15c-16g-17c. Non-R1b men have only “g” markers.

 

3. With 37 markers we find these peculiar values:

DYS460 = 10 instead of 11 (Like about 18% of Western European R1b men.)

DYS456 = 15 instead of 16 (Like about 34% of Western European R1b men.)

DYS570 = 16 instead of 17 (Like about 14% of Western European R1b men.)

 

4. With 67 markers we find these peculiar values:

DYS481 = 23 instead of 22

 

5. The 11 SMGF markers.

Y-GATA-C4 (also known as DYS635) = 24 instead of 23.

DYS444 = 13 instead of 12.

DYS452 = 12 instead of 11.

 

6. More markers.

More test results continue to come in, both from DNA Fingerprint and from Family Tree DNA, who now offer 22 more markers.

So far the most distinctive is DYF399 – an extremely interesting multipart marker tested for by DNA Fingerprint. The 18 and 19 results are amongst the lowest ever seen for R1b haplotypes.

For DYS485 we find 16 being normal instead of 15.

4. The families involved so far can be grouped as follows already:-

 

1. Beatty. The participants (2 cousins) have established that their Y DNA signature is not that of their Beatty relatives. This could be a result of an adoption, illegitimacy, etc, but it happened some time ago and no record has yet come to light to explain who the father of the first Beatty with this DNA signature was.  It was somewhere between a late 18th century settler in Washington County PA named Thomas Beaty (b. about 1745 Ireland, d. 1816 Cross Creek PA) and his great grandson Walker Beatty. Therefore one of our project’s particular genealogical quests is to find out who the father of this family is.

 

As a result of DNA comparison with our group it seems a good chance that our BEATTYS have PORTER ancestors.

 

2. MCLANE. MCLANE or MACLEAN is a surname said to come from the Gaelic MAC GILLE EOIN meaning “son of the servant of (saint) John”. The name is strongly associated with the island of MULL, which is also associated with the clan MACLEA or LIVINGSTONE. This clan is said to be of more recent origin than the MACLEA clan, having been started at the time of king ROBERT BRUCE by a man who was the descendent of a GILLEAN (“servant of John”) OF THE BATTLE AXE. This man is sometimes said to have descended in turn from CUDUILIG, Abbot of LISMORE. He was in turn supposedly descended from LORN, said to be the son of FERGUS MAC ERC, King of the Scotti.

 

These McLanes are still one of the most likely origins of our Beatty line, although the Porters now seem more likely. They are also important because they add to the impression (along with the name McClay, and the associated name Livingstone) that the MacWhos may originate in Argyll, with the ISLE OF LISMORE coming in for particular attention!

 

Interesting fact. Much later, in more historically known times, with surnames beginning to take more shape, the McLane clan worked its way under the Bruce’s patronage into the power structure of LORN, first holding a castle at SEIL (I understand it was Caisteal nan Con, the Dogs' Castle, on TORSAY or TORSA island; see here and here) and then taking control of the far more important territory of MULL on the other side of the FIRTH of LORN. It is not certain where they had come from before this time, but one genealogist (Skene) felt that they were from MORAY, like the MACNAUGHTONS of that region (see PORTER below). LORN is the homeland of the MACLEA or LIVINGSTONE clan.

 

3. THE FERGUS NAMES. According to Scottish genealogical references FERGIE, FERGUSON and FURRY can be derived the Gaelic name Fergus, which was famous in early Scotland. One of the most famous men of this name was Fergus Mor mac Erc, a very early king of the early Irish/Scottish Dalriada in Argyll in Western Scotland in the dark ages. In any case it seems we are dealing with the descendents of a man named FERGUS. No equivalent Gaelic forms have appeared yet, such as MACKERRAS (from MAC FHEARGHUIS).

