DNA Project Update

Amy Eberlin
Friday 9 October 2015

This week’s blog posting has been prepared by Janet Flandrensis who co-administers the DNA Project associated with the Scotland and the Flemish People Project. The posting reviews the current status of the DNA Project and some of its initial findings.  There is also a discussion of next steps and details are provided on how to get DNA tested as part of the Project.


The DNA project associated with the “Scotland and the Flemish People Project” began in 2013 as an important complement to the ongoing historical and family history research.  The host company for the project is  Family Tree DNA (FTDNA).  At the outset one of the goals of the DNA Project was to confirm the geographic origins of participants with potential Flemish origins in Scotland.  Another was to determine whether all people surnamed Fleming descended from one early Flemish immigrant or if some families adopted the surname after arrival in Scotland1.

A number of families with surnames that may have Flemish origins were identified from various sources and this primary list has been added to over time as research has raised new possibilities.  The goal has been to get people from all of the primary families to test under the DNA Project.  This Project has focused mainly on Y-DNA that is passed only from father to son. In Box 1 below the primary list of families (along with variants on their names) is set out and alongside each name is the number of people who have tested to date.  The box also contains a secondary list of names, not derived from research sources, which has been provided by the general public and tested under the project2.

List of possible Flemish origin surnames
Abernethy (0), Anstruther (0), Armstrong (1), Baird (3), Balliol (0), Bart (0), Beal, Beale (1), Beaton (2), Bell, le Bel (8), Bennie (0), Binnie, Binning (0), Bishop (1), Boswell (0), Bremner (1), Brodie (0), Browning (0), Bruce (0), Cameron (1), Campbell (6), Cant (1), Clemmet (0), Clow (0), Comyn (0), Cox (1), Crawfurd (1), De War (0), Deurs (0), Dewar (0), Douglas (4), Dowie (0), Erskine (0), Flamang, Flamank, Flament, Flammang, Flement (0), Flanderensis (0), Flanders (0), Flemish (0), Flemyng, Fleeming (0), Fleming (18), Flemming (1), Flockhart (0), Flucker (2), Frame (9), Frisken (2) Frizall (0), Graham (4), Hally (0), Hamilton (1), Hazeel, Hazel, Hazell (0) Henman (0), Holm (0), Houbron (0), Innes (0), Junker (0), Kessen (0), Kettle (0) Leith (0), Leslie (1), Lindsay (3), Lochore (0), Montgomerie (0), Morran, Morrens (0), Mortimer (0), Murray (9) Mutch (0), Oliphant (0), Petrie (0), Plender (0), Plenderleith (0), Prain, Prayne (0) Pren, Prenn, Preynne (0) Pundler (0), Roche (0), Roy (0), Seton (0), Spalding (0), Stein (0), Stewart (8), Stirling (1), Sturman (0), Sutherland (4), Swankie (0), Vermont (0), Waddell (1), Weddell (1), Woodall (0), Younger, Young (3)

A number of other people with names not on the primary list, but who believe they may have Flemish roots, have tested under the project. Such names that have been placed on a secondary list include: Ayres (1), Ballard (1), Bailey (1), Barton (1), Blackburn (1), Brookes (1), Bryson (1), Clarke (1), Cline (1), Clough (1), Collard (1), Conrad (1), Cuthbertson (1), Drennen (1), Eckman (1), Ellis (1), Ellison (1), Foster (1), Gilman (1), Gouin (1), Davies/Grannigan (1), Hall (1), Harkness (1), Henry (1), Highland (1), Hill (1), Irwin (1), Ames (1), Kerrick (1), Kimsey (1), Lankford (1), Lapinel (1), Lockhart (1), Logan (1), Loggie (1), Lynn (1), Martin (1), Matthews (1), McCarty (1), McCluskey (1),  Mercer (1), Merville (1), Moffat (1), Moore (1), Morrow (7), Napier (1), Nelson (1), Nutt (1), Parker (1), Pate (1), Patterson (1), Pettit (1), Posey (1), Redgate (1), Redmond (1), Reeves (1),  Retherford (1), Sheret (1),  Shewan (1), Skupin (1),  Spinken (1) Sitton/Sutton (1), Stamper (1),  Starling (1), Stoddard (1),  Stuart (1), Szczepanik (1), Teles (1), Tanner (1),  Tennent (1), Thormalen/Graham (1),  Urich (1),  Van Felkner (1), Walker (4), Waldron (2), Warden (1), Warren (1), Watt (1), Watts (1), Weyant (1), Whitfield (1), Williamson (1), Wilson (3), Wright (1).

For purposes of analysis it will also be possible to draw on the results from other projects on the FTDNA database.


