DNA testing in the Halsted one-name study

There can be no doubt that DNA testing is a valuable tool when investigating a family's lineage. It can supplement the paper sources which are used in genealogical research and investigation. It is very satisfying when the results from DNA tests confirm that a family line, which has been deduced from the records which document the lives of our ancestors, is correct. However, the source records may not have survived, are ambiguous about who is the correct parent, or forebears recorded erroneous information for whatever reason. As DNA cannot lie, its testing can be a very useful addition to the written records.

You may be stuck in your research and be confronted with an apparent "brickwall". We all have those in our research. Used in conjunction with conventional genealogical research, it cannot solve every problem. It will not provide a definitive answer but it can provide a hypothesis to be investigated further. So it will not tell you who your great-grandfather was but if you have two possible candidates it could certainly eliminate one.

To use such techniques in genealogy, we rely on people taking a test, the results of which then become part of the rapidly-growing databases compiled by companies who have designed tests for the genealogist. Of course, the person that you need to match with may not yet have tested. Yours is an investment for the future because when they or a relative of theirs tests in the future that match will be revealed. It is important that in lost connection cases your DNA results are as widely available in as many databases as possible, as that will provide the best chance of finding the necessary match. It is often possible to upload the results received from one company to the database of one or more of the other major companies. Those are AncestryDNA, My Heritage, Family Tree DNA, 23andMe and Living DNA. When you receive your raw data, you may also decide to upload that to a free third-party website such as GEDmatch Genesis which enables the researcher to search across the databases.

Rather than repeat here what has been written about many times in the genealogical press, you can check out the International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki or read the recent articles in the December 2018 edition of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine WDYTYA) or the Christmas 2018 edition of Family Tree Magazine

Taking the test

The tests are harmless and can be carried out in the comfort of your own home. Depending on the testing company chosen, that will either be a cheek swab or a saliva sample.

There are three different types of test used in genealogy. Those look at autosomal DNA, Y-chromosome DNA and mitochondrial DNA. Each has its own use and application. Which test you take will depend on the question that you want to ask. In some cases, more than one test may be required to find the answer.

Where does this fit in with the Halsted Trust? /

John Hanson, our Research Director, is co-administrator of the Halstead Surname Project hosted by Family Tree DNA. Legitimately-born males of those who use the surname of Halsted (and its spelling variants), will have inherited their Y-chromosome from their genealogical father. That chromosome causes humans to develop as men. The Y-chromosome can be tested in living men through a DNA test from FTDNA, the only company that currently offers such a test. Do all current men who are now called Halsted etc have the same type of Y-chromosome suggesting that they all ultimately have just one male ancestor? Alternatively, do multiple current forms of their Y-chromosome suggest that the same surname was assumed by several different, geographically-diverse, regional families, some seven centuries ago? What does this tell us about where those who emigrated to America, or elsewhere in the World, lived in Britain before they left its shores.

As the very large Halsted research database is well on the way to being sorted for the modern (post-1800) period, we now want to try to see if we can connect some of the many smaller family trees into the larger picture. Also, there are many odd little stories and snippets of historical information that we want to explore, using DNA, to see if there is any truth in those which the paper (and vellum) records can't yet prove.

Whilst the surnames Halsted, Halstead and Holstead all have the same basic meaning, probably derived from the old English Heald (a temporary hut or shelter) and stede (site), there are several major strongholds and the objective is to see if there are any DNA links between the three main groups.

The major enclave these days is in the county of Lancashire with the modern version of Halstead taking precedence over the older Halsted. Almost certainly the modern Yorkshire ones moved over from there and there is proof of this in the parish records. Then there are the Holsteads of Cumberland and whilst it can be suggested that they moved north from Lancashire it would be nice to find evidence to prove that. The third set are the Halsteds of Sussex who suddenly appear there in about 1700. John's thoughts are that they are descended from Laurence Halsted, who was Keeper of the Keys in the Tower of London in the 17th century and was himself from Lancashire.

The Halsted Trust has decided to test the Y-DNA from at least one direct male descendent from each of the major trees of these groups:

Descendants of William de HALLSTEDES who is the progenitor of Chart 1 William was supposedly a Templar Knight to Edward II

Descendants of John HALSTEAD (bef 1750-?) Chart 17 this is so far the earliest Cumbrian Halstead/Holstead

Descendants of unknown HALSTED This Halsted was the father of both William and Henry who died in the early 1700s in Sussex.

The Trust is prepared to pay for DNA tests for males who can be shown to descend from any of these three groups. Those interested in participating should contact John Hanson at halstead@one-name.org .