I.A. Overview - Purpose and Methods
The essential purpose of the Bunch Y-DNA Project is to use genetic genealogy to learn about the origins and interrelations of the various branches of the extended Bunch family worldwide. "Extended Bunch family" includes individuals born with the surname "Bunch" or any surname of closely similar spelling/pronunciation (e.g., "Bunche", "Bunsch") -- close calls will be left to administrative discretion (e.g., we'd probably exclude "Bunce" except where there's a documented line to "Bunch"). For the purposes of the project, the extended Bunch family also includes individuals born with an otherwise excluded surname but whose Y-chromosome characteristics match those of someone born with an included surname.
It's also the Project's purpose to serve the individual genealogical interests of project participants, as well the interest of other historical and genealogical researchers, to the extent that those interests serve, or are served by, learning about the shape of the extended Bunch family tree.
On the "genetic" side of genetic genealogy, the Project will focus almost exclusively on Y-chromosome DNA. By identifying patterns of similarity among the Y-chromosomes of project participants and using these patterns in concert with traditional genealogical research, we hope to confirm individual paternal family lines and help locate connections between genetically related family trees. Because only males have Y-chromosomes, project participants will by definition be male. However, anyone with an interest in the Project's results, regardless of surname or gender, is invited to participate on an observer basis by contacting the project administrators.
On the "genealogical" side of genetic genealogy, the Project will rely largely on the traditional genealogical research of project participants, confirmed as possible and supplemented as necessary by the project administrators.
I.B. Overview - Results
To date (August 23, 2013), all of the project participants are American and no genealogical lines have been conclusively traced beyond the shores and borders of the United States. Consequently, the results have little to say about Bunch families outside of the United States. The project administrators are actively working to rectify this situation.
I.B.1 Overview - Results - The Old American Bunch Y-DNA Line
The main result for the American Bunches has been the identification of a single major Bunch Y-DNA lineage in the United States tracing back to an individual who arrived in the Virginia Colony, perhaps as early as 1619, but certainly no later than 1662. The Y-chromosomes of a majority of the project participants match one another, and this confirms the antiquity of this line (henceforth, "the Old American Bunch Y-DNA Line," or some obvious variation of that -- most simply "the Old Line"), which had been previously established by reliable and fairly well-known genealogical research. To that extent the genetic results are reassuring but not particularly surprising.
Of somewhat greater surprise, perhaps, is the breadth of the Y-DNA Old Line, apparently comprising something like 50% to 75% of all American Bunches (using naïve statistics based on biased, non-random sampling). The matching Y-DNA ties together the early Virginia Bunches with a line (or lines) that had moved to North Carolina by the 1720s and then further split to colonize South Carolina by 1735. Offshoots from these three early starts (Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina) then swept east and south and north as new territories were successively settled on the American frontier, helping to make "Bunch" a fairly common surname in the United States (number 1,529 in the list of 10,000 most common American surnames based on 2000 U.S. Census data). The large majority of project participants with non-matching Y-DNA are believed to be connected to the Y-DNA Old Line by family ties -- genetically related but separated by non-paternity events (NPEs) of one sort or another -- by extension, making the dominance of the Old Line even more impressive.
The most surprising discovery regarding the Old Line Bunches lies the identity of the Y-DNA haplogroup to which they all belong: E1b1a8a (using 2008 YCC nomenclature). Haplogroup E1b1a8a (we may fall into using the shorter and more general descriptor "E1b1a") is distinctly African, appearing with greatest concentration and diversity among modern populations in sub-Saharan West Africa. It's common among African-Americans and is strongly associated with the Atlantic slave trade. What's surprising about this is that all of the project participants belonging to the Old Bunch Y-DNA Line consider themselves to be "white," or European. Because of this, efforts to trace the origins of the earliest Bunches in America had previously looked for a source in Europe, primarily in Great Britain. Hence, many project participants (including yours truly) had accepted the 1965 speculation of inveterate Bunch researcher DeWitt Bunch that the American Bunches were descended from a line of Bunches who were prominent in the records of Perthshire, Scotland, from the 15th and 16th centuries. An older tradition passed down in a Tennessee line of Bunches out of Virginia relates that their male line progenitor came from England (and, erroneously, that their Virginia line was not related to the North Carolina branch of Bunches). Others have been of a mind that the name and line came from Germany, or were of "Black Dutch" extraction.
The Y-DNA results do not conclusively rule out such possibilities, since an E1b1a Y-chromosome arriving in Europe, say, a hundred years (or possibly much longer) prior to making the trip to America could conceivably have become hidden among an apparently white European population, just as it has later become hidden in an apparently white American population. However, records dating from at least the 1705 petition of John Bunch and Sarah Slayden to the Virginia Council (about which more later) indicate that the African heritage of the Bunches was known -- presumably on the basis of their complexion -- to at least some of their neighbors. This indicates a much more recent connection to Africa, and strongly suggests that these early American Bunches should look to the shores of Africa rather than Europe as the original home of their oldest patriarch in America. How that patriarch's descendants came by the surname "Bunch" remains and open question, not addressed by the genetic evidence, although a couple of theories regarding this question will be discussed below.
I.B.2 Overview - Results - Another African Bunch Line
I.B.3 Overview - Results - A Native American (Cherokee) Line