01 January 2014

MacGregor DNA Project 2014 update

MacGregor DNA Project - update 2014

Welcome to the annual update of the MacGregor DNA project.  This year, at the time of writing, we had welcomed 78 new members to the project and several members upgraded their Y chromosome tests from 37 to 67 markers, as well as ordering other tests which are available through FamilyTreeDNA.

2014 will be a momentous year for Scotland - a year in which those living there will be asked to vote 'yes' or 'no' to independence. The vote has been proposed by the Scottish National Party (the SNP) who currently have the majority in the Scottish Parliament. It will remain to be seen if this is the year of the SNP but I mention this because another SNP will make the news this year. 2014 is being described by genetic genealogists as 'the year of the SNP' and also as the year of the 'SNP tsunami'. Of course the SNP being referred to here is 'Single-nucleotide polymorphism'. Most people who have engaged in DNA testing are familiar with the sequence of numbers (12, 25, 37, 67 or 111) which result from STR or 'short tandem repeat' analysis but the significance of the upcoming SNP 'surge' is rather different.

Without wishing to make the scientists among you groan I will give a very basic idea here of what the difference is from the perspective of a DNA testing participant. I have also given some information on SNPs in earlier blogs.

As I said earlier, STR testing of the Y chromosome produces a series of number scores which can be compared with others in the surname group. Thus, by the conventional wisdom, those who share 33 out of 37 or 61 out of 67 markers are in common descent from the same individual, usually the person with whom the surname originated (or one of them, since surnames can have multiple origins). The number sequence also defines the 'haplogroup' - which for the main MacGregor line is R1b. The frustration for individuals with this test has been that while it clearly indicates common origin, it does not, except in some rare cases, really allow individuals to see if they are more closely related in historic time since DNA mutation is random. An assumption has sprung up that those who have less mutations difference with another member of the group must be related in more recent time. This is unfortunately not the case. A mutation separating individuals could have happened 200 years ago but it could equally well have happened 600 years ago. What is needed is a more accurate time clock for mutations causing a split in a family group. That is where SNPs come in.

The technology is now sophisticated enough to be able to isolate these SNPs, and as a result more detailed family trees based on genetic mutation can be constructed, and the level of detail possible in these genetic trees will only increase. The MacGregor Project has been fortunate to work with Dr Jim Wilson of ScotlandsDNA and he is in the process of analysing results from a number of MacGregors including the Chief's line [MacGregors of Glencarnaig]. 

The new SNPs and the Glencarnaig line
Chart 1 (chart is copyright ScotlandsDNA and Dr Jim Wilson)
MacGregor tree SNPs (as at December 2013)

At this point we do not have dates for the SNP mutations but the results for the Chief's line indicate a split of that line from other MacGregors tested - and we expect other MacGregor families will have similar splits which will mean that those more closely related to each other will be able to identify roughly at what point in time that split occurred. In the chart above, which has been supplied by Dr Wilson, you will see that the Glencarnaig line has two distinctive SNPs which characterise that family (the SNPs known as S696 and S698). As more information becomes available we should be in a position to actually broadly date these SNPs - currently only available for testing with ScotlandsDNA who discovered them using their newly developed Chromo2 microchip.  At this point, any MacGregors who think they might be from this line can find out by doing the Chromo2 DNA test at www.scotlandsdna.com.  You can choose to get the results presented in a brochure or you can just obtain the raw DNA data.

On the chart you will see many other numbers, sometimes prefixed by CTS, sometimes S etc: all these are SNPs, many newly discovered.  There will be much more interpretation possible once the SNPs for various other MacGregors tested is made available and so I am expecting to be writing a new update sometime during this year as the results begin to filter out.

