01 January 2011

January 2011 MacGregor DNA Project update

Welcome to the MacGregor DNA project January 2011 update. I have decided to present it in a slightly different form this year, making use of the earliest known ancestor genealogies which participants have provided on the Family Tree DNA website. As I hope to show these pieces of genealogical information can be extremely valuable in linking the DNA results with family histories and can give clues as to possible previously unknown relationships.

I would encourage those who have not already done so to make use of the section under User Preferences on their personal DNA pages to indicate earliest known ancestor. It does not matter if this ancestor is only known in the place of emigration and not in Scotland since it is possible that clues as to the actual place of origin may come through links with DNA relatives. I have worked mainly with entries which have provided such information rather than make the charts much less easy to read as the result of labels which indicate ‘no detail’. However, some charts do include ‘no detail’ entries so that possible avenues of investigation could be pursued.

What this update focuses on

I have dealt primarily with those surnames immediately related to MacGregor – that is, Gregor, Grigor Grieg, Greer, Grier, Grierson, but some other representative surnames are included by single examples embedded in the charts (e.g. Magruder). In addition I have run a series of charts for the DNA profile which FTDNA assign to ‘descendants of Niall of the Nine Hostages’, which as will be seen below groups a variety of surnames within a rather tight timeframe, for the most part indicating connection in the Dark or Middle Ages.

If your kit has not been included in this update then please feel free to contact me, and I will run a chart for you with whichever other entries you wish – though it may take a while if everybody mails at the same time! It normally needs about 15 minutes to generate a chart without genealogies: adding genealogy detail increases the time required considerably as it has to be done by hand. Some of the other surname groups have not been included, partly because there are often specific projects for these names (e.g. McAdam) and in many cases genealogical information is missing. You can see the current state of the project at:


If you see that your genealogy entry is blank this is the time to sort it! If you have forgotten your various codes then you can contact me with the relevant information (about 8-10 words of text only) and I will do it for you.

Chart generation methodology

In previous updates I have included details of the process undertaken to produce the charts so I will not repeat that here, except to add that the labels were added in a simple ‘Paint’ program making use of the T(ext) feature. The labels are added to the chart to be as near to the kit number to which they apply – this means that, depending on the shape of the tree chart they can be above, below or beside the relevant kit number. For those interested, all the charts have been generated using a standard 40% likelihood of Time to Most Recent Common Ancestor (TMCRA) and using the mutation rates defined by Doug McDonald. As I was preparing this update I experimented with various configurations including using 95% confidence and FTDNA’s rate calculations. What the 40%/McDonald combination does is generally to pull older dates further back into the past and more recent dates closer. Occasionally a few (no more than 2 or 3) participant results change places on the charts when using these two different modes of generating chart material, and I will comment on a couple of these as I go on. At the end of this update I show an example of this variation on a limited number of the ‘Irish’ 67 results through Tables generated by Dean McGee’s Y-DNA Comparison Utility:


DNA commentary – Ian Cam group

[Note: double click on the charts to view]

Chart 1: MacGregor (Ian Cam) group 67 markers

What this chart suggests is that participants 185140 and 50589 are very closely related and possibly descend from two brothers in Kenmore, or certainly a father or grandfather of the same. A more distant connection might bring in participant 3346. The McFarland/McFarlane/McFarlins are all related – or rather all those in the project are – presumably through founder effect in America. Participants 26174, 16798 and 168387 are all related but that was known before. Chart 1 suggests that kit 2125 might be connected with this branch but chart 2 below (generated using 95% confidence and FTDNA mutation rates) shows 2125 connected with 1774. As this represents a change from supposed House of Roro to the House of Glengyle clearly some more results are needed to try and make the exact connection of 2125 clearer! Other connections worth investigating are:

- a possible more recent ancestor for 191035 and 94875 linking Perthshire with Govan - another result coming into this pair might help to clarify this apparent similarity

