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DNA/Surname project status June 2019

Where are we going?

The Oxfordshire DNA Project aims to collect detailed DNA information for people who can document a significant association (interaction with the gene pool) with this English county.  The county is not an island so for many there will also be interest within neighbouring counties.  We are particularly interested in Y-DNA because of its association with surnames, but also have interest in female-line mtDNA and autosomal (Family Finder) DNA.  Advanced matching with autosomal DNA can be used by to look for DNA ‘cousins’ among the group project members. To be able to reach valid conclusions about the genetic/genealogical makeup of the county, a much larger sample of members is needed but, like most group projects, the Oxfordshire one is growing slowly but steadily.

Your project administrators have sought to build on its Y-DNA data and its association with surnames by working to establish in parallel an Oxfordshire Surname Project.  About 1500 surnames have been listed, though we find that a proportion of these should probably not be considered ‘Oxfordshire’.  A shorter list of about 340 surnames has been selected which show a distinct association with the county. Through OFHS, about 450 people have shared information about their family trees which will support the compilation of material related to the surnames of interest.  A group of enthusiasts are trawling through Oxfordshire sources for records of surnames.   OFHS has also indexed parish registers that enables locating surnames in specific parishes over the period 1538 to 1899. The initial output from this activity is expected to include a publication (book) describing the history of a sub-set of selected surnames with commentary relating to DNA, if available.  As there will be too many surnames case studies for a single book, further surname studies are expected to be available on-line through the OFHS website.  The surname project entails a large amount of work and its results will take a little while to be productive.

How are we selecting our initial list of about 350 surnames? What is an Oxfordshire surname? Are early records biased towards those who have fame and status, something that DNA might be independent from?  With rare surnames it is relatively easy to decide if they are historically associated with the county and the parish records will show if it was present in the county before 1600. This is one end of a range the other end of which would be very common names, like Smith or Green, but we can look for early records of the name and whether the surname is over-represented in the county in more recent records, such as the 1881 census. We hope initially to cover a range of rare through to common surnames. Many families move location over time and may have appeared at some stage in Oxfordshire and thrived there. Others may have branches that left the county and thrived elsewhere in the world, hopefully not dying out in its original location. There are many small, but important, things to consider.

How can you help?

First we’d ask you to hang in there because we hope that we can start to draw on DNA and surname information that should be of use to you; it is complex and takes time. If you have a well-researched detailed family history, consider sharing it with the surname project if you are asked. If you know of males with an Oxfordshire heritage, ask them to consider taking a Y-DNA test and joining the DNA project. 

If your name is not on our names top list then you can get it there but getting as many people (especially males) with that surname DNA tested and providing documentation that shows a strong connection of that surname with Oxfordshire over time.

Richard Merry

Comments about this page

  • Thank you for this update on your terrific project. I live in Perth, Australia, and am descended from James King, transported from Bampton as a convict to Van Diemen’s Land in 1822 for the theft of a lamb carcase. ( He was initially given the mandatory death sentence at the Oxford Assizes, so this was in some ways at least a fortunate outcome). I’ve seen the gravestones of family members in the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin at Bampton.

    Is the name King on the shorter list of Oxfordshire names? I’m searching my family tree for male descendants.

    Thanks and regards,

    Mary Lynch.

    By Mary Anne Lynch (27 June 2019)

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