Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Getting the most from your New Big Y-700 Results

The Big Y test changed to a completely new technology earlier this year. It now covers 50% more of the Y chromosome than previously. And so it is anticipated that the new test will discover additional SNP markers that the old technology did not detect. Furthermore, the new SNPs should be able to more accurately date the various branching points on the Tree of Mankind.

It also gives us approximately 700 STR markers whereas the previous test only gave approximately 500 STRs. As a result, the old test is called the Big Y-500 and the new one is called the Big Y-700. Going forward, all new Big Y orders will use this new technology.

For those who did the old test, it is possible to upgrade from the Big Y-500 to the Big Y-700. But for everyone who does the new test, or upgrades from the old version to the new version, it is essential that you upload a copy of your results to the Big Tree so that we can get some essential additional analyses. You will find instructions for doing so on the Big Tree website here and on the Y-DNA Data Warehouse website here but I include a briefer summary below.

What do you get from your Results?

Your results should be analysed within a week or two and you can check them by navigating to your particular portion of the Big Tree. For members of Ryan Group 2 (for example), their Terminal SNP is M756 and you will find this branch on the Big Tree here (see screenshot below). The diagram nicely illustrates their placement on the Tree of Mankind and the surnames of the people sitting on neighbouring branches to their own. This information can be very useful for determining the geographic origins of your particular direct male line and for determining if your name is associated with an Ancient Irish Clan.

Project Administrators can use programmes like the SAPP tool to generate Mutation History Trees and determine the likely branching structure of your particular "genetic family" from the time of surname origins up to the present day. This process can also help identify which Ryan's (for example) are more closely related to each other and which are more distantly related. It is also possible to date the branching points within the Mutation History Tree using SNP data as well as STR data. This process is likely to become more accurate with the advent of the new Big Y-700 data and the identification of new SNPs. It is anticipated that the new data will reduce the number of "years per SNP" from about 130 to about 80 years per SNP. You can read more about this here.

You can also click on your surname above your kit number for an analysis of your Unique / Private SNPs. These may prove useful in the future for defining new downstream branches in the Mutation History Tree and for dating new branching points. But this very much depends on new people joining the project and undertaking Big Y-700 testing (so that we can compare apples with apples). And as this is a new test, it is likely that we will have to wait some time before we begin to see real benefits from it.

Creating a Link to your Big Y results

In order to create a downloadable link to your Big Y results, first log in to your FTDNA account and go to your Big Y Results page ...

Then click on the blue Download Raw Data button ...

Then you need to create a link to two separate files - your VCF file and your BAM file. The VCF file is used for placing you on The Big Tree. The BAM file is used for high-end technical analysis by the folks at the Y-DNA Data Warehouse. You can see some of the results so far on their Coverage Page here (and if you like you can search for kits by surname, including your own).

1) to create a link to your VCF file, right click on the green Download VCF button, and then click on "Copy link" from the drop-down menu. You will later paste this link into the the "Download URL" box on the Submission Form.
Alternatively you can simply (left) click on the green Download VCF button and this downloads a 10 MB file to your computer. This can then be directly uploaded via the Submission Form below. However it is preferable (and less problematic) to generate a link instead.
2) to create a link to your BAM file, click on the green Generate BAM button. You will then get a message that "Your Big Y BAM file is currently being generated" (see below). This generates a very large BAM file ... but it takes several days to prepare so you will have to come back to this page in a few days time! Put a reminder in your diary / calendar!

Uploading your VCF file

Having created the first link (to your VCF file) and copied it, click here to go to the Y-DNA Data Warehouse and fill in the form with your standard information - email, kit number, surname of your paternal MDKA (Most Distant Known Ancestor), and (most importantly) the link to your file - you do this by pasting the link you copied earlier into the "Download URL" box underneath the heading "Raw Data Upload" at the bottom of the page.

If you want to upload the actual file itself (rather than a link), click on the blue Direct tab under "Raw Data Upload" and then click on the "Choose File" button and attach the file from where you downloaded it onto your computer (on my laptop, the "Choose File" button appears to be slightly hidden under some text but it works if you click on the start of the text). 

Don't forget to tick the checkbox to confirm you agree with the Data Policy and then click the blue Submit button.

