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DNA testing of Plant and related names

Plant DNA

Introduction to Y-DNA testing and the Plant project

Plant is the 617th most common surname in England and Wales, where it represents 0.022% of the total population, and it is the 5729th most common name in the USA, where the figure is 0.002%. In North America, there may be some confusion of spelling with the French-Canadian name Plante, but tests in this study indicate that the different spellings largely correspond to two entirely different genetic families.

The Y-DNA evidence was soon quite persuasive that Plant is an `effectively single origin' surname, despite being populous. It had previously been held to be multi-origin (i.e. that it descended from many genetically distinct ancestors who adopted the Plant surname independently). It now seems that it is probably plural-origin with a few, rather than many, origins and with around 75% of the living popluation of Plants descended from a single male ancestor in fourteenth-century SE Cheshire.

A sufficient number of results is now avaiable at the 37-marker level to begin to piece together closest matches between the different Plant branches, within the main Plant family for which there appear to be four major branches that formed in the centuries before when adequate documentary evidence is available. Using just documentary evidence, most Plants do well if they manage to trace back their male-line ancestors as far as 250 years ago. Useful Census data is available back as far as around 160 years ago and, before then, ambiguities between such names as several possible William Plants or John Plants can quite often become a problem. Geographical proximities can sometimes help but the Y-DNA evidence shows that these are not always a reliable guide to building the Plant descent tree. For a male Plant, a 37-marker test will help to reveal the closest Plant matches to your own ancestral Plant line. With the help of Y-DNA evidence, some main features of the Plant descent tree are beginning to emerge.

If you are not suitable to be tested yourself, you can recruit suitable relatives for the Plant project.

You may be a female who is interested in a Plant line of descent. If you are familiar with genealogy, you will already be accustomed to the idea that you often need to look for collateral relatives (brothers, cousins, etc.) in order to make progress with tracing back your family lines. Only men have a Y-chromosome, which descends purely down the paternal line (i.e. from his father's father's etc. father): this carries information about this male-line of descent (which usually coincides with the descent of a surname).

Click here to see how to sign up yourself, or someone else, for the test.

The person whose address is entered in the on-line form will receive a testing kit with very simple instructions (for him painlessly to take a swab from inside his cheek). You may, for example, select the 12-marker Y-DNA12 test and, if necessary, upgrade to more markers later. Taking the 37 marker Y-DNA37 test, however, will more probably identify your own particular branch of the family more uniquely. Payment (e.g. by invoice) goes direct to the testing laboratory: I take no payment myself. I am available to offer advice, however, and to help with analysing the results - click here for further advice for participants, such as about how to contact me.

Open to all `Plant like' names

Some preliminary results are becoming available for various surnames, including Plant. Characteristic Y-line DNA signatures have been meadured for Plant, Plantt, Plants and Plante, and the study is yet to be extended to other `Plant like' names such as Planty, Planta, Plantard, Planterose, etc.

This project engaged early in this century in Y-DNA investigations of names (such as Warren, Cornwall and Somerset) associated with possible male-line descent from the Plantagenets (another "Plant-like" name) but only many mismatching Y-DNA signatures were found (as repeated in more recent and more public investigations in connection with the skeleton of Richard III). These mismatches suggest that there were false claims of royal or noble descent in earlier centuries or that there were wifely infidelities introducing non-Plantagenet Y-chromosomes into these lines. More clarity might eventually emerge with more testing.

Early planning and progress for the Plant Study

Starting in 2001, volunteers were sought for studies on Plant-like names (any spelling). It was initially unclear what to expect. The earliest study for the name Sykes had shown it to be essentially a single-ancestor name despite the fact that it had been held to be a multiple-ancestor topographical name. Some have since questioned the reliability of this early Sykes study however. It now seems that Sykes is plural-origin albeit with perhaps a dominant family in the geographical region around West Yorkshire.

