September 30, 2009

What Are Haplogroups?

People have traditionally performed genealogical research by studying written documents. A new dimension has been added to genealogical research: the use of DNA. Each person has a "blueprint" in their body that contains information or instructions for the makeup and operation of their body. That blueprint is called DNA.

DNA is passed from parent to child in two ways. The Y-chromosome, that is passed from father to son, carries DNA information, and this information is referred to as Y-DNA. DNA information is also passed from mother to daughter and is known mtDNA. Y-DNA is used in genealogy because it is passed from father to son, and genealogical research is based on father-to-child relationships. Genealogists are beginning to use mtDNA, but its use isn't as widespread as that of Y-DNA.

Included in DNA is information about the origin of some of the person's ancestors. Humans are believed to have originated in Africa. The DNA of those ancient people was passed on to their children. However, occasional changes or mutations in DNA occurred, and the changes were also passed on to their descendants. As people spread over the earth, changes to DNA caused distinct patterns of DNA segments to appear. Today, those patterns are called haplogroups, and they give a general idea where particular genealogical lines came from tens of thousands of years ago.

The following chart shows how various Y-DNA haplogroups have separated from the original haplogroup that was in Africa, and the chart shows that haplogroups are a convenient way of identifying different genealogical lines. For example, many of the Leigh/Lee lines in the United Kingdom are of haplogroup RB1. Some of the Leigh/Lee lines in the UK, though, are of haplogroup I. The chart shows that the RB1 and I haplogroups originated from different people in different parts of the world, and this leads to the conclusion that the Leigh/Lee lines of haplogroup I are not related in a genealogical time frame to the Leigh/Lee lines of haplogroup RB1. Of course, haplogroup I is a large group of people, and not all of the Leigh/Lee lines in that haplogroup are related to each other.

Click the picture for a larger view of the chart.

This site focuses on the genealogy of people of haplogroup I. The ancient people who became haplogroup I migrated towards Scandinavia. This migration spread the DNA of the migrants among local folks. Further spreading of the haplogroup I DNA occurred during the ice age by migrations from Scandinavia to the Balkans, southern France, Iberia (present day Spain and Portugal) and Italy. During the middle ages, the Vikings invaded a wide area in Europe for about 200 years and spread their DNA throughout that area. As a result, haplogroup I is found today in many countries in addition to the Scandinavian countries, but that haplogroup is not common in most countries outside of Scandinavia.

The common ancestor between two Y-DNA donors

People doing genealogical research will have identified their most distant ancestor. This ancestor might be themselves, a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather, or someone further back in their family tree. The researchers may want to know whether or not that ancestor is related to other persons who often but not always have the same surname. In doing traditional genealogical research, the researchers try to obtain written records that will tell them if their ancestor is related to the other persons. However, such records may be difficult to locate and may not even exist. Since the Y-DNA markers do exist for male descendants of the two lines being investigated, the researchers can compare the Y-DNA markers of a male descendant from each line to determine if the two persons are related in some way. The use of Y-DNA can't give an exact relationship between two people, but it can tell if it is likely the two persons are related via a common ancestor. People who are likely related to each other will have most of their Y-DNA values the same. The fewer the values that are different, the more likely that the two persons have a common ancestor.

Let's consider an example of the use of Y-DNA to determine if two people might be related. This is a real-life example, but the names and locations have been changed to protect the privacy of the two persons, both of whom are still living.

John Leigh lives in Colorado. His great grandfather on his father's side immigrated from Wales to the United States. John has researched his great grandfather's Leigh line in Wales and has identified his earliest known Leigh ancestor. John had his DNA tested with the hope that someone in England will have Y-DNA that is a close match with his Y-DNA, thus giving him a general idea of where in England his earliest ancestor might have lived.

Michael Lee lives in Virginia. He has researched his Lee line back to his grandfather on his father's side, but he has not been able to extend his family tree past his grandfather. Michael assumes that the Lee ancestor who immigrated to the United States came from England, but Michael does not know who that ancestor was or when he came to the United States. Michael had his DNA tested with the hope that someone who has identified the Lee immigrant will have Y-DNA that matches with his Y-DNA.

