Archiver > BAIRNSFATHER > 2004-08 > 1093412660

From: Lee Cognetta <>
Date: Wed, 25 Aug 2004 01:44:20 -0400

Dear Everyone:

The DNA results for the Barnfather/Bairnsfather/Banfather Viking DNA
Study began coming in a couple of months ago. I hope you'll all find
them as fascinating as I do. The following is taken from the latest
edition of the Barnfather Newsletter, which was issued today.

>>D N A!
The results are in! I won't tell you that the results were simple to
understand and I can't tell you that I'm completely clear on this
(despite having sought input from an independent geneticist) two months
after receiving final results, but I can tell you that there were some
very interesting findings.

I think a little background concerning this project and how the
Barnfathers, Bairnsfathers, and Banfathers became involved in it might
be appropriate here.

Researchers at University College London have been conducting a study to
determine the extent to which Viking DNA was contributed to the overall
DNA makeup of the population of the British Isles.

Knowing that there were two groups of Vikings (the Norwegians and the
Danes) who invaded in different locations and at different times and
sometimes set up residence within Britain and Ireland, cell samples
and/or blood samples were collected in Norway and Denmark to establish
what DNA from natives of those countries should look like. (It is
unfortunate that the DNA of people whose ancestry is Danish is too
similar to that of people from Northern Germany and from that of the
Angles and Saxons who had already populated Britain to be readily
distinguishable. This will prove important to us as you read on!) They
then set about collecting DNA from eligible participants (i.e., men
whose fathers' and grandfathers' surnames were the same and who had all
lived in the particular same place throughout their lifetimes) in 30
towns and villages throughout Britain and Ireland where, or near to
where, the Vikings were known to have visited, so that comparisons could
be made.

The project was followed in an excellent BBC production entitled, 'The
Blood of the Vikings.' Should this program air in the future, I urge
you to watch. It is very informative.

Having learned earlier in our research that a word very closely
resembling Barnfather or Bairnsfather exists in both the Danish and the
Norwegian, both Keith Barnfather and I felt that we might well qualify
to participate. Keith contacted University College London and we were

At this point, I think it is necessary to give a brief summary of Viking
history in England. Please bear in mind that I am not an historian, but
these facts are very basic and will help with understanding the rest of
the story.

Both the Norwegians and the Danes invaded England during a period
starting in the late-700s. The Norwegians, after early, very quick 'in
and out' skirmishes in places like Lindisfarne, followed a different
procedure in the 800s. There is evidence of their arrival in the Orkney
and Shetland islands and also evidence that they settled in there for a
bit. Eventually, they crossed to the western coast of Scotland and
traveled down as far as Ireland, leaving evidence of their visits in the
Hebrides, the Isle of Man, Anglesey and, especially, Dublin. They were
eventually driven out of Ireland and made their way to the west coast of

The Danes, on the other hand, seem to have sailed directly to the
eastern coast of England and arrived in East Anglia around the mid-800s.
From there, they branched out to places like York and Reading. Even
more than the Norwegians, these people seem to have made the trip to
settle down. There is strong evidence of Viking farms and markets
throughout the area to the North of the Wirral. When it comes to the
genetic legacy, there was no Norwegian DNA found in this part of
England, although the Norwegian Vikings did spend time in York.

The eventual results of the DNA testing of people throughout Britain and
Ireland showed that Norwegian DNA is present in at least 30% of the
population of the Orkneys and the Shetland Islands. The Norwegian DNA
contribution lessens if one follows the path the Norwegian Vikings took
toward Ireland and, eventually, England. However, within England, the
highest proportion of Norwegian Viking DNA was found in Penrith, which
is a place that has been associated with the Barnfather name at least
back as far as the 1600s.

On the other hand, Danish DNA is nearly impossible to identify due to
the fact that the Danish Vikings came from the same genetic stock as
people from the north of Germany and as the Angles and Saxons who had
invaded Britain hundreds of years before the Vikings arrived. If you
look at that group, Danish, German, Angle and Saxon, as a whole, the
higher proportion of people with this same genetic makeup live in the
Northeast of England.

We were asked to assemble a group of men who are surnamed BARNFATHER,
BAIRNSFATHER and BANFATHER and whose fathers, grandfathers, etc., were
also surnamed BARNFATHER/BAIRNSFATHER/BANFATHER. We were able to
present 23 participants who presently live in 9 countries throughout the
world. That group included representatives of all three surnames.
Those of you who have studied the individual names will know that there
are, relatively speaking, few males surnamed Banfather and only slightly
more surnamed Bairnsfather throughout the world today. Most of those
are relatively easily linked to one another if one goes back two or
three generations. We were asked to submit DNA from people who were not
related at least five generations back if possible. This was easy to do
in the case of BARNFATHER, for which name we were able to submit 13
candidates. It was almost impossible to do in the case of BAIRNSFATHER,
for which we found 8 candidates, and BANFATHER, for which we had only

Participants were asked to provide family tree information going back in
time for five generations to me. I then assembled it in the prescribed
format and submitted that to University College London.

