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DNA-surname study projects: a valuable genealogical tool
Posted by: Bob (ID *****4116) Date: September 14, 2009 at 23:25:34
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For those who have unfortunately run into a genealogical "brick wall", after many years of labor-intensive research (using traditional research methods), science and technology have finally provided us with a very exciting and potent tool to aid us in our long-standing quest for accurately identifying our ancestral heritage. And that tool is y-DNA testing.

Although y-DNA testing has only become accessible to the public over the last nine years or so, it’s quickly becoming a “godsend” for many of us who’ve spent years on exhaustive genealogical research, only to be left with a “long” list of potential immigrant ancestors to consider “at the end of the day”. DNA testing, on the other hand, can enable us to “eventually” narrow such a potential ancestor list down to just one, given a large enough DNA database, and this is primarily due to the fact that our DNA profiles are “nearly” unique, and shared only with those who are truly related to us “by blood” – not just by marriage, adoption, etc.

Although traditional genealogical research methods will always have a valid and necessary place in one’s genealogical research endeavors (for documentation purposes, etc), relying solely on the “old paper trail” will not allow the researcher to go that “extra step”, which is critical in helping verify the “actual” relatedness (or not) between two males having the same surname (regardless of it’s spelling). I say this because the “paper trail” is only as good as the source(s) behind it. That is to say, it’s dependent upon the completeness, truthfulness and thoroughness of those providing and/or recording public records data, as well as the interpretive abilities of those reviewing such data. Consequently, errant public records data can mislead or sidetrack an unseasoned, or unsuspecting genealogist in many ways, thereby leading a researcher “down the wrong path”, and ultimately to errant assumptions about their ancestor(s) on many levels. A few examples of this would include:

(1) the occasional, incorrect surname spelling by an early American county records clerk (which may lead one to mistakenly ignore key family data),

(2) an errant designation of a “visiting nephew” as a “natural son” in a census entry (as census takers were human and did make assumptions and mistakes for expediency, etc), or

(3) the designation of an “adopted” child as a “natural” child, etc, with it’s obvious consequences.

Need I say more? And again, these are but a few examples. My point? Again, that “at the end of the day”, although the “paper trail” is highly necessary in any researchers’ endeavors (and will always be), the paper trail “alone” simply cannot provide “scientific-based” proof of the relatedness, or non-relatedness, of two (male) researchers having the same surname – at least not for the “serious” genealogical researcher. It merely allows one to build a case based on circumstantial (and potentially misleading) evidence - not “scientifically-based” evidence.

But now, science and technology have, thankfully, come to the rescue and provided genealogists with a “godsend”, in the form of DNA testing. Although said testing focuses only on a very small segment of the entire DNA strand (i.e., the y-DNA, or male DNA found in the 46th chromosome) it can, indeed, provide “scientific-based” evidence to help determine the degree of relatedness, or non-relatedness, of one male to another male, having the same surname (no matter the spelling), and in turn, to their ancestral line as well. So now, we don’t have to be at the mercy of “public record” errors, etc., as we currently have scientific means to help “confirm” or “refute” a researcher’s findings. In other words, “serious” family historians who actually want to “the truth” to hand down to their descendants, instead of a collection of handed-down half-truths, assumptions and circumstantial evidence from public records, will realize the need in convincing a male representative of their family to participate in a DNA study associated with their surname.

So how does this all work, and how can I get involved? Well, for background information on how y-DNA testing is helping today’s genealogists, as well as all necessary testing-related information that one will need to participate, one can always use an internet search engine to pull up various “y-DNA testing” web sites, many of which provide a thorough overview and background information on this subject. One very popular and informative web site (of many) associated with y-DNA testing is, or more specifically,

Another good overview of the benefits of DNA testing can be found on a website for one of FamilyTreeDNA’s competitor’s, DNA Heritage, at

Both companies refer to their DNA study projects as “surname projects”, as y-DNA is associated only with males, and males, with rare exception, retain their surname generation after generation after generation.

Having said that, any male (only),surnamed ERVIN(or any variant spelling~ e.g., ERVINE, IRVING, IRWIN, IRWINE, etc.) can now participate in a y-DNA Project, which was launched for the purpose of helping narrow down our list of potential immigrant ancestors, so that we can ultimately arrive at the correct one, once a sufficient number of people participate, "and" the DNA database expands to allow “hits” or matches with other participants. In fact, men from all over the world are now beginning to participate in such projects, which will ultimately serve to benefit all of our research efforts.

So, on behalf of all of those who have already participated in these projects, we strongly encourage all males (only), who have “any variation” of the surname ERVIN (et al) to participate as well –not only for your benefit, but for our collective benefit as well. Results thus far in the ongoing project are posted at

As a side note, for any potential participants who may be the least bit concerned about privacy-related issues, these are fully addressed within the links associated with the above web site. And since this international study only deals with a very tiny, and specific, segment of the entire DNA sequence, it can only be used to aid in scientifically confirming the degree of relatedness between the many ERVIN (et al) study participants - merely to help us determine which participant we share a common ERVIN (et al)ancestor(s) with ~ if any~ and estimate how many generations back this event likely occurred. In fact, this study has already allowed me to eliminate a couple of long-standing, potential ancestors (of my own surname) “off” of my own list, so that I am now able to focus on the remaining potential lines that I've assimilated in my many years of research to date. And obviously, as more and more study results (and hopefully matches, or near matches) come in from worldwide participants, our search can be even further narrowed, thus bringing us closer to scientifically identifying our "true" ancestral line, as well as their country of origin, etc., if we're fortunate.

So, by all means, please participate if you can and see the above link for further details. A mere twelve (12) y-DNA marker test should be quite sufficient for now.

Best wishes,

P.S. For those ERVIN (et al) descendants who also claim to have some Native American ancestry, FTDNA also offers associated DNA testing to aid in helping establish one’s potential DNA connection to one of five or so major Indian tribal groups. For more information on such testing, etc., the following website can be of help:

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