Owston/Ouston DNA Study’s 2015 in Review




The year of 2015 has been one of maintenance for the Owston/Ouston DNA project – quite a bit of maintenance that is. While we only added three new people to the project this year, we have taken the Owston/Ouston study to new heights – and those new heights may have added more questions for our one-name study. These questions precipitated the merging of two DNA projects – the Owston/Ouston Y-DNA Project and the Cobourg Line Autosomal Project. The new combined project now boasts 40 members.


During the year, we’ve done the following:

  • Raised 14 participants to 111 markers – bringing us to a total of 15 at that level – 2 results are pending.
  • Transferred three GeneTree participants to FTDNA.
  • Added one autosomal and two Y-DNA/autosomal participants.
  • Added autosomal tests to three Y-DNA participants.
  • Ordered FTDNA’s Big-Y for three participants (results pending).
  • Upgraded two 23andMe autosomal transfers to FTDNA.
  • Added Y-DNA to one autosomal participant.
  • Transferred one 23andMe participant to FTDNA.


With the move to 111 markers, we have identified the modal Y-DNA haplotype for the surname – and probably the haplotype that was exhibited by our common ancestor who no doubt lived in Yorkshire’s Vale of Pickering in the mid to late 1400s. Three individuals carry this exact haplotype: Ganton03, Ganton04, and Cobourg08.

It is estimated that Cobourg08’s results carry a back mutation on the DYS643 marker, as he is the only Cobourg participant that carries 12 repeats on this marker. All other Cobourg Owston males who have tested at 111 markers carry 11 repeats – this is the only distinction that prevents Cobourg01 and Cobourg05 from also having the modal haplotype. Cobourg06 has four mutations including the 11 at DYS643.

The following chart indicates the genetic distance that matching participants have from the modal haplotype at the various testing levels.



Between 1770 and 1800, two families headed by two progenitors named Thomas Owston lived in the confines of the parish of Ganton, now part of North Yorkshire. Thomas Owston, the elder, was married to Elizabeth Walker in May 1772 and was a descendant of the Sherburn family. The younger Thomas Owston, who was married to Mary Vickerman in November 1777, was from the Ganton family. Based on a number of factors, it is estimated that the two Thomas Owstons were seventh cousins.  A total of 15 children were christened during this period with only eight unique names being used: Thomas, Elizabeth, Mary, William, Anne, John, Jane, and Francis. Only Elizabeth, Jane, and Francis were used once.

Unfortunately, the mother’s name was absent in these christening records and the father was listed in a variety of ways that did not always identify which Thomas was the actual father. Other problems existed with the records as well. These will be addressed further in forthcoming document.

william_owston_christeningChristening record for the progenitor of the Cobourg line.

About 25 years ago, several of us began to tackle the placement of the Owston children born in Ganton in the latter third of the 18th century. We assumed that the children’s christenings occurred within close proximity of their birth. With this in mind, we meticulously assessed the placement of these children to the parents with whom we believed they belonged.

This placement was based on the date of birth in relationship the parents’ marriages, the time between the birth of other children, the age of the two potential mothers during the year of birth, names used in descendant families, and other information culled from the parish registers.

Four male Owston lineages have continued to the present. Their progenitors are as follows:

  • William Owston (1778-1857) – placed in the Sherburn family. This is the Cobourg line.
  • John Owston (1780-1862) – placed in the Ganton family. This is the John Owston – the mole catcher’s line.
  • Thomas Owston (1782-1869) – placed in the Ganton family. There are three lines of descent from Thomas Owston: the Delaware, Ohio line, the Bradford line, and the Snaiton line.
  • Francis Owston (1793-1870) – placed in the Ganton family. This is the Francis Owston – the builder’s line.

We have definitively corroborated that the three sons assigned to the Ganton family are correctly placed due to a variety of factors.

