02 January 2009

Winter 2008-09 Update


Welcome to the MacGregor DNA update for winter 2008-9. The project now has over 370 members and the list of names associated with the project is large, containing a significant number of the sept names and aliases associated with the clan. The results, grouped according to significant names or groups of related names, can be found at www.familytreedna.com/public/macgregor.

In previous updates, I have used drawing programs to illustrate ways in which the results can be interpreted in relation to each other, but there are now so many results that these diagrams become exceedingly difficult to read and I have therefore broken the results down into smaller units. Consequently, I am going to concentrate first on some broad conclusions which we might tentatively draw from the results. Then, I will consider how the different subgroups relate to each other. Finally, I will focus on particular subgroups and give some indication of what seems to be the relationship of individual members to one another.

From the results page (see link above), the largest group of MacGregors belong to what I have termed the Ian Cam group. This refers to Ian Cam MacGregor (Cam means blind in one eye), the first recorded MacGregor in the historical record. His death in 1390 is recorded in the ‘Chronicle of Fortingall.’ He is the earliest known ancestor of the current Chief and of many MacGregors who share his DNA signature.

This does not mean that all MacGregors have the same genetic signature; over time, mutations occur as a result of ‘mistakes’ in the copying of DNA from father to son. It has been speculated that the chance of mutation is increased according to environment, age of the father, and/or location of the child in the sequence of offspring. But none of these factors has been definitely proved. It is said mutations have no significant effect on the individual, but they do allow researchers to speculate, for example, on groupings of families. Also, all people named MacGregor or Black or Grier are not related to each other within the period covered by surnames. Surnames, even MacGregor, are adopted by individuals for many different reasons (e.g. inheritance, protection, illegitimacy, etc.).

General Conclusions

In this project there are three predominant groups which are designated under the labels R1a, R1b, and I. These are known as haplogroups. For the most part these are quite distinct. They are thought to have originated in different parts of Europe where people concentrated during the last Ice Age and as the ice melted they subsequently pushed northwards from where they had been located (see map 1).

Map 1 - Haplogroup Migration (click to enlarge)

Haplogroup R1a, as shown above, is assumed to have originated in the Caucuses, going northwards first then later westwards to enter Britain and Ireland, probably through Anglo Saxon or Viking incursions.

Haplogroup I is predicted to have originated in the Balkans and it is dominant as a haplogroup in Scandinavia and Denmark.

Haplogroup R1b followed the Atlantic Coast (and hence the designation Atlantic Modal Haplotype) and eventually spread out to be the dominant group in the whole of western Europe. According to Stephen Oppenheimer in The Tribes of Britain, there were two main emigrations and, in essence, these conform broadly to the haplogroup who retained the DNA marker score of 11 on allele DYS391 on the one hand, and the haplogroup who have a mutated position 10 at the same point, on the other.

How do we know which haplogroup is which from the DNA results? The answer to this, and scientists may wish to stop reading at this point, is that they can be predicted on the basis of previously known results. Scientists would assert that you can’t be absolutely sure unless you test the sample through the relevant processes. However, it seems logical to expect that those who share the same basic DNA profile would belong to the same haplogroup. It’s only at the edges of haplogroups that the results become ‘fuzzy.’

Specific Haplogroups

We’ll look first at the Viking I haplogroup as this, not surprisingly, has rather fewer members than the R1b haplogroup. It is not unlikely that the members of this haplogroup have ancestors who settled on the western coast or islands of Scotland or, where there is known Irish ancestry, probably from those Vikings who settled in the east coast of Ireland.

I have taken results for 25 (see Chart 1), 37 (see Chart 2), and 67 ‘markers’ (see Chart 3) for this haplogroup and the charts are given below. Since progressively less members of the project have had the 37 and 67 marker tests done, the number of individuals in the charts decreases. I have laid out the charts in the same orientation for each set of markers. The numbers refer to the kit number of the participant. Precise details for each kit number are found at the Family Tree DNA web site.

