Michael Cooley's Genetic Genealogy Blog GEN • GEN
13 January 2017

New Cooley CF02 Y-SNP Tests
Soon Available at FTDNA

Two testers from Cooley DNA group CF02, each descended from a different son of Benjamin Cooley (1615-1684), were found last year to share 17 previously unknown Y-SNPs. The result is a new Y-DNA haplogroup named R-A12020. Because of the manner in which the Y is inherited, these SNPs could have come down to the testers only via their shared ancestor, Benjamin. Any patrilineal male descendant of his will have all 17 SNPs.

Recently, two additional Cooleys from the same group, but without known descent from Benjamin, were found to be negative (not possessing) two of those SNPS, A12022 and A12024. This means that neither man could have descended from Benjamin. To look at that another way, the more DNA shared between two people, the closer they're related. The two Benjamin testers share more SNPs with one another than they do with either of the other two SNP testers. This second set, then, must be from a different line; in other words, not from Benjamin. (In the simplest terms, the numbers 17 and 17 are closer to one another than are 17 and 15.)

As it turns out, one of the new testers is almost certainly descended from Samuel Coley (1614-1684). Like Benjamin, Samuel arrived from England to Massachusetts during the mid-17th century. Some genealogists believe they were brothers, but baptismal records at Tring, Hertfordshire, England, where Benjamin is known to have been born, and their descendants' DNA suggest that, instead, they were cousins of unknown degree.

There is presently no sure-fire DNA test that will prove descent from Benjamin. We don't know yet whether descendants of his brothers — even first cousins — wouldn't yield exactly the same markers. It's possible. But descent from Benjamin can be disproved genetically. And by the same token, lacking SNPs A12022 and A12024 does not prove descent from Samuel. In that case, especially, more research is needed. What we do have, however, is a very clear delineation between at least two distinct groups of Cooleys having probable roots in the 17th, and possibly the 16th, century in Hertfordshire, England.

These SNPs (A12022 and A12024) will soon be ready for testing at FTDNA for $39 each, probably around February 1. No additional sample is required. It is my recommendation that anyone belonging in the CF02 group test for one or both — perhaps the upstream A12020 as well. (If you're negative for A12022, then it would be nice to know for sure that you're positive for A12020.) Those wanting a more comprehensive study can take the CF02 Cooley Segregation Panel at Yseq — all 17 SNPs in question — for $232. And, of course, there's the king of all Y-DNA testing, the Big Y, available at FTDNA for $575. (It was the latter that allowed us to narrow the search for Benjamin's Y-DNA print.)

Why take any of these tests if they won't prove descent? First, they'll put you in the ballpark. Furthermore, there's great advantage in knowing from whom you do not descend. Because of, and only because of, genetic genealogy, I know for sure that I'm not descended from Benjamin, Samuel, Daniell of Maryland, William Cooley and Elizabeth Firmin, nor related to John A Cooley of Spartanburg, SC, and a host of other Cooley immigrant ancestors. I've eliminated a great deal from my search list, and that has greatly lightened my genealogical burden, so to speak.

Be aware that the four CF02 members who have taken part in advanced SNP testing have nearly identical STRs. No one should test these two SNPs if they don't already have an STR match to CF02. Still, because of the nature of STRs, we can do nothing more than bucketize the test results — your type of STRs go here, your kind belong there. But SNPs — and we're only at the beginning of SNP discovery — can cut through that.

It's not yet known what kind of resolution will ultimately be obtained — SNP mutations do not occur every generation but randomly across the generations, and slowly. They average at a grossly average rate of one SNP every 140 years. That's only 3.5 per 500 years. In actuality, it varies greatly. (I have four SNP mutations going back 270 years.) So, will we have to settle for just two camps of CF02 Cooleys? Three? Will there be several? There's a test in the works now, due perhaps in the middle of February, that has the potential to open a new front, a new column into which each CF02 tester will belong.

The CF01 Cooley group has two related lineages that can be eye-balled by looking at the STRs. No such pattern has emerged in the CF02 group. For now, at least, SNPs are our best hope in sorting out this group and, thus, breaking through to the other side of the pond.

I regularly update the results page as new data comes in. Please keep your eyes peeled and contact me whenever questions or concerns arise. In the meantime, the diagram at the top illustrates the present state of CF02 SNP testing.