While a surname itself may give us incomplete or misleading or, at best, only general information about the origin of a family, DNA-testing can give us concrete evidence for identifying and separating family lines. Y-chromosome DNA testing is especially helpful because the male Y-chromosome is handed down, father to son, through the generations, except for rare mutations which, in themselves, can be helpful indicators of branching. The accessibility and affordability of family DNA testing is doubtless the greatest technical advance in the history of genealogical research because -- at long, long last -- we have a tool to break down those brick walls! See the Y-DNA & mtDNA Results pages tabbed above and see also for an archived analysis of some of the results: (Note: all one-line URL).
As most Armstrong researchers will know, the Armstrongs were one of a number of “Reiver” Clans found along the Anglo-Scottish Border. They were living in a region which was fought over by and for more than six centuries. The inhabitants of the region were subjected to rape, pillaging, burning, murder and mayhem by other reivers from both sides of the border. Many differing “Haplogroups” and “Haplotypes” [within the various Haplogroups] can be observed in members of the present Y-DNA Armstrong surname group. It is possible in some cases to identify certain Armstrongs as having Haplotypes which are typical of other reiving clans, such as , Crow, Beatty, Cottrill, and others. These Armstrongs are no less Armstrongs than any other Armstrongs. It should be remembered that many surnames have only been in use for the last 600 years or so, and it is probable that several different Haplotypes may have been circulating within the clan group long before. However, it can be speculated that some Armstrong lineages may have sprung from relationships short of wedlock !
In any event, Y-DNA results should not be viewed as “Proof” that individuals with the same or similar haplotypes are related. Rather, Y-DNA results are EVIDENCE, which should be taken with other documentary evidence which indicates a probable relationship. Similar Y-DNA STR results and SNP results can be invaluable in focusing one’s research. It may be possible to narrow the research possibilities dramatically, thus allowing one to concentrate on finding useful, relevant documentary evidence of real genealogical value.
Haplogroup assignments were updated by FTDNA on 5 March 2011, effectively changing R1b1b2 to R1b1a2. Where the Haplogroup is shown in Green, it indicates that FTDNA has SNP Tested the participant. Administrators have attempted to group all participants with similar STR results with members who have both the same STR's have a known haplogroup as shown by recent SNP testing. For those groups which are only "R1b1a2", or for individuals who are not yet assigned to a group, it would be most helpful if members ordered Deep Clade or Universal Deep Clade SNP testing from FTDNA. Such additional information may assist the administrators in making appropriate matches.
As we know we are looking at a very small geographical point of origin for the Armstrongs, ie a 30-mile radius from , plus a date of 1223 for our first recorded Armstrong surname.
There is supposedly evidence of a few Armstrongs in Liddesdale in the early 1300s, however Bob Armstrong, one of the project administrators, has never seen the info, despite repeated requests! That aside, there was a core of Armstrongs in the 1220s in , at Ousby. The Dacre family were one of the major families in the region, and due to a number of circumstances, a widow (from the Scottish side of the border) was 'encouraged' to wed one of the English Dacres. She did so in order to keep some hold of her family's lands in . The Black Death (1349-55) depopulated large parts of the borders and this led to Dacre filling the vacuum with his Cumbrians - Armstrongs included. (It is worth remembering that Sir John Armstrong & his esquire of the same name fought with the family at Otterburn in 1388 for the Scottish side).
In later years the Scots weren't always able to secure victory, as they had at Otterburn. The Anglo-Scottish wars took their toll on the Scottish nobles, and it seems that people like the 's were focusing on national politics (or being killed off!) & many Armstrongs grabbed the opportunity & headed out of Liddesdale & erected many in the . By the 1590s there were literally a few dozen towers - some rustic affairs, while others were of the grander stone design.
Back to the early days of the 13th C: Bob Armstrong thinks there will have been a number of Cumbrian Armstrongs who stayed in the county, but a lot from the same Y-DNA stock who were later born Scottish. From then, we have the usual 16th & 17th C escape route for Armstrongs - , other parts of , then on to America & Canada etc. Buccleugh followed up with later Border clearances to promote sheep farming! How to separate the pure English Armstrongs from their Scottish cousins is difficult - especially without testing way over the 67 marker level. However, Bob Armstrong would guess that those of us with close Scottish & Irish links are probably via the Scottish side.
[Bob Armstrong’s closest match (except known family members etc) is with a Grant Ferley (Armstrong)64/67, whose line went from to in the 1800s. John Michael's lot were in Canonbie in the early 1700s - & many of us link to him in varying degrees – Bob is 62/67.] As most of the Armstrongs in our project are via & , he'd guess most are ultimately of Scottish stock.
All we can really suggest are rough outlines. Some of the Americans undoubtedly came via the oft-trod Scotland-Ulster-America route, and for those, their ancestor's entry point into may validate that. Many from went via a shipping company in in the 1700s who specialised in Presbyterian Ulster-Scots into SC. In the 1800s, an MP organised settlement of parts of in a similar way.
Additionally, the Y-DNA Results to date have assisted in resolving or debunking some hypotheses regard the origin of certain surnames. For example, most of the Traynor results found in the project are quite dissimilar to the Armstrong results; thus showing that Armstrong as a surname is not derived from Traynor. Similarily, no matches have been found between Armstrongs and Strongs [who are members of a separate FTDNA surname project]; showing that Strong is not a derivative from Armstrong.