Clan MacNab Society International

Timor Omnis Obesto

DNA update January 2018
After months and months of waiting, the last few weeks have been a crazy whirlwind of results and excitement.

1) Barravorich 
The first results to come back were 67 marker STR for a direct descendant of the cadet house of Barravorich. Based on my research, and on information from the French Macnab pedigree, I expected that the line of Barravorich would show close links to Acharn and Innishewan (represented in Group 3 of the project) and my expectations were fulfilled. Barravorich is clearly genetically linked to everyone in this group, with an apparent closer link to Acharn than Innishewan, which is very informative for me, and which coincides wth the French Pedigree. Barravorich shows more genetic distance than would have been expected from another tester in this group, whose family researchers believed was descended from a son of a hitherto-unknown first marriage of Barravorich’s ancestor Dr. James McNab, UEL (there’s some intriguing additional research ahead trying to figure out the answers to this puzzle).
        This is an extremely important result, because it gives us 3 known descendants of 3 different Cadet Houses whose DNA proves them to be descended from a relatively recent (by which I mean the past 5-700 years) common male (Macnab) ancestor. 

2) Big Y (SNP) Group 3 - Cadets
We now have BigY results back for both Acharn and Innishewan. As expected, both show a ‘terminal’ SNP of A7298 (this terminology is a bit inaccurate - A7298 is not actually their terminal SNP  it’s just the most recent one that so far has a name). They join 2 others in group 3 in sharing this SNP, one via BigY and one via SNP pack testing, along with a number of McPhees and Camerons. A7298 is believed to date to 450-1400 AD, so it may very well represent a mutation that occurred either just before or just after the first Macnab called himself ‘son of the Abbott’.
         The ‘1467 Manuscript’ in the Faculty of Advocates Library postulates a common origin for Clans Macnab, McPhee and Cameron, which looks something like this : Feradaig Finn (died 703 AD; the father of St. Fillan) had numerous other sons. Of these, Conlaith is said to be the progenitor of Clan Cameron; Ferchar Fada of Clan McDuffy (which includes the McPhees); and Ferchar Abaruadh of Clan Macnab (there is some question as to whether Ferchar Fada and Ferchar Abaruadh may be one and the same person). There are, without a doubt, questions about the accuracy and authenticity of the genealogies in the 1467 Manuscript, but it is generally accepted that there are kernels of truth in it, and perhaps this is one of them.
         What’s even more exciting is the ‘unnamed’ SNPs that show up in the BigY tester’s results (some shared; some not). These unnamed SNPs (also called novel variants) are most likely mutations that occurred after A7298, and that will ultimately  enable us to separate those in this group onto a mutation history tree that will allow us to determine lineages. We have already had two of these named (BY31279 & BY31280), and positioned below A7298 on the YTree - making them most likely our first uniquely ‘Macnab’ mutations, as so far, the ONLY men known to carry these mutations are McNabs.
        We have two more testers in Group 3 who purchased BigY tests during the December sale, with results due over the next few months, and their novel variants will help us further expand our own little branch of the tree.
         This is where it gets really interesting, because these novel variants have the most potential to teach us about the origins of this core group of Macnabs, and to let us ‘map’ the families within the group.

     3) Big Y Group 1 - Baptist
We have one tester in this group who has ordered BigY, with results expected early in the new year. We know from the results of a McNabb who has not joined the project that the ‘terminal’ SNP for this group will almost certainly be A223 (unfortunately, I’ve been unable to contact this gentleman, which is rather frustrating).
         A223 lies on a quite different twig of the yTree from A7298; it’s a sub-branch of M222 (the marker that was once thought to be the hallmark of the Irish hero Niall of the Nine Hostages, but is now more commonly believed to have originated well before that time). 
        We definitely need at least one (and preferably two) others from this group to test BigY - this would give us a collection of novel variants which we can use to separate the various lineages. It would be preferable for the 3 testers to have as much genetic separation between them as possible, as this will better define the markers that separate them (so in other words, the ideal testers would have some genetic distance from Patrick, and some from each other - say at least a GD of 2 or 3).

4) other Big Y results
 A) Another McNabb in group 13  has also done BigY, with a ‘terminal’ SNP of Z16319. Z16139 again falls on a different twig of the tree. The most common surnames for testers  who share this SNP  are McLellan and McLure; the estimate of Time to Most recent Common Ancestor (TMRCA) for this SNP is guesstimated at 950 years before present. We’ll have to wait and see if any more McNabb testers fall into this group down the road. 
         B) Group 9 - Y15785 - a gentleman surnamed McDonald, with a solid McDonald pedigree back to the 1700s, has joined our project because of some STR matches with one group of our testers. The matches are fairly distant - they could be before the era of surnames - bu nonetheless intriguing. He has done Big Y testing, and his ‘terminal’ SNP Y15785 falls (once again) on a different twig, which to date has testers with a number of different surnames on it. It is possible (though by no means certain) that the other Group 9 members may ultimately prove to be on the same branch.
        C)  group 18 - BY154 - this project member, with a different surname, was initially in our ‘collateral’ group (testers who joined the project looking for Clan or other connections). However, he recently came up as a fairly close match (GD 0f 5/67) to one of our Macnab testers; the two also share geographical roots, which made sorting them into the same group logical. His ‘terminal’ SNP of BY154 falls on yet another twig of the tree, one predominantly occupied by Macdonalds. It’s a sub-group of L1335, sometimes called the “Scots Modal”.

