KNOWLES SURNAME DNA PROJECT
The Knowles Surname DNA Project was
initiated in December 2002, when Robert B. Noles established the Knowles Project
by becoming the first Knowles participant with a DNA testing service for
genealogists. Surname DNA testing was first introduced by the new company,
Family Tree DNA in 2001.
for the Knowles Surname Project are posted on this Web site periodically.
Surname DNA Projects are based on the
unique properties of the male Y-Chromosome. The Y-DNA is passed down from
generation to generation (father to son) essentially unchanged (not so for any
of the other 22 chromosomes). It's this specific characteristic of the
Y-chromosome that permits us to use inexpensive DNA tests to supplement our
traditional genealogical efforts. Sorry ladies, this test is only possible
for men. Therefore, your participation needs to be via a father, uncle,
brother or male cousin who carries the Knowles surname (any spelling).
Y-DNA test requires only a simple swab taken on the inside of one's cheek.
No blood nor the use of needles is required. The DNA test kit, which
includes the swabs and simple instructions, is mailed to your home via regular
U.S. Mail and the kit is returned to the lab in the same manner. The whole
process is very simple. When the test has been completed, participants are
provided with a report documenting the results, that are certified by a DNA
physician. FTDNA provides the participant with the report explaining the
fundamental meaning of the results, and the Knowles Surname DNA Project Manager
(Robert B. Noles)
provides the participant with the genealogical interpretation of the results.
The primary reasons for doing the
Y-chromosome DNA test are:
for someone who has a well established surname genealogy, going back to a pre
19th century progenitor, the purpose of the Y-DNA test is to establish
absolute proof; not always possible with just the the paperwork.
In other words, the DNA test will prove (or disprove) that the traditional
genealogical paper trail has not hidden an illegitimate birth or an adoption
that broke the direct surname descent. Of course, some people don't care
if there was a break and others just don't want to know if there was a break
in their line. However, if you do want the proof, the Y-DNA test will do
that for you.
by obtaining the DNA test, you will help others (your cousins) establish proof
for their Knowles line back to your common Knowles ancestor.
we will no doubt run into some of our Knowles cousins who won't know that they
are a cousin. However, if we establish the Y-DNA profile for every
Knowles line, we will be able to focus the traditional genealogical research
to find their connection to the right Knowles family.
thru DNA testing, you can establish if you have Native American heritage or
not (for direct male only with the Y-DNA test) as well as the other
ethnicities outside of the traditional Western European lines (within
genealogical time frames).
but not necessarily least, you can learn about your deep ancestral roots
(beyond genealogical time frames) before the time when surnames were first
used and in fact for 100s of generations. For example, Robert B. Noles
always assumed his heritage was basic English, although his Noles/Knowles
ancestors were in the U.S. before the Revolutionary War. However, his
deep Y-DNA markers indicate an original origin in Scandinavia. Perhaps
some of his ancestors arrived in England from Scandinavia thousands of years
ago (perhaps a Viking). While this knowledge and 50 cents might buy you
a cup of coffee in a cheap restaurant, it is interesting to study world
history in light of your deep ancestral roots.
The success of a DNA project of this type
depends on the comparison of results from one member to another.
Therefore, lots of participants are required to produce meaningful results for
us all. Unfortunately, it will be many years (hopefully not too
many) before we will be able to plug our DNA results into the computer and have
the machine spit out our genealogy (there are such projects getting
underway). But that's another long story. Stay tuned! See the
DNA-101 article Building a Correlated Genetic and
Genealogy Database for more information on this subject.
Most of the original participants in the
Knowles Surname DNA Project opted to purchase the 12-marker, entry level test
(the price for the12-marker test was attractive and it was my recommendation
during the initial months for the project, when very few results were available
for evaluation). We quickly made some exact matches (meaning multiple
participants in the Knowles Project had a common Knowles ancestor) using the
12-marker tests for several known Edmund "Old Silverhead" Knowles
As the number of participants in the
Knowles Project has increased (and as more of the participants have initially
obtained or upgraded their Y-test from 12 markers to 25, 37 or even to 67 markers), we
are now obtaining results for men who are either not "OSH" descendants
or have not proven that they are "OSH" descendants (as determined by
conventional genealogical research). The recent results from the 25 and 37 marker
tests have permitted the Project to produce important insight into the meaning
and usefulness of the DNA test results. Two important observations are the
result of the recent evaluations of actual test data from the current Knowles
The 12-marker test is an effective
screening test to establish whether a person is from a particular Knowles
progenitor; however, it may not always be specific enough to establish the proof
we desire in many cases and might be somewhat misleading. The limitations
of the 12-marker test were discovered while analyzing the results obtained from
25-marker tests conducted for some of the more recent participants. In
some cases, a participant's results appear to be a match (11 for 12 or 12 for
12) when reviewing the 12-marker test results, but the match is less than
perfect when the 25-marker results are evaluated.
Initially, I was very selective in
recommending who obtained the 25-marker tests (to keep the cost down, whenever
possible). As a result of what is now known about Y-chromosome test
results, I am recommending that all participants initially obtain the 25-marker
test and that the earlier participants upgrade their tests from 12 to 25-markers
(no new swab is required for the upgrade). I realize the extra cost may
not be acceptable to some participants and that's O.K. We hope to get
sufficient participation in the future. Just be aware that the 12-marker
results are limited.
25-marker results will greatly assist the
determination of our ancestry prior to the time surnames were first used, 500 to
800 years ago (depending on the location). While we won't be able to
establish actual names of these ancestors, we may be able to establish where
they lived. Fantastic studies are underway that are revising the map of
human history. These studies are based on Y-chromosome DNA and in some
cases mitochondria DNA testing in conjunction with archeological findings from
the past few hundred years. If you want to read about some of the early
studies and their conclusions, I'd recommend the following books (all available
in paperback) and listed in the order that I'd recommend that they be read
(listed by level of comprehension required - easier listed first):
Journey of Man, by Spencer Wells (a geneticist and explorer)
Human History, by Steve Olson (a veteran science journalist)
Great Human Diasporas: The History of Diversity, by Luigi Luca
Cavalli-Sforza (Dr. Cavalli-Sforza is an Emeritus Professor of Genetics
at Stanford University Medical School)
Of course, if you haven't read
Seven Daughters of Eve, by Prof. Bryan Sykes (a professor of genetics
at the Institute of Molecular Medicine at Oxford University and the founder of
OxfordAncestors,com, another company that provides DNA testing for genealogists,
similar to FTDNA, the company we use for the Knowles Project), I highly
recommend that you do so for additional background information concerning the
powerful use of DNA for human history research.
The references above will help you
understand more about the long range significance of the ground breaking
endeavor we are involved in. I will be sharing more information concerning
these important DNA studies relative to human history that go way beyond
traditional genealogical proof in upcoming Knowles DNA Surname Project Status
In the future, I will want to provide some
potential participants in the Knowles Surname DNA Project with a stipend to help
them pay for their test. This would be in the case where the Project needs
a descendant from a particular Knowles line to have as a basis of comparison
with an existing participant, and where the individual is willing to have the
test, but is not in position to cover the total cost of the test.
Therefore, if you are able to provide a small donation to be used for this
purpose, I and many of the other potential participants would greatly appreciate
your support. Several Project participants and KKNFA members (who are not
participants) have already made contributions to the DNA fund totaling almost
Robert B. Noles
Knowles Surname DNA Project Administrator