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From the Corson Cousins newsletter, October 2004

Corson/Colson DNA Surname Project: A Beginning

by Michael Corson

In the previous issue, Gale Corson issued a call to action to assess interest in beginning a Corson/Colson DNA surname study. Since then, Gale reports that relatively few members have expressed interest in participating. Though this number is too few to constitute an official CCFHA project at this point, it is enough to encourage me to begin a DNA surname study. After months of reading messages on the Rootsweb DNA-Genealogy mailing list, I've realized that many surname projects gather momentum gradually. As people with the focus surname(s) see the DNA results accumulate, some become more interested in seeing how they might compare to those already tested.

We can begin this study with a sample size of one: myself. In August, I had 43 specific locations (called "markers") on my Y-chromosome DNA tested; here are my results:

Marker

#

Marker

#

Marker

#

DYS-19

14

DYS-442

12

DYS-461

12

DYS-385a

11

DYS-444

12

DYS-462

11

DYS-385b

14

DYS-445

12

DYS-463

22

DYS-388

12

DYS-446

14

DYS-464a

15

DYS-389i

13

DYS-447

25

DYS-464b

15

DYS-389ii

29

DYS-448

19

DYS-464c

15

DYS-390

25

DYS-449

31

DYS-464d

17

DYS-391

10

DYS-452

12

GATA-A10

13

DYS-392

13

DYS-454

11

GATA-C4

23

DYS-393

13

DYS-455

11

GATA-H4

12

DYS-426

12

DYS-456

17

GGAAT1-B07

10

DYS-437

15

DYS-458

17

YCAIIa

19

DYS-438

12

DYS-459a

9

YCAIIb

23

DYS-439

13

DYS-459b

10

DYS-441

13

DYS-460

10

Now, what does this jumble of numbers (my personal "haplotype") mean for Corson/Colson genealogy?

Without other Corson/Colson results to compare it to, relatively little. However, they do tell me that I most probably belong to a genetic group (i.e., "haplogroup") called "R1b". By extension, this means that the progenitor of the Division I Corson line, Cornelius Cursonwhit, belonged to the same group, as do all of his descendants in Division I. A website run by an experienced coordinator for several DNA surname projects describes haplogroup R1b in this way:

R1b...is the most prolific haplogroup in Europe and its frequency changes in a cline from west (where it reaches a saturation point of almost 100% in areas of Western Ireland) to east (where it becomes uncommon in parts of Eastern Europe and virtually disappears beyond the Middle East). [...] Thus, a R1b haplotype makes it very challenging to determine the origin of a family with this DNA signature.

In short, knowing which haplogroup my haplotype belongs to tells me little about Cornelius Cursonwhit at the moment except that he and his ancestors most likely came from Western Europe.

Well, we knew that already.

Yes, but this test, at least, has confirmed our supposition. I emphasized "at the moment" because interest in genetic genealogy finally appears to have reached a critical mass since it began sometime around 1996. With well over 1000 DNA surname projects currently running, genetic genealogy has become a hot topic. The dataset of haplotypes grows daily, allowing greater precision in determining where the ancestors of those with a particular haplotype originated. For example, my values for the markers DYS-390 and DYS-391 (25 and 10, respectively) are relatively unusual for those in the R1b haplogroup. Until other related males in Division I are tested, I won't know how recently in Division I those interesting values arose. If other men in Division I have them (especially more distant cousins), it would indicate that Cornelius almost certainly had them, too. If they have slightly different values, however, it would indicate that mutations after Cornelius occurred to change our values. At this point, a lot of probabilities and mutation rates would come into play, making the issue more complicated. Nonetheless, if, say, at least four other men from Division I submit their DNA for testing, we should be able to deduce what Cornelius's haplotype looked like. Once we do, it could help us pin down his origins, someday. And if enough people participate, we can do this for the progenitor of every Division in CCFHA. If we did reach this ideal goal, the results would indicatehow closely related the Divisions are; they may even provide evidence (someday) to help answer the long debate over French or Dutch origins of some Divisions.

Because the advantages of a DNA surname study seem so great, I feel I must begin one. Here, now, is my call to join me and peer into Corson/Colson genealogy from a new perspective.

How to participate: Everyone, from every Division, is welcome to spread the word about this project. Because a surname study has to focus exclusively on the Y-chromosome, however, only men with the Corson/Colson surname (or one of the many variants) should submit DNA samples for testing. Women with the Corson/Colson surname, or individuals descended from them, who want an indication of their family's Corson/Colson haplotype need to contact their nearest male relative in the direct male line and ask him to submit a sample.

If you are a male Corson/Colson (or have a relative who is) and would like to submit a DNA sample for testing, please contact me:

Michael Corson

328 Toftrees Ave., Apt. 248

State College, PA 16803

E-mail: e-mail address

I hope to share additional DNA results from this new study in the next issue.

For those who are interested, you can subscribe to or view archives of the Rootsweb DNA-Genealogy mailing list at this address:

http://lists.rootsweb.com/index/other/DNA/GENEALOGY-DNA.html