The Hamilton DNA Project Group:James Hamilton, 5th Baron of Cadzow was not the son of the 4th Baron

+15 votes
This is really some excellent work that I was not aware of until a few hours ago.

They state that:

"Extensive genetic research conducted by the Hamilton DNA Project Group has shown beyond a doubt that the subject of this profile (Hamilton-1093) is NOT the son of John Hamilton (Hamilton-1087) and so his father is shown as "Unknown".

On Hamilton-1087, they state:

"Genetic testing of numerous descendants of James has shown that he carried a particular genetic marker on his Y chromosome. This marker, an SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism), is designated L-1237.

Similar testing involving descendants of John (ie James' half brothers) as well as descendants of John's non-lineal ancestors (uncles etc) has indicated that all of these males carry the SNP L-338."

There is much more information on the pages for anyone interested.

I am really impressed with this research, and not only because it concerned one of my own ancestors. It really has been quite an amazing project and should be an inspiration to us all of what DNA testing can achieve.

Well done to the team.

WikiTree profile: James Hamilton
asked in The Tree House by J G G2G6 Mach 8 (83.3k points)
Gentry genealogy is all about descent of titles and property.  Breaking lines isn't at all convenient.  Can't we put his father back in and mark it non-biological?

The page is Project Protected so I would recommend that you discuss your proposals with them before proceeding.

There has obviously been an enormous amount of work gone into this and the clear result of the research is that the father of the 4th Baron is unknown. 

Personally, I don't see any need to make modifications as it is perfectly clear on both profiles who the title came from  John Hamilton (Hamilton-1087) and who it went to James Hamilton (Hamilton-1093).

I'd also like to add my congratulations to the team Hamilton DNA Project on an amazing project.


Is there a link somewhere to this genealogy project? I'm a Hamilton that descends from the Barons of Cadzow on my mothers side. Ive done my DNA testing and would share my raw data.
April, they're using yDNA for this project, and it requires direct male descendants. Your auDNA test can only be used for relationships back to about your 3rd or 4th great grandparents.
L1237 SNP not L-1237 SNP.  Also L338 SNP not L-338 SNP.

Which project is protecting this profile? There's no project tag on the profile so I don't understand why this is PPP'd

Also please read and cite pp.346-7 of Scots Peerage v.4 - James Hamilton of Cadzow was named as the the son and heir of Sir John Hamilton of Cadzow in a writ of 1397 so there's good reason to keep his father. I never see the utility of Mr. Unknown Unknown - the better choice is a section in his predecessor at Cadzow.

Also, the notes seem to indicate there's not 100% agreement on the evidence of the descent of this branch although all you may have proved is that Douglas and Wood's guesses were wrong.

Kirk, my focus has been in the process of changing the father of James to 'unknown' based on conclusions reached using DNA tests.

I make mistakes and when I do, I admit them.  This is how I learn, so if I am mistaken about the Wikitree Guidelines, I am sure it will be pointed out. :).  It would also be nice to have some confirmation of when I am correct.

Wikitree says that, according to traditional genealogy, conclusions based on results of DNA, are to make the Individual DNA test comparisons public.  My understanding is different.  

My impressions at that, in this case, the DNA evidence is conclusive that a Non-Paternal event has occurred. It also seems conclusive that a Non-Paternal Event has not occurred on some or all of the other lines.

To me, this is no different than I have evidence of a Non Paternal event of my great-grandfather and matches to other lines that further support the Traditional documentation.   In both cases, there is no consent to make all the DNA testers public or to add them to Wikitree.  

It would seem to me that Traditional Genealogy would accept a statement such as "The Hamilton DNA Project, after testing 100's of Hamilton DNA Testers, have conclusively established the lines of ...." and conclusively established that James is not the Biological son of ...." 

or a statement such as "Ken Sargent he has established a Non-Paternal event has occurred based on a non-match between two known paternal first cousins and has identified the identity of the Biological father with matches to 3 half first cousins, and other matches to more distant known relatives along that biological lines. No DNA testers have consented to be named in the statement.

Guidelines are established as a decision-making aid between priorities. Is it more important to accept the statements made in these two cases, with only a few people, who have access, can verify? or is it better to accept these results and invest time and money into other areas? If there is a problem with the results, then it can be challenged, just as any other Geological evidence can be challenged.

This is just my opinion.


Seems that James Hamilton 5th Baron of Cadzow has had descendents discovered or tested for their Y-DNA. Also Walter "Hamilton" and maybe an uncle or two have have been tested. Why was the choice made in and the paperwork of Gordon "Hamilton" to favor the Y-DNA results of one group over the other? It is well known and documented that the Douglas family, at that time, had many children out of wedlock. Does it come as no surprise that the "stepfather" of Walter "Hamilton" was William DOUGLAS 1st Lord of Drumlanrig, who married Walter's mother Jacoba (Janet) Dalkeith DOUGLAS after the death of her husband John Hamilton 4th Baron of Cadzow, who named James Hamilton 5th Baron of Cadzow as his heir?  William "Hamilton" himself was the product of his father, James Douglas 2nd Earl of Douglas and an unnamed mistress.
One can only be a bit concerned by people raving on about DNA where Wikitree is supposed to be about genealogy. Now if a legal case based upon DNA evidence has been brought and found to be conclusive the results would be published in an authoritative journal. The Pringle of Stitchell baronetcy case is a good example.

What arises in these cases is a situation where a wife of someone in the male line has slept with someone else with or without the knowledge of her husband and become pregnant by the third party. The DNA will obviously bring this to light.

However, as far as the genealogy and the paperwork is concerned that is what we must abide by until the matter is tested by a court. People on Wikitree cannot just take the law into their own hands arguing that this and that DNA test demonstrates this and that. It must be done properly.
I note that this old thread got a new entry. I'm not commenting on whether wikitree should put "real" (i.e. physical, DNA confirmed) parents as the given line, or "paper" (in the given event, indicating the wrong person) as the given line. I talking what DNA proof should be.

STRs are useful but are almost always subservient to SNPs. Almost always these NPE cases will show several SNPs differing, indicating a difference in known haplogroups. These cases are definitive. It is possible that where a groups of SNPs indicates that two men lie in the same haplogroup, but one upstream SNP differs that that SNP is either a measurement error or a back mutation. These are rare. There is about a 65% chance that BigY-700 testing lines of four brothers will discover a SNP definitively delineating one line versus the others.

I am co-admin of the Clan Donald DNA project. We have the longest DNA proven line there is (going back to the 1300s with absolute certainty). Included are several Clan Chiefs and Chieftains. Lord MacDonald himself is not a member, however, he tested enough with Brian Sykes to prove that he is who the paper says he is (and this fact is published in Sykes' book). He has personally allowed this fact to be published, both to Sykes and me.  One Chief line is known to be broken biologically, but this one was always suspect on paper before DNA tests. So we have no controversy about the aristocratic lines.

The DNA does, however, show that they are very highly likely Norse Vikings and not the Celts originally cited.



for DNA and paper respectively. Note that all people there including the Chiefs have consented to appear. Lord MacDonald is a close cousin in the all-male line of Sir Iain Godfrey MacDonald. It can be done.
If you're lucky.  To pin down the exact position of a break, you'll need to test traceable descendants of 2 brothers, and 2 of their uncles or cousins.

You can't do it in the common case where only the eldest son has a traceable line of descent.
Yes, as I said, luck is needed. In the Clan Donald we have three brothers (sons of Lord John) and numerous descendants of his father, grandfather and great grandfather. I can't say for 100% sure whether the marker for John happened in him or his father. We are certain it was not present in his grandfather. This marker is neither a SNP nor STR but a large indel and is absolutely irreversible. Of course we have the happier situation where we are proving that some living person IS descendant of the very dead one.
Bad Answer Kay Willson FTDNA's Hamilton Dna Project is Open to

Anyone with Hamilton Ties See There Link.

Also her Autosomal Dna Could Match her to a Y DNA Descendant.

3 Answers

+2 votes
1. I am not sure why the father is not set to non-biological.

2. I may have read the report incorrectly, but there is no indication that any of the participants are on wikitree or have made their DNA tests public. Also, Wikitree guidelines indicate that yDNA matches with a genetic distance of 90% are further confirmation of a relationship, even if the FTDNA guidelines indicate otherwise.

It seems to me that with all these DNA testers and all this work, we can't identify those lines that contributed to the conclusions reached unless they agree to identify themselves and make their relationships public.

It seems that just because a relationship that meets Wikitree standards, of a match with 90% of the ySTR markers, Any 2 DNA testers can mark "Confirmed with DNA" if they make their results public, which could be different than what this study claims to have proven.

Am I reading the study or the guidelines incorrectly?

edit: FYI I am looking to change the guidelines to allow conclusions that don't require public verification in all cases.
answered by Ken Sargent G2G6 Mach 5 (56.5k points)
On point  1. Yes, I agree with you that it might be better if the father was non-biological rather than unknown.

As one of the managers of that profile, in fact the originator of it, and the writer of the biography I would like to make these points:

1. as you can see the profile was created in 2011 and the nomenclature is what was current at the time.

2. the reason that the yDNA matches are not linked on Wikitree is to maintain the privacy of the participants in the project at the time who are members, to some degree or other, of the House of Hamilton. To quote from Wikipedia "Duke of Hamilton is a title in the Peerage of Scotland, created in 1643. It is the senior dukedom in that Peerage (except for the Dukedom of Rothesay held by the Sovereign's eldest son), and as such its holder is the Premier Peer of Scotland, as well as being head of both the House of Hamilton and the House of Douglas." At the present time they have no wish to be included directly on Wikitree.

3. at the time the profile was created there was not policy around situations such as this and after much discussion on the G2G Forum it was decided then that situations such as this should be represented as it currently is shown, ie follow the bloodline. At the time there was no option to show a person as a non-biological "parent".

4. the search continues to try to determine who the father actually was or at least the bloodline of the father and so a name.

5. the research has demonstrated that those who have the Hamilton name on the male line fall into two main groups which the project has designated as Group A or Group B and this profile marks the beginning of the Group B line (to date).

6. I noticed that the link to the Hamilton project discussion page was broken and I have fixed that. As you can see it is hosted at PSU and the page had been shuffled from "faculty" to "users".


Many thanks indeed for your detailed response and again I would like to add my sincere congratulations to all involved in the project.

I have a little  experience of DNA projects myself and am very aware of how much work goes on behind the scenes. Your project is absolutely inspirational.

I hope we may see many more like it:



I also agree with the statements made about the "excellent work" done on this project.  It is an example of how it should be done. I don't question any of the actions taken as a result of this work. (I can see that non-biological was not an option at that time)

I have been critical of how DNA is used on Wikitree, and I feel that my pointing out examples is the proper way of demonstrating its deficiencies. This particular project seems like an ideal example.

My general understanding of the guideline is those conclusions based on DNA that is not completely public, does not exist and that in practice, most people choose not to make their DNA results public. 

This is my understanding of the Wikitree guidelines. 2 male descendants of the 4th Barron, one descends from James, and the other does not. both DNA Testers document their ancestors using traditional Genealogy and make their DNA results public. 90% of their ySTR match. In other words, for a ySTR111, you can have 11 markers not match. This would confirm the parent/child relationship between the 4th and the 5th.Barron.

My only yes or no question: Is this the current guideline?

The other concern I have over the guidelines is that an enormous amount of time, energy, and money is being spent on similar projects, in which the DNA Service appears to require privacy.  This seems to mean that many paternal lines have sufficient evidence to demonstrate that NPE has or has not occurred, but Wikitree does not recognize this work. 

In the case of these Hamilton lines, they still require other tests in order to "Confirm with DNA" those lines that this project has already accomplished. 

Again, great job on this project!

Edit: minor changing to wording for clarification.

+7 votes

Note to Mr. Sargent: Do you mind if I borrow your sanity-check, devil's advocate role for just a moment?  :-)

I had some time to look at this today, and I can't figure out what the deal is over congratulations for DNA investigative work. We always appreciate the work of DNA project administrators and co-admins, and the Hamilton Project certainly has a capable administrator and an impressive number of participants.

Checking a hypothesis that this DNA information was not a new change to James Hamilton's profile, I looked at the logs. Yep. That DNA info was added 4 August 2014. Which is in keeping with the last update of this informational page,, by the Hamilton DNA Project administrator, Gordon Hamilton, dated June 2014.

Doesn't take anything away from the work done, but I believe most are assuming this is the result of recent toil-and-tears, deep-dive DNA investigatory work. I'm confident this yDNA lineage distinction dates from well before those 2014 updates...probably from the very first days of the project. I believe this primarily because of the clear competency of the project administrator.

Reading the introductory material at the project, it's evident Gordon knows what he's doing. From the time the very first panels of yDNA results were logged from these two different lineages, it would have taken Gordon all of about 90 seconds of a visual check to know, from the STR results alone, that these haplotypes are unrelated in any timeframe other than anthropological. He would never have grouped these results together.

Ken, to your point about level of STR matching: the average, or modal, values for these two groups differ by a genetic distance of three in just the first 12 markers; eight in the first 25 markers; and a GD of a whopping 18 in 37 markers. So I believe I can come close to guaranteeing that the yDNA mismatch was never in question. Heck, even without actual SNP testing, projections from the STRs alone would have shown that these two sets of men aren't even in the same subclade: one is I1a2 and one I1a3.

