Have you tried a genetic DNA study as an approach to learning more about your family history?
If so, have you made family connections that you wouldn’t have found otherwise?
It is essential that you participate in a DNA study as soon as possible. Doing so will save time, and give you a clearer picture of your family history that will bridge the gaps where other genealogical records simply have not survived.
In the past, I avoided participating in a genetic DNA study because of the high cost and the sense that it wouldn’t prove anything about my ancestry.
Well, times have changed.
The cost of participating in DNA studies has dropped to very affordable levels and the results are surprising. DNA testing will allow you to clearly see how distinct groups with your surname are or are not related to you.
Imagine being able to sort through records for our family searching not just the surname coupled with a place of birth—but being able to narrow our search to the correct DNA haplogroup, Y-DNA 12 or deeper identifiers so that we can limit our search results to only our relatives.
If you were not sure which Miller, Stark or Sawyer individuals written up in thousands of obituaries were your relatives, knowing which DNA group they fell in would quickly help you to focus on the ones that you are related to.
A few months ago I heard from a researcher in Scotland who was spearheading a study of “Kemp” lines from Ireland, and in particular the Kemp families of County Cavan, Ireland. He wanted to determine if they were all related or if they actually were separate, unrelated families.
A quick search of other DNA projects found a Kemp study already underway, organized by Andrew Kemp in Australia. Efforts were made to find more Kemp men from all parts of the world who would be willing to participate. Seventy-five agreed and the results are still coming in.
I have been researching my Kemp family from County Cavan for the past 50 years. In piecing together the family tree I found that over the past 250 years my family—like so many Irish American families—has been continuously growing and migrating around the world, settling in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and all across the United States.
As I looked at the big picture I could see that there were large concentrations of Kemp families in England, Germany, Sweden and almost everywhere I looked. Were they all related? It is going to take a long time to examine each Kemp household and see how they connect to each other. Since the bulk of the historical family records simply did not survive, there just aren’t records that would prove how these Kemp groups were or were not related—until now.
The results of the genetic DNA study were clearly showing which of the Kemp groups are in fact related.
For example: there is the Johann Conrad Kemp group. He was born in Germany in 1685 and settled in Frederick County, Maryland. The DNA study reports that his descendants are in the E1b1b1 haplogroup.
There is a Kemp family group in County Cork, Ireland. A look at the results for all of the descendants participating in this DNA study shows that they are in the R1b1a2 group.
So—the County Cork group and the Germany/Frederick County Kemp groups are not related.
Knowing where not to look for family connections will save genealogists a lot of time.
What about the large Kemp family in England? Over 25 living descendants have participated in this DNA project and all of them are also in the R1b1a2 haplogroup.
So the County Cork, Ireland, Kemp family group clearly should look to England to document their family connections.
There is a Kemp line in the Bahamas. Since that is a part of the British Commonwealth, perhaps they are also descended from a Kemp line in England. But, DNA testing shows that they fall in the I1 haplogroup common to Scandinavia. So, another completely separate Kemp family line.
Where did my Scotch-Irish County Cavan Kemp line fall?
They are all in the R1a1 haplogroup.
So—they are not related to the English, Maryland/German or Bahamian Kemp groups.
But, look at this genetic testing find: they are related to the Kemp family of Wake County, North Carolina.
The Wake County Kemp family descends from Richard Kemp who was born about 1715 in Scotland and settled in Wake County. His descendants have spread across the southern states. They are in the R1a1a haplogroup.
There are no surviving old genealogical records that can help genealogists connect the multiple Kemp lines, but DNA is now clearly showing us which groups are or are not related.
In the decades ahead we will be able to use the basic DNA haplogroups and full DNA sequencing as additional data that we can search on to extend our family trees.