“DNA, you know, is Midas’ gold. Everyone who touches it goes mad.”Maurice Wilkins, co-recipient of 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
One of the primary reasons I took the 23andMe test was because it offered haplogroup testing of both Y-DNA and mtDNA, whereas AncestryDNA only tested the autosomal chromosomes. (FamilyTreeDNA also offered Y-DNA and mtDNA tests, but were separate and, for the test I wanted, more expensive. I may end up doing a deep Y-DNA test dive with them eventually, but that remains to be seen…)
An autosome is any of the numbered chromosomes, of which there are typically twenty-two pairs. The autosomal tests are great for finding relatives across a handful of generations, but start to fall apart beyond that point, as the recombinant “noise” starts to overwhelm the signal. The gain on the signal can be increased by additional participation by more cousins (although I’m not sure any of the standard sites will do this automatically).
Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on my view on any given day, I’ve got a good grasp of my paternal family up to about the fourth or fifth generation. It’s beyond that, when my Keatings were still in Ireland, that I can’t find a connection to other Keating families. My hope is that I can use the Y-DNA testing to help tease out how my Keating family fits with other Keating families between 1168 and 1831.
In addition to the autosomes, (typically) we each have a pair of sex chromosomes (the X chromosome and the Y chromosome). You’ll remember that men typically have an XY pair and women have an XX pair. Men receive the Y from their father and a mixture of their father’s and mother’s X chromosomes. Since the Y is only passed down (mostly) unchanged from father to son, I have essentially the same Y chromosome as my father, his father, his father, his father, etc., with very few (relative) changes over hundreds of thousands of years.
However, due to random mutations on the Y-chromosome over the course of these thousands of years, those relatively few changes allow for the identification of distinct “families”, or haplogroups, over the centuries.
According to the Keating Project at FamilyTreeDNA, the largest block of registered Keatings are within the R-M269 haplogroup (aka R1b1a1b). However, the R-M269 haplogroup goes back about 4,500-9,500 years, and is the most common haplogroup in Europe. (There are other, smaller groups of Keatings in the project, including the I-M223 haplogroup and the J-M172 haplogroup. It is unlikely we’ll ever discover which haplogroup Halis belongs to, so it is similarly unlikely we’ll ever find which, if any, of these Keating groups are actually his descendants, and which derive from known or unknown Non-Parental Events (NPEs).)
At least one other family member who shares a paternal ancestor with me has also taken the 23andMe test. 23andMe reports that his haplogroup is R-L21 (aka R1b-L21 aka R1b-M529 aka R1b-S145 aka R1b1a1b1a1a2c1). R-L21 is a uniquely identified haplogroup that is descended from the R-M269 haplogroup. R-L21 likely originated in central Europe about 4,500 years ago. The haplogroup is found mostly among the inhabitants of Ireland and Great Britain.
In my more recent test, 23andMe was able to further hone in on my paternal haplogroup as R-CTS241 (aka R1b-DF13 aka R-S521 aka R1b1a1b1a1a2c1a), a subclade (“child”) of R-L21. This haplogroup likely originated in Ireland around 4,200 years ago.
As often happens within genealogy, the more I learn, the more questions I end up having…
- How did we get from the “original” R-CTS241 some 4,200 years ago to me. The R-CTS241 ancestor appears some 3,100 years before Helis Keating first shows up in Irish history.
- 23andMe has an interactive paternal haplogroup tree. R-CTS241 is nowhere near the leafy end of the tree. Which subclade (and sub-subclade and etc…) of R-CTS2411 is my line on? This might mean taking a test with additional detail, such as the FamilyTreeDNA test.
- Where does Halis Keating’s timeframe fall into the haplogroup tree? (Or is he on an “undiscovered” line? If so, and if it fits into standard naming conventions, may I humbly offer the name “R-HK1179” (for the Helis Keating line of which many of us might descend, with 1179 being the first mention of his name?)
- It appears that my 23andMe test cannot be uploaded to FamilyTreeDNA. They’ll allow uploads of autosomal tests, but not the Y-DNA tests of other companies. Is there some other way of comparing 23andMe’s results against FamilyTreeDNA’s results?
- Which of FamilyTreeDNA’s tests is best matched to the 23andMe test?
- Why doesn’t 23andMe offer Surname Y-DNA (and mtDNA) projects?
While discussing the results of my test, Kathy Keatting-Hull, the administrator of the Keating DNA Project on FamilyTreeDNA, has invited me to be a co-administrator of said project. I’ve accepted, and am excited to see what can be done with the tools offered by that project. I suppose since my 23andMe results can’t be imported, I’ll end up taking one of their tests shortly.
As with autosomal testing, the more Keatings that do a Y-DNA test and join a project, the better we can determine when different subgroups branch off. I do wish FamilyTreeDNA’s better Y-DNA tests were less expensive. The costs are likely holding off a lot of people from testing, when the autosomal tests are so relatively cheap.