The unraveling of the double-helix DNA structure was first accomplished
just over 50 years ago (April 1953) by scientists James Watson and Francis Crick.
They received a Nobel Prize in 1962 for their monumental legacy. Subsequent decoding of the biological blueprint to life has led to breakthroughs in
crime investigation, medicine and genealogy.
Most of us are now quite familiar with
forensic scientists demonstrating the value of DNA in solving crimes. DNA
analysis has also been vital in verifying paternity, indicating the likelihood
of inheriting life-threatening or disabling diseases, as well as responsible for
break-troughs in medical research. The same technology can now also be
used by family historians to make physical connections with their ancestors, not
by having centuries-old relatives exhumed, but by a simple comparative analysis
of cheek cells from living descendants of our ancestors.
historians often find themselves 'hitting the wall', after thoroughly
researching every known and available genealogical record. Researchers may
find they are unable to verify genetic links to ancestors, especially when the
ancestors in question emigrated from overseas several centuries ago.
Records may be incomplete, destroyed or lost. In many cases, our ancestors
lives may not have been well documented. Nuances in surname creation and
spelling of the surname down through the years may have caused confusion and
lost genealogical trails. And finally, oral family histories that we
depend on in some cases may be faulty.
some cases, no matter how much effort, time and money are put into a family
history project, the research results in a 'dead end'. Many researchers
give up at this point or perhaps wait for dozens of years hoping a missing piece
of documentation will show up. Now, thanks to advances in genetic science,
the walls are beginning to crack as genealogists turn to DNA analysis to develop
confirmed links with their ancestors.
Genetics testing is the
greatest new tool available to genealogists since the creation of the Family
Tree! After all, DNA is the
Recently, it has become increasingly apparent that we are all related, and I don't mean just those of us with the same surname in our family tree.
The question is not are we related; but how far back in time is our common ancestor.
Some day, the science of genetics is going to use our DNA to help structure our basic family tree far beyond what we can do with standard generational research using historical documentation.
For our purposes today, DNA testing can already tell us if one Knowles descendant is related to another Knowles descendant via
learn more about the wonderful new world of genetics testing in support of
genealogy, please read on. A number of links have been provided below to help
you understand why genetics testing is rapidly becoming a great tool for
genealogists, to tell you everything you ever wanted to know about genetics and
genetics testing, as well as how to participate the Knowles Surname DNA Project.
For family historians there are
two major areas of interest in DNA:
- the study of
the earliest history of man and woman through the long term
mutations of our DNA (think thousands of years).
- the study of recent DNA changes to help find
genealogical connections (think hundreds of years)
are independent studies, they are both of interest to us as family
historians. We would all like to know where our ancient
ancestors came from as well as finding and/or confirming connections
The difference between these two
study groups of DNA derive from two kinds of mutations that occur in
a person's DNA that take place over the short and long term.
The two types of mutations are:
- Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (called 'Snips')
- Short Tandem Repeats
are very rare occurrences of a change in a single chemical base (1
out of 3 billion). Such changes at a specific location have
occurred only once in the history of modern humans. These very
rare mutations permit scientists to map and place a time frame on
the early human migrations out of Africa. Once a 'snip' has
occurred, it's passed on the all subsequent generations.
are lengths of DNA with repetitious sequences of the chemical bases.
Although these mutations are relatively rare they occur much faster
than 'snips'. The STRs on the male Y-chromosome permit the
tracking of living descendants of a common ancestor who lived within
the past 300 to 600 years.
Surname DNA Project
Genetics testing in support
of genealogical research is now readily available and affordable. In
December 2002, Robert B. Noles was established as the Project Manager for the
Knowles Surname DNA Project. This
project involves testing the Y-chromosome DNA for men with the surname Knowles
(all spellings) to establish the unique DNA profile for each of the various
Knowles genealogical lines. Only men have a Y-chromosome. Women have two
X-chromosomes, so obviously they cannot be tested for this project (Note: a
different type of DNA, called mitochondrial (mtDNA) can be tested to determine direct
female lines of descent, but that's a whole different story and perhaps a basis
for a future project). These Genetics Web pages will provide both background concerning why DNA testing is important for genealogists and a
summary of the results from tests already conducted.
