The Devon DNA project is a Y-DNA and mtDNA geographical project for everyone with a direct paternal or maternal ancestral line originating in the English county of Devon. Participants can order either a Y-DNA (Y-chromosome) test to find out about their direct paternal line (your father, your father's father, your father's father's father, etc) or an mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) test to learn about their direct maternal line (your mother, your mother's mother, your mother's mother's mother, etc). The only requirement for joining the project is that participants must have a documented paper trail to Devon on the direct paternal line for the Y-DNA test or on the direct maternal line for the mtDNA test. Please join us on our journey of genetic discovery.
Please note that the project is not able to accept deep-rooted lines from America where the only connection with Devon is in the 1500s or 1600s. These pedigrees are prone to error and are very difficult to verify. There is also the possibility of a "non-paternal event" leading to the introduction of non-Devon DNA. If your surname is from an American line please find someone from an English line of more recent origin to represent the surname on your behalf.
Free DNA tests
For certain surnames FREE Y-DNA TESTS are available which are sponsored by the relevant surname projects. To see details of the current sponsorship offers please visit our news page.
The Devon project is also able to accept Family Finder results from both males and females with a documented ancestor from Devon on any of their ancestral lines. The Family Finder test is best used for finding genetic cousins within the last five generations. For further information about the Family Finder test please read this blog post.
Joining from other projects and other testing companies
If you have already had your DNA tested with Family Tree DNA as part of a surname project, a haplogroup project or another geographical project you are welcome to join this project too. There is no extra charge for joining multiple projects and there is no limit on the number of projects which you can join. The project is also able to accept results from people who have tested with one of the FTDNA affiliates such as DNA Worldwide or IGENEA. If you have already tested with the Genographic Project you can also join this project at no extra charge. Simply log in to your Genographic Project page, go to the section "What else can I do with my results", click on "Learn more" and follow the instructions. Family Tree DNA acquired the British DNA testing company DNA Heritage in April 2011. Former DNA Heritage customers can transfer their results free of charge to the FTDNA database. Instructions can be found here. If you have tested with Ancestry.com or GeneTree you can transfer your results to the FTDNA database for a small fee. Further information can be found here.
How DNA testing works
If you are not familiar with the basic principles of DNA testing it is recommended that you read this introductory article to understand how it works. A more in-depth article, entitled "A Practical Guide to DNA Testing", appears in the October 2009 issue of Family History Monthly. If you are a member of the Devon Family History Society you might like to read my article "DNA testing and the Devon DNA Project" in the August 2010 issue of the Devon Family Historian. I have also written a book DNA and Social Networking: A Guide to Genealogy in the Twenty-First Century which explains how the three different types of tests work in great detail.
Devon is the third largest county in England with a present-day population in excess of one million. It is one of only three counties to possess a north and south coast. The sea has therefore played a major part in the history of the county. The name 'Devon' derives from the name of the Celtic people known as the Dumnonii who inhabited the south-west of England from the Bronze Age onwards. The county has a long history of settlement. Kent's Cavern in Torquay is the oldest recognisable human dwelling in Britain and the country's oldest scheduled ancient monument. Remains and artefacts dating back half a million years have been found in the cavern. A jawbone excavated from the cave in the 1920s is the earliest human remains found in the British Isles and dates back to around 40,000 years ago. Human skeletons have also been found in the nearby caves at Brixham. With the onset of the last Ice Age the climate cooled and 20,000 years ago all but the southern extremity of Britain was covered in ice sheets. The human population retreated to refugia in warmer locations in Europe. It was only as the ice melted around 12,000 years ago that humans returned to the British Isles. In the Palaeolithic period Devon was sparsely populated by nomadic hunter-gatherers. By the Bronze Age a substantial population had settled on Dartmoor and continued to occupy the area until the early Iron Age. To this day the area is still dotted with the remnants of the many Iron Age hill forts. It is these hill fort settlers who mainly constitute the Dumnonii, "the people of the land". During the Roman occupation Exeter was the most westerly Roman town in Britain and became the terminus of the great frontier road known as the Fosse Way. In the ensuing centuries the county was invaded by Angles, Saxons, Danes, Vikings and Normans. By the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 the population of Devon was estimated to be between sixty and eighty thousand. In 1801 the population had risen to 340,308. The nineteenth century saw the beginnings of the mass emigration movement. Men, women and sometimes whole families emigrated to Canada, America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and many Devon place names and surnames can today be found in these countries.
Surnames only began to be adopted in Devon from the twelfth century onwards. Surnames and Y-DNA normally follow the same pathway, but the link is often broken because of illegitimacy, adoption, aliases, or other surname changes. By comparing our DNA we can find our genetic cousins from our most distant past and from more recent times. The project provides a repository for all haplotypes from Devon whether the person has tested within a surname, geographical or haplogroup project. For the purposes of genealogical research it is best to test within a surname project. There are however many Devon names which are not yet included in surname projects or which are included only in American projects. There are also people of Devon origin who are adopted or who are from an illegitimate line for whom a surname project is not appropriate. The Devon DNA project therefore provides a facility for those who are not yet able to join a surname project to take advantage of project pricing and compare their results with other people from the same geographical area. It also provides an opportunity for those who are the last in their direct paternal or maternal line to test and store their DNA for future research. Family Tree DNA is the only company which provides archival storage of your DNA sample for 25 years so that you or your descendants can take advantage of future developments in the field of genetic genealogy and order new tests as they become available. The project also provides an opportunity for those wishing to learn more about their deep ancestry.
It will eventually be possible to build up a picture of the genetic composition of the people of Devon and to discover more about their ancestral origins. Devon and Cornwall have always been somewhat isolated from the rest of the country. Will this isolation be reflected by a lack of genetic diversity in the people of Devon? Did the Vikings and the Romans leave a genetic legacy in the county? It is hoped that the project will eventually provide answers to some of these questions. The value of the project will grow over time as more people join and more results are available for comparison.
Ordering a DNA test
The DNA test itself is a simple cheek swab which is done in the comfort of your own home. It does not reveal any personal information. The cheaper 12-marker Y-DNA test can provide an introduction to DNA testing and will give you a haplogroup designation, but for meaningful comparisons it is normally necessary to upgrade to the higher resolution 37-marker test. People often have many matches with other surnames at 12 or even 25 markers, especially within the more common haplogroups such as haplogroup R1b. If you are testing to match with other surnames on an illegitimate line or you are interested in exploring your deep ancestry by joining the relevant haplogroup project then the 67-marker test test is recommended.
Useful linksInternational Society of Genetic Genealogy
Devon Family History Society
Devon Record Office
Devon Gen Web
The Devon group on Genealogy Wise
Devon Rootsweb mailing list
Article on the Dumnoni from the Celtic Kingdoms of the British Isles website
The journey of mankind: the peopling of the world
Information on European prehistory, anthropology and genetics from Eupedia
Shedding light on Dark DNA by Arthur Dark
VideosThe Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey
Spencer Wells talks about the Genographic Project and the human family tree
An introduction to the Genographic Project
The Devon DNA Project is an independent genealogical research study run by a volunteer project administrator. The group administrator receives no payment or incentives from Family Tree DNA or from any other organisation or institution. The project receives no funding, and participants are responsible for the costs of their own tests. There is no guarantee that every participant will match anyone in the Devon DNA project or in the wider Family Tree DNA database.
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