At the Clay Family Gathering in Beckley, West Virginia, in 2002, the Clay Family Society approved a study in an attempt to better understand the origins of the various Clay surnamed individuals.
At the time we were focused on yDNA, which is the test that allows following the paternal line backwards through the generations, which, coupled with the genealogy paper trail (with the surname) helps to tie various lines together.
There has been some success with this process, with several members being able to determine relationships, even where the paper trail is weak. For example, there is one member who clearly ties to other members who are in different lines leading on paper to “John Clay(e), immigrant of 1613” but just how the connection is made is not clear. More testing, or higher level testing, may help resolve this.
The Clay Family Society has chosen Family Tree DNA as the laboratory to provide testing for the Society. When people get their test results back, there are various "projects" that are available to assist with the interpretation of results, as well as helping people connect with others of similar DNA. There is a Clay DNA Project which has approximately fifty yDNA tests represented in the project.
On the "paper trail side" at the present time, the Clay Family Society has members from twenty-four male Clay and four female lines, women who have a “Clay” name before marriage, but no identified father.
We suspect that many of these have common ancestors, either in the US or in England, but the paper trails are weak. We will hope that DNA testing will assist in aligning the families.
We will be including mtDNA for some who may have a strictly maternal line to a Clay, (mother, mother's mother, mother's mother's mother, etc).
Autosomal (FamilyFinder) DNA works differently, and has no child-parent-parent-parent pattern, but rather pieces of DNA from both mother and father are "re-combined" to make a unique combination of genes for each person. However, it is possible to see common gene patterns with siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, back a few generations and perhaps connect some of the lines.
It is extremely important to have a "paper trail," even if only back a generation or two. Fortunately CFS members are good about providing their genealogies as much as they can, so we are going to be working to combine all these together.
We have a consultant helping us on the project, and Pat Dunford will be the liaison to her. If you have questions, please write to us HERE.
If you have taken a DNA test, please join the Clay Family DNA Project.