Owston DNA Studies: A New Y-DNA Mutation Found in the Owston/Ouston Family



Two weeks ago, a number of the initial males participating in the Geno 2.0 project from National Geographic received their results.  In addition to comparing an individual’s ethnic markers to a control population database, the new test extended its look of Y-DNA SNP markers.  We had an Owston family member participate in this project and his Y-DNA results proved significant for other Owston, Ouston, and Owston-Doyle males.

Y-DNA is the type of DNA that is passed down from father to son and is what is used in surname studies to determine a common ancestor for men sharing the same markers. Typically these studies revolve around STRs (Short Tandem Repeats) on the non-coding portion of the Y chromosome (sometimes called “junk DNA”).  Mutations cause a repeat to be added or lost and typically those sharing similar numbers of repeats on a select numbers of markers can be determined as being related.


In the Owston/Ouston Y-DNA study, we have determined that all three Owston families (Ganton, Sherburn, and Thornholme) come from a common source.  In fact, four individuals (two Ganton, one Sherburn, and one Thornholme) match at 100% over 43 markers – a highly unlikely occurrence when the projected common ancestor of all three lines would have probably lived circa 1470. While unusual, it strengthens the original hypothesis that all Owstons and Oustons are related.

Another type of testing, such as conducted in the Geno 2 project, consists of SNPs (Single-Nucleotide Polymorphism) which are commonly referred to as “snips.”  Wide populations share the same mutations that place these individuals in categories called haplogroups.  As more SNPs are found, haplogroups are fine tuned to represent these mutations and the resultant populations are smaller.

The designations begin with a major category represented by an ordinal letter and then alternate numbers and letters.  Up until 15 months ago, most Owston males were designated as being I1.  The I1 haplogroup includes everyone who has the M253 SNP mutation. The SNP designation is based (in most cases) on an alphabetic code used for the lab which discovered the SNP and the number that follows is the chronological discovery of that lab.  The M represents Stanford University and it is the 253rd SNP discovered by this lab.

I1_heatmapI1 Haplogroup Heat Map from the Geno 2 Project.

The I1 haplogroup, which appears to have ramified 5,000 years ago in Northern Germany or Southern Denmark, was one of the least developed of the haplogroup trees until new SNPs were discovered during fall 2011 and spring 2012.  Several new Z series of SNPs that were downstream of M253 were discovered through the 1000 Genomes Project and were added to the I tree.

An I1 Owston had tested positive for several of these new Z series SNPs.  Z58 was given the haplogroup designation of I1f.  In early 2012, further downstream Z SNPs were discovered and an Owston tested positive for Z59 (I1f1), Z60 (I1f1a), and Z140 and Z141 (I1f1a1).  As you can see, the designations are beginning to get unwieldy and could potentially get out control (for example, the R haplotree has the R1b1a2a1a1a3b2b1a1b2a haplogroup).  Since that time, three other Z SNPs were discovered to be downstream of Z140; however, our Owston participant has not yet been tested for these additional SNPs.

During early spring another SNP was discovered that was downstream from M253 but upstream from Z58.  DF29 changed the entire landscape for the I haplotree, as it was now termed I1a. Z140, which was the terminal SNP for an Owston participant, fell under the DF29 banner.  With the restructuring, Z140 changed from I1f1a1 to I1a3a1a.

On December 10, 2012, additional data pertinent to I1 Owston males were discovered in the National Geographic’s Genographic 2.0 Project. An Owston male, identified as Sherburn01 in the Owston/Ouston Y-DNA project and as Cobourg01 in the Owston Autosomal DNA project, participated in Geno 2 and was tested positive for nearly 225 additional Y chromosome SNPs.

A segment of these were SNPs were phyloequivalent with M253 – it is assumed that these mutations occurred roughly the same time as M253 and that all individuals who tested positive for M253 would test positive for these SNPs as well.  Other SNPs, were ancestral to I1 and represented mutations for the I, IJ, and F haplogroups.

In addition, Sherburn01 tested positive for a large number of newly discovered SNPs.  Various researchers in the I1 community are comparing the results from other I1 participants and are trying to determine where on the I haplotree these SNPs fall. It is believed that many will prove to be phyloequivalent with existing SNPs; however, there were several new SNPs that are downstream from Z140/Z141 that further delineate that grouping.  Not all were shared by Sherburn01.

The most exciting news for Owstons and Oustons is that Sherburn01 tested positive for a new SNP downstream of Z140/Z141, and at the present, he appears to be the only individual connected to the I1, Z58, and Z140 communities with this particular mutation.   The F2642 SNP was originally discovered by Chinese researchers at Fudan University and was added to the Geno 2 project.


While Sherburn01 may not be the only person who tested positive for F2642 in Geno 2, his results were the first to be acknowledged on the I1 Project listserv.  Geno 2 has termed Sherburn01’s haplogroup as I1d1b1; however, this designation is not universally accepted.

While it is assumed that most Owston I1 males would test positive for F2642, this is not conclusive.  Because the three divergent lines have individuals who share 100% of their STR markers, it is assumed that these markers are the modal haplotype for Owstons and Oustons.  In addition to the four participants who have no deviations from the modal haplotype, two have one deviation, two have two deviations, and two have three deviations.  In addition, the Owston autosomal project has five I1 participants who match each other and it is presumed that their Y-DNA is similar to Sherburn01’s.


Five additional participants, who have a genealogical connection, do not match any others in the study.  One is a descendant of an Owston female and one is the product of unofficial adoption that occurred circa 1870.  The other three have non-paternity events of unknown origin in their lineages.

Theoretically, the discovery of a new SNP for which an Owston/Ouston has tested positive could have massive ramifications.  Others who test positive for F2642 will have the same male ancestor as the Owston clan and with enough results this may determine the early origins of our family.


Owston, J.M. (2012). His name is my name too: A Y-DNA study of the Owston surname and its variants.  http://www.owston.com/dna/Owston_Family_Y-DNA_Study.pdf.

Owston results from the Genographic 2 project. (2012).  National Geographic. https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/results/yourstory.

Y-DNA haplogroup I and its subclades – 2011. (2011).  International Society of Genetic Genealogy.  http://www.isogg.org/tree/ISOGG_HapgrpI11.html.

Y-DNA haplogroup I and its subclades – 2012. (2012).  International Society of Genetic Genealogy.  http://www.isogg.org/tree/ISOGG_HapgrpI.html.

Y-DNA haplogroup tree 2012. (2012). International Society of Genetic Genealogy. http://www.isogg.org/tree/.

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