Uploading your BAM file

Several days later, come back to this same place to get a link to your newly generated BAM file. So, navigate to your Big Y Results page, and after clicking on the blue Download Raw Data button, you will find that the BAM file has been generated. DO NOT DOWNLOAD IT - you don't need to and it is way too big. Instead, click on the green Share BAM button and then the green Copy button in order to copy a link to your BAM file. You will share this link in the next step.

Then go to the Y-DNA Data Warehouse and fill in the same form as before BUT ...

  1. select Other for the Testing Lab
  2. enter your Kit ID Number 
  3. leave everything else on its default setting
  4. paste the link to the BAM file in the "Download URL" box underneath the heading "Raw Data Upload"
  5. tick the checkbox to confirm you agree with the Data Policy and then click the blue Submit button

Maurice Gleeson
Aug 2019

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

The Farrells of Donegal: And Associated Families

Good news folks - Sam Hanna's book about the Donegal O'Farrell's has at last been published. Entitled The Farrells of Donegal: And Associated Families, you can buy it online at ... and

Below is the foreword to the book and a synopsis of the chapters. It would make a great Christmas gift to yourself!!
Maurice Gleeson 
Dec 2018

Sam Hanna’s book on the (O) Farrells/Ferrells spans an incredible 1,400 years, set in the context of the political, social and economic landscape of Ireland. To explain the origin of the Donegal O’Farrells, he goes back to the Early Christian era c.655, and identifies an eponymous ancestor among the Cenél Conaill called Firghil who was related to Colum Cille. To dispel any doubt about the antiquity of the name, he cites references in manuscripts such as the ‘Annals of the Four Masters’in 1087, the ‘Annals of Connaught’ in 1014 and the ‘Book of Fenagh’ in c.950.

The main focus of the book is on the Farrells in the post-Plantation period, in particular in the barony of Tirhugh in southeast Donegal from c.1626/7. It was in this region that the family came to prominence, securing land leases and forming marriage alliances. As leaseholders on the Hamilton and Conolly estates around Ballyshannon and Donegal Town, they acquired some status by the eighteenth century; they were not only “strong farmers” but they had all the trappings of gentry, playing prominent roles in the church, land management and business.

The book is more than a history of one family. In a lucid and flowing style, Sam Hanna charts the social and political history of west Ulster, including the barony of Tirhugh, incorporating the Rising of 1641, the bitter antagonism between Orangemen and Ribbonmen, the impact of emigration and the relationship between landlords and tenants. He has employed the traditional tools of the genealogist and historian – wills, maps, leases, army lists, hearth money rolls, and church records. Using a comprehensive range of tables, maps and flow charts, he has identified significant Farrells in other parts of Ulster, which he has included in a database, thus providing the groundwork for further study.

The author has also presented new methods of research using modern technology. His use of DNA evidence has opened up challenging avenues for genealogists across the globe, thus creating an international dimension, far beyond Tirhugh. As the study of family history has expanded into a popular growth industry of the digital era, this monumental study will provide a welcome template for genealogists everywhere. As a classical piece of research and a model of historical analysis and methodology, there is no doubt that Sam Hanna’s book stands as the “gold standard” in relation to the study of family history. He has raised the bar in the demanding discipline of family research and historians are universally grateful to him for his magnificent achievement.

Dr Seán Beattie, Editor, Donegal Annual Culdaff, Co. Donegal, Ireland
January 2018

Chapter one seeks to trace the evolution of the Uí Fhearghail/(O) Farrells in two of their earliest points of origin – contemporary Longford and Donegal, from the end of the first millennium to the early modern era. The origin of the Farrells in southeast Donegal – closely associated with the seventeenth century Plantation – is proposed.

The second chapter places the seventeenth century Plantation of Ulster into historical context, with a particular focus on the area relevant to Farrell involvement – Donegal, west Tyrone and the city of Derry/Londonderry. The following two chapters present a database of Donegal Farrells for the same period, and outline their participation in contemporary events.

Chapter five endeavours to collate west Ulster Farrell records for the eighteenth century, and proposes the original nucleus in the barony of Tirhugh from which the Farrells subsequently expanded. It attempts to understand the decline of Farrell fortunes – although numerically successful, from an extended family with considerable position and influence in the seventeenth century, to that of mostly undertenants by the end of the eighteenth.

The following chapter proposes a classification of Tirhugh Farrells and outlines their evolution during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A comprehensive database of eighteenth century Tirhugh Farrells is presented. The ensuing detailed discussion of the use of DNA testing to investigate Farrell origins is complemented by a comprehensive analysis of the results.

