Background

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Brief Introduction to the Barry, Berry and Hamilton paternal lines

As mentioned on the Main Page, this website presents ongoing genealogical research into a possible common paternal ancestor of three men with surnames Barry, Berry and Hamilton whose yDNA test results show exact or close matches at 67 markers.

The three men and some of their earliest known ancestors are:

  • William A. "Bill" Barry, whose earliest confirmed Barry ancestor is Edward Barry (1825-1915). Edward and his brother Martin (1820-1903) came to the US from County Limerick, Ireland in the 1850s. Martin lived for a time in Oswego, New York before heading west to Chicago, Illinois, where Edward joined him. Each moved southwest of Chicago - Martin to Livingston County and Edward to LaSalle County. Each enlisted in the Civil War in different units. In the early 1870s, Martin moved to Chase County, Kansas with his family, but later returned to Grundy County, Illinois, where Edward had settled. Both men died in Morris, Grundy County, Illinois, and are buried there in the Soldier's Circle in Evergreen Cemetery. Martin's marriage record (1849, County Limerick, Ireland) suggests that his father John, a laborer, was probably still alive at the time of Martin's marriage. John most likely was born in Ireland in the 1790s or earlier.
  • B2XV7 Berry, whose earliest confirmed Berry ancestors lived in the Virginia-Kentucky area in the late 1700s to early 1800s. The family migrated out of eastern Kentucky to western Illinois in the early 1800s and later moved into western Missouri near St. Louis, where James Grimes Berry (1811-1891) plied his trade of saddler to the Union Army during the Civil War. His son Christa C. Berry (1844-1900) served in the Union Army during the Civil War. James Grimes Berry was the son of John Berry and Mary "Polly" Grimes, who were living in Kentucky when John died in April 1817; John's widow Mary later married James H. Craven in 1828 and moved to Greene County, Illinois.
  • George Martin Hamilton, whose paternal ancestor Samuel Berry Hamilton was a son of James N. Hamilton and Rachel Berry. (The contact person for this line is Larry Milnes, a descendent of Samuel B. Hamilton down a female line.) James and Rachel married in Bath County, Virginia in 1818. In the 1830s, they migrated with their children and other Hamilton and Berry family members from Virginia to Lee County, Iowa. Their son Samuel later lived in Illinois and Nebraska before moving to Fresno County, California, where he died in the 1890s. New research indicates that James N. Hamilton was very likely the son of John Hamilton of Bath County, Virginia, who died in hospital near Brownville (Jefferson County) New York in July 1814 while serving in the War of 1812 as a private in the regular army (12th Infantry).

More detailed information on all three paternal lines can be found [here]. The most current yDNA test results for the three men are shown below. This table is the result of doing [this search] on Ysearch.


User IDLast NameOrigin3
9
3
3
9
0
1
9
3
9
1
3
8
5
a
3
8
5
b
4
2
6
3
8
8
4
3
9
3
8
9
|
1
3
9
2
3
8
9
|
2
4
5
8
4
5
9
a
4
5
9
b
4
5
5
4
5
4
4
4
7
4
3
7
4
4
8
4
4
9
4
6
4
a
4
6
4
b
4
6
4
c
4
6
4
d
4
6
0
H
4
Y
C
A
I
I
a
Y
C
A
I
I
b
4
5
6
6
0
7
5
7
6
5
7
0
C
D
Y
a
C
D
Y
b
4
4
2
4
3
8
4
2
5
4
4
4
4
4
6
5
3
1
5
7
8
3
9
5
S
1
a
3
9
5
S
1
b
5
9
0
5
3
7
6
4
1
4
7
2
4
0
6
S
1
5
1
1
4
1
3
a
4
1
3
b
5
5
7
5
9
4
4
3
6
4
9
0
5
3
4
4
5
0
4
8
1
5
2
0
6
1
7
5
6
8
4
8
7
5
7
2
6
4
0
4
9
2
5
6
5
CRNA3BarryCounty Limerick, Ireland  13241411111412121214 133017910111124151829 1515171711121923161518 183939111212111411915 16810108101023231710 121215822201211131111 1212
B2XV7BerryUnknown 132414111114121212 14133017910111124 151829151517171112 192316151818393911 1212111411915168 101081010232317101212158222012111311111212
HZPVFHamiltonUnknown, Virginia, USA  13 24 14 11 11 14 12 12 12 14 13 30 17 9 10 11 11 24 15 18 29 15 15 17 17 11 11 19 23 16 14 18 18 39 42 11 12 12 12 14 11 9 15 16 8 10 10 8 10 10 23 23 17 10 12 12 15 8 22 20 12 11 13 11 11 12 12

How can DNA tests tell us about our ancestors?

The three men whose results appear above had their DNA tested with Family Tree DNA (FTDNA). The tests are done using cells brushed from the inside cheek of the mouth with a small scraper - a quick and painless procedure done at home. The sample is then mailed to a testing facility (in this case, FTDNA), and the results are returned to the participant, usually within two months.

