01 November 2016

Who I am: DNA testing and paternity

This is one in a series of posts on the search for my biological family.

The second DNA test that I did was a Y-DNA test. You can examine the more specific details here, but the idea of a Y-DNA test is to match other males with a most common recent ancestor (MCRA). Ideally (assuming a high confidence test and males who consistently pass their surname), a Y-DNA test would match you to other individuals with a single surname and a single MCRA. Ideally, this would tell me my biological surname. If it were only that simple.

My Y-DNA test was a 37-marker test. This is a decent entry-level Y-DNA test, but other higher resolution tests are available at 67 and 111 markers (they are also considerably more expensive). My results showed 179 matches. Some or even many of these are not likely to be definitive--it is unlikely, for example, that I share a MCRA with three males with three different surnames! Still, the list of most common surnames shows some interesting results:

McHarg/McHargue/McChargue/McCard (14)
Gallagher (10)
Carnes/Carney (6)
McAmis/McCamis/McCammish (5)
McGee (5)
Campbell (4), Hughes (4), McKee (4)
Clancey/Clancy (3), Coyne (3), Douglas/Douglass (3), Flannery (3), Manley/Mannelly/Munnelly (3)

Remember how I explained in my ethnicity post that I was Scotch-Irish? Yeah, I think these surnames confirm that!

Second, the first group almost all have the same MCRA (Alexander McHargue, born 1711 in Argyle, Renfrewshire, Scotland; died April 4, 1789, in Paxton Township, Dunphin, Pennsylvania, USA). Is this my MCRA? Possible, but not with enough certainty to really know.

Here's what the test tells me: At 37 markers, I match an unknown McHargue (unfortunately, his profile is set to private) on 35 of 37 markers (a genetic distance of 2). I also match an unknown Carney (unfortunately, his profile is also set to private) on 35 of 37 markers (again, a genetic distance of 2). As you can imagine, I probably only share a MCRA with one of these guys. My guess is to lean toward McHargue, but only because the name is far more common on my list of surnames. Obviously, just based upon numbers, Gallagher, McGee, and a few other names are certainly possible. Only time (and more research!) will tell.

In my next post, I'll revisit my original adoption notes with a twist. Remember that my biological father was supposedly a 19-year old sophomore at Lehigh University? Yeah, it's about that. Until next time...
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