This blog post has a couple of purposes. The main one is to show what we're learning about how branches of the Pike family fit together. Another one is to showcase some examples of how results from the BigY test have been able to confirm the Pike ancestry of some people who don't currently carry the Pike surname. Moreover, they had no reason to suspect that they even had Pike ancestry prior to doing DNA testing. The results that I will highlight in this post involve Group 1 and Group 8 of the Pike DNA Project.
Before we get to that though, there is some administrative housekeeping that I need to mention. When I created this blog I enabled an email subscription service so that people can be automatically notified when new blog posts are made. To do that I used Google's FeedBurner service. However, FeedBurner eliminated email subscriptions from its functionality in mid-2021. So I have now linked the blog to a similar service provided by MailerLite and have transferred the list of subscribers. My hope is that the transition is seamless. However, as today's blog post will be my first live test with MailerLite, please be understanding if a hiccup occurs. There's a slight chance that subscribers might receive notifications from both FeedBurner and MailerLite (that is, if FeedBurner is still operating beyond its stated end date).
In preparation for discussing some DNA results, let me initially say that the BigY-700 test is the most advanced Y-chromosome test offered by FamilyTreeDNA. It analyses over 700 STR-based markers (including the 111 STR markers that we display on our project's webpage for Test Results) as well as approximately 22 million nucleotides at which SNP-based mutations might exist. As a quick reminder about these acronyms, STRs are short tandem repeats and SNPs are single nucleotide polymorphisms. For anybody who wants a more detailed introduction to the BigY test, Janine Cloud (Group Projects Manager for FamilyTreeDNA) gave a presentation at the RootsTech Conference that was held online in February 2021. A recording of her talk is available at YouTube, at least for the time being.
This powerful test is enabling us to rebuild family trees, as we saw with some examples that were highlighted in our previous BigY update in December 2020. And as we will see below, it can even do this in cases where there has been a change in surname that may not have been well documented.
Let's start with our project's Group 8 cluster.
The origins of our project's Group 8 are currently a bit of a mystery to us. Within the group we have multiple Pike lines that separately trace back to the 1700s before getting genealogically stuck in places such as Kentucky, South Carolina and Massachusetts. Details of how these lines are connected are not known at this time. Likewise, we do not yet know where in England (or elsewhere) earlier generations of the family lived.
We have not previously discussed BigY results within Group 8 in any detail, mostly because there weren't enough results to work with. However, there are now five members of this cluster who have received BigY results. These five results are for:
- Edward (kit 200742) who descends from a Lewis Pike who was born in Massachusetts about 1747.
- Randal (kit B645868) who descends from a Thomas Pike who was born in the 1760s and who was resident in Adair County, Kentucky in 1810. Family lore says that Thomas came to the USA with a brother named Preston, but this has yet to be confirmed by historical records.
- An anonymous Pike with kit number MK53973. His kit is managed by his cousin Connie, who has provided genealogical details tracing back to a William Pike who was born about 1738 and who lived in Edgefield County, South Carolina.
- Charles Ward (kit N38648) who descends from a Shadrack Ward who was born about 1765, likely in South Carolina.
- JD Ward (kit 263255) who also descends from Shadrack, but via a different son than Charles.
Note that two of these five results are for men with the surname WARD and for whom there is no known PIKE ancestry. These two Ward kits are managed by Charles' sister Melanie, who has done a lot of work in tracing the Ward family. Traditional STR-based Y-DNA testing showed that her Wards carry a similar genetic profile as the Pikes of our Group 8. Close matches like this with men having different surnames are not uncommon, and in many cases the connection seems to pre-date the advent of surnames. But in this case there was the extra detail that the Y-DNA for Melanie's Wards did not match that of other Wards in the vicinity, prompting additional scrutiny. As will be explained shortly, we now have compelling evidence that Melanie's ancestor Shadrack Ward, who was born over 250 years ago, actually descends from a Pike ancestor.
In terms of how the five BigY testers in Group 8 are related to one another, the following diagram illustrates what we knew in advance of their BigY test results. The two Ward men (Charles and JD) are shown on the left. Each square represents a man, and those in green have done the BigY test.
Note that aside from knowing that the two Ward men are fifth cousins once removed to one another, nothing else was known about the nature of any other relationships between these five men.
It is evident from their STR-based DNA results that there are connections. But trying to determine the nature of connections from STR markers can be faulty. And in this group of men we have a nice example. Take a close look at the table of STR results for Group 8 and compare the 111 STR markers for Charles and JD. You'll see that their results differ on 6 of these 111 markers. These differences reflect mutations that arose in their lineages subsequent to when they split apart about five generations ago. Because there are 6 differences, we say that their 111-marker "genetic distance" is 6.
Now take another look at the table of STR marker values and observe that JD and Julian (kit 143228) differ on only 4 markers. So their 111-marker genetic distance is only 4.
