Having now mugged-up a bit on DNA testing, I am quite excited about the possibilities it offers this project. I suppose it is the engineering/scientist side of me coming out.
In essence, this is a one-name study of the SPURRETT name so DNA testing is particularly useful. The Y-chromosome in DNA gets passed down from father to son in each generation – just as the surname also does by convention. The Y-chromosome is faithfully reproduced over a few tens of generations so all related males share an exact copy. Very occasion errors in the copying of the DNA, but this happens over a much longer timescale – roughly once per 500 years (depending on the marker). That makes DNA testing useful to trace male ancestors on a timescale of a few hundred years (by looking for identical Y-DNA), and also to look back further to find geographic origins from the original migration of man (by looking for differences in Y-DNA).
Unfortunately, the clerks who recorded genealogical information do not faithfully reproduce surnames over the generations – often because going back in history they are faced with recording events such as births, deaths and marriages where neither parent is literate. In such cases they often resorted to either phonetically recording the name or relying upon the spelling of a more common name. So over the generations, we have seen Spurretts transcribed as Spirits, Spearritts, Spurriers, etc.
DNA Study Objectives
I have found many families that have variations of the Spurrett name, some of which I am convinced are related to me, some which are definitely not, and some I am not sure about. By comparing my Y-DNA with living male descendants of such families, I should be able to definitively prove whether we are related or not.
So for the first step, I am waiting for results back from a 20 STR marker Y-DNA test which I am having done as part of Genebase’s DNA Ancestry Project (see www.genebase.com). I am expecting the results back towards the end of May. The next step is to locate some willing male volunteers from Spurrett-ish families to join in.
I would be really interested in hearing from you if you want to join in and share data, especially if you are a SPEARRITT or SPIRRIT or any similar name. The test itself only requires a simple swab from inside your cheek and doesn’t delve into the parts of your DNA that may hold sensitive information about genetic diseases or that can be used to trace you to crimes etc. The only significant risk is that you will find that you are distantly related to me …
Data and Findings
Now I have my results! The tough bit is figuring out what it all means. Apparently I am Haplogroup R1b which means the route my acient ancestors took from Africa to England is known. The closest related other people on the genebase database are around 30 generations ago. So to get some real value out of this, I need more distant related Spurretts to come take part!