2014 Status Report


STATISTICS – Our project has grown since my August 2013 report. FTDNA now credits us with 377 members, up from 300 then.  We have 70 members tested to 111 markers, 181 to 67, and 331 to the 37-marker level. The difference between our count of 331 and FTDNA’s 377 consists of a few who tested with other companies, some who have not upgraded from the 12 and 25 levels, and kits ordered but not yet used. Our working site (www.worldfamilies.net/surnames/byrne/results) shows 335 haplotypes (sets of markers) divided into 31 distinct lineages, plus about 30 “unassigned” members. I do not show our few remaining 12-marker profiles on this site, primarily because I would not know where to place them, but also to save space. They are members though, and perhaps they someday will upgrade.

PROJECT ADMINISTRATION – Nic Burns has been project co-administrator for many years, and Richard M. Byrne of Co. Wexford also has become a co-administrator. Richard has long been active in the project (he is in Lineage I), and he has lectured and written about DNA. Having an administrator on scene, so to speak, has been a boon since our project is more than 80% Irish. Richard has a supply of test kits, should anyone in Europe require one. He can be reached at rmbyrne@eircom.net.

 SNPS VS. STRS – My own efforts to explain the difference between STRs and SNPs usually causes glazed eyeballs. While an understanding is helpful, it’s enough just to accept that SNP testing has become essential to genetic genealogy. There was a time when the two were quite separate—STRs being used for recent relationships dating back no more than 500 years, and SNPs for deeper ancestry dating back thousands of years. This no longer is true as recent SNP discoveries have caught up and now can overlap with the STR time frame. One of the best explanations is a blog by Roberta Estes, though even it takes some study. But here it is: http://dna-explained.com/2014/02/10/strs-vs-snps-multiple-dna-personalities/.

DNA TESTING PROCEDURES – There are several companies that offer STR tests, principally Ancestry and FTDNA. We urge potential members to test with FTDNA for uniformity (other companies overlap with but do not entirely match FTDNA’s panels), and because FTDNA has the largest data base. Obviously, comparisons are the name of the game. SNP testing, however, is not dominated by any one company, so here is a summary of what the principal ones offer us.

Family Tree DNA will continue to be our preferred company for 37, 67, and 111-marker STR tests. FTDNA also offers individual SNP tests, but its former Deep Clade multi-SNP test has been canceled. It will be replaced in late 2014. This will be a fixed-chip test, which means that it tests for known SNPs. FTDNA recently announced a “Big Y” test for about $700 that explores a large portion of the Y-chromosome looking for known and new SNPs. This is called Next Generation Sequencing (NGS). First results are due out soon, and it reportedly has some 300 orders from the R1b/L21 sector alone. Only one Byrne has ordered the Big Y, a member of our Lineage I (Leinster). For a more complete explanation of this test, see http://www.familytreedna.com/learn/y-dna-testing/big-y/.

National Genographic, a subsidiary of the National Geographic Society, has been offering a Geno 2.0 test that is fixed-chip. The chip was designed in late 2011, and since then hundreds of new SNPs have been discovered.  Consequently, Geno 2.0 is outmoded and while NG reportedly is considering a Geno 3.0, we will have to wait to see what is on it to determine its value. FTDNA does the lab work for NG. Three project members have taken the Geno 2.0 test.

Full Genomes Company, which was described in the last status report, has the most complete NGS test, exploring twice as much of the Y-chromosome as the Big Y. But at $1500 it is out of most people’s range. FGC has had problems with its lab in China, has switched in part to UCLA, and returns are now beginning to appear. In early February one customer reported that he had about 80 new SNPs, but he must await comparisons with others to determine their location, stability, and usefulness to genetics. One project member (Lineage II) has FGC tested, and I understand that about 30 R1b/L21 men have ordered it.

BritainsDNA, aka ScotlandsDNA and IrelandsDNA, was formerly known as Ethnoancestry. It offers a fixed-chip test called Chromo2 costing $199. It is proving especially valuable for our Lineage II (Northwest Irish) in that it tests for about 20 new SNPs below M222. One member (me) has taken it, and five others are ordering it.

YSEQ is the newest company, founded by former FTDNA employees Ingrid and Thomas Krahn. I am not sure yet what tests they will be offering, but they have been quick to develop the primers needed for some of the newly discovered SNPs. I sent for a test kit just so that they will have my DNA on hand and thus save time, should I later wish to test for something.