Genetic distance is often used to estimate how near/far relationships are between men, with smaller genetic distances suggesting closer relationships. However, these STR-based genetic distances can be misleading. If we were to rely only on these genetic distances, we would falsely conclude that JD is more closely related to Julian than to his Ward kinsman Charles. In this case it appears that several mutations arose along the line between Charles and his ancestor Shadrack, while Julian's Pike line appears to have had fewer mutations. Moreover, one of the mutations in Julian's line looks to have occurred on the 94th marker, which also seems to have experienced a mutation within JD's line. The simple calculation of genetic distance does not account for these multiple mutations on the same marker.
I'm not saying that we should completely ignore genetic distances. Rather, we should not rely on them without understanding some of their potential pitfalls.
Let's now direct our attention away from the STR-based markers and towards the SNP-based markers that comprise the BigY test. Mutations based on SNPs are much better measures of relatedness because unlike STRs, once a SNP mutation occurs it is essentially permanent for all subsequent generations. This enables us to use these SNPs to determine how branches of a family tree fit onto that tree, even if we don't have accompanying genealogical records. Let me highlight a point: although STR-based matches indicate that two men are related in some way, SNP-based matches can provide insight into how they are related.
In the context of the five men from Group 8, the diagram shown earlier shows four separate branches of what must be a single larger family tree. That much we know from their close STR-based results, and the genealogical work tracing Charles and JD back to their shared ancestor Shadrack. But how these four branches fit together is the question we want to now consider.
For people who have taken the BigY test, FamilyTreeDNA provides a Block Tree that shows their place in the human Y-chromosome SNP tree. Below is the portion of this tree that is shown for members of our Group 8.
To say a few words about how to interpret the information presented in this diagram, each block of SNPs (in which the SNP names are listed) acts like an umbrella in the sense that everybody shown underneath the block carries each of the SNPs listed for the block. So JD, Charles, and Connie's cousin all share the SNPs named FT23630 and FT23646. They also have each of the five SNPs in the higher block (with SNPs named BY142754 through to FT19630); Randal and Edward also carry these five SNPs. However, Randal and Edward do not have either of the SNPs named FT23630 and FT23646. Moving upward, next is a block with a single SNP (named BY79375) that has been inherited by all five of the men we're discussing as well as a non-Pike. This non-Pike has not inherited any of the five SNPs in the block containing BY142754 through to FT19630.
The SNP listed as the first SNP within each block is prefixed with the haplogroup letter (in this case the haplogroup is I). When multiple SNPs are listed together within a block, their order does not indicate the chronological order in which their mutations occurred, because that isn't yet known. Only when somebody comes along with new test results showing they carry some SNPs of a block, but not others, can the relative order of SNPs be figured out. And when that happens, FamilyTreeDNA revises the block tree to reflect the new discovery.
The block tree presented by FamilyTreeDNA allows us to rebuild the structure of the family tree for Group 8 as follows:
That is to say that the tree begins with the Pike founder for Group 8. This tree then experienced a split, with Connie and the Wards belonging to one branch of this split. It is along this line leading to Connie and the Wards that the two mutations FT23630 and FT23646 arose. Edward and Randal (who were not reported to share any SNPs that the others lack) currently appear to descend from two other separate lines. They do have SNPs of their own, but these SNPs are considered "private" and will only be added to the block tree when FamilyTreeDNA finds other people who also have them.
Note that because the Pike surname is common to all three of the main branches of this tree, the surname therefore pre-dates the branching, which is to say that all five men share a common Pike ancestor. For the two Ward men, this is significant, as it proves that they descend from a Pike. Moreover, since Charles and JD descend from two separate sons of Shadrack Ward, this proves that Shadrack himself descends from a Pike.
It is believed that Shadrack was born in South Carolina about 1765, not far away from where Connie's ancestor William Pike lived. William is believed to have married about 1765, having come to South Carolina from England. The obvious question to ask now is whether William was Shadrack's father, which would correspond to the dashed line in the above tree. Prior to doing any DNA testing, this question was not one that anybody had any reason to wonder about.
To ponder this question, first note that JD, Charles and Connie's cousin are grouped together within the FamilyTreeDNA Block Tree. Hypothetically, if a new SNP mutation had occurred with the birth of Shadrack, then it would have been passed on to each of JD and Charles (but not to Connie's cousin) and so FamilyTreeDNA would have used it to create a new SNP block for JD and Charles. Since there is no such block, we can conclude that no new SNP mutations occurred with Shadrack's birth. Likewise, there were no new SNP mutations along the portion of their ancestral line that goes from Shadrack back to the Pike ancestor they share with Connie.
