Posted By:Margaret Press
Subject:Bearse-Hyanno DNA Project proposal
Post Date:November 02, 2008 at 08:46:04
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Forum:Bearse Family Genealogy Forum
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The whole Bearse-Hyanno marriage-or-myth story is fascinating on a lot of levels. Given what appears to be a total absence of any definitive primary sources that could prove Austin (1) was a full-blooded Rom, (2) married Mary Hyanno, (3) did not marry Mary Hyanno (I wish I could find some followup thread details on the alleged church records in Barnstable that “disproved” (1) and (2) above), I propose the following:

Let’s start two DNA projects –

(1)       A mtDNA project, ideally with volunteers from each of Austin’s daughter lines, BUT he/she MUST be able to claim a total maternal line descendency back to the daughter. The tester can be male if his MOTHER can make this claim. I noted that Mike Warner had a mtDNA test done that showed him to be “100% European.” The question is, is his connection to Austin Bearse’s wife or daughter through an exclusively maternal line? Even ONE male along that direct line would mean he wasn’t looking at Austin’s wife’s mtDNA, but rather the mtDNA of the wife of that later intervening male.

The mtDNA results consist of a haplogroup assignment, based on DNA passed down unchanged (well, a mutation every couple thousand years) from mother to daughter. (Passed to sons too, but not passed “through” sons.) So your mtDNA is always “100%” of ONE line of your thousands of female ancestors. I.e. your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s… etc.

The haplogroup roughly corresponds to the migratory route out of Africa her maternal line traveled tens of thousands of years ago. There are many haplogroups that are very common in Europe. And there are 5 others that are associated with Native Americans (A, B, C, D, X.) IF our volunteer’s haplogroup turns out to be one of the groups that came through Europe, this would strongly indicate that the mother of Austin’s children was NOT Mary Hyanno. If instead our tester’s haplogroup is A-D or X, this would almost certainly prove that her heritage WAS Native American, given what we know about the family history from the Bearse children forward.

Can DNA testing “prove” whether Mary Hyanno was the mother of Austin’s children – or some of them? No. DNA tests do not name names. All it can do – and this it does with a high degree of reliability – is tell us the deep root origins of the test-taker’s maternal line. IF the result is A-D or X, the mtDNA of the test-taker got to him/her via a woman of Native American ancestry. (I.e. came here over the Bering Strait, not via Europe.) Given the unlikelihood that there were Native Americans living in England in the 1600s, this scenario would certainly rule out Mary Wilder as the mother of these children.

I applaud Mike’s willingness to get tested. But his results help us only if (a) he can tell us his mtDNA haplogroup and (b) he can claim his own mother descended from a daughter of Austin Bearse exclusively along the female line.

(2)       A Y-DNA project, to see if Austin was or was not a “gypsy” (Rom). We should have a minimum of 3 male volunteers. In this case the testers’ surname MUST be Bearse/Bearce/Bears – i.e. descended from Austin along an exclusively paternal line. The Roma are genetically pretty distinct – almost half of the males are haplogroup H-M82. The rest are most likely still identifiably Rom through other founder patriarchs. The results could therefore likely answer whether he was “full-blooded gypsy” or not. If he was not, that takes away the argument that he was more prone to marry an Indian given his heritage. (Though it certainly doesn’t settle it!)

If anyone is interested in either of these projects (they involve cheek swabs and cost about $100-200) I’ll volunteer to set it up. (Creating a surname project gets us group rates and a free family website). I just checked Family Tree DNA (one of the largest and very reliable testing companies) and there are no Bearse/Bearse/Bears surname projects in existence yet. Also – I’d jump at the chance myself but I’m female and descended from Austin via -> Priscilla -> Martha Hall -> Robert Paddock, so Robert ruins the maternal line connection for me.

Any volunteers? If yes – please tell us your connection back to Austin. When there’s a serious participant I’ll set up a project. Email me offline at for details. I’ll keep the forum updated, and when we have results we just might be able to do more than conjecture about this hugely popular and emotional story. To quote Hillel Halkin in “Jews and Their DNA” (Commentary, Sept 2008):

“There may be a few people who can subsist on an austere regimen of all truth and no myth, and there are all too many people who live on a flabby diet of all myth and no truth. But some indeterminably proportioned combination of the two dispositions is what most of us require for our health.”