Owston/Ouston DNA Study’s 2016 in Review




Happy New Year.  At the end of each year, we do a review of the Owston/Ouston DNA project during the past 12 months.  During 2016, we grew the project from 40 to 49 participants.  The additions included the following new participants:

  • Cobourg10 (23andMe)
  • Cobourg11 (FTDNA Family Finder)
  • Cobourg12 (FTDNA Family Finder)
  • Cobourg-K (23andMe)
  • Cobourg-L (FTDNA Family Finder)
  • Cobourg-M (FTDNA Family Finder)
  • Cobourg-N (FTDNA Family Finder)
  • Cobourg-O (FTDNA Family Finder)
  • Sherburn13 (FTDNA Y37 and Family Finder; both pending)

While the Cobourg additions, who are children and grandchildren of Cobourg02 and Cobourg03, did not provide additional information into the project, they allowed us to conduct a matching generational study of parents and children.

The Cobourg line is the author’s line and a chart of this line is found here. It is no understatement that the Cobourg line (especially the McKeesport segment) is very well represented in the overall project.  Part of this is due to the Cobourg Autosomal Project and the Owston/Ouston Y-DNA Project were running separately until spring 2015; both were created in 2010.

Sheburn13, who has two generations of female transmission of the Owston surname, joined to search for the missing male surnames in this line.  In addition, this new addition was the catalyst to begin an autosomal study of members of the Scarborough Branch of the Sherburn family.  Further information on this planned study is detailed below.

In addition, the following additional Family Finder tests were secured.

  • Cobourg02 (an upgrade from a 23andMe V2 test) (Pending)
  • Cobourg03 (an upgrade from a 23andMe V2 test)
  • Cobourg05 (an upgrade from a 23andMe V2 test) (Pending)
  • Cobourg-B (full transfer from 23andMe to FTDNA)
  • Cobourg-C (full transfer from 23andMe to FTDNA)
  • Sherburn03
  • Sherburn10 (pending)
  • Sherburn11 (pending)
  • Sherburn12 (pending)
  • Thornholme04
  • Thornholme05

Y STR Tests

Results for Cobourg02 and Cobourg09’s 111 resolution tests were posted in February 2016.  Sherburn03, who tested in 2011 at GeneTree for 43 markers, was upgraded to FTDNA’s Y37 test.  Sherburn13’s Y37 test is in process at FTDNA.

Big Y Tests

Results from three Big Y tests for Cobourg01, Ganton04, and Sherburn08 were secured from FTDNA in spring 2015.  An additional Big Y test for Thornholme04 was added during late spring 2016.  All four were analyzed by YFull during summer 2016.  Additional Big Y tests were added for Cobourg05 and Sherburn12; results are pending.


To facilitate the autosomal study of the Scarborough branch, three existing participants were upgraded to include FTDNA’s Family Finder test in addition to Sherburn13.  These participants are Sherburn10, Sherburn11, and Sherburn12; all results are pending.  Two of these participants have exogeneous Y-DNA: one through a female surname transmission and the other’s whose Y-DNA source is unknown.

The Scarborough branch is the oldest split from the main Sherburn family, which occurred with the circa 1590 birth of the branch’s progenitor, Christopher Owston.  At this writing, we are missing one line and one segment that needs testing.  An additional segment where the surname is extinct (Lifeboatmen segment) is also being considered for autosomal testing should candidates be identified.  A chart of the Scarborough branch is found here.


111 STR Markers

While the Cobourg line’s connection to the Sherburn family was done through an exhaustive analysis of English parish records, there remained an outside chance the Cobourg line was part of the Ganton family.  Results of an upgrade to 111 markers of 15 participants in 2014 and 2015 cast doubts on the placement of the Cobourg line within the Sherburn Family and suggested that their lineage was more closely related to the Ganton family.


The Cobourg participants had closer short tandem repeat (STR) matches at 108-111/111 with Ganton family members. In fact, their closest tested Sherburn relative, an eighth cousin, matched at a greater genetic distance of 102-106/111, with most of the Cobourg line matching Sherburn08 at 105/111.

The Big Y Test & YFull Analysis

In 2015, we upgraded three participants (Cobourg01, Ganton04, and Sherburn08) with Big Y tests to correctly place the Cobourg line; it was hoped that the Big Y test would clarify this.  Although the results were available in early 2016, BAM files were unavailable until May.  These were needed to perform a better analysis by YFull, as FTDNA does not provide a conclusive analysis of the family and private Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) provided in their results.  An additional Big Y test for Thornholme04 was also secured.

The analysis of the four Big Y placed all four participants as matching with the A10207 SNP. YFull estimates that the A10207 SNP had a time to most recent common ancestor (TMRCA) as being 550 years, with an extended range of 300 to 900 years before the present (ybp).  The 550 ybp prediction is consistent with what we know about the surname and the plausible connections between the Ganton, Sherburn, and Thornholme families.

However, additional unexpected results at YFull nearly placed this researcher in the state of apoplexy.  Two of the subjects, Ganton04 and Sherburn08, had an additional downstream match with the A10216 SNP.  This SNP was estimated with a TMRCA at 225 ybp with a possible range of 75 to 600 ybp.


On the surface of these results, the Ganton and Sherburn families were closely related and the Cobourg line and Thornholme family were closely related.  There was no known plausible connection between the Cobourg line and the Thornholme family outside of a shared common ancestor in the distant past.

YFull Analysis of 400+ STRs

In addition to YFull’s analysis of the Big Y’s SNPs, the company also provides an analysis of 400+ STRs found within the Big Y BAM file. The results which were posted between September and November, were as follows:

  • Cobourg01 v. Ganton04 – 14 mismatches
  • Ganton04 v. Sherburn08 – 17 mismatches
  • Cobourg01 v. Sherburn08 – 25 mismatches
  • Ganton04 v. Thornholme04 – 25 mismatches
  • Cobourg01 v. Thornholme04 – 27 mismatches
  • Sherburn08 v. Thornholme04 – 33 mismatches

Like the 111 marker FTDNA tests, these STR markers indicated a closer relationship between the Cobourg and Ganton families more than any other combination.  Because there are so many STRs that are analyzed, we have not generated a modal signature at this resolution yet.

Autosomal Test Results

In 2015, Ganton03, Ganton04, and Sherburn08 were tested autosomally.  In spring 2016, autosomal tests were added to Thornholme04 and Thornholme05.  Initially, none of the Cobourg family matched any of the five and none of these five matched each other.

In addition to Sherburn03’s upgrade to 37 Y-DNA markers at FTDNA, he was tested with Family Finder.  While Sherburn03 was descended from an Owston female ancestor who transmitted the surname, he still carried autosomal DNA that might match Sherburn08, his fifth cousin, and members of the Cobourg line – his eighth cousins – if the Cobourg line is a Sherburn subset.  Matching fifth cousins and beyond is stretching the limit of autosomal testing; however, it was worth a gamble.

Sherburn03 and Sherburn08 matched at 13.2 cM over two segments.

In addition, Sherburn03 matched six individuals in the Cobourg line at 5cM or higher.  These individuals represent descendants of four of William Owston’s sons. William (1778-1857) was the progenitor of the Cobourg line.

The matches are as follows:

  • Cobourg-G (Allegheny City segment) at 19.2 cM over two segments.
  • Cobourg-H (McKeesport segment) at 8.6 cM,
  • Cobourg08 (Steel Valley segment) at 7.1 cM,
  • Cobourg03 (McKeesport segment) at 7.0 cM,
  • Cobourg-E (Venango segment) at 6.7 cM,
  • Cobourg05 (Allegheny City segment) at 5.2 cM.

Cobourg-G and Cobourg05 are siblings and Cobourg-H and Cobourg03 were second cousins.  In addition to the above results, a triangulated match of 7.1 cM occurred between Cobourg-G, Cobourg08, and Sherburn03; Cobourg-G and Cobourg08 descend from different sons of William Owston.

We must note that these matching segments with Sherburn03 are generally small with the largest being 13.2 cM between Cobourg-G and Sherburn03. Other segments ranged from 5.2 to 8.6cM.  The largest matching segment in the comparison of Sherburn03 and Sherburn08 was 7.4cM.

