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Frequently Asked Questions


Q. Why join the McDuffie DNA Surname Project?

A. If you are interested in your family history, then by joining the project, you can find out how closely you are related to other participants in the same surname group. As many participants have extensive paper records of their family history, including details of the area in Scotland and/or Ireland where their ancestors lived, it may be possible to determine which part of Scotland or Ireland your ancestors lived in. If you have gaps in your paper records, it may allow pushing back in time beyond the gaps. It should also be possible to tell how closely you are related to other clans. It will certainly allow you to say if you have "Viking" or "Celtic" origin on your male side.

Look at the other surname projects on the links page, to see how much other clans have learned about their origins.
Also, now that the McDuffie Project has grown you will see that some people who have matched markers have also been able to find their common male ancestor in the paper records.

Q. Why is it called a Y-Chromosome DNA Project?

A. This is because it uses the remarkable fact that the Y-Chromosome, which only males carry, passes almost unaltered from great great grandfather, to great grandfather, to grandfather to father to son etc. down along the male descendancy. All other chromosomes in the body take 50% of material from the mother and 50% from the father. So the Y-Chromosome is like a living fossil. Surname also follows the same succession. This Y-Chromosome has another useful feature. It changes very slowly, perhaps by one small piece over many generations. This makes it like a genetic clock, and by measuring how different the Y-Chromosome is between two people, we can tell approximately how many generations back they will have a common male ancestor. It is like counting the ticks of a clock. The chromosome is make up of a large number of distinctive "markers". These markers have numerical values, and different people will have a different string of numbers as their markers. If they are close family the markers will be identical or very very similar.

Q. How does the project work?

A. The Y-Chromosome DNA test for genealogical research, is now available from several highly reputable US based laboratories. Inevitably it has a cost, however it has come within the reach of anyone who can afford a computer, and costs less than much genealogical research. Participants are free to choose their testing laboratory, and the project has no ties or interest in any particular testing house. The test itself is very simple and non-invasive, and results typically take 6-8 weeks to arrive. (The delivery time varies considerably between laboratories.)  The project is set up for genealogical research purposes only. It has no medical or diagnostic use whatsoever. The anonymity of those providing the DNA is preserved. (A few persons mentioned on this website have specifically wished to be identified.) Participants each pay for their own test

Q. How is the test done?

A. The test laboratory sends you in a sealed package, a small kit containing two sterile-packed small sticks, which look like a cross between a cotton bud (Q-Tip), and a small toothbrush. These are for taking the two samples. Each stick is rubbed on the inside of each cheek to collect the sample. The head of the sticks are then pushed off into a small thimble size container filled with salt solution and sealed. These containers are then returned in a post-bag to the laboratory, along with the form. It is not possible to test hair or any other sample. You receive the marker count results after 6-8 weeks (varies with lab chosen) and the results are also communicated to the project administrator. The results are posted on the website in such a manner that the living descendant cannot be identified.

Q. How much does it cost and what laboratories are used?

A. The cost depends on the number of markers tested and the test laboratory used. Currently there are several competitive laboratories, including DNAHeritage http://www.dnaheritage.com , FamilyTreeDNA http://www.ftdna.com , OxfordAncestors http://www.oxfordancestors.com and RelativeGenetics http://www.relativegenetics.com all of which are reputable and reasonably priced. Most laboratories as US based. Note that there is a considerable variation in price amongst labs, and an even greater variation in delivery time for results.  By way of example of costs, a 12 marker test is just over USD99 and up to 43 markers will cost up to USD200.   Some labs may charge more.

Q. How many markers should I have tested?

A. This is a tradeoff between cost and accuracy. The minimum, 12 marker test is really only an initial screening test. It is better at showing who are NOT related, than it is at giving accuracy on specifying those who are related. If two people show one or more markers different in a 12 marker test, then they are probably unrelated in historic time (10,000 years). However one marker difference on a 25 marker test can mean a common ancestor at less than 340 years ago. If two people share the same surname and have identical 12 marker results then there is a 50% probability of a common ancestor within 14.5 generations (362 years ago).  43 marker tests are now quite reasonably priced (less than USD200) and give good discrimination.

Q. Is it possible to upgrade from less markers to more markers later?

A. Yes, most labs allow this easily for an extra later cost. Generally, no further test kit is required if you stick with the same test house. The existing samples are reused or data on file retreived.

Q. My 12 marker test, matches exactly with other people on the Y-Search or Y-Base database who have different surnames. Are they related?

A. No, almost certainly not. With 12 markers, there is simply insufficient resolution to avoid these spurious matches. You should only pay attention to exact matches, with an identical surname to your own, if you have only 12 markers. With 25 markers, an exact match to an unrelated surname is more significant, and may indicate a common ancestry. Scottish Clans in particular had close affiliations and indulged in "part taking" and cross adoptions.