After both men had completed their DNA testing, they were notified by the company doing the testing that they have a close match with each other and that it is likely the two men have an ancestor who is common to both of the men. The presence of a common ancestor is important because the common ancestor provides a link between the two lines, thus establishing a relationship between the lines. Michael was surprised at his close match with John, because he never suspected that his family tree might go into Wales. John explained to Michael that the common ancestor might have lived before John's branch went to Wales. If this is the case, Michael's family tree might not go into Wales, even though John's family tree does go into Wales.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this example is a real-life example of how DNA testing gave new information that brought two distant relatives together and gave one of the relatives an understanding that his family tree might go into Wales. Now, because it is likely that John and Michael have a common ancestor, they can assist each other in further research into the identity and whereabouts of the Lee immigrant who came to the United States. To help Michael with his research, John has identified several places in his family tree in Wales where sidelines could have sprouted from his main line and later furnished the Lee immigrant.

Genetic Distance

When two people learn that they might be related to each other because their Y-DNA have a close match, they wonder how close their relationship might be. Y-DNA results can not specify an exact relationship between the two people. The best it can do is give a general idea of their relationship. This is because the mutations that occur in the Y-DNA occur randomly. In addition, some values of Y-DNA mutate more often than other values.

There are several companies doing DNA testing for genealogical purposes. The two major companies are Ancestry and FamilyTreeDNA. These companies have different ways of specifying an approximate relationship between two people. The Ancestry site gives the number of generations to the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) for a 50% probability. The probability factor is involved since Y-DNA can't give exact relationships. FamilyTreeDNA gives the genetic distance between the two people, where genetic distance is the number of differences in the values of the markers of the two men. For example, if the genetic distance is 2, there are two ways that genetic distance could exist. The two men might have two DNA markers that differ by a value of 1 for each marker, or they might have one DNA marker that differs by a value of 2. Without additional DNA testing there is no way of knowing when and in which line(s) the mutations occurred.

This post gives information from FamilyTreeDNA that will help us estimate the closeness of a relationship based on the genetic distance of the two men. The more markers that were tested, the wider the range of genetic distance that can exist and still have a relationship. Here are links to the information from FamilyTreeDNA. The following information on relationships was taken from the FAQ at ( That page is worth reading, because it will clarify interpretations of DNA results.

Very Tightly Related N/A N/A 0 0 Your exact match means your relatedness is extremely close. Few people achieve this close level of a match. All confidence levels are well within the time frame that surnames were adopted in Western Europe.
Tightly Related N/A N/A 1 1-2 Few people achieve this close level of a match. All confidence levels are well within the time frame that surnames were adopted in Western Europe.
Related 0 0-1 2-3 3-6 Your degree of matching is within the range of most well established surname lineages in Western Europe. If you have tested with the Y-DNA12 or Y-DNA25 test, you should consider upgrading to additional STR markers. Doing so will improve your time to common ancestor calculations.
Possibly Related 1 2 4 7 Without additional evidence, it is unlikely that you share a common ancestor in recent genealogical times (1 to 6 generations). You may have a connection in more distant genealogical times (7 to 15 generations). If you have traditional genealogy records that indicate a relationship, then by testing additional individuals you will ether prove or disprove the connection.
Probably Not Related 2 3 5 8-9 It is highly unlikely that you share a common ancestor in genealogical times (1 to 15 generations). Should you have traditional genealogy records that indicate a relationship, then by testing additional individuals you will ether prove or disprove the connection. A careful review of your genealogical records is also recommended.
Not Related 3 4 6 10 You are not related on your Y-chromosome lineage within recent or distant genealogical times (1 to 15 generations).

As you use this information, don't "nit pick" the numbers. If the genetic distance is on the border of a possible relationship or no relationship, give yourself the benefit of the doubt and assume a possible relationship.

Even though Ancestry doesn't give genetic distance values, persons using Y-DNA values from Ancestry can still obtain genetic distance values by counting the number of markers that are different for the two persons, as explained above.

