Side Study: What’s In A Name?

Some of us may recognize the phrase “What’s in a name” from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. 

This phrase “What’s in a name” also has meaning and practical use in genealogical research in the pursuit of ancestor’s names.

Have you ever noticed in your research there are clues to the names given to children by their parents?  If you haven’t yet, you likely will – especially as you go back further in time.  It may not be seen frequently today, but these naming traditions were very common in the past.  Traditions (or patterns) such as these can provide important clues:

First (or given) names:

The first-born son is given the same first name as the father.  Example: John Staples and his wife Mary name their first-born son John.

The first-born son is given the same first name as the father’s father.  Example:  John Staples (son of William Staples) and his wife Mary name their first-born son William.

The first-born son is given the same first name as the mother’s father.  Example:  John Staples and his wife Mary (maiden name Lee, daughter of James and Margaret Lee) name their first-born son James.

The first-born daughter is given the same first name as the mother.  Example: John Staples and his wife Mary name their first-born daughter Mary.

The first-born daughter is given the same first name as the mother’s mother.  Example: John Staples and his wife Mary (maiden name Lee, daughter of James and Margaret Lee) name their first-born daughter Margaret.

A daughter is given the female version of her father’s name.  Example: Johanna (or Joanna) Staples is named after her father John Staples; or Danielle is named after her father Daniel.

Of course, it’s certainly possible children other than the first-born could be named using these traditions.  But it is seen more frequently applied to first-born children.

Have you ever noticed children have been given the first name of a deceased sibling, or a deceased brother or sister of the child’s father or mother?  If the deceased were a sibling, this means that within a single family group, there would be two children with the same name but different birth dates. Typically, the deceased individual died at a very young age, such as at birth or sometime before, say, six years old. This was done to honor the name and memory of the deceased child, and to carry on the name.  This tradition is not common today.

Other traditions include giving first names to children naming them after their mother’s and/or father’s brothers and sisters; or aunts and uncles.  This means first names tend to get “recycled” and used over and over again, generation after generation.  While this tradition may have sentimental significance and be meaningful for the family unit at the time, it can present a challenge to genealogists later in years, trying to sort out who’s who, with so many closely-related family members having the same names.  Birth/marriage/death names, dates and locations become critically important to determine who’s who.

Middle (given) names:

The middle name of a child is given the maiden name of the mother. Example: John Staples and his wife Mary (maiden name Lee) name a male child John Lee Staples.

This tradition could just as easily be applied to a female child as well as a male child.  Example: John Staples and his wife Mary (maiden name Lee) name a female child Mary Lee Staples. It has been observed that this is sometimes done even if the maiden name of the wife has a name that “sounds generally male”.  Example: James Staples and his wife Sarah (maiden name Norman) name a female child Sarah Norman Staples.

The middle name of a male child is given the first name of the father’s father. Example:  John Staples (son of William Staples) and his wife Mary name their child John William Staples.

The middle name of a male child is given the first name of the mother’s father. Example:  John Staples and his wife Mary (maiden name Lee, daughter of James and Margaret Lee) name their child John James Staples.

Other traditions include giving middle names to children naming them after their mother’s and/or father’s brothers and sisters; or aunts and uncles. 

What’s in a name?  Given these traditions and being aware of these to be used as clues in your genealogical research, there could be a lot more in a name than meets the eye!

For further reading on this topic see:

Frank Staples, Jr.

January 2019

Side Study: Where Did I Get That From?!?

Revised 31 Dec 2018

OK, so you’re working on building your family tree.  You’re easily finding new names: ancestors in your direct lineage.  Exciting!!  You’re adding the new names to your family tree rapidly.  Father’s names; mother’s maiden names; children’s names.  New lines to research based on new maiden names.  Even more exciting!  Wow, soon you’ll be able to regenerate your Pedigree Chart and visualize your lineage back even further than before. And all those new distant cousins, too!

