Our project gained a record ten participants in 2015, raising our total to 62.
Forty of them, representing the majority of Acree males living today, have been proven through DNA testing to be "Virginia Acrees" - descending, as I do, from William Acree (c1710-c1767), who is believed to have come to Hanover Co., Virginia, about 1730 from the English/Scottish border area. Three participants, representing the minority, have been proven to be "Maryland Acrees" - descending from William Acree (1752-1833), unrelated to the other William, who was born to an Akers family in Frederick Co., Maryland, and is believed to have come to America from the border area about the same time. The varied circumstances of our other nineteen participants are discussed on our website's Lineages page.
Our project received anonymous donations totaling $558 this year, which have been spent advantageously for the testing of participants.
Last year, I explained how our project is now testing primarily for "SNPs" within our Y-chromosomes (enduring DNA mutations that occur cumulatively through the generations), in an attempt to determine more specifically where our ancestral Acrees lived in the British Isles before emigrating to America. In the past, these SNPs, which have defined huge categories ("haplogroups") of living men and the progressively smaller haplogroup "subclades" which differentiate them further, pertained mainly to the pre-historic era. During the past couple years, with the benefit of advanced technology, thousands of new SNPs have been discovered that are dividing men into ever-more exclusive subclades that originated hundreds, rather than thousands, of years ago, making them increasingly applicable to genealogical research.
As more men test for SNPs, these subclades are becoming increasingly associated with more specific times and places of origin. Our project hasn't yet advanced as far as we've hoped in pursuit of our particular origins in the British Isles. Instead, we're rapidly discovering SNPs that originated within the past few hundred years that differentiate our participants more precisely from one another and can be used to test new participants genetically for far less expense than in the past.
That's the bottom line in this report: We're currently developing inexpensive Y-DNA tests for our project that have made this our most successful year to date. Essentially, we're discovering our own exclusive subclades much earlier than I anticipated.
The remainder of this report describes how we accomplished this breakthrough, as a form of encouragement to those who have not yet tested. It's consequently a bit more technical than last year's report, but I hope that many of you will find the explanation interesting.
Our project's growth has been greatly facilitated by the newly-acquired ability to test those who believe they are Virginia Acrees for only $20, rather than the $150 it has cost in the past. This ability is exceptional among the several hundred existing surname projects and has been our outstanding achievement this year. Our most recent five Virginia-Acree participants were encouraged to test by this dramatic reduction in cost.
The only disadvantage to this abbreviated form of testing, in place of the customary Y-STR test of 37 or more markers, which most of us have taken, is that it provides just a simple yes-or-no answer, without the details that have often allowed me, through comparisons with the test results of others, to identify genetically-evidenced patrilineal ancestors when non-matches occur. Also, there's no longer any mutual benefit for a non-matching Acree to join our project formally. This circumstance occurred early this year when an African-American Acree, who we thought was likely to have descended from William of Virginia through a free-mulatto family that lived in the same area of Virginia, tested disappointingly negative in this manner.
There are two ways that it's now possible to verify descent from William Acree of VA inexpensively through a $20 test:
The first way is by testing for the rare, distinguishing "microallele" (fractional value) of 13.2 at the STR marker DYS385, which our project has discovered, through several years of experience, invariably exists in the Y-Chromosome of Virginia Acrees. It's become obvious that the probability that a Virginia Acree lacks this highly stable microallele is exceedingly small. YSEQ, a relatively new testing firm, offers an inexpensive test to confirm its presence. To be clear on this point, other men, including three non-Acree participants in our project and five others apart from it (all of whom presumably share unknown patrilineal ancestors with us who lived several hundred years ago) also possess this microallele. But Virginia Acrees can count on having it.
The second way is by testing for the presence of the newly-discovered Y-SNP mutation A2156 at the same YSEQ firm, which provides absolute proof of Virginia-Acree descent. This method was developed through an orchestrated succession of SNP tests taken by several participants:
Our project has followed up on the SNP testing that I mentioned and anticipated in last year's report. After establishing the detailed, historical haplogroup sub-clade to which Virginia Acrees belong, by comparing my SNP test results with those of Martins046 and Acree014 at the BritainsDNA testing firm, Brown037 and I took FTDNA's expensive "Big-Y" test for further refinement. That test is unique in revealing one's "novel" SNPs that other tested men lack, while also identifying widely-shared, well-established "known" SNPs for which BritainsDNA and other firms test. After that test, Acree002, Acree028 and Acree055, who descend from William through different lines, tested helpfully at YSEQ for the three "novel" SNPs that distinguish me from Brown, thereby establishing their sequential occurrence in my Acree line. We deduced that the earliest of these SNPs, A2156, originated in the birth of William of VA himself or in the birth of one of his near-term ancestors, in his grandfather for instance. We deduced that the next SNP chronologically, A2155, originated specifically in the birth of William's son, "Cashie" John Acree Sr. (a truly remarkable achievement), while the most recent SNP, A2154, originated in the birth of one of John's descendants.within my line, in my grandfather for instance. (The SNPs were named A2154-6 before their reverse order was determined.)