Finding and using the Leigh & Lee DNA information in this site

This site has information about each Leigh or Lee man who has had his Y-DNA tested by Ancestry or FamilyTreeDNA and has been identified as being haplogroup I. Review the information to see if the people fit into your family tree. If one or more persons do fit into your family tree, you can accept their DNA information as pertaining to your family, although members of your family may have slightly different values for their DNA markers due to mutations. To contact the men who had their Y-DNA tested, send emails to the contact persons given in the ysearch results (FamilyTreeDNA) or to the descendants who had their DNA tested by Ancestry (as explained in the months of May and June).

Note about Ancestry: The Lee DNA Genealogy Project used to have a guest account that would allow you to view the records in the group. The login information, which is still given in the page for the group, doesn't work. You apparently will have to request a membership in the group as a researcher, or buy a kit and have your Y-DNA tested.DNA isn't a Silver Bullet
DNA can give you general information about your ancestors, but you will still need to verify that information with traditional research in genealogical documents. The information you receive from the descendants will, hopefully, give you ideas about where to look for additional genealogical documents, and your research in those documents will, hopefully, give you more detailed information about your ancestors.

If none of the people fit into your family tree, information provided by the descendants may help you locate new genealogical documents that may allow you to connect to one or more of the people.

Navigating this Site

Because this site is actually a blog, the pages of this site are organized into years and months. The links to DNA testing of individual people are placed into particular months, as follows.

  • September 2009 - Introduction to this site. Links to various pages of this site
  • August 2009 - Leigh lines from FamilyTree
  • July 2009 - Lee lines from FamilyTree
  • June 2009 - Leigh lines from Ancestry
  • May 2009 - Lee lines from Ancestry

Using ysearch to search the ysearch database

FamilyTreeDNA has a free website called that can be used to search the ysearch database of persons who have had their Y-DNA tested. The ysearch database contains marker values that have been transferred from the FamilyTreeDNA database of test-values. Not all persons who are tested have their marker-values transferred to ysearch. You can use ysearch to search by last name or by genetic matches with a specific ysearch ID.

Search by Last Name

This search can be performed by anyone. You enter the last name and the regions of the world you went tested. The Results page will show the name you searched and in the Name or Variants column a link to all of the records that were found. Click the link and you will get a page with all of the records that were found. Have a little patience, because the search may take a few seconds.

The first column in your results is Compare, and that column has a check box for each record found. Click the check box for all of the records you want to keep (if you want most of the records, click Check All and then click the ones you don't want to keep). When you have selected all of the records that you want to keep, click the name of the column (Compare) which is underlined to show it is a link. Choose if you want to show comparative Y-DNA results or genetic distances. Your report will be created, and you can print it.

Search for Genetic Matches

Enter the ysearch ID of the man who will be the reference for the genetic matches. You will then be asked to enter search parameters. Keep the default that the user tested at least 8 of the markers that were tested for the reference person. Nobody tests less than 12 markers, so all people who were tested should be included in the results. You can specify a maximum for the genetic distances to be reported, or you can specify a maximum genetic distance of 1 per marker. To begin with, choose the second choice of 1 per marker. Choose how you want the last name to limit the search. Choose how you want haplogroups to limit the search, and choose the regions of the world you want included in the search. Then click the Search button.

This search can be performed by anyone who has access to a ysearch ID of a man who had his Y-DNA tested by FamilyTreeDNA. For example, women can use the ID of their husbands or of male relatives to do genetic matches with that man. Have a little patience, because the search may take a few seconds.

The first column in the results is Compare, and that column has a check box for each record found. Click the check box for all of the records you want to keep (if you want most of the records, click Check All and then click the ones you don't want to keep). When you have selected all of the records that you want to keep, click the name of the column (Compare) which is underlined to show it is a link. Select if you want to show comparative Y-DNA results or genetic distances. Your report will be created, and you can print it.

Create a New User

If you have recently had the Y-DNA of a male family member tested by FamilyTreeDNA, you can go to ysearch and click the Create a New User tab to create an account for the person who was tested. Then, you can click a field in that person's account at the FTDNA web site to have his test results (marker values) automatically sent to ysearch. When you first create the account on ysearch, you will be given a ysearch ID, and you can use that ID to perform genetic matches.