An early focus for a DNA study of the Plant name related to:-

In Britain, the R1b clade is widespread but found particularly down the western side (i.e. in so-called "Celtic regions" though its ancestral origins in Britain are now believed mostly to have predated the so-called "Celtic era"). Scandinavian clades (often too simplistically called Anglo-Saxon or Viking) are found more often to Britain's east. The ancestral line of the main Plant family was found to belong to the R1b-P312+ sub-clade, which is rarer in England than in Spain and Portugal. More recently, the sub-clade of the ancestral line has been identified more precisely as R1b->P312->DF27->L617->FGC14951+ which apparently migrated from SW Europe to England around 3,500 to 700 years ago. Rapid advances are currently being made with this so-called "deep ancestry" testing.

Y-DNA testing does far more than just identify the clade, or haplogroup, of the person being tested. It identifies a unique signature for the particular branch of his surname, and so helps with the genealogy of the different descent branches and twigs of a surname.

For the abnormally large main Plant family, the challenges are greater than for a rare surname. However, valuable progress is now being made with dividing up the branches of this large descent family, as well as with the earlier distinctions that were more readily made between the main Plant family and some smaller descent families (such as an apparently separate-origin Lincolnshire Plant family and the North American Plante family). The progress now being made with the abnormally-large main Plant family is in some ways more valuable as it divides the large Plant population into more personal chunks.

Volunteered Plant-like and possibly-related name branches so far

As well as adult male Plant volunteers from further branches, additional adult male Plant volunteers from the same branches are sought in order to check the branch genealogy. Volunteers with other similar names are also welcome.