  • For our Fergie participant, a Scot, this was no surprise. He is from LEITH in the EDINBURGH region (MIDLOTHIAN), and can trace his family some way back in that region. Before then, he suspects a connection to KIRKINTILLOCH.
  • But our Furry participant, an American, has no genealogical information about where his family came from in Europe, and no tradition of the name being connected to the name FERGUS. Before discovering our group, theories were that it was Irish, French or German. His earliest known ancestor was Jacob Furry who was born in 1787 in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania and died in Owen County, Indiana in 1873.  He believes that Jacob's father's name was John Furry. 
  • Our FERGUSON participant, a Canadian, knew himself to descended from a family in HAMILTON, in the GLASGOW region, and also that they had originally gone by the name FERGUS. His earliest known ancestor was WILLIAM FERGUS, was married in 1808 to Agnes Craig and then proceeded to raise a family in the neighbourhood. John Wilson of Kilwinnet immediately noticed that in this same period one of the FERGUSES of KIRKINTILLOCH had also married in Hamilton.
  • Upon discovering this, we found that a FERGUS from the KIRKINTILLOCH family had also had a DNA test, and was yet another match.

 

We are clearly dealing with a single branch of the MacWhos here that have split up only since modern times and fixed surnames. They appear to come from the area of Kirkintilloch, and generally in the CAMPSIE hills, to the north of Glasgow. DUNBARTONSHIRE is in fact the county in between Glasgow and ARGYLL. This is close to the home area of John Wilson of Kilwinnet (see below). Further study is extremely likely to be fruitful.

 

4. Living and Mcclay. This match was particularly important to the participants involved, because all three people expected a connection to the Scottish Maclea (“highland Livingstone”) clan.

 

The LIVINGSTONE family in our group came from SCOTLAND to AUSTRALIA, and had always felt itself related to Dr Livingstone (perhaps the most famous member of the clan MACLEA).

 

More about this family can be found on a separate web page: http://users.skynet.be/lancaster/Livingstone.htm

 

The Mcclay participants of our group are an American and a Canadian born in belfast. Both understand that their paternal ancestry goes back to DONEGAL in Ireland and both believe that before then it must eventually be Scottish. It appears we are dealing with a family that associated itself with both the name MCLEA and the name LIVINGSTONE, for many generations, though having left the homeland long before.

 

These two men are clearly related. The DNA gives their genealogy a clear target.

 

Interesting fact. Our DNA comparisons show a connection to families seemingly descended from a FERGUS. There was also a FERGUS MACLEA (“of the red side”) in the history of the CONTIN family of that name, in ROSS in NORTHERN SCOTLAND. This family may have had connections to the CLAN IVOR and/or MACLEOD. His clan was sometimes called CLAN LAIGH or LEAWE, and was associated with LOCH ACHILTY. Their connection to the other MACLEAS seems to be uncertain.

 

 

5. Wilson. All three WILSONS are in the Wilson DNA project. Wilson is a common name all over Britain, but particularly in Scotland. Wilson means “son of William” and in some cases WILSONS might descend from a MacWilliam, a MACLIAM or Mac Uilleim which would be Gaelic translations of the same patronymic. Of all the Anglo-Norman personal names that arrived in Britain with William the Conqueror, WILLIAM was one of the most popular in Scotland in the Middle Ages and it was taken up early by at least some Gaelic speaking highlanders (and not only lowlanders and those of Norman, English or Flemish descent). A clan named MACWILLIAM were powerful Gaelic claimants for the Scottish throne against King William the Lion. The Clan Mac Mhic Uilleim is descended from William, son of William fifth chief of Macleod.

 

One the participants, JOHN WILSON of KILWINNET, is Scottish and traces his roots to PAISLEY in RENFREWSHIRE. Like our Fergie participant, he suspects a connection towards STIRLINGSHIRE before then. If the DNA is interpreted as giving specifically HIGHLAND Scottish matches then the Wilsons of Kilwinnet may have been originally McWilliams prior to adopting the fixed surname Wilson.

 

The other participants are related AMERICANS and have not traced their family beyond those shores.

