The last few years have seen an explosion in the use of DNA studies in family history, especially in One-Name Studies.
Our main current focus at HowesFamilies.com is to rebuild families in the 19th and 20th centuries, so that as we go back in time, we are able to build on solid foundations. DNA testing provides an opportunity to check our work and link families together with a high degree of confidence. Long run, it can take us back beyond the period for which we have good paper records, provide us with clues about the origin of our surnames and can sometimes even lead to surprises
The company of choice for One-Name Studies is FamilyTreeDNA. There were originally two studies, Howe/Howes and House but these were recently merged into a single Howe/Howes/House DNA project. The project can be accessed here. The surnames covered in the project are Attoe, Haus, Houghs, House, How, Howe, Howes, Hows, Howse, Howys, Howze, Huizen, although the bulk of the study covers the surnames House, Howes and Howe.
Although the Howe surname is included in the DNA project we believe it has generally been distinct from Howes, House and Howse. We know of one or two families who have lost an 's' from their surname over the years but, generally speaking, if the name sounds plural, it's always sounded plural, and the same for singular-sounding Howe's. So far we have found no DNA links between singular and plural sounding names. However, who knows what we will find as more people take a test!
Paternal DNA tests, also called yDNA
Y-DNA testing is the most relevant to the HOWES one-name study. DNA data is another source of information about a surname, and provides information not available in the paper records. The information can be invaluable in solving genealogical questions, and can tell you which family trees are related. The Y-chromosome is found only in men, and is passed from father to son, typically unchanged, which is the same path as the surname in most cultures. By testing locations on the Y chromosome, called markers, we can determine if two men share a common ancestor, and the approximate time frame of the common ancestor.
This test provides male testers information about the direct male line: father, father's father, and so on back in time. You must be a male to take this test, since only men have a Y-chromosome. Males inherit that Y-chromosome from their father, and an X chromosome from their mother. These are known as the sex chromosomes. The result for a Y-DNA test, combined with the surname, provides matches in a genealogical time frame. The result will also supply anthropological information, which is your major population group, known as a haplogroup. Females inherit one X chromosome from their father, and another from their mother. So females have to find a Howes brother/father/uncle or similar to take the test.
Y-DNA is useful because it is more likely to mutate between one generation and the next - this means that the number of differences between one sample and another can tell us roughly how many generations you'd have to go back to find a common ancestor.
To allow people that have tested with the different companies to make their results available for comparison FamilyTreeDNA offers Ysearch as a free public service. This has tools that allow you to compare your results side-by-side with different users - the YsearchCompare - as well as generate a Genetic Distance(TM) Report, and many other features, including the upload of GEDCOM files.
Maternal DNA tests, also called mtDNA
Maternal DNA matter is conceptually similar, but is passed from mother to child, female and male. So anyone's mtDNA comes from their mother, and her mother, and so on. Find someone whose mtDNA matches yours and you should be able to prove a common female ancestor up the female line.
A mtDNA test will thus provide information about your direct female line. The test result also provides information about the distant origin of your direct female line. Because mtDNA mutates at a slower rate than Y-DNA the result is more of an anthropological nature. However there are instances where it can provide genealogically useful information, for example in the case when a female child is unsure of the female line in the case of multiple wives. It was studying mtDNA that helped identify the skeleton of Richard III.
For matches in a genealogical time frame the mtDNA Full Sequence test should be used
Autosomal DNA tests, also called atDNA or Family Finder
The third test available looks at your entire set of chromosomes and is known as autosomal DNA. It looks at the 22 pairs of non-sex chromosomes and sometimes the X and Y chromosomes. It is generally thought to be useful to about five generations back, ie, it is quite reliable (though not perfect) at finding fourth cousins. As the "Family Finder" name suggests, this test can reveal matches from any branch of your family tree as a result of segments of DNA passed down from any of your ancestors.
Although, YDNA tests are generally great for One-Name Studies, sometimes atDNA tests have to be used, for example if there is no male descendant available.
