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Powis & variants One-name Study
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Trudy Weaver [webmistress] Russell Powis,
Steve Poole, Tim Powys-Lybbe [TFPL] & Mick Powis
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Some Information on DNA research done.

Is there a Powys Gene?

In the words of TFPL

I am depending on some studies in the Genealogy department at the University of Strathclyde for all this. It concerns identifying lines of male only descent, to some extent at least aligned with surnames. Some years back a layer of analysis was found that gave very fine discrimination within the Y-chromosome; this level, which seems molecular in that it cannot be further divided, is called SNP, pronounced 'snip' and standing for Single Nucleotide Polymorphism.

SNPs mutate at anything from a few generations to 20 or so. This means that one chain of male descendants from a distant ancestor may have different features to another chain and to some extent these chains start before or in or soon after the middle ages. So a chain of one SNP can, but may not, clearly identify male lines back to at least the middle ages more or less when surnames began in England. Co-descendants of such chains will have the same SNP. I hasten to add that there are at least 700 SNPs to a chromosome. But the Y-chromosome has this additional feature in that they are only found in that strange breed called males, enabling male line descents to be readily identified. So SNPs of the Y-chromosome are discriminatory between males.

SNPs can mutate again, rather destroying the process. But their inheritance can be deduced, I have heard.

All we can know is the Y-chromosome and the SNPs of living people. So the first study is to find the SNP that is identified with a current set of male lines. This is best started with distant relatives who both have male-line links to a common male ancestor. I have a 7th cousin who like me is descended from a chap who lived from 1648 to 1719 and this is where we are going to start. Will he and I share a SNP? We might. Or we might have very different Y-chromosomes because one of our grandmothers consorted with a chap who was not her husband. I will await the result of this test with trepidation.

If we do share the same SNP then so do all all other descendants of the same chap - or they are descended from someone else, additional and subsequent mutations apart.

The next is to see if we can get back three or four centuries. There are several people with the same name, albeit differently spelt, and whose families came from Shropshire. And there are sporadic documents which mention the name from 1200 or so onwards for people living in Shropshire. So there is a chance that we share male-line ancestry from these early people with people of the same name who have clear connections with Shropshire. And that we have the same SNP.

So there may be a Powys SNP. Plus a few other names, of course and because surnames can change. If we find one, others may be interested in testing to see if they have it too. And this will provide clear evidence that we are all of the same wide family, not to mention widening the biological family.

Before I close, I must mention something about that other strange breed, females. Females do not carry the Y-chromosome. They carry the X-chromosome and so do males, so this test will not apply to females. Doubtless there are identifiers of female line descent, as was proved for Richard III. But for this project the female of the species can only join in through their male line Powis, etc ancestors or relations. If these males have any SNP we can discover, then their blood relations are clearly of the same family, be they male or female.

Watch this space. It may become a little exciting. Or it may fall flat on its face.

Tim Powys-Lybbe
October 2019


An update on my quest to find if there is part of DNA that can be identified with some of the Powyses, Powises, etc:

The results have just come back for all three of us who have taken the initial test.

Two of us, documented as 7th cousins and descended from a Powys who lived from 1648 to 1719, are in fact genetic close matches on the male Y chromosome. I am reasonably certain that this confirms our joint descent and that there were no away games on either branch by any of the grandmothers.

The third is not a close match though the pattern looks similar to me and he is definitely in the same branch of the Y chromosome, R-M269, as are much of the ancient inhabitants of Britain.

The next step is to see if the SNP(s) for our close match can be identified. SNPs are Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms which are much more concrete identifiers of genetic descent, as opposed to the STRs (Short Tandem Repeats) used in the initial test. Advice has been sought from Strathclyde University.

If we can then identify a SNP with the Powys surname, then anyone else who possesses the same SNP automatically has the same ancestry. This is where it might get interesting as it might automatically give those SNP holders a late medieval ancestry even though the connections cannot be found. I think there is enough promise now to say that I may appeal for any male who has a male line Powys/Powis, etc descent to join in. But this cannot be until the next set of tests have been completed and we may yet fall slightly flat on our faces.

Because females do not have the Y chromosome, they cannot join in directly. Though they can get their brothers or fathers to do so.

DNA has some curious features, Let's see how this goes. Bear in mind that I am no expert in these matters.

Males inherit their father's Y Chromosome unchanged (though there are very occasional mutations, perhaps at intervals of 10,000 years or more. Females don't have a Y-chromosome so can't participate in this directly.