And then three months later…………oops, you run into conflicting dates.  Now you have to take time to research and fix it.  You take a look at the birth date of the name with a conflict.  The dates you have don’t make sense.  As one example, perhaps the child’s birth date is only 8 years after her mother’s birth date.  That can’t be – that’s got to be fixed!  Oh no…you didn’t take the time to cite any sources for their birth dates.  Where did I get that from?

Or you find a name which may be a duplicate of someone already in your tree.  The birth and death dates are the same, but the name of their spouse is different between the two.  Is this the same person with two different spouses?  Or do you have the dates wrong?  You take a look at the marriage date and, oh no (again)…no sources cited.  Where did I get that from?

This has happened to all of us, from beginner to expert, in our genealogical research.  Sooner or later we all realize it’s important to take time to find credible sources, verify, and cite sources in your tree for facts, especially for names and vital facts such as birth, death, and marriage dates.  It’s also important to link the fact to the source or to the media item in the gallery on the profile page so it’s clear what fact came from what source.

What is a credible source?  Someone else’s family tree?  Well, maybe…. depending on the sources they used.  But there are more credible sources to search for.  First, let’s discuss the types of sources available for genealogical research.  Using the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) [Reference as a guide, the types of sources include:

Original and Derivative Sources: original sources are considered more reliable and thus preferred.

Primary and Secondary Sources: primary sources are considered more reliable and accurate.

Direct and Indirect Evidence: direct evidence is considered more accurate.

It’s best to seek original, primary and direct evidence sources whenever possible, which are most credible.

Examples of primary sources include:

  • Original vital records (VR) available in town, city, or county records, such as birth, marriage and death records. However, keep in mind that for a death record, for example, the name, date, and place of death is considered primary information, but the deceased individual’s birth date and location may not be accurate so is considered secondary information on a death certificate.  Also, for example, the names of the individual’s parents must also be considered secondary information on a death certificate.
  • US Census records, which are available from databases. Census records contain both primary information as well as secondary information. For example, the primary information is the date and location of the Census Record.  But the names, birth dates and birth locations of the individuals are considered secondary information since the person(s) providing the data may not have been physically present at their birth.  Likewise, it is of course unlikely the US Census Recorder was not present for the births for those individuals, either.
  • A Family Bible is considered a primary source if the author of the Bible was a participant or witness to the names, dates and location of all the events recorded. Years later that may be difficult to state with certainty.
  • An autobiography or biography containing facts, events, or family stories/history is a primary source providing the author was a participant or a witness to the events at the time.

Derivative and Secondary sources should also be investigated and may be of value. Some include:

  • Vital record websites, indices, or published books containing vital records taken from town, city or county records.
  • Genealogical and Family Histories, published by recognized organizations, such as the New England Historic and Genealogical Society (NEHGS). Reference:
  • American ancestry: giving the name and descent, in the male line, of Americans whose ancestors settled in the United States previous to the Declaration of independence, A.D. 1776; or The Magazine of American Genealogy These sources are timeless collections and remember someone put a lot of time and effort to research and document these.  Keep in mind, however, even these sources have been known to contain errors, so trust but verify!
  • Biographical, historical, genealogical and personal memoirs, written by reputable authors, editors and genealogists, such as William Richard Cutter; Henry Sweetser Burrage and Albert Roscoe Stubbs; Charles Thornton Libby, etc. Once again, even these sources have been known to contain errors, so trust but verify!
  • Sources going back into England’s historical records, including ancestry from royal lineage include Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage; Collins’s Peerage of England; etc. Once again, even these sources have been known to contain errors, so trust but verify!

Finding Ancestry Sources (searching on and adding them on the ancestor’s Profile page creates a huge advantage since it helps to find and present Hints for you to review and consider. 

Many sources can be found by simply using your favorite search engine for an ancestor’s name or an ancestor couple and reviewing the hits to pick out the most credible ones.  If these aren’t found and added as Ancestry Sources that’s OK.  Add them in the Add Source box on the Profile page.  Below is an example of a source citation for a book found in a Genealogy Department of a county library, then added as an Added Source.