Branch/spellingCode for Earliest known ancestor of branchTesting company,
volunteerkit number
Main matching Plant family
Sheffield, England. PlantP1aThomas Plant of Clowne, ?b 1745 Sutton-cum-Duckmanton in NE Derbyshire son of William Plant of Duckmanton. Descent apparently through William (bap 1772), William (b 1803)OA + FT 11830
Humberside, England. PlantP1b?ditto - i.e. ?Thomas Plant of Clowne, as above, but descent apparently through Benjamin (bap 1782) and John (Bark) Plant (b 1812)FT 18329
Sheffield, England. PlantP1c?ditto with descent from John Bark Plant through George PlantFT 141186
London, England. PlantP2aWilliam Plant of Market Harborough, Leicestershire, c1720 (born 1716 Tur Langton).OA + FT 277384
dittoP2bdittoOA
Northants, England. PlantP3aJoseph Plant, b c1794 Ashton Under Lyne, Lancashire, subsequently of Duckinfield (1815) and Denton (1821-35).OA
South Cheshire, England. PlantP5aEdward Plant of Siddington, c1565; with a line possibly from 15th century Rainow in east Cheshire.OA + FT 11858
Livingston, NJ, USA. PlantP7aJohn Plant, b c1646 England, d 1691 Branford, Ct, USA (married Betty Roundkettle). FT 7818
Austria. PlantP7b ditto FT 105871
Houma, LA, USA. PlantP12aJames Plant, b c1839 Ireland, moved to New York City. FT 22839
Vancouver, Canada. PlantP14aRichard Plant bap 27.4.1740 Brewood, son of Richard Plant of Chillington, Brewood, Staffs.FT 43911
Davis, California. PlantP19a Edward Plant b 1787, Birmingham, England FT 96105
York, England. PlantP20a John Plant, b 1700, Old Swinford near Stourbridge, Worcestershire FT 119000
Hampshire, England. PlantP23a Alec P Plant; b 1914 Sheffield, EnglandFT 144948
Waterford, Ireland. PlantP25a John Plant b c1808 Donoughmore Parish, Co Wicklow, Ireland (likely related to earlier Plants in parish register dating back to 1720)FT N83079
Dudley, England. PlantP26aEdward Plant, b 1779, Brewood, StaffordshireFT 182593
Texas, USA. PlantP27a AN
Queensland, Australia. PlantP28a Samuel Plant b 1768 m Mary Dignan b 1776 County Cavan, Ireland. Descent through James, Samuel, Sidney. FT 230023
Queensland, Australia. PlantP28b Samuel Plant b 1768 m Mary Dignan b 1776 County Cavan, Ireland. Descent through Samuel (ca.1800-81), Samuel (1836-1917). FT 248032
Narellan, NSW, Australia. PlantP29a James Plant b Buglawton/Macclesfield circa 1830 Cheshire, m Mary Ann Colyer and moved to London. Earlier descent possibly from William Plant (son of William) bap 2.3.1777 Knutsford, Cheshire. FT 232765
Gosford, NSW, Australia. PlantP30a Benjamin Plant (Master Potter) 1754-1823 at Lane End, Longton, Staffs, m Ann Clewlow 1762-1828 on 9 Jul 1781 at St Giles church in Newcastle, Staffs - had seven sons at Lane End; descent through 4th son John Plant b.1796, another John 1833-99, James Bradley Plant b 1858, John Thomas Plant 1885-1959. FT 273914
New York state, USA. PlantP31a FT 280105
Florida, USA. PlantP32aWilliamson Plant b 1763 m Frances Watts b 1760, a grandson of John Plant of county Caroline, Virginia who was possibly a son of William Plant resident of the "Pamunkey Neck" territory of Virginia prior to 29/1/1677. FT 280384
Davidson, NSW, Australia. PlantP33aWilliam M Thomas Plant b 1871 Sheffield, Yorkshire, possibly son of William b 1841 Sheffield who was possibly son of Benjamin b 1819 Clowne Derbyshire d 1861 (cf. P1a).FT 295512
Canada. PlantP36a Joseph Plant (1840-1919). Descent through his son Harry Campbell Plant, who emigrated to Canada with his brother Joseph Eugene Plant in 1910. (Supplied ancestry suggests origins in Leicestershire circa 1720 with a possible link back to Staffordshire circa 1550).FT 372698
USA. Plant(t)PT1aWilliam Plantt, b c1655, lived in Virginia, USA. Descent through John, William (fought with brother Williamson in the 1775-83 Revolutionary War and then moved to South Carolina), Lewis Henry, Wesley Henry, James Henry, Joseph Enoch, Robert HenryOA + FT 18227
Ontario, Canada. CarrX1aNow believed to be a lost son of the late PT1a aboveFT 40279
Florida, USA. PlanttPT2aFT 60092
Ontario, Canada. PlanttPT3a Robert Plant, b circa 1780 County Longford, Ireland and son Thomas; Thomas and his family emigrated to Orillic area of Ontario in 1855 FT 235642
Matching south-Lincolnshire Plant
Brough, Yorks. PlantP9aWilliam Plant b 27.5.1832 Leake East Fen Allotment (south Lincs, England) to John and Eliz (b 1791) FT 17015
NSW, Australia. PlantP18a Robert Plant m Isaat Warner 1.7.1650 at Winthorpe, Lincolnshire, England; descent through Thomas Plant, bap 25.3.1666 Winthorpe, will 2.10.1734 Sibsey, Lincolnshire; ...down to James Plant b 5.6.1792 Sibsey, son of Richard Plant and Sarah Waltham; James's sons emigrated to Australia FT 86357
Other Plant
(P4a, P10a and P15a are non-Plants who thought they might be descended from Plants)
London, England. Not Plant.P4a?James Plant b 1806 Cheadle, Staffordshire.OA
Ohio, USA. PlantP6aGeorge Plant, b 1819, Stafford England, son of Richard. Living in Finney Green, Keele, Staffordshire in 1840 when he married Dinah Grocott. Migrated to USA in 1882.FT 6948
Manchester, England. PlantP8aJonathan James Plant born of Martha Plant (spinster) at Leek on 25.10.1852; descent via Mark Ernest Plant b 1.May.1877 d 1.May.1951 Manchester (i.e. probably not a Plant by genetic male-line descent but by descent from Martha) FT 16102
Bedford, England. BrownP10a?John Plant b c1813 Laxfield, Suffolk (hitherto uncertain whether a Plant by genetic descent) FT 19112
Norwich, England. PlantP11aJoseph Plant father of Alfred Plant b 1839 Lichfield, Staffs. FT 22831
London, England. PlantP13aEdmund Plant, b Yorkshire c1900FT 32239
Anglesey, Wales. BoothP15a?Henry Plant b 1814 Bidulph son of John Plant - descent through his son Daniel Plant b 1860 Astbury, Cheshire who married Mary Ellen Booth (nee Harding). FT
Newport, Wales. PlantP16a Charles Plant, b 1916 Birmingham, England. FT 59162
Stamford, Lincs. PlantP17a George Plant b 1670 Wrangle, Lincs m Ann Skelton, descent through: Thomas b 1695 Wrangle; Thomas b 1720 Greetham, Rutland; John Plant b 1741 Gretham m Sarah Barsby at Morcott Church Rutland 31 March 1761. FT 67159
Portland, Oregon. PlantP21a Uriah Edward Plant; b 1849 Cork, Ireland; d 7.9.1911 York, Canada; possibly a son of Uriah Plant b 1821 Cheshire who was a merchant involved in a lawsuit in Clare in 1849, possibly coal merchant Uriah Plant b 1821, d 1868 Poplar London, son of Uriah Plant b 1768, lived in Leicester, 5th son of Samuel Plant of Lach Dennis near Northwish Cheshire, moved to Wicham, son of William Plant of Winsford, Cheshire FT 124512
Melbourne, Australia. PlantP22a John Plant (labourer) emigrated unmarried, aged 17, to Australia in 1868 from County Cork, Ireland; son of John Plant (labourer) and Johanna Keiley FT 133135
Cheadle, Staffordshire, England. PlantP24a Thomas Plant, b c1699 Leek who settled with his wife Margaret (nee Walker) in Cheadle c1722. Descent through John (1726-98), Thomas (1750-??), William (1783-1862), James (1806-59), James (1831-89). FT 165936
Reading, England. PlantP34a Evidently, Thomas Plant, b c1585 Bucks, descent through: John b 1632 Wooton Underwood, Bucks; William b 1677; Charles b 1704 Marsh Gibbon, Bucks; William b 1727; Edward b 1771 Charndon, Bucks; James b 1816; John b 1849; Thomas James (or James Thomas) b 1879 Appleton Whisk, Yorks; James Herbert b 1913 ManchesterFT 299895
Aukland, New Zealand. PlantP35a George William Plant, b 1875 Madeley, Shropshire, England; descent through George Geoffrey Plant, b 31.5.1910 Aukland, NZ. Earlier descent evidently from Francis Plante, b Jul 1626 Sheriff Hales, Shrops; via John Plant (1659); John (1695); William (1725) Stanton upon Hine Heath, Shrops; William (1758); Joseph (1794); James (1843) Wrockwardin Wood, Shrops.FT 332860
Utah, USA. PlantP37a (AN) FT B12091
New volunteer currently awaiting results from lab
Somerset, UK. PlentyPEY1a Theophulis Plenty, Walton, Somerset. Descent through his son John Francis Plenty.FT 399575
California, USA. PlantP38a Louis Jefferson Plant, b Mussel Shoals, Alabama 1832 or 1835. Descent through Forrest Plant, attorney, Sacramento.FT 402360
Matching Quebec Plante family
Quebec, Canada. PlantePE1bJean Plante, sailed to Canada in 1647 from La Rochelle-Laleu, France, landed at Quebec City, settled at Chateau Richer just to its east. (Descent through Francois b 1668 C.R. and Jos- Ambroise b 1697 C.R) FT 5420
Idaho, USA. PlantePE1cditto (Descent from Jean through his son Jean, then Louis, Joseph Marcel, Antoine, Jean Baptiste, Thomas, etc.) FT 13484
NJ, USA. PlantePE1efrom Quebec FT 101225
New York, USA. PlantePE1fJean Plante, sailed to Canada in 1647 from La Rochelle-Laleu, France, landed at Quebec City, settled at Chateau Richer just to its east FT 232920
Richmond, Virginia, USA. PlantePE2aErnest Plante (1918-91) Burlington, Vermont FT 76595
Illinois, USA. PlantePE3aJoseph Plante father of George Plante b 1871 Kanakee, Illinois FT 116202
Ames, Iowa, USA. PlantePE4a?France FT 62516
Other Plante
Ontario, Canada. PlantePE1aJean Plante, sailed to Canada in 1647 from La Rochelle-Laleu, France, landed at Quebec City, settled at Chateau Richer just to its east. (Descent through Francois b 1668 C.R. and Pierre b 1702)FT 5469
Michigan, USA. PlantePE1dAdolphe Ovide David Plante of Quebec (3.5.1841-1907, son of Louis Plante and Marie Anne Gingras); descent through David's 10th child Wilfrid Nazaire Leopold Plante (24.2.1880-1924)FT 92735
Indiana, USA. PlantePE5a?from Quebec FT 168281
Other Plant-like names
Zaragoza, Spain. PlanterPR1aRamón Planter (Goser) b 17 Dec 1844 Zaragoza (Descent through Antonio Planter (Sangorrin) b Jun 1905 Zaragoza) FT N11991
West Virginia, USA. PlantsPS1aChristian Plants, b 21 Apr 1747 Bavaria, Germany; descent through Jacob Plants, b c1807 Washington County, Pensylvania, USA.FT 71599
Warren/Waring-like names
Illinois, USA. WaringWG1aJohn Waring, father of Emanuel Waring, bap 4.Oct.1807 Dewsbury, W.Yorkshire, UK. FT
NSW, Australia. WaringWG2aWilliam Waring, b Lancashire, England; d Kilkenny, Ireland, will 1709 proved 1713. FT
Jacksonville, Arkansas, USA. WaringWG3aSampson Waring 1617-68, born in Shropshire, England, died in Maryland, USA.FT
Memphis, Tennesse, USA. WaringWG4aThomas Waring, Essex County, Virginia, USA, early 1700s. FT
Cornwall, England. WearingWEG1aHenry James Wearing, b Whitechapel, Middlesex, England 1828, d Nova Scotia 1909, son of James Wearing m Sarah Bignold 1824 St Mary, Whitechapel. FT
Columbia. WareingWREG1aHarry Wareing, b Gainsborough, Lincolnshire 1899FT
Suffolk, UK. WarrenW1aJames Warren, b 28.12.1716 Marnhull, Dorset FT
Warren (VNFSM, 66386)W2aGeorge Warren, EnglandFT
Warren (70059)W3a FT