What is DNA ?
is the double-stranded helical molecule found in the cells of all living
organisms. DNA contains the biological, genetic instructions to build an
organism. DNA also controls the day-to-day function for all cells.
A gene is an instruction comprised of a section of the long, double stranded
helical molecule of DNA. About 25,000 genes are contained in the human DNA
in packages called chromosomes.
Chromosomes are paired threadlike Ďpackagesí
of long segments of DNA contained within the nucleus of each living cell. In
humans, there are 23 pairs of chromosomes. In 22 of the pairs, both members are
essentially identical in structure, one deriving from the individualís mother,
the other from the father. The 23rd pair is different. In females,
the 23rd pair has two like chromosomes called ĎXí. In males, the
23rd is comprised of one 'X' and one 'Y'; two very dissimilar
chromosomes. It is these differences in chromosome 23 that determines the
sex of an individual at conception.
Autosomal DNA (atDNA) -
The autosomal DNA is the portion of the DNA in
the nucleus of all of our cells that contains all the information and
instructions which determine our individual genetic identity. Our
autosomal DNA is the random combination of all the genetic information passed
down to us from all of our direct line ancestors (male and female).
Autosomal DNA is contained in the two sets of chromosomes in the nucleus
of all of our cells. These are the chromosomes that determine our unique
identity and appearance. We receive these chromosomes from our mother and
father (one set from each one). There are 44 autosomal chromosomes
arranged in 22 pairs numbered 1-22 from the largest (#1) to the smallest (#22).
Autosomal genetic markers are used for the typical paternity tests and
individual identify tests in the forensic field, but not typically used for
Y-Chromosome DNA (Y-DNA)
- The Y-chromosome, the
smallest chromosome is one of the 23rd chromosomes also found in the
nucleus of our cells. The Y-chromosome is found only in
males. It is one of the sex determining chromosomes (the other
being the X-chromosome). The Y-chromosome is passed from a
father to a child via a sperm cell which contains the Y-chromosome
of the father. The sperm cell having a Y-chromosome determines
that the child will be a male. Thus only males have the
Y-chromosome and only males can pass along the Y-chromosome from
father to sons. Y-DNA markers are used in surname DNA projects
to establish the Y-chromosome profile for a particular direct male
line represented by the surname.
X-Chromosome DNA (X-DNA)
- The X-chromosome is
the other of the two smallest chromosomes in the nucleus of our
cells, known as the sex determining chromosomes. Males
have one X-chromosome and one Y-chromosome. If the father
passes on his X-chromosome via his sperm, the resulting child will
have two X-chromosomes, one from the child's mother and and
the other from the child's father. In such cases the child
will be a female. The X-chromosomes when paired in females
also interchange genetic information via cross-over effects similar
to what happens with the autosomal chromosomes. Thus after
just a few generations it is very difficult to track the ancestry of
a particular X-chromosome's genetic markers. Therefore testing
of the X-chromosome is not typically used for genealogical projects
except in some family reconstruction analysis cases involving only a
couple of generations.
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)
- Mitochondrial DNA is a
non-nuclear DNA (DNA not contained in the nucleus of a cell).
mtDNA is a small molecule contained in the Mitochondria organelles
which are located inside of the cells of all of a mother's children,
both male and female. The mtDNA is passed on from
generation to generation via the egg cell of the mother, therefore
only females can pass on the mtDNA to their offspring.
Therefore, mtDNA testing is also useful for genealogists for tracing
the direct female ancestry of an individual.
Important to Genealogists ?
The Y-chromosome is passed down from generation to
generation (father to son) normally unchanged. The very minor changes that do
occasionally occur at random (usually only after many generations) are actually
very helpful in assessing the results of the DNA test. The Y-chromosome is the
only human chromosome that escapes the continual reshuffling of parental genes
with every new generation. It is this unique characteristic of chromosome 23
that makes the Y-chromosome so important for genealogists.