The MacFarlands ('hidden MacGregors')
Chart 2

During the last year I was asked to draw a chart for the MacFarlands - now labelled 'hidden MacGregors' because their DNA doesn't match the MacFarlanes but rather the MacGregors, which means at some point an ancestor adopted the MacFarland name and never resumed MacGregor when it became legal to do so. Given the MacGregors' history it would seem likely that this split occurred when MacGregors were required to adopt different surnames following proscription which was imposed from 1603. The family have a quaint tradition that their name was adopted in America and was a reference to the fact that they came from a Far Land. More prosaically, it was probably how some scribe wrote it down that caused the final 'e' to change to 'd'.  The results which are displayed in the project, with one exception, seem to indicate descent from one individual. What is harder to estimate is exactly when that individual lived. There is a possibility that we are looking here at a split which occurred just at the point of adoption of surnames - for the sake of argument we'll call that 1300 - or, as I suggested above, we could be looking at a spilt that happened around 1600. I would hope that SNPs will sort this out in due course. What we can see is that there is a common point of origin and from the mutations which happen within the family groups there is pretty clear evidence that there are perhaps five or six different family groups that have emerged from that common ancestor. More significantly, some family groups have split again to produce those family groups associated with kits 279525, 162109 and 192356 on the one hand, and 149452, 258767 and 237186 on the other. These groups should look at their paper trails to see if they can identify an ancestor in the more recent past. It is possible also that 206815 and 189492 form a distinct family group.

The MacGregor Project 111 marker results
Chart 3

In this section I will be looking at all the 111 marker results for the R1b group. However I have included a version which shows 'Viking' Grier and Greer because I want to show something which is rather interesting. The length of time of genetic separation between the 'Viking' group, that is, haplogroup I, when compared with the rather large R1b group, shows separation in time of thousands of years. Yet see kit 33483 Grier and 1568 Greer - two individuals closely related to each other and rather distant from 239031 Gregor.  Now let's examine the lower portion of the chart in more detail.

Chart 4 specific group 111 marker results which includes MacGregor main line


This group of participants are very clearly a defined subgroup of R1b - observe the time distance (going up into the top of the picture) between this group and the other R1bs. This is where what I call the 'bloodline' MacGregors are, but as you can see this group also includes various surnames such as Moore, Bourland, Miller, McPherson, Boyd (a MacGregor alias it seems), Stuart (probably not the Stuart main line), Bissett and Lark. Some of these individuals have tested for the SNPs L1335 and L1065. It seems very likely that in this part of the chart individuals will have the SNP L1335 and possibly also the SNP L1065 - these SNPs have been tentatively dated to the middle of what we used to call the Dark Ages, perhaps 500-1000AD.  As usual, one would expect those individuals who share a branching line to be more closely related (such as is clearly the case for the Millers 250470 and 234239). Often we see single lines converging at a certain point and this suggests a common ancestor within historic time. It might be worth participant 131269 doing the Chromo2 test to see if he shares the unique SNPs of the Glencarnaig line.

Chart 5 - All 111 marker results except Greer outliers [70% confidence with modal]


I turn now to the rest of the 111 results. These are clearly very diverse but within the results are some potentially interesting subgroups. Perhaps the most important thing to say at first though is that most people are not related, other than having a common origin, and the time distances for those that look somewhat related probably takes those people - who tend to have different surnames - to connections which may be 2000 or more years old. 

That said, 197837 McAdams and 165907 McAdam are clearly related, and it is not so far back in time to the split with Hamill 270957 and, much earlier, Gammie 230380. It would be hard to put dates on these - geographical connection might be possible here. The same applies to 273521 Chandler, 23361 Gregory, 138123 Black and 226146 March, and indeed every other group of results which have a link later than the central point. There is one exception: 171234 McGee and 269879 McGee are clearly related to each other - that much is not surprising, but the close connection of 278878 Bowers to these two indicates that 278878 is actually a McGee - it would be interesting to know if there are any provable genealogical links among these three.

Making connections

In this final section I want to talk about how to make connections genetically from the results table at the FtDNA website. When you go to the webpage www.familytreedna.com/public/macgregor you will see that the various test results have been grouped together. Generally speaking I will create a new subgroup when two or more individuals share a common surname. Some individuals have yet to be grouped and they are found in the 'ungrouped' section. When you look at your results in the chart you will see that the company, FtDNA, group people with like DNA together within the name groups that I have created. When you find your own results you will see other individuals' results round yours. For the most part, these individuals will be your closest relatives and, unless you see a common ancestor indicated somewhere else in the subgroup (look in the most distant ancestor column) those are the people you should compare yourself with. If you want me to run a number of individual results together and produce a diagram which shows connectedness (as I did for the McFarlands), I am happy to do that. Two things however: first, I need you to identify the individuals with whom you wish to be compared and, second, I need to be able to compare like for like. 12 and 25 marker comparisons are not really very informative so I am basically referring to 37, 67 or 111 marker comparisons. Comparing a 67-marker result with a 37 will not produce useful results.

Please contact me at richardmcgregor1ATyahoo.co.uk, substituting the @ sign for AT.

As usual I have various acknowledgements:
The charts are generated using Dean McGee’s program using 30 years per generation, 50% probability and Doug McDonald’s mutation rate average. The website for Dean’s program is:

The networks are generated using the program Splitstree which is available at www.splits tree.org. I use the Closest Tree filter. The citation for this program is as follows:
D. H. Huson and D. Bryant, Application of Phylogenetic Networks in Evolutionary Studies, Mol. Biol. Evol., 23(2):254-267, 2006.

Richard McGregor
January 2014


No sooner had I written this than an interested contact provided me with an updated version of Chart 1. The detail of this chart speaks for itself.

01 January 2013

MacGregor DNA Project annual update 2013

MacGregor DNA Project annual update 2013

Welcome to this update of the MacGregor DNA project for 2012 which is being  posted in January 2013.  The project continues to expand with about 100 new participants registering every year (including some people who join both this and other projects).

Please note that all references on this blog to ancestral origins are dependant on the accuracy of the information provided by participants. The charts are generated using Dean McGee’s program using 30 years per generation, 50% probability and Doug McDonald’s mutation rate average. The website for Dean’s program is:
http://www.mymcgee.com/tools/yutility.html.  The charts are generated using the program Splitstree which is available at www.splits tree.org using the Closest Tree filter. The citation for this program is as follows:
D. H. Huson and D. Bryant, Application of Phylogenetic Networks in Evolutionary Studies, Mol. Biol. Evol., 23(2):254-267, 2006.

This year I am focusing on 5 main groups and attempting to include as many of the new participants as possible from the groups which are not the main Ian Cam MacGregor bloodline.  I am therefore concentrating on what I have called the Viking groups, Sept and Irish  [taken together], Gregg and Gregory [taken together], MacGregor Distant, and M(a)cAdams from the results website which can be found at www.familytreedna.com/public/macgregor. I need to explain why I have adopted these labels and I will do that for each group as I discuss them.

First of all the two ‘Viking’ groups. These are known as haplogroups I1 and I2 and while they have a common origin many thousands of years ago their recent development is quite separate. I1, as far as British/Irish genetic ancestry is concerned, probably reflects the influence of the Norse – particularly Norwegian (and to a lesser extent Danish) invasions in the later centuries of the 1st Millennium AD. I2 on the other hand probably reflects more the Danish and northern European (Belgic etc.) invasion or settlement in Britain (remembering that the countries as they now stand are more recent creations and there was a lot of movement through and across Europe in both prehistoric and historic times).

Viking Group I1

                   Chart 1a - Viking Group 1 (I1)

The I1 group which is shown in Chart 1 has more individuals in it, possibly reflecting greater Norwegian influence in Scotland and Ireland. Although all are related to a common ancestor (labelled modal) most others spring from common source individuals  (most recent ancestor) who probably lived long before surnames were adopted, and probably not in Scotland or Ireland. 

Without going into detail, the shorter the line between two individuals the closer related they are.  Thus in this chart the Greggs 38216, U2361 and 9243 are definitely related to each other and probably quite recently with a split having happened in the family leading to 38216 on the one hand and U2361 and 9243 splitting much more recently. 38216 goes back to a John in Antrim Ireland born c 1690 – this may be the common ancestor (but see the group of Gregg and Gregory for a possible problem here). Similarly the Gregorys 168837 and 146665 are closely related and share a recent common ancestor who may be the Richard Gregory born 1763 in Pennsylvania. The Skinners 101344 and 235447 are closely related, possibly to a John alive in the 15th century. No one else on this chart is closely related.

