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Introductory Information

What is a Surname DNA Project?
For the many persons who have spent countless hours and years gathering family information, vital records, photographs, and memorabilia in order to produce a genealogical document for posterity, the 21st century is providing tools undreamed of even twenty years ago. High speed computers with incredible data handling and storage, plus professional printing and graphics capabilities; information sources via CDs and the Internet; and software that enables anyone to organize, manage and publish their accumulation of data.

But now, through the "coming of age" of molecular biology, we are provided a totally unexpected and powerful new tool called "genetic genealogy." This involves the simple collection of a person's DNA, extracted from a sample of their mouth cells, that in the laboratory, yields genetic evidence for analysis. A Surname DNA Project specifically studies the results of testing that portion of the DNA obtained from the male Y chromosome, the characteristics of which are passed, unchanged, from father to son, essentially following the family's surname down through the generations.

Worldwide examination of Y-DNA has permitted population geneticists to unravel and understand the migrations of human groups for the past 100,000 years or more. And Y-DNA research is now enabling genealogists to identify for modern individuals their ties with these ancient population groups. Genetic genealogy does not break down those "brick walls" we've all encountered; it leaps over them! While your Y-DNA test result, by itself, will probably not identify that elusive great-great grandfather, but in conjunction with the tests of others, may provide a breakthrough that not only identifies grand-dad, but perhaps the Neolithic band of nomads from which all of your paternal line descend! This is the power of a Surname DNA Project.

The Benedict Project's Objectives
The Benedict Surname DNA Project has two basic objectives. The first objective relates to determining relationships between persons and families bearing the Benedict name in recent times. Most, but not all, Benedict families in the Americas may be traced to Thomas Benedict, the immigrant ancestor, who came from England to Salem in 1637. Thomas, with his wife and family, then migrated to several towns on Long Island, finally settling in Fairfield County, Connecticut.

But there are other Benedict families throughout North America and other parts of the world that may have other, more remote connections than the English/Connecticut Benedicts. There are European lines, we suspect, that may even represent a source of Thomas's English line. Also, as we know, the spelling of surnames may become modified over generations as families migrate to new regions. So, other lines, that may actually be related, may not be recognized because of new variations of spelling and translation.

Therefore, the second and broader objective is to trace all Benedict connections back into Europe (or elsewhere) and beyond. Through the latest advances in DNA analysis, we now have the tools to examine the mysteries of our ancestors's remote historical, cultural and anthropological beginnings as part of the wave of modern human beings that populated Europe and other parts of the planet after the last Ice Age. The prospects currently available to us are simply astounding and most exciting.

Eligibility to Join the Project
Participation in the Project is necessarily limited only to males bearing the Benedict surname. However, females bearing this surname may participate by encouraging their father, brother, Benedict uncle, or male Benedict cousin to submit a DNA sample for testing. Here are the reasons for the limitation.

A Surname DNA Project, by definition, traces members of a family that share a common surname. However, surnames are generally passed down through the paternal line of a family, from fathers to sons. Although daughters, like sons, receive the family's surname at birth, they most often acquire a new surname through marriage. That's really an artificial reason. The primary reason is based in human genetics. While siblings of both genders may receive the same surname, they do not receive the same genetic composition. To oversimplify the scientific explanation, boys receive, as gender-determining chromosomes, an X and a Y, whereas their sisters receive two X chromosomes. The Y-chromosome is passed down the paternal line, generation after generation, with part of its DNA (called the non-recombinant portion) virtually unchanged. This is the portion being tested in a Y-DNA test and the real reason that the surname project is male-specific.

Female family members, however, may order a test for themselves that tests for a genetic record of the maternal line, called the mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA test. Males also receive their mother's mitochondrial DNA which, unlike Y-DNA, is not passed to their offspring. However, males may also have their mtDNA tested to provide their own maternal lineage. Because the results of this test, which identify the testee as a descendant of a particular so-called daughter of the European Mitochondrial Eve, are matrilineal, they cannot be compatibly tied into the Surname DNA Project, which is patrilineal.

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Copyright © 2004-2011 R.A. Benedict (unless otherwise credited)
This Update: Nay 2011