Other Tabs

There are a few other tabs in ysearch that you can explore at your leisure.

A useful technique for data from Ancestry

In displaying names in its site, Ancestry groups the data from its testing into subgroups. Each subgroup has names that the server thinks are closely related to each other. It is helpful if you reorder the data in a subgroup to make your person the reference person for that subgroup. By doing this, the number of generations in the MRCA column will be relative to your person, and having your person at the top of the list makes it easier to visually compare the Y-DNA markers of your person with the markers of those who are most closely related to him.

Here is the procedure to make your person the reference for the subgroup.
  1. Place the mouse cursor on the name of your person. You will see a down arrow at the left of the name.
  2. Click the down arrow and select "Make this person the reference person"
The names in that subgroup will be reordered with your person at the top of the list, and all of the MRCA numbers will be relative to your person.

Another option is to change the View field at the top of the page to be "Sorted List" instead of "Genetic Subgroups (default)". This will remove the subgroups and will place all of the names in one list. You can make your person the reference person, as explained above, and you can check if persons in other subgroups are closely related to your person. However, this procedure does not reorder the list by MRCA number, and persons most closely related to your person will likely be scattered throughout the list. In addition, many of the MRCA numbers may be a dash (-) due, I assume, to the number being too large to fit in the field.

Uploading your markers to ysearch

Many of you who visit this site had your Y-DNA tested by a company other than FamilyTreeDNA. Yet, you would like to use ysearch to compare your markers with those who were tested by FamilyTreeDNA. It is possible to upload your markers to the ysearch database, and this page gives you the step-by-step procedure. I recommend that you do this to give you access to a larger reservoir of individuals who have been tested.
  1. Go to and click the Create a New User link to create your account. This step gives you an empty account on ysearch, that is, an account with no marker-values.
  2. Manually enter your Y-DNA values from the company that tested your DNA. Be careful in doing this, because the order of the values in ysearch may not be the same as the order of the values given you by the lab who tested your DNA.
  3. Correct certain values as given in the correction page of ysearch. This correction is necessary, because different labs have slightly different ways of testing your DNA.

    NOTE: Due to a recent change made by Ancestry, do not subtract 11 from the value for the GATA-H4 marker.
You now have your marker-values uploaded to the ysearch database, and you can use ysearch to compare your values with those of persons who were tested by FamilyTreeDNA. By doing this upload, you will be able to compare your Y-DNA with a much greater range of people.

If you do upload values to ysearch, please email me at genealogy (at) welshleigh (dot) org so I can add your new ysearch ID to the Clearing House.

Uploading your markers to Ancestry

If you were tested by a lab other than Ancestry, you can upload your markers to Ancestry. Doing this will broaden the pool of Y-DNA markers that are available for comparison with your markers. Follow these steps.

  • Go to and click the DNA button.
  • If you have an account with Ancestry, log in. If not, create a free account.
  • Click the Paternal (Y-chromosome) button.
  • Click the name of the lab that tested you and click Continue
  • Manually enter your haplogroup and your marker values. Ancestry will automatically convert certain values for compatibility with its database. Click Submit when you have finished entering the values.

Leigh & Lee DNA Q&A

Have questions about using DNA in your genealogical research but don't know who to ask? This is the place! Leave your questions in comments, and we'll reply with our answers. If we don't know an answer, we'll refer you to the staff at FamilyTreeDNA.

Should I join a user group or project?

There are several companies that test DNA for genealogical purposes. The two companies that are used most often are FamilyTreeDNA and Ancestry. FamilyTreeDNA was the first company to test DNA, and it has the largest database of DNA values. Both companies have groups or projects that focus on particular genealogical lines. Both companies give discounts to persons who join a group before they are tested.

