Double Proof: The Farr Family DNA Project

Many genealogists in the past believed Stephen Farr, who married Mary Taylor 24 May 1674 in Concord MA, had to be the son of a Farr who lived in Massachusetts or possibly Maine. Rev. Charles N. Sinnett, in his The Farr Genealogy (filmed by the Genealogical Society of UT in 1951) proposed Thomas Far of Lynn MA as the ancestor. There was a George Farr of first Boston and then of Lynn; he was also a candidate. Thomas Farr of Lynn turned out to be named Farrar with ties to Lancashire, England and George left a will naming his children and Stephen was not one of them.

The Farr Family Organization wrestled with the problem of their origins for decades. Finally in 2003, Tim Farr, a computer-savvy descendant, with the blessing and financial support of the family organization, launched a DNA Farr Surname Project. Two cousins were tapped to be tested first. They matched exactly with 12 markers, then 25 markers, and today with 37 markers. (There is now a 59 marker test!) Other male descendants were invited to participate and some asked to be included. A total of eleven descendants matched exactly.

Another male descendant, living in Belgium, contacted the family–he was born in Bedfordshire, England, where there were pockets of Farrs going back as far as the records themselves. And there was a Stephen Farr christened 1640 in Lidlington, Bedfordshire. He had already been highlighted as a good prospect for origiins.

When (Belgium) Farr was tested, 35 of 37 markers matched exactly. The markers that matched indicated a probability of 99% relationship, and the 2 mutations indicated a different generation for the most recent common ancestor.

What makes the Farr DNA Surname Project unique?

First, a computer database of English wills for the Farr surname was professionally created and circulated to family members on CD. Family members, with professional oversight, translated and transcribed the wills for analysis. This CD of wills was completed before the results of many of the tests were in.

Then, Tim with the aid of his sister Karen, added all the parish register entries for the Farr surname to an excel spreadsheet for comparison and careful analysis–so that every possible candidate for Stephen Farr’s parents and siblings could be identified and accounted for. These were added to the CD. At present more than 25,000 Farrs from records all over England are on this CD available from the famly organization (see contact information below).

As the test results were coming in, each and every key lineage was also proven and documented with a clear paper trail–linking each generation from the dna match all the way back, son to father to grandfather and so on.

Stay tuned for the next episode, 21 August, 2006: I will show you why it is essential to check all the places where the ancestors resided for evidence. Some ancestors provided information beyond our wildest thoughts.

What makes a project like this possible?

1. The International Genealogical Index compiled by the LDS Church principally from parish registers. Bedfordshire was microfilmed early and all parishes are included in the database. Where there is a question of reading or interpretation, original registers are available on microfilm to check. The project had a few entries to be checked against the originals.

2. Computer software to speed the collection of data into spreadsheets: where the IGI batches are arranged alphabetically by location; and LDS Companion 2.12 from Archer Software. These remarkable tools enable you to convert parish register entries for your surname of interest in to comparable charts for analysis.

3. Dedicated, computer-savvy, personnel willing to spend the hundreds of hours needed. Few organizations can afford to use professionals for such a study. This massive effort includes the volunteers who in-put the data in the IGI, the dedicated genealogists who created the index utility for the batch numbers, who ensured that freepages at rootsweb survived as a free site, and others who were unpaid participants willing to donate their time and energy to achieve success. And we all are indebted to the LDS Church whose foresight and financial resources have acquired the record sources on microfilm in sufficient quantity and completeness to ensure success.

4. Male descendants willing to have the DNA testing done through a reputable and careful lab. The Farr Project was powered by Family Tree DNA of Houston TX Other labs are available, descriptions can be found on the internet. Down-line research may be necessary to locate living male descendants. And only male descendants carry the Y-Chromosome dna (in spite of claims made on the internet). Each and every male carries a copy of the dna of his male ancestors. “There is no need to dig up dead bodies” for tests, Tim says.

Add to your summer reading:

Stephen Farr of Concord < Massachusetts b. 1640: His Family, Descendants, and Probable English Origins (A DNA Study) Probable E written by Timothy M. Farr, 2006. Available for $34.00 from Winslow Farr, S., Family Organization, 26561 Campesino, Mission Viejo CA 92691. CD also available, $5.00.

Is your family a DNA project? Check “A List of Y-Chromosome DNA Studies…”

This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply