A recent study conducted by Dr. Marcus M. KEY of Irvington, Virginia (USA), shows genetic evidence of an apparent connection between the KAYEs of the West Riding of Yorkshire, England; the KAYs of Lancashire, England; and the KEYs of Virginia.
Dr. KEY's extensive research hinted that his ancestors had had an early connection to the West Riding of Yorkshire before their arrival in Virginia in the 1600's, but he could find no documentation to confirm his suspicions. In 2001, he contacted a KAYE researcher in the US who had proven ancestral ties to the West Riding of Yorkshire (late 1700's), and asked him to participate in an experiment. New technology, based upon a decade of research by Dr. Brian Sykes, Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Oxford (England), had become available that would allow testing of a man's Y-chromosome, then comparing the resulting Y-line signatures with others to determine if a relationship exists between them. Dr. Sykes's theory was that males with identical or nearly identical profiles would most likely share a common paternal ancestor.
The Y-chromosome is a genetic marker carried only by males that is passed directly from father to son virtually unchanged from generation to generation (though mutations can occur). DNA samples are collected simply by scraping the inside of the person's cheek with a special brush, which is then shipped to a laboratory for analysis. In this case, the lab chosen was Oxford Ancestors, which was founded by Dr. Sykes in 1999. A number of different genetic marker "sites" along the strands of DNA are analyzed, then organized into a Y-line signature. (The number of markers tested varies from lab to lab.)
The results of these first two tests showed that Dr. KEY and the KAYE researcher had identical Y-line signatures - all ten genetic markers matched exactly - suggesting that they both descend from the same male ancestor, many generations in the past.
The second phase of the experiment, conducted in 2002, was to recruit a small group of volunteers willing to be tested. With the help of the KAY Family Association (UK), based in Lancashire, England, five more KAYE / KAY males were chosen: all were from the UK, three with ancestral origins in the West Riding of Yorkshire, two in Lancashire.
Y-line signatures of four of these five participants are identical to the first two; the remaining profile differs by only one marker. These remarkable results suggest the distinct probability that all three of these family lines descend from one common paternal ancestor.
Further testing of a larger group must be conducted before a definite conclusion can be reached in this matter. To this end, the KAY Family Association (UK) has announced the launch of "Project 50," an extension of the study begun by Dr. KEY, in which the Y-line signatures of 50 male KAY(E)s will be analyzed and compared with those of the first seven. A group of "cousins" from the KAY Family Association (USA) reportedly will be included in this project, as many of them can trace their roots back to England, as well.
Results from the "Project 50" study will be reported here as they become available.
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A Viking Connection?
Oxford Ancestors also has the ability to compare completed Y-line signatures with a database of known Viking Y-chromosome profiles, to determine whether a male whose line hails from Britain, Ireland or Iceland descends from a Norse Viking.
This analysis was applied to the Y-line signatures of Dr. KEY and the rest of the group, and confirmed that all were very likely descendants of Norse Vikings. In addition, since all their DNA profiles are identical (or nearly so), the likelihood is that they all descend from the same Viking ancestor.