First “big” DNA Match!

Howell <-> Howell

Mark McBride Howell and I matched DNA in 25 locations according to the Y-DNA test performed by FamilyTreeDNA. We are indeed fourth cousins – our common ancestors being 3x great grandparents John Johnson Howell and Elmina McBride.

I’m fascinated by this finding as it further validates much of the genealogical information that we have independently compiled.

This match also establishes that our Howell line is unique from the other Howell lines in the DNA study – probably to the immigrant Matthew Howell who died in Isle of Wight County, VA in 1720.

Our search now should focus on finding other Howell males that trace their ancestry to VA, NC and/or GA who are not yet participating in the DNA study.

Howell DNA Update

The first (and still only so far) “DNA match” with another Howell is an exact 12 marker match with R. Ray Howell. We both took the 25 marker test – and unfortunately – not an exact match. What that means is that in all probability our common Howell ancestor is more than 7 generations back – and we have both traced as far as 6!

The good news is that the 25 marker results are now available for comparison to other tests.

More on the Howell DNA Project

Some very exciting news – an exact 12 marker DNA match was made. The bad news is that we still can’t figure out how we are exactly related!

The match was made with Rawleigh Ray Howell who is a descendant of John Howell b. 6 Nov 1799 in Hawkins, Grainger Co., TN and his wife Elizabeth H. Larkin b. 8 Feb 1804 in TN. John and Elizabeth had 9 children. Rawleigh’s line descends from their second son, Joseph Anderson Howell.

When the match was made by FamilyTreeDNA, I was immediately contacted by Dorothy Howell Carroll who lives in Houston, TX. Dorothy’s direct line is to Samuel Henry Howell, the first son of the same John and Elizabeth above.

Dorothy and I have exchanged details on our respective Howell ancestors (her research began in 1960) but we are so far unable to make a connection between her line and ours.

So what is the probability that we are related? Here is the quote from FamilyTreeDNA (MRCA = Most Recent Common Ancestor):

If I submit a sample to you for testing and you find that I match exactly with another person, how many generations ago did we have a common ancestor?


Here are the times back to the MRCA when ALL the markers match. Those numbers are based in the latest results of the mutation rate study conducted by the University of Arizona. For example, with 37/37 (all 37 markers match), there is a 50% probability that the MRCA was no longer than 2 generations, and a 90% probability that the MRCA was within the last 5 generations. Compare these with 25 and 12 — with 25 markers, there is a 50% probability that the MRCA was within the last 3 generations, while with 12 markers, there is a 50% probability that the MRCA was within the last 7 generations. “

So, as I mentioned in my last entry, if we found a match at 12 markers, I would place the order for the 25 marker test – I have now done that (and am $90 poorer.) If Rawleigh does the same, and we match perfectly again, we will probably have to take the 37 marker test which would give a 95 % chance that our common ancestor is within 7 generations – as it stands we are each 6 generations from our oldest known Howell ancestor!

The complete results for all of the Howell DNA tests can be viewed here. If you are a Howell male, and would like to participate, contact Jean Howell (the 0 after jhowell in Jean’s email is a zero “0” not an “o”.)

Howell DNA Project – Update

Here, as promised in the April 25th entry on this topic, is the update:

The Howell 12 marker Y-DNA test results are in  ….and so far there is no match in the public database for 6PWDB  (update: Y search is not viewable as of Aug 2018) or in the private FamilyTreeDNA database! But to be fair, there are only a few Howell’s that have participated in the test so far. Hopefully the database will continue to grow rapidly. I will check periodically for matches — stay tuned. (If you would like to have your DNA tested and compared to this database, check out the FamilyTreeDNA web page.)

The 12 marker Y-DNA test did identify the signature as being in the “R1b Haplogroup”, with a “Western Atlantic Modal Haplotype” as descibed in detail as follows (quote) :

The Western Atlantic Modal Haplotype is the most common Y-DNA signature of Europe

Howell DNA Project

I received the following e-mail from Jean Howell. She is administering a Howell surname DNA research project. I will participate, and post the results when I have them.

From: Jean Howell [] Sent: Saturday, April 24, 2004 6:31 PM To: Cc:;;;; Subject: Howell surname Y-DNA testingGentlemen:

I’m writing you because you have posted queries on the Howell forum at and you appear to be interested in sharing and receiving information about your Howell ancestry.

I’m a layman, not a company employee, administrating a Howell Y-chromosome testing project through FamilyTreeDNA of Houston, TX. The purpose of Y-testing is to help Howells identify unknown cousins who might help them pursue research on their Howell ancestry. The testing is especially useful to those who hit a brickwall in their traditional paper research and can use input from cousins working on the same Howell line.

Simplified, here’s how it works: the test is a simple, painless 5-minute cheek swab that I arrange completely by mail through FTDNA of Houston, TX. A kit is sent to you, cost is $99 special group participation rate, with $2 postage. You complete the test and return for processing. In approximately 6 weeks, you will be notified by e-mail of your Y-chromosome pattern on 12 tested markers. If you sign the enclosed release form that comes with the test, you will receive the name and e-mail address of any Howell in the group whose 12 markers you match exactly.

In the interest of clarity I stress that you must be a male bearing the Howell surname to take the test. The Y-chromosome is passed down unaltered from father to sons through the generations. An exact match between two donors indicates a 99% likelihood of a shared Howell ancestor. Those who match can then compare research and try to determine who your common ancestor is.

For an overview of the exciting new role of genetics in genealogy, please go to I welcome your interest and questions.

Jean Howell, Project mgr, Howell surname project, FTDNA of Houston, TX

Spencer DNA Project

** Update 8 Jun 2007 – Sharron Spencer, the Spencer DNA study manager on FamilyTreeDNA, informs me that the latest most up-to-date results can be found here**

Our Spencer line is from Oswego Co, NY, and although I have not made a connection yet, the DNA study shows some intriguing possibilities. Even though only Spencer males alive today can participate in the study, the data is still extremely useful in locating the ancestor familes our Spencer’s were related to.