User Groups

FamilyTreeDNA has two user groups or projects that focus on Lee and Leigh lines of any haplogroup and one user project that focuses on Lee and Leigh lines of haplogroup I1. If you go to FamilyTreeDNA and do a surname search for Leigh or Lee, you won't see the I1 group in the list of projects. You can, though, go directly to the website for that group. Once you are in the website, if you haven't been tested, you can click a link to join that group and, if you wish, purchase at the discount price a kit to have your DNA tested by FamilyTreeDNA. There is a special price for persons who have been tested by other labs and want to be tested by FamilyTreeDNA. If you have been tested by FamilyTreeDNA, you can click the link to join the I1 group and have that group added to your list of projects you have joined. I am the moderator of the I1 group as well as of this site.

Ancestry has several groups that focus on Lee lines, and the largest group is the Lee DNA Genealogy Project.

Official and Unofficial Members

To be an "official" member of the FamilyTreeDNA project that focuses on the I1 haplogroup, you must be tested by FamilyTreeDNA. Persons who are interested in the I1 haplogroup but were tested by another company are invited to visit the website for the I1 project and participate as "unofficial" members (email me with your request so I can welcome you into the group). Unofficial members have full activity with the group website and with this Clearing House. The only disadvantage is that their Y-DNA markers are not displayed in the group website.

Reasons for Joining a Group

People who are considering being tested or have recently been tested wonder if they should join a group. Here are ways user groups might help you.

  • User groups may offer a discount for the testing.
  • User groups are one way to connect with people who have similar interests and goals in genealogy. This will facilitate the sharing of information among members of the group, and they provide social relationships among genealogists.
  • User groups provide access to the marker values of other members of the group.
  • User groups may provide tutorial information about DNA testing.

Leaving Comments

If you have information about a particular ancestor who is listed in this site, you can put that information in this site by posting a comment to the page of that ancestor. The procedure for posting a comment will ask you to select your profile. If you don't already have a Google profile, or a profile from another website that is accepted by Google, you can create a Google profile (free) or you can submit your comment without an actual profile.

In creating Google profiles, keep in mind that your profile will be online and available to not only persons interested in genealogy but to persons and computer programs called bots that want to send you spam. Thus, use caution in deciding what information to put in your profile. Normally, we only post our first names, and we don't give postal addresses or even the name of the city in which we live. We also don't give email addresses. If you do want your email address to be given but want to keep spam bots from obtaining your email address, you can disguise your email address in some way such that live persons can recognize your address but computer bots won't recognize it. The method I use is to give my "name" and my email domain but to disguise the @ symbol and the . symbol. For example, I give my email address as genealogy (at) welshleigh (dot) org Some people will create a Google profile but leave all the fields blank.

If you want to post a comment but not give a profile, select the Name/Web option from the list of profiles. Use your first name (or an alias) in the Name field. If you have a family history or genealogy site that pertains to your comment, you can put a link to that site in the Link field; otherwise, leave the Link field blank.

Observations about the DNA data

This page contains observations that I've made about the DNA of Leigh and Lee lines. The comments are made as I think of them and are in no particular order.

The following comments apply to the Lee DNA Genealogy Project at

Almost all of the Lees that are grouped under Randaulph Lee have the same mutation in DYS # Y-GATA-A10. Because there are many donors of the DNA, this might imply there is a common ancestor of all those Lees and that the common ancestor also had that mutation.

Reuben Lee b c1798, d 1880 and Bryant Lee, b c1803 have a perfect match of the 26 markers that were compared. It is thus likely that they have a common ancestor in a genealogical time frame. However, the donors of the DNA should be tested for more markers to confirm this.

What's new at the Leigh & Lee DNA Clearing House

So, you've been here before? That's great! This page lists the changes that have been made to the site and to the DNA data. Newer changes are at the top of the list.

  • Added William Lee, b c1827 South Carolina, d aft 1871 to the FamilyTreeDNA lines for Lee
  • Added Thomas Green Lee, b. 1858 to the FamilyTreeDNA lines.
  • Added a post explaining how to make your person the reference for the names in the Ancestry subgroup containing your person
  • Added a post explaining genetic distance
  • Added a post explaining the importance of a common ancestor
  • Added a post explaining how to give a comment to the page of an ancestor