Subsequent chapters feature the early genealogical details of each of the Tirhugh Farrell dynasties – Original, Rossnowlagh, Ballybulgan, Legnanornoge, Ballydermot, Ballintra and Virginia. Many descendants are traced from the eighteenth century to the present day, with insights given into the lives of some individuals. In addition, some of the salient aspects of southeast Donegal’s political, social, and physical landscapes during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are featured. The final chapter summarises the main findings of the work and makes suggestions for further research.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

FTDNA Thanksgiving Sale

There are some incredible discounts in the current FTDNA Sale which lasts from now until Nov 22nd. And there will probably be a Christmas Sale after that. So now is the time to start thinking about getting that upgrade or that extra kit.

Below are the sale prices and they are the lowest I have ever seen.
Y37 for just $99 ...
Family Finder for just $49 ...
and $100-140 off Big Y upgrades.

This feels more like Crazy Eddie's Second Hand Car Deals!

If you have any questions about your own particular situation, just drop me an email.

Maurice Gleeson
Nov 2018

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Update on Farrell Group 4 (Nov 2018)

Some new results have come in for Farrell Group 4 since the last update in Dec 2017. You will see from the diagrams below that in December of last year there were only 5 people with SNP results. That number has now increased to 9:
  • Member BD-6155 did the FGC5494 SNP Pack
  • 3 members completed Big Y testing (JF-7935, JGF-9768, HF-1095)
Farrell Group 4 (R1b-GF4) in Dec 2017
Farrell Group 4 (R1b-GF4) in Nov 2018

So what do these new results tell us?

Firstly, many more people have SNP data and this allows us to place this group further downstream on the Tree of Mankind (by "downstream" I mean closer to the present day). Three of the four members who have done the Big Y test now all sit on the downstream branch characterised by the SNP marker called BY163677 (Farrell, Farrell & Ferrell). The fourth one sits on the branch above this - BY59055 (Farris).

And this could be a very interesting and important distinction. It appears to separate out the Farris branch from the Farrell / Ferrell branch - something we have been trying to do for quite a while. Ideally another Farris should do the Big Y in order to confirm this distinction and to identify downstream sub-branches on the Farris part of the tree.

FTDNA's version of the Tree has BY163677 branching off from BY59055

Thus, combining the data from FTDNA & The Big Tree, we can define the revised SNP Progression for this group as follows (the SNP Progression is simply the series of SNP markers that characterise each branch of the Tree of Mankind from the upstream branches to the downstream branch on which the Group 4 Farrell's sit):
  • R-P312/S116 > Z290 > L21/S145 > DF13 > FGC5494 > FGC5561 > FGC7448 > FGC5496 > FGC5521 > Y18844 > Y18846 > BY10339 > BY33481 > BY59055  > BY163677

The main SNP markers (in bold) are highlighted by yellow dots and underlined in red in The Big Tree diagram below. Note that the morphology of The Big Tree is slightly different to FTDNA's version and does not distinguish between BY163677 & BY59055 (i.e. it thinks they are the same). This will change when the two remaining Big Y testers from Group 4 upload their data to The Big Tree.

As described in the update I gave at the Farrell Clan Gathering in June (see video here from 11:45), this branch of the Tree of Mankind is fairly isolated from other branches. The nearest genetic neighbours to Group 4 (two men called Janssen & Virtue respectively) are connected by a common ancestor some 2300 years ago. So this is a very rare branch of the human evolutionary tree.

Group 4 Farrell's on the Tree of Mankind
(click to enlarge)

We can calculate crude dates (and I mean very crude indeed) for when these various branching points arose:
  • DF13, FGC5494, FGC5496 ... 4300 years old (from YFULL)
  • FGC5521 ... 4200 years old (from YFULL)
  • BY10339 ... 3500 years old (from YFULL)
  • BY33481 ... 3100 years ago (crude calculation from The Big Tree)
  • BY59055 ... 2300 years ago (crude calculation from The Big Tree)
  • BY163677 ... some time in the past 1000 years?? 
  • Common Ancestor of two Big Y Farrell's ... about 200-300 years ago (+/-200 years ... yes, very crude indeed)

If everyone did the Big Y test, then we would probably find that most of the group members sit on the branch of the tree characterised by the SNP marker BY59055 (or the branch below it - BY163677). The reason why the people who did the SNP Packs sit higher up the tree than the Big Y testers is because the SNP Packs do not test for as many downstream SNP markers as the Big Y. But if the SNP Pack testers did the Big Y, I would guess that most of them would also sit on the BY59055 branch.

