In this blog, I want to look at YDNA. This is different from the previous blogs where we were looking at the autosomal DNA or the atDNA. The autosomal DNA is good for going back about 200-250 years. If you are lucky, it may go back some more. Also the atDNA is for both your parents and all of the parents of those parents. When you take the Family Finder test or AncestryDNA test or similar this is what you are taking. And when you get matches, you are getting matches to all of your ancestors. These are matching with everyone else’s ancestors. Not only that, these matches may represent matches with the descendants of those ancestors that not many people even know about. It is like finding a needle in a haystack.
The YDNA is much different. It just follows the father’s father’s father’s line. All the way back. Back to genetic Adam. I look at it like a LASER type of test vs. the scatter gun approach of the atDNA test.
There has been only one tester so far for YDNA in the Frazer DNA project. There is a reason that we only have one tester so far. In order for the YDNA test to be significant for the Frazer DNA project, you have to be a male Frazer. It turns out that there are relatively few of these male line Frazers around that are available and willing to test their DNA. My second cousin once removed, who is a Frazer, has recently agreed to test his DNA. His grandfather followed my great grandfather’s lead in coming to Boston, Massachusetts from Ballindoon, County Sligo, Ireland. So I’m anxious to see how his YDNA matches with our first tester and whether this proves an unbroken line between the 2 branches of our Irish Frazers back to the early 1700’s.
STRs, Genetic Distance, SNPs and Haplotypes
Our first tester tested for 37 STRs. STRs are Short Tandem Repeats. This is now the basic test at Family Tree DNA (FTDNA). However, at one time they were testing down to 12 or 25. These results are listed on the Fraser and Septs web page. According to that page, there are 1875 members. Our Frazer YDNA tester STR results are listed here.
As you see, there are a lot of numbers. Everything seems to be reduced to numbers nowadays! These are the results for the R1a1 people in the Frazer group. There are only 3 people out of what I can only assume are 1,000 or more Frazer YDNA testers. The first R1a1 person is our tester. You see he has put down Archibald Frazer b. 1690 as his ancestor. The next tester also tested 37 STRs and the 3rd tested only 25 STRs. Note that all the testers spell their Frazer with a Z.
Each number in the chart stands for a different location on the YDNA. Taken together, these numbers create a YDNA type of fingerprint. The more STRs tested, the more specific the fingerprint. These locations were chosen as areas that are likely to change. The difference between the numbers of any 2 people is called the GD or Genetic Distance. This is a rough estimate of relationship. It is also a bit relative. Say someone has a GD of one when comparing two 111 STR tests vs. two 37 STR test. The GD of one for the 111 STR test comparison represents a much closer match. Here’s a closer look at the first 25 STRs of the R1a1 Frazers:
The heading I put in doesn’t quite line up but are the locations of the STRs being tested. The first row below the heading is the maximum number for the STR. The second row is the minimum. The third row is the mode or the typical number. The purple numbers are below the mode and the pink numbers are above the mode. So our Frazer can be said to be a GD of 7 from the mode. This is because in the 7th column there is a difference of 2. All the other differences are one. For a GD of one in a 37 STR test, Family Tree gives the following chances of having a common ancestor:
Our current YDNA Frazer tester’s closest match is a GD of 1 match with a Frizelle. Perhaps this Frizelle was once a Frazer that changed his name to Frizelle. Or perhaps our Frazer name was once Frizelle. For comparison, his generations to the James of the James line would be 6 or 7 to the parents of the James and Archibald Lines.