Where Did I Get That From 1

Is it OK to use other people’s family trees?  Yes!  I do recommend taking a look at other’s family trees, including those in, MyHeritage, or others.  It is especially recommended to look at published genealogical books and papers which have been researched and published for a given family name.  However, use these secondary sources as a REFERENCE only, to give you ideas and clues to explore further.  Look at their tree for primary sources which you can use.  If other’s family trees are used as a source, and they cite no sources, cite their tree as a source.  That’s better than nothing!

Don’t let this happen to you (see below)!

Where Did I Get That From 2

Remember: FVC

F – Find – a primary source (or a secondary source, if all else fails)

V – Verify –  the information found against other sources, preferably primary sources

C – Cite – the source and record/link the details in your family tree records

FVC to add sources to look like this:

Where Did I Get That From 3Where Did I Get That From 4

Remember: FVC               Find       Verify   Cite

Your goal should be to NEVER have to again ask:  Where did I get that from?

Frank Staples, Jr.

December 2018


Announcing ‘Side Study’ Blog Category

While this website is primarily focused on the Goals of the Peter Staple Heritage Group, sometimes we get distracted. A necessary component of Genetic Genealogy is of course Genealogy, where it’s easy to spend time diving down the other (non-paternal) branches of the family tree. In fact, many people may get their first interest in genealogy by that commercial or the hand written scroll given to you by your uncle.

Side Study blog posts will serve as general information related to genealogy – not specifically to the study of Y-DNA. They may be personal lessons learned along the way, methods to push us to acting more like professional genealogists, or interesting discoveries.

In the end, genetic genealogy teaches us that it’s all related. There are things to learn in the practice of genealogy that will be helpful when studying genetic genealogy.

Have you come across something interesting that could help others? Want to contribute your own Side Study? Comment below!

2018 Christmas Sales

FTDNA’s Holiday Sale is in full swing with savings up to 40% on some products.  The Y-111 test (needed for full PSHG membership) is currently only $219 USD (a savings of $140).  For those interested in deepening their understanding of SNPs, including Direct Paternal Lineage SNPs, Big Y-500 is on sale for $499 USD.

Upgrades from Y-111 to Big Y-500 are $349!

FTDNA’s autosomal test, Family Finder, is also on sale at $49 USD.  By comparison, AncestryDNA is on sale for $59 USD.  Sales are ending later this month.  If you are interested in a FTDNA purchase, contact an Administrator and ask about special pricing and holiday coupon codes.


You may be aware that a new European Union Regulation related to General Data Protection (referred to as GDPR) goes into affect on Friday, May 25, 2018.  I have done my best to analyze the PSHG Group Administrative functions with respect to GDPR and presented the findings, along with some changes that have already taken place, and some more changes that will come to the PSHG Membership.

In general, I believe the PSHG’s risk level of being non-compliant or facing any kind of penalty for non-compliance is very, very low.  The EU has aimed GDPR directly at big companies like Facebook, Google, etc. to comply or face financial risk.  However, companies like Ancestry and FTDNA must also comply since they service European Union Citizens (and for the sake of this topic, the UK has it’s own similar legislation and is so far covered under the EU).  The protections offered by GDPR are manageable for a small group like ours and make common sense.  For example, you have a right to know what personal information is held by group administrators and you have a right to be forgotten (data removed).  While most of the membership are American Citizens (and not directly impacted by GDPR), we do have, and continue to seek and welcome EU/UK potential cousins in order to further the goals of the PSHG.  Therefore, it makes perfect sense that we make some minor adjustments and do our best to comply with GDPR.

The report sent to PSHG Members included more information about GDPR and what the PSHG has done and will do to prepare:

  • Definitions and possible interpretations
  • Rights of DNA project members
  • FamilyTreeDNA Announcement & Changes
  • PSHG Privacy Statement
  • DO’s for DNA Project Admins
  • DON’Ts for DNA Project Admins
  • Personal Data Held by Administrators

Please visit our Goals & Membership page to see our new privacy statement.

