Michael Cooley's Genetic Genealogy Blog GEN • GEN
5 October 2016

SNP Test Results for Cooley Groups CF10 and CF13

I recently ordered single SNP tests for kits 321314 (CF10) and 338101 (CF13). I did this because each member has matches to at least one person who has had advanced SNP testing. The tests moved their terminal SNPs at least 13 degrees downstream, closer to the present day by thousands of years.

Both of these groups have special meaning for me: they had been implicated in a disastrous and fallacious genealogy written by Lura Coolley Hamil during the early 1930s. That book had once caused a great deal of trouble for those researching John Cooley (c1738-1811) of Stokes County, North Carolina. Indeed, it confused John's identity with that of William Cooley (married Elizabeth Firmin) of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, now in group CF10, who we now know to have had a completely different Y-DNA fingerprint from John's. The work is so bad that Elizabeth Cooley, one-time genealogist of the Cooley Family Association of America, wrote in 1977 that "it should be labeled with a huge 'Skull and cross bones.'" Genetics has since shown that Hamil's book includes at least six unrelated Cooley families.

The probable MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor) of CF13, Daniel Cooley (married Mildred Ball), was long thought to have been a son of the same John Cooley of Stokes County. Although Hamil may have been responsible for that misunderstanding as well, Daniel's migration patterns matched that of the Stokes County Cooleys. Yet finally, after decades believing otherwise, we find that his descendants also do not match John's Y.


Kit #321314 is a genetic distance of 3 to a descendant of Martin Scully (1783-1855) and a distance of 2 from another Scully. The Martin Scully descendant has SNP FGC3899, his most recent known, or terminal, SNP. Unfortunately, that's still a very ancient SNP; FGC3899 is about 3500 years old. FTDNA has a well-developed tree for its descendant SNPs, as shown on the upper left. There are a myriad of possibilities, many of which likely go into the genealogical timeframe. However, none of these downstream (descendant) SNPs show among the STR matches for CF10. And considering that Mr. Scully's terminal SNP remains at FGC3899, he likely has a large number of SNPs (3500 years worth!) that are still considered "private," which simply means he has no presently-known matches. In other words, the Cooley / Scully branch of FGC3899 is probably not represented in this tree -- and many of those private SNPs, considering the close STR genetic distance between the Scully and Cooley, suggests that many of those SNPs are shared among the two families.

These shared SNPs can be readily identified through a Big Y, which is the only genetic test for the Y that uncovers newly discovered matching SNPs. The test could prove extremely useful to both families. It would reveal not only their matching SNPs but the number of Scully's remaining private SNPs. That averaged against the Cooley tester's private SNPs will provide a rough estimate for the era of birth of the Cooley/Scully MRCA. In the same way, in fact, two Cooley testers having the same MRCA, say the William Cooley who married Elizabeth Firmin or the John Cooley who married Abigail Lippincott, will provide a definite date on the timeline. Imagine a Bucket Full of SNPs details how blocks of SNPs are broken down with each test and how that aids in placing SNPs on a timeline.


CF13 kit #338101 has three interesting 67-marker STR matches -- to a Nicholson, a Coleman, and a Shea. The Z16372 test for the member was positive and aligns him with this haplogroup. Do the Cooleys belong on one of these branches or on one yet to be discovered? CF13, of course, can't be placed on all of them. Either these Cooleys are positive for BY11277 or BY402 or neither.


This isn't an easy read. Whereas the CF10 tester has a genetic distance of only 2 of 37 markers from the Scullys, of those listed above, only Shea is a 37-marker match, with a genetic distance of 4, from the CF13 tester. That's not a selling point. At 67 markers, all three names are a genetic distance of 6 or 7. Again, nothing to bet on. Given that, there's nothing to suggest which line, if any, CF13 is more closely related to. We're pretty much at the end of the line for individual SNP testing, at least for now. But a Big Y test for CF13 will not be standing alone in a void. There are three tests by which to compare results, and it's likely that CF13 will share additional SNPs, undiscovered for now, with one of the Big Y testers. In the meantime, it's interesting to note that the vast majority of 67-marker STR matches have Irish names. It's an ancient connection but does suggest that Daniel Cooley or one of his forebears immigrated from the Emerald Isle.

What Now?

As mentioned, the Big Y is about finding new SNPs, which is what we need in order to bring these Cooley SNP lines into the genealogical timeframe, even into the 18th century. But there's a far greater advantage in SNP discovery. We can begin to uncover the relationships between all group members. For example, CF02's Big Y tests revealed 17 SNPs that Benjamin Cooley was born with, the last to have come into his lineage. A recent test has shown that another CF02 Cooley has only 15 of the 17 SNPs. That's a major breakthrough because it tells us that there was another immigrant who had a degree of cousinship with Benjamin. It's likely, as was true with Benjamin, this presently unknown immigrant was born in Tring, England. If this is true, Tring records for the era may provide a significant hint about Benjamin's extended family.

The SNPs unique to the CF04 Cooleys have been reduced to five. All CF04 testers now have a cost-effective way to test for those SNPs. The results will reveal a degree of relationship among their EKAs (Earliest Known Ancestors), as happened with CF02. Once done, each researcher will be pointed in a more specific direction for finding the genealogical evidence. After all, thanks to CF10, CF13 and the other groups, CF01 now knows where not to look for the origins of the Stokes County Cooleys. We have risen out of Hamil hell. In fact, the three SNPs that define the CF01 Cooleys may have already pointed toward John's family in England. Ah, but time, genealogical research and further testing is for needed before we have something other than speculation. In any case, thanks to Big Y testing, CF01, CF02, CF04, and CF07 are very close to bridging back to the Old World.

Although individual SNP testing will come back into the realm of possibilities for CF10 and CF13, it's now clear that only Big Y testing will move the groups forward. Typically, FTDNA offers a discount twice a year, including the holiday season. I'm happy to answer any and all questions about that.