Krise Surname DNA Project - Results

This project had its genesis in the discovery that the founding administrator’s Y-DNA matched participants in the Habsburg Project, a Y-DNA project that encompasses a group of people with matching DNA but apparently unrelated surnames. Several participants in the Habsburg Project, with surnames that include Hoppes, Messmore, and Slaughter, are able to trace their roots back to ancestors who originated in Switzerland. (There are also separate Messmore and Slaughter surname projects.) With a combination of DNA analysis, documentary evidence, and historical research, the administrators of the Habsburg project have determined that several of these surnames have their origins in the vicinity of the Swiss Canton of Appenzell Ausserhoden in the 1500s. Another surname in this group is Kreis. Although they have not elected to participate in the Habsburg project, two more matching profiles in the FTDNA databank belong to living Swiss men named Kreis. The administrators of the Habsburg Project calculate a likely most recent common ancestor (MRCA) for everyone in their project in the 9th century. Refer to the Habsburg Project for more information on this aspect of their study.

The conclusions of the Habsburg Project, as well as the Slaughter and Messmore Projects, provide helpful information for Krise family historians about the European origins of one family named Krise. The next step is to determine where other families with the Krise surname, and variants, fit into this picture—if they do at all. The Krise surname project was initiated in October 2011 to address this question.

The administrator’s Kriss line can be reliably traced back to a man named Georg Greiß who was born about 1740. “Greiß” is the generally accepted original spelling of his name, but documentary evidence for him and his children  reflects the fact that spelling was fluid in the 18th and early 19th centuries, particularly since many people were unable to read and write and the spelling of their name depended on the way someone else heard it. Georg had at least one brother and it is assumed, but not known for certain, that they were not born in America but were immigrants. Based on the experience of their genetic cousins, the Slaughters and the Messmores, together with the fact that there are genetic cousins named Kreis in Switzerland today, it is quite possible that Georg and his brother also came from Switzerland or from the region of Germany bordering northeastern Switzerland. The Swiss origin theory for this family has been given new support as a result of the addition of another member to the project (May 2012). In 1911, George Kreis, who was born in Neukirch, in the Canton of Thurgau, Switzerland, immigrated to America. DNA from one of his descendants closely matches DNA of the descendants of Georg Greiß.

The Greiß family settled in the vicinity of Frederick County, Maryland, and York County, Pennsylvania, later moving west to Cambria County, Pennsylvania. There were other people in Pennsylvania at that time with the same or similar surnames. One of those families was the family of Andreas Grass, who was born about 1728 and immigrated (possibly with his father and other family members) to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Grass and Greiß are variants of the same name and, while there is no documentary connection or other evidence of a relationship between Georg Greiß and Andreas Grass, they were certainly genetic cousins. A descendant of Andreas is also a participant in the Habsburg Project and a close match to the Kriss line.

Another immigrant to the same area was Johann Heinrich Kreiss, whose descendants now generally spell their surname as Krise. Johann’s family was also in Frederick County, Maryland, and in nearby Adams County, Pennsylvania. A number of his descendants had farms which were part of the Gettysburg battlefield in the Civil War. However, this was the first Krise family we identified which is not related to the Kriss/Grass genetic family. In fact, the “Gettysburg Krises” are members of an entirely different haplogroup that moved westward along the northern Mediterranean coastline 25,000 years ago when the ancestors of the Habsburg group were in central Asia. Haplogroup E, of which this family is a member, includes several different ethnic groups whose history may provide clues to the origin of this Krise family.

A third Krise family in Pennsylvania descends from Martin Kreis who is believed to have been born about 1720 in England, though some researchers cite family traditions which claim he was Dutch and was not a Kreis at all, but was adopted. In any case, the DNA of one of his American descendants indicates that Martin was a member of a third genetic family named Krise. There are other persons with the surname Krise who settled in the Frederick County, Maryland, area but who have not been linked, by DNA or documentary evidence, with any of the families so far described. We are also currently seeking participants from a Kraiss/Krise family in northwestern Pennsylvania, quite possibly establishing a fourth different Krise family in one American state.

A fourth family named Krise in America descends from John [Johann] Ulrich Kreis who immigrated to America in 1866 and settled in Illinois. Census records report that he was born in Switzerland but, surprisingly, his descendant's DNA does not match the DNA of other Swiss Kreis's in the databank at this time. It would appear that there is more than one Kreis family with roots in Switzerland. Initial results indicate that John Ulrich Kreis shared the genetic signature of what is known as the Western Atlantic Modal Haplotype (WAMH), the largest and most common genetic family in Europe. By contrast, our fifth Krise genetic family, the descendants of James Walker Grice, who was born in Great Britain in 1871, belongs to Haplogroup T. The presence of this haplogroup in Europe is spotty, but it is also found along the Mediterranean, in the Middle East, northern Africa, and even in Asia and Australia. Haplogroup T is found in significant numbers in some Jewish populations. In fact, there is a Grice family tradition that they have Jewish ancestry.

The increasing diversity which is evident among the various families named Krise raises the question of the origin of the family name. "Krise" is the most common modern American spelling, but this spelling traces only to the early- to mid-1800s. Two older spellings, with German roots, are "Kreis[s]" and "Greis[s]". Where any reliable written records exist, one or the other of these two variants (with one or two s's) is the spelling most often used by the original immigrant to America. "Kreis" and "Greis" are also the spellings most commonly found today in Europe. In German, "kreis" means a circle or a district and "greis" means a grey head or old man. Discovering how and why these words came to be used as surnames is one of the secondary goals of this project.

As the databank grows, it will be useful to family researchers as a tool for 1) identifying their deeper family roots and, possibly, immigration history, 2) confirming, clarifying, or disproving specific family relationships, and 3) collaborating with other family researchers on a variety of research issues to which DNA research can be applied.

Results page updated on 28 May 2012