5) SNP analysis
Anyone who has completed BigY testing should definitely consider a few more steps to increase the value of their results:
       - submitting their results to Alex Williamson’s Big Tree project (our first two BigY testers from group 3 are now on the Big Tree - to se them there along with our Cameron & McPhee cousins, google “Big Tree A7298”)
       - joining all relevant Hapogroup projects. We have now been able to place our little group of Macnab, Cameron and McPhee testers who share A7298 in a ZZ10 haplogroup project, where we can compare their results, and hopefully attract any and all other testers positive for A7298
       - submitting their BigY BAM file to YFull for further analysis. The cost of doing this is very reasonable ($50 US) and by doing so, you will get additional unnamed variants identified, and a more detailed analysis of the location and quality of those variants. 

6) “Septs” (more accurately Names and Families Associated with Clan Macnab)
The project is also open to, and we very much encourage the participation of, members of the names and families traditionally associated with Clan Macnab (sometimes colloquially called Septs). These would include Abbott, Abbey, Dewar, Gilfillan, and many more. To date, we have a small group of Abbott and Abbey testers, one of whom does show a distant link with one Macnab group.  We look forward to exploring this aspect further as more testers join.

7) Our genetic diversity
As you’ve seen from the above, we are a very genetically diverse group!
        We continue to add testers, and we continue to expand the number of separate and distinct genetic groups within our project. When this project began, it was my expectation that DNA testing would prove that Clan Macnab was ‘one big family’, all descended of one eponymous Abbott in Glendochart. It is abundantly clear that this is not the case. We now have over 60 yDNA testers, and 19 separate groups; most of these groups appear not to have a common male ancestor for 1000 or more years -  in other words, since well before surnames were in common use in the Highlands. Why?                     What does this mean? I don’t know the answers, but a few speculative possibilities (not either/or - in all likelihood all are true to some extent):
       - it seems probable that the decendants of more than one Abbott took the surname Mac’an’abba
       - it seems probable that in the pre-Bannockburn days, when Clan Macnab is said to have been a numerous and powerful Clan, many people who settled on the Macnab lands may have taken the surname Macnab, as a sign of fealty to the Chief
      - certainly some of the diversity probably has its roots in non-paternal-events (NPEs) - this might include adoptions for various reasons, inter-Clan fosterage, as well as illegitimacies and infidelities and assumption of surname for other reasons
      - when you read the history of kindred groups such as Cenel Loarn (from whom some sources say Clan Macnab descends) you will see many, many instances where kingships, mormaerships, etc were passed on in the female line (meaning that the head of the kinship group in fact had the yDNA of a different cohort altogether)
      What it means overall is that the scope of this project is going to be much, much bigger than originally envisioned, as rather than focusing on just one branch of the tree, we will be exploring likely dozens of them before we’re done.

8) What does the future hold?
Going forward, our focus will be more and more on SNP testing versus STR testing. STR testing will still be needed to accomplish the initial sorting into a group, but it is the SNP testing (BigY, SNP packs, or individual SNP tests) that will separate the family lineages within the groups. Ultimately, the goal is to identify unique mutations that will have the ability to immediately tell any Macnab family whether they are part of the Acharns, the Innishewans, the Baptist branch, etc. If you are considering joining the fun, please contact me to discuss the best test to start with.

9) Funds needed
At this stage of our project, we would benefit greatly by a professional analysis of the results to date. Alasdair Macdonald is available to do this for us; the cost will be about $ 350 US. If every Society member donated $10, this would give us sufficient funds to cover the cost.                    
        We would also very much like to have a reserve of funds to allow us to finance important testing that is of benefit to all Macnabs : occasional key tests where the person may be unable or unwilling to incur the cost, but the results are key to the project; Wish-a-SNP at YSeq that (at a cost of $1US per) allows us to confirm the validity of our unnamed variants and have them set up a single SNP test for them (cost $18 US); Wish-a-Panel at YSEQ (at a cost of $2) that will allow us to make up custom panels of SNPs for people to test for that will help ‘sort’ them into various branches of out Macnab family without the cost of Big Y. If you are in a position to do so, please consider donating a little extra to help the cause (no obligation, of course). 
         Donations can be made through the Clan Macnab Society (International) via PayPal
And choose the “Donations Accepted” option. At present there is no way on the site to specify your donation is for the DNA project (we’re working on that) so please email me at after donating, with your name and the date of your donation.
          If you don’t have PayPal or prefer to donate another way, please email to inquire about options.
As always, if you have any questions about the project or about DNA testing in general, please contact me at

Loraine Smith
Shennachie to the Chief of Clan Macnab