Other names in this chart are Sch(irmer), Dhu, Grea(r), Mac(Gregor), Whi(te), Kin(g), Whyt(e),  Gri(eve),  Har(dy), Her(d), McW(hannell), Ski(nner), Fra(zer), Man(ary) and 168201 Gri is Grier,

                  Chart 1b - ‘Viking Group’ 1 plus Grier/Greer

I have added into this version of Chart 1 all the ‘viking’ Grier/Greers and it will be seen that with one exception they all group together (bottom right of chart). Interestingly this group includes a Frazier who seems to be a genetic cousin of the Griers and may represent an adoption or non-paternity event in historic time. All these individuals are closely related (this group has been explored in greater depth in previous updates)

Viking Group I2 

                                 Chart 2 - ‘Viking Group 2’ [I2] 

In Chart 2 which is the I2 haplogroup, the two Kings 22659 and 178417 are closely related – since these two individuals trace back to the 1750s in Ireland and Scotland separately then the common ancestor must be earlier than 1750 but it is not possible to say whether the ancestor lived in Scotland or Ireland. What is particularly interesting in this chart is the three individuals who have different names – 177355 McClister, NS1448 McGregor, and 45658 McLean – this must surely indicate the likelihood a ?Danish Viking ancestor on the west coast of Scotland (one post on the internet suggests that the McClisters were arrowmakers to the MacGregors).
Other names on this chart are Malo(ch), McF(arland),  Whit(e), Smit(h), Dia(z),  Kin(g), Dea(n). Mac(Liver), Stir(ling)

Further information on the haplogroups I1 and I2 will be found at these websites:

 Septs and Irish

                     Chart 3 - Septs and Irish

In this chart what I have done is to put two groups together to show in particular how different descriptive surnames (White, Black, Brown) can have different origins. It also indicates how close together the Irish group is despite different surnames and how difficult it can be within the Irish group to decide whether this represents a common surname origin or a common ancestor pre surnames.

Note that the line that goes off the page to the bottom right leads to 3 participants who do not belong to haplogroup R1b which all those shown do, and therefore their genetic ancestry is rather different from those shown. The kit numbers are 151731 White, 108644 Black, and 226547 White. The line which leaves the chart to the top right hand corner goes to 139352 Black.  In the chart the following are the names Gre(er), Gree(r), Grie(r), Gri(er), Blac(k), Bla(ck),  Bl(ack), Doc(herty), Whi(te), Whit(e), Kin(g), Lak(ie), McG(regor), McGre(gor), MacGr(egor), Brow(n), Why(te), Lac(kie), Leck(ie)

All those lines which lie below the modal line have the characteristic Irish signature. It will be seen that most of the Greers (however spelt) fall within this group (but remembering that there is also a group, not shown here who have a non Irish signature, and equally another group who have the ‘viking’ signature). Although these are all related to a common ancestor there does appear to be several family group as shown by the different lines. 173150 is Grierson as is 33323.  For discussion of these families see previous versions of this blog and the public website for the project, address given above, for the earliest ancestors of this group. The McGregors, Blacks and Whites in this part of the chart might be distantly related to each other – and this could be after the adoption of surnames.

The rest of the sept names show a wide divergence from each other and from the main MacGregor bloodline shown as 2124 in this chart (with Brown being the nearest genetically).  Not all the sept names have been included here in order to make sure that the chart was readable. Among those not included are: the McGees (however spelt) most of whom are related to each other – and there is a separate DNA project for this name; the Turks (all related to each other); the Dougalls etc. If any member of this sept group would like me to run a separate chart with them included please contact me directly at the email address given at the bottom of the page.
(McGee website http://www.familytreedna.com/public/mcgee)