 

 

6. PORTER. PORTER was a common name from a very early time in SCOTLAND, ENGLAND and IRELAND, and it may turn out to be the most common surname of the “MacWho” DNA family. It was probably more prevalent in the LOWLAND regions of SCOTLAND, where it was originally associated with an important management function in castles or monasteries (originally portarius, or “gate keeper”). In Gaelic-speaking HIGHLAND areas however, it could refer to the job of a Ferryman. An interesting fact at first sight is that the name Porter was associated with Clan MacNaughton from Moray (in particular, some member of this clan who were in GLENLYON in PERTHSHIRE by this time) as were some MacFerguisses/ Fergusons. The name MacNaughton comes from a very ancient Pictish name, Nechton, possibly meaning "the pure one". A large branch of MacNaughtons appear to have been finally settled in Argyllshire previous to the reign of Alexander III and were allied to the MacDougalls of Lorn.

  • The Porter family we are in contact with the longest trace their line back to Coleraine, LONDONDERRY in Ireland. They arrived in the USA about 1690-1727. According to an old letter they had come to Ireland from Scotland in the time of the Protectorate of Cromwell (1653-1659) meaning that they may have been Covenanters involved in the garrison of Carrickfergus in 1642? The same letter proposes that they immigrated to the USA in 1727, (arriving Newcastle, Delaware). They settled “in the upper part of Cecil County adjoining the Pennsylvania line and Lancaster Countywhere there “was a large colony composed principally of Ewings, Porters, Gillespies & Polks” who also came from Coleraine. Could the connection between these various families go back to Scotland? The Ewings seem to believe they come from “the northern regions of old Strathclyde” while the Coleraine Polks appear to believe they come from the Renfrewshire Pollocks. These two pieces of evidence suggest a connection to the same area around Glasgow where FERGUS families come from, as well as John Wilson of Kilwinnet.
  • Concerning the three other Porters from the Porter DNA project, we can not go back as far. However two of them descend from the same ancestor: one Robert Porter of Virginia.
  • The matches on the Sorenson database, gives information about ancestors, but not about the people who sent their sample in. By looking in normal public genealogical databases we see that these are likely to be people descended from several different immigrant families. The Michigan one goes back to an Irish born Canadian (the father of a John Porter living in Covert, Van Buren, Michigan in the 1881 US census).

 

Interesting fact. The Scottish name FERRY can come from both the profession (which in GAELIC is PORTER/PORTAIR) or from the name FERGUS, just like FERGIE and in some cases FURRY.

 

Despite being such a common name, the MacWho group is one of the biggest groups in the Porter DNA project so far, and represents at least 3 of the 15 Porters on www.smgf.org. The PORTERS match the BEATTIES 37/37, and are considered very likely to be the origin of this BEATTY line’s DNA signature. BEATTIES and PORTERS were commonly living near each other in early American “Scots Irish” communities.

 

7. Isolated surnames

BAIN. Black derives this from the Gaelic word for fair or white (bàn). Bayne and Bane are considered to be variants. This is probably a surname which was taken up many times but it seems to be Scottish. Our family is from Antrim, but traces itself back to Muthill in Perthshire.

BULLOCK. Bullock is thought to be an English name, but it was present and common from an early time in some parts of Scotland.

CHISHOLM. Is a Scottish surname named after a specific place: Chisholm in Roxburgh, near the English border. Our family’s paper trail in this case dies out in 1717 in a place called Tenabruichroy in Glen Convinth, Inverness-shire.

MCKENZIE. Is a very common Scottish name meaning son of Kenneth or son of Kinnoch. It was probably a surname taken up many times in Scotland. There are many spelling variants.

MUIR. MUIR is a very common and very SCOTTISH name. In the timeframe we are interested in, going back before standardized spelling of most Scottish surnames, the name can also be considered equivalent to names such as Moore, Moir and More. Some of these names might have had an origin in Ireland or England, but the “ui” spelling tells us that this family was almost certainly Scotland for a reasonable period in the last 300 years or so. The name has at least four origins, which are possibly all common: Moor or heath; dark like a Moor; Big (Gaelic) and possible also something to do with seas or lakes. The family above has a story that it comes from Edinburgh, but they have so far traced themselves back to LIFFORD, Donegal in Northern Ireland. The family moved to AYRSHIRE in Scotland around the turn of 1800.

