Clan MacKenzie DNA Project

Genetic genealogy has become very fashionable in the 21st century and its popularity has spawned a plethora of companies offering DNA testing as a way of discovering ethnic origins and helping trace ancestors. As a result most Scottish clans now have DNA databases in which members can log the results of such tests and compare them to others who the tests show may be related to them.
The Clan MacKenzie DNA Project was started in 2003 by the late Alan McKenzie, who was then Cabarfeidh’s Lieutenant in Canada, and is now co-administered by Alasdair Macdonald, Alice Fairhurst, Ann Stansbarger, and Sharie Argue. It currently (September 2020) has 636 participants, and is hosted by Family Tree DNA [FTDNA].
            While the Autosomal and Mitochondrial DNA tests offered by some other well-known companies show ethnic origins and can offer limited help with male-line ancestral research, it is the Y-DNA tests offered by FTDNA – which are not offered by (the most famous name in this field) – that are most useful to clans.
In theory every man passes to his son an exact duplicate of his own Y-Chromosone DNA, allowing us to say that every man alive who possesses an exact match of another man’s Y-Chromosone DNA must be descended from the same male ancestor; so, again in theory, every man called M’kenzie should have the same Y-Chromosone DNA. In practice it’s rare for Y-Chromosone DNA to descend entirely unaltered for many generations, and tiny changes ("mutations") take place fairly regularly. DNA genealogists use these changes to track branches off a family line, and claim that it’s possible to say roughly when a branch came off that line using the nature and number of these mutations.
            Clans however have never just consisted of direct male-line descendants of its founder, especially the most powerful clans who conquer the lands of other clans and absorb their members into their own kindred by marriage and/or name-change. We know therefore that any clan Y-DNA project is going to show many different results. Identical and closely-matched results of Y-DNA tests are identified as “haplogroups”, and a big clan like the MacKenzies will have many such groups.
If you have already had a DNA test done by another company, it may be possible to transfer the data from it to the Clan MacKenzie Project via the FTDNA Autosomal Transfer Program (consult the Clan MacKenzie Project administrators – see the link below – to investigate this option).
            If you have not yet had a DNA test done, we recommend you use FTDNA and ask for a Y-DNA test – though if you wish, you can also have an Autosomal and/or Mitochondrial test. The latter is particularly relevant for females since they do not have a Y-Chromosone; but female M’kenzies can participate in the clan project by asking their nearest known male M’kenzie relative to do a Y-DNA test. FTDNA do not do tests for health purposes and will not share your data with other commercial companies.
            Testers remain anonymous, being assigned a kit number by the testing company. You can elect to retain complete anonymity or you can choose to participate actively in the clan project by providing your email address and allowing your Y-DNA matches to contact you. By sharing your tests results and listing your most distant known paternal ancestor you can help define the various Y-DNA branches of Clan MacKenzie.
            The standard starter test is now 37 markers, which recently cost $119 USD. If you can afford it, the 111 marker test at $249 USD is preferable since it tightens your estimated TMRCA [Time to Most Recent Common Ancestor] which other participants can use to judge if you might share the same common ancestor. The “Big Y-700” is the best, most comprehensive Y-DNA test offered by FTDNA, and it was recently $449 USD (prices change, and sales are periodically offered, so it’s worth watching the FTDNA website for what can be substantial reductions on these prices). You can upgrade later if you take one of the lesser tests.
            For more info about DNA testing and the Clan MacKenzie DNA Project please contact one of the project’s administrators using the links on the project’s overview webpage here.

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