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Hamilton Family DNA Project

Hamilton Family DNA Project

The Hamilton Genealogical Society has organized a DNA project for the male line of the Hamilton family. The DNA project uses DNA markers from the male Y chromosome (reason for males only) to trace family origins. This project can provide valuable clues to possible linkage to various families past those in documented  form. 

In order to answer the question whether there is mainly one, or there are many initiating Hamilton ancestors, one will need broad participation by many Hamilton lines. For this reason alone, I would like to encourage as many of you as possible to participate in this study. However, a potential added benefit from participation is that some more immediate questions may be resolved in your line (see earlier discussion) and that you may find totally unexpected relationships with other Hamilton lines.

Some further information about the Hamilton DNA project can be found at the for Hamilton DNA Project Web Site.

A letter from Hamilton DNA Project Coordinator Gordon Hamilton:

We have obtained the initial results from our Hamilton Family DNA Project
and they are summarized at Latest Hamilton DNA Results. You may wish to make a link to this from your web page. DNA samples from several more participants are currently being analyzed so we should have more results shortly.

We would especially like to have participation in our project by well authenticated descendants of our patriarch Walter Fitzgilbert. Most Hamiltons cannot make a direct connection to the Walter Fitzgilbert line, many probably because they do not know their genealogy back far enough. It
is important to obtain results for a well authenticated Walter Fitzgilbert descendant for comparison to results obtained for other participants. If their DNA results are the same or similar then they would know they are derived from the Walter Fitzgilbert line. Consequently, I would like to
encourage authenticated descendants to have their DNA analyzed. I'm not sure how best to get this plea to your membership but any help you can give me in doing so would be appreciated.

We also would very much like to have participation in our DNA study by well authenticated descendants of our founding father, Alexander Hamilton. Again, it is important to obtain such results from a well authenticated descendant for comparison to the results from others so that they will be able to determine if they are related or not to our illustrious namesake. Also, the results would offer conclusive evidence that Alexander Hamilton is derived from the Walter Fitzgilbert line if the results obtained from Alexander's descendants are the same or similar to those from authenticated descendants of Walter Fitzgilbert.

With the DNA method we have the opportunity to conclusively answer many questions concerning Hamilton ancestry. Thus, any help you can give us in getting the information out to Clan members and encouraging them to participate in the study could benefit many of us.

The Ancestry of Alexander Hamilton – Participants Needed for a DNA Investigation

A comprehensive new biography of our founding father, Alexander Hamilton, written by Ron Chernow, an award winning biographer, is scheduled to be published in 2004. As previous biographers have noted, and as Mr. Chernow has also concluded, there has never been conclusive proof that Alexander’s biological father was indeed a Hamilton although considerable circumstantial evidence suggests that he was. The goal of the current investigation is to remove this ambiguity prior to the publication of the biography using the recently developed DNA techniques (see Hamilton DNA Project Web Site for a general description of the techniques).

Alexander’s parents were apparently never married but, at the time of his birth, his mother was living with James Hamilton, a well documented descendant of the aristocratic Hamilton line that starts with Walter Fitzgilbert in the 13th century. Thus, to prove (or disprove) that Alexander is the son of James Hamilton one needs to compare the results obtained from a DNA sample donated by a male descendant of Alexander Hamilton with the results obtained from a DNA sample donated by a male descendant of an ancestor of James Hamilton, the presumed father of Alexander. Since it is the DNA from the Y-chromosome that is being analyzed, and the Y-chromosome is passed down only from father to son, in each case the donor must be a male that is descended along a completely male line from the ancestor. If the DNA markers from the sample donated by Alexander’s descendant have the same or similar values as those from a sample donated by a descendant of an ancestor of his presumed father James, then it would indicate that Alexander Hamilton is indeed a Hamilton.

In order to carry out this investigation we thus need two groups of participants: (1) individuals who are well documented descendents along an all male line of Alexander Hamilton himself, and (2) individuals who are well documented descendants along an all male line of one or more ancestors of Alexander’s presumed father James Hamilton. Since the ancestry of James Hamilton back to Walter Fitzgilbert is known, virtually any well authenticated descendant of Walter Fitzgilbert along an all male line would be suitable for the second group. To ensure that the results can be duplicated and that there are no so-called “non-paternal” events in any of the lines, two to five participants in each of the above groups would be ideal.

For those with well authenticated ancestor lines who qualify in either of the foregoing groups there would be no cost to participate in this investigation since funds are available to pay for the DNA analyses (at least for the number of participants mentioned above). If you think you qualify (or know of someone who does) please contact Gordon Hamilton, HNGS Hamilton DNA Project Coordinator, by email (gah4@psu.edu), telephone (814-238-5695), or snail mail (806 McCormick Ave., State College, PA 16801-6527).

Any male Hamilton who fits into either of the forementioned groups is strongly encouraged to participate in this investigation. With the recent developments in DNA technology, we have the ability in our time to settle a longstanding ambiguity in the ancestry of our founding father, Alexander Hamilton, so it behooves us to proceed to do it. There is no doubt that the results of this investigation will be of considerable historical importance.

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