BigY results that we've previously seen in the Pike DNA Project have suggested that a new SNP mutation tends to occur about every generation or two. Mutations are random processes, so there's no specific formula for how frequently they occur. Nevertheless, for a line of ancestors (in this case, from Shadrack back to the Pike ancestor shared with Connie) to not experience any SNP mutations, it is likely that the line is short in length. This would be consistent with the theory that Shadrack may be a son of William. It may also be the case that Shadrack was a nephew of William, as that too would result in a short ancestral line.
At present we cannot definitively answer the question of who Shadrack's father was. But with additional BigY testing we might be able to find an answer. We know that Shadrack and William both carried the two SNPs named FT23630 and FT23646. If one or both of these SNPs can be shown to have arisen with William's birth, that would provide evidence to prove he was Shadrack's father. So how do we determine if one or both of these two SNPs arose with William's birth? That's simple: just do a BigY test for a descendant of one of William's brothers. Well, it's simple except for the challenge of determining who William's brothers were and then tracing their descendants. It has been speculated that William had a brother Joseph who settled in Orangeburg County, South Carolina, as well as a brother Thomas who lived at Charleston but returned to England after the American Revolution. Researching these other Pike lines is a matter of ongoing research.
A year ago when Group 1's BigY results were last featured, there were then five test results to work with. Four more members of the group have since done the BigY test, bringing the tally up to nine. One of these nine is anonymous and we have no genealogical information for him. For the remaining eight, the diagram below illustrates our initial knowledge of how they're related to one another based on historical records.
Four of them (Larry, Michael, Alan and Roger) are known to descend from John Pike from Whiteparish in Wiltshire who settled in Massachusetts in 1635. Stephen descends from a different John Pike who was buried in 1681 in the parish of St Mary Aldermary in London and whose son Samuel settled in Pasquotank County, North Carolina. Jonathan descends from a Simon Pike who married in 1751 at Stratfield Saye, Hampshire. And Lori (who manages her father's DNA results) traces her Pike line back to a David Pike who married in 1828 at Ramsbury, Wiltshire and subsequently moved to Ohio.
Jay manages the DNA results for a cousin of his with the surname GUESS. Jay and his cousin trace their Guess line back to a William Guess/Guest who was born in 1762 in Virginia. William had several brothers, and descendants of theirs who have done Y-DNA STR testing have received results that match one another. However, their results do not match those of Jay's cousin. Meanwhile though, Jay's cousin does match with descendants of William who have done Y-DNA STR testing. These results collectively indicate that there may be a genealogical error or a case of misattributed paternity concerning William. In the following discussion we will see that he descends from a Pike.
The Block Tree provided by FamilyTreeDNA for our Group 1 is shown below.
Observe that all of the Pikes of Group 1 are located beneath the block containing the five SNPs named YP5465 through to YP6209. Immediately below this block are two others, one for the pair of SNPs named YP5461 and YP5463, and another for the single SNP named FT427056. These two blocks represent a major branching point in the family tree for our Group 1. Some people may notice and wonder about the block tree's second column from the right, which I have noted to be empty. Sometimes these unoccupied columns appear in the block tree, although I'm not sure why. This one may just be a placeholder that is available in the event that somebody new comes along and is found to carry the five SNPs of the YP5465 block but none of the three of the SNPs that make up the two blocks beneath it.
The block tree presented by FamilyTreeDNA allows us to rebuild the structure of the family tree for Group 1 as follows:
The two SNPs named YP5462 and FT178399 are carried by the descendants of two different sons of John Pike from Whiteparish, and so we can conclude that John himself carried these two SNPs. Jay's cousin does not carry either of these two mutations, which signals that he does not descend from John.
Meanwhile, on the right side of this tree we see that it has two distinctive branches, one of which has Stephen and the anonymous person. At present it isn't clear whether this anonymous person descends from Stephen's ancestor John from London. However, the block tree provided by FamilyTreeDNA shows that Stephen and the anonymous person share a block of four SNPs and thereafter they have an average of two additional private SNPs. With only a few private SNPs, and with Stephen's ancestor John having lived about 10 generations ago, my suspicion is that the anonymous person does descend from John, as suggested by the dashed line in the tree shown above.
The rightmost branch in the tree contains Jonathan and Lori. They share no SNPs that are more recent than FT427056 (which is also shared by Stephen and his anonymous kinsman). In this case my suspicion is that Lori's ancestor David does not descend from Jonathan's ancestor Simon. My reasoning here is that Simon lived about three generations before David, and if Simon was David's ancestor then there would be a strong chance that a SNP would have mutated along the line from FT427056 to Simon and it would then have been passed along to David and Lori's father. Such a mutation would also be inherited by Jonathan and would therefore have been reported by FamilyTreeDNA as a shared SNP. But no such SNP is reported.
