Understanding the Haplogroups in the MacFarlane Project
March, 2012 update
By Mary Helen Haines
So far, we have 220 participants in the MacFarlane project with surnames from Allan, Miller, Williamson, Weaver, Jackson, Galloway, Webster, McGaw, Knox, Robb, to all the variations of MacFarlane (McFarland, McFarlin), plus more. This number changes daily as more people decide to join the project. This includes women who have taken the Family Finder test, as I have, and people who found out they were part of the MacFarlane clan, even though their surnames were not.
Every male in the study has a unique set of markers that he acquired from his father’s line that goes back in time approximately 60,000 years to the progenitor of all living men. That set of markers is called his haplotype. Only occasionally does someone have an exact match with another person. In our study there are only two people that have an exact match at 67 markers, and they do not know their common ancestor, but are still searching. It is even possible for two brothers to have markers that do not match exactly if one of them had a genetic mutation that changed his set of markers from that of his father. He would, though, have a very close match, and probably differ by only one marker, if at all.
However, for the most part, the genetic mutation of a marker is rare, and that change will be carried on by all male descendants of that person forever into the future. It is the mutation that is passed on by descendants of that one man that allows groups of testers to be clumped together into large populations called haplogroups. It is through looking at all the men that have a particular set of markers, that the history and migration of all mankind can be traced from our days in Africa many millennia ago.
Using the presence of some markers, and the absence of others, scientists classified the Y-DNA haplogroups starting with A in the alphabet. Noting that all males carry the same set of markers as those found in men in present day Ethiopia and Egypt, for example, gave genetic proof to the anthropological discoveries that place modern man’s development in Africa. So, when looking at haplogroups, you can tell by the first letter how recently the development of that particular group of people came about. By looking at population distribution of those particular haplogroups, scientists have determined about when and where the genetic change took place. Maps that show the distribution and migration patterns of the haplogroups are easily available on the Internet. One such map can be found at
Another good place to learn more in general is at National Geographic’s Genographic Project is at
For our MacFarlane study there are currently eleven haplogroups, but some are refinements of larger groups. By far, the most dominant group is R1b1a2, which is defined by the presence of the marker M 269. Then we have R1b1a2a1a1b, (b3), (b4), and (b4b). As more testing is done to refine the markers, the tail end gets longer. All together, around 138 members of our project fit into this haplogroup and its more detailed refinements with the presence of other markers.
Next in size is the haplogroup I1, with 22 members. Within the I haplogroup are also, I2a, and I2b, which make up another ten members.
We also have E1b1b1, and E1b1b1a2, for four members. R1a1 has two members, and we have two G2a, one J1, and two T1, to finish off our group.
What follows below is a short summary of when and where these haplogroups developed. A word of caution: these conclusions are constantly evolving as more people around the world are tested.
Starting with the oldest haplogroup in the MacFarlane project, we begin with the E haplogroup. The group came into being in East Africa, probably Egypt or Libya around 22,000 years ago. It spread into the Middle-East, and most notably into the Balkans in Europe around 10,000 years ago. This haplogroup is often associated with Jewish male lineages, which may help explain its presence in Western Europe.
Next, we have two G2a members. While all the dates are constantly in flux and are reappraised as more and more people test over time, current estimates are that the G2 mutation occurred around 17,000 years ago in the Middle-East. The oldest remains with a G2 mutation was found in Bavaria, Germany, and dates to around 6,000 years ago. It was found alongside other skeletons with R1b haplogroups.
Next in the alphabet are the I lineages. We have 22 men in group I1, and 4 in group I2a, and 6 men in group I2b. The most recent evaluation of the I1 sub-clade put its origin in Scandanavia, perhaps Denmark, around 4 to 6 thousand years ago. Their inclusion in Great Britian and Ireland can be associated with the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes who migrated from modern Denmark in the 5th century and the late 8th century Viking spread.
Haplogroup J1 is usually associated with the Arabian peninsula where it predominates. It is also strongly a part of Arab Bedoins, and also frequent among part of the Jewish population. Its origins however, are believed by some researchers to be north of the peninsula, closer to present day Turkey and Syria. The priestly line in Judaism, the Cohanim, is associated with this haplogroup.
Haplogroup R1a1 is found in its highest concentrations in India and Pakistan, Eastern Europe, and also Norway and Iceland. It is believed that some Vikings carried this haplogroup which would account for its appearance in Great Britain.
Haplogroup R1b1a2 and its refinements make up the dominant haplogroups among MacFarlanes, and in fact, all Western Europeans. The spread of R1b is from east to west, and seems to coincide with the spread of farming in the Neolithic revolution. As more and more men test for specific markers, or what are called deep-clade tests, fine-tuned definitions appear. For example, there are 13 men in the group R1b1a2a1a1b4 which has the marker L21 (also known as M529), which is found in 25 to 50 percent of the population in England and Ireland. Another 4 men are classified as R1b1a2a1a1b4b, which adds the presence of the marker M222, and is found mostly among the Northern Irish in Ulster and lower Scotland, which corresponds to the movement of peoples that has occurred back and forth between these areas. At this time there are fourteen different lineages in this haplogroup.
The last haplogroup is T1 in our study. It seems to have appeared first in Eurasia and then migrated south to Africa. It appears in scattered populations in Tyrolean Germany, and among northern Portuguese Jews, Egyptians, and Sicilians, to name a few.
As our study continues to grow, the MacFarlane Project team is able to learn more and more about the ancestry of the Clan MacFarlane. The members of the project are divided into lineages that group clan members into clusters of similar Y-DNA results.
We will publish further articles about the findings as new discoveries about family lines become evident.
The MacFarlane Project Team at FamilyTreeDNA is:
Administrator: Chevalier Terrance Gach MacFarlane
Co-administrators: Andrew Macfarlane, Mary Helen Haines, Peter McFarland
If you are interested in joining the project, please go to http://www.familytreedna.com/group-join.aspx?Group=MacFarlane
If you have already done a Y-DNA test with another company, you can convert your results and still join this project for a nominal cost without ordering new tests. We will be glad to help you.