Females also inherit an aspect solely through the female line. It is called mtDNA and passes unchanged, except for mutations, through the female line. Males do inherit the mtDNA from their mothers but do not pass it on.

Most other aspects of DNA combine in a haphazard pattern to choose either parent's characteristics. Hence the majority of unique characteristics get eliminated over four or so generations. So most of your DNA is shared with your parents, siblings and children but you and your fourth cousin have virtually no shared DNA apart from mtDNA if both are connected by all-female lines or Y-DNA if both are connected by all-male lines.

Connected by all-male lines is what captured TFPLs interest, i.e. can we prove that all Powys/Powis familes are related?


Update as of beginning Sep 2020

DNA tests confirm that Ian Powys and I have matching Y-DNA

This is interesting, prosaic, remarkable, to-be-expected, all of these and a few others. Ian Powys and I have been tested to show that we share the same male line Y-chromosome DNA. This is virtually impossible unless we share the same male-line ancestor. But we know from historical records that we have the same ancestor, Sir Thomas Powys, so this adds the remarkable information that no generation from him to either of us had a Non-Paternal-Event (NPE) as they discreetly refer to it.

We can then say that all other male-line descendants of Sir Thomas Powys (1648-1719) by either of his marriages should also have the same DNA. Unless there is a NPE in their line of course. This includes all my male siblings and all our male-line descendants, likewise for Ian and his siblings and all their sons. And quite a few more in the senior line of Sir Thomas descendants.

We do not know of any other male line to this day from William Powys (1494-1577) of Ludlow, Sir Thomas gt-grandfather. Three things now follow:

Unless there was a NPE between William and Sir Thomas, William has the same Y-DNA as we have. All male lines descended from William of Ludlow (1498-1577) will carry the same Y-DNA. Anyone else with this DNA must be descended if not from Sir Thomas then from male line ancestors of Sir Thomas.

The name of this DNA is R-FT287223; it is a SNP or Single Nucleotide Polymorphism, pronounced SNIP. There are towards a million of these Y-SNPs identified and named so far for those of the worlds populations that have had Y-SNP tests. Ian and I are the only known carriers of R-FT287223 so far.

There is a core principle for the descent of the Y-Chromosome:

The Y-Chromosome is passed unchanged from father to son.

This is because the Y-Chromosome does not pair off with a chromosome from a female; females just to not have Y-Chromosomes. So there is no opportunity to take a different value as in all the other 26 Chromosomes.

One consequence is that whatever Y-Chromosome a male has, all his male direct ancestors will have the same chromosome.

Another consequence is that whatever Y-Chromosome a male has, all his male direct descendants will have the same chromosome.

Finally, although the Y-Chromosome does not change, it does have patterns of the genetic components that can change and are inherited and occasionally mutate. These patterns are identified in the SNP values. This enable us to track lines of descent of different families and allows us to parallel some surnames with some SNPs, NPEs apart.

I must end this digressions by adding "I think this is what it is".

The next step is to ask another descendant of Sir Thomas to take this test, preferably a line remote to both of Ian and myself so the chance of their having this SNP accidentally are low. If such a remote cousin shares the same SNP, that will provide confirming evidence that the SNP shared by all male line descendants of Sir Thomas share is this R-FT287223. Though if he does not share it, that in fact only means that there was an NPE in his line.

After that final test, which will take several months to progress, it will be time to make it more public that this SNP belongs to all male-line Powyses descended from William of Ludlow. Further it belongs to all Williams ancestors so anyone descended in a male line from those, who may have a variety of surnames, can be tested and may thereby be found to be related to us, even though no historical records can be found.

Particularly in the 19th and early 20th centuries many Powys descendants thought that some descent could be found from the princes of Powys. An opportunity is now open to prove this if a clear male-only line can be found from the later princes to the present day. If any line of Powyses is actually descended from such a male-only line from the princes, then they WILL have the same Male Y-SNP. We are getting confirmation that our SNP is this R-FT287223. If the line from the princes is the same, then we are descended from that line by a male line; if not, then NOT.

Tim Powys-Lybbe
3rd September 2020

If you're interested in taking part in a DNA test, might I suggest getting in touch with TFPL and letting him know tim@powys.org

Personally I would love to be a part of this but as my Powis line comes down through my grandmother I dont qualify and neither do my son or brother.

A couple of links that can also be found on the free links page.

Know your DNA    DNA Testing Guide


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