21 Sep 2011

Part 6: It's all in the science!

So who was the real father of William Swinfield, my great-grandfather, who was born in 1841? Although, on paper, he was born legitimately to Thomas and Sarah Swinfield, who had married at Trowell in 1829, there was overwhelming evidence that Thomas had left his family behind by as early as 1839 and was living at Calverton. In that year, his new partner, Maria Cooper, had his child, whom they named Elizabeth Swinfield Cooper.

Sarah Swinfield remained in Earl Shilton and produced two illegitimate issue in 1843 and 1845, whom she named Joseph and Sarah. The evidence leads us to believe that the father was her long-term partner, Thomas Brown. Could genetic tests be used to determine if Thomas was also the father of my William?
My 37 marker haplotype certificate
By testing the Y-chromosome, which is passed from father to son and which makes children male, it is possible to produce a profile for any man. There are many marker sites along its length which can be “scored” for the number of meaningless repeats of very short sections of DNA known as short tandem repeats (STRs). By comparing the STR profile (called the haplotype) of two or more men, an assessment can be made of how closely they are related. Usually, this is done for men who share the same surname, adopted as a family name about 1300.
Graham's 37 marker haplotype 
Joseph Swinfield had three sons and from them there were many lines of male descent. His great-grandson, Graham Albert Swinfield, my 3rd cousin, was traced. He kindly agreed to provide a sample of his DNA and that was compared with mine using Family Tree DNA (FTDNA). The results can be viewed on the Swinfield DNA & Genealogy Group page.Amazingly, we were identical at 35 of the 37 marker sites tested.  Not only that but we also had an extremely rare haplotype for English men. We certainly shared the same male ancestor. Whoever was the father of Sarah’s illegitimate child in 1843 was also the genetic father of my great-grandfather. The evidence put the ball very much in Thomas Brown’s court! 
Paul's 37 marker haplotype
We have also tested two other Swinfields, one of whom was “on paper” my 4th cousin, Derrick George Joseph, the man I had met on my first day in a record office (see “My First Step in Genealogy” below).  He has a completely different haplotype which is almost identical to that of Paul Frederick Swinfield (of Family 3 & 4). They only differ at one marker out of the 32 for which they have both been tested.  This is a type of Y-chromosome which would be found frequently amongst over 70% of English men. They must have a common male ancestor and it proves that Families 3 & 4 and 5 must be related if only we can find the document that proves it!   

After nearly 40 years of collecting any information, that I could lay my hands on, relating to the surname of Swinfield, I had proved conclusively that I am not one. I should have been researching Brown instead!   

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