I've been researching my family tree since 1998, and I've long been curious about DNA as a way to learn more about your roots. The technology has come a long way in the last decade, and it's become more affordable too. Finally, I went ahead and ordered a Y-DNA test (for my paternal line).
On Friday night, at 1:30 a.m., the results popped in my email inbox from the FamilyTreeDNA lab in Houston, Texas!
When I logged in to see the results, 29 "matches" popped up -- these are living people today with whom I share a common direct male ancestor with in about the last 1,000 years. (To be clear, the Y-DNA only passes father to son, so this traces my father's father's father, etc., and same for them.) These matches live in Ireland, England, Scotland, South Africa, the United States and presumably elsewhere (some don't list a location).
2 CLOSE MATCHES!
Of course, for any matches to come up, I need to have living blood relatives through the male line who took DNA tests themselves. And I'm so grateful and excited that two people I'm about to address did...
I had two close matches, genealogically-speaking, and the rest were more distant. The surnames to those closest matches? A Kennelly and a MacNeely, variations of my own last name. They both live in Ireland!
My relationship to the MacNeely, who I learned is about 28 years old today and lives in County Mayo, Ireland, goes back to a common male ancestor with the surname Kennelly (sometimes Mac an Fhaili in Ireland), MacNally, or McAnally who lived around the 1600s.
My relationship to the Kennelly is closer. He lives in Ireland today in County Limerick (where my great-great-great-grandfather Thomas Kennelly was born -- he immigrated to Canada during the Potato Famine). We seem to both descend of a Kennelly born in the 1700s.
What makes the connection to these two men so interesting is that most Irish genealogical records burned in fires in Dublin and don't exist today. Without them, it's hard to trace Irish roots any further back than the 1800s. But nonetheless I've made links with long lost cousins, prior to that time so many Irish researchers hit a brick wall.
I've written emails to both of them and hope to hear back!
MORE LINKS + THE 'ADAMS' FAMILY
The rest of the matches are more distant, though interestingly I found both a McKee and a McGee, with whom I have a common male ancestor in Ireland who lived around the 1400s or earlier. Also a McSorley, a Koster, a Walker, a Crauford and a Hannon who all share common male ancestors with me back around the same period.
But what I found most interesting of the distant matches -- the ADAMS connection. Three of my matches were males with the last name ADAMS. There was also one female whose maiden name was ADAMS (likely submitting a male relative's DNA) and one Smith who says he traces back (father's father's father, etc.) to a male Adams. There was a second Smith who I suspect could also go back to an Adams.
In all, that's five Adams descendants, possibly six, in my 29 matches. And sure enough, I learned the DNA subgroup / family group of former U.S. presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams matches my own.
John Adams and John Quincy Adams trace their Adams roots back to southwestern England, right across the water from southern Ireland, where my Kennelly roots lie.
My matches showed that my genealogical relationship to the Adams family lies in a common male ancestor way back, around the 1100s or 1200s. It's my best guess that an Adams, or a member of the same family in which male relatives took Adams as a surname, migrated from southwestern England to Ireland around that time period or shortly after, and that my Kennellys descend from this family.
It's also possible, however, that the connection goes back to before surnames were used at all, as they were just sprouting up around that time.
Either way, there is no doubt that I am blood related to the Adams family if you trace back through Y-DNA (my father's father's father, etc., and theirs). Eventually, we hit a single male figure who we both come from. And that's pretty cool.
I did some more research on my Y-DNA haplogroup, R1b1a2, and if you keep going back (through my father's father's father, etc.), my direct male ancestors were Celtics. They seem to have lived in Western Europe at the time of Jesus Christ and the Ancient Romans and Ancient Greeks likely saw them as uncivilized barbarians. They were likely tribal people in B.C. times, nomadic herders, moving around as famines and droughts hit.
Migration patterns show that my DNA group likely originated in western Asia, in the Middle East or Black Sea region (modern day Turkey), living there 20,000 and 30,000 years ago. There are relatives with similar DNA going thousands of years back in what is now Iran, India, Syria, Israel and Turkey. This family group also branched off into Africa, where the Y-DNA is alive and well in Central Africa. One branch ended up in Egypt specifically, and the Egyptian Pharaoh King Tut belongs to the same haplogroup as I.
After the Ice Age around 10,000 B.C., the larger haplogroup I come from R1b is believed to have brought agriculture to Europe from western Asia. It ended up becoming one of the most popular family groups in Europe, with some 50% of Western Europeans and Americans tracing back to them and 90% of those in Ireland.
My more specific subgroup R1b1a2a1a1b4 seems to have lived in southern Ireland, northern Ireland, and southwestern England in the last 1,000 years or so.
I was so excited by these results that I upgraded my account to trace my maternal line too. I also put in a "Family Finder" request so it gives me a rough overall breakdown of my genealogical DNA (what percentage I am Western European, what percentage other origins, etc.).
My DNA is already at the lab, so now I just have to wait another month or so, and I'm sure to find more interesting things.
Until then, I hope to hear back from my Kennelly and McNeely cousins overseas, who I emailed as I said earlier. I may contact some of these more distant relatives as well.
And later on, in November, I'm going to Ireland for the first time ever. I hope to track down Mr. Kennelly, Mr. MacNeely or at least more of my roots based on the new evidence I've uncovered. The power of DNA... it's really something.
Note: This post originally appeared on a personal blog.
Follow Craig Kanalley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ckanal