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further details about DNA testing

How can DNA testing help the Adamthwaite one-name study?

As a result of the sharing of individual pieces of family history research by members of the Adamthwaite mailing list, we have been able to build a number of family trees, based on paper records and family recollections. However, for the period before general registration in the UK, the available written records are not always easily located and, even when found, they do not include sufficient information to be absolutely certain that we have made the correct connections between individuals.

DNA testing is probably the only way of providing irrefutable confirmation of the accuracy of our reconstructed family lines – providing certain safeguards are followed! And it will also demonstrate whether any of our lines connect up further back than it is possible to discover though traditional genealogical methods.

We have selected the largest company which specialises in DNA testing for genealogical purposes, and have designed a project that identifies which branches of each of the Adamthwaite lines we should aim to test.

Learn more about Genetic Genealogy

The Genographic project involves National Geographic and IBM and is seeking to chart new knowledge about the migratory history of the human species by using sophisticated laboratory and computer analysis of DNA contributed by hundreds of thousands of people from around the world:

The section ‘Atlas of Human Journey’ includes a video presentation about human migration: turn your volume up and click on the links under the time bar to find out how man migrated from Africa to eventually settle all over the world.

The section on Genetics overview (subsection population genetics) will give you an idea how DNA analysis works in relation to family history.

Addressing common fears and misunderstandings:

  • I could end up being arrested for a crime I didn’t commit, or being chased by the Child Support Agency! The yDNA tests carried out for genealogical purposes are not the same as those used in paternity testing, or for identifying criminals! Only a small number of markers on the y chromosome are tested, and these are selected to be the ones that are particularly useful in establishing whether two individuals are related, and if so, how many generations back that link is likely to be
  • I don’t want people knowing my test results The results of the yDNA tests will not be identified by your name – for our Adamthwaite study, they will identified by the colour line the tester belongs to and a code to indicate which of the major branches within that line the persons ancestors belonged (e.g. YELLOW 2c)
  • I don’t like needles and injections The actual sampling of the yDNA could not be simpler – you will all have seen TV cops or forensic scientists taking a swab from the inside of a person’s cheek – that is all there is to it! The test kit arrives by post and contains two small tubes with a couple of cotton bud type swabs and clear instructions on how to use the swabs and return them by post to the laboratory in the USA.
  • The cost is too high – well, the cost certainly is a factor. We would love to be able to find a way to make it cheaper, but in the absence of a rich Adamthwaite benefactor we have to make do with offering a 30% contribution towards the cost of each test. This funding comes from a general fund held by the DNA company (thanks to some generous contributions from various Adamthwaite researchers). If more people contribute to the fund, then we will offer 50% or even 75% contributions towards the cost of testing. However, in order to be eligible to receive sponsorship we need to be sure that we are not duplicating tests from within the same lines and branches.
  • Why not wait till the cost comes down a bit? The cost of DNA testing has gradually come down over the years, but the risk of waiting is that we will lose the chance to test some lines altogether. We already believe that three of our nine lines no longer have any male Adamthwaites in them. At least one other line has only one or possibly two male Adamthwaites alive today. Genealogy is largely an interest for people in their later years … without wanting to be the prophet of doom, it is a harsh fact that none of us is getting any younger! The trend for smaller families nowadays means that many families have no sons to carry on the yDNA to another generation. It would be very sad to miss the opportunity to make these exciting discoveries altogether.
  • The test result may show that I am not who I thought I was!  Well, that is always a possibility: we already know that there were quite a lot of children who ended up with the surname Adamthwaite from their unmarried Adamthwaite mother – in fact we believe that two of our lines may be descended from female Adamthwaites rather than males (and if we could find living males from those lines there is a chance we could discover who the father was!). There are other reasons too why DNA testing can reveal a ‘non paternal event’: Even in very recent times, it was fairly common for families to informally adopt children and bring them up with their surname. Sometimes these were related children who had been orphaned. It was also common for widowed women to remarry and for the children of their earlier marriage to take the name of their new husband. An unexpected DNA result could lead us to discover the paperwork to support these possibilities. But this is one reason why we should aim to obtain at least two DNA tests from each of our major lines – and if they don’t match, then we would need to seek a third test.
  • What if my results only match with other men with a different surname?  This too is a possibility: we know from the earliest written records that apart from few scattered individuals, all our lines were living in either Ravenstonedale or nearby Sedbergh. The records show that they spread out from there to nearby towns and villages and then across to the North East of England or London, with some emigrating to the New World. It is very possible that the earliest families who adopted the surname Adamthwaite in around 1250 – 1300 lived in the smallholding of that name in Ravenstonedale – and as we also know that there were at least three and possibly more farms at Adamthwaite it is VERY probable that the different families were descended from more than one man. We already have a possible match with a member of the Satterthwaite family.
  • I would love to take a test, but I am female!  Sadly, there are many of us in that situation (including yours truly!) The test subjects do have to be male, because only males carry the y chromosome. And we need to find males who have an unbroken line through their father and his father and his father to an Adamthwaite. So in virtually all situations, that male will have the surname Adamthwaite. If you want to help but you are female – why not try to discover a suitable male Adamthwaite in your line and persuade him to take a test?
    • What will a DNA test tell me about my ancestry?

      On its own, the results for your individual test can tell you about your deep ancestral origins – by what route your ancestors arrived in Britain some 20,000 years ago. Are they likely to have arrived with the Celts or the Vikings, or perhaps you could be descended from a Roman soldier stationed in Britain? That in itself is fascinating, but it doesn’t help us prove anything about our Adamthwaite family research – even the earliest of which dates from no more than 400 – 500 years ago.
      Before we can be certain that we have reconstructed our nine Adamthwaite lines correctly, we need to find a match between at least two sets of test results. A few minor differences between the two sets of results can indicate how far back the two individuals shared a common ancestor.
      Hopefully, once we have tested individuals from as many lines as have living male descendants, we will also discover if there are any links between different lines and how far back in time those lines share a common ancestor.

      Where can I find out more?

      There is further information on the website of FamilyTreeDNA – the company that we are using to carry out the DNA testing for the Adamthwaite Project.
      You can also read more technical information on the Wikipedia page on Genetic Genealogy.

      Read this blog written by one of the speakers for ISOGG, which I have found very helpful myself.

      If you have any specific queries or concerns – just email me at 

contact details:

adamthwaite @

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