Chart 1 - Viking 1: 25 Markers (click to enlarge)

Chart 2 - Viking 1: 37 Markers (click to enlarge)

Chart 3 - Viking 1: 67 Markers (click to enlarge)

In all cases it is quite clear that there are two separate groups. One way of interpreting this is that they belong to separate invasion groups, a) Norwegian/Swedish based and b) Denmark/Frisian based. The Viking names include Grier/Greer, a MacGregor alias but, there is also a group of Grier/Greer in the R1b group so this might indicate either separate origins or, the intrusion of a Viking male line into the Grier line where the child has retained the mother’s surname.

The second haplogroup, R1a, is almost exclusively borne by the main Orr family in the project. As I have written before, almost all the Orrs in the project appear to descend from the same individual, possibly originating in Ireland (at least from the time of the Viking invasions). Only one other individual (named Westran) is in this group. The 67 marker results for these will be seen in the next diagram.

The haplogroup R1b is by far the largest in the MacGregor project. There are three distinct sub groups within it.
  • Those who have a DNA signature with 11 at DYS 391 and conform to the ‘Atlantic Modal Haplotype’
  • Those who have a DNA signature with 11 at DYS391 and are almost certainly indigenous to Ireland. This group includes Irish McGregors/Grier/Grierson (you may see this DNA sequence referred to as the ‘Irish Modal Haplotype’)
  • Those who have a DNA signature with 10 at DYS391This group includes the main line MacGregor
The chart below shows the R1a and R1b groups in relation to each other (note the single Gregory result (E1b) is included, showing that this one is an isolate and has a completely different origin). MacGregor refers to the principal MacGregor DNA profile (see Chart 4). This chart is based on 67 marker results.

Chart 4 - Relation of R1a and R1b Groups (click to enlarge)

To show this in more simplified form, I have taken one individual from each sub-group who is as near to the modal result (effectively the average) as I can find, and plotted them on a chart (see Chart 5).

Chart 5 - Simplified Relation of R1b Groups (click to enlarge)

Kit 2124 is the line of the Chiefs of Clan Gregor and this chart gives some idea of the distances in genetic time involved. On the left is the main MacGregor line compared with a representative of the DYS391=10 group. On the right the Irish group compared with a representative of the DYS=11 Atlantic Modal Haplotype group. The larger time distances could be as much as 10,000 years. Genetically these groups are very distinct.

We’ll look at each of these in turn, beginning with the Irish sub-group based on 37 marker results (Chart 6).

Chart 6 - Irish Sub-group (click to enlarge)

What this shows is that all the Irish R1b examples come from the same ancestor in the distant past but that in more recent times the Grier/Greer/Griersons appear to have a common ancestry, as do the McAdams with the interesting possible inclusion of a White. It is hard to explain why some branches of this tree seem to have mutated more than others – except that DNA mutations are essentially random.

Next, we move to the group who have a marker score of 11 at DYS391. Most of these will be descended from the original group of post Ice Age settlers (Oppenheimer’s first group) although, because DNA mutations are random, it is possible that one or two of this group originally had DYS391=10 and this DNA marker has mutated to DYS391=11 over the course of ten thousand years. There is no way to verify this. These results are based on 37 marker results (see Chart 7).

Chart 7 - DYS391=11 Marker (click to enlarge)

The time distances here are too long to suggest that many of these people are related within the time frame of surnames (from about 1300 on) except for Greggs 6979 and 130191 (and possibly Gardner as well), McAdams 8857 and 54141, McAdams 83205, and McAdam 82874 (from a different ancestor than the first group of McAdams) and McGregors 137093, 29834, 84081, 126138, and possibly McAdams 12683. The McGregors at least appear to share a common (not main line MacGregor) ancestor in Rosshire or thereabouts (these may originally have been calling themselves ‘Gregor’ and not MacGregor).

