Michael Cooley's Genetic Genealogy Blog GEN • GEN
29 July 2018

The Cochran DNA Project

I became the administrator of the Cochran DNA Project at the very end of May. I'd planned to notify project members earlier but, quite frankly, I've been busy writing my behind off and taking things as they come. As a subject, the Cochrans is, of course, a very big one, but the following is only a brief introduction to the current state of the project.

The project became available because Terry Barton decided to retire WorldFamilies.net, once the home of hundreds of surname projects, and I became part of the rush to pick up new projects, acquiring three. I explain my motives, my interest in Cochran, a degree of my personal experience, and some of the problems that ensued from a number of policy changes at FTDNA in my May blog article, Allow FTDNA Admins to Help You. This article is very important and applicable to Cochran members for the very reason that I and the new co-admin, Richard Cochran, are unable access many of your accounts, which is critical to our ability to help you. In fact, there's a large group of Cochrans, labeled "R1b - TO BE GROUPED," that I'm unable to place into appropriate groups because I can't view the matches. Please follow the instructions in the three beige boxes highlighted in that article; in particular, change your settings to "Grant Limited Access."

As things now stand, there are fourteen groups, each having at least one match. The haplotypes vary sufficiently that each group can be said to be unrelated to the others — at least in any practical sense. (Please note that I could easily have committed any number of errors when subgrouping because, in most cases, I could only eyeball the matching numbers. Contact myself or Richard if you notice any such errors.)

The overall impression one might have by looking at the test results is that the name Cochran is diverse. Obviously, it doesn't derive from one source or a single paternal ancestor. I'm not a Cochran historian, and I'm unable to offer an explanation except to say that it's a common situation among surnames. (There is no "pure" race and there is no "pure" surname.) It's my hope that a discussion can ensue regarding the various origins. To that end, I've opened the Activity Feed. Hopefully, enough information can be gathered that I can one day create a summary page much like I did for the Cooley DNA Project. I must admit, however, that I'm not accustomed to visiting the discussions at my projects, so feel free to give me a nudge via the contact link at the bottom of this page or at the project page.

A large number of members have done advanced testing such as the Big Y. Those of you are probably familiar with the manner in which the Y is inherited and of the nature of Y-DNA mutation. Others perhaps not so much. Suffice it to say for now that only men have a Y chromosome (it carries the male sex gene), so only men can test it. Women can test mitochondrial DNA and autosomes, but such tests are generally not helpful to surname projects. Because surnames, by social convention, generally pass in the same way, a surname and a Y chromosomal haplotype are often analogous. This method might not prove any particular ancestor's father, but it can prove the family or clan into which an ancestor was born. Almost better, it can disprove myths.

Although test results are publicly displayed, testers' identities are revealed only to project members. Because one's results can match with numerous men, displaying results shouldn't be considered much of a privacy issue. Indeed, if literally every man tested his Y chromosome, each would have hundreds, perhaps even thousands of matches. Yes, families can have unique markers, but in the overall scheme of things, that variation is very small. (Our genome is composed of more than three billion pairs of bases, that which we call the genetic letters, ACTG.) The Y chromosome just isn't that unique between one man and another. Displaying your name or contact information would be a major privacy concern, but Y-DNA markers say nothing about you as an individual. Anyone who has concerns about that, please contact Richard or I for further clarification.

So, there we are — for now. I've discussed, in simple terms, the nature of the Y and the manner in which results are grouped. The purpose is, of course, to better identify the family you descend from and to recognize the courses best not traveled. I've also provided a link to instructions to making your account visible to Richard and I, and I've offered a means to pass information to the admins and between one another through the discussion forum. And I even put forth a very brief lesson on racism and what we might call "surnamism" (the parenthetical comment in paragraph four of this draft)! It's my hope that everyone in the project will take an open approach and become an active contributor.