Only two of the four Big Y testers have uploaded their results to the Big Tree. It is essential that the others do so too - instructions here. Doing so will likely split up the BY59055 / BY163677 SNP Block (it contains 23 SNPs) into several downstream sub-branches, and will look more like the branching structure depicted in the FTDNA tree, thus potentially splitting the Farris branch from the Farrell branch.

I will post a further update when the two remaining Big Y test results have been uploaded to The Big Tree.

Maurice Gleeson
1 Nov 2018

Update 26 Nov 2018

Two more of the 4 Big Y testers have uploaded their data to the Big Tree. Alex Williamson has now analysed the data and the morphology of the tree has changed accordingly.

This is what it used to look like (on the left) compared to what it looks like now (on the right):

The updated Big Tree (on the right) - the large SNP Block below BY59055 has been split

The first thing to note is that the large block of 23 SNPs (headed by BY59055) has now been split in two, and then in two again.

  • there is now a 21-SNP block from which all the 4 group members descend
  • below this, there are two branches:
    • the first is a Farris (167989) all on his own 
    • the second is a 3-SNP block starting with BY164250, and an additional two branches emerge from this:
      • a single Ferrell (369768)
      • a branch characterised by the SNP BY178261, on which two Farrell's sit (631095 & 467935)
We can also estimate some crude dates for when the various branches split apart (and I emphasise these are crude - the actual dates could be +/- 200 years on either side of these estimates). Allowing for 100 years per SNP, and assuming the year of birth of all people who tested is about 1950, the following crude approximations are obtained.

Crude date estimates for the various branching points in Farrell Group 4

So, what do we learn from these new results?
  • the Farrell's of Group 4 still sit on a relatively isolated branch of the Tree of Mankind with their nearest genetic neighbours being related some 2300 years ago
  • the Farris individual appears to split off from the rest of the group about 1600 AD
  • The Farrell's in this sample appear to be related by a common ancestor born about 1400 AD
  • We might get a slightly better estimate of the dating of the branching points if we were to rerun the SAPP Programme, taking these new SNP data into account. And that is something that can be done in due course.
  • FTDNA have changed the names of the terminal SNPs to reflect these new developments.

Maurice Gleeson
26 Nov 2018

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Current status update (video from Clan Gathering July 2018)

The Farrell Clan Gathering was held in Longford from 16th-20th July 2018 and on the Friday, I gave an update on the current status. You can watch this long presentation (almost 2 hours) on YouTube where it is in two parts:

Alternatively you can watch the videos embedded below. To see them in full screen view, you simply click on the video and then the square icon in the bottom right of the video.

The presentation contains the following sections and you can jump ahead to the relvant section by simply moving the red circle along to the appropriate position on the timeline at the bottom of the video:

  • The Farrell name in historical context ... 0:08:50
  • Overview of DNA for genealogy ... 0:21:15
  • Overview of the Farrell DNA Project ... 0:41:10
  • The DNA Results for each genetic group:
    • Results for Group 1 ... 1:01:00
    • Results for Group 2 ... 1:10:00
    • Results for Group 3 ... Part 2 - 0:09:05
    • Results for Group 4 ... Part 2 - 0:11:45
    • Results for Group 5 ... Part 2 - 0:19:15
    • Results for Group 6 ... Part 2 - 0:21:45
    • Results for Group 7 ... Part 2 - 0:24:10
    • Results for Group 8 ... Part 2 - 0:26:00
    • Results for Group 9 ... Part 2 - 0:27:05
    • Results for Group 10-15 ... Part 2 - 0:29:00

Maurice Gleeson
Oct 2018

Friday, 13 July 2018

Update on Group 1 (R1b-GF1)

Group 1 of the Farrell DNA Project consists of 10 members. The dominant surname variant is Farley, although the variant Farler appears twice among the group members.

