Clan Urquhart, which includes all variant spellings of the name, is faced with the problem of not being able to join up all of the various branches of the Clan throughout the world by use of the conventional paper trail. This paper trail basically consists of written birth, marriage, and death records. The Bard and Senachie of Clan Urquhart, whose duty it is to maintain the official records of Clan Urquhart, has by far the largest collection of written records on Clan Urquhart in the world. In Europe, we have run out of these types of records before 1600. Therefore, we need to relate all of the various branches of the Clan by the scientific method -- by DNA analysis of the male Y chromosome, which directly maps to the Urquhart surname. We should at least be able to relate back to the times of the earliest written records. A new DNA-based test designed to help research genealogy or family history. It works by producing a genetic fingerprint of your Y-chromosome. This is the chromosome which is passed from father to son. Although Y-chromosome fingerprints do change very slowly over time due to natural genetic mutations, the pattern is stable over hundreds of years. This means that male relatives who have an uninterrupted male-male link between them will share the same, or very similar, Y-chromosome fingerprints. This test is particularly useful when a connection between different branches of a family is suspected but cannot be proven from written records. By comparing the y-chromosome fingerprints, we can find the answer.
For a long time, people were just known by their first name.
Surnames then began to be adopted in different countries at different times. As society became more complex, a system was needed to distinguish one person reliably and unambiguously from the next person.
A surname is defined as a hereditary name borne by members of a single family and handed down from father to son. Thus, surnames contrast with given names, which identify individuals within the same family. It is characteristic of surnames that all members of a particular family normally have the same surname.
In 1200 A.D., the world population is estimated to have been between 360 million and 450 million persons, depending on the estimate used.
This estimate is close to the time frame when surnames began to be adopted.
On the whole, the richer and more powerful classes tended to acquire surnames earlier than the working classes and the poor, while surnames were quicker to catch on in urban areas than in more sparsely populated rural areas.
Occasionally, events impacted surnames. For example, in 1465 legislation was passed that impacted Gaelic surnames in several counties of Ireland, most notably Dublin. According to John D'Alton's "History of Co. Dublin", the following was enacted in 1465:
"That every Irishman, dwelling betwixt or amongst Englishmen, in this county, as well as those of Meath, Uriell (Louth) and Kildare, shall go like to one Englishman in apparel and in shaving of his beard above the mouth and shall within one year sworn the liege man of the King and shall take to him an English surname of one town, as Sutton, Chester, Trim, Scrine, Cork, Kinsale; or colour, as white, black, brown; or art or science, as smith or carpenter; or office, as cook, butler, etc. and that he and his issue shall use this name under pain of forfeiting his goods yearly."
Surnames were adopted in different areas at different times. In many parts of central and western Europe, hereditary surnames began to become fixed from the 12th century forward. The bulk of European surnames in countries such as England or France were formed in the 13th and 14th centuries. In some places, the process started earlier, and in some places the process continued into the 19th century. Overall, the norm is that in the 11th century people did not have surnames, and by the 15th century they did.
The process of adopting a surname was spread over time, and these surnames continued to evolve until the 1900's when spelling was standardized.
Surname variants occurred during the evolution of the surname. There was no guide to the spellings of names, and those who recorded events, such as the clergy and registrars, attempted to reproduce phonetically the sounds they heard. The great majority of the population were illiterate and had no notion that any one spelling of their name was more 'correct' than any other.
Prior to the time surnames were adopted, men with the same values for their Y DNA were spread out over a geographic area due to migrations. In addition, invasions and wars often significantly dispersed populations with the same Y DNA. Once people began to adopt surnames, these widely dispersed men with the same Y-DNA took different surnames.
As the database of Y DNA results at Family Tree DNA grows, everyone will eventually have Y DNA matches with other surnames. The primary reason for these matches is that multiple men with the same Y DNA result adopted different surnames during the time period when surnames were adopted. These men could have been in the same village, or in the same county, or perhaps migration had taken them to different countries.
In addition, two men with different surnames may have matching Y DNA due to convergence. Mutations are estimated to occur about once every N generations per Marker. There are mutations in the Y-DNA, and when after several mutations we see a match or a close match, it is called convergence. The larger the population with the same Y DNA, the more opportunity there is for convergence to occur. Since Haplogroup R1b is the largest population group in Europe, matches with other surnames are very common. These matches are due to the large population of this Haplogroup that existed when surnames were adopted. Many different surnames were adopted, and convergence has occurred over time.
If we go back far enough in time, we are all related. The surname is used to establish a boundary for determining whether two people are related. If you match some one with a different surname, you are most likely related prior to the adoption of surnames.
In some cases, you could be related after the adoption of surnames, due to one of the following events occurring:
1. informal adoption
2. extra marital event of either infidelity or illegitimacy
3. adoption of a new surname, such as by preference or for inheritance
Even though these events have occurred in the past, they were not the norm.
Pursuing a match with another surname should not be considered until both participants upgrade to 37 Markers to determine if the match still holds.
At this point, if the match still holds at 37 markers, a decision can be made as to whether to pursue the match with another surname. To avoid wasting time, there should be some evidence that one of the events above occurred. In making this decision, the place to start is to evaluate the evidence. Were the ancestors in the same location, at the same time? Was there a marriage by a widow who had children? Is there any evidence to support a match with another surname?
In most cases, there isn't any evidence to support pursuing the match.
A Surname Project is a very valuable tool for family history research. The surname establishes the time period for determining if two people are related. Surname Projects can provide tremendous benefit for those who are researching their family history. DNA testing has a wide range of applications, from additional information to use in conjunction with the paper records for interpretation, to clues to find the ancestral homeland.
In addition, as a long term goal, a Surname Project can determine the number of points of origin of the surname. The Surname Project could also combine DNA results with the techniques used to research surnames, and identify the ancestral location or area where the surname was adopted.
As you research your family tree, eventually you have to stop, because the written records end, or are sporadic. This could be the result of the destruction of records, such as due to a court house fire. Or, this could be the result of reaching the time period prior to a the majority of written records. For example, the time period before the adoption of Parish registers. Often your family tree will stop before the start of Parish registers, because there is insufficient documentation to make a connection.
When your family tree ends, there is still a long period of time between then and the adoption of surnames. For example, if your tree ends in the late 1700's due to insufficient documentation, there is still 400 to 500 years between then and the adoption of surnames, depending on your ancestral country.
DNA testing can fill this 500 year gap. Imagine a situation years from now, where every family tree with your surname has tested. The data would then be available to determine whether your surname had a single or multiple points of origin. Combining this information with surname mapping, frequency distribution studies, and research in Medieval records would most likely enable the Surname Project to identify a geographic area as the ancestral homeland.
Our surname is a very important part of us, and DNA testing tells us about this surname. For example, did one man take on the surname, and all the descendents today are related, except for descendents of an informal adoption, and descendents of an illegitimate birth?
With DNA testing, we might also discover previously unknown variants. This could be very helpful for research, especially when records can't be found, and later it is discovered that the records are actually there, but recorded with a previously unknown variant.
Surname dictionaries have been published and identify the origin for many surnames. The authors of these books used the tools available at the time. Never before have these experts or authors had the powerful tool of DNA testing available. There are many discoveries to be made with DNA testing. Most likely, DNA testing will prove that some long held beliefs about the origins of various surnames are incorrect.
By participating in a Y DNA Project, or sponsoring a participant if you are female, you are making a significant contribution to the knowledge about your surname. Even when your tree ends, you can still discover information about your origin.