The participants were sent kits that they used to collect cells from the
insides of their cheeks. Each participant then sent his kit back to
University College London where the sample was analyzed and compared to
the other submitted samples.

For privacy reasons, neither Keith Barnfather (who co-organized this
project for the Barnfathers) nor I were provided with any individual
participant's results. Further, sharing those results with us was not a
requisite for the participants. A very few of the total have,
apparently, elected not to do so.

First and, perhaps, foremost, is the finding that all three names,
BARNFATHER, BAIRNSFATHER and BANFATHER, are, indeed, variants and not
separate and distinct names with independent ancestries. While the
people conducting the test at University College London did not apprise
me of individual results, I was sent a letter that included this
statement: "The evidence suggests that the spelling variants are indeed
spelling variants, rather than different names." For this reason, each
participant was thereafter referred to as 'Barnfather, ' regardless of
which variant name was his.

Further, it was also found that the DNA match was exact, strengthening
the point that there was a common ancestor for all the participants with
that result. That genetic type was described by our researcher as
"…extremely rare in my database and is only found elsewhere in 1 or 2
individuals in N/E England and North Germany and Denmark." Further,
"...the Barnfather men who participated in the study share a common
ancestor a couple of hundred years ago.'"

That is where it got a bit tricky.

A father passes his y-chromosome DNA on to his sons - their DNA should
match his exactly. If he has 4 sons, they would pass the same DNA on to
their sons in the same fashion. However, about every 200 years (and
geneticists agree upon and seem very certain about this time frame), the
DNA should mutate very slightly. So - several generations down the line
from the original father, his descendants would match with some slight
variations. This new strain, close to the original, but not exactly
the same, would then be passed on for the generations spanning the next
200 years, and so forth.

While a few of our participants can only trace their roots back a few
generations, we also had participants of all three variant surnames
whose roots extend much further and can be traced back at least to one
of these locations and dates:

·to 1645 in Durham, England
·to 1650 in Cumberland, England
·to 1698 in Lincolnshire, England
·to 1714 in London, England
·to 1735 in East Lothian, Scotland
·to 1750 in Norfolk, England

The common ancestor of these people certainly existed before 1800!

Nevertheless, our results matched exactly. The statement presented to
me when I asked for further clarification was, "…the Barnfather surname
has mainly had a single origin because analysis shows that most of the
Barnfather men who participated in the study share a common ancestor a
couple of hundred years ago."

This prompted me to turn to an independent geneticist for help. He
corroborated the 200-year time frame and could not explain the conflict
any further than could the geneticist at University College London. Our
results seem to be mysterious, to say the least.

So - what have we learned? We know that the names Barnfather,
Bairnsfather and Banfather have a common ancestry. Our DNA did not
match the Norwegian DNA found along the route taken by the Norwegian
Vikings, despite the fact that there is and has been a strong Barnfather
presence in Cumbria - where Norwegian Viking DNA is more prevalent than
in any other place in England. It does match that found in the
Northeast of England and in Germany and Denmark. While no one has said
to us: you are of Danish descent, it seems that that conclusion is one
that might be drawn. Danish parish registers often include the word
'barnfader,' used to describe the father of a child to whom the mother
of that child was not married. The word is too similar to the surname
Barnfather to be dismissed in this case, I would think.

Several participants have asked whether a more formal Barnfather DNA
test, along the lines of those presently being done by many family
groups, might be a logical next step. I'm uncertain as to whether we
would learn any more than we have already. The fact that the matching
DNA matched exactly seems to indicate, to me at least, that nothing
further will be found. On the other hand, our participant pool, which I
believe to be varied and representative of a wide range of Barnfather,
Bairnsfather and Banfather ancestries, was small. DNA testing is
expensive - tests for one family project with which I am involved cost
between $100 - $200 per person, although people with known similar
family histories frequently agree to share the costs with other family
members. I expect that this matter will be discussed at the upcoming
reunion. If you are unable to be with us and would like to voice an
opinion on this matter, please get back to me before October 1st.<<

There will be a Barnfather Reunion this coming October in York - a city
which may, for all we know, be the place from which our common ancestors
sprang. Those surnamed Bairnsfather (or Barnsfather) and Banfather are
always welcome - indeed, we had three Bairnsfather family members with
us in Durham in 2002. If anyone would like to attend this three day
event, please email me for details or check the Bulletin Board page of
my website:

Lee Cognetta

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