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DNA Analysis of 5 People Who Helped Create America

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1. Benjamin Franklin – mtDNA Haplogroup V

In addition to being one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Franklin was a politician, printer, scientist, inventor, diplomat, and author. DNA testing has elucidated the origins of Benjamin Franklin’s mitochondrial DNA through his mother Abiah Lee Folger, who had six sisters. One of those sisters, Doras Folger, passed on her mtDNA to her 9th-great granddaughter, Charlene Chambers King. Sequencing of Ms. King’s mtDNA revealed that she belonged to mtDNA Haplogroup V with the following mutations: T16298C, 315.1C, 309.1C, A263G, and T72C. Haplogroup V (known as “Velda” by Sykes) is believed to have originated in Europe about 12,000 years ago, possibly in Iberia. About 4% of Europeans contain Haplogroup V mtDNa. So far, no known source of Benjamin Franklin’s Y-DNA or autosomal DNA has been discovered (although some believe that his tooth might provide the answer).

2. Thomas Jefferson – Y-DNA Haplogroup K2

Thomas Jefferson was one of the principal authors of the Declaration of Independence, a Framer of the Constitution, and the third President of the United States. Unfortunately, much like Benjamin Franklin, Jefferson does not have any male descendants who possess his Y-DNA. Instead, the DNA of five descendants of Jefferson’s paternal uncle, Field Jefferson, has been tested and retested. The results show that Jefferson’s Y-DNA belongs to Haplgroup K2, a relatively rare haplogroup for Europeans and most common in the middle east. A recent study has shown that there are other males with the surname Jefferson in England who belong to Haplogroup K2, including some who are a perfect 17/17 match with Field (and presumably Thomas) Jefferson. Jefferson’s DNA was studied in part because it is believed that he fathered children with at least one of his female slaves. Much more information can be found here.

3. Alexander Hamilton – Y-DNA Haplogroup I1a

Alexander was one of this country’s most important political theorists. He served as the Secretary of the Treasury, and was one of the authors of the Federalist Papers, some of the most influential documents in American history. The Hamilton Surname DNA Project presents the results of Y-DNA testing of four males who are directly descended from John C.A. Hamilton, the grandson of Alexander Hamilton. All four individuals match at 37 of 37 markers, with the exception of one individual who has a value of 15 for DYS19/394. Due to the relationship of the four individuals, it is impossible to know whether or not Hamilton had a 14 or a 15 at that location. The results suggest that Alexander Hamilton belonged to Y-DNA Haplogroup I1a. I1a (known as “Wodan” by Sykes) is most frequent in Scandinavia, reaching almost 35% in parts of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.

4. John Adams and John Quincy Adams – Y-DNA Haplogroup R1b1

John Adams was America’s first Vice President and second President. He was also a diplomat and a driving force for American independence. John’s son, John Quincy Adams, was the sixth President of the United States. Although no direct descendant of John and John Quincy has been tested, the Adams Surname Y-DNA Project has results from five individuals who are related to John’s great-great grandfather Henry Adams, born in 1583 in England. The results suggest that John and John Quincy belonged to the R1b1 Haplogroup. R1b, the parent of R1b1, is the most common Y-DNA Haplogroup in Europe, and is believed to have originated with the first modern humans to enter Europe 35,000 to 40,000 years ago.

5. Abraham Lincoln – Y-DNA Haplogroup R1b1

Although Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, might not have helped “create” America, he played a huge role in shaping the country. His ancestry has been traced back to Samuel Lincoln (1620-1690), an immigrant from Hingham, England. (Note, however, that some researchers (pdf) believe that Abraham Lincoln might have been the illegitimate son of Abraham Enloe, and thus these DNA results would not apply. It is hoped that the cloak Lincoln was wearing the night he was shot might provide DNA samples for future analysis). Two descendants of Samuel Lincoln have submitted their Y-DNA for analysis. Although the allele values have not been revealed, the data shows that the two anonymous individuals match at 36 of 37 markers. One is listed as belonging to Haplogroup R1b1, and the other is R1b2. R1b2 is an older name for the subhaplogroup defined by the M37 snp, now called R1b1c1 (see the ISOGG Y-DNA tree here, and a pdf of more information here). These results suggest that Lincoln belonged to the R1b1 Haplogroup, and perhaps was of the R1b1c1 subhaplogroup. R1b is the most common European haplogroup; R1b1c probably originated in Central Asia/South Central Siberia.

Blaine Bettinger

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

8 Comments

  1. If Abraham Lincoln was R1b1 the “Atlantic Modal Haplotype”, the most common haplogroup on the western Atlantic Ocean coast of Europe. It consists of DYS19
    14; DYS388 12; DYS390 24; DYS391 11; DYS392 13 and DYS393 13.

    I see no way that Lincoln could have been a mulatto as some researchers have recently claimed.

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