Project Home Page
Please visit our web page at the Guild of One-Name Studies.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~WELCOME TO THE BRITTON DNA PROJECT~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
We have identified four Britton families with 16th or 17th century English roots: Group 1, descendants of John Britton of Henrico VA bc 1672/3, England, perhaps in the London area; Group 5, descendants and other relatives of Richard Britton bc 1585, Batcombe, Somerset; Group 7, Britton of Bitton, Glo., ENG., and Group 14, descendants and other relatives of William Britton of Kelston, Somerset, disclaimed in 1623. In Group 13, the Brittons of Britton's Neck, SC share a common ancestor of 17th century date (or earlier) with a Britton family living in Norfolk Co., VA in 1736. One branch of this family has a tradition of French ancestry. For more information on these and other Britton families, please see our database at Family Tree DNA:
and the Y-DNA Results and Patriarchs' Pages at this website.
The goals of the Britton DNA Project are to identify as many different Britton families as possible through the use of Y-chromosome testing and trace their ancestry back to Europe as far as records permit in their country of origin, which for most will be the British Isles or France. The Britton project is open to men with the name Britton, Brittain, Bretton, Britten, etc. or to any man who believes he descends from a Britton male. Since the Y chromosome is unique to males and follows the paternal line, Y-DNA testing is an ideal tool for genealogists hoping to trace their paternal ancestry beyond the reach of available documents. A simple, cheek-swab test can determine quickly and easily whether two males with the name Britton share a recent Britton ancestor.
Testing should always be used to supplement historical and genealogical research, since DNA tests do not show how two males who share a common ancestor are related to each other. Please note that Y-DNA tests do not reveal any medically-sensitive information and that Family Tree DNA enforces strict policies to protect the privacy of individuals tested by the company.
The Britton Project is international in scope and anyone with a Britton ancestor is welcome. Variants include: Briton, Brittain, Britain, Brittian, Britian, Bretton, Breton, Brittan, Britten, Brittin, Brytane, Britt, Brett, etc. The name Britton and all variants are being researched as part of the Britton-One-Name Study. at at . On one o .. YOu can learn more about thhs. o. Thethe TTThe
Your Membership in the Britton Project Includes:
Your Y- DNA signature or Haplotype which will be close (and sometimes identical) to the Y-DNA signature of your earliest Britton ancestor.
Classification of your "deep" ancestry or Haplogroup which provides information on the prehistoric origins of your Britton ancestors.
An opportunity to correspond and share information with distant cousins who may provide important leads for further research.
A chance to compare your genetic ancestry to the ancestry of other members of the project.
A chance to find genetic matches to those who do not share your surname.
The possibility of discovering your English roots by matching a Britton family in England whose ancestry is known and documented.
The test will be conducted by Family Tree DNA of Houston, Texas, the world's leading testing company for DNA Surname projects.
We recommend the largest number of markers that you can afford, since most serious researchers will eventually upgrade to 67 or 111 markers.
For answers to frequently asked questions on DNA testing, please see page 7 at this website.
Click here to place an order for a DNA test at Family Tree DNA.
Dr. Elizabeth Lindsey Britton, Administrator, Britton@one-name.org
Mr. Keith Britton, Co-Administrator
The Right to Bear Arms:
Did you know that you have the right to bear arms if you can prove descent in the direct male line from a Britton ancestor to whom arms have been granted? One of the primary goals of the Britton project is to identify living descendants of armigerous Britton families. You can help us achieve this goal by joining the project and sharing genealogical information.
