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How can yDNA testing help the Appleby one-name study?

As a result of the sharing of individual pieces of family history research by various Appleby researchers, we have produced a number of family trees, based on paper records and family recollections.  However, for the period before general registration in the UK, the available written records are not always easily located and, even when found, they often do not include sufficient information to be absolutely certain that we have made the correct connections between individuals.


yDNA testing is probably the only way of providing irrefutable confirmation of the accuracy of reconstructed family lines – providing certain safeguards are followed!  And it will also demonstrate whether any of our lines connect up further back than it has been possible to discover though traditional genealogical methods.


We have selected the largest company which specialises in DNA testing for genealogical purposes, and once we have collated as many family trees as possible, we need to identify which branches of each of the Appleby lines we should aim to test, to ensure that we do not waste our very limited financial resources in paying for tests where we could confidently predict the likely outcome (e.g. by testing very closely related male Applebys). 


What will a yDNA test tell me about my ancestry?

On its own, the results for your individual test will tell you about your deep ancestral origins – by which route your ancestors arrived in Britain from Africa thousands of years ago.  Were they likely to have been members of the Brigante tribe or did they arrive with the Vikings; or perhaps you could be descended from a Roman soldier stationed in Britain? That in itself is fascinating, but it doesn’t help us prove a great deal about our Appleby family research – most of which dates from no more than 300 – 500 years ago.


It starts getting more exciting every time we discover matches between two or more volunteers.  Before we can be certain that our Appleby lines have been reconstructed correctly, we need to find pairs of matching test results from the same tree (but from different branches of the tree).  One or two minor differences between the two sets of results can indicate how far back in time the two individuals shared a common ancestor.


Now that we have tested individuals from a  number of different Appleby lines, we have begun to discover links between different lines and the degree of matching provides clues as to how far back in time those lines share a common ancestor.  That will help us to focus our search for earlier records to try to replicate the match with written evidence.


Where can I find out more?

Chris Pomery, a member of the Guild of One-Name Studies who has undertaken a large DNA study of the Pomeroy family, has written an excellent book 'Family History in the Genes' published by the National Archives ISBN 978 1 905615 12 4 (2007) - well worth ordering a copy for a clear concise explanation!


Or, visit Chris's website, where you can read Chris's latest articles, from the online Journal of Genetic Genealogy and elsewhere.


There is further information on the website of FamilyTreeDNA – the company that we are using to carry out the DNA testing for the Appleby Project.  

You can also read more technical information on the Wikipedia page on Genetic Genealogy.

The International Society of Genetic Geneology (ISOGG) has a link to a helpful section for DNA ‘Newbies’ on their main page.  They also provide a useful chart which gives a rough guide to the main DNA sources for each county in the British Isles.


The following charts from the ISOGG website demonstrate the path by which yDNA and mtDNA are passed down through a family:

Path of Y-DNA – male paternal line only                     Path of mtDNA – Female Maternal line only


Although it is possible to test both yDNA and mtDNA, for most genealogical purposes it is the yDNA which is passed only from father to son (generally along with the surname) that is used.  The specific markers which are analysed have been selected because they are known to mutate very slowly.  Although early yDNA analyses looked at only 12 markers, nowadays a 37 marker test is considered necessary to provide conclusive evidence of any links between two sets of results.


Exciting developments in DNA testing

In February 2010, Family Tree DNA launched its latest type of DNA test: Family Finder.  This test examines autosomal DNA and can be taken by either males or females and results will show matches with any blood relative within five or six generations. You can read more about the test here.  Five years on, the database has grown to a size which provides a good chance of identifying unknown cousins.  If you are interested in exploring your ancestry with this test, and you have Applebys anwhere in your own family tree, do contact me to make sure your Family Finder results are included in our project, though sadly it will not be possible to subsidise the purchase of this type of test.


Learn more about Genetic Genealogy

The Genographic project involves National Geographic and IBM and is seeking to chart new knowledge about the migratory history of the human species by using sophisticated laboratory and computer analysis of DNA contributed by hundreds of thousands of people from around the world.  Their website has lots of interesting information about deep ancestral origins of different peoples, presented in a way that makes it more easily understood.


The section ‘Atlas of Human Journey’  includes a video presentation about human migration: turn your volume up and click on the links under the time bar to find out how Man migrated from Africa to eventually settle all over the world.


The section on 'Genetics overview' (subsection population genetics) will give you an idea how DNA analysis works in relation to family history.


Note:  The Genographic Project offer their own DNA test for individuals wishing to participate in the project - however, this is NOT a suitable test for our genealogical purposes, being designed to establish deep ancestral history rather than identify links between individuals.  Once we have established our Appleby Project's aims, and with the permission of volunteers who have tested, I will investigate whether it is possible for our results to be contributed to the Genographic Project.

Alnwick Castle banner 2

the Appleby one-name study and DNA project

the Appleby one-name study and DNA project

Surnames covered in our DNA project:



plus any other variants

guild logo


ftDNA logo

The current banner shows Alnwick Castle, in Northumberland - a county in the far north east of England, bordering Scotland.  This region is home to a number of Appleby lines - and our DNA project has confirmed genetic connections between several of these, which also match lines in Canada, USA and Ireland.

PLEASE NOTE: if you are viewing this site on an Apple device running IOS 13, you may experience problems with page layout, over-lapping text, etc.  Hopefully, Apple will resolve these issues very soon,

(Meanwhile, I suggest you switch to a PC!)

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