In 2016, we’ve begun to upgrade 23andMe V2 kits with retests at FTDNA. In 2016, we’ve upgraded Cobourg02, Coboug03, and Cobourg05.  Only Cobourg03’s results have been returned to date. An interesting result occurred with Cobourg03’s FTDNA’s Family Finder test.   The match with Sherburn03, which was present with the 23andMe V2 kit at 7cM, was not present with the FTDNA kit. Dropping the threshold to 3cM with the FTDNA kit yielded a match of 4.8cM at the same starting location.

Additionally, Cobourg03’s Family Finder results matched Sherburn08 on three segments totaling 17.6cM.  The largest of the three segments was 6.5cM. The V2 kit had no matching segments at 5cM or above.  When the threshold was reduced to 3cM, only one segment appeared – a 4.3cM segment on Chromosome 7.  The matches via the FTDNA kit were on Chromosomes 6, 9, and 12.  We are proceeding with caution with this match.

In addition, Cobourg03’s new test matched Thornholme05 on two segments totaling 11.2cM.  The 23andMe V2 kit showed no matching segments.  Dropping the minimum segments to 3cM produced no matching segments. This is the only Thornholme autosomal match with a Cobourg participant.  Cobourg03 and Thornholme05 are 12th cousins, once removed; therefore, this is greatly stretching the limits of autosomal testing and the match may be due to markers that are consistent with those from similar populations. The lack of even any small segments with the V2 kit questions the results from the FTDNA kit.

As it stands, conflicting results regarding the Cobourg family remain.  These are summarized as follows:

  • Genealogical records and autosomal matches lean towards the traditional view that this family was a subset of the Sherburn family.
  • Y-DNA STR tests at 111 and 400+ markers lean towards a closer relationship with the Ganton family.
  • Y-DNA SNP testing leans toward a connection with the Thornholme family.

At the present, we are still placing the Cobourg line within the Sherburn family, but will continue to test others in all families to confirm or reject this conclusion.


Of the 23 lines of the Owston/Ouston families where the surname is still present, 19 are represented – an 82.6% reach.  When dividing several of the lines into smaller segments, there are 40 in total – with 24 represented in the study with a reach of 60%. One of these segments is through a female’s autosomal test. We have yet to secure either one of the two remaining men in this segment for Y-DNA testing.

In addition, we have identified 23 segments where the surname is extinct, but descendant autosomal DNA is present. To date, we have only tested two of these segments.  This remains another frontier for the project.

The types of tests and locales of participants are listed below:



While the Cobourg line is over represented (as addressed above), 70% of all Owstons/Oustons descend from the Sherburn family.  The Ganton family represents 21% and the Thornholme family comprises 9% of all living Owstons/Oustons (see previous post). In addition, the Ganton family is the most recent of the three families with a common ancestor (Thomas Owston) who was born in 1753; all Ganton members descend from three of his sons: John, Thomas, and Francis.


As we enter 2017, we intend to concentrate on more samples from the UK, where most Owstons and Oustons reside.  We also will endeavor to grow the project to include as many of the lines and segments that have not yet tested.  We also plan to upgrade more of the GeneTree Y-DNA participants to FTNDA.  Of the seven remaining GeneTree participants, two are deceased and two have non-paternal events in their ancestries.  This leaves three viable matching candidates.  Hopefully, we can encourage these three to retest in the near future.

Happy New Year. 



Comments RSS
  1. Joy Hagen

    My husband participated in the National Geographic 2.0 next generation study. His paternal line is I-F2642. We are waiting to find out the results of two of our sons who sent in samples as well. My husband’s father’s lineage is from Norway. FYI

    • jowston


      Interesting. I hadn’t heard of a Norwegian yet with I-F2642. Most are found with roots in England, Germany, France, and Denmark. Your sons should produce the same results for Y-DNA as your husband.


  2. Nick Buckingham

    Hi Guys. Not sure if, or how, I fit into all of this, but my I-M253 SNP pack I recently done at FTDNA has also placed me at I-F2642. Im from the UK and my kit number is 431285 if that helps. Regards Nick Buckingham

    • jowston

      Nick: Welcome to the club. I would recommend you joining the I-Z140 group on FTDNA and Facesbook. They can work with you in determining what subclade under I-F2462 you belong to. Good luck.

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