Group 1 members of the Farrell DNA Project
(Key:  BY, Big Y;  SS, Single SNP test)

Chance Matches & Surname Switches
There are several non-Farrell names within the group - Ambrose, Jarrett, Eaves. These could either be  Chance Matches (due to Convergence) or they could be the result of a Surname or DNA Switch (i.e. they are Farley's by DNA, but with a non-Farley surname). This could result from a recent event such as a secret adoption (for example) or it could be due to a distant event, such as a young Farley widow remarrying and her children taking the name of the second husband - thus the Farley Y-DNA of her first husband becomes associated with the surname of her second husband.

Where are they from?
Three of the group members have MDKAs (Most Distant Known Ancestors) from Virginia, and two others have ancestors who go back to the southern US states (Georgia & Tennessee), so it is likely that the name arose in or around Virginia. In fact, the second oldest pedigree goes back to Virginia in the 1600s.

Prior to Virginia, there is a suggestion that the name came from England (according to the oldest pedigree). This would be in keeping with what is know about the Farley surname from surname dictionaries, such as the extract below.

Apparently the surname Farley is an Anglo-Saxon name derived from at least four locations within the UK named Farleigh (or similar). Thus, one would expect a variety of different genetic signatures to be associated with the name as it arose in several different locations independently. The surname translates as "fern-covered clearing".

Note that there is mention of a Thomas & Jane Farley arriving in Virginia in 1623 on board a ship called the "Ann".

The Farley name in surname dictionaries

How old is the group?
There are several ways to determine the age of the group (i.e. for how long have they been carrying their surname). Using genealogical data supplied, the oldest pedigree goes back to 1560, suggesting that they have been carrying the surname since the 1500s at least.

Using the FTDNA's TiP Report tool for the two most distant members of the group (based on their Genetic Distance) gives a midpoint estimate for the TMRCA (Time to Most Recent Common Ancestor) of 6 generations (with a 90% range of 2-12 gens). This equates to a MRCA born in 1770 and a range of 1590-1890 ... this is not consistent with what we know from the genealogies and serves to show how inexact these TMRCA estimates can be. Caution is therefore advised when interpreting them.

In all likelihood the name has been around for a long time prior to 1500 but as yet no one from "the old country" has tested and provided a genetic link back to England.

Where do they sit on the Tree of Mankind?
Placing a group on the Tree of Mankind (Y-Haplotree) can help determine how old the group is. And by assessing their nearest genetic neighbours, we may get clues as to where they came from.

One of the group has done the Big Y test and his "current terminal SNP" is BY71827. Two Farley's share this particular SNP and no one else in the database (the other Farley man is not a member of the project). This suggests that this particular SNP may represent a SNP marker that is specific for men called Farley.

Here is the SNP Progression for this group (i.e. the SNP markers that characterise each branching point in the Tree down to where the Group 1 Farley's currently sit):

  • R-U106/S21 > Z2265 > Z381/S263 > Z301/S499 > S1688 > U198> S15627 > DF89> Y5975> JFS0027 > JFS0028 > JFS0284 > JFS0285 > BY71827

Group 1 Farley's on the Big Tree
Group 1 Farley's on FTDNA's version of the Haplotree 

We can use SNP data to help date how old each branching point is in the Tree down to where the Farley's of Group 1 currently sit. Unfortunately, the further downstream along this branch, the fewer datapoints we have to work with, and the more inexact the estimate becomes. And currently it does not give us much of a clue as to the age of the presumed Farley-specific SNP BY71827.

In fact, the upstream SNP JFS0027 appears to be only a few hundred years old. This suggests that there may have been a Surname or DNA Switch (SDS) along this direct male line sometime since the introduction of surnames some 1000 years ago or so. The question is: which came first? The Ferrari chicken or the Farley egg?

Crude dates of each branching point in the SNP Progression

Nearest Neighbour Analysis
From the Big Tree diagram above, and the FTDNA-derived diagram below that, the nearest neighbours to the Farley's are Ferrari, Barbour, Burgess, Saunders, and Taylor. A Nearest Neighbour Analysis using Surname Distribution Maps for these surnames (see below) do not suggest a particular location for the Farley surname.

So for now, the presumed origin of the Farley surname in England has yet to be defined.

This genetic group is dominated by the surname Farley. The group members are all / mostly based in the US and probably represent the descendants of a colonial family who arrived in Virginia or thereabouts some time in the 1600s. The name probably came from England prior to that, in accordance with surname dictionary accounts and the limited pedigree information for this group.

