Groundbreaking Study Tracing Back DNA 210,000 Years!

The Scotsman newspaper recently reported that the company ScotlandsDNA “has completed the first stage of…research tracing the beginnings of a family tree for ‘all men on Earth.’”

masthead for the newspaper "The Scotsman"

Source: The Scotsman

Read the full article from The Scotsman (Edinburgh, Scotland), 7 August 2015, here:

This important new DNA study shows that the branching of the DNA tree evolved slowly over time – but then that evolution abruptly changed. According to the article:

About 4,500 years ago, many new branches suddenly appear over a very short period.

illustration of a section of DNA

Illustration: a section of DNA. Source: Wikipedia.

According to Alistair Moffat who ran this study:

DNA research showed this was highly likely to indicate an invasion by a warrior elite, small bands of highly aggressive and sexually predatory men sailing by small boats to Britain and Ireland over a short space of time around 2,500 BC from Spain, Portugal and southern France.

He went on to say:

This is noticeable across the whole Tree but particularly clear under the very British and European Y chromosome haplogroup, R1b S145, where a staggering 25 new branches are found.

map showing the spread of European Y chromosome haplogroup, R1b S145

Source: Wikipedia

According to Wikipedia the R1b line “is believed to have originated in Asia” and “had been in Europe before the end of the Ice Age.”

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ScotlandsDNA’s study of the “Y” chromosome DNA concludes that all “men” descend from a common ancestor.

chart showing the evolutionary tree of human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroups

Source: Wikipedia

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DNA Testing Confirms President Harding’s ‘Love Child’

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena shows how DNA testing has been used recently to prove that the old rumor about President Warren G. Harding’s “love child” was true.

DNA testing is growing in popularity, with more and more genealogists using it to break through brick walls in their family history research. Historians, too, are using DNA testing to unlock mysteries from the past – most recently, to prove that the old rumor about President Warren G. Harding’s “love child” was true.

photo of Warren G. Harding, by Harris & Ewing, c. 1920

Photo: Warren G. Harding, by Harris & Ewing, c. 1920. Credit: Library of Congress.

Long before Monica Lewinsky, Mimi Alford and rumors of other adulterous affairs carried on at the White House by Presidents Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy, President Warren Harding was embroiled in multiple controversies – some of which came to light after his death. Government bribery via the Teapot Dome Scandal, an affair with Carrie Fulton Phillips (Mrs. James Phillips, a woman who successfully blackmailed him), and the later-discredited whispers that Mrs. Harding may have had a part in her husband’s mysterious death, all continue to blacken Harding’s legacy. And then there was the case of Nan Britton, who claimed to have had a nearly seven-year affair with Harding while he was married – and that he fathered her daughter Elizabeth.

DNA Testing Reveals Secrets from the Past

In an age before mobile devices that record and track your every move, lying about where you were, what you were doing, and who you were with was much easier. Without any way to “prove” a claim of an affair or resulting paternity, it was a matter of “he said” v. “she said.” Today, DNA testing is the ultimate game-changer. As far as familial relationships are concerned, DNA keeps no secrets.

In today’s world, it comes as no surprise to most of us to hear that a president had an affair (or multiple affairs) but in an earlier era, the truth was often easily covered up.

In the early 1910s, Nan Britton, a Marion, Ohio, teenager, was infatuated with local newspaper owner – and later U.S. senator – Warren G. Harding, who also happened to be her father’s friend. Harding, 31 years Britton’s senior, was carrying on an affair with local woman Carrie Fulton Phillips when the teenaged Britton began her obsession. When she was 20, Harding began his affair with Britton, which led to the birth of their daughter Elizabeth in 1919 – shortly before Harding was elected president. Britton would later claim that Harding provided financial support for their child but failed to mention her in his will, leaving Britton fighting unsuccessfully for her daughter’s inheritance when President Harding died suddenly during a trip to California in 1923.

Nan Britton’s Infamous Book

After Harding’s death stopped his financial support, Britton tried unsuccessfully to get Harding family members to provide ongoing compensation for his child. Britton then chose a route that modern-day readers are well-acquainted with: writing a tell-all book. The President’s Daughter (1927) told the story of her affair with Harding and their child. While Britton may have believed she was doing the right thing by her child, she probably didn’t anticipate the fallout she would experience from this decision to write a book about the affair.

article about Nan Britton and her daughter Elizabeth, Macon Telegraph newspaper article 6 November 1927

Macon Telegraph (Macon, Georgia), 6 November 1927, page 2

Britton’s book met with controversy prior to its publication, including the printing plates being seized and attempts to block its release. In response, she started her own organization, The Elizabeth Ann Guild, which published her book. The Elizabeth Ann Guild’s purpose was to spotlight an important issue: the plight of “illegitimate” children.

ad for Nan Britton's book "The President's Daughter," Evansville Courier and Press newspaper advertisement 28 February 1928

Evansville Courier and Press (Evansville, Indiana), 28 February 1928, page 7

Embroiled in Lawsuits

Those who write tell-all books often suffer the side effects of revealing very personal details. Imagine the Roaring ’20s and a woman, a self-proclaimed mistress at that, writing a book about “lurid” details that seek to tarnish the reputation of a U.S. president. Aside from being ridiculed for her paternity claims, Britton was involved in subsequent lawsuits having to do with her best-selling book.

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One such suit involved her mentor (and what some believe to be the primary author of her book), Richard Wightman. In the following 1928 newspaper article, Patricia Wightman claimed her husband Richard – not Britton – wrote The President’s Daughter, which led to the demise of their marriage. Mrs. Wightman claimed:

…that her husband took Miss Britton into their home at Saybrook while he wrote the book from information supplied by Miss Britton, who acted as typist and secretary for him.

The book, and her husband’s involvement with Miss Britton, caused Patricia to leave and “live in a shack” before moving on to live in an exclusive hotel. She proclaimed that she:

…asked my husband not to have anything to do with the book…because it was scandalous and was an attack on the memory of a dead President.

article about Richard Wightman ghost-writing Nan Britton's book "The President's Daughter," Winston-Salem Journal newspaper article 3 March 1928

Winston-Salem Journal (Winston-Salem, North Carolina), 3 March 1928, page 1

According to a news report a few weeks later, Britton was named as a co-respondent in the Wightman divorce.

article about Nan Britton being involved in the Wightman divorce, Winston-Salem Journal newspaper article 26 March 1928

Winston-Salem Journal (Winston-Salem, North Carolina), 26 March 1928, page 3

That was not the only lawsuit Britton was a party to. A book that claimed her allegations of an affair with Harding were false was published. Titled The Answer to the President’s Daughter, this work led to a lawsuit brought by Britton for libel. Another book that also aimed to discredit Britton was written by Harding’s campaign manager and attorney general, Harry M. Daugherty. Titled The Inside Story of the Harding Tragedy, it claimed to “refute Nan Britton’s claim that President Harding was the father of her daughter” as well as exonerate Mrs. Harding against claims that she murdered her husband.

article about Harry M. Daugherty writing a book to defend President Harding, Macon Telegraph newspaper article 29 December 1931

Macon Telegraph (Macon, Georgia), 29 December 1931, page 1

Later Years

In the 1960s, the discovery of love letters from Harding’s affair with Carrie Fulton Phillips led to renewed interest in Britton’s story, resulting in follow-up newspaper articles. Britton knew the Phillips family and had gone to school with their daughter.

article about Nan Britton's affair with President Harding, Seattle Daily Times newspaper article 24 February 1965

Seattle Daily Times (Seattle, Washington), 24 February 1965, page 8

In this old news article, Britton lays out her life in the years after the president’s death that included living under assumed names and working hard to support her daughter. She also revisits her relationship with Harding and the subsequent financial need to write a tell-all book after his death:

…her motive for publishing the story of her love-life with Harding was grounded on the need for legal and social recognition and protection of all children born out of wedlock. She stated that in her opinion “there should be no so called ‘illegitimates’ in this country.”

While love letters from President Harding to Britton do not survive, those he wrote to Phillips do and have recently been released to the public, digitized and available on the Library of Congress website.

Nan Britton spent her life standing by her presidential love story and faced much ridicule for it. In this case the final “proof” endures in the genetic genealogy of a family. Britton died in 1991 in Oregon, still viewed with contempt by some who believed she told lies that tarnished Harding’s reputation. Her daughter Elizabeth died in 2005, ten years before the 2015 DNA test that proved the story that her mother consistently told all those years was the truth.

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DNA Shows That Jews Came from the Middle East

This might sound obvious, but this new DNA-driven conclusion is loaded with political impact that will reverberate around the world.

article about DNA tests proving Jews came from the Middle East, Algemeiner, 13 November 2014

Algemeiner, 13 November 2014

FamilyTree DNA’s finding is a clear indicator of the growing sophistication of current DNA technology to predict the ancestral origins and geographic spread of our ancestors. For example, some of this testing showed that one of the largest Jewish ancestral groups—Ashkenazi Jews—“descend from a small group of about 350 individuals who lived between 600 and 800 years ago.” It’s amazing that DNA can be this precise. It will work this way for you too—do it. Sign your family up for DNA testing today.

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Read the full story about the DNA test findings on Algemeiner, 13 November 2014, here:

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Recent DNA Breakthrough: Oldest Genome in New World Recovered

DNA is unlocking the distant past of our family history. Researchers have looked again at previously found prehistoric skeletons and remains to see if they could harvest DNA. They were successful with the skeleton of an18-month-old boy from the Clovis period who died more than 12,000 years ago. His remains were found in 1968 in Montana.

According to a recent CBS News report, the DNA test results showed that: “The boy’s genome also showed his people were direct ancestors of many of today’s native peoples in the Americas, researchers said. He was more closely related to those in Central and South America than to those in Canada. The reason for that difference isn’t clear, scientists said.” The genome is the oldest ever successfully recovered from the New World.

Clearly this was no random burial. The boy was found buried with over 125 artifacts, with the objects and the skeleton “covered with powdered red ochre, a natural pigment, indicating a burial ceremony.”

a CBS News report of 12,000-year-old DNA being uncoded

Credit: CBS News

Read the entire story here:

Dr. Spencer Wells is a leading population geneticist and Director of the Genographic Project sponsored by National Geographic and IBM.

a photo of Dr. Spencer Wells, a leading population geneticist and Director of the Genographic Project sponsored by National Geographic and IBM

Photo: Dr. Spencer Wells. Credit: National Geographic.

Watch this quick clip of his remarks at RootsTech 2014:

Watch his complete presentation from the Friday morning session of RootsTech 2014. Speed forward to the 33 minute mark to begin watching his remarks:

DNA Testing & Genealogy: Is It Working for You?

Clearly DNA testing is revolutionizing 21st Century family history research.

DNA Testing Helps Orphan Find His Family

There are heartwarming stories about successful DNA tests—like that of 80-year-old Patrick J. Holland, who was raised in an orphanage and through DNA testing finally found his family.

Here is the full report on this touching family story, from CNN:

photo of a CNN report of 80-year-old Patrick J. Holland, who was raised in an orphanage and through DNA testing finally found his family

Credit: CNN

DAR Accepts DNA Test Results

Lynn Young, national president of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), has announced that the DAR is now accepting DNA test results as proof for women wanting to apply for membership.

For more details about the new DAR membership acceptance policy, see:

photo of Lynn Young, president general of the Daughters of the American Revolution

Credit: DAR

The new acceptance program starts with a DAR member with a proven (well-documented), accepted membership. Next you need to get DNA test results from a male descendant in that line. Then, if someone is applying for DAR membership but cannot produce the paper trail documentation back to the Revolutionary War period, there is now a way for that person to still gain membership—if that person has a DNA match between male relatives in both lines. The DAR says that the DNA evidence from both lines demonstrates that the applicant is related to the already-accepted member, and the applicant can use that DNA evidence of the male relative in support of her application.

DNA Study of Spanish Jews

A new DNA study of the descendants of Spanish (Sephardic) Jews has shown that statistically all Jews alive today have at least one Sephardic Jewish ancestor. Read the new genealogical study on Spanish Jewish ancestry from Cornell University here:

map showing migrations and settlements of the Spanish Jews

Credit: Wikipedia

European Jewish DNA Study

Another just-released Jewish DNA study shows that: “…the women who founded the Ashkenazi Jewish community of Europe were not from the Near East, as previously supposed, and reinforces the idea that many Jewish communities outside Israel were founded by single men who married and converted local women.” Read the complete New York Times (New York, New York), 8 October 2013, genealogy report here:

Genes Suggest European Women at Root of Ashkenazi Family Tree, New York Times newspaper article 8 October 2013

Credit: New York Times

Kemp Genealogy DNA Study

I am participating in a Kemp DNA study and it has changed our conclusions of our ancestral connections. The DNA test we’ve been participating in has shown that our County Cavan, Ireland, Kemp line is completely separate from the County Kent, England, Kemp line—which is the largest recorded Kemp family.

See the current Kemp DNA test results here:

test results from a Kemp DNA study

Credit: FamilyTree DNA

Our Cavan Kemp descendants are all coded to R1a1. The English Kemp lines are all coded to R1b1, which appears similar but—the experts tell me—actually proves that the two Kemp lines are not related at all.

Interestingly, the German Kemp lines are coded to E, and the Scandinavian Kemp lines are coded to I.

The R1a1 marker has remained consistent with the Cavan Kemp descendants in the Canadian line: Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Ireland and here in the United States.

These DNA test findings changed our entire view of how “all” Kemp lines are or are not related.

Is DNA Testing Working for You?

Has a DNA study impacted your family history research? Has it changed your view of your family tree?

What are you finding?

What breakthroughs have you found from DNA testing?

Please share your experiences with DNA testing in the comments section.

The Past Tells the Future of Genealogy: Is Anything Really New?

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott researches old newspaper articles to discover that what was new in genealogy 100 or more years ago is still new today.

There is nothing new except that which has been forgotten.

~ Marie Antoinette

This is certainly true in genealogy in a variety of ways. Naturally, we as genealogists spend a great deal of time and effort looking for that which has been forgotten or almost forgotten. We strive to discover, or rediscover actually, family history information every day.

On the other hand, I find it interesting when I hear some of the genealogy “pundits” trumpet all the newest “discoveries” in genealogy, often claiming that they are a harbinger of the end of genealogy as we know it. Some of these latest proclamations had me wondering, so I decided to see what was new (and old, which might have been forgotten) in genealogy through the historical newspapers in the database of

After a few quick searches, I encountered some terrific genealogy headlines and articles. Every one of them brought home the point that not all that much has changed in the world of genealogy! See if you can place the date of each of the following newspaper articles. Were these historical stories from yesteryear or news articles from today’s newspapers?

  • “Genealogy Study Rapidly Growing.” How often have we heard this? I especially appreciated this newspaper article’s subheadings: “In Recent Years Americans Have Been Making Great Study of the Family Tree” and “Genealogists Working Along New Lines and Startling Results Follow.” Sounds just like something I’d read in the news today.
Genealogy Study Rapidly Growing, San Jose Mercury News newspaper article 16 March 1912

San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, California), 16 March 1912, page 2

This newspaper article was published in 1912!

  • “Forum on computers, genealogy scheduled.” This one really could be from today, the type of article found in just about every genealogy society newsletter and newspaper column on “local happenings.” It is interesting to see the name of Genealogical Computing magazine in this article, and it is fun to see how far we have come in such a short time.
Forum on Computers, Genealogy Scheduled, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 22 September 1984

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 22 September 1984, page 20C

While this sounds like today’s genealogy news, this newspaper article was published in 1984!

  • “Of the New Genealogy, Its Enlarged Field of Study. How Genealogy as a Science May Help Us to Help Ourselves.” I wondered if this article might be discussing the role of DNA testing in genealogy today, but not quite… I enjoyed this article especially since it was on a topic near-and-dear to me: that of the needed link between genealogy and the academic world. Plus, this article is about an address given at the 60th anniversary of the New England Historic Genealogist Society by Charles K. Bolton.
Of the New Genealogy, Springfield Republican newspaper article 3 November 1909

Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 3 November 1909, page 15

This newspaper article was published in 1909!

  • “Genealogy business booming national one.” With the business of genealogy booming, it seems to offer good career opportunities. This article was from an advice column and the author seemed to have a pretty decent grasp of genealogy, which was fun to see.
Genealogy Business Booming National One, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 18 July 1981

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 18 July 1981, page 33

While this would be good career advice for genealogists today, this newspaper article was actually published in 1981!

  • “Who Was Your Grandfather?” I thought perhaps this was an article for the newest television spinoff of Who Do You Think You Are?
Who Was Your Grandfather? New-Hampshire Patriot newspaper article 27 August 1851

New-Hampshire Patriot (Concord, New Hampshire), 27 August 1851, page 3

While this headline seems right out of today’s news, it’s actually about finding an heir for the deceased Jennings—and the newspaper article was published in 1851!

  • “Old Tombstone Wanted.” Once again, this headline could be from practically any newspaper today; as I read the article I can almost feel the angst of the writer as he pleaded for anyone in the local community who may have known anything at all about the tombstone he was searching for.
Old Tombstone Wanted, Jackson Citizen Patriot newspaper article 23 October 1900

Jackson Citizen Patriot (Jackson, Michigan), 23 October 1900, page 2

While this newspaper article refers to “a genealogical chain” and “the genealogist and all his vagaries,” it was actually published in 1900!

  • “Cousin George’s Decision” The subtitle of this article “He Thought His New Found Relatives Were a Very Shoddy Lot” made me think that this story’s moral is as valid today as when the article was written.
Cousin George's Decision, Daily Alaska Dispatch newspaper article 24 January 1900

Daily Alaska Dispatch (Juneau, Alaska), 24 January 1900, page 2

However, this newspaper article was published in 1900!

  • “Genealogy of Slang.” This article earned its way to being copied and placed on my bulletin board. After all who knows when it might come in handy for me to use the word “Gellibagger”?
Genealogy of Slang, Repository newspaper article 15 March 1890

Repository (Canton, Ohio), 15 March 1890, page 5

While using slang in genealogy might seem like a modern topic, this newspaper article was published in 1890!

Thanks to this trip through the past using historical newspapers, we can see that: 1) genealogy has been in the news a long time; and 2) what was new then is sometimes new today. Truly, “Nothing in Genealogy is as new as that which has been forgotten.” The past is often one of the best places to look for clues to the future.

Have You Participated in a DNA Study for Ancestry Research?

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.

Genetic DNA Testing for Genealogy Image

Image Credit: Image by jscreationzs at

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.

What a great day for genealogy!