Chart 8 presents all those who have DYS391=10 and, as above, one or two of these could have had a more recent mutation from DYS391=11, but there is no way of identifying them.

Chart 8 - DYS391=10 Marker (click to enlarge)

Again, most of the individuals in this chart are not related to each other within the timeframe of surnames with the following probable exceptions: McGregors 7183, 2726, and 27811 whom I have previously speculated were Gregors in the vicinity of Perth. If 28296 is indeed part of this group, as the program suggests, then the connection is very old – and is probably heavily influenced in the programs’ calculations by the occurrence of a marker score of 12 at DYS460. Kits 121543 and 130108 are related and there is the possibility of a Gow related to these which may give a clue to where to look for this group – almost certainly in Perthshire. For Greig 9690 and Grigor 131056 there is a possibility that these represent a very early ancestor in the northern counties of Scotland (Aberdeenshire or Banffshire). Gregory 36006 looks as though it belongs to this group but, according to the genealogy notes, this line goes back to 1390 in Leicestershire so even though there are some similarities in the DNA results, a connection seems unlikely. Presumably increasing the DNA markers out to 67 would separate these out more. The Turks 21757 and 11655 are closely related, as are the Magruders 61472 and 46179, the Greers 35624, 10589, and 68070, and the MeGehee/Mackgahye/McGhies 19870, 74970, 51942, and Mackgehee 121911.

Finally we come to the main branch of MacGregors. The following chart, which is for 37 marker results, also includes some results which are ambiguous but suggest some kind of relationship to the main MacGregor group. This is particularly true of the Stirling results 13635, 16710, and 13678 (Stirling sub-group 1). These are not the same as the group which includes 13621, 38027, 58653, 9290, and 99443 (Stirling sub-group 2) who are known/assumed to descend from a MacGregor and who took the alias Stirling at the time of proscription of the name or soon after. Stirling 28834 has the distinctive mutation of 16 at marker DYS576, but has two more mutations which have caused the program to reallocate his position in the chart. It is difficult to explain why this one line acquired other mutations other than by random processes, unless the connection is earlier in time than expected. The sub-group 1 of Stirlings seems to be a much earlier split, possibly dating to the early Middle Ages (see Chart 9).

Chart 9 - MacGregor, 37 Markers (click to enlarge)

Chart 10 is the same but without the ambiguous results.
Please note in the following charts 99999_MacF should read 120820_MacF(arland)


Chart 10 - MacGregor, 37 Markers without ambiguous results (click to enlarge)

In general, close branching suggests possible family links, though it has to be remembered that the programs used calculate on the basis of numerical similarities NOT of known relationships. For this reason it is a good idea to increase the number of markers to 67 so that the random mutations might be less significant between related groups of families. The star-like cluster of these results is entirely what would be expected from DNA results derived from a common ancestor and because Chart 10 is for the MacGregor bloodline, only the length of the lines is relative; no matter what the length of the line in Chart 10, the descent is from the common ancestor Ian Cam MacGregor or the eponymous Gregor who may have been Ian Cam’s father if the genealogies are correct. Once other results are included, as in Chart 4 above, the relative length of these lines diminishes.

Chart 11 is the chart of current 67 results for the MacGregor main group.

Chart 11 - MacGregor, 67 Markers (click to enlarge)

On the basis of this chart, it is suggested that individuals might wish to compare genealogies if they occupy the same branches as others. While family connections are not guaranteed there is a much greater likelihood of these existing where such branch connections are suggested.

Finally, for those who are interested in the internal relationship between groups, Chart 12 gives the 67 marker results for all those who have DYS391=10.

Chart 12 - DYS391=10, 67 Markers (click to enlarge)

Members of the project who have not yet submitted genealogies or who need to update their genealogies, can contact me at richardmcgregor1 AT yahoo.co.uk (substituting the usual sign for the word ‘at’).

Professor Richard McGregor
MacGregor DNA Project Administrator
Chairman of the Clan Gregor Society
December 2008