R1b1a2a1a1b4: Update from the Great Irish Ancestor Hunt

Not too long ago I wrote about my efforts to determine whether my Gerald ancestors did indeed come from Ireland as I’ve always been told. I only recently discovered that not all of the descendents of Gabriel Gerald agree on where his father, James Gerald, came from way back in the 1700s.

The story as it has been handed down to me is that our first Gerald grandfather to live in this country came from Ireland changed his name from Fitzgerald to Gerald at some point along the way. Last summer, though, I blogged about a distant relation who was somewhat infamous, and this drew in some living distant relations to the comment section on my blog.That’s when I learned that some branches of the family think that our common ancestor came from France instead of Ireland.

Regardless of which camp I fell into, I had the same problem everyone else had in backing up my story. We have no paper trail. Our James Gerald is a genealogical dead end. No one has been able to find records of who his parents were or where they might have lived.

So I decided to go after the question from the scientific approach, and my brothers were gracious enough to help me out. They all chipped in to have a Y-DNA test done through www.familytreedna.com. We had the 67 marker test done, which is what I had been told we needed if we wanted to prove family matches.

The results of this test were very interesting but not necessarily conclusive. I did believe after viewing the matches that we were leaning toward Ireland as more likely than France as the place of origin. Still, we didn’t have enough family matches and we didn’t have close enough family matches to fill in any real genealogical gaps.

Eventually, I think the right person will come along and take the same test and show up as a conclusive match in a way that will help us fill in the family tree. I could have just sat back and waited a few years for that to happen, but I decided to order more tests instead.

I ordered a deep clade test to find out our haplogroup. With the original Y-DNA test, we were told the haplogroup was R1b1a2. This didn’t prove anything because it is the haplogroup of 80% of Europe. It’s also just a general category. Additional testing could narrow it down, and that’s what the deep clade test was for.

Today, I got the first of the results from the deep clade test, and the haplogroup is now R1b1a2a1a1b4. This is much more specific. It is a haplogroup that is primarily associated with England and Ireland.

The tests are not complete yet. It should take about another month to find out if they are able to narrow down any more than this.

In the meantime, all we can say is that this is at least some evidence to support the Irish ancestry claims. It does not rule out French ancestry. However, R1b1a2a1a1b4 is far more common in Ireland than it is in France. By that I mean it shows up in up to 10% of the population in France and in more than 50% of the population in Ireland (if I understand correctly).

Some people seem to associate R1b1a2a1a1b4 with Celtic ancestry. I would have to read more about it before I could comment on how solid that theory might be, but it should be interesting to find out.

R1b1a2a1a1b4 is all I know today. I will update again when the tests are complete to let the two people who might be reading this know whether or not we matched any sub-categories of this group.

If anyone has any information about R1b1a2a1a1b4, I would be very interested in reading it.

If you are a male descendent of Gabriel Gerald, and you are interested in having your own Y-DNA tested, I’d very much appreciate it if you would share your results with us. One way we can solidify our evidence is to find out if my brother’s results are repeatable in other branches of the family.

And if you are simply interested in conducting your own family DNA research, I do recommend the site www.familytreedna.com. I also suggest that you do what we did and have several people chip in to pay for one test. The tests are expensive, but all of the brothers in a single family should all have the same Y-DNA, and if they don’t, this might be something you don’t want to know. Just chip in and have only one of them tested.

I’ll post more when I know more. Meanwhile, if you catch me mumbling weird strings of numbers and letters, you’ll know I’m reading another DNA book trying to figure out how all of this works.