Brittons and Britton families with the right to bear arms:
Source: The Knights of Edward I, Publications of the Harleian Society, v. 3 (1929)
Sir Philip Breton of Cobburne, held lands in Yorkshire & Lincolnshire--summoned to serve against the Scots in 1300 & 1301--Argent fretty and a chief sable
Sir Robert le Breton of Walton, Derby, d 1279--Per pale gules and azure a fesse between two chevrons argent
Sir Robert le Breton (grandson of above)--Bore Azure a bend & vi mullets or at Boroughbridge in 1322
Sir William Le Breton summoned as a Knight from Lindsey, Lincolnshire to Great Council at Westiminster 9 May 1325--Azure a bend & v1 mullets or
Source: Joseph Foster, The Dictionary of Heraldry: Feudal Coats of Arms & Pedigrees
Sir John Breton of Essex--Henry VI Roll--Azure, two chevronels or, in chef two mullets pierced or [Arundel Roll: in chief two mullets pierced argent]
Roger Breton (Edward III Roll)--argent a chevron between three escallops gules (Jennings Ordinary)
Sir William de Britton (Beyton or Bornton) of Suffolk (Edward III Roll)--Azure three escallops or (Parlimametary Roll)
Robert le Bruton and Joan le Bruton (Henry III Roll) Quarterly or and gules a bordure engrailed azure (St. George Roll)--These arms were also borne by Breton of Layer Breton--Sir John Breton, Dominus de Sporle, sealed the King's letter to the Pope with these arms in 1301, but his direct line became extinct with the death of his granndson
Source: Visitation Pedigrees as indicated
Essex (1552, 1558, 1570, 1612, 1632), p. 584: Azure two chevronels between three mullets or-- [quartered in the arms of Huberd] and p. 622-- Rafe Whittle m Ann d/o Thomas Breton of Essex, Arms azure two chevronels or in a chief as many mullets of the second
Wiltshire (1565): Quarterly or and gules a bordure sable (a branch of Britton of London, believed to descend from Breton of Layer Breton in Essex). William Breton, brother of Nicholas Breton the Elizabethan poet, removed to Barwell, Leicestershire where the Leicestershire Visitation Pedigree (1664-1710, p. 34) records his arms as azure a bend between six mullets pierced or, in dexter chief a mullet for difference(See Alexander Balloch Grosart, Works in Verse & Prose of Nicholas Breton, p. xiff. for more on Breton of Layer Breton)
Breton of Teeton, Northamptonshire (1564, 1618-19)--Argent a fess dancettee gules in chief three bears heads couped sable
Breton of Tamworth, Staffordshire (1664-1710) --Azure a bend between six mullets or --with branches in Norton, Northamptonshire (Francis Wheelan, History & Gazeteer, p. 427); Long Itchington, Warwick (Victoria History of Warwick, v. 6. pp. 125-132); Keswick, Worcestershire, Lincolnshire, and the Isle of Jersey (General Armory)
Oxfordshire--Argent two hounds paleways gules
Source: Burke's General Armory:
Essex: azure two chevrons or
azure two chevrons or and Azure two chevrons or with a mullet for difference, Crest: On a lion's gamb azure a chevron charged with a mullet sable [A mullet (ie star) is the cadency mark of the third son. See also Collection of Essex Pedigrees & Arms, Har. MSS 1541, f 6 & Glover's Ordinary; Francis Morgan Nichols, The Hall of Lawford Hall: Records of an Essex House and its Proprietors, p. 12 citing Symonds, Essex Memoranda, MS, College of Arms, v. 2, p. 197))
Haxted, Essex--azure two chevrons or with in chief as many mullets of the second.
Essex and Suffolk: Quarterly or & gules, a bordure azure
Cambridgeshire: Argent two bars sable a label of three points gules
Leicestershire; London; Jersey; Tamworth, Staffordshire; Long Itchington, Warwick: Azure a bend between si mullets pierced or Crest: A lion's gamb erased azure, charded with a chevron or, betwen three billets argent
Keswick, Worcester: Azure a bend between six mullets pierced or Crest: A wolf passant proper Motto: Cassis tutissima virtus
Lincolnshire: same as above with mullets pierced gules
Northamptonshire: Argent a fess dancetee gules, in chief three board heads coupled sable armed or Crest: on a mural coronet gules a boar's head couped azure
Lord Mayor of London 1294-97: Azure two chevrons or in chief as many martlets argent
Lord Mayor of London 1326: Gules saltire between four fleurs-de-lis or
Briton, Britain or Britton: Paly of six or and gules, a bend sable gutte d'eau Crest: Out of a naval coronet a demi-mermaid holding in the dexter hand a purse and in her sinister a comb proper
Devonshire: Sable a fesse argent [variation: or] between three e scallops or
Exeter: Bruton or Brutyn: per pale gules & azure a fess between two chevrons argent [variations; Sable & gules] Crest: a demi wolk ducally crowned holding between the paws a mullet proper
For more on the ancient Britton families of England, please see page 6 of the Britton project.