For any particular individual, it is a random chance as to
which parentís chromosome (and its associated DNA) will be inherited. For
example, one or more of the genes in one of the human chromosomes determines the
child's eye color. Brown is dominant over blue, so if the child inherits a brown
eye gene from one parent and a blue eye gene from the other parent, the child
will have brown eyes. Because eye color is a visible characteristic, you may be
able to determine (guess) which parent provided the brown eye gene to the child. However, in most cases, because the genes are inherited at random in every
generation, for any given characteristic of your makeup, you will typically not
know whether the activated gene in the child came from the mother or the father.
Men can only inherit the Y-chromosome from their father,
because the mother doesn't have a Y-chromosome (that's the difference between
boys and girls!). A man passes down his surname and his Y-chromosome DNA to his
son. In most Western countries since the middle ages, the surname has been patrilineal. So, here in the 21st century we can test the male Y-chromosome and know with a
great deal of certainty the identity of the Y-chromosome that the man's male
ancestors had over 500 years ago when surnames were first used. We don't have to
dig up our ancestors to test their DNA! In fact, the Y-chromosome deteriorates
rapidly after death, so it is unlikely a DNA test could determine oneís
Y-chromosome profile for someone who is no longer living.
Responsible for the Testing
and the Analysis of Results?
Family Tree FDA (FTDNA), a
company out of Houston, Texas, is managing the DNA testing for the Knowles
Surname DNA Project. FTDNA requires only a gentle swab from inside your cheek to
obtain a good DNA sample for the test. Testing of the DNA takes about 5 weeks
after the test swab is received by the laboratory. Certified test results
are provided to the submitter and to the Project Administrator (Robert B. Noles) to make the necessary genealogical
comparisons and interpretations. The results of one individualís tests will not define his Knowles
ancestor. We need to be able to compare the results from one man's test against
the results of other Knowles men to establish the genealogical links.
compare the features provided by
the major companies
supplying genetic genealogy testing
are Obtained ?
A 12, 25, 37 or 67-marker test is
conducted on the cells retrieved from your cheek. The more markers tested,
the more certain we can be of a match (genealogical link) between two or more
participants. Markers are specific loci on the genes within the human
chromosome. The markers (12, 25, 37 or 67) that are examined have been
selected by the 'experts' to best represent the unique nature of the
Y-chromosome. The Y-chromosome has many 100s of loci, perhaps several
1,000 all together, but the scientists have been able to narrow down the number
to a few loci that they believe are the most meaningful for genealogical test
purposes. In other words, when we compare the specific test results for
each marker for one man's DNA against other men, we are most likely to determine
if there is a recent common ancestor using as few as 12-markers (although
25 or more markers provides results with greater probabilities). In some
cases, the 12-marker test will suffice; however, in many cases, we may need to
run a more definitive test using 25 or more markers to be very sure of the
results. The more markers used for the test, the more likely (higher
probability) there is a recent common ancestor when all the markers for both men
are tested to be identical (12 for 12, 25 for 25, 37 for 37, and 67 for 67) or very nearly identical (11
for 12, 23 for 25, 34 for 37, and 62 for 67). Obviously the more markers tested, the higher the
cost of the test, although DNA testing for genealogical purposes is now quite
The test results by themselves won't mean
much to the casual observer. In fact, you can't plug your results into a
computer database and have it print out your genealogy. Someday, this may
be possible, but not today. That's another whole different story.
Anyway, what we can do today is compare a manís DNA test results with the
results of other men who have been tested in the same manner. When the
results are an exact match, we know that there is a 99% probability that the two
men tested have a recent common ancestor. So, when we have men with fairly
well established genealogies, such as we have for many of the Knowles lines, we
can then assume an individualís results represent the Y-chromosome profile for
that particular ancestor.
