DNA study

I have set up a DNA study; this has its own webpages. At present there there is only my brother’s Y-DNA test results.  Those participating will usually need to pay their own costs (or maybe have it paid by a female relation who wants the info.), though donations are invited which could subsidise or pay for the tests of key men who either aren’t interested or aren’t able to afford the test.

What this could tell us

  • If Go(a)thams from different parts of England have DNA from a common Gotham ancestor in a male-line then a Y-DNA test would show this.
  • With or without links established between the English groups, the test could show with which English group the Gothams from the US (those who are a bit hazy about their origins in England) are related. (Even if the English groups are related, that US Gothams could have later changes only found in one English group, though that this will be the case cannot be assumed).


  • It would only be possible to determine if we are related to other families where a male line is known to survive. Hence, while it would be interesting to know if any (or all) of us are related to the de Gothams of Norton Lees, I very much doubt anyone can trace their male line back to this family with any certainty, so there will be no chance of any DNA from that family with which to compare the DNA of Go(a)thams living now.
  • For centuries there was more than one ‘group’ in Devon – were they related? The Christian names suggest some of them at least were, but if no other evidence is found DNA could confirm this, where descendants survive. However, most of the Devon families seem to have left no male-line descendants, having died or daughtered out to long ago for autosomal DNA to help.
  • If enough Y-chromsome markers match it will point to a link, but the absence of such markers would not necessarily point to the absence of a link. This may sound surprising so I will expand:
    1. If at any stage in 2 lines being compared there has been an illegitimate individual or someone whose ‘natural’ (biological) father was not their legal one then then a match would not be expected. It does not mean that one Gotham group does not share origins.
      e.g. lets suppose a Gotham sailed from Devon in the 1400s and settled in Kent, and his daughter had a son out of wedlock. If that son was the person from whom all Kent Goathams descend the Y-DNA would not match the Devon Y-DNA. If an event like this is early then all may have the ‘wrong’ DNA, if later then there will usually be a number of lines of descent, only some of which will be affected (and we are more likely to be aware of illegitimacy through PRs). However, with all Kent Goathams being descended from one chap who lived as recently as c.1740 – 1788, despite Gothamas being in Kent since at least 1533, then the chance of any irregular event affecting all lines increases.
    2. It may be wrong to suppose that all Go(a)thams with a single place of origin were related. Several men from the village of Gotham may have left it during the period during which by-names were going out of use and surnames coming in, and have acquired the surname ‘de Gotham’ and then ‘Gotham’. The Kent, Devon and Staffordshire Gothams could all be descended from ‘unrelated’ men of Gotham and hence not have a similar Y-chromosome.
      I don’t know if it is likely that all the inhabitants of a village would have been related around this time, but even if it is, it seems to me highly improbable that all would descend down the male line from the same individual. (If the origins were from a small hamlet or a farm then that they would share a Y-chromosome seems far more likely).
    3. Let’s suppose DNA tests show the US Gothams are related to the Kent Goathams, but show no evidence of a link to any of the Devon Gothams. I think* this would not mean it could be safely assumed that the US Gothams descend from Kent ones; both could share common Devon origins, from a family that has died out there. (* I’m not certain to what extent an estimation of how far back the families diverged could help – or whether more markers being tested could assist with this.)
  • Sufficient people willing to take part are needed. So, please join the project today and help to make it viable!


A Y-DNA 37-marker test is generally sufficient; at the time of writing (Feb 2015) one test costs US $149 through the project at Family Tree DNA.

I understand some one-name studies have a subscription or encourage donations to spread out the costs of getting a few people tested. Any interest / thoughts?

Further reading


The field of DNA testing moves fast so the following books will necessarily be to some extent out-of-date.

‘DNA and Social Networking’ (2011) by Debbie Kennett
– possibly useful if you are going to run a DNA project, though I expect everything is available online. Explains the obvious in extreme detail (with some errors) but doesn’t explain the less obvious!

‘Surnames, DNA & Family History’ (2011) by George Redmonds, Turi King and David Hey
– lacks the practical details of the above, but a much more enjoyable and inspiring book about what can be learnt from DNA.


The International Society of Genetic Genealogy – ISOGG

A testing company – Family Tree DNA website

Last updated: 30 March, 2016

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