Testing of DNA for genealogical research is an exciting new avenue to discover more about our family history. Specifically, testing of a man's Y-chromosome DNA is the target of the research being carried out as every man's Y-chromosome can only be passed down through his father and from his father and so on and so forth.
WHAT IS DNA TESTING?
Consequently, this Y-chromosome DNA is not a mixture of both parents, coming only from the father, and is passed down unchanged from generation to generation save for any natural mutations that might occur. This passage of unique DNA matches the passage of the family surname in western culture and is therefore a powerful tool in comparing people of similar surnames. For a surname such as ours, which is believed to be unique and derived from an original Porteous family sometime in the 1400s or earlier, this tool becomes even more powerful.
Currently, through the work of countless Porteous genealogical researchers, there is a numbered list of distinct Porteous family genealogies that exist which cover a majority of the entire Porteous family tree. These various trees have been documented and provide a fairly broad picture of our Porteous family tree going back in many instances to the oldest known ancestors who lived as far back as the 1500s.
In many instances there are branches that we think are related to other branches, however the documentation to prove this theory is not available. Now with the tool of Y-DNA testing, the relatedness between members from independent branches can be determined and either confirm or refute relatedness.
Recently, Doug and I initiated a Porteous family DNA research project at one of the websites owned and maintained by the largest Y-DNA testing companies operating today, Family Tree DNA. We came across this company after getting involved with the National Geographic's Genographic Project (a really interesting project that is attempting to map out the human race's family tree and migration around the earth), where we each had a simple Y-DNA test done.
HOW IS THE TESTING DONE?
The company doing the testing for National Geographic is Family Tree DNA. Since then we have each had further testing carried out to further detail our Y-DNA and allow for closer comparison between our Y-DNA and those other persons tested with similar results (for those interested, the first two individuals tested found that they share only a surname, and their Y-DNA does not indicate any genetic relatedness).
After correspondence between Doug and me, and the possibilities of this testing, we are both in agreement that a Porteous surname family research project would be very helpful in mapping out our Porteous branches. Given the broad interest in Porteous genealogy that exists out in cyber space right now there is a good chance that representative samples across the many branches could be obtained and used to map out our Porteous tree.
To be clear, samples submitted would have to come from a male carrying the Porteous surname or from anyone who believes they are descended through father to son from a Porteous ancestor. Female Porteous descendants can still participate however they would need to obtain a sample of Porteous Y-DNA for their branch from a brother, father, or appropriate male cousin.
WHAT DO WE HOPE TO DISCOVER?
With sufficient representative samples from each branch obtained to be confident that those samples represent that branch of the family, the Y-DNA could be compared to other representative samples from other branches. There will no doubt be cases where the branches don't match up and it will be clear that the branches are distinct for whatever reason.
At other times branches will match to a certain degree and the connection between branches can then be estimated based on the degree to which the branches have mutated. The fewer the mutations the more recently the branches share a common ancestor, and the more the mutations the further back the connection.
Anyone wishing to participate should visit the website provided at the beginning of this article. It will provide further details and answer a lot more questions that haven't been discussed here. We look forward to working with all those who wish to participate and together we will shed more light on our family roots.
Jason and Doug Porteous
Porteous Family DNA Project
You can read this posting and further details, as well as ask questions, at the Rootsweb Porteous Surname Project message board
and sign up at the Porteous DNA Project website.