KNOWLES Surname DNA Project
The KKNFA has
established a Knowles Surname DNA testing program for the male Y-chromosome
through Family Tree DNA.
A general discussion of Y-DNA testing and the benefits to the
Knowles, Knoles, Noles genealogical research efforts is
covered in under the Knowles
Surname DNA Project Report (below). No needles are used and a blood sample is NOT required for this
It is suggested
that you review the current Knowles
Surname DNA Project Report, before proceeding. However, if you
are ready to place an order for a genetics genealogy test, use the following
SURNAME PROJECT REPORT
Welcome to the Project Report for the
Knowles Surname DNA Project.
This 'publication' is a comprehensive look at the field of Genetic
Genealogy and its impact on the research for the Knowles surname
lines (for all spellings of the surname, including: Knoles, Knoll,
Noel, Noles, etc.).
If you are already
familiar with the Knowles Surname DNA Project,
you may elect to use the following links or the links above to further your
knowledge of DNA and DNA testing
(DNA-101), the Family
Tree DNA Company (FTDNA), to
a DNA Test or review the
Robert B. Noles has
established the Knowles Surname DNA testing program for the male Y-chromosome
through FamilyTreeDNA.com.A general discussion of Y-DNA testing and the benefits to the
Knowles, Knoles, Noles genealogy research efforts is
covered in this Report.
This and subsequent updates to this Report will provide you with:
about how and why utilizing DNA testing can benefit and focus your
genealogical research efforts,
results you can expect from a DNA test,
and where to obtain a DNA test,
results are interpreted, and
latest Knowles results.
The Knowles Surname DNA Project Report has three
recruit new participants for the Knowles Surname DNA Project,
inform current participants of their results in comparison to all participants
serve as a reference document for Genetic Genealogy for the participants.
The availability of inexpensive DNA testing for
genealogical and ancestry investigation purposes is beginning to unravel some of
the mysteries of our origins that cannot be accomplished with traditional
For example, do you answer YES to any of these questions:
you hit a brick wall with your research?
find any documents for that elusive ancestor?
find your ancestorís homeland?
if you are related to another family with the same surname?
like to know if the family stories concerning Native American heritage are
DNA testing for genealogists can unlock the clues to your
genealogy enigmas, because you and the other descendants of your ancestors have
inherited DNA from those ancestors at every generation.
One or more of the genealogical DNA tests available today
if two people are related
if two people descended from the same ancestor
an approximate time frame for the common ancestor
a possible point of origin for your surname
if other surnames are variants of your surname
your family tree
out who with your surname is related
or disprove a research theory
clues to solve brick wall situations
others to whom you are related
your ancestors migration
Native American or Cohanim ancestry
clues about your ethnic origin
The Knowles Surname DNA Project is a growing prime example
of the use of this new technology. The Knowles Surname DNA Project Report is
posted here to provide a summary of
the results obtained to date from project participants and to continue our
education concerning the use of genetics testing in support of genealogy.
You do NOT need to be a member of the
Knowles/Knoles/Noles Family Association to participate
in the Knowles Surname DNA Project.
If you are already a member of the Knowles Surname DNA
Project, your participation is much appreciated by me and hopefully by many
current and future frustrated Knowles genealogists, who have been unable to
connect their Knowles lines to one of the many known Knowles progenitors.
If you are not already a participant in or contributor to the Knowles Surname
DNA Project, please join this historic project as soon as possible.
Although the testing is for Knowles (any spelling) men only, females can
participate by sponsoring a male Knowles cousin, nephew, brother, father, or
uncle. A blood sample is NOT required for this
addition to the summary of results, we need to
genetic distance, what
DNA tests are available and the
pricing for all FTDNA genetics tests for
genealogical purposes. The Knowles Surname Project is a Y-chromosome
project involving genetics testing for men. However, the summary of all
DNA tests available for genealogical purposes and the associated pricing for
these tests is included in the report, because many of you might want to pursue some of the other
genetics tests. In some cases, the favorable
pricing for combinations of tests might
be attractive to you.
