Friday, August 4, 2017

Fawkner-Faulconer Y-DNA: Act One

Enter stage left: MN-Fawkner, a living descendant of John C. Fawkner (abt 1777-1839).

Enter stage right: KY-Faulconer, a living descendant of Joseph Faulconer (1757-1833).

Joseph Faulconer married Frances Nelson September 1776 in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. The young couple went out to the Kentucky Bluegrass in late fall 1779 with Joseph's parents, John Faulconer and Joyce (Craig) Faulconer.

Documentary research places John C. Fawkner in close proximity to the Faulconers in Kentucky -- both socially and geographically. While no surviving record directly connects John C. Fawkner to either John or Joseph Faulconer, it is plausible that Fawkner really was a Faulconer -- possibly the son of either John or Joseph. If a close match were found between the Y-DNA of MN-Fawkner and KY-Fawkner, it would support a hypothesis that John C. Fawkner was closely related to John or Joseph Faulconer.

MN-Fawkner and KY-Faulconer are the oldest living generation in their male Y-DNA lines. In 2011, Family Tree DNA was marketing a 37-marker Y-DNA test and Ancestry was offering a 46-marker test. It can not be assumed that the 46-marker test was better than the 37-marker test because each tested a few markers that the other didn't. I asked both men, and they agreed, to submit a DNA sample to Ancestry.

Drum roll, please...

I was excited when the results came back. MN-Fawkner and KY-Faulkner matched on 42 of 43 reported markers.  But, it was a 46-marker test, right?  The test returned no results for three markers: DYS19b, DYS464e, and DYS464f.  It turns out that these markers are rare; they occur only in certain populations.

You need to know just a little bit about DNA at this point. A "marker" refers to a specific location on the Y-chromosome. The spiraling strands of a DNA molecule are connected by strings of four "bases" -- adenine (A), guanine (G), thymine (T), and cytosine (C).  "A" always pairs with "T," and "G" always pairs with "C." They combine into series that can be two to five bases long, and these series repeat. The key word here is "repeat." Y-DNA test results are reported as the number of times a particular series of bases repeats at a marker. Two same-surname men descended from the same straight-line male ancestor should have the same number of repeats on most markers. They may not match at a few markers because one (or possibly both) men have had mutations at a few markers.

So, 42 of 43 was pretty good. MN-Fawkner and KY-Faulconer differed on only DYS456. MN-Fawkner had 16 repeats; KY-Faulconer had only 15. The good news here is that DYS456 is a relatively fast-mutating marker. In other words, the one-repeat difference between the two men could be due to a mutation in a fairly recent generation.

 I was pretty excited.  But, then I heard that more markers were better. Family Tree DNA was offering a 67-marker test -- at a higher price, of course. Would it be worth it? Find out next week in Act Two.

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