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Pioneer surname projects (before 2002)

From ISOGG Wiki

Genetic Genealogy Timeline

The early pioneer surname projects prior to 2000 were conducted by scientists or by amateur genealogists working in collaboration with universities. The commercial testing phase began in 2000 with the launch of Family Tree DNA and Oxford Ancestors.


January 1997

Publication of a letter in the scientific journal Nature entitled "Y chromosomes of Jewish priests by K Skorecki, S Selig, S Blazer, R Bradman, N Bradman, P J Waburton, M Ismajlowicz M and M F Hammer.[1] Dr. Karl Skorecki, a Canadian nephrologist of Ashkenazi parentage, had noticed that a Sephardic fellow-congregant who was a Kohen like himself had completely different physical features. According to Jewish tradition, all Jewish priests (Kohanim} are descended from the priest Aaron, brother of Moses. Skorecki reasoned that if Kohanim were indeed the descendants of only one man, they should have a common set of genetic markers and should perhaps preserve some family resemblance to each other. To test that hypothesis, in 1996 he contacted Professor Michael Hammer of the University of Arizona, a researcher in molecular genetics and pioneer in Y chromosome research.[2] Their report in Nature sent shockwaves through the worlds of science and religion. A particular marker was indeed more likely to be present in Jewish men from the priestly tradition than in the general Jewish population. It was apparently true that a common descent had been strictly preserved for thousands of years. This paper caught the attention of the surname project pioneers (see also their entries on the 1990 to 1999 page) who worked directly with universities.

Savin DNA project

Genealogist Alan Savin, who maintains the database for the Savin one-name study, proposed a DNA project to scientists at University College London in 1997. Funding was obtained through the College and the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies.[3][4] Preliminary results were reported in Savin's booklet DNA for Family Historians.[5] Seventy Savins participated in the study. Comparisons were made on six Y-STR markers. The study is now continuing at Family Tree DNA.[6]


Pearl Duncan, an author from New York, links her family to the Akuapim people in Ghana through Y chromosome DNA testing with Dr Michael Hammer from the University of Arizona.[7][8]

Sykes (later founded Oxford Ancestors)

Greenspan (later 1999) (founded Family Tree DNA

Wang (published the following year[9])


Most of the below pioneers began with commercial companies between 2000-2001. If information is provided, projects with other companies through 2001 will be included. Most surname projects include several spelling variations, e.g. Johnson, Johnston, etc.

  • Mumma (April 2000). The first surname project with a commercial company (FTDNA).[10]
  • Stidham/Steadham (fall 2000). The second FTDNA project.[10][11][12]
  • Duerinck. The third FTDNA project.[10]
  • Swann (Aug/Sept 2000). Two Y-DNA samples (5 markers) were submitted to Laboratory Corporation in North Carolina by Lena Swann Cusce. The objective was to compare the DNA of William Swan of Swann's Point, Virginia (1587-1638), with Edward Swan of Eagleton, Maryland (d. 1707) via two living descendants. A project was subsequently set up at FTDNA.[13]
  • Pomeroy (September 2000 OA, later DH, now FTDNA)
  • Wells (September 2000 Brigham Young University, then RG, now Ancestry)
  • Strickland (December 2000 Brigham Young University, then RG, then Ancestry, now FTDNA)
  • Bachman/Bachmann/Baughman project (December 2000 Oxford Ancestors, transferred to FTDNA May 2004). A bi-national effort initially run by Ross Baughman in the US and Ulrich Bachmann in Switzerland. Philip Ritter became a co-administrator in 2004.


(alphabetical order - month listed if known)

Facts & Genes from Family Tree DNA - June 2, 2003 Volume 2, Issue 5 Link to the complete newletter found in web archives.

"At the end of 2001, a year and a half after first offering Genetic Genealogy tests to the public, there were about 100 Surname Projects.... "The [list includes the] first Surname Projects at Family Tree DNA to have enough participants and results so that advantages of DNA testing could be seen . . . . in chronological order through December 31, 2001."


  1. K Skorecki, S Selig, S Blazer, R Bradman,N Bradman, P J Waburton, M Ismajlowicz M and M F Hammer. Y chromosome of Jewish priests. Nature 385, 32 (2 January 1997).
  2. The priests' chromosome? DNA analysis supports the biblical story of the Jewish priesthood. The Free Library.
  3. Genetic Codes Unraveled: New Clues to Human History. Ancestry magazine, January/February 2000.
  4. Savin Y chromosome project synopsis
  5. Alan Savin. DNA for Family Historians. Privately printed, 2000.
  6. Savin DNA project at Family Tree DNA
  7. Susan Saulny. A spiraling trail back to Africa: DNA is breakthrough in writer's search. The New York Times, February 26, 2002.
  8. Alan Boyle. She traces genetic routes to Africa: DNA helps author forge links to cousins from Ghana., January 16, 2002.
  9. Wu Dongying, Ma Sucan, Liu Ming, Huang Shagzhi, Liu Chunyun, Application of Y-chromosome polymorphisms to studying the kinship of the the males with family name Wang from Han nationality, Acta Anthropologica Sinica, Volume 19, Issue 2, Pages 132-137, May 2000 (in Chinese with English summary)
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Facts & Genes from Family Tree DNA, Volume 2, Issue 5, June 2, 2003
  11. Richard L Steadham. The saga of how our project evolved. The Stidham Family DNA Study website.
  12. The project included the variant spellings Stedman, Steadman and Steedman from the start. In South Carolina Stedmans and Steadhams had intermarried and a certain amount of name 'swapping' had occurred. John Lisle joined as an admin in 2004 by which time the Stidham activity was dormant and almost all the activity was Stedman based. In 2009, when FTDNA allowed participants to belong to multiple projects at the same time, the project was split into two. A new Stedman project was created with the same admin in order to allow the original project to focus more on Stidham surnames, which were getting a little swamped by the Stedman participants. Since then, Steadmans who match the Stidham haplotypes are added to the Stidham project and Stidhams who do not match one of the two Stidham haplotypes also join the Stedman project.
  13. Lena Swann Cusce For One Family, DNA Provides an Answer. National Genealogical Society [news magazine], January/February 2001, pp47-49.


See also