Have you been thinking about taking a DNA test, and are
waiting until you learn more? While this report may provide you with what
you need and want to know, the best way to learn is to obtain an actual DNA
test. Once you have your DNA results, and can compare your result to the
results of others, you will quickly see the power of DNA testing.
This Knowles Surname DNA Project Report is
subdivided further into the following four major sections. If you are new to genetics for
genealogy, it is suggested that you read the articles provided in Sections 1, 2
and 3 before ordering a test or asking a lot of questions. Many of your
questions will be answered herein. However, should questions arise that
are not covered, please contact
Use the links below to access other sections
of this Project
DNA - 101 (Explanation
of DNA basic information)
DNA 101 by the for the
Surname Project is my attempt to
explain the extremely complex and confusing science of Genetics and DNA in
layman terms. This article addresses DNA as it applies to Y-Chromosome testing
and genealogy as well as testing of mitochondrial DNA. Also included are
discussions as to how to interpret results obtained by Knowles participants in
the Knowles Surname DNA Project .
Y-Chromosome testing has been available since the mid-1990ís, itís
only recently that testing for genealogical purposes at reasonable prices has
become available.A company, based in
Family Tree DNA
(FTDNA) launched in 2000, provides the first
commercial testing of Y-DNA for surname studies.Since that time, FTDNA has performed approximately 75% of the surname
reconstruction projects worldwide.
Tree DNA provides a safe, accurate and exciting breakthrough in the field of
Genealogy, using cutting edge university-proven technology. FTDNA
has assembled a secure, private and confidential non-web-based results database where a
participant can verify if they are related to someone else, even if they do not share the same
The Y-chromosome testing
results from the KNOWLES Surname DNA Project will be posted on the KKNFA
Web Pages through this link. The KNOWLES Project results are displayed
without identifying specific participants (unless their permission is granted). Participants are identified anomalously
via their DNA Kit Number and their Knowles Progenitor when their progenitor
has been established.
Robert B. Noles
Project Manager (Group Administrator) Knowles Surname DNA Project
Your genes are inherited. The
DNA testing readily available today for the benefit of genealogical research
involves the Y-Chromosome for a man's direct surname line (father, grandfather,
great-grandfather, etc.) and mitochondrial DNA for a person's (man or woman)
direct female descent (mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, etc.). In
other words, you or members of your family can easily and economically be tested
today to confirm the two outer most lines of your pedigree chart. A
graphical representation of this inheritance can be viewed via the link
Spencer Wells, Ph.D.,
Director, Genographic Project for the National Geographic Society is the
population geneticist who has conducted pioneering research using DNA to
trace humankind's migratory history. Dr. Wells is currently embarked on a
new study, the Genographic Project, to further evaluate the early human
migration out-of-Africa some 50 to 60,000 years ago.
Most scientists think humans
are descended from a common ancestor, so why do we look so different (the
DNA from all humans is 99.9% identical; it's the 0.1% that makes us
different)? IBM and the National Geographic Society are searching for
the answer to this question by creating a global family tree from human DNA
via the Genographic Project. Lead researcher, Spencer Wells is
overseeing the gathering of 100,000 samples from native peoples around the
world to learn the routes early man took to populate the Earth. Dr.
Wells expects some surprises when the results are analyzed by 2010.
Dr. Wells tells us, "We all share a common beginning and many similarities.
If we remember that, maybe we can reduce the tendency to emphasize our
The general public has been
invited to participate in the Genographic project. You can be included
in this historic National Geographic Society Project by purchasing a test
kit, doing a simple mouth swab and sending it in. In eight weeks,
you'll learn about your deep ancestry (results are kept secure). The
purchase of the test kit from NGS includes the "Journey of Man" video, by
received via your participation in the Genographic Project (12 Y-DNA
markers) can be transferred to one or two of the FTDNA Surname or Regional
DNA Projects. If you already have 12-marker (or more) results via a
FTDNA test, you can transfer your results to the NGS Genographic study for a