Something worth pointing out is that the BigY results for Group 1 confirm that Jay's ancestor William Guest has Pike ancestry. The SNP results have provided the evidence that embed this Guest line within the Pike family tree. Were it not for these genealogical DNA test results, we would not have had any reason to wonder if William wasn't a biological child of his presumed parents (named William Guest senior and Susannah Adelaide Howard). Currently we do not know whether William was adopted, or perhaps he was raised by his maternal grandparents (such as might be the case if his mother was unwed). These questions will require further research. One thing that stands out from the BigY testing is that whomever William's father was, he wasn't a descendant of John Pike from Whiteparish who settled in Massachusetts in 1635. Nor was William's father a descendant of Samuel Pike who settled in Pasquotank County, North Carolina. This suggests that there is a yet-to-be-identified Pike line that belongs to Group 1 and which was in Virginia by the 1760s.
In addition to revealing the existence of this unidentified Pike line, Jay's cousin's results have also helped to refine the structure of the Pike family tree. If you look back to our project's BigY update from a year ago, you'll see the block tree at the time had same the block of five SNPs (i.e., YP5465 through to YP6209) that it still has now. However, a year ago, there was then a lower block with four SNPs (i.e., YP5461, FT178399, YP5462, YP5463). This block has now been broken apart. Because Jay's cousin has YP5461 and YP5463, we now know that these two SNPs occurred before YP5462 and FT178399. Said another way, the results obtained from Jay's cousin have allowed us to see an instance of branching in the family tree that wasn't visible a year ago. The new results from Lori, Stephen and the anonymous project member have also allowed us to see some branching elsewhere in the family tree.
Let me now draw your attention to the table of STR results for Group 1 in which the standard set of 111 STR marker values is shown. These results from Group 1 are currently subdivided within the table as follows:
- Known descendants of John Pike who settled in Massachusetts in 1635, all of whom we note share a value of 25 on the second STR marker
- People with a value of 25 on the second STR marker, but who aren't known to descend from this settler John
- People with a value of 24 on the second STR marker
This second marker and its value of 24 versus 25 has appeared for a long time now to represent a deep split in the family tree. Specifically, it has looked as though a mutation arose in which a child was born with a value of 24, whereas his father had a value of 25. And then this child passed on the value of 24 to all of his male-line descendants, while the rest of the family tree carried on with the original value of 25. Something similar to this may well have happened, but the BigY results that we now have are showing the actual situation to be more complicated.
Across the bottom of the tree diagram shown above I have inserted the value of the second STR marker for each of the nine people that have done the BigY test. Notice that Lori's father has a value of 25, but the other people in the right half of the diagram have a value of 24. The tree structure is validated by the SNP results reported by the BigY test and so we find that there must have been more than one instance of a mutation on the second STR marker. That is, our previous notion of a single mutation on the second STR marker was incorrect. This is one of the caveats of STR mutations, namely that STR mutations happen often enough that one mutation can later be reversed by a subsequent mutation on the same marker. Such a reversal is what we now see to have happened. Specifically, it appears that early in the history of the right side of the family tree the second STR marker mutated from a value of 25 to 24, and then within the last several generations of Lori's line it underwent another mutation, this time from a value of 24 to 25. There are some other more nuanced possibilities that could account for what we see, which is to say that this updated theory may yet be found to have a flaw in it. We will therefore adjust as necessary if/when presented with new information that doesn't fit the current understanding of this marker's history.
Group 1 is the largest family cluster within the Pike DNA Project, representing about a fifth of our project members. The many members of this group who trace their lineages back to the English counties of Wiltshire, Hampshire and nearby indicate that the family has been in this area for several centuries. As was the case with the inclusion of new results from Jay, Lori, Jonathan, etc., it will be interesting to discover more about this family's branches and origins as more members upgrade and obtain results from the BigY test. It will also be good to identify more family lines and determine their place within the family tree.
To say a few brief words about Group 2, there have been some new BigY results this year but I'm going to defer an update for a future blog post. In part this is because there is currently a BigY test in progress for a member of Group 2, and I'm hopeful that another test or two will be ordered during the current year-end sale being held by FamilyTreeDNA.
I'm also hoping to recruit some more project members who I suspect belong to Group 2. One particular line of interest is a Pike line that I've been able to trace from the late 1600s in Poole in Dorset, to the 1700s in Portsmouth in Hampshire, to the 1800s in London, the 1900s in Gravesend in Kent, and most recently in the county of Essex.
Disclaimer and Acknowledgements
As with any genealogical research, the reasoning and conclusions that are outlined above are based on what information is available at the time. New discoveries will be assessed and incorporated as they arise, and may on occasion require adjustment to previous conclusions. That's one of the best features of genealogical DNA testing, for each new test result provides new information that can reinforce past conclusions, or sometimes it can focus scrutiny onto something that isn't quite right.
Our project and the discoveries that arise from it are only possible because of the collective efforts of many people, especially those who have contributed DNA samples and genealogical information.