Each volunteer has been given a code (e.g. P1a, P2a, etc.) and the above table relates each code to an "earliest known ancestor" based on documentary evidence.

Links to details of DNA Results

The very first results for those marked with the Testing Company "OA" (Oxford Ancestors) in the above table of volunteers are summarised under Initial Results. Some further results (though not the most recent ones) for those tested with the Testing Company "FT" (FTDNA) appear under Futher Results where there is also included one tested with the company "AN" (Ancestry). Most results, including the most recent ones, are given as follows.

Standard Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) presentation of almost all of the Results

A kit number is given in the above table of volunteers for each FTDNA testee (i.e. for most of those who have been tested, since nearly all have been tested or registered with FTDNA). Hence, almost complete Y-DNA results (Y-SNP and Y-STR) for each FTDNA kit number appear here.

Y-DNA matching to the Main English Plant family

The quality of the matches to the main English Plant family is tabulated in terms of genetic distance and discussed here.

DNA matching diagrams for Plant and migration maps

I am grateful to Prof Richard E Plant for producing the diagrams and maps in this and the next section, from the available FTDNA data.

12 marker Y-STR results

Early volunteers (OA) had only 10 markers measured. The following Network diagram includes only Plant volunteers who have had at least 12 markers measured (with FTDNA). It shows differences in the measured values of these 12 markers. The labels in the diagram correspond to the labels for the different tested individuals called Plant - the same labels are used in the table of volunteers above. However, where more than one volunteer matches exactly (larger circles in the following diagram), only one label is shown.

12 loci Network

The largest red circle above shows that many of the Plant volunteers have exactly matching DNA signatures, at the 12 marker level. There are other smaller red circles almost matching the large one. Red indicates that these volunteers belong to a single descent family (as judged by the DNA results). The red circle labelled P33a might well be thought to be only a borderline match but further testing shows that it belongs to the main English Plant family along with the other red circles.

The yellow and green circles do not even nearly match the large red one. Such mismatching can be explained by one of two possible reasons: an NPE (see next subsection); or, an entirely separate medieval origin to the Plantt surname. The two green circles almost match one another and might be from a separate south Lincolnshire origin of the name. The yellow circle labelled P16a corresponds to both P16a and P21a.