- a possible connection geographically between Buchanan Stirlingshire 119330 and Abernethy/Kincardine in Strathspey with the adoption of the McPherson alias for 121048

- a suggestive link with upper Loch Tay 133637 Stronfearnan 133637 and the emigrant ancestor of Pennsylvania in 1802 of 131269 and 146413 [I’m sure I’ve seen some indication of Love used as an alias in Balquhidder but I can’t quite identify it in my sources]. Also connected to this group is 108707 whose earliest known ancestor married in Irvine in 1815

- a possible connection between Alva (26752) and Glasgow in 1847 (10897)

- a possible connection between 2909 whose ancestor turned up in Jamaica and Loch Rannoch (10454)

- an interesting thought that the ‘Renton’ John (24029) could be connected to the ‘Forfar’ John 44327 - in a previous generation – and as a result, a possible genetic relationship for the participant named Pierson (believed to be previously Stewart)

- 187511 and 24470 descend from the same individual in Muthill

- the Stirling connections were already known

Chart 2 Ian Cam group 67 markers using 95% confidence/FTDNA mutation rate

Additional Notes:

- participants 94903 and 121048 could be more distantly related, though there is no further detail on these

- possible connection between 119330 in Buchanan, Stirlingshire, 26752 in Alva Stirlingshire and 90446 (no details) [this might seem to contradict a link between 119330 and 131269/146143 – but see the next main paragraph]

Chart 3 Ian Cam group on 37 markers

Many of the links suggested in Charts 1 and 2 above hold true for the smaller number of markers but there are some additional possibilities and a cautionary message concerning mutations.

We’ll start with the cautionary: if you look at the chart you will see that 131269 and 146413 appear to be at some distance from each other. This is because there are 3 mutations difference and, rather unusually (that is in perhaps 1 case out of 50) these are actually from the same known family. Since 131269 shows less mutations from the modal (that is the average of all the participants in this group) it means that 146413 has acquired more mutations than would be expected in what is effectively less than two centuries. In fact there is some indication that in large families the oldest and youngest males can have a mutational difference, and there’s also some circumstantial evidence that the older the father is the more likely it is that the DNA will have a error on the ‘passing on’, in other words, a mutation.

This means that we should always consider possible links between members with similar DNA as exactly that – possibilities, not certainties. The problem is more evident when dealing with a common ancestor who lived in more recent times. With more distant genetic connections as seen in chart 5 these differences tend not to be so obvious or significant.

That said, the following links are possible:

- Auchtar in Perthshire (129554) and Kilsyth Stirling 1745 (28699) though at some distance in time

- Possible links between Kilmun (near Dunoon) (108052), Paisley 1807 (12596), Rannoch c 1762 (12162) and Perthshire c 1750 (94875) - if there is a more recent common ancestor for this group it might be someone who lived in the time of the early proscription (from 1603)

Chart 4 – various M(a)cGregor results at 37 markers to show possible geographical origins

In this chart we are dealing with a much greater time span than just 600 years from the founder Gregor/Ian Cam group so the results begin to collect together more clearly. The locations are suggested based on the participants’ statements of most distant known ancestors.

Starting from bottom left:

- a very clear group of 5 individuals who certainly descend from a common ancestor and that person may well have lived in Rosshire, perhaps in the 17th century

- N62107 and 153532 may well descend from a founding ancestor in America

- 126138, 17381, 84081 and 29834 almost certainly all descended from Rev William McGregor traditionally from Glen Ossian in Scotland

- 129009 and 94589 appear to share a common ancestor in Clackmannanshire

- 95193, 100843 and 13403 could be distantly related and possibly in the north/north east of Scotland

- 27811, 161907 (no detail), 138485, 2726 (Scottish place of origin not known), and 7183 may be connected to an ancestor living in the vicinity of Perth - and the genealogies suggest that the name during proscription was Gregor not McGregor

- the lower right consists mainly of some representative members of the Ian Cam group with 17711 and 28296 possibly representing earlier genetic connections (i.e. in the Dark Ages) unless these families have experienced more vigorous DNA mutation

Chart 5 The MacGregor Distant group with Greig/Gragg/Grigor (also includes representative Magruder result), on 37 markers

This chart does NOT include members of the Ian Cam MacGregor group.

