HAMILTON-L Archives

Archiver > HAMILTON > 2003-01 > 1043577770


From: Gordon Hamilton <>
Subject: [HAM] Hamilton DNA Project
Date: Sun, 26 Jan 2003 05:42:50 -0500


As announced on this list last October, the Hamilton National Genealogical
Society has initiated a Hamilton surname DNA project for which I am the
contact person and coordinator. At this point we have already collected
several samples and sent them off to Family Tree DNA, the company that is
doing the analyses for this study. Currently we are awaiting the initial
results from the study.

The purpose of the present note is to attempt to articulate why each of you
should consider having a DNA analysis done for your Hamilton line and how
the results could assist you in tracing your family history. This note is
necessarily rather lengthy but I hope you will bear with me. First a little
background will be given on the analysis that is being done in the Hamilton
DNA project.

In this study either 12 or 25 markers (the results will be more definitive
with the 25 marker test) in the DNA of the Y-chromosome of each sample are
examined. The Y-chromosome is unique in human DNA in that it is only found
in males and is passed down from father to son virtually unchanged. The
term 'virtually' is used because there is a small probability (less than 1
%) that a mutation will occur in the markers each generation. The net
result then is that the markers being examined will have essentially the
same (or very similar) values for you, your father, grandfather, great
grandfather, etc., back many generations (10 to 50 or more). Obviously one
cannot directly analyze such DNA back more than 2 or 3 generations because
earlier ancestors have passed on. However, the power of the technique is
that one does not have to analyze the DNA of ancestors; one can obtain
meaningful genealogical information by comparing the results from your DNA
analysis with the results from others. Consider, for example, that your
direct male ancestor of say 10 generations ago had 2 sons, one of whom you
are descended from, and the other who is the ancestor of another group of
Hamiltons. The Y-chromosomal DNA from a living direct male descendant of
the second son should be identical or very similar to your Y-chromosomal
DNA. The corollary of course is that, if neither you nor the other Hamilton
knew your lines back that far, finding your DNAs to be so closely matched
would indicate that you have a common ancestor. That could open up new
avenues for both of you to explore. Of course, if you find that your
Y-chromosomal DNA does not match that of another Hamilton one could
conclude that you are not closely related (at least through the Hamilton
male line).

It should be emphasized that the analyses for this study can only be done
on samples collected from males since they are the only ones with the
Y-chromosome. Furthermore, because the Y-chromosome is passed from father
to son the study can only find relationships that occur through direct male
lines. Since surnames usually follow direct male lines, our study has the
potential to find many relationships among various Hamiltons. Those of you
who are females with Hamilton ancestors can still participate in the study
if you find a male relative (father, brother, uncle, male cousin, etc.) who
is willing to supply a sample for analysis. By the way, sample collection
is painless; it involves merely rubbing the inside of the cheek with a
brush collector.

One should point out that there are several situations where the DNA
analysis might give an unexpected result. These are sometimes referred to
euphemistically as 'non-parental' events. Some examples of such situations
are: an unknown adoption in your line, an illegitimate birth or conception
out of wedlock, some ancestor taking the surname of a stepfather, etc. Of
course, if you have suspicions that one of these might have occurred in
your line, obtaining a DNA analysis and comparing the results to those of
presumed relatives where it is unlikely such an event happened could
provide evidence whether such an event has occurred in your line.

Many of us have been able to determine our Hamilton lines back to the 18th
or 19th century (4 to 8 generations or so) but have been stymied in trying
to trace our lines back further. Using DNA analyses one has the potential
to be able to obtain information about earlier generations. For example,
suppose you have a well documented Hamilton line back to about 1830 in
Tennessee. You suspect that your earliest known Hamilton ancestor migrated
to Tennessee from either Virginia or North Carolina but have not been able
to make the connection. You know that there are several known Hamilton
lines in Virginia and North Carolina so it seems a reasonable possibility.
By having the DNA from one of your Tennessee Hamiltons analyzed and
comparing the results to those obtained from the various Virginia and North
Carolina Hamilton lines, one would obtain evidence which one is the most
likely to be related to your line, and thus you would know where to focus
further traditional genealogical research.

One of the general questions the Hamilton DNA study will also be able to
address is whether virtually all Hamiltons come from a common ancestor (say
500 to 1500 years ago) or whether there were several different initiating
ancestors. It is believed that most Hamiltons originated in Scotland,
although, prior to emigrating to the new world, many had previously
migrated to England or been transplanted from Scotland to Ireland,
especially in the 17th century. In early Scotland there is a very well
documented Hamilton lineage starting with Walter Fitzgilbert in the late
13th century. This line led to many Dukes, Earls, Barons, etc. and for that
reason is well documented. Undoubtedly many other Hamiltons, including many
who ultimately emigrated to the new world, are unknowingly derived from
this line. By comparing the Y-chromosomal DNA of such individuals with the
DNA from well documented descendants of the ducal line one could conclude
with a high degree of certainty whether they come from the same line or
not. Personally I think that there are too many people with the Hamilton
surname in the world for us all to be derived from the Walter Fitzgilbert
line. Walter Fitzgilbert's main seat of power was in an area near Glasgow,
Scotland and surnames did not come into common use in that area of Scotland
until the 14th or 15th century. About that time the descendants of Walter
Fitzgilbert came to be known as Hamiltons and the town (now a city) that
grew up around their castle (or palace) was given the name of Hamilton. I
suspect that when surnames came into common use some of the retainers or
servants who lived in Hamilton and worked for the ducal Hamilton line just
took the surname Hamilton. If that is the case then there will be several
initiating ancestors who gave rise to the various current Hamilton lines.
In any event, the DNA study will be able to clarify that point if various
Hamilton lines have the same or similar DNA markers within their line but
the markers are different from line to line.

In order to answer the question whether there is mainly one, or there are
many initiating Hamilton ancestors, one will need broad participation by
many Hamilton lines. For this reason alone, I would like to encourage as
many of you as possible to participate in this study. However, a potential
added benefit from participation is that some more immediate questions may
be resolved in your line (see earlier discussion) and that you may find
totally unexpected relationships with other Hamilton lines.

Some further information about the Hamilton DNA project can be found at the
web site of the Hamilton National Genealogical Society at
http://www.hamiltongensociety.org/dnaproject.htm

To participate in the study you need to fill out an application form that
can be downloaded from that site (or I can mail you a copy). The completed
application along with a pedigree chart giving your earliest known Hamilton
ancestor should then be sent to me at:

Gordon Hamilton
806 McCormick Ave
State College, PA 16801-6527
Telephone: 814-238-5695
Email:

For those of you who would like to obtain more information on DNA surname
studies in general, the following are a few web sites that contain
additional information.

http://www.familytreedna.com/; this is the company we are using for the
Hamilton surname study
http://www.duerinck.com/project.html; a specific project with links to many
others
http://www.blairgenealogy.com/dna/; another specific project whose
procedures we will follow closely in our study


This thread: