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
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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!

12 thoughts on “Have You Participated in a DNA Study for Ancestry Research?

  1. My brother took a DNA test to try to get past the brickwall ancestor on our McManus line. Unfortunately, the test only leaves us and the very few others who descend from Lawrence McManus; more questions than answers. The only thing the DNA provided was to tell us that we do not connect to ANY known McManus family. So now we have the daunting task of trying to figure out when a name change took place. I’ve submitted the results of my brothers test to several surname groups associated with the McManus name with no results. I’ve also submitted the results to generalized groups for Irish DNA as well as for Fermanaugh, they area Lawrence was said to be from. No matches there either.

  2. What was the “haplogroup” that your DNA fell in? What haplogroups are the other McManus testers?

    DNA is such a new tool for genealogists. As it becomes more common for people to participate in this, you will be glad that your results were filed as part of the study.

    Knowing that you are not linked to the other McManus lines tested just means that you need to get more McManus men to participate. Knowing that you are not related to the few that have been tested is good news. It will save you time since now you know where not to look for your connections.

    Since McManus is such a common Irish name – you will want to encourage every McManus you meet to participate. Then with dozens, hundreds and thousands of test results in you will see a pattern of how the various McManus lines are or are not related.

    Congratulations again on getting the family DNA tested and on file as a reference point.

  3. I, too, have tested my DNA. I used Ancestry.com, which I understand only tells me my ethnicity. I have been disappointed with the results. I am told that I am 89% British Isles (which I had thought was 100%) and 11% Eastern European (a revelation). Since the results, I have gotten many hundreds of “DNA cousins” listed. Of those, most are 4th generation or greater (most all from the 11% Eastern European side of the family). Even the 2nd generation “cousin” who popped up was from this tiny slice of DNA. Neither of us can figure out a connection, even though we are talking what, eight sets of grandparents? Do you know of what might be a more accurate test? I know of Co. Cavan, Co. Mayo, and Co. Galway in my line. Thanks~

  4. Jayne: Keep in mind that DNA will show your links to specific relatives – but not be able to tell you the precise relationship from hundreds of years ago. It will give you the origins of the family in your ‘deeper’ ancestry – not contemporary times. For example – DNA will not reveal that you lived in Milwaukee but can tell you where your ancestors were living 1,000 and more years ago. I had my DNA tested using FamilyTree DNA and have been pleased with the results. So, when a DNA study is indicating the British Isles and Eastern Europe – consider that there were very few people living in pre-Roman Britain. It could well be that the farther and farther back you go the DNA trail is showing that our distant ancestors lived deeper in to Europe and later migrated west to Britain.

  5. I am frustrated with the new DNA results vs the old results with Amcestry.com.
    I had my father tested and was in the R1a haplogroup and there were some questions relating to his biological family. I had his brother tessted and the results came back with the new results of British Isles 36%Central European 30%Scandinavian 24%Eastern European 10%. I am totally frustrated with the results that are very different and am stumped with how to evaluate. I asked Ancestry and they want me to have my father tested with the new format. Any thoughts?


  6. My great grandfather is Lewis James Kemp, a descendant of Henry Kemp. I believe that Henry is the son of Richard Kemp, but have not been able to establish with accuracy. There are abt. 50 living members of my family that are very interested in this research. I was wondering if you could perhaps point me in the direction of any findings that would help further my search. I would greatly appreciate it.

    1. Hi Heather – wonderful to hear from you.

      Tell me a little more about your “Lewis James Kemp” – do you know where he lived? If you have them – what are his date/place of birth and date/place of death? I have been researching multiple Kemp lines for many years – I would be happy to assist you in learning more about your line.

      Let me encourage you to have various members of your 50 living Kemp relatives participate in the Kemp DNA study mentioned in this article. That will be pivotal for you in seeing which one of the distinctly separate Kemp family groups yours falls into.

      The link for the DNA study is here: http://www.familytreedna.com/public/Kemp/

      The link to participate in the study is here:

      They usually have a ‘special’ price around Father’s Day – so look for that.

      All the best,

    2. Hi Heather, if your Lewis James Kemp was the son of Henry Kemp and Sarah Cox of Dubois County, Indiana then Richard Kemp is not in your line. Henry Kemp’s father was Reuben Kemp 1754-1834, a Revolutionary War soldier with George Rogers Clark. Lewis James Kemp’s oldest brother was my Great (2) Grandfather, Benjamin Reuben Kemp. My e-mail is eskew54@netzero.com Best wishes, Dan Kemp

  7. Hi Tom, thank you for all your efforts on behalf of all us Kemp cousins. I’ve been researching my Kemp line since 1985 and recently I added the DNA test through Family Tree DNA. I had came to the conclusion that my line of the Kemps came from the British Isles and specifically Scotland. My haplogroup is R1b1a2 so my conclusions were correct according to your article. I can trace my Kemp line back to the early 1760s’ to New Jersey. Where do I go from there?

  8. Hello Tom,
    I took the FamilyTree DNA test to 37 markers and it confirmed that I am positively in Richard Kemp b.1715. My haplogroup is R1a1a. I have concrete proof of male line to a Sanford Kemp b.1836 in Gwinnett Co., GA. My problem has been making the connection between Sanford and Richard. I have collaborated with several Kemp researchers ( John Scott, Gary Pace, James Ross, Jim Barnes, Charles Kemp and several others). Charles and I have the same DNA except for one number. None of us can document the Richard line. We can’t find any documentation that Moses Kemp b.1749 was the son of Richard.
    There are many Kemp’s that settled in SC, GA, TN in the early 1800’s. I even contacted an archivist at the old Gwinnett Co., courthouse and a professional Genealogist and both said that they think but cannot prove that a Moses Kemp Jr. that is listed in the 1830 census may be Sanford’s father. There are so many leads that are dead ends. Even several Richard Kemps for that time period.
    Any help you can give us would be greatly appreciated by one and all
    Thanks for your time

  9. Congratulations Paul.
    Good work. It is clear to me that DNA testing is essential for today’s genealogists.

    Everyone should register for a DNA test – ASAP.
    Here’s why: http://bit.ly/1ouzzko

    Paul – send me your direct e-mail and I’ll correspond with you directly about your research. Write me at: TKemp@NewsBank.com

    Good to hear from you cousin.


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