Y-chromosome DNA testing can be a helpful adjunct to traditional genealogical research because Y-chromosome inheritance follows the paternal surname used in western culture (from father to son, to his son, to his son….). The Y-chromosome is the sex determining gene (only males carry a Y-chromosome) and it is the only chromosome passed directly from father to son with no contribution from the mother’s (or grandmother's) DNA. The Y-DNA is therefore identical between a father and his son, except on those occasions when a mutation occurs during the copy and transfer process. The rate at which these mutations accumulate over generations of copy/transfer is the key to the genealogical value of Y-DNA analysis. The result (see example) which a man receives from a Y-DNA test is a series of integers representing information stored at multiple specific locations on his Y-chromosome.
The series of integers which comprise the Y-DNA report contains no inherent ancestral information. The genealogical value of a test result rests entirely on the comparison of it to the results of the same test done on the DNA of other men. Very simply stated, an exact match between the Y-DNA results of two individuals (especially in combination with other indications of relatedness) indicates they are closely related; a close match (e.g. 36-32 out of 37 markers) indicates they are probably (but less closely) related, a non-match (e.g. 31 or less out of 37) indicates they are not related in genealogical time. As you may have guessed, the analysis is actually more complicated than this. These generalized guidelines are derived from statistical analysis of the correlation between large numbers of tests results and known relationships over time. Somewhat more specific guidelines for interpretation of the match levels of your results are available on the FamilyTreeDNA web site. If you are interested in delving into the fascinating area of genetic genealogy, the “Research Links” page provides access to additional information on the web, as well as some suggested books and videos.
With that simple explanation of Y-DNA as background, we can address the questions that we hope Y-DNA analysis will help us answer.
“Who was the father of Moses and Peter?”
The early history of the Gordy family is shrouded in obscurity. Adrian Gardey (Gordy) has been acknowledged as the family progenitor by his surname and his recorded death in Somerset County Maryland where Peter and Moses lived out their lives. It is an undisputable fact that the boys used the Gordy surname. Adrian Gordy is documented to have been married twice. There is no evidence found to date (despite extensive research) that his first wife, Mary Disharoone, bore any male children (There exists a heresay reference to a daughter.). His second wife, Rose Crouch Taylor, had four children by her first husband, John Taylor. Moses and Peter lived in proximity to and had recorded interactions with these Taylors throughout their lives. The inclusion of Peter Gordy in the earliest record (1723) of taxable persons (free males over 15) for their section of Somerset County indicates that he had to have been born prior to 1708. At the 2006 Reunion the family learned that the paper-trail genealogical research done by M.G. Corporon and B.G. Fox indicates that Moses and Peter were possibly the illegitimate sons of Rose Crouch Taylor who subsequently (1711 -1712) became Adrian Gordy's second wife. Additionally they might, according to the 1699 Lewes County DE court documents, have been sons of one John Cary, son of Thomas Cary, the immigrant. The Thomas Cary family immigrated to and established residence in Somerset County in the mid 1600s. They were neighbors of Robert and Mary Crouch and their children, including Rose. We continue to follow the Maryland and Delaware paper trails, searching for any newly available documents that may shed light onto the paternity of Moses and Peter. (Strange as it may seem, previously unavailable documents from the 17th and 18th century are still being catalogued and transcribed.) However, scientific advances in genetics now offer us additional avenues to explore our origins.
We have actively pursued an answer to the question of the Cary parternal connection. In January 2007 we researched companies offering DNA testing for genealogy, and concluded that FamilyTreeDNA offered us the best combination of services, existing database of results, and price. Exploring their sponsored surname projects we found a Cary/Carey project. With excitement, but knowing that the odds were against us, we checked their listed lineages…and to our great surprise their project involved the descendant line of John Cary’s father, Thomas Cary, the immigrant. We communicated with several people in the Cary/Carey family and they graciously welcomed us to their project.
The completed DNA tests prove John Cary was not the boys' father, however Y-DNA analysis may lead us to additional information about their father. If our project includes multiple Y-DNA results well distributed across the entire family tree, we can determine a best approximation of the haplotype of the father of Moses and Peter. This means that it is more important than ever to have a broad family participation. It requires far fewer samples to disprove a connection than to "recreate" an historical family haplotype. With that haplotype we could then search the ever expanding Y-DNA databases in the US and in the British Isles. If we find matches, we can then look in the lineages of the matching men for forebearers that might have been in the Deleware Maryland area around 1700 (a long shot, but sometimes the long ones succeed). Minimally, a well done Gordy family haplotype will indicate the geographic area of our paternal origins.
“Are all Gordys related?
This question has been asked for many years and is a common one among families with a rare surname. The increasingly more complete genealogy of the Gordy family (from Moses/Peter forward) would indicate that on paper we may be one family. This question is not as simple to biologically answer as it might first appear due to the occurrence in all families of non-paternity events. Non-paternity simply means that the named father of record is not the biological father. That a non-paternity event has occurred is indicated in DNA test results by a haplotype that is radically different from the others in the group. However this single non-matching haplotype tells us nothing about when in the lineage the non-paternity event occurred. Non-paternity may result from a variety of situations: adoption (formal or informal, and including those cases where children in need were simply taken in), infidelity, remarriage with the original paternal name lost over time, and those cases where a man simply changed his name for his own reasons. A single non-paternity event means that all direct-line descendents subsequent to that non-paternity carry a different Y-DNA than their family tree would indicate. Non-paternity events occur more frequently than we might think; statistics indicate an average 1.3% non-paternity rate per generation. (Translated into our 9 to 10 generation span of interest, we can statistically expect that about 90% of the Gordys with a paper connection to the family would have recognizably similar haplotypes.) If in our research we encounter a non-paternity event we need to remember that it does not necessarily say anything about the direct paternity of the donor…the event may have been an unrecorded adoption of his g-g-grandfather! It is also important to know that a non-paternity event does not mean that anyone is legally, historically, or emotionally any less a part of this family. We chase this particular “Gordy” information because our culture has hung a surname on us with which we identify. We wish to know about our history, where we were, what we did, how we lived. Since the paternal surname survives in our written records, it is the piece of “who we are” that is easiest to follow.
As we begin this study, our perspective on whatever results we find needs to be informed by three facts: 1. Moses and Peter may or may not have begun their lives as Gordys, and may never have known their biological father. 2. The contribution of Moses or Peter to the DNA of their eighth generation descendent is statistically only 0.4%. 3. Everyone listed in the Gordy family tree is descended from men and women who lived their lives, died, and were buried as Gordys and it is an understanding of those lives that came before us that we really seek. The days spent in archives, libraries, or graveyards, and these DNA tests are all means to that end, not ends in themselves.