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2017 DNA Update

DNA PROJECT UPDATE- September, 2017 The project now has a total of 65 members. There are at least another 4 people I know of who have tested but not yet joined the project, and there are at least half a dozen other Macnabs in the FTDNA database who have done yDNA testing, but not joined the project despite having been invited.

The primary focus of the project is yDNA testing, which traces the male y-chromosome. The reason for focusing on yDNA is two-fold - first, obviously, it follows the surname Macnab; secondly yDNA (unlike autosomal DNA) is passed from father to son unmixed and essentially unchanged except for periodic mutations. Therefore, if two individuals with the surname Macnab share a common male ancestor, that will be easily seen in their yDNA.

It's far too complex a subject to get into the details here, but in broad overview, there are two types of yDNA testing, and each serves a different purpose:

1) STR (short tandem repeat) - its primary purpose is to divide testers into genetic 'families' that we can say likely had a common male ancestor in the past few hundred years. This is the testing we have done so far in the project.

2) SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) - it identifies markers representing specific mutations. If person A and person B share an SNP, say A7298, then we can say with absolute certainty that they have a common male ancestor - the person in whom that mutation labelled A7298 first occurred. This is the testing we are about to embark on.

The SNP A7298 just mentioned is one that may prove to be highly relevant to Clan Macnab. I want to be quite clear that I'm moving into the realm of speculation here - something I usually try to avoid - but I want to give you a bit of a flavour for the potential the DNA project has. A7298 is an SNP that has already been identified as being carried by the only 2 of our Group 3 members who have done SNP testing. A7298 is a mutation that we believe occurred sometime between 485 and 1450 AD. Some of you may be familiar with the Clan Macnab origin story outlined in the "1467 Manuscripts" which has Clan Macnab descended from Abaruadh, The Red Abbot. Cormac, the great-great-grandson of Abaruadh is also said to be the progenitor of Clan MacPhee (MacDuffy), and we know that at least some MacPhees carry that same SNP A7298. Abaruadh's brother, Ferchar Fada, is said to be the ancestor of Clan Cameron, and we find that some Camerons also carry A7298. The Red Abbott (who was, incidentally, the nephew or brother of St. Fillan) probably died around 750. So A7298 just might represent The Red Abbot or his father Feradaig Finn or one of their descendants, and not only help us map out our Clan, but also our historical relationship to several other clans.

That's an example of the potential DNA has from a historical viewpoint; from a closer genealogical viewpoint, as we move into the next phase of testing, we will start to see how the Cadet Houses fit together, where and how they came off the line of the chiefs, and for individuals who don't know much about their family history, to get an idea of how they connect to the main body of the clan. We are seeing that, as with most Clans, there are clearly multiple sources for the name Macnab, and it will be fascinating to track down the geography and etymology for those sources.

We are currently awaiting results from some very important tests:

1) STR test for a descendant of the cadet house of Barravorich. At present, we have one individual within the project who believes (but does not have irrefutable proof) that he is descended from the house of Barravorich. His results show clear evidence of connections between the cadet houses of Acharn, Innishewan and Barravorich, so these new results are very important to our understanding of the connections between the cadet houses

2) Big Y SNP testing for descendants of the cadet houses of Innishewan and Acharn. This will tell us whether these individuals carry A7298 (the prediction is that they will) and also identify for us individual SNPs that may be unique to the Clan Macnab. This will enable other project members to test SNP packs or individual SNPs at a much lower cost to see how they match up with those with known lines of descent.

Each individual has to date paid, and will continue to pay, for their own individual STR testing, which helps to place them in an initial genetic family within the clan. As we move into the next phase of the project, however, we will require some group funding for testing and analysis that will benefit the project as a whole. Once we have the results from the Big Y testing, we would like to have a professional analysis done of the group results to date, which would include: - analysis of the relationships between the sub-groups within the project - analysis of the results of the Big Y testing on Innishewan and Acharn - comparison of our Clan results to other surname groups, and commentary on any commonalities noted (the McPhee and Cameron connections were discovered courtesy of a professional analysis that Bob Macnab had done on his results) - recommendations for further testing for all group members The cost of this will be about $320. There will also be specific situations where in depth testing of one individual will be of benefit to the entire project, and it makes sense for the cost to be shared. For example, we would next like to do some SNP testing on the "Baptist" group, which will help us get a better handle on the possible origins of Baptist and his father William.

Ideally, then, we would like to raise $2000-$3000 for the DNA project, in order to move things forward dramatically over the next year. This is a situation where any small donation would be greatly appreciated and have a great impact. Donations can be made either to the CMSNA, earmarked for the DNA project (in which case they will be tax deductible for US citizens) or they can be made through the DNA Project website at FTDNA - if you email me at, I can give you instructions on how to do this. If you donate through FTDNA, you can earmark your donate for a specific purpose - for example, "SNP testing for Group One" (which is the Baptist group), if you like.

As always, if anyone has questions - about testing, about results, or about where to go next, please feel free to get in touch.

Loraine Smith Shennachie to the Chief of Clan Macnab

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