Much has happened since the last update in May 2008 with four new Gaston members, including one from Ariège in southern France. Not only does he not match the Ulster Gastons but all three of our French Gastons are in different haplogroups (haplogroups are determined by specific genetic markers and are generally quite ancient, going back thousands of years). Although our hope of finding the French patriarch of the Ulster descendants is still alive, we are less certain of the Jean Gaston legend after three non-matches. An alternative hypothesis, with some DNA support, is that the Gaston name did originate in France but it was brought to the British Isles during the Norman period (1050-1250). This remains speculative for the time being.
Family Tree DNA (where our DNA testing is done) has a database of over 140,000 Y-DNA records to compare to. This has provided us with some interesting and unexpected matches, such as to the so-called Leinster group. This group is mostly defined by DNA comparisons rather than actual documentation. Its basis is a study of Irish surnames linking them to the former province of Leinster in what is now the Irish Republic. It appears that the Ulster Gastons have a common ancestor with this group sometime in the 14th century. It is hard to reconcile this match with our Gaston legend, but there was considerable mixing of French people with English and Irish during the Norman period. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Norman)
All of our U.S. members descend from a single patriarch who likely lived in Ulster, Northern Ireland in the late 1600s. We know from ship registers that Gastons from other countries immigrated to the U.S. (and likely Canada as well), but their descendants do not appear to be interested in DNA analysis so far. It is also difficult to recruit members from France, partly because there are not many French males with the Gaston surname, but also because DNA testing for personal use is discouraged in this country.
Now that most of our members have been tested on 37 markers new patterns are emerging and some earlier linkages on 25 markers have proven to be more distant. For the Ulster descendants we have discovered a key marker that appears to distinguish between two main sub-groups. So far, these groups do not conform perfectly to the pedigrees posted by our members - see the Patriarchs page. It is not yet certain that this key marker is totally reliable, since there are always statistical uncertainties associated with DNA testing. On the other hand, our pedigrees are not always reliable either. More new members, especially ones with well documented pedigrees, will help to resolve these questions.
If you would like to join the Gaston surname project the 67 marker test is recommended, especially for descendants of Ulster Gastons.
- Feel free to discuss this project on the Gaston Family Forum
- Click here to place an order for a DNA test at Family Tree DNA