FTDNA provides many different kinds of DNA tests. The two sets of tests most useful for genealogy purposes are the yDNA and the mitochondrial DNA tests. yDNA is passed unchanged from father to son, except for rare mutations; the son can then pass this yDNA on to his son, etc. In this way, all male descendants of a man will have the same yDNA, except for these rare mutations. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is passed unchanged from a mother to all her children; female children pass the mitochondrial DNA on to their children, but males do not - they pass on only their yDNA.

Note that only two out of the many ancestral lines of a particular man can be "traced" using currently available DNA techniques. The yDNA test can reveal his male ancestral line (his father's father's father's etc. line), while the mitochondrial DNA test describes his maternal ancestral line (his mother's mother's mother's etc. line). If one wishes to trace a different ancestral line, one must locate a descendant down one of those specific lines to provide a DNA sample. Since women do not have yDNA, they must find a male related to the line of interest to participate in a yDNA test.

The DNA tests we are discussing here are the yDNA tests. They can be used in conjunction with genealogy research (a "paper trail"), to help establish or eliminate possible avenues of research to pursue, but only for an all-male line. A yDNA test can only say something about the paternal line of a male - the line consisting of that man, his father, his grandfather, his great-grandfather, etc. His test can be compared to the tests of other men; a close match means it is very likely that the two men's paternal lines converge to a common male ancestor at some point in the past.

The rare mutations in the DNA make these tests useful by allowing you to distinguish one "family" from another (a "family" being one set of paternally-related males in the yDNA case or a maternally-related group that could include terminal males in the mtDNA case). As a simple example, let's say there are two brothers, John and George. Their most recent common male ancestor is their father, just one generation back. If a mutation occurs when their father's yDNA is passed to John - but not to George - then John and George's yDNA will be exactly the same - except for this single mutation. John passes that mutation on to his descendants. George's descendants don't have this mutation, yet in all other ways, their yDNA is identical to that of John's descendants. This single mutation allows us to differentiate between the male descendants of the two brothers. It may take several more generations for just one more mutation to occur in either of these male lines. As the generations go by, more mutations will occur. Because these mutations don't happen very often, it will take many, many generations before the yDNA of John's male descendants differs significantly from that of George's male descendants.

In this way, the similarity in the yDNA of any two men is a measure of how far back in time those men's ancestors are related. A close match means the two men share a common ancestor in the near past; a less close match suggests their common ancestor is further back in time. In testing for genealogy purposes, we are interested in finding exact yDNA matches or matches that differ by only a few markers, making it likely that the common ancestor is recent enough that genealogy research might show the connection.

Of course, nature is even more interesting. Recent [research] suggests that some mutations are more likely to occur together, in sets. So if two men differ in their yDNA test results by 4 markers, the chances of them being closely related could differ depending on exactly which 4 markers are different. If three of those markers are correlated, they can be thought of as one mutation rather than three separate mutations. So a 4 marker difference ends up being more like a 2 marker difference. This might be the case with the 4 marker difference between the Hamilton and Barry/Berry lines marked in red in the table above.

For a more detailed explanation of these tests, you might start with this Wikipedia article [1].

Discovery of the three yDNA matches

An exact 37 marker match between Bill and B2XV7 was discovered in September 2006 by Jim Berry, one of the coordinators of the Berry Family DNA Project. Before that, from October 2005 until September 2006, the only close matches to Bill in the FTDNA database had been exact at 12 markers (not very meaningful) or at a genetic distance of 3 at 37 markers. After this very close match was found, B2XV7 immediately contacted Bill. They started corresponding, trading genealogy information and trying to determine if either of them knew who their common ancestor might be.

A few days later, Bill noticed there was also an exact 25 marker match in the ysearch database to a person with the surname Hamilton, who is a member of the Hamilton Surname DNA Project. This began a correspondence between Bill and Larry Milnes (the person doing the Hamilton research) trying to determine if there was any connection between his Hamilton family and a Berry or Barry family that would explain why his Hamilton yDNA so closely matched Bill and B2XV7's Barry or Berry yDNA.

Larry Milnes identified his earliest known Hamilton ancestor as Samuel B. Hamilton. Samuel was born in Virginia about 1830 and died in Fresno County, California in the 1890s. By an interesting coincidence, Bill's wife Geralyn had done some research for a friend on a Hamilton family from Nova Scotia that also lived in Fresno County. The two Hamilton families are unrelated as far as we can tell. However, as a result of this research, Geralyn had an index on CD to the 1890 California Great Register of Voters. She searched that for Samuel B. Hamilton and found him listed there as Samuel Berry Hamilton. This was the first record Larry had seen that mentioned Samuel's full middle name rather than just an initial. Of course, the interesting thing is that his middle name was Berry. This implies a connection between Hamiltons and Berrys that must have been known to Samuel B. Hamilton, but that knowledge had been lost over the generations.

To see how these yDNA results influenced our genealogy research, see the page about research strategies. For more information on the three lines, and the new information found using these research strategies, see [here].