Please contact the Group Administrator if you have any questions related to GDPR and the PSHG.



FTDNA Announces Big Y-500 (over 400 new STRs!)

In conjunction with the National DNA Day Sales, announced the Big Y test is now called Big Y-500 and will include approximately 500 Y-STR results in addition to the SNPs that were traditional reported via the Big Y.

Everyone who has already taken a Big Y will receive updated results showing a 6th Panel of results with markers 111 through 561!  The additional panel was made possible by the recent Build 38 of the Human Genome.

According to the release notes to Group Administrators, “Customers who purchase a Big Y-500 will also have to purchase or upgrade to the Y-DNA111 test.  However, customers do not have to have a Y-STR test already before purchasing the Big Y-500 since it contains the Y-111.  Big Y without STRs will no longer be available.”

For PSHG members (or prospective PSHG members), where Y-111 is required for full membership, we can order the Y-111 test at a non-sale cost of $339 (normally $359).  The Y-111 to Big Y-500 Upgrade is normally $449 (which does not reflect sale prices).  This  totals $788 for those wanting full PSHG membership + access to their “Singleton” or Direct Paternal Lineage SNPs.  Since the Big Y-500 stand alone test is $799, there’s currently no benefit to recommend skipping an initial Y-111 test to go directly to ordering a Big Y-500.  This could change in the future if FTNDA offers a Group Discount for Big Y-500.

It is not yet clear how useful these additional results will be from a genetic genealogical point of view.  Support groups like the R1b-U106 project are not yet able to offer specific insight; however, Dr. Iain McDonald has made some speculations, as written in a forum post:

“- The new STRs are shorter and their mutation rates lower.  Very, very preliminary(!) work based on STR variances suggests the mutation rate in the new sample is around one mutation per 14 generations.  This contrasts with one per 3.4 generations for the original Y-111, and suggests an overall Y-STR mutation rate over the Y-500 STR set of once per 2.8 generations…

– There are some clearly useful, slow STR mutations in there that will define useful family branches in some cases where SNPs have not.  There are also some faster markers that appear to flip back and forth between two or more states.

– On the basis of this information, we should be able to use these results in several aspects of U106 research, including the layering of family trees and more precise computation of ages…Proper research on this will take many months…”

As usual with DNA research, time & research reveals new types of analysis and new results to consider.  The continued sharing of DNA information will enable researchers to continue their work to explain what it all means.


2018 DNA Day Sales

Wednesday, April 25, 2018 is National DNA Day!  Details about the recognition of the day can be found on the NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute website. is celebrating by offering sales on several products.

The Y-111 test, a requirement for full PSHG membership, is on sale for $289 USD (normally $359 retail / $339 through project order).

PSHG Members who have already taken the Y111 STR test can upgrade to the Big Y-500 for only $349 USD (normally $449)!  This is a great price for those interested in finding their Direct Paternal Lineage (DPL) SNPs below FGC-13609.

FTDNA has announced a new product called Big Y-500 which is a combination test of the traditional Big Y + Y111 for $649 USD (normally $799).  We’ll explore the Big Y-500 test and the changes from the traditional Big Y test in a future Blog post.

Details for the sale can be found on their sale website (; however, PSHG members (or prospective members) should contact an admin before ordering.  FTDNA sales end 4/28/2018.

Other non-Y DNA tests are also on sale including mtFull Sequence and Family Finder (autosomal DNA).  Not to be outdone,’s autosomal DNA test is at it’s lowest price of $59 USD until 4/29/2018.

Happy testing!

PSHG Haplotype and Genetic Distance

A new page is launched under our Results > Technical Data section – PSHG Haplotype Technical Data.

In the last post we talked about the Y-SNP Haplotree and how we organize clades by branching SNPs.  Today we return to the other method of analyzing Y-DNA, Y-STRs.  Refer to the following blog posts if you need a refresher on the concepts of Y-STRs and Genetic Distance: Mutating DNAPartner Profiles – FTDNA.

