Michael Cooley's Genetic Genealogy Blog
28 November 2020

Akins DNA Project Summary For 2020

The names of our patrilineal ancestors are not engraved in the Y chromosome, but their Y-DNA markers are. Our objective is to sort them out and find the point at which the genetics and the genealogy dovetail with one another — a sort of triangulation.

It's been more than two years since I last provided a summary for the Akins DNA Project. My most valid excuse is that I'm involved with sixteen projects. Therefore, I have a tendency to pop in — particularly when new results come in — and pop back out. It's a bit like the cliché about the squeaky wheel getting the grease. But we do now have three co-admins. Their email addresses are available on the Project's home page at the Akins DNA Project. And the project's Activity Feed has been very active. Note, however, that that's not the proper place to post questions to the administrators. One of us might see it, but there are no guarantees. Questions about your account, your results, or test recommendations should be sent directly to the admins. Still, the feed is a great place for members to exchange photos and genealogical information. We encourage its use.

The 2018 summation is at Summary of Recent Akins Big Y Testing. It has benefit over this in that it includes a bit of a tutorial about DNA in regards to testing, especially of the Y Chromosome. The AF04 and AF06 groups have grown dramatically and I've written about them twice since, in Big Y-700 Results For Akins AF04 and AF05 (AF05 has since been folded into AF04), and Akins Group AF04-AF06 and SNP Counting.

Because there articles are a lot of work and are not constructed for significant updates, I've started to take a somewhat different approach by creating easily editable pages for each group, including

    R1b-BY171114 Akins (Group AF04)
    R1b-BY179697 Akins (Group AF06)
    I1a-DF29 Akins (Group AF08)

For this reason, AF04 and AF06 are excluded from this survey.

FTDNA's public face was largely built on STR results, and most of us are familiar with them. They're laid out very well on the Y-DNA Classic Chart. And the analysis of STRs is fairly straight-forward. One need only count the number of differences between two testers. The total number of differences is the genetic distance, or GD. The greater the GD, the greater the relationship. Although there are guidelines used to help determine whether two people are related over, say, three hundred or more years, they're somewhat arbitrary. Indeed, life in all its forms, even genetics, regularly throws curves at us. I'm of the opinion that STRs are great for determining general clanship rather than specific relationships.

On the other hand, SNP mutations are like rocks. They're punctuations made in the Y-DNA stream at specific places, times, and in a specific individuals. The name of the individual is sometimes discovered in the historical and genealogical record, but if it's not, then it will probably never be learned. However, by sampling populations, genetics can tell us a lot about place and time, and that can tell us something of the historical context in which the individuals lived. Considering these advantages, I'm presently looking only at the SNP trees.

Here are some points to consider when viewing the trees.


The extraordinary staying power of the Y chromosome is discussed in this brief micro-lesson: Branching Potential Across the Three DNA Test Types. It's much like an undying heartbeat that fails only when the lineage comes to an end. It represents a living archive of the Y's vast history through thousands of generation. That power has yet to be fully harnassed.


The briefest of explanations for SNPs is found at What is a SNP?


A genetic tree is read exactly like a genealogy tree. They can, in fact, be aligned and superimposed over one another. But "tree" might not be the correct analogy, as the root of biological trees are at the bottom. Here, the root, or source, is at the top. Like the source of a river, we travel upstream to find it.

In the same vein, the SNP trees (or rivers) at the left represent only the bottom, or downstream, branches. The older SNPs (upstream) are at top and progress to the present, which is represented by the test kit numbers. The tree itself could expand further back into time hundreds of thousands of years. Of course, there's not enough space for that and is, after all, the territory of population genetics. Typically, genetic genealogists are concerned with the more recent generations or haplogroups.


The alpha portion of a SNP name is simply a code for the lab that discovered it. It's followed by the lab's ascension number. Thus, the name is merely an identifier and has no further significance. Some SNPs have nicknames such as "Young Scandinavian" (L448) — which doesn't belong to any of these trees. The names are so not related to the SNP itself that I've taken it upon myself to create nicknames for the Cooley DNA Project, such as the Benjamin SNPs or the Goshen SNPs.


Each new SNP emerges at the birth of a man. This doesn't happen every generation, but we can roughly estimate that, on average, the event takes place about every four generations. Because this man has inherited all the SNPs that came before him via his Y-DNA (paternal) lineage, his new SNP mutation enters into the stream and is passed, along with the whole archive of SNPs, in full, to his sons. In this sense, the Y chromosome evolves. But not in the Darwinian sense; genes are not altered and no new human traits are introduced.


