PRA DNA Study Begins to Show How PRA Family Groups are Related
By Nick Penington, PRA DNA Study Chairman
(Additional help from Alan Pennington, Family Group 6)
Click here to visit the Blair DNA Project for a great simple introduction to DNA technology.
The useful thing about Y-chromosomes is that, like surnames, they pass down the male line almost completely unchanged. A son's Y chromosome is generally 100 per cent the same as his dad's. Men with a male direct line ancestor in common will have an identical or nearly identical Y chromosome fingerprint. Secondly, researchers can use the mutation rate to estimate when two males last shared a common male ancestor.
We are building a database of the DNA sequences of male Penningtons who have documented lineage within specific PRA Family Groups or established lineages. We see now that some PRA Family Groups share a DNA sequence with other Family Groups, and hence we know their family trees have a common ancestor at some point in the past. Already we are often able to tell people who have no paper trail at all that they belong to a specific documented lineage because of their DNA analysis. Any male with the surname is welcome to get tested and find out where they fit in. A female relative of such a candidate can also sponsor a male with the Pennington surname to get tested if they would like to determine where their maternal line Penningtons fits in.
New! Click here to view the latest numbers from FTDNA's website. This web page is constantly updated.
Click here to learn more about the meaning of the table. Please note this will take you to the Phase III page. Once there, scroll down to the section titled "The Meaning of the Table".
So far our male Pennington volunteers (sorry ladies, we need the Y-chromosome) represent 23 (PRA) Family Groups that participated in the Pennington DNA Study . Early results of analyzing the Y-chromosome are very exciting. There are now 12 of the PRA's Family Groups that share a common ancestor some perhaps in the last 7 generations, some before that. Those Family Groups are 4, 5, 7, 11, 12, 14, 16, 20, 28, 30, 31 and 32.
Click here to better understand a Y chromosome analysis. Please note this will take you to the Phase III page. Once there, scroll down to the section titled "How to Understand a Y Chromosome analysis".
RootsTelevision has a great video titled an "animated guide to genetics" by 23andMe that you should watch to help you understand the basics of DNA. This first part in the series teaches us about the basics of cells, chromosomes, and the genes contained in our DNA.
The DNA Study to date suggests that Robert Sloan (click here to read his article Names, Religions and Migrations of the Penningtons) was surprisingly spot on about several group relationships but also mistaken as well. I personally feel that one cannot reliably deduce lineage just by proximity or naming patterns, however at that time there was no alternative. Thus we have a cluster of related groups from DNA: 4, 5, 7, 11, 12, 14, 16, 20, 28, 30, 31 and 32 (we don’t know about Groups 1 and 3, (13 vacated) at this time) yet we have separate clusters of 6 and 23, and another including 9, 19, 26 and 29. Sloan seems to have been correct when he said that Group 10 seems to stand alone. We have, I think, a large number of Group 10 descendants but no close genetic link (in the direct male line) with the other Groups.
So far the same can be said for Group 8. Groups 5 and 14 (and possibly 3 when tested) do form a cluster that is however very close to the other Groups 4, 7, 11, 12, 16, 20, 28, 30, 31 and 32, such that they can all be counted as sharing a distant common ancestor. Recently a volunteer from Group 3 tested quite close to that of Group 17.
CONCLUSION and “Origin of the Pennington name”
It appears that there are several different families who adopted the surname Pennington (or spelling variant) but all of those families that have held the surname for centuries probably are ultimately linked to one of two villages in Lancashire.
It is thought that most Penningtons when they moved away from one of the Pennington villages were called for example John of Pennington (in those days "de") to identify where they were from. In the 13C they dropped the “de” when the name became hereditary. Our study appears to be sorting Penningtons into one of a handful of genetic families. We have at least 34 family trees some stretching back to the 16C in England (and of course one back to 1108!) waiting to link up with the DNA evidence. The DNA evidence so far suggests that many of these family trees actually do connect together into one of 6 - 10 distinct family trees. In the near future we are very interested in recruiting all Penningtons but especially English or British Commonwealth Penningtons with a good knowledge of their ancestry. The reason for this is those Penningtons that emigrated to the US, many prior to 1750, may be only a subset of the Pennington families that remained in the UK. Of course the Y chromosome of some these American families may actually have become extinct in the UK; we plan to find out!
Call for More Participants
What we need now is more male Penningtons to scrape their cheek for a little DNA sample (don’t even need any blood) and get into the study. Just contact Nick Pennington by e-mail or snail mail and he’ll tell you how to get involved.
Click here to read the most recent DNA report.