The International Society of Genetic Genealogists defines a Y-DNA Haplotype as, “the marker (allele) values obtained from a Y-STR (short tandem repeart) test.  The result for each marker is expressed as a number.”

Let’s look at the first few markers and values of the PSHG Modal Haplotype:

PSHG Haplotype Y7

  • DYS398, DYS390, DYS19, DYS391, DYS385a, DYS385b, and DYS426 across the top row represent the FTDNA names of the Y-STR markers.  Specifically this refers to the named location on the Y Chromosome where a short tandem repeat is identified.
  • The names above, in their order, can be referred to by marker number: 1 – 7 is shown below, but latest Y-STR tests analyze 111 markers.
  • The values of the test result are in the third row.  This number value represents the number of STRs which are found at that marker – your DNA signature.

Example: At Marker #1, named DYS393 by FTDNA, the PSHG Modal Haplotype has a value of 13.

Each person with Y-STR results has their own haplotype.  Patterns emerge when comparing groups of related Y-STR111 test results, even if those group members are related at 8th cousins!  While individual values may differ, if there are enough member test results, a Modal Haplotypes can be established.

Genetic Distance is a way to measure and compare how closely (or far) one haplotype is to another.  Our Haplotype Technical Data page shows a comparison of the PSHG Modal Haplotype compared to those at R1b-FGC13595 and further upstream at R1b-U106.

Visit the PSHG Haplotype Technical Data page to see this detail and to understand how the Genetic Distance compares to other upstream haplotypes.


  1. ISOGG Wiki definition of Haplotype,
  2. FTDNA Learning Center,

PSHG Haplotree and SNP Detail

In a previous blog post, we defined what a SNP is and discussed the haplotree upstream of the PSHG SNPs.  In this post we take another look at the PSHG Haplotree by introducing a new page and taking a dive deep.  We’ll also talk a little bit about SNP naming.

For those new to genetic genealogy or Y-DNA analysis, the concept of SNPs can be intimidating.  One of the reasons may be seemingly abstract SNP names which represent the mutation of an allele at a very specific numeric position on the Y Chromosome.

SNPs are named when a researcher or DNA testing company identifies an unnamed variant in a test kit’s results, validates that it’s viable for genetic genealogy, and is able to develop a primer for it.  You can easily identify each testing company by looking at the SNP prefix.

A – named by YSEQ (see Partner Profile post)

BY – named by FTDNA (see Partner Profile post)

FGC – named by Full Genome Corp (see

S – named by James F. Wilson, D. Phil of Edinburgh University

Therefore, we know the PSHG SNP of FGC13609 was named by Full Genome Corp.  What else can we find out about this SNP?  We turn to the ISOGG YBrowse tool (  Enter FGC13609 into the “Search Landmark or Region” field and click Search.  With the default resolution set to “Show 1 bp” we see below a diagram and location of the SNP on the Y Chromosome and a reference scale.

YBrowse FGC13609

In case the image is too small, click the image to browse to the page.

Click on the yellow & red highlighted FGC13609 in the middle of the page to see SNP details.  Here we can find:

  • Position at 20919447
  • Mutation from T to G
  • Comment including position downstream of DF96
  • Named (ref:) by Full Genomes Corp. (2016)

Sometimes a SNP is named by multiple companies.  Take A16447 which is also known as BY16815.  Search for it in Ybrowse and notice that while it has two names, the chrY position and allele mutation are the same.

Multiple SNPs can also be grouped together.  For example, the group FGC13609, FGC13605, FGC13601, and A1230 are all SNPs shares by 2 PSHG members who have taken the BigY test from FTDNA.  These SNPs will remain grouped together until a test new BigY test taker comes along having one or more, but not all, of those SNPs.  If and when this happens, we learn more about the branches of our Haplotree as it evolves based on the results of additional testing and analysis.

Our website has a new page for keeping an updated haplotree including a table of Y-SNPs from FGC13602 including name, position, and base mutation.  Please visit PSHG Haplotree Technical Data!