Now all these STR numbers are used to estimate the Haplogroup. The estimated haplogroup is R1a1. This is the old name. The new name for R1a1 is R-M512 and based on the test for that SNP. In the first screen shot there is a red R-M512 next to the 3 YDNA testing Frazers in the group. The SNP is red because it is estimated based on the STRs. If the SNP was tested, the color would be green. However, there is no need to test for R-M512 as the STRs already indicate that the SNP is R-M512. A SNP is a Single Nucleotide Polymorphism. In other words, it is a specific test aimed at finding a haplogroup or haplotype. So one might say that a STR test is a general description of the YDNA based on specific markers. The aggregation of these markers result in a profile that can be used to compare with other profiles. It may also be used to estimate a haplotype. The SNP test is a very specific test looking for a specific crucial spot in the YDNA that proves a specific haplotype.
One of the goals for this Frazer DNA project is to show by YDNA that the James line and the Archibald lines are related. We are pretty sure they are. However, over the years, things can happen, so it’s good to be sure. This YDNA could be used to trace our Frazer back to other Frazers in Scotland.
What is R1a1?
I’m glad I asked. When our first Frazer tested, I was expecting the results to be R1b. This is quite a common haplogroup. This is what my Hartley YDNA came back as. Some people associate the R1b with the old Celtic peoples of the area. My Hartleys were supposed to come from the NW England which is near SW Scotland where our Irish Frazer supposedly came from. So it made sense for me to guess that the Frazers would also be R1b. As I scroll down the Fraser and Septs – YDNA Colorized Chart, I see that many of the Fraser/Frazer names are under R1b.
The difference between R1a and R1b is quite large. I would guess that these 2 haplogroups split from each other 10,000 years ago or more. The R1a people took the Northern route out of Asia accross Scandinavia perhaps and ended up in the Northern part of the British Isles. The R1b’s took the Southern route, generally, around Spain or possibly shortcutting through France and up into the British Isles.
There are also internet groups just for R1a1a people of any surname. Here is a map from one of those groups showing the migration and peoples descending from R1a.
Notice that the Scots are near the Vikings. It would be interesting to see if our Frazers are positive for the L448 and L176 tests. That was the 2012 chart. There has been an explosion of testing over the last few years which has been difficult to keep up with and new branches are being discovered on a regular basis. Here is the 2015 chart:
See all the extra branches at the bottom. Many of these are based on the Big Y DNA tests, that basically tests you for anything Y. You can see many more Scots branches near the 3rd little figure on the bottom. Unfortunately, our STR testing only gets us to about 6,000 B.C. This is caveman days, when our ancestors were still in Asia perhaps. However, as R1a is rarer than R1b the test should be good enough to show a male line match. Plus, the STR profile should be very similar.
Why Are So Few of our Irish Frazers R1a1?
There could be many answers to this question.
- The Frasers/Frazers are apparently a large clan with many branches. Ours could be a separate one.
- An early adoption of a Frazer could have created a different branch of the Frazers
- DNA testing predates the adoption of surnames, septs, and clans. More than one group of people could have adopted the same surname, or become part of the same sept or clan. A review or our YDNA testing Frazer shows that his closest matches are with a Frizelle (GD=1) and a Grant and a Stuart (GD=2). This could indicate that the Frizelles, Grants and Stuarts could be related a point that predated surnames.
What Will it Mean if the Two YDNA Tests Do Not Match Each Other?
I am hoping they will match. If they clearly don’t match, then there will need to be additional testing to determine why and where that lack of matching occured. However, based on the autosomal DNA analyses done so far, I think there will be a match. There are many autosomal DNA matches between the Archibald Line descendants and the James Line Descendants. Here are the matches between the 2 lines. There are about twice as many matches since I wrote about this before in Frazer DNA – Celebrity Edition!
However, I can think of 3 ways to interpret these matches:
- This could be due to the fact that there were common collateral lines and these matches are picking up the Frazer spouses common ancestors;
- this could be due to the fact that autosomal test is picking up this old Frazer connection that goes back to the early 1700’s or;
- the matches could be due to intermarrying between the 2 Archibald and James Frazer Lines subsequent to the early 1700’s.
So for now, we will sit back and wait for the new YDNA testing to come in. Then, as they say on TV, we will have our YDNA reveal.