McCown DNA Project - News

McCown Y-DNA Project

This project started in 2001 to help establish descendants of Francis McCown of Augusta Co., Virginia. Of course the more we know the more we want to know. Now, we want to learn about all the other McCowns. This is the report I wrote up in 2007.

In the summer of 1957, I discovered genealogical research while trying to complete a family tree in a Bible that my Grandmother McCown had given me for Christmas. It soon became my goal to establish the immigrant ancestor and get our line back to the “old country.” Most of the genealogical evidence pointed toward Francis McCown of Augusta Co., Virginia who died in 1761. I cooperated with several other McCown researchers in an attempt to document my line and theirs to Francis and Margaret McCown of Augusta Co., Virginia. Some were successful in documenting their line to Francis, I was not. Computers came along so I started two McCown databases. One was called McCown which was my documented line, the other was Virginia McCowns and was the descendants of Francis McCown of Augusta Co., Virginia.

DNA Possibilities.

When the Lena Swann Cuscé article, “For One Family, DNA Provides an Answer,” appeared in the January-February 2001 issue of the National Genealogical Society Newsmagazine it gave me a spark of hope. Perhaps there was a way to see if my line was definitely linked to Francis!

In February 2001, I communicated with Dr. Marcia Eisenberg and contracted with Laboratory Corporation of America in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina to test Y chromosome DNA collected from nine different McCown men, all direct line descendants of various branches of the McCown family.

The Y chromosome is inherited from father to son, and remain almost unaltered from generation to generation.

McCown Y-DNA

The beginning study began with nine participants elected from my databases from lines either known to be descended from Francis or thought to be from the research done previously.

Most of these were thought to be from the line of Francis McCown of Augusta Co., Virginia, but one was from George McCown of Pennsylvania. More men had been asked to participate in the testing; however, some chose not to participate because of the fear of privacy violations. Testing was limited because of the cost, and I was personally financing the project. However, some members of the group have paid their own way and other McCown researchers have contributed toward the cost.

Three more McCown men were asked to join the project later. Two of these were from Francis McCown (son of James). The third was from John McCown of Rockbridge Co., Virginia. Because of his close relationships with Francis McCown in Augusta, a kinship was suspected. This made a total of twelve participants. The nine who matched are marked with an * after their names.


I received the official results report (F01-3131) of the first nine participants from the lab on 14 June 2001. A supplemental report for the additional three participants was received 14 August 2001. By October 2007 others have now joined the testing and some have extended their marker results, which made a revision of this report necessary.

The initial participants were removed from Francis by six to nine generations. The study showed that three of the twelve participants did not share the same paternal lineage. Either their known end-line ancestor did not share a common male ancestor with Francis, or the direct paternal line was broken between the participant and his end-line ancestor. The three who did not match the group did not match each other.

In the original study, the male descendant of George of Pennsylvania did not match those of Francis of Augusta did not share the same paternal lineage. Other descendants have come forward and they were a perfect match on 37 markers.

This DNA study confirms:

1 – The line from George McCown of Augusta through John Edington McCown* and Michael DeWitt McCown*, and John Charles McCown, Sr. definitely descends from Francis McCown of Augusta.

2 – The lines of John McCown (Fred Vernon McCown*), Malcom McCown (Walter Wade McCown*) and Isaac McCown (Jerry Glen McCown* and Ronald Ray McCowan) descend from Francis of Augusta through his son James McCown.

3 – The line of Malcom McCown of West Virginia through Brian Scott McCown* and Thomas Edward McCown descents from Francis of Augusta.

4 – The line of Francis McCown of Lincoln Co., Kentucky though James Kimbol McCown* and Hollis Edward McCown*, and William Robert McCown descend of Francis McCown of Augusta. This Francis is thought to be son of James McCown and grandson of Francis McCown of Augusta.

5 – The male descendants of John McCown of Rockbridge Co., Virginia through the line of James Samuel McCown* share the same paternal lineage as Francis McCown, so these men were related and had a common ancestor.

The allele numbers for the Y chromosome STR’s were not reported. I specifically asked Dr. Marcia Eisenberg from the Laboratory about this. She replied, “For the Y chromosome STRs, the statistics are not based on match probabilities as are other STRs because all of the markers are on the same chromosome. There isn’t a statistical analysis possible like there is with STRs. Each lab decides on what their reporting criteria are. Most forensic laboratories do not actually report the alleles just a match, non-match. At this time we are reporting only a match, non-match format for the Y STRs.” However, in January 2002, and April 2002, I received the allele numbers from Dr. George Maha from LabCorp, Identity Testing Division (revised):

The table below contains the results for the Y Chromosome loci evaluated by this laboratory. Since your test was initially performed, an additional system was added to the test battery.  This resulted in a mismatch at the DYS19 locus for Brian.  This however does not necessarily indicate that Brian does not have a common male ancestor, as mutations (natural change in the DNA) will occur through the generations. I would interpret these results to indicate a common male ancestor for Brian, Walter, Fred, Jerry, John and Michael

Y Chromosome Loci
Name                                DYS392        DYS19 DYS388 DYS391 DYS390  DYS393
Brian Scott McCown              14                15        12        11        24        13
Walter Wade McCown            14                14        12        11        24        13
Fred Vernon McCown             14                14        12        11        24        13
Jerry Glen McCown               14                14        12        11        24        13
John Edington McCown          14                14        12        11        24        13
Michael Dewitt McCown         14                14        12        11        24        13
Hollis Edward McCown          14                14        12        11        24        13
James Kimbol McCown          14                14        12        11        24        13
James Samuel McCown         14                14        12        11        24        13

The enclosed charts will illustrate the test group. Solid lines are ones supported by documentation and DNA. The dotted lines indicate probable line of descent. The lines not proven by DNA are also indicated.

The original plan was to protect privacy of the individuals who participated. However after there were six who matched, it seemed to the advantage of other McCown researchers to know which lines were definitely proven to link to Francis. I wrote and asked the proven participants if their line could be shown. All agreed.Future Study.

Anyone may join this project to see if their Y-DNA matches this McCown study. Testing has now been transferred to another department at LabCorp. Family Tree DNA did retesting on two of the participants.

Bennett Greenspan
Family Tree DNA
1919 North Loop West, Suite 110
Houston, Texas 77008

Dr. George Maha
Identity Testing Division
Laboratory Corporation of America
1440 York Court Extension
Burlington, North Carolina 27215

I found a descendant of George McCown of Tippah Co., Mississippi, but failed to get them to help us with the study. I would still like to confirm that he is the son of James McCown and a grandson of Francis of Augusta.

I am deeply indebted to the participants of this group for their help with this study.

Again, I thank those that participated in this group study, as researchers and cousins that have helped me study the McCown Family in the Americas.
Leonard J. McCown