ACREE SURNAME DNA PROJECT

Progress Report for 2013

GROWTH

We gained four participants in 2013, for a current total of 45. Thirty-two of us now share the unique genetic profile associated with the “Virginia Acrees” that identifies us conclusively as descendants of William Acree (c1710-c1767) of Hanover Co., who has been determined by our project to be the progenitor of most Acrees living in the U.S. Our associated Acree family discussion group on Facebook has gained over a hundred members, for a current total of 550. That group continues to assist our efforts to link Acrees together and contributes to our valued data base. We’ve had some success this year in determining the origins of African-American Acrees, who are numerous within our Facebook group – identifying a “free mulatto” family that originated in late-18th-century Hanover Co. and inter-married with black, white, and Native Americans.

Administratively, I’ve arranged for testing to be conducted by the Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) firm, as well as by Ancestry.com. I’ve also created the Acree One-Name Study. Its webpage conveniently lists all of the website links pertaining to our project. Additionally, several of you have joined me on the LinkedIn social network, which may become useful as a communications vehicle.

Our project, which combines DNA testing with genealogical research, has continued to define the extent to which Acrees living in the U.S., including those with variant surnames, relate to one another through shared ancestry. It has succeeded also in determining the general location in the British Isles where our Acree ancestors probably lived several hundred years ago – the English/Scottish border area. It has been unable, however, to specify our immigrant progenitors by name and their areas of embarkation. That situation applies to both the minority “Maryland Acrees” (descendants of William Acree, 1752-1833, of Frederick Co.) and the majority Virginia Acrees.

FOCUS ON THE BRITISH ISLES

I’ve spent a lot of time this past year trying to clarify our British origins. My recent Christmas card to all of you depicted the Dacre Castle on the English/Scottish frontier. We can by no means consider it our ancestral castle, but, as discussed on the “Origin of the Acree Surname” page of our project website, there’s reason to speculate that an early version of our surname may have been Dacre (rhymes with baker). There are few Acrees living today in the British Isles who spell their name the way most of us do. The same is true historically. In seeking 16th-17th-century ancestors, therefore, it’s essential to consider a host of variants, including Dacre, which may represent earlier versions.

Our project now enjoys the participation of three residents of the U.K. (surnamed Acres, Akers and Ackers), with whom I’ve consulted advantageously during the past few years. Unfortunately, their DNA haplotypes (genetic profiles) differ among themselves to the same extent that they fail to match ours. There’s a fair match between our Akers participant and the Maryland Acrees, who, we discovered last year, descend from an early Akers resident of colonial NJ, but less is known about the background of the Virginia Acrees.

As you all know, the Virginia Acree haplotype includes a rare, distinctive fractional marker value (“microallele”) that wonderfully distinguishes us – in combination, of course, with our other matching values. Our haplotype has been found also in two men surnamed Williamson – an uncle and his nephew, who joined our project upon learning that their paternal line includes a 19th-century Acree adoptee. And it’s been found, in undefined circumstances, in individuals surnamed Peel, Collier, Willoughby, Hall, and two men named Brown, all of whom lack close Y-DNA matches within their respective surname projects and have paternal lines that must have converged with those of our “Virginia Acrees” within the past few hundred years, apparently in northwest England. (One of the matching Browns and the matching Peel have joined our project.)

The possibility exists that we may never find a close Y-DNA match for the Virginia Acrees and these genetic matches in the British Isles. That’s not only because it’s so difficult to find and convince a key individual (of whatever surname) to test, but because numerous haplotypes and associated names have become extinct in Britain since they were first adopted in Medieval times. That’s occurred in cases where there are no descending sons to carry on family surnames – a circumstance commonly known as “daughtering out” and “genetic drift.” This might very well have happened to our ancestral British Acrees, so that the only Acree patrilineal lines remaining are those which prevail in the U.S.