Next Steps
  1. This particular group needs more members to join it
  2. MDKA information should be entered by all members in their profile
  3. Pedigrees should be posted on the Post Your Pedigree page
  4. Group members should share their pedigrees amongst themselves and try to find out where the various pedigrees connect
  5. Additional Big Y test would be informative
  6. All members should join the U-198 Haplogroup Project to assist future research into their origins

Maurice Gleeson
July 2018

Friday, 1 December 2017

Analysis of Group 4 (R1b-GF4)

The Farrell DNA Project currently has 13 distinct genetic groups. Each group consists of people who are close genetic matches to each other and thus probably share a common ancestor some time since the introduction of surnames about 1000 years ago. 

The analysis of each group involves getting answers to a series of questions, which may include how old is the group? where is it from? where do the group members sit in relation to each other on the overall "family tree" for this particular group? does this tell us anything about the evolution of the surname and its global spread?

Below is an analysis for Group 4 (R1b-GF4) which attempts to address these questions. Sam Hanna, the newly appointed Co-Administrator of the Farrell DNA Project, is actively working with Group 4 members and exploring their collective genealogical data.

Background information

Group 4 in the Farrell DNA Project consists of 14 members currently. There are a variety of surname variants present in this group including Farrell, Ferrell, Ferridge & Farris. This group appears to be genetically related to the 6th group (cyan) in the Farris DNA Project (some of whose members are in both projects). For some of the questions discussed below, the two groups have been amalgamated into one larger group (using the public data available for the Farris group).

Farrell Group 4 (R1b-GF4)

6th Farris group (cyan) aka "Farris Group 6" for this analysis

Only 1 member of Farrell Group 4 has done Big Y testing (167989). The other members who have done SNP testing have either done a SNP Pack test or simply a single SNP test. These are indicated in the diagram above. This places Group 4 on the Tree of Mankind somewhere below the "major subclade" branch characterised by the SNP marker FGC5494 and (going further downstream) below the sub-branch characterised by BY10339. This particular branch is some 4000 years old so ideally we need at least one more person in this group to do the Big Y test so that further "downstream SNPs" that characterise this group can be identified. 

Also, all members should send their Big Y data to Alex Williamson so that they can have additional analyses performed (all completely free) and thus be placed accurately on The Big Tree (Haplogroup R of the Tree of Mankind). Instructions for transferring your Big Y data can be found here.

Group 4 on The Big Tree (the SNP Progression is at the top)

In addition, all the available SNP and STR data from the larger amalgamated group was fed into the SAPP Programme (at and a Mutation History Tree was generated. This represents a "Best Fit" model of the actual family tree for all the members of this group (given the currently available data). It will change (perhaps only slightly) as more members join and as more data becomes available (particularly Y-DNA-111 STR data and Big Y SNP data). Click on the diagram to enlarge it. A pdf version of this tree can be downloaded from this Dropbox link here

Interestingly, the members of the amalgamated group tend to split into two major branches. The large branch on the left consists mainly of people called Farris (although there is one Ferrell), whilst the large branch on the right consists of a mixture of different variants (Farrell x4, Ferrell x1, Faris x5, Ferriss x1, and Ferridge x2). For ease of reference, let's call the left branch the Farris branch (from Node #32 down) and the right branch the Farrell branch (from Node #48 down).

The Mutation History Tree generated for Group 4 via the SAPP Programme
(click to enlarge, or download from Dropbox)

The orange boxes represent the 3 members who have tested positive for BY10339, whilst the pink boxes represent the 2 members who have tested positive for the upstream SNP FGC5494 (about 4300 years old). The member's surname and MDKA birth location (where available) have been included. To maximise space, kit numbers have been replaced by F numbers (see key below):

F01=Ferriss 95122 F14=Farrell=Donegal 467935
F02=Rogerson=Dumfries 105093 F15=Farrell=Donegal 474621
F03=Vance=VA 108691 F16=O'Farill=Cuba 517921
F04=Ferrell=VA 132618 F17=Ferridge=Berks 526034
F05=Jones 146752 F18=Faris=Leitrim 528214
F06=Faris=IL 150821 F19=Dearduff 546155
F07=Faris=TN 159717 F20=Farrell=Donegal 631095
F08=Farris=MO 167989 F21=Ferridge=Berks 772230
F09=Ferris=Sferra 259311 F22=Farris=SC B11734
F10=Faris 265571 F23=Farris=Ulster B7006
F11=Farrell=Donegal 307389 F24=Farris=MO H1249
F12=Faris=DE 324313 F25=Faris=DE H2266
F13=Ferrell=VA 369768 F26=Farris=MO H2275

Has the group been grouped accurately? 

