DNA TESTING PROJECT


DNA TESTING IN GENEALOGICAL RESEARCH

Martha Mable asked me to write a general description of the use of DNA testing in genealogical research and to include a specific description of how DNA testing applies to the study of early Phillips who lived in the east central part of North Carolina in the vicinity of old Dobbs County.

DNA testing for genealogical purposes has become very popular in the last five years, and about half a dozen companies have sprung up offering DNA testing at relatively affordable prices to the general public. The main emphasis has been on surname projects. Men who share the same last name are recruited to take a DNA test, and then results are compared to discover which of them are related within a genealogical time frame, which generally means within the past 600 years. In Europe, permanent surnames only came into general use by 1400 AD. By joining a surname DNA project, people interested in family history with matching DNA can compare notes and make connections, perhaps enabling them to trace back several generations further than they could without DNA comparisons. Also, DNA analysis can reveal the general region where the ancestor of the participant originated; ie, Scandinavia, central Europe, the Mediterranean, the British Isles and Western European seaboard, etc.

The DNA tests are not cheap, but participants get a break on the cost if they participate in a surname project. For example, at familytreedna.com, the 12 marker test costs $99, the 25 marker test costs $148, the 37 marker test costs $189 and the 59 marker test costs $269. I think the 25 marker test is the least expensive test with the best results. The 12 marker test results in too many random matches with men who have different last names, indicating relatedness before 1400 AD when surnames became firmly established in most parts of Europe. The DNA test is painless and only requires swabbing the inside of the cheek with a special scraper. The lab mails a kit to the participant and then the participant mails the kit back to the lab. The kit is assigned a number and the name of the participant is never published, thereby assuring privacy and confidentiality. Only men can be tested effectively in surname DNA projects for two reasons: 1) the DNA markers studied are located on the Y chromosome which is only found in men and 2) traditionally, women do not retain the same surname from generation to generation. However, women who are interested in family history can still participate by recruiting fathers, brothers, uncles or male cousins to take the DNA test.

I am a woman and an active volunteer in a Phillips DNA project called Phillips Worldwide located at this site on the internet: http://www.familytreedna.com/public/PhillipsWorldwide. If you click on "Y Results" at the top of the page, it will take you to a DNA chart that shows the results of all the participants. The project has attracted over 90 participants so far and 13 unrelated families of Phillips have been identified. In addition, there are over 30 participants who do not match any other Phillips in the project. Over 80% of the participants belong to Haplogroup R1b, which is the most common haplogroup of the British Isles and the western seaboard of Europe.

Participants are requested to post their earliest known Phillips ancestor on the DNA chart. Two families of Phillips have been identified who may relate to Phillips who lived in the vicinity of old Dobbs County, North Carolina. These two groups are Family Groups 3 and 5 and both belong to Haplogroup R1b, although DNA analysis indicates that these two families are probably not related to each other within the last 1,000 years. In other words, both families adopted the surname Phillips independently of each other, not because they were related. The DNA analysis is based on complicated statistical computations which I will not attempt to describe here.

Family Group 5 on the Phillips Worldwide DNA chart looks promising with regard to a Phillips family known to have lived in the vicinity of old Dobbs County, NC because of the name Mason Phillips. Mason is a fairly unusual first name and there was a Mason Phillips who died in Dobbs County, NC sometime after the 1790 census was taken. This Mason Phillips was the second son of Thomas and Isabelle Phillips and he was born in Bristol Parish, Prince George County, Virginia on 23 July 1728. Family Group 5 includes a descendant of another Mason Phillips who was born 8 May 1800 in South Carolina (supposedly) and who died on 27 August 1877 in Benton County, Arkansas. Mason married Deborah Kendrick 13 February 1825 in Lauderdale County, Alabama and subsequently moved to Arkansas via Illinois. Family researchers long thought that the Alabama/Arkansas Mason Phillips was probably related to John “Jack” Phillips who was born about 1784 in North Carolina and who died in Lauderdale County, Alabama in 1868, but there was no proof of this relationship. However, a known descendant of John “Jack” Phillips also joined the Phillips Worldwide DNA project, and his DNA matches the DNA of the proven descendant of Mason Phillips. If a male Phillips descendant of Thomas and Isabelle Phillips joined the Phillips Worldwide DNA project, we could learn whether or not the earlier North Carolina Mason Phillips was related to the later Alabama/Arkansas Mason Phillips.

Family Group 3 on the Phillips Worldwide DNA chart also appears promising because this family of Phillips seems to have originated in vicinity of Charles City County/Prince George County/Brunswick County, Virginia. The earliest identified ancestor in Family Group 3 is a Robert Phillips who died in Charles City County, VA in 1762. There is also a Joseph Phillips who died in Brunswick County, VA in 1777 who might well have been the brother or cousin of Robert Phillips. Thomas and Isabelle Phillips moved from Prince George County, VA to Craven County, NC sometime before 1743, where Thomas wrote his will and then died. Once again, if a straight line male Phillips descendant of Thomas and Isabelle Phillips joined the Phillips Worldwide DNA project and got his DNA tested, we would be able to ascertain whether this branch of Phillips belongs to either Family Group 3 or Family Group 5. Thomas and Isabelle Phillips had the following sons: John Phillips, born 1726, Mason Phillips, born 1728, Thomas Phillips, born about 1732, Mark Phillips, born between 1734 and 1743, and William Phillips, born between 1734 and 1743.

If you have any questions about DNA testing for genealogical purposes (or questions about Phillips families in general, especially in the South), please feel free to contact me at nancy_kiser@hotmail.com or the administrator of the Phillips Worldwide DNA project, Harry Shannon Phillips, at PHILLIPSDNAPROJ@AOL.COM. (Shannon goes by his middle name.) We are both very excited about the possibilities of this new tool in genealogical research.

Nancy Kiser
1291 Liberty Point Blvd
Pueblo West, CO 81007
719-547-1273

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