Q. What names are associated with the project?

A. Associated names: Athey, Cathie, Cathey, Coffee, Coffie, Currie, Curry, McAbee, McAchopich, McAfee, MacAfee, McAfie, MacAfie, McAphie, MacAphie, McCaffrey, McCafferty, MacCoffee, McKoffee, MacCuish, MacCowis, McDiffie, Macdoffy, McDuffie, MacDuffie, McDuffee, MacDuffee, McDuffy, MacDuffy, McDuff, MacDuff, MacDuphie, Duffy, Duffie, McDuffe, Dufacius, Duphaci, McDuffphie, Makduffie, Mcduphe, MacDhubsite, Dubside, MacDufthi, McFeithe, Makfeithe, McFie, MacFie, Mcfeye, Fee, Makfee, McFee, Magoffin, McGuffie, MacGuffie, MacHaffie, Mahaffy, Mehaffey, Mahathie, McIfie, McIphie, Phe, McPhe, Phee, McPhee, MacPhee, McPhie, MacPhietric, MacPhied, MacVie, MacVee.

Q. What parts of Scotland are the McDuffie/McPhee/McDuff ancestral homeland?

A. The goal is to get Y-Chromosome DNA samples representative of McDuffie descendants from the following ancestral homelands and subsequent diaspora to the USA and elsewhere:

Colonsay, Islay, Jura, Mull (McDuffie, McPhee?)
Ardnamurchen peninsula (McPhee?)
Morvern (McPhee?)
Bute (McFie?)
Kintyre (McFie?)
Ayrshire (McCoffey?)
Argyll (McDuff?)
Travellers (McPhee?)
Perth (McDuff?)
Ulster and Ireland (McAfee, McIlDuff, McDuffie?)
Prince Edward Island (McPhee?)
America (McDuffie, McFie, McDuff?)
Rest of Canada
Australia and New Zealand
Any other

Q. Is spelling of the surname important?

A. Those researching their ancestry should be aware, that spelling of surnames is of no significance. In essence there is no difference between McDonald and Macdonald, since the names were spoken, before they were written and each Minister transcribing the name would have his own preference. In later times there were preferences, for example, most Bute ancestors are McFie, whereas in Ardnamurchen they are more often McPhee. None of these rules are hard and fast, so any proper research should allow the full gamut of spellings. At the very least M(a)cPhee, M(a)cPhie, M(a)cFee, M(a)cFie, M(a)cDuffee, M(a)cDuffie and M(a)cDuffy should be treated as interchangeable and there is much documentary evidence that M(a)cDuff was also used

The official spelling of the Clan name today is Macfie.  For further information regarding the Clan, see the Clan Macfie Homepage at http://www.clanmacfiehomepage.org

Q. Has my surname always been the same?

A. Between 1600 and 1780 there was, in the Highlands in particular, much changing of surname. This took place for many reasons, including English proscription on certain names, religious persecution, bad associations, a wish to make a new life and transcription of Gaelic names by English speaking Ministers. In particular those who moved to Ireland during the Ulster Plantation era, often changed their name in the process, for example to McAfee or McIlduffy McFee, Fee and others. Emigrants either direct from Scotland, or from Ireland, also changed their name, either on the boat manifest or after arrival in the New World. For example the manifest of SS Spencer from Oban (North Britain) to PEI, has the same people listed variously as McFee, McDuff and McDuffie. People of Scottish or Scotch-Irish ancestry, should be aware that their surname may have morphed from its original style. Surnames only started to be used just over 1000 years ago, and McDuffies are said to have come from Ireland near to this time. This no doubt explains the diversity of names associated with the McDuffies, and it will be interesting to establish the relatedness of these names in the DNA project.

Q. What are the reasons for several distinct lines?

A. There are many reasons why several separate family lines are likely.

At the time of origin of the surname around 1000 years ago, the surname would be a mark of affiliation to a group or clan of families living in close proximity and with a perceived shared destiny. There would be a clan chief and a number of other males in the group. Not all these males would necessarily have shared the same male ancestor at the time of surname adoption. Clans often absorbed other non-genetically linked groups as they expanded. Adoption of orphaned offspring of a sister was common, and if there was no heir it may also occur. Infidelity was probably a fact of life then as it is now. Also African Americans may have ancestors who were given the family name of those who kept them in bondage. Over the years this leads to many genetically separate lines with a common surname. This can be seen in the Campbell and McGregor DNA Projects.

Q. How do I join the project?

A. Firstly you need to meet the project entry criteria. This means that:

You have a Surname in the McDuffie/McPhee/McDuff group detailed above.

You are male, or can get a sample, by consent from a male relative with the McDuffie group surname.

You understand and agree with the objectives of the project.

You are able to pay for the test.

If you can answer yes to all of the above, then click on the JOIN PROJECT button.


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