Genealogy Before 1500:
Hereditary surnames began to appear in Britain after the Norman Conquest, but the process was slow and several centuries would pass before surnames were fully established throughout the country. As a general rule, we can say that in 1100, few people had surnames, while most people had them by 1400. Since surnames are the primary tool used in tracing lineages, genealogy has long been defined by the study of surnames. The challenge for family historians is that between 1066 and the inception of parish registers in 1538, only a small percentage of the population of England was ever mentioned in official records. For all practical purposes, therefore, the genealogical period for the majority of people of English descent begins somewhere between 1500 and 1600 at the earliest and often much later than that, depending on family status and the availability of surviving records in the area of residence.
As the lists in the previous section indicate, there were many prominent Brittons living in England during the mediaeval period, especially in the eastern and southwestern counties. Although extinction rates for male lines are high, it is reasonable to assume that at least some of these Brittons have Britton descendants living today either in the British Isles or former British colonies. Others may have links to western France or the Channel Islands.
Because of the dearth of records pertaining to commoners before 1538, DNA testing offers the only realistic possibility of connecting mediaeval Brittons with their modern descendants; however, success in such a venture will require the co-operation of everyone who has information to share or who is willing to participate in testing. If, for example, we can find men with proven lines of descent from any of the ancient families of Britton, then their DNA signature (and, by proxy, the DNA signaure of their mediaeval Britton forebears) can be determined by testing and once that signature has been established, other descendants can be easily recognized even if they know nothing about their ancestry.
In order to achieve its goals, the Britton Project needs contributions to sponsor DNA tests for eligible participants, especially those who can trace their ancestry back to the 16th or 17th century or beyond in the UK, the Channel Islands, or France. Donations may be made by check, credit card, or Pay Pal to the Britton Project Fund at Family Tree DNA. If you wish, you may specify how your contribution will be used--whether for testing within one of our family groups or in a particular region or country.
Please note that the Administrators of the Britton Project are volunteer genealogists who do not receive any remuneration whatsoever either from World Families or Family Tree DNA, and that 100% of all contributions to the Britton Project Fund will be used to cover the cost of DNA tests.
Tracing Your Ancestry Before the Age of Surnames:
If surnames are the key to tracing ancestry, how can we determine relationships before surnames were adopted? The answer is that the y-chromosome is an ideal substitute for the surname because it follows the same path along the ancestral line from father to son to grandson, etc. up to the present day. In fact, the Y-chromosome is even better than a surname because names can and do change over time for various reasons whereas the Y-chromosome remains the same except for small changes called mutations which often help in distinguishing one branch of a family from another. The number of differences or mutations between two men with common ancestry provides a rough estimate of when that common ancestor may have lived.
Family Group 1 in the Britton project, for example, belongs to the small L1275 group whose most recent common ancestor is estimated to have lived about 1800 years ago. About 30 other English families and one Irish family have been identified as members of L1275. The effect of this cross-surname matching is to identify clusters of surnames which are related to each other in the period before surnames were used. The ancestors of five of these families--Britton, Childers, Sandidge, Creed, and Woodrum--are known to have settled in Henrico and adjacent New Kent counties in Virginia in the 17th century. Three others--Westover, Robinson, and Robbins--were 17th century immigrants to New England. Without DNA testing no one would ever have suspected that all of these families share a common ancestor who lived less than two millenia ago.
L1275 is a subgroup of Haplogroup I1 which arose in northern Europe about 5000 years ago and when found in the British Isles is generally considered to be a marker of Germanic tribesmen and Danish Vikings who invaded eastern England during the Dark Ages. In some instancs, I1 may also indicate Norman ancestry since many of the Normans descended from Danish Vikings who settled in western France in the 10th century.
Family Group 14 in the Britton project belongs to a subgroup of Haplogroup R1a whose common ancestor also dates to the late imperial period or early Dark Ages. Other surnames associated with this subgroup are Tucker, Pyke, etc. Although R1a in Britain is unusally interpreted as a marker for Norwegian Vikings, at least one researcher has suggested the possibility that the subgroup to which Britton Group 14 belongs may be of Norman origin.
Genetic genealogy is a relatively new technology (since 2000) which has already expanded our ideas about what is genealogically possible and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future as better, higher-resolution tests become available at mass market prices and more people decide to participate in testing. In addition to the many other surname projects like ours and the various subgroup and regional projects which our members are eligible to join at no additional charge, there were several exciting national projects open to qualifying members of the public. One of the most exciting is the People of the British Isles Project which is being conducted under the sponsorship of the Wellcome Trust. While the primary goal of this project is to identify genetic risk factors for various diseases with an hereditary component, a secondary objective is to create a genetic map of the British Isles. A similar project has been announced for Ireland.
The cumulative effect of citizen science being practiced in hundreds of DNA projects like ours and the professional science of large national projects like those in the British Isles will eventually extend our knowledge of ancestry in ways that can only be imagined now. One exciting possibility is that we should be able to match certain DNA signatures or clusters of DNA signatures to particular individuals or groups who lived during the historical period. Success of this kind would be especially welcome in England which has no oral tradition and where almost every trace of its Anglo-Saxon and Danish past has been obliterated by the Norman Conquest. In Scotland and Ireland where strong oral traditions do survive, genealogists have already identified what they believe to be the Y-DNA signatures of Nial of the Nine Hostages and the Scottish hero Somerled whose victories against Viking invaders seem ironic today now that we know of his Viking ancestry.
How Genealogists Can Benefit from DNA Testing
Y-DNA: The Role of Surnames
The surname is an important component of analyzing Y DNA results, and sets the outer boundary for the time frame of a match.
Surnames were adopted in different countries at different times. For a long time, people were just known by their first name. As society became more complex, a system was needed to distinguish one person reliably and unambiguously from the next person.
A surname is typically a hereditary name borne by members of a single family and handed down from father to son. Thus, surnames contrast with given names, which identify individuals within the same family. It is characteristic of surnames that all members of a particular family normally have the same surname.
A surname therefore follows with the Y DNA result, which makes the testing of Y DNA a very powerful tool.
On the whole, the richer and more powerful classes tended to acquire surnames earlier than the working classes and the poor, while surnames were quicker to catch on in urban areas than in more sparsely populated rural areas.
Surnames were adopted in different areas at different times. In many parts of central and western Europe, hereditary surnames began to become fixed from the 12th century forward. The bulk of European surnames in countries such as England or France were formed in the 13th and 14th centuries. In some places, the process started earlier, and in some places the process continued into the 19th century. Overall, the norm is that in the 11th century people did not have surnames, and by the 15th century they did.
The process of adopting a surname was spread over time, and these surnames continued to evolve until the 1900's when spelling was standardized.
Surname variants occurred during the evolution of the surname. There was no guide to the spellings of names, and those who recorded events, such as the clergy and registrars, attempted to reproduce phonetically the sounds they heard. The great majority of the population were illiterate and had no notion that any one spelling of their name was more 'correct' than any other.
Prior to the time surnames were adopted, men with the same Y DNA result were spread out over a geographic area due to migrations. In addition, invasions and wars often dispersed a Y DNA result significantly.
Many men had the same Y DNA result when surnames were adopted. It is currently impossible to predict how many men had the same Y chromosome DNA result at this time. Some Y DNA results were dying out, and others were abundant. Therefore, men with the same Y chromosome DNA result adopted different surnames. If there was a large population of the Y DNA result, such as with the haplogroup R1b, many different surnames would have been adopted for this Y DNA result.