MUNY. This is a remarkable match, because it is very difficult to reconcile it with the seemingly Scottish origin of all or most of the other families. This family has genealogical records going back to EASTERN FRANCE (Mulhouse) and SOUTHERN GERMANY (Lorrach) in the 16th century, and only arrived in the USA in 1903. Various theories could be proposed for this, including the idea that all the other families stem from a continental immigrant (for example a Huguenot?), or the theory that this family descends from a Scottish immigrant on the continent (for example a religious non-conformist?). There is a very small place called Cret Muny near St Cyr on the Rhone, which is near Vienne, to the south of Lyon.

TAYLOR. This is a common surname in ENGLAND or SCOTLAND coming from the originally French name of the profession. Black says it was also sometimes an Anglicization of MACINTAYLOR, which however also derives from the name of the profession.

 

5. Further Comparison

 

Table 1. This is an estimate (using the McGee comparison utility) of the most likely number of generations back from the tested participants, to their common ancestors. I have grouped together the known relatives and made 37 marker comparisons, for great meaning and accuracy.

 

50% probability: PROBABLE number of generations back to most recent common ancestor

m

F

F

M

M

L

W

W

M

P

B

 

95% probability: MAXIMUM number of generations back to most recent common ancestor

m

F

F

M

M

L

W

W

M

P

B

o

e

u

c

c

i

i

i

c

o

e

 

o

e

u

c

c

i

i

i

c

o

e

d

r

r

C

C

v

l

l

L

r

a

 

d

r

r

C

C

v

l

l

L

r

a

a

g

r

l

l

i

s

s

a

t

t

 

a

g

r

l

l

i

s

s

a

t

t

l

i

y

a

a

n

o

o

n

e

t

 

l

i

y

a

a

n

o

o

n

e

t

 

e

 

y

y

g

n

n

e

r

y

 

 

e

 

y

y

g

n

n

e

r

y

 

 

 

C

U

 

S

U

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

C

U

 

S

U

 

 

 

 

 

 

A

S

 

C

S

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A

S

 

C

S

 

 

 

 

 

 

N

 

 

T

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

N

 

 

T

 

 

 

 

modal

 

3

3

6

22

14

14

22

10

14

14

 

modal

 

11

11

18

41

29

29

41

23

29

29

Fergie

3

 

3

6

22

14

14

22

10

14

14

 

Fergie

11

 

11

18

41

29

29

41

23

29

29

Furry

3

3

 

6

22

14

14

22

10

14

14

 

Furry

11

11

 

18

41

29

29

41

23

29

29

McClayCAN

6

6

6

 

18

18

18

26

14

18

18

 

McClayCAN

18

18

18

 

35

35

35

47

29

35

35

McClayUS

22

22

22

18

 

26

35

31

26

22

22

 

McClayUS

41

41

41

35

 

47

59

52

47

41

41

Living

14

14

14

18

26

 

26

35

22

18

18

 

Living

29

29

29

35

47

 

47

59

41

35

35

WilsonSCT

14

14

14

18

35

26

 

35

22

26

26

 

WilsonSCT

29

29

29

35

59

47

 

59

41

47

47

WilsonUS

22

22

22

26

31

35

35

 

14

18

18

 

WilsonUS

41

41

41

47

52

59

59

 

29

35

35

McLane

10

10

10

14

26

22

22

14

 

6

6

 

McLane

23

23

23

29

47

41

41

29

 

18

18

Porter

14

14

14

18

22

18

26

18

6

 

3

 

Porter

29

29

29

35

41

35

47

35

18

 

11

Beatty

14

14

14

18

22

18

26

18

6

3

 

 

Beatty

29

29

29

35

41

35

47

35

18

11

 

 

 

Based on these distances, plus some reasonable guesses, the common male ancestor of our “clan” may have lived about 600 years ago. Given the similarity of the DNA within this group it is therefore hard to make a family tree. The DNA shows us 6 lines, but it does not yet tell us how they since the common ancestor. To put it in simple terms, we might descend from 6 of his sons, or from 2.

 

The more markers we test however, the more likelihood that we will find more significant variations that help us give more accurate ideas of relative relatedness, and therefore of the basic structure of our family tree.

 

---

If you have questions or comments, please pass them to me at Andrew dot Lancaster at Skynet dot be.