Y-DNA "SNP" (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) HAPLOGROUP TESTING

I mentioned last year that I took a Y-Chromosome “SNP” test at FTDNA, which is used to define successive haplogroup sub-divisions (called “subclades”). Haplogroups are organized and named within an historical hierarchy that may be visualized as a tree. SNPs (mutations) form the junctions among the branches. The defining SNP for the R1b1a2a1a1a5b2a haplogroup, for example, is L47, which is how it is known in shorthand, because the longer version, though hierarchically convenient, is unwieldy, inconsistent among testing firms, and fading from use. (R1b1b etc. is still used by some.)

The test last year determined that I personally belong to L-47's subclade Z159, which will eventually help us determine when and where the Virginia Acrees originated in the British Isles long ago. I can take these SNP tests in behalf of all Virginia Acrees because we share the above-mentioned unique genetic signature (haplotype) that contains our rare microallele. The microallele presumably came into existence after Z159 and after several yet-unknown successor subclades were born, and it has remained stable ever since, as microalleles characteristically do. In the past, Y-SNP testing was useful merely to identify which clan of pre-historic cavemen one belonged to. As successive subclades have emerged through more widespread testing, however, they are becoming useful to genealogy.

The speculative timeline below illustrates how subclades are steadily advancing toward the genealogical era (roughly, the past thousand years). Eventually, these estimates will solidify. Someday, a SNP will be discovered that pertains strictly to the Virginia Acrees and is equivalent, in effect, to our unique haplotype.

Year of OriginHaplogroup subcladeDefining SNPArea of Origin
15000 BCR1bM343Eurasian Steppe
7000 BCR1b1a2M269Europe
2000 BCR1b1a2a1a1aU106Western Europe
1000 BCR1b1a2a1a1a5b2L48Northwestern Europe
0 ADR1b1a2a1a1a5b2aL47Benelux area
500 ADR1b1a2a1a1a5b2a2Z159England – from Germanic invaders
1000 ADR1b - -?English/Scottish border area
1200 ADR1b - -?association with British families like Dacre
1400 ADR1b - -?association with birth of our microallele
1600 ADR1b - -?association with matching non-Acree families
1700 ADR1b - -?association with Virginia Acrees

I’m currently awaiting personal results from the new “Chromo2” test given by the BritainsDNA firm (cost $200). Other men are taking more expensive/expansive new SNP tests at FTDNA and elsewhere, which are expected to yield hundreds of newly-revealed SNPs.

One of our Maryland Acree participants is known (from limited Y-SNP information provided by 23andMe) to belong to the L21 subclade within haplogrooup R1b, which is closely associated with the Scots-Irish. L21 is on the same historical level as U106 above, so the patrilineal ancestor that the Maryland and Virginia Acrees have in common lived about 4,000 years ago.

AUTOSOMAL DNA TESTING

Last year, I mentioned the increasing popularity of “autosomal” (all-23-chromosome) DNA testing, which can assist genealogical research through its pertinence to all of one’s ancestors, not merely one’s patrilineal line through Y-chromosome DNA (above) or one’s matrilineal line through mitochondrial DNA. This testing appeals especially to women because mitochondrial DNA is of little value genealogically. Several males among you have taken these tests as well, and none has been identified as a recent “cousin” of mine through shared autosomal percentages, while a few of your sisters and female cousins have been so identified. (That peculiar outcome merely represents chromosomes recombining in unpredictable ways.) All three firms that offer autosomal DNA tests (FTDNA, Ancestry.com and 23andMe) now price their product attractively at $99. 23andMe, which included health-related information in its offering, has recently been prevented from revealing medical information to new customers until it complies more thoroughly with FDA mandates. That circumstance should soon be resolved politically and have little consequence.

If you are an Acree seeking confirmation or extension of your paternal line, please consider participation in the:

Link to Acree Surname DNA Project

Click on the above link to connect or return to the explanatory project page.
Please direct questions to the E-MAILaddress there.