Starting from the left hand middle:

- these two results (5356 and 19304) are probably both haplogroup J and not connected to the main R1b group shown here

- Gregg results 6979 and 130191 share a recent common ancestor, presumably in Ireland. The connection of 75529 John Drummond McGregor to these seems unlikely

- There could be a connection between 94589 in Clackmannanshire and 100843 in Sutherland. In the late 18th century and during the early 19th century there was a great deal of movement from the very north of Scotland to the Lowlands for work. The ministers of the Sutherland and Caithness parishes speak of it in the 1st Statistical Account of Scotland 1793. Most of this movement was seasonal but some workers settled in the Lowlands (and usually because they had found a bride!). It’s possible that something like this happened in relation to these two results

- 45360 Greig and 64662 Gregg may be distantly related: the location Pathhead in Scotland might give 64662 a place to start looking for connections

- there’s a strong suggestion of distant genetic links among the group which has Magruder 61472 to Grigor 131056 but this will almost certainly be pre surnames in the ‘Dark Ages’

- a possible geographic connection between 9690 Greig and 131056 Grigor (this would have to be extended out to 67 markers to see how well the connection held up)

- an interesting (to me as it is my line) possible connection has emerged between 4151/153297 and 20630 which I am currently investigating genealogically

- the 158127 and 81282 Gragg results clearly do indeed share a common ancestor although at the moment no connection with Greig/Gregg is evident

- the proposed Rosshire group is represented here by 158870 and 164124

- N62107, 153532 and 164088 are clearly related to each other, probably through a founding emigrant, though I cannot yet directly place these results with other MacGregors for comparison

- the two Greggs 137236 and 110496, for whom I have no genealogical details are clearly related, probably to a founding emigrant

- the line of Rev William McGregor of ‘Glen Ossian’ is represented here by 29834 and 84081

Chart 6 selected results from the Distant MacGregors, Gregory, Greer, and Gregor surname groups on 67 markers

Chart 6 brings in some exemplar results from other MacGregor related surname groups based on 67 marker results which also have stated genealogies. Some results which do not have genealogical detail given are also included:

- the Ian Cam group is shown at the far right. The 9690 Greig result and 36006 are shown here to be very close genetically to the main Ian Cam group. Results like this suggest either a genetic line with a tendency to mutate faster, or, a connection to MacGregors pre Gregor the traditional 13th/14th century founder. It would be nice to think that this gives support to the descent of different lines from King Alpin as the genealogies suggest, but we need a lot more results before making that a definitive claim!!

- the Gregory results in the middle left are interesting because they suggest descent from a common ancestor, presumably an early emigrant to the United States. However the genetic connection to any other members of the group is very very distant

- still on Gregory, N52932 (David Gregory no detail) may share a common ancestor with 36102 in Virginia

- there is an interesting possible correspondence between 29834 (Rev William McGregor) and the Greer of Fermanagh 57019

- finally a possible linkage is suggested between 121543 (McGregor no detail), 130108 McGregor Loch Katrine, and 122079 James MacGregor Gow

'Irish’ DNA

One of the ways in which the geographical origin of genetic groups is being, and will in the future be, deduced, is through the use of SNPs. These have nothing to do with the Scottish political party but the acronym stands for Single Nucleotoid Polymorphisms and they define older population splits, as distinct from STRs – (Short Tandem Repeats) which are used in surname studies such as this one (where participants receive a string of numbers which can be compared with those of other participants).

Family Tree DNA says the following:

The Y chromosome contains two types of ancestral markers. Short Tandem Repeats (STRs) trace recent ancestry. The second type of ancestral marker, SNPs, document ancient ancestry. SNPs are small "mistakes" that occur in DNA and are passed on to future generations. SNP mutations are rare. They happen at a rate of approximately one mutation every few hundred generations.

