A free e-Article by Thor Ewing
© Thor Ewing 2008, All rights reserved
Light on the History of the Scottish Clans
There is only so much that your name can tell you about your early ancestors. Though clansfolk may have identified themselves as descendants of the clan founder, in reality not everyone would have been descended in the male line from a single ancestor. Even for people who know themselves to be descended from the line of chiefs, recorded genealogies for several clans are disputed. What is more, many names can be traced to origins in more than one clan, making it hard for people today to know which clan represents the clan of their own ancestors.
So, anyone who wants to know which clan he rightly belongs to, or who wants to discover more about his clan ancestry, should take a genealogical Y-DNA test.
Doing so will also help us all to discover how the clans really relate to one another. As more people join in and have their DNA sampled, we should all learn more not only about how we relate to each other as individuals, but how we relate as families to the Scottish clan names we bear, and how the clans are related to one another.
Two types of DNA are useful to genealogists - mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and Y-chromosome DNA (Y-DNA). What makes these so interesting is that mtDNA is inherited only from the mother, while Y-DNA is inherited only from the father. This means that a man’s Y-DNA is usually similar or identical to his father’s. Y-DNA shows paternal lineage, and so this is what is important for clan genealogy.
Over time, all DNA mutates, but fairly slowly. Over hundreds of years, the number of mutations grows at a more-or-less steady rate. So, the more like my DNA yours is, the more closely we are related.
DNA and the Clans
The pattern of numbers making up your Y-DNA is known as your haplotype. Similar patterns belong to related haplotypes within the same haplogroup.
It is usually not yet possible to tell with certainty which genetic haplotypes are associated with which specific clans, but as more data is collected we should learn not only which clans we come from, but also how the clans really related to one another.
Of course, not everyone will be descended in the male line from the family of the first chief, so not everyone within the same clan will share the same Y-DNA. But it should still be possible to identify certain DNA families which are associated with individual clans.
Taking the test
If you are a man of Scottish descent (women don’t carry Y-DNA), you can help by adding your Y-DNA to the database, making your unique contribution to clan history.
Usually, you take a sample of DNA by scraping the inside of the cheek with a special swab. Two or three swabs are submitted for testing by a specialist company. Some companies have close links with particular DNA research projects. It is often worth joining a relevant project before you take the test, because you might be able to get a discount (you’ll find links at the bottom of the page). There’s nothing to stop you joining more than one group if you like.
There are four levels of test available, each reading a different amount of information from the Y-DNA. For any really useful information about clan history, go for either a 25-marker or 37-marker test. The 12-marker test is too basic to yield useful information, while the extra data in the 67-marker test comes from more unstable markers which can tell you only about more recent ancestors.
Your results will come back as a string of numbers, each associated with a different Y-DNA marker. This pattern of numbers is called a haplotype. What is important, is how closely your string of numbers matches other known results.
When you provide your Y-DNA to your chosen project, they will ask for your lineage. Usually, this means supplying the name and the approximate date and place of birth for yourself, your father, his father and so on. By tracing your paternal line to your earliest known ancestor, we can learn more about where your Y-DNA haplotype originated.
To find out more, go to the DNA Links Page
info @ thorewing.net
© Thor Ewing 2008, All rights reserved