Mismatching circles arising from NPEs

NPEs arise when the DNA signature has not been inherited from a Plant ancestor but from a different father, perhaps because of a wifely infidelity, or adoption, or any other mechanism by which the Plant surname is passed on in a different way from that of the y-chromosome signature of the true father. Though there is only about a 2% chance of a NPE at each generation, this can accumulate to around a 40% chance when all the generations of descent are taken into account throughout Plant surname history. This can explain most, if not all, of the significant number of yellow and green circles. As already indicated, the alternative explanation of grossly mismatching circles is that the descent is from an entirely separate medieval origin, as is likely for the green circles.

Migration beyond Staffordshire

Some of the Plant volunteers have traced their paternal origins back only as far as ancestors overseas, such as in Ireland or the USA. However, for those who have traced their ancestry back to around the main Plant homeland of Staffordshire, England, the following map shows the location and date of their earliest known male-line ancestor.

Local distribution of matching Plant ancestors

The darker the brown of the background colour, the higher the proportion of Plants in the county in 1881. The darkest brown corresponds to the county of Staffordshire. The proportion of Plants to the general population of each county is derived from 1881 Census data.

Superimposed on this brown background, the DNA data show that a single Plant family (red circles) extends beyond the county boundaries of Staffordshire by the eighteenth century. The colours of the circles have the same significance as in the above Network diagram.

37 marker Y-STR results

In the diagram below, 37 DNA markers are compared. (Hence, needless to say, those who have had only 25 or less markers measured do not appear in this diagram). The large red circle for the 12-marker results (shown in the 12-marker Network diagram above) is here differentiated into quite closely matching smaller red circles.

37 loci Network

At each generation, there can be an occasional mutation of a Y-DNA marker. With more markers measured, more mutations can be expected to show. There is accordingly more separation of the red circles in the above 37-marker diagram than was apparent at the 12-marker level. These separations represent accumulated mutations, down the generations, from the Y-DNA signature of a male ancestor of the main Plant descent family

In the above diagram, there is now only one green circle. This corresponds to one of the pair of volunteers who, as well as having geographically close ancestry in south Lincolnshire, had a close genetic match at the 25 marker level.

An alternative presentation of the 37-marker results

The above diagram was obtained using the Flexus Engineering Network software package and the following diagram is for the same data using the MEGA6 software package.

The labeled volunteers in the top right corner of the diagram below correspond to the yellow and green circles of the Network diagram above. Their large distances to the right indicate that they are genetically distant from the main English Plant family - as already indicated, this large distance is explained by NPEs or separate origins.

Most of the Plant volunteers are well over to the left of the diagram. These smaller horizontal distances arise from mutations within the main Plant family. (The DNA evidence that these Plants descend from a single medieval man is outlined more directly elsewhere).

The scale at the bottom of the diagram below indicates a genetic distance of 2 in going from left to right. The label PMH, near the bottom left, indicates one possible estimate of the ancestral Y-DNA signature of the main English Plant family.

37 loci MEGA6 tree

Because of the limited number of Plants that have been tested, it is not always clear in which order the Y-STR mutations have occurred. Put simply, the above diagram can be regarded as representing an average of the guesses at how the mutations progress in going from left to right (though, in detail, the algorithm is complex).

Because of the averaging, the horizontal lines can correspond to fractional genetic distances. For example, averaging genetic distances of 1 and 2 would give an average value of 1.5. At face value, such an average would seem to imply that one can have fractions of a mutation though, of course, that would be a false interpretation that does not make physical sense.

Measuring more markers and a more explicit descent tree

The markers CDYa and CDYb, for example, are very fast changing (i.e. "unstable"). Down the 700 or so years of the Plant surname they have occurred independently in different branches (i.e. so-called parallel mutations) and, on occasions, quite possibly changed back to an earlier value (back mutations).

For such reasons, derived descent trees based on limited Y-STR data alone are not unique. Over the timeframe of the surname, there may be parallel mutations, back mutations and other mutations that have occurred in an unknown order. Measuring more markers, especially very slow changing (i.e. "stable") ones, can lead to more reliability.

Y-SNP mutations are particularly slow changing (i.e. very stable) and a particularly large number of Y-SNP markers are available to identify each line of descent. These can be determined by, for example, so-called BigY testing which, however, is so far expensive: only two Plants (P1a and P19a) have so far taken this test. As yet, this is not enough to contribute to building the DNA descent tree of the main Plant family. However, Y-SNPs are a potential source of future substantial evidence for this purpose.

