Sherwood DNA Projects

What is a DNA Project?

A DNA surname project aims to link bearers of a particular surname, by identifying shared markers of the Y-chromosome DNA which are passed down through the male line. Thus only male bearers of the surname can participate. DNA testing is a relatively new technique and only during this decade has it been possible for ordinary family historians to be able to afford the tests from the group of specialist testing firms that have emerged. The recent entry of Ancestry into this market will no doubt extend its popularity. This is expected to lead to DNA testing becoming more widely used, especially as part of One-Name Studies, and possibly cheaper.

The first point to stress is that DNA testing is not, and never can be, a substitute for the traditional techniques used for One-Name Studies. However it can provide valuable supporting evidence to assist a One-Name Study and may be able to provide evidence of genealogical lineage which is absent from the historical record. Equally, it has to be recognised that a One-Name Study collects all references to a surname whether or not there is any genealogical connection between them; these will include references to wives, adopted children, some illegitimate children, slaves and others who for a variety of reasons have used the name.

How can I join a DNA Project?

I am sometimes asked why this study group has not set up project. Well, the answer is that there is already a project which anyone can join at FamilyTreeDNA. This project was initially set up to try to prove links to a Thomas Sherwood born 1586 in England who emigrated to New England in 1634, and has many descendants all over the USA. Some of his children were baptised at Kettlebaston, near Ipswich in Suffolk, the port from which he sailed to Boston. At the time of writing, November 2008, the project has 9 subscribers and covers the surname variants Sharwood, Shearwood, Sherod, Sherrod, Sherwood; the group rate is $99. The project aims to answer the following questions:
'Where in England did Thomas Sherwood originate?' and 'What if any are the ties between the New England Sherwoods descended from Thomas and those that trace their lineage back to the middle Atlantic colonies?' The purpose of the SHERWOOD DNA Project is to take advantage of the recently developed technology of DNA Y-chromasome testing to find relationships between living Sherwoods in America, Great Britain, and possibly elsewhere that may shed light on these and other questions. The same company also hosts the Sherrod Surname Project which has 12 members & also includes Sherwood.
There is also a new Sherwood Project at Ancestry.com which covers Yorkshire, England. It has one member at Nov 2008, and the minimum cost of a test is $149. 

How likely is it that all Sherwoods have a Common Ancestor?

My own view is that it very unlikely that we share a common ancestor. This is because of the topographic origin of the surname, and its widespread distribution from medieval times. At the time when surnames were coming into use in the 13th to 14th  century by the common people, it is likely that the surname sprang up independently in several locations where there was a 'scir' wood with bright trees (e.g. Birch) or a wood near a shire boundary. At that time most of England was heavily wooded.

Why have I not joined the project?

I can trace my Sherwood line back to a Thomas Sherwood who was illegitimate, and born in 1800 in the parish of Petham in Kent to an Elizabeth Sherwood. Although I can trace his mother's line back to a John Sherwood ca1550- 1600 in Ashford, Kent, I have lost the male line which carries the Y-chromosome, and will not therefore be able to link my DNA with any certainty to any Sherwoods born before 1800. At present therefore, until the cost of testing comes down, I do not consider it is worth profiling my own DNA.
Not withstanding, if you have a brick wall which cannot be knocked down by conventional research, or you wish to contact possible cousins, I strongly urge you to take a DNA test. All that is required is a swab sample from the mouth & confidentiality is not a problem.