You can read the rest of this at:


Irish genetic studies tend to identify this specific geographical location through two different routes. First it is generally predictable by the series of STR results which looks similar to this:


Generally the 25, 11, 13, and the 14 on the 2nd, 5th, 6th and 11th markers respectively are present in the participant’s DNA signature as in the above example, although there can be mutations.

Family Tree DNA have gone further and, on the basis of documented studies, suggest that those with this sequence (and extending out to 25 markers) are possibly descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages, one of the “Kings” of Ireland (FTDNA calls him a ‘warlord’). You can read the relevant page here:


Whether this is strictly true or not there is no doubt at all that those who bear this signature have a comparatively recent link to a common ancestor in Ireland (no more than 3000 years ago and quite likely even more recent) and all the R1b results in the Greer/Grierson/Gregory/McGregor group given below have this characteristic. The link can be further confirmed by testing SNPs as there is a characteristic mutation known as M222+ (i.e. ‘positive’ – they have it) which is common to this group.

The following participants have had this SNP tested and are confirmed positive

4175 (McGregor), 7874 (Grier), 81125 (Gregory), 76382 (Greer), 127845 (McGee), 155715 (Greer), 165777 ( Greer), 165907 (McAdam).

For interest you may wish to know that the main Ian Cam line has also been SNP tested and the current result is:

P25, M269, S116 (P312), S127 (L11), S128 (P311), S129 (P310), S145 (L21)

(the numbers in brackets are the alternative labels for the same SNPs)

If you follow FTDNA’s assertion then all the participants on the following charts are descendants of Niall with the probable exception (though with an earlier connection) of Skinner 57893, White 120077, and McGregor 35727. In order to test how this might hold up I did a couple of Tables for ‘Time to Most Recent Common Ancestor’, using a variety of ways of generating data, and as you will see there is comparatively little time difference, most results falling after the lifetime of Niall (believed to have died c 450AD).

Chart 7 - Irish related 37 marker results with genealogies

More recent (but this could be after Niall and before surname adoption in cases where the surnames are different) genetic connections are suggested for:

- Mitchell N6852, Gregory 81125, Magee 149721 and McGreer 72557

- White 2153, McGregor 4715 and Black 136599

- Stranahan N5324 and Strannigan (Stranhan) 4717

- Black 112442 and McGee (127845)

- Greer 27441 and Grierson 173150

- Grier 7874 and Grier 94757

- Greer 97279 and Greer 106143

- All Greers:- 176539, 165777, 46156, 76382, 102002, 155715 - common emigrant ancestor
from Dumfries area?

Chart 8 – Irish related 67 marker results with genealogies

Although there are less participants results to show here the groupings (those which remain) stay the same as above except that McGrew 81138 comes closer in to Mitchell N6852 etc.

Chart 9 (Table 1) and Chart 10 (Table 2)

These two Tables take the results of chart 8 and compare each with each other using two different mutation rates and probability factors. As I suggested earlier the only real differences are that the older dates are pushed a little further back using 95% probability and FTDNA mutation rates, while more recent dates are brought closer to the present time through the use of 40% probability and the Doug McDonald derived mutation rates. The numbers are ‘years before present’, and the table is read as you would read a distance chart for different towns in a country. These figures should only be taken as guides since they are based on average rates of mutation: some families therefore show more mutations than average, and some show less than average.

Finally, I was sent an interesting little table that compares the DNA of a couple of individuals at 25 markers with the proposed DNA for certain famous individuals. Perhaps one day we will be able to include King Alpin! These ‘Famous DNA’ predictions can be found at the following websites (compare your own!):




Chart 11 (Table 3) - comparing participant and ‘famous DNA’

[Please see 'Comments' below - I have revisited David Grierson's comments on last year's report. Please do read them and mine below].