DNA and the Haplogroups

The Science of Genetic Genealogy and DNA Testing is constantly improving.  The Haplogroup can be thought of being a people group or a clan. This is a key concept that will in due course help in comparing Scottish family DNA with that of families in Flanders. A number of new tests have been developed over recent years to more finely determine which Haplogroup and subgroup people fall into. There are now multiple subgroups in each Haplogroup.

The original Haplogroup tree has been revised over the past few years as new more accurate modes of testing have been introduced and as new mutations (changes) have been found in test results.  Each branch of the tree is identified by an upper case letter and a series of letters and numbers. Information about these changes, various tests, Haplogroups and Subgroups, Migration Charts, detailed scientific information and links for other projects can be found via links on the main Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) website.

Haplogroup R:  The bulk of the participants for the Y–DNA project are of Haplogroup R or a subgroup of it. Haplogroup R is a major branch of the Y –DNA Haplogroup tree originating in Central Europe and eventually spreading throughout Continental Europe and branching further across the Channel to Britain and Ireland and onto the colonies. Haplogroup R subgroups have expanded over time3. The Haplogroup R Chart can be viewed at this link. There are 122 participants of Haplogroup R in the project.

Haplogroup IHaplogroup I is the next most important group in the sample and this branch of the human family also came from Continental Europe to Britain and Ireland but these are probably of Viking ancestry. The migration trail of Haplogroup I is completely different from Haplogroup R as it tracks further north in Europe and then came south and over the Channel and onwards to the New World, including the British Empire and colonies. Historical research and archaeology has already confirmed that the Vikings both invaded and raided all over parts of Continental Europe, Britain, and Ireland so it is not surprising to find evidence of possible Scandinavian origins in the results of the DNA project3. The Haplogroup I chart can be viewed at this link.  There are 37 participants of Haplogroup I in the project.

Even though the project is very small the greater number of participants within R and I Haplogroups compared to the number of participants in other Haplogroups is a typical pattern found in the results of other surname and geographic projects based on the areas of Continental Europe, Britain, and Ireland, and particularly the lowlands of EU including Flanders.

Haplogroups E, G, and J: There are a few unusual Haplogroups such as E, G and J in the project but these are essentially outliers. These three Haplogroups have completely different migration trails to the Haplogroups noted above. They are not as numerical within Continental Europe, Britain and Ireland as the R & I Haplogroups and according to official Haplogroup Charts and Maps originated as more ancient branches of the Human Family3

Haplogroup G in Scotland is believed to represent the earliest inhabitants of the country, although some may have arrived with the Romans and later invaders.  Haplogroups E and J are commonly thought to be more recent incomers to Scotland (last 1,000 years). The charts for these Haplogroups can also be viewed at the Eupedia Genetics link. The number of project participants in each of the three Haplogroups are shown in brackets:  E (3), G (2), and J (6).

The technical Box 2 below explains how recent developments in DNA testing are shedding additional light on the Haplogroup tree and on ethnic origins.

Recent Developments in DNA Testing

Advanced DNA tests: Advanced tests will need to be used if the goal of discerning a baseline DNA signature for Flanders is to be reached and if the lineages that arrived with the Flemish in Scotland are to be identified. Traditional DNA testing with a relatively few markers could only give people a predicted position on the Haplogroup tree. More recent techniques have allowed project participants to have more markers tested and also reveal mutations that are already on the Y tree or reveal a new mutation. This allows for an even more precise location within the subgroups of the major Haplogroup or an extension of the branch if a totally new SNP. This confirmed position on the tree is their so-called Terminal SNP. Each time a new SNP is discovered it is added to the Haplogroup tree and individuals who have it can be sub grouped accordingly.

The 2015 Y Haplogroup Tree can be found at this link and it is updated regularly. The Big Y is an accurate but expensive newer test for determining deeper ancestral links and new paternal line branches detected by the Terminal SNPS. Only 28 project members have had the Big Y Test and despite the cost it is hoped that more will do so in the future. Most members have had a 12, 25, 37 or 67 Y marker test to date.

MT DNA & Family Finder Results: The focus of this DNA project is, as noted above, the male Y-DNA and this will be the basis for the analytic work that will take place in due course. However, at least 61 members of this Project have had the MtDNA Test and 94 members have the Family Finder Test. The Mt DNA test traces the individual’s maternal ancestry using the DNA in his or her mitochondria. MtDNA is passed down by the mother to all children be they male or female. Tests will show basic maternal ancestry reaching far back in time and the MtDNA Haplogroup allocation will reveal the ancient migration path of direct maternal ancestors. Both men and women can have the MtDNA test. The Family Finder Test gives a more detailed ethnicity makeup for an individual participant. These two types of test could yield extra information that could shed light on Scottish family connections with Flanders.