The purpose of grouping people (in the Farrell DNA Project at any rate) is to identify people who are closely genetically related to each other and who are likely to have descended from the same common ancestor within the last 1000 years, roughly since the introduction of surnames. The Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) may very well be the person who originated the particular Farrell surname variant carried by the men in the group (or it could be one of his descendants since that time).

In order for the analysis of any group to be accurate, the grouping itself must be accurate. And that means being able to identify any false positives (e.g. Chance Matches due to Convergence that have inadvertently been allowed in to the group) or false negatives (Outliers that are difficult to spot and have been inadvertently left out of the group)?

Grouping is primarily based on Genetic Distance but other factors such as Rare Marker Values or Unique STR Patterns can also be helpful. The other big aid to grouping is SNP Testing (using the Big Y or SNP Packs) or Downstream SNP Prediction (by analysing the terminal SNP of a person's matches). You can learn more about the grouping process in this video of a recent presentation I gave at the FTDNA Annual Conference in Houston (10-12 Nov 2017). These various methods help identify false positives (people who should not be in the group) and false negatives (people who should).

Possible False Positives

In relation to the amalgamated Group 4 & Farris Group 6, there are several distant matches currently in the larger group and it is questionable whether or not they belong here. They are:
  • F16 O'Farrill 517921 (GD is >7/37 to any member of Group 4 - he was originally placed here for comparison purposes and was never removed)
  • F24 Farris H1249 (in Farris Group 6 so I don't have access to his data)
  • F09 Ferris 259311 (as above)

These can be seen to be lying on the outskirts of the Mutation History Tree above. These people should do the Big Y test to clarify their terminal SNP and whether or not they belong in Group 4. Now is the time to buy the Big Y test while it is reduced in cost (now $475) during the Christmas Sale (till Dec 31st) and while further discount vouchers are available to reduce the Sale price to $400 or even $375. FTDNA are also offering a free upgrade to Y-DNA-111 for anyone who buys the Big Y test during the sale.

There are two non-Farrell's in Group 4 (Dearduff, Vance) but their STR marker profile suggests that they are closely related to others in the group, and additional SNP marker testing confirms that they are FGC5494 positive which again suggests they do indeed belong here. In addition, Vance lists his MDKA (Most Distant Known Ancestor) as a Ferrell from Virginia.

There is limited evidence of Convergence in this group. The person closest to the modal haplotype (Ferrell 369768) shows no risk of Convergence at 111 or 67 markers, minimal risk at 37 markers (37 matches in total, but only 1 with a non-consistent terminal SNP - and he has a different surname), and a high risk at 25 markers (3468 matches) but none of these matches bear a Farrell surname variant.

Possible False Negatives

Using the Admin's Genetic Distance tool, there is no evidence that any Ungrouped project members belong in Group 4 (i.e. all members who should be in this group are already in this group). When the member closest to the Group 4 modal haplotype (Ferrell 369768) is compared to all other group members at the 37, 67 & 111 marker level, there is no sign of any "outliers" who could possibly belong in Group 4. Thus we can be reasonably confident that no one has been "left out" by mistake.

How old is the group?

There are various ways that the age of a genetic group can be calculated:
  • accurate pedigrees (i.e. genealogical data)
  • triangulating using TiP Report data (uses only STR data)
  • SAPP Programme (using Ken Nordtvedt's Interclade Ageing methodology - uses SNPs & STRs)
  • YFULL methodology (SNPs only)
  • Big Tree (Iain MacDonald's methodology)

I currently find that the SAPP Programme estimates appear to be the most accurate (but this may change in time). Based on these values, the overall age for the group appears to be about 1000 years old. The MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor) is represented by Node #49 in the Mutation History Tree above and the estimated TMRCA (Time to MRCA) is 37 generations (67% range 23-50) which gives an estimated date for this particular branching point as 950 AD (67% range 550 AD to 1300 AD). The date 950 AD is tantalising close to the supposed origin of surnames which makes it look like it could very well be an accurate estimate ... but we all have a natural tendency to pick the number that best suits our preconceived ideas. So a pinch of salt is in order.