Your testing options
Several companies offer DNA tests and some are cheaper than others. However for a One-Name Study we prefer to use a company that offers Y-DNA tests. Ancestry used to offer Y-DNA testing and indeed there was a small Howes study on Ancestry but this company removed Y-DNA testing from their services some years ago. FamilyTreeDNA provide the largest database against which to check your results. In addition to Y-DNA tests covering 12, 25, 37, 67 and 111 markers FamilyTreeDNA provide atDNA tests (known as Family Finder) and mtDNA tests.
Although FamilyTreeDNA offers 12 and 25 marker tests they are not considered sufficient to confirm a common ancestor. The 37 marker test is the best place to start for most researchers. It is possible to upgrade to 67 or 111 markers and they can confirm matches and define lineages in a project more definitively.
If you have had a Y-DNA test from another testing company that used the Sorenson 33 or 46-marker test, e.g. Ancestry.com (including the original Howes Ancestry Y-DNA study), GeneTree, and Sorenson's SMGF it is possible at a small cost to transfer your Y-DNA results to FamilyTreeDNA.
Purchasing your kit at the best price
Y-DNA tests can be purchased on FamilyTreeDNA at an advantageous price by going through the project page. Click on Projects, find the Howe/Howes/House project and it will take you through to an ordering form for the 37 marker test at US$149 rather than US$169. The 67 and 111 marker tests are also US$20 cheaper. Note that these prices also attract a postage charge of US$12.95.
HOWEVER: if you are interested in the standard Y-DNA 37 marker test and/or the autosomal test it is much cheaper to go through the Guild of One-Name Studies. The Y-DNA 37-marker test is currently GBP95, which includes postage and handling, worldwide. The Family Finder (Autosomal) Kit for males or females is GBP58, which also includes postage. To take advantage of these prices email the project coordinator at the address shown on the linked project page. We can take cash transfers in USD or GBP or give you a link whereby you can pay direct with your credit card. So currency should not be a problem. All the above prices are subject to change.
The Howe/Howes/House DNA project
There are currently about 180 participants in the Howe/Howes/House project. Of these close to 100 have taken a Y-DNA test, with approximately 80 having one of the Howe, Howes or House surnames.
Your Y-DNA may help you find genetic cousins along your direct paternal line. Planned comparisons are the best choice, having traced two or more male lineage descendants of a single man using traditional genealogy research. The descendants then test their Y-DNA. If they are exact matches , it is evidence that supports the relationship. Not matching usually disproves the relationship. For those testing at FamilyTreeDNA it is helpful to provide your family tree, which is very straightforward by uploading a GEDCOM file. Also it is important to provide details of the Most Distant Ancestor on the paternal side.
A DNA success story
One of the goals of HowesFamilies.com is to help to bring families back together. Usually, it's a matter of connecting distant cousins using email based upon what you tell us when you register on our site. As we explained back in January this year, though, we have done something more dramatic.
We were contacted by a young woman who claimed to be the child of a man who had died shortly after the girl's birth without marrying the girl's mother, probably not even knowing of the child's existence. All efforts by the young woman to trace the family of her father had drawn blanks. Could we help? We did a little research on the man's family and found a possible address in the UK. The young woman could not pluck up the courage to write, however.
Some months later, a man wrote to us with a few extra details regarding his family. We were grateful for that just as we always are, but realized when writing back that we were dealing with the man's father. He was asked whether he knew of the possibility that his son had fathered a child and told him of the contact we had previously received.
Through us the parties engaged in a little dialogue and through the Guild of One-Name Studies we were able to offer them two autosomal DNA tests at a reduced rate, for which the man's father generously agreed to pay.
When the results were returned they showed a close familial relationship, e.g., grandparent and grandchild, thus proving the young woman's story. The new relations were then able to get to know each other.
We hope this has helped a little and that we haven't confused anyone!
One last thing: we hate FAQs! If you have a question, by all means ask Paul or Brian at the emails noted at the Howe/etc project website linked below.
Some useful DNA testing reference sites
|Beginner's Guide to Genetic Genealogy
|Howe/Howes/House DNA website
|mtDNA comparison site
Brian and Paul Howes, May 2017