• 49 members

About us

This project was launched in January 2005, and now includes a number of participants from across the United States, several from different regions of the United Kingdom, one from Canada, and another from the European mainland. All participants have ancestral roots in England.

Since Benbow is an occupational surname, it was expected that we would identify at least several different genetic groups, and we currently have three different haplogroups in the study.  And some of the men within certain haplogroups are not related to each other.

We are continuing to recruit more members from various family lines of the Benbow surname, particularly those with roots in Wales and Shropshire.

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, unchanged through the generations, except for rare mutations which, in themselves, can be helpful indicators of branching.

 This is a vital point that is often missed by people, in their enthusiasm to find relatives through DNA testing.  And the TV programs do not make this clear, as they do not go into the details about the different kinds of DNA testing.  There are basically three different kinds of tests, and the markers selected for each test are selected because they are inherited only in certain ways.  We are the results of all of our genetic heritage, but these tests are different.

Y-DNA testing markers are chosen because they are inherited only through the male biological line.  A man could be the "spittin' image" of his Benbow maternal grandfather, but he won't have any of that grandfather's Y-DNA.  A female does not inherit Y-DNA from her father, or else she would not be female.  It's the old "X-Y" or "X-X" sex chromosome lesson you learned in high school biology.

Mt-DNA testing markers are chosen because they are inherited only through the female biological line.  Men do inherit their mother's mt-DNA, but they do not pass it to their own children in turn.  Children inherit mt-DNA only from their mother.  So, while a man can be tested for both his father's Y-DNA and his mother's mt-DNA, a woman can be tested only for her mother's mt-DNA.  That's why I had my brother take the Y-DNA test to get my father's DNA.  Women have to get creative to get the relevant Y-DNA we want to test.

With either of these first two tests, which have been out for a number of years, even one intervening generation of the wrong sex breaks the trail.  Again, a woman doesn't inherit her father's Y-DNA, and a man can't pass a mother's mt-DNA to his own children.

Also, we have what we call "non-paternity events" that can break the genetic trail, even if they are undiscovered or unknown.  Events such as undocumented adoptions, illegitimacy, and infidelity are the main causes of those events, which sometimes turn up unexpectedly in DNA testing.

Mt-DNA is the testing that is done on human remains to show kinship to another -- for example, the testing of the then-probable remains of the Russian tsarina Alexandra (Alix of Hesse and by Rhine) and her children, along with the independent mt-DNA test of Prince Philip, who cooperated and who has the same mt-DNA that the Russian tsarina had, as they were both straight-female-line descendants from Princess Alice of England, a daughter of Queen Victoria.  Prince Philip had his mother's mt-DNA, which fit the profile needed.  The testing of those remains were conclusive.  This is the testing that is used in forensics, even in Egyptian mummies, as it remains in the body for centuries and even millenia.  Y-DNA is stored differently in the body, and so cannot be used in the same way in forensics.

A new test has come out more recently, which I am still studying in terms of its usefulness.  The 23 autosomal test -- FTDNA's version is called Family Finder -- can be done by either a male or a female, as it samples markers "across the board" and not just the ones inherited exclusively by a male or female line.  As yet, I have not seen that its predictions on the distance of a cousin's relationship are as accurate as I'd like, but I am still learning about it.  It is not applicable to a surname project, but it has the potential to be useful to women who cannot find a qualifying or willing male relative to take a Y-DNA test, when they still want to see what results and matches they might have.

What if you are curious about a Benbow line in your heritage, but neither you nor a close family member is an appropriate candidate?  The way to test a line that is in the interior of your pedigree chart -- with the direct paternal line running up the top edge of the chart, and the direct maternal line running down the bottom edge -- is to find a qualifying unbroken male or female line descendant of that family group.  I've done this to get the Y-DNA for some of my own ancestors, such as my maternal grandmother's father.  I had his son's son's son take the Y-DNA test, and he is a member of that surname's Y-DNA project.  You may have to offer to sponsor (pay for) the test, but it may be worth the money to you.