-  King 74820 and 179850 are closely related (they both claim descent from David King 1765 Edinburgh).
-  Some more distant connections are suggested, such as 1) 250257 McGregor and 81303 Black; 2) 133351 Black, 136778 Black, 139352 Black, and 256286 Whyte; 3) 229554 White, 32205 White and 114313 Lackie

Greig, Gregg, Gragg and Gregory

                            Chart 4 - Greig, Gregg, Gragg and Gregory

Next is the chart for Gregg, Gragg, Greig (and various other spellings) and Gregory. In order to make a comparison with the MacGregor Ian Cam line I have included kit 2124 which is the main reference line for the Ian Cam group. The individual names can be identified by the kit number and the first letters (Gra = Gragg, Gre = Gregg or Greig, and Gry = Gregory).

The most important story here is that there are multiple origins for the Gregg and Gregory names shown in this chart but that some participants ARE related to each other. Starting at the left side: 
-   Gregories 179191 and 24223 are very close: this looks like it might be an Aberdeen connection – could this be the famous Gregory family of Aberdeen? 
-    Graggs 81282, 259416 and 158127 – are all related  (with the possibility of an earlier split indicated by Griggs 212668).  Note though that 81282 projects an ancestor John born in Antrim in 1690 – this cannot genetically be the same as 38216 who also claims the same ancestor but from the Viking Group. If both genealogies are right then one may contain a non-paternity event.
-    Kit 239588 and 239449 are Norwegian Greig descendants of the composer Edvard Greig – of particular interest here is the earlier split which led to 195430 who claims decent from Captain James Gregg of Dundonald  (Ayrshire or Fifeshire?)  - Edvard Greig’s ancestors are supposed to have come from the north east of Scotland.

The following other relationships are shown by the DNA:
-    Gregg and Gragg, kits 141020, 214992 and 7489  - suggested ancestry Kilkenny Ireland and South Carolina
-   Gregory 200827 and 36169 Gregory  - Tennessee and England
-   Greig and Gregg 64662 and 45360  - Pathhead Scotland
     These might share a common distant ancestor with Gregory 253062  [Lincolnshire]
-   Gregory 81123 and 23361 - Virginia
-   Gregg 130191 and 6979 – Tipperary and possibly also Gregory 168499 – Cork, Ireland
-   Gregg 137236, 76121 and 110496 – no locations given
-  Possibly (but not definitely) Griggs 233084 and NS2932 Gregory [no locations given]. These might share a distant connection with the following
-  Gregory N74931, 201682, 67166, 179683, 1961, 43234, 58711, 30977, 8100 all Virginia, and North Carolina, Northampton and Scotland (kit 8100)
-  Finally Gregory 36006, [1390 England??], 9690 Grieg [Rathen, Aberdeenshire], 131056 Grigor [? North east Scotland], 73052 Gregory [Scotland] and 2124 MacGregor [Argyllshire] seem to have a connection which goes back in north Scotland to before 1350.  If the split between these individuals in this group could be dated more accurately it would give a better understanding of the origin of the Gregor/Grigor/Greig/MacGregor connections. This might well soon be possible if SNP testing (which I discuss at the end of this update) continues to develop.

Please note that there is a Gregory and a Gregg/Grigg DNA project which both have more members than represented in the MacGregor project. Please see:

M(a)cGregor Distant

               Chart 5 - M(a)cGregor distant

I have discussed this group in a previous update so I will confine comments to  some general comments about those groups of McGregors who are clearly related. Where the lines are longer it is not clear if the individuals connected are related within the time of surnames but again if anyone would like me to help them make contact with an individual who might not otherwise show on the DNA matches then please write to me  at the email address below.