TMRCA estimates of the MRCA and the two major branches
(click to enlarge)

Interestingly the TMRCA for the Farris Branch (Node #32 on the left) is 1300 AD, whilst the TMRCA for the Farrell Branch (Node #48, right) is 1650 AD. So the two branches appear to be quite distantly related to each other. It also suggests that there may be a lot more Farrell's and Farris's out there who may be descended from additional "ancient" branches of this genetic group which have yet to be identified. This may become clear as more people join the project.

Where is the group from?

There are several sources of evidence that may help determine the likely ancestral origins for any particular genetic group. These include the following:
  • extensive (and accurate) direct male line Pedigrees, rooted in the Old World
  • Surname Dictionaries 
  • old genealogies found in Ancient Annals (and similar texts)
  • Nearest Neighbour Analysis using Surname Distribution Maps


Most people in the Farris branch (Node #32 down) have a New World location for their MDKA (Most Distant Known Ancestor) and only one suggests an origin from "Ulster". In contrast, on the Farrell Branch (Node #48 down) most people have an Irish origin (x5), 3 are from the US, and 2 cousins have origins in Berkshire (UK). However, none of the MDKAs go back beyond about 1600 and some of these pedigrees are guesstimates rather than supported by hard documentary evidence, so no firm conclusions can be based on the evidence from MDKAs and pedigrees.

Surname Dictionaries suggest the following ...

Thus the surname Farrell and its variants is quite ubiquitous. The variants Farris and Ferris could either be of Irish, Scottish or English origin.

Ancient Annals

Does anyone know if the Farris name appears in ancient genealogies, either Scottish or Irish? If anyone knows of any such data please leave a comment below and I will update the post accordingly with any new discoveries.

Nearest Neighbours

Looking at the nearest genetic neighbours to Group 4 in the Big Tree diagram above, it appears that they are Belgian, German & English and the common ancestor was some 4000 years ago. This is too far back to draw any firm conclusions. A lot can happen in 4000 years!

However, The Big Tree is constructed using only SNP data from NGS tests (i.e. Next Generation Sequencing tests, such as the Big Y). It does not use SNP Pack data or data from single SNP tests. Such data may be present in Haplogroup or Geographic Projects (which is why all project members should join these projects), and may give further clues to the nearest genetic neighbours of Group 4.

A trawl of the L21 Project and FGC5494 Project revealed several additional people who were positive for BY10339. Bearing in mind that this is about 4000 years old, these additional genetic neighbours may be very distant and may not therefore be terribly informative. Nevertheless, here are the surnames (and their origins) identified as being BY10339 positive:

  • From the Big Y ...
    • Jansen (Netherlands)
    • Ducate (Belgium)
    • Ellis (England)
    • Young (England)
    • Willis (England)
    • Dunavant / Dunavent (England)
    • Justiss (England)
  • From the Haplogroup Projects ...
    • Mitchell (USA)
    • Virtue (USA)
    • Cottle (USA)

Surname Distribution Maps for the various names above are appended below (from They are based on the 1881 UK census and the 1901 Irish census.  There is no definitive pattern when taking all these names as a whole, and thus no firm conclusions can be drawn from this exercise. Some maps suggest a Scots-Irish distribution, others Northern England, others the West of Ireland, and some indicate that by 1881/1901 the surname is so ubiquitous in Ireland & Britain that no single origin is suggested. Further downstream SNP testing will be needed to see if we can better define the closest genetic neighbours to Group 4. And earlier Surname Distribution Maps may be helpful.

But for now, there is no clear indication as to the origins of this group.

What are the Next Steps

Those who haven't done so already should follow steps 1-3. Everyone should consider Step 4.
  1. Enter the birth location for their MDKA - see instructions here
  2. Post your pedigree on our Post Your Pedigree page  
  3. Join the appropriate Haplogroup Projects ...
    1. R1b & Subclades project
    2. L21 project
    3. FGC5494 project
  4. More Big Y results are needed - members should take advantage of the low cost of the test in the current FTDNA Sale and reduce the cost further with these discount vouchers
    1. Ideally we should have at least 1 person do the Big Y test from the Farrell Branch ... but the more people in Group 4 who do the Big Y test, the more we shall learn.
    2. Ideally each surname variant should do the Big Y test - Ferridge, Ferrell, Faris, Ferriss

Maurice Gleeson
Nov 2017