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The Saga of How Our Project Evolved

By Richard L. Steadham

I first became aware of the exciting potential of using DNA analysis for genealogical research back in May of 1999, while attending the Opening Session of the National Genealogical Society’s Conference in the States, held in Richmond, Virginia. The technology luncheon speaker was Dick Eastman, forum manager of the Genealogy Forum on CompuServe (GO ROOTS) and author of the book, YOUR ROOTS: Total Genealogy Planning On Your Computer, published by Ziff-Davis Press. One of the startling points he made during his presentation was that in the next 5 to 10 years, genealogists would be able to begin using the power of Y-chromosome testing to determine whether or not two men who share a common surname, also share a common male ancestor.

This got me thinking that when the technology was made available to the general public, our family association could conduct a Y-chromosome study to determine with scientific certainty, who was a descendant of Timen Stiddem and who was not. In my own case, I wanted scientific proof that my Steadham ancestors from Alabama, really were related to the Stidham family of Delaware. DNA analysis would provide the answer to that question once and for all.

Then, on April 12, 2000, another announcement from Dick Eastman, this time via his free, weekly online genealogy newsletter. He wrote about Brian Sykes, a geneticist at Britain’s Oxford University and his study of the Sykes surname in Britain. He also wrote of Professor Sykes’ intention of launching a service called MaleMatch [editor's note, it's now called Y-Line], a Y-chromosome test, which would soon be made available through a company he was forming called Oxford Ancestors.

As it happened, I was at that time in the final stages of getting my Spring 2000 issue of the Timen Stiddem Society newsletter prepared and decided to take that window of opportunity to propose a DNA study of men in our family association bearing one of the variations of the Stidham surname to determine who was indeed a descendant of Timen Stiddem, and who was not. The article was entitled: Genetics and Genealogy.

On June 17, 2000, I mailed out a direct appeal in a form letter to 80 potential test volunteers, each bearing one of the many spelling variations of the Stidham surname.

It wasn’t long before I had five intrepid volunteers step forward to join me in what I felt was a ground-breaking study, and eventually, it was time to send out the Summer 2000 issue of the newsletter to members of our family association. My comments in this issue were entitled: DNA Study Update.

As you can see in the second article above, we leveled off at the lowly plateau of just six volunteers, holding steady at that number until my Fall 2000 issue was due to be mailed. In this issue I announced the Stidham Family DNA Study.

As the article above stated, we chose the Y-chromosome service offered by Family Tree DNA of Houston, Texas. Bennett Greenspan, president of the new company, was very patient and prompt in answering the many questions I put forward to him regarding this procedure in several e-mails we exchanged. I felt confident in his lab’s ability to render an accurate analysis of our group’s DNA samples based on the information posted at his web site. An added benefit of going with the Family Tree DNA lab was their promise of storing our genetic data in their secure database in the event that future test participants’ with genetic fingerprints matching ours, can make contact with with us if they desire. Also, any future members in our family association interested in proving their line of descent from Timen Stiddem can be steered to Family Tree DNA for analysis and comparison with our data already on file there.

I sent a package with all of our participants’ collected samples back to Family Tree DNA on November 7, 2000. We received our final results in early February, 2001. For some in our study like myself, good news, scientific confirmation of descent from Timen Stiddem. For others, disappointent in learning the that they were in reality, not descended, at least genetically, from from the man they always assumed they were.


Current Results of the Stidham* Family DNA Study


Links

Chris Pomeroy’s extensive list of Y-chromosome studies being undertaken by other surname family organizations and individuals.

Join the Genealogy-DNA mailing list on the Roots Web network. You can read archives from what’s already been discussed by clicking here.

If you landed on this page by way of an outside link, please feel free to take a look around our web site here at the Timen Stiddem Society. Just click here to go to our Home Page, or use the “Home” button-link at the bottom of this page. From there you’ll find button-links to the various areas and projects we’re currently working on.

To see the Mitochondrial DNA Certificate issued by Family Tree DNA to Richard Steadham, webmaster of this site, click here.