6

A Lonely Surname

I have a very lonely surname according to estimates, there are only about 1000 to 2000 Bettingers in the United States. In the 1930 census, the most recent census which is indexed and available to genealogists, there were just 1,300 Bettingers. Therefore, not surprisingly, I was the first Bettinger to experiment with genetic genealogy and had the opportunity to start a Bettinger surname project, which I did. Sadly, however, my project still has just one member. I originally tried to email some potential relatives, but only a few seemed interested, and none decided to take the plunge.

My particular Y-DNA has an interesting story (I think that everyone’s Y-DNA has an interesting story, it’s just that I’ve decided to share mine!). My most distant paternal ancestor came to America in the late 1700′s and had six sons (and 1 daughter who didn’t live long), only 5 of whom passed on their Y-DNA. I am descended from the third son, and I call our line “Branch #3.” For the next three generations of Branch #3, each of my ancestors had two boys, one who passed on Y-DNA to the present, and one that has not. In my grandfather’s generation, he was the only male. He returned to the tradition of having two boys, but only one of those boys (my father) has passed on his Y-DNA. My father, however, decided to buck the trend and have three boys, while I’ve passed on my Y-DNA to my son.

So, to boil that confusing paragraph down, as of 2007, 193 years after Branch #3 budded off the Bettinger Family Tree, there are only 6 people alive that have that son’s Y-DNA (at least as of today). Four of those six still have the potential to pass on Y-DNA. You would think that after 193 years there should be hundreds of us, but that’s not how genealogy or genetics works.

P.S. I don’t mean this post to come off as sexist or biased in any way. I’ve spent a great deal of time tracing the female descendants of Branch #3, of which there are many. This was just a story about the descent of the Y-DNA (which I’ve tested and is connected with the Bettinger Surname Project) through Branch #3. I’m very interested in my maternal lineage (that is, my mtDNA line), and have already written about my unique maternal line here on the blog.

Blaine Bettinger

Intellectual property attorney, genealogist, and author of The Genetic Genealogist since 2007

6 Comments

  1. Pingback: Creative Gene
  2. Blaine said:
    “You would think that after 193 years there should be hundreds of us, but that’s not how genealogy or genetics works.”

    I was shocked when I realized that my brothers are at the end state of our yDNA.
    Lorenzo P. (our gr-grandfather)from Italy had three sons. Two “daughtered out.” Our grandfather Agostino had two sons. One son had a son, the other son had two sons. None of those sons have had children. One had died, and the others are no longer married, and not likely to do so again. That is the end of Lorenzo’s line in the US. Perhaps he had brothers in Italy that we have yet to find, and the yDNA line continues.

    We are at the end of our mtDNA too. The oldest gr gr gr grandmother from Switzerland passed her DNA down to me through her daughters. My grandmother’s sisters either had no daughters, or they did not marry. My grandmother had two daughters, my mother and her sister.(My aunt.) They each had one daughter. My Aunt’s daughter had two daughters and my mother had me. My Aunt’s granddaughters had only sons, or died before having children. I have a daughter who is at the end of her childbearing years, and is not likely to conceive due to a medical condition.

    So why have we had our DNA tested? Curiosity, desire to add to the genetic knowledge, and it is one way of leaving a trace of our family behind.

Comments are closed.