I'll echo my agreement that Gordon Hamilton knows his stuff and is doing a great job with the Hamilton DNA Project. But this development with John Hamilton's scion is at least three years old, probably much more, and it came about by genealogical and paper-trail research; not by continual study of, or new developments in, the yDNA. From the very start of the project--which I imagine is over a decade old--Gordon would never have associated the test results from these two, clearly different, paternal lines.

answered by Edison Williams G2G6 Pilot (177k points)
I was making 2 points. In reference to the first point, I admit thinking this was new, and that the distinguishing difference was that stated in the Orginal Post but I also indicated that I thought the work was excellent and that my comments are directed at the current guidelines and not the actions taken based on the results of this study.

The documentation is extremely well written, and you believe the author knows his stuff.  I certainly have no disagreement with these statements.

In reference to the 2nd Point, It appears that the authors of this study have concluded that no NPE has occurred for what appears to be 100's if not 1000's of parent/Child relationships.  I presume that if the DNA testers were Public, they could "confirm the father with DNA" for these profiles.

Why not allow the authors of this study to identify and confirm the parent/child relationships they feel comfortable with allowing the DNA testers to remain private?

Hi, Ken. I wasn't replying to your comment; just sort of temporarily putting on your mantle as seeker of truth and questioner of status quo.  :-)

WikiTree didn't play at all into my comment, other to note that changes describing the identified separation of the two paternal lines were made over three years ago.

I think if you dig into it, you'll find that there is seemingly no operating connection at all between the Hamilton DNA Project and WikiTree. There is a WikiTree one-name study for Hamilton,, and a Category for Clan Hamilton, Neither of them mention a peep about DNA. There are a few external links on the latter, but none to the DNA Project. One of the links--it's broken so you'll need to remove some characters following the domain name to get there--is to the Clan Hamilton Society, where the DNA Project is mentioned and linked to. Here's the link: Follow it, and you'll find it's an announcement of the beginning of the DNA Project, and that it makes reference to a book that "is scheduled to be published in 2004."

And nothing at the Clan Hamilton Society, the Hamilton DNA Project, or any of those external sites makes any reference to WikiTree; neither does it look like the webmasters nor the DNA Project administrator participate on WikiTree.

Your point about public accessibility of data is very well taken and agreed. All the guys who swabbed cheeks and appear in the Hamilton DNA Project results tables signed releases with FTDNA or other companies to do just that: allow their results to appear without personally identifying information.

But there is no published Hamilton DNA study, per se, and no authors of a study. Just the DNA Project admin posting results as the tests are completed at the lab; basically what all of us DNA Project admins do. And there is no evident connection between what goes on at WkiTree and what goes on at the Hamilton DNA Project.

Thank you for your patience and understanding :) Let me approach this a different way.

On 4 Aug 2014, the father of James Hamilton was changed to "Unknown". According to the Biography, the change was based on Hamilton Surname DNA Results and Discussion Prepared by Gordon Hamilton, Project'Coordinator"

This is from the Biography of James Hamilton "History has him [James Hamilton] as the son of Sir John Hamilton of Cadzow and his wife, Janet Douglas however extensive genetic testing involving several hundred present day Hamilton's has shown this to not be the case."

The change was based on DNA evidence that can not be validated which I believe is against Wikitree guidelines.  I would like to see the guidelines change to allow for changes based on a statement of someone who has access to the DNA evidence but is prohibited from making the DNA testers public.

Also, as part of most DNA surname projects, the participants provide a Pedigree chart. I did this with the Sargent Project, and this was also done in the Hamilton Project as stated...

"Eventually each participant should also send to the coordinator a list (or a pedigree chart or Gedcom file) of your direct Hamilton line back to your earliest known Hamilton ancestor."

I agree that DNA Project Administrators don't participate in Wikitree, but the guidelines make that extremely difficult. Given that DNA Project Administrators have access to the DNA testers, and their Pedigree Charts, I believe they could confirm many of the Ancestral Lines, without compromising the privacy of the DNA Participants, but the current guidelines prohibit confirming with DNA unless the participants are known.

I am really impressed by the amount of work that has obviously gone into this project and think that we should all be congratulating everyone who was involved for a really brilliant project.

Well done!
+1 vote
Well done. Overturning a genealogy that others may have a strong emotional attachment to is very courageous. It requires a “publish and be damned” courage. ImI believe those clades are branches of Haplogroup I, but so distant from each other (thousands of years), that one would not consider them to be “related”. I don’t wish to be pedantic, just kind to your readers.  I-L338 and I-L1237 tend to be the preferred form of descriptor used by many DNA researchers today. This form of descriptor immediately identifies the parent Haplogroup and then the furtherest downstream branch. Haplogroup I is found amongst Scots populations, but is generally taken to Australia indicate “invader stock” in a Scots context.
answered by Rory Cain G2G6 (7.7k points)

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