02 January 2008

Where are we now? Update #8

Interpreting the results in relation to the current state of knowledge.

This is the MacGregor DNA Project update for January 2007 to January 2008. The January 2007 update is still the most comprehensive survey and summary of the various groupings in the project. New entrants to the project have their results pulled very quickly, where relevant, into the appropriate family grouping displayed at the website www.familytreedna.com/public/MacGregor.

I suggest that the best way to read this update is to print it out into hard copy and also download the charts separately into your documents folder and then open them using a program which you use for viewing pictures. This will enable you to blow them up larger and make reading the numbers and labels much easier.

Please send in your family information

What would be helpful at this stage would be for the Project Administrator to receive more information from more recent participants regarding their earliest known male ancestor and his family/location because this information is beginning to help identify geographical localities where related families were living.

By way of example, it would be possible to point out the, by now well-known, instance of the Irish group of results which appear to have some connection with the Irish kingly line of Niall of the 9 Hostages, and to which some McGregors, Griersons and Griers (as well as others) belong. Also, I have previously referred to a group of McGregors who seem to have changed their name from Gregor but who, for the most part, have connections with the area round Perth itself, rather than with the main MacGregor line. During the past year a similar grouping has emerged based round Rosshire where, incidentally, the surname Gregor or Grigor is found in relatively high proportions.

Groupings of MacGregors and related names

This update then concentrates on presenting various groupings of MacGregors and related names using both 37 markers and 67 markers. Unlike previous updates I have chosen not to include the Excel files of results because the Family Tree DNA site mentioned earlier is easily viewable, and the Excel grid from that site is downloadable to one’s own computer. Also I am now drawing the trees in a program called ‘Splitstree’, which once mastered, proves to be highly flexible for this kind of work.

A word of caution though; these trees should not be thought of as traditional family trees as such. What they measure is relative distance in time to the Most Recent Common Ancestor and this is expressed in the charts as the ‘modal’. However, because we are here talking about everyone being descended from an individual at some point in the past you will also find that a number of trees are given with ‘root’. This root may be less than a thousand years before the present for some groups but for other groups – like the collection of 67 marker results which is shown for the R1b haplogroup – the root individual will be several thousand years BP (Before Present) – even as long ago as the last Ice Age, 12,000 years or more ago. It is important to recognise this, and each chart is preceded by an explanation which hopefully clarifies it. The initial processing was done using the facility provided online by Dean McGee with the ‘Phylip’ option selected and then the resulting file processed by the Splitstree program. (See D.H. Huson and D. Bryant, ‘Application of Phylogenetic Networks in Evolutionary Studies’, Molecular Biology and Evolution, 23(2):254-267, 2006).

As an example to begin with, I present the collection of individuals surnamed Orr who have tested up to 37 markers [see chart 1]. With two exceptions (not included here) who are from haplogroup R1b, everyone in the Orr group is from haplogroup R1a, a haplogroup that emerged pre-Ice Age in, or about, the Caucuses in the furthest reaches of what is now Europe. Current thinking is that its spread was upwards and westwards for the most part and the haplogroup is now found in many areas including Britain and Ireland.

What we see in this chart is that everyone descends from one individual – and there is one person whose DNA has not mutated very much from the ‘modal’ (kit 100854) – the assumed DNA sequence of the founder. It would be interesting to know if this individual knows anything of his patrilinear descent. In the MacGregor bloodline group the main line from which the Chiefs descend IS the ‘modal’ line (that is, the presumed signature of the founder) and this may have happened, possibly, because of primogeniture (first child of first child, and so on).

Chart 1 - Surname Orr: 37 Markers (click to enlarge)

The second group to consider is that associated with the Irish DNA signature, widely believed to have some connection with the line of the Kings of Ireland – Niall of the 9 Hostages (circa 379 CE). What is interesting here is how the program groups individuals by distance suggesting that they may indeed share a common ancestor pre-surname adoption. This tree is based on 67 markers [see chart 2].

Chart 2 - Irish: 67 markers (click to enlarge)
It may be that this alternative form of tree [see chart 3] is easier to interpret – as long as it is remembered that it is not meant to suggest a family tree as such.

Chart 3 - Connection Tree

Clearly what is very interesting here is the fact that the Griersons and the Griers are obviously grouped together. Also potentially revealing is the connection between McGregor and McGreer and McGregor and Gregg.

I come now to the main MacGregor line (67 markers) – what we have termed the bloodline, though, as suggested earlier it may be the biggest group of MacGregors but, apparently not the only one [see chart 4]!

Chart 4 - Main MacGregor Line: 67 Markers (click to enlarge)

What is suggested by this is a potentially fruitful line of enquiry which may lead to the recognition of family groupings – see the known example of the Stirlings. One correction might be made here – kit 2909 and 2124 suggest separate lines but they could indeed from the same family grouping with some, very limited, mutation having taken place in 2909’s case.

The tree below gives all the 37 marker results currently available for those in the MacGregor bloodline [see chart 5]. Mark MacDonald, of The Clan Donald DNA Project, has suggested that the main MacGregor line (and other clans, too) is descended from Colla Uais (circa 323 CE), one of the High Kings of Ireland who brought his men over from Ulster during the Dark Ages to occupy Dalriada . If he is right, then this could explain the motto ‘Royal is my Race’ (rather than, or as well as, descent from Kenneth MacAlpine). It is important to note that the Irish McGregor descent from Niall of the 9 Hostages, another Irish High King, is NOT the same as Colla Uais descent. These two Irish-based Kings lines only share a common ancestor at the time of the Ice Age (see Stephen Oppenheimer’s [2006] The Origins of the British - A Genetic Detective Story, Constable and Robinson, London ISBN 1- 84529-158-1, published in the U.S. by Carroll and Graf, New York). However, it does mean that whether the MacGregor descent is from Colla Uais or from Niall of the 9 Hostages, both groups of MacGregors can claim ‘Royal is my Race’!

Chart 5 - Main MacGregor Line: 37 Markers (click to enlarge)

What this particular tree shows, when examined carefully, is that there are 3 distinct splits or perhaps better, points from where groups branch off. Towards the top of the picture is one group, and includes Bain N3589 and kit10897, and the lowest group includes 1774 which is believed to be the Glengyle branch of MacGregor. As more results come in it will be interesting to see whether these group collections are maintained. At this point it would be hard to assign any particular significance to the groupings since they are based, it will be recalled, on distance from common ancestor, although similarity of DNA marker score does determine which groups are connected.

The next tree [see chart 6] contains all the DNA 67 marker results for the haplogroup R1b excluding bloodline MacGregors, but including 2124 the MacGregor bloodline, for purposes of comparison. As can be seen there are many branches. Of note is the split which includes the MacGregor bloodline (2124) as it groups with McWhannell and McKinlay and seems to be connected in some way to the Greig line of kit 9690.

Chart 6 - Haplogroup R1b: 67 Markers (click to enlarge)

Just to complete this short survey, I have abstracted all the Viking-related I haplogroup lines which have 37 marker results and the chart [CHART 7] shows very obviously that there are two groups of results here, possibly suggesting an older settlement of I haplogroup peoples or different invading groups (such as Norwegian and Danish). It would be instructive to find out if the individuals in these two groups are to be found in discrete geographical locations in Britain and Ireland. I have kept the box round the Greer at the bottom of the chart because its location is quite difficult to see otherwise.

Chart 7 - Viking: 37 Markers (click to enlarge)

Finally, here is the equivalent tree, in two forms [see charts 8 and 9], for ALL the R1b results which are NOT from the Irish group descending from Niall of the 9 Hostages. The simplest way of seeing this tree is to click on the image for a full sized view. Alternatively, you can save it to your computer and open it with a graphics program that allows you to magnify the image. By this means you will be able to see the complexity of the groupings which are to be found in R1b even jut within the results for the MacGregor project. This demonstrates the incredible expansion this group experienced as it colonised the British Isles and, in fact, almost the whole of Western Europe after the Ice Age.

Chart 8 - R1b Tree Excluding Irish 1 (click to enlarge)

Group members can locate their numbers from the kit number just before the abbreviated name.

Chart 9 - R1b Tree Excluding Irish 2 (click to enlarge)

Any further clarifications or genealogical information can be sent to the project administrator, Richard McGregor, using e-mail at richardmcgregor1 AT yahoo.co.uk (substitute the word AT for the @ symbol).

Richard McGregor
January 2008