As the database of Y DNA results at Family Tree DNA grows, almost everyone will eventually have Y DNA matches with other surnames. The primary reason for these matches is that multiple men with the same Y DNA result adopted different surnames during the time period when surnames were adopted. These men could have been in the same village, or in the same county, or perhaps migration had taken them to different countries.
In addition, two men with different surnames may have a matching Y DNA result due to convergence. Convergence is where you start with two different Y DNA results, in the past, and the results mutate over time, to where they match or are a close match today. The higher the population of a Y DNA result, the more opportunity there is for convergence to occur. Since Haplogroup R1b is the largest population group in Europe, matches with other surnames are very common. These matches are due to the large population of this Haplogroup that existed when surnames were adopted. Many different surnames were adopted, and convergence has occurred over time.
If we go back far enough in time, we are all related. The surname is used to establish a boundary for determining whether two people are related. If you match some one with a different surname, you are most likely related prior to the adoption of surnames.
In some cases, you could be related after the adoption of surnames, due to one of the following events occurring:
1. informal adoption, such as a widow remarries, and the children take the new surname
3. illegitimate male child who takes the mother's surname
4. adoption of a new surname, such as by preference or for inheritance
5. a pregnant woman marries a man with a different surname than the child she is carrying
Even though these events have occurred in the past, they were not the norm.
Pursuing a match with another surname should not be considered until both participants upgrade to 67 Markers to determine if the match still holds.
At this point, if the match still holds at 67 markers, a decision can be made as to whether to pursue the match with another surname. To avoid wasting time, there should be some evidence that one of the events above occurred. In making this decision, the place to start is to evaluate the evidence. Were the ancestors in the same location, at the same time? Was there a marriage by a widow who had children? Is there a use of alias in any records? Is there any evidence to support a match with another surname?
In most cases, there isn't any evidence to support pursuing the match.
A Surname Project is a very valuable tool for family history research. The surname establishes the time period for determining if two people are related. Surname Projects can provide tremendous benefit for those who are researching their family history. DNA testing has a wide range of applications, from additional information to use in conjunction with the paper records for interpretation, to clues to find the ancestral homeland.
In addition, as a long term goal, a Surname Project can determine the number of points of origin of the surname. The Surname Project would combine DNA results with the techniques used to research surnames, and identify the ancestral location(s) or area(s) where the surname was adopted.
As you research your family tree, eventually you have to stop, because the written records end, or are sporadic. This could be the result of the destruction of records, such as due to a court house fire. Or, this could be the result of reaching the time period prior to consistent written records. For example, the time period before the adoption of Parish registers. Often your family tree will stop before you reach the start of Parish registers, because there is insufficient documentation to make a connection.
When your family tree ends, often there is still a long period of time between then and the adoption of surnames. For example, if your tree ends in the late 1700's due to insufficient documentation, there is still 400 to 500 years between then and the adoption of surnames, depending on your ancestral country.
DNA testing can fill this 500 year gap. Imagine a situation years from now, where every family tree with your surname has tested. The data would then be available to determine whether your surname had a single or multiple points of origin. Combining this information with surname mapping, frequency distribution studies, and research in Medieval records would most likely enable the Surname Project to identify a geographic area as the ancestral homeland.
Our surname is a very important part of us, and DNA testing tells us about this surname. For example, did one man take on the surname, and all the descendents today are related, except for a few trees which are descendents of an informal adoption, and descendents of an illegitimate birth?
With DNA testing, we might also discover previously unknown variants. This could be very helpful for research, especially when records can't be found, and later it is discovered that the records are actually there, but recorded with a previously unknown variant.
Surname dictionaries have been published and identify the origin for many surnames. The authors of these books used the tools available at the time. Never before have these experts or authors had the powerful tool of DNA testing available. There are many discoveries to be made with DNA testing. Most likely, DNA testing will prove that some long held beliefs about the origins of various surnames are incorrect.
By participating in a Y DNA Project, or sponsoring a participant if you are female, you are making a significant contribution to the knowledge about your surname. Even when your tree ends, you can still discover information about your origin.
Copyright, 2007: From Family Tree DNA’s Newsletter, Facts and Genes, Vol. 6., Issue 3 (July, 2007)