There are a wide variety of surnames in the MtDNA Section of the Project and Haplogroup H is the most numerous with 26 members followed by U – 14 and T with 9. The remainder are distributed across various branches of the Mtdna haplogroups tree which include Haplogroups A, C, H, I, J, K, L, M, R, T, U and V . The Haplogroup Tree can also be found at FTDNA and further details of participants in the MT DNA Results Section2.

Testing the Fleming Family

Regarding the single person origin of the Fleming family there are not enough Fleming participants in the project at present to arrive at a definitive conclusion. Some Flemings within the project have distant cousin matches with surnames that are of possible Flemish origins or with other members of a Fleming family branch in another project.

More work needs to be done however to draw on the results of other Fleming surname studies, for instance the Ancestry Fleming Surname Project that has been discontinued.  This did point to DNA links between various Fleming families. Comparisons need to be made with the Fleming6 and the Appalachian Fleming Projects7. It may also be worthwhile checking the DNA results of the Flanders Geographic Project at FTDNA8, the Belgium Walloon9 and Brabant and Benelux Projects10 & 11.

Conclusions and next steps

The overall distribution of Haplogroups in the project is broadly as might be expected for a project of this type with most participants’ ancient ancestors being located in Continental Europe well before a migration to Scotland3&4

The key issue of whether families on our lists have Flemish roots is something that will be addressed later in the life of the project when a suitable benchmark of DNA in Flanders has been identified. The Model Flemish DNA Haplotype is probably in Haplogroup R (R-M269) or a related subgroup5.

It is going to be important to get more participants in the project so as to be able to yield statistically significant results that shed light on the issues that the project is hoping to address.

There will also need to be greater collaboration with other similar projects so that the results of the various projects can be compared.  This will help shed further light on the origins of the Fleming family and on the linkages between the other main Flemish origin families in Scotland.

Looking ahead, steps will need to be taken to:

  • secure more funding to be used within the DNA project,
  • encourage participants to initially test more markers (at least the 67 marker STR Test),
  • encourage participants to confirm their Haplogroup Allocation with Terminal SNP testing, or to consider taking tests like the Big Y or an appropriate SNP backbone test.

If readers of this posting wish to join the Project here are instructions for doing so. The DNA test involves a simple swab on the inside of the cheek. It is recommended that you purchase at least the 67 marker Y-DNA test as it will help identify your distant relatives within FTDNA’s extensive database as well as providing data that will help us in our analytic work.  The test kit can be obtained direct by contacting Alasdair Macdonald at afmac@blueyonder.co.uk or via the join tab at http://www.familytreedna.com/public/Flemish_in_Scotland Obtaining a test kit in this way could be much cheaper than the regular FTDNA pricing set out in the Notes on Pricing below.

Janet Flandrensis
EM: jayjaybird7@hotmail.com
October 2015

Janet’s interest in genealogy dates back to 1980.  She has been an Administrator of a DNA Fleming project at Ancestry.com and more recently at FTDNA.

Notes on Prices

This note sets out approximate prices for the main DNA tests. The 37 Marker Y Test is $169 (£112), the 67 Marker Y Test is $268 (£178) and the 111 Marker Y Test is $359 (£239). The BIG Y is $595 (£396) and the MtDNA—small HVR1 and HVR2—is  $69 (£46) or for a MyDNA full sequence $199 (£132).  The Family Finder Test is $99 (£66). Haplogroup SNP backbone packs vary in price from $79 (£52) to more than $110 (£73).  All specials are advertised at FTDNA and Coupons are promoted occasionally for a variety of tests.  It is important to check for discounted prices before ordering. This link explains the Big Y test and its pricing.

Information on how to switch test results from another company to FTDNA can be obtained from Janet Flandrensis at the EM address noted above.

(7)Appalachian Fleming Project http://www.familytreedna.com/groups/fleming-appalachians/about/results
(9)Belgium Walloon http://www.familytreedna.com/groups/belgiu-mzz-walloon/about/background
(10)Brabant  http://www.brabant-dna.org
(11)Benelux   http://www.familytreedna.com/public/benelux/default.aspx

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2 thoughts on "DNA Project Update"

  • Craig Nelson (Bell)
    Craig Nelson (Bell)
    Sunday 25 October 2015, 3.50am

    Dear Dr. Alex Fleming and John Irving, I have just submitted a join request to participate in the "Scotland and Flemish People DNA Project." I have taken the Y-111 and the Big Y test. My 'Bell' ancestry seems to show a geographical convergence to the Scot border area. Thank you for your consideration. Regards, Craig Nelson (Bell)

  • Craig Nelson (Bell)
    Craig Nelson (Bell)
    Sunday 25 October 2015, 3.51am

    I am also an admin for the Bell DNA Project.

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