SIGNIFICANT DEVELOPMENTS – We have too many lineages (28) for me to comment on them all in every status report. I can only report the more interesting or important advances. But your administrators are available to bring individual members up to date on their lineages at any time. Just ask. Also, as haplogroups/SNPs are determined, it is important that you join a haplogroup project for more specialized advice and information. Please remember that Lineage designations can change as I shift and combine them. Some developments:

  1.  An August-October 2013 recruitment drive in Leinster resulted in about 40 new members. Only 29 of them were found to be Lineage I “Leinsters” while the other 11 are scattered among other lineages. Lineage I is the major Clan O’Byrne cluster, but it should be kept in mind that the clan included a half-dozen or more other haplogroups, even though its members all had the same or similar surname. When all test results were returned, we thought it would be easy to subdivide Lineage I into families or septs, but it was not. Those “scattered” eleven prove that the Clan O’Byrne did not have a single progenitor but, it contained members of disparate and long-forgotten ancestries. Secondly, while most of those in Lineage I do have a common progenitor, he did not live all that far back in genealogical time. Consequently, 37-marker haplotypes are not sufficiently divisive. It looks like 67 markers, or even 111, may be necessary. But we still are working on regrouping Lineage I as best as we can.
  2. As mentioned above, the Chromo2 test provided a major breakthrough. For years M222 was regarded as the terminal SNP for Lineage II, and some said downstream SNPs would not be found. Already about 18 have been identified, and more will come. The three project members who have Chromo2 tested all are on different subbranches of M222. We have long understood that our M222 members are not of common ancestry despite identical or similar surnames, and now we have the proof. Five additional members of Lineage II are ordering Chromo2, and we will soon have a much clearer understanding of how M222 divides.
  3. Lineage III is quite well defined. It has a “fingerprint” (set of markers in common) that has been designated the Airghialla-2 modal, and its SNP identity (L513>L69.5) is clear. It descends from the McGuire and McManus clans of ancient Oriel.  A new tester has just joined bringing it to 28 members with our surnames, plus two with other surnames.
  4. Lineage IV (Louth Cluster) identification is making some progress. Some of its members have joined the new 9919 Project (459 values of 9-9, YCA of 19-19) and the newly discovered SNP called FGC5496 may be its identifier. FGC5496 appears to be a major branch on the tree chart L21>DF13>FGC5496.  We will soon know if our mysterious Lineage IV is on this branch. YSEQ has set up a special panel of SNPs believed to be on the FGC5496 branch, but it is rather expensive and no need to rush. However, one can test for FGC5496 alone.
  5. Lineage V remains one of our largest mystery groups. We know that its 11 members are all, or mostly, related. We know that it is L21+ but we have no clues to where it is on the tree below that SNP. I have notified its members separately that this group badly needs SNP testing—either Geno 2.0 or Chromo2.
  6. Lineage VI (Roscommon) definitely is L21>DF13>DF21>DF5 as shown by a DF5 positive in the testing of a second member. That should put to rest MacLysaght’s claim that the Sept O’Beirne descends from some Viking named Bjorn. So far, DF5 has been found in central Ireland northern England, Scotland, and the Isle of Man— but very little in Scandinavia.
  7. Lineage XVI seems to be an ancient relative of Lineage II (M222). A member SNP-tested DF49+DF23-. While M222 is several mutations below DF23+, Lineage XVI branched off above it. DF49 is thought to have first appeared in Britain or northern Europe, so XVI probably also did.
  8. Lineage XVII, a group of Munster Breens, was previously identified as L513. We now know that they are in the L513 subdivision identified by the CTS3087 SNP.
  9. Lineage XIX gained two new members. An O’Beirne from Co. Clare took the Chromo2 test, was positive for DF27, so we now have seven Df27 in total.  O’Beirne is related to a Burns whose ancestors came from the same portion of Clare, and they are not close to the other five DF27s in this category. Local history says that the Byrnes of that area are not related to groups with similar surnames elsewhere in Ireland. Only about 8% of Irish are DF27. On the tree charts it is parallel to L21, which about 80% of Irish have.
  10. Lineage XX is an interesting new cluster. Its Earliest Known Ancestor signed indenture papers in Dublin in 1734 and was transported to Virginia, but where he originated we do not yet know. The group has an unusual fingerprint that needs SNP testing to identify its haplogroup.
  11. Lineage XXI is a new northeast Ireland cluster. We had two apparently related men lingering among our Unassigneds–one who traces to Monaghan and the other to Louth.  They recently were joined by a third who has the same off-modal mutations, and traces to Armagh . One of the three has SNP tested 312+, thus eliminating U106, and another tested DF27-, so they probably are on the L21 branch. Additional testing will tell us.
  12. U106 is not exactly a lineage because it has three distinct SNP divisions within it, The overall category has not increased in number since the last report, though several of our Unassigneds currently are testing for it. The U106 haplogroup project is very large and well-run, and I leave much of the research to its administrators. Several dozen SNPs downstream of U106 have been discovered. The U106 project requires confirmation via a SNP test to join it, and only nine of our 20 in this group have done that. Several have SNPs far out on the tree. The five who are U106>L48 should ask the project administrators if they should test for newly discovered SNPs below L48.
  13. J2- This is a new haplogroup for us, found in a Byrne from Leinster. As said above, almost a third of the new members from Leinster who joined us during the August-October drive turned out not to be from the main Byrne Leinster family. This reflects the troubled history of that kingdom—invasions, armies passing through, plantations, Viking settlements along the coast, etc. The largest hotspot of J2 is the eastern Mediterranean. Among the many possibilities–our J2’s ancestor could have been a trader, a sailor, a slave, or even a Phoenician seeking tin.

OTHER NEW CLUSTERS – The above comments concern less than half of our 31 distinct lineages. If members of other clusters feel neglected, just let me know and I will attempt to bring them up to date, if there is any new information.

Paul Burns

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