Has Y-DNA Helped Us Discover Halis Keting?

This article’s subject is almost pure speculation, based on a dollop of data that we currently have and a single historical mention. Much more testing and additional historical documentation need to be added before it can more from a simple hyptothesis to anything resembling proof. So, why am I writing it? In the hope that it may spur additional Y-DNA testing, including those from families with a deeper written history.

As we’ve written before, the earliest known historical record of our surname was one Halis Keting, apparent subscribing witness to a grant to Dunbrody Abbey in the late twelfth century, shortly after the Norman Invasion ore Ireland. Beyond mention of his being a witness, however, we don’t know anything else about Halis.

If Halis (or some other invading Keating) went on to father the Keating family, we would have a reasonable expectation that his sons (and their sons and their sons…) would carry his Y chromosome, with the occasional mutation over the last 800 years. (Obviously, not counting NPEs through that time period.)

Based on the current 172 members of the FTDNA-hosted Keating Project, we currently have twelve distinct identified family groups based on genetic distances between Y-37+ DNA tests. There are also a few handfuls of individuals who aren’t in a particular family group. Some of these are individuals who have only taken the earliest Y-DNA tests (Y-12) which don’t provide the granularity of later tests. Some are related to the Keating surname via a non-paternal line — the group accepts those who have taken both mtDNA tests and autosomal “Family Finder” (or imported equivalent) tests. Others may match more than a single family group – a higher granularity test will help those tests find their group. Finally, others just haven’t found a match yet. With a sample size of 172, this is not surprising, and I expect as we increase the number of tests, the number of family groups may well increase. (A quick Google check shows a source that says there are nearly 50,000 Keatings. We’ve only tested 0.34% of them!)

Of the twelve family groups, “Family Group 06” stands out as the group with the most associated tests, both STR (9) and SNP-based (7). Although the number of tests doesn’t imply anything in particular, it does give us enough data points to begin theorizing.

Family Group 06 [https://www.familytreedna.com/public/Keating?iframe=ycolorized, Retrieved 27 September 2022]

Within FTDNA’s new Discovery suite of tools, there is a page called the “Time Tree”. For the members of “Family Group 06”, we can see kits that have a Y-700 test along the right-hand side. I’ve added test kit numbers, minus one kit not in the Keating project (but a Keating nevertheless).

Family Group 06 Time Tree [https://discover.familytreedna.com/y-dna/R-BY186234/tree, Retrieved 27 September 2022]

Although kit 537285 is a member of the project, the surname is not a known Keating variant. However, every kit descended from R-BY186234 is a Keating or descended along a paternal line from a known Keating (or variant of the name).The most interesting thing about R-BY186234 is the mean estimated birth date is 1056 AD, just 100 years before the Norman Invasion of Ireland and well within the confidence intervals.

R-BY186234 TMRCA Scientific Details [https://discover.familytreedna.com/y-dna/R-BY186234/scientific, Retrieved 27 September 2022]

The implication here is that R-BY186234 may very well be Halis Keting. At minimum, he was likely a peer of Halis or an close relative. Is it definitive proof? Absolutely not. But it does point to a common ancestor around the Norman Invasion of Ireland who passed on the Keating name to his descendants.

What can be done to prove or disprove this? Beyond finding Halis’s final resting place and doing a bit of gravedi… Err… archaeology, we need more Big-Y testers — not just in Family Group 06, but in other family groups. Filling out the haplogroup tree under R-BY186234 with other Keatings would show continuity of this particular family group. Alternatively, if other family groups also show a common ancestor at the same time, we would have another contender for Halis. As always, DNA doesn’t exist in a vaccuum. Documented links between modern and historical Keatings would also go a long way to proving this tree comes from an early Keating house. Fill out your family tree on FTDNA. FTDNA uses this information to hone in on the TMRCA (The Most Recent Common Ancestor) date. The more accurate the information, the better the results.

As a final reminder, remember that at the moment, this is just a hypothesis. (And if you think this hypothesis is tenuous, just wait until my next one, where I use DNA and some wishful thinking to link my own Family Group 05 to the Askeaton/Keating Family Origin Story…)

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