Thus, all Virginia Acrees (those who descend from William of Hanover Co.) can expect to possess A2156. Those who descend from William's son, John Sr., will also have A2155. Those who descend from a yet-unidentified descendant of John Sr. in my line, will additionally have A2154. For example, Acree055, a fifth cousin of mine who descends, as I do, from John Sr., but through one of John's other sons, and happens to match me impressively at 111/111 STR markers, has tested positive for the SNPs A2156 and A2155, but negative for SNP A2154. I'm awaiting the initiation of tests by my closer cousins for A2155 and A2154 to get a better idea of when the latter SNP originated.
Testing for A2155 served to unexpected advantage this year for Acree033 and Akrie017. Previously unacquainted and completely unaware of each other's existence, they had learned of their close relationship as half first cousins awhile ago, as a result of participating in our project. Their Y-DNA tests had included a distinctive and strong (46/46) STR match and autosomal DNA confirmation through the 23andMe testing firm. While their mutual grandfather was quickly identified through genealogical research (without the benefit of firm documentation), his extended paternal lineage was only tentatively determined to be from John Sr. When Acree033 recently tested for A2155, the result was negative - proving that their grandfather couldn't possibly have descended from John Sr. Subsequent genealogical research, aided by new information that had become available since the first tests, produced the probability that the grandfather descended instead from William's son, Joshua.
I encourage Virginia Acrees receiving this report who haven't already tested with our project, and also those who have already tested but would like to experiment with this new form of verification, at minimal cost, to take a YSEQ test Simply go to its website at www.yseq.net, create an account, type DYS385 and/or A2156 (one at a time) in the "Quick Find" box, and finally "buy now' using a credit card. YSEQ will send you its test kit to return and tell you your results within a few weeks. If you wish, you can accomplish this process entirely on your own, without anyone else knowing about it. Then, if your results turn out to be positive ("13.2" for DYS385 or "+" for A2156), as expected (or if you prefer that I follow your progress along from the start), click on YSEQ's "Group Browser," on the Acree Surname group (#84 on page 2), and "join" our group there.
A further clarification: Because I'm the only Virginia Acree to have taken the Big-Y test, only SNPs pertaining to my personal lineage have become available for testing by others at YSEQ. To move toward proof of specific descent from the other four sons of William of Virginia (William, Abraham, Joshua or Isaac) ), participants who descend from those sons would have to take that test at FTDNA, followed up by others testing newly-discovered SNPs at YSEQ. If anyone is interested in taking the Big-Y for that purpose, or to learn what novel SNPs you've inherited recently (or possibly given birth to personally), that test is currently on sale, with others, at FTDNA. through the end of December.
We're currently following the same basic SNP-discovery strategy in behalf of the Maryland Acrees and expect to achieve success in the coming year. Prospective Acree participants who are uncertain whether their forefather was William of Virginia or William of Maryland (after availing themselves of the genealogical assistance that I can provide from our large Acree data base) would consequently be enabled to test inexpensively for both possibilities.
Here's what we've done so far: Hardage034, whose father was adopted and impressively matches (at 46/46 and 45/46 markers) our two Maryland-Acrees participants with established lineages, took the Big-Y test a few months ago. Compared with other men who have taken that test, Hardage034 currently has seven "novel" SNPs that differentiate him from his nearest match at FTDNA. Acrea022's Big-Y results, which should become available soon, are expected to reduce those seven to no more than two, depending on how closely he's related to Hardage. (On the average, a new SNP occurs every four generations - about every 130 years and William of Maryland was born 263 years ago.) Acrea022 should correspondingly have no more than two novel SNPs of his own. We'll then test other descendants of William for selected SNPs at YSEQ.in an attempt to determine the SNP for which prospective Maryland Acree participants should test to confirm their lineage.
Ever since we learned that William Acree of Maryland came from an immigrant Akers family, we've been attempting to discern the common ancestry among our three Maryland-Acree participants, our two Akers participants living in the US who descend from William Akers of NJ (1650-1715) and our Akers participant living in the UK. While none of the Akers participants have yet taken SNP tests, it's recently become apparent, from available STR comparisons, that their most recent patrilineal ancestors lived long ago in the British Isles or even earlier in continental Europe. Eventually, we'll learn more through SNP testing.
A similar situation exists with regard to our three Acree/Acra participants, who are believed to descend from Jacob Acra (c1710-1772) of Middlesex Co., Virginia.. While none of them have yet taken SNP tests, it appears that they, as well as our singleton Dacre participant and a couple others in our project, have a distant relationship to the Marland Acrees and/or to our Akers participants. We hope to learn more about these relationships in the future through SNP testing, because, at present, they can't be discerned genealogically.