Already, however, some parts of a Plant Y-STR descent tree seem more reliable than others. For example, we can reasonably identify the following close groupings in the above MEGA6 tree. These serve to confirm suspicions indicated by the documentary evidence, albeit that the documentary evidence for each of these three grouping is not in itself conclusive to a level of strong "geneaogical proof".

These DNA groupings remain intact when the fast-changing markers are ignored, except for the Leicestershire branch whose DNA connection relies on the above MEGA6 tree which takes account of all of the observed marker mutations at the 37-marker level.

As it happens (by coincidence), there is one volunteer in each of these three branches who has extended his Y-STR measurements up to 67 markers. These individuals are shown in bold above. This makes it relatively straightforward to combine 37- and 67- marker descent trees that are based purely on relatively stable Y-STR markers.

At the 67-marker level, there are fewer Plants who have taken the test. P20a has not upgraded to 67 markers, nor have those not in bold in the three branches above. However there are more relatively-stable Y-STR markers at that level. In particular, the additional marker DYS534 mutates early enough in the Plant descent tree to group together a few of the tested Plants.

The following DNA descent tree is based on a combination of the 37- and 67-marker Y-STR data. It omits the relatively unstable markers CDYa, CDYb and DYS456. At the top of the diagram, there is a branch P23a-P1a-P1c-P33a whose individuals share a (+1) mutation of DYS570: this mutation is then shown to be followed by, respectively, no further mutation for P23a; one each for P1a and P1c; and two unspecified ones for P33a. The next but one grouping below in the diagram is defined by an early shared (+1) mutation of the marker DYS534 which identifies a P26a-P25a-PT3a branch.

Descent Tree for stable Y-DNA37 and 67 markers

Few Plant volunteers have yet taken the 111-marker Y-STR test. However, the following "stable-marker" descent tree, extracted from the 111-marker data available so far, already provides some help. A further downstream mutation is added to each individual in the P29a-P19a branch -- this strengthens the suggestion that their shared DYS458 mutation occurred early. Furthermore, there is a P7b-P36a pairing in the diagram below which provides some independant confirmation of an apparent P36a-P2a-P7b core of a P28a-P28b-P36a-P2a-P7b-P30a branch that is otherwise suggested only by the preceding "all-37-marker" MEGA6 tree. Idealy, more members of this branch would test whether they have the defining DYS712 mutation though this carries a further cost.

Descent Tree for stable Y-DNA111 markers

Four major branches of the main Plant family

Purely on the basis of the Y-DNA evidence outlined above, it seems that there are four major branches of the main Plant family. These branches evidently split apart early, in centuries before when there is adequate documentary evidence to identify the branching.

This very early branching helps to break down the abnormally large main Plant family into rather more manageable sub-populations. Further genealogical connections within these sub-populations can then be investigated using a combination of documentary and DNA evidence.

The branches differ in the extent of the Y-DNA testing that is required in order to confirm apparent membership of the branch. Only those who have had the Y-DNA37 test or better are listed here.

Branch A
Confirmed by a Y-DNA37 test: P1a, P1c, P23a, P33a
Branch B
Confirmed by a Y-DNA25 test: P19a, P29a, PT1a
Branch C
Confirmed by a Y-DNA67 test: P25a, P26a, PT3a
Branch D
Confirmed by a Y-DNA111 test: P7b, P36a
Suspected but not confirmed: P2a, P28a, P28b, P30a
Unknown
No defining mutation at the Y-DNA37 level: P20a

There may be some amendments, as well as additions, as more Plants are Y-DNA tested and more markers are measured.

Caveats

  • The markers CDYa and CDYa are estimated to mutate at a rate of around 0.035 per generation giving a reasonable chance of a parallel mutation in each independent descent line of the surname. They are hence sensibly omitted from the above so-called "stable mutation" descent trees.
  • The marker DYS456 is said to mutate around four times more slowly than CDYa and CDYb. We also omit it from the above "stable-marker" trees even though its mutation rate is similar to those of other markers that are used as the "defining mutations" for the above "major branches". This is because of its very