A timeline can be roughly guessed at. If we accept the gross average of a new SNP every four generations, then the upper block of SNPs, or haplogroup, for AF01 represents about eighty generations. (It might more fair to claim sixty to a hundred generations. After all, we really don't know.) We can, then, propose an average of 25 years between generations, which would mean that the FGC37070 haplogroup of SNPs emerged over a period of about two thousand years years.


The trees outlined here have a specific structure. The earliest known ancestor (EKA) is shown in beige. The tester's kit number is just below that. (I've also indicated which test was last taken.) Above the tester is the known SNP tree to a limited number of levels. The SNPs in the blue box are novel variants, or novel SNPs, or private SNPs. We can't be sure just where they'll be placed. That will take a match. In other words, they are novel and private only as long as the tester is the sole known possessor. Certainly his father and bothers have them, as would his great-uncle, and second great-grandfather. But once matched (preferably from someone who is four or more generations removed), they will cease to be novel and will move into an upstream position.

Armed with this information, we can glean some useful data about the Akins trees. Some are simpler than others and will require more testers in order to begin determining genealogical connections. For, like genealogy itself, genetic genealogy is a comparative science. That is, two or more elements need to be compared side by side in order to study their similarities and differences, just as genealogists compare names, dates, parents, and etc., to sort out two different people. In this case, we use genetic differences. For example, by merely looking at AF15, I'm unable to say nothing about the family the tester is related to. However, we have a deep and robust genetic history for him. Testing distant relatives will reveal additional branching in the lineage by demonstrating that a large haplogroup (collection of SNPs, such as at the top of AF16) is really comprised of two or more subclades.

AF01 is presently showing a SNP difference of only one marker between the two testers. However, they both last tested for the Y-500. An upgrade to the Y-700 looks at 50% more sample and might reveal more mutations and allow us to better home in on the degree of relationship between the testers.

The blue box is a great place to look for determining which lineages might get the biggest bang with more testers. Kit #902582 in AF02 has nine novel SNPs. If we use the guidelines under "The Molecular Clock" (above), we can guess that they emerged over the last 900 years or more. Finding a tester separated by six to ten generations might cause the creation of a new subclade and, again, help to better define the relationship between the tester's James Eakin and the others. AF08 is similar. Not only is there benefit in more testers, an upgrade to Y-700 for #N115713 could reveal more ganularity.

AF07 is of special interest to me. I'm descended from the same Charles Duncan listed in the diagram. I am, then, not only lineally descended from AF04 but have a distant relationship to Lot Akin who, almost certainly, descended from the Duncans. Likewise, it appears that the Gowen/Aiken lineage of AF09 had split into two surnames sometime in the colonial period. (Note that virtually all surnames of thus split. Surnames are a social convention, not a biological one.)

AF12 is reasonably well-parsed. All four testers have done the Y-700 and have a relatively small number of SNP differences between them. The groups focus should be in trying to break up their mutual upstream haplogroup; their Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) is certainly buried there. The right tester could narrow the haplogroup from eight SNPs to half that or less. In fact, the narrower a Y-DNA print for an individual, the better chance of identifying him by name. Looking at the tree, the dates involved, and the small number of novel SNPs, the MRCA could have lived circa 1700, well within the genealogical timeframe. And it's a similar situation with AF03. It's a relatively tight group, and its top-heaviness can be resolved with the right testers.


Granted, there isn't a lot of genealogical information here. But genetics is as every bit a part of a family as the record is. In fact, unlike some physical records, DNA isn't a debatable issue, although its interpretation might be. Yes, some individuals can potentially be identified by name, but the big advantage with the Y is that it greatly narrows your research. In other words, if you have four Akins families you think you might reasonably be descended from but just can't find a record to prove any of them, the Y chromosome can set the record straight for all time. By the same token, family myths can readily be dispelled. I provide examples of this in,

The Cult of the Bogus Dutch Cooleys
The Wright Stuff
Three Y-DNA Duncan Haplotypes

In the same vein, it's always helpful to understand that being born an Aiken doesn't mean being born of the Aikens, whatever that might mean. (I'm rather fortunate in that there are no the Cooleys for me to be concerned about!) Those who want to prove to have been born of a great house will probably want to stay clear of genetic genealogy.

But the research for each group can move forward by recruiting new testers and upgrading current tests. If you're part of a smaller group, and feel a bit like an outsider, don't become too become frustrated. Those of us who have spent years and decades at this can attest to the fact that this is slow going. Hopefully, this survey will help convince you that the wait is usually worth it. Excellent examples of what can be accomplished can be found with the latest reports for AF04 and AF06.

Questions are always welcomed.