Starting from the left, 218135, 155381, 164124, 158870, 186233, 99676 and possibly 20630 are closely related to each other and the earliest ancestries known go back to the Rosshire area of Scotland. 
-    122079 and 121543 should be closely related but no ancestral  location is available other than Scotland.
-   17621 (McKinley), 28296 McGregor  (or McComas) (from Brig o Turk, Perthshire) have a strong genetic connection, probably pre surname to the MacGregor bloodline 2124. 
-   7183, 2726, 138445, N49861 161907 and 27811, all appear to belong to a group of (Mc)Gregors who lived in the vicinity of Perth. 94589, 158917 and 129009 are closely related – there may be a connection with Clackmannanshire in Scotland.
-   153297, 198351 and 4151 descend from Thomas Callum alias McGregor who lived in Keith and Grantown on Spey 1738-181(5).  
-   29834, 200914, 101298, 84081, 137093, 251882, 126138, and 173181 are all connected, and at least some of these descend from Rev William McGregor (see the public website for further genealogical information).
-   196030, 153532 and 164088 are all related though the ancestral information only goes back to Virginia,



             Chart 6 - M(a)cAdam(s)

The McAdam chart is hard to interpret and reference should be made to the McAdam DNA project at www.familytreedna.com/public/mcadams. As a result of the length of time which is suggested by the chart joining individuals together (such as the split which occurs on the left hand side of the chart) it is hard to say if these individuals all share a common surname origin or whether they demonstrate multiple adoptions of the name. The following participants are definitely related:

-   Kits 82874 and 83205,  [PEI Canada and Armagh Ireland]
-   Kits 8857 and 54141 [no location given and County Down]
-   Kits 3714 and 48842 [County Down, Ireland – but the DNA says this cannot be the same line as 54141 unless it is a different family with the same christian name used or there has been a non paternity event in one of the lines]. 48842 goes back to Prince William Va]
-   Kits 233804 and 12683 may be related [no locations given - ?Scotland]
-   Kits 144894 [North Carolina], 197837 [North Carolina], 16568 [Scotland], 76324 [County Down] and 165907 [ Waterhead] Kits 5237 [South Carolina], 71022 [Belfast] and 183682 [no location] may be part of this group also.

Note that  71022, 76324, 104330, 16568, 144894, 197837, 183682, 11255, 5237, 11256, 133229, 230681,  and 165907 all share the characteristic signature which is primarily associated with Ireland originally, and they will all have the typical SNP (see final section) M222.  They therefore share a common ancestor in more recent time and in the last update I suggested, through the creation of some grids, what the possible timeframe for this ancestor might be.

SNPs and the future of genetic genealogy

As hinted at several points above, the importance of SNP testing will become more and more important for the defining of family groups in the future. SNPs will be used to date splits occurring within family groups. At the moment these splits are being discovered for the period which used to be called BC, and in British terms the time the time between the retreat of the ice and the beginning of the first Millennium AD.  I have already mentioned that M222 defines an Irish group and within the last few months the discovery of L1335 has identified what is now being called the Scots Modal. For those of you who have tested SNPs already you might have been confused by the constant changes of labelling which have taken place over the past years. The problem has been created by the constant discovery of new SNPs which define branches of populations. So  M222 participants were called R1b1c7 in 2007 and that has changed every  year since:
2008 = R1b1b2a1b6b
2009 = R1b1b2a1a2f2
2010 = R1b1b2a1a2f2
2011 = R1b1a2a1a1b4b
2012 = R1b1a2a1a1b3a1a1

So it is likely that from now on individuals will be classified according to the last SNP they have had tested which is positive. So the Irish group will be R-M222 and the Scots Modal R-L1335 (the MacGregor bloodline lies in this group). As newer SNPs are discovered the labels will change too depending on what tests are positive for each individual.  Once these SNP tests become available and enough people do the tests it should be possible to say within a period of maybe decades when parts of a family split. For those who cannot find a way to locate ancestry back in Britain this could be very important and may possibly even help with finding an ancestral geographical location. According to the blog from which I quoted above there is a suggestion that M222 will be broken down even further  – a new test offered by National Geographic Geno 2.0 will, according to the blogger ‘reportedly, will define at least three new subclades beneath M222, but I hear it may be more’. The future for genetic genealogy is likely get very interesting for those who want to know more about their origins as more testing firms start to offer these tests.

If you want to discuss this further please contact me at richardmcgregor1ATyahoo.co.uk replacing AT with the sign,