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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

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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.

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

some common questions and misunderstandings ...

I could end up being arrested for a crime I didn’t commit The yDNA tests carried out for genealogical purposes are not the same as those used in paternity testing, or for identifying criminals!  Only a small percentage of markers on the y chromosome are tested, and these are selected to be the ones that mutate very slowly and are therefore particularly useful in establishing whether two individuals are distantly related, and if so, how many generations back that link is likely to be.  The tests for other purposes use very fast mutating markers, to be sure that they obtain an identical match between samples.

I don’t want people knowing my test results The results of the yDNA tests will not be identified by your name – for our Appleby study, they will identified by the name of the most distant known ancestor in the line the tester belongs to (e.g. Wm Appleby, Middx, b.1725)  and a code to indicate which of the major branches within that line the persons ancestors belonged (e.g. branch 3a)

I don’t like needles and injections The actual sampling of the yDNA could not be simpler – you will all have seen TV cops or forensic scientists taking a swab from the inside of a person’s cheek – that is all there is to it!  The test kit arrives by post and contains two small tubes with a couple of cotton bud type swabs and clear instructions on how to use the swabs and return them by post to the laboratory in the USA.

The cost is too high – well, the cost certainly is a factor.  We would love to be able to find a way to make it cheaper, but in the absence of a rich Appleby benefactor we have to make do with offering a 40% contribution towards the cost of each test.  This funding comes from a general fund held by the DNA company (thanks to contributions from various Appleby researchers).  If more people contribute to the fund, then we will offer 50% or even 75% contributions towards the cost of testing.  However, in order to be eligible to receive sponsorship we need to be sure that we are not duplicating tests from within the same lines and branches.

Why not wait till the cost comes down a bit? The cost of DNA testing has gradually come down over the years and may fall further, but the risk of waiting is that we could lose the chance to test some lines altogether.  Genealogy is largely an interest for people in their later years … without wanting to be the prophet of doom, it is a harsh fact that none of us is getting any younger!  The trend for smaller families nowadays means that many families have no sons to carry on the yDNA to another generation – such lines can become ‘daughtered out’ all too quickly. It would be very sad to miss the opportunity to make these exciting discoveries altogether.

The test result may show that I am not who I thought I was!  Well, that is always a possibility: illegitimacy dating back many generations can easily result in a whole line of ‘Appleby’s’ that are in fact descended from a female Appleby.  But though such lines may not be biologically Applebys in terms of DNA, they are still Applebys genealogically.  There are other reasons too why DNA testing can reveal a ‘non paternal event’: Even in fairly recent times, it was quite common for families to informally adopt children and bring them up with their surname.  Sometimes these were related children who had been orphaned, or children of unmarried daughters who were brought up to believe that their grandparents were their parents.  It was also common for widowed women to remarry and for the children of their earlier marriage to take the name of their new husband.  An unexpected DNA result could lead us to discover the paperwork to explain these possibilities.  But this is one reason why we should aim to obtain at least two DNA tests from each of our major lines – and if they don’t match, then we would need to seek a third test.

What if my results only match with other men with a different surname?  This too is a possibility:  yDNA can locate matches going back hundreds of years, often to before surnames were even in use in England.  When surnames began to be adopted (in the 1300s in most of the country but later in the north west of England), the APPLEBY surname was most likely to have been adopted by someone who was 'from Appleby' – there were places called Appleby in Westmorland, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire – but it is also an old Norse name meaning apple farm, so could have been adopted by families as an occupational name.  So a number of unrelated individuals who lived in a particular village could have adopted the same surname.  Their descendants may have lived alongside each other for centuries, but biologically they had different paternal ancestors.

I would love to take a test, but I am female!  Sadly, there are many of us in that situation (including yours truly!)  The test subjects do have to be male, because only males carry the y chromosome.  And we need to find males who have an unbroken line through their father and his father and his father to an Appleby.  So in virtually all situations, that male will have the surname Appleby.  If you want to help but you are female – why not try to discover a suitable male Appleby in your line and persuade him to take a test?  Or you could do as several other female Appleby descendants have already done, and contribute a small amount to the Appleby Fund so that we can make a greater contribution towards the cost of testing.  And of course, we would love you to donate details of your Appleby research to our database!


Do you have another concern that isn't covered above?  Please contact the Project Administrator, using the contact form on the left, and we'll try to answer your query.

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