As the 111 markers were being returned, we noticed some interesting results. The Cobourg line was genetically closer to the Ganton family than to the Sherburn family. This is especially the case when comparing the four Cobourg members to Sherburn08 who would be their most closely related tested relative under its original allocation to the Sherburn family. With the Cobourg line as part of the Sherburn family, Cobourgo1, Cobourg05, Cobourg06, and Cobourg08 are eighth cousins to Sherburn08.

The chart below shows the genetic distance (GD) at 111 markers of the four Cobourg line participants (Cobourg01, Cobourg05, Coboug06, and Cobourg08) against members of the Ganton family (Ganton03 and Ganton04); Sherburn family (Sherburn01, Sherburn02, Sherburn08, Sherburn09, & Sherburn12); and Thornholme family (Thornholme04 & Thornholme05).


Notice that Cobourg06 and Sherburn09 have a closer genetic distance. Two of the mutations that both men share on the same markers occurred independently of each other. Neither of these mutations was shared by either participant’s closest tested relatives. In addition, Cobourg08’s 0 GD with the two Ganton participants was the result of a back mutation – as stated above.

While the relationships are beyond that of fifth cousins in all examples, we added autosomal testing to Ganton03, Ganton04, and Sherburn08. We compared the results to each other as well as to the 17 matching Cobourg line participants. None of three matched each other or any of the Cobourg participants. This is probably due to the distances of the relationships involved.  This does not indicate a non-relationship, but rather the limitations of autosomal testing.  At the outset of this testing, we realized shared autosomal matching may be inconclusive; however, more distant autosomal DNA matches occasionally occurs.  This was a gamble and we failed to beat the odds.

In early 2016, we will enter the realm more advanced genealogical testing with FTDNA’s Big Y. The Big Y is an advanced test that provides confidence up to 10.31 million bases of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) on the Y chromosome. We are more concerned with the novel variants that occur in families. Hopefully, we can determine novel variants for the surname and determine whether the Cobourg line is a Sherburn family line or a Ganton family line (Family Tree DNA, 2014). We have selected Cobourg01, Ganton04, and Sherburn08 to be our initial Big Y participants.


The year of 2015 was a sad one indeed for Owstons and Oustons, as we have lost a number of family members during the past year; three of those individuals were participants in Owston/Ouston DNA project. They are as follows:

Cobourg-H: A granddaughter of a female Owston, Cobourg-H had the distinction to match every participant (sans two who had non-paternal events) in the Cobourg line. Her matches to other participants were often larger than the typical relationship parameters. She passed in January.

Ganton01: This gentleman was our second Y-DNA project member. Unfortunately, he passed in June. Being one of our first 13 participants, he tested at the now defunct GeneTree at 43 markers. It was our hope to transfer to and upgrade his resolution at FTDNA; however, this did not occur.

Ganton02: Two weeks to the day following Ganton01’s death, Ganton02 also passed away. He was our third Y-DNA participant and also tested with GeneTree. Like his distant cousin, his results were never transferred to FTDNA.

wreathRest in peace and thanks for your contributions to this project.


Since we have upgraded most of the matching I1 (I-M253) Y-DNA participants to 111 markers, 2016’s goals will concentrate on upgrading the four remaining I1 GeneTree participants to FTDNA. We will also look for additional participants for unrepresented lines and additional participants from the Ganton family. Eventually, we would like to add at several more Sherburn participants and at least one Thornholme family participant with Big Y testing, but this is a long term goal as the Big Y test is expensive.

While we cannot test everyone who is descended from the Owston/Ouston family, if you are interested in participating in the project, let us know and we’ll see if there is a spot open for you. Email the Owston/Ouston One-Name Study at owstonfamily@gmail.com with DNA in the subject line.


Family Tree DNA. (2014). Introduction to the Big Y. Retrieved from https://www.familytreedna.com/learn/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/BIG_Y_WhitePager.pdf

Ganton, North Yorkshire Bishop’s Transcripts. (n.d.). Available from http://www.findmypast.com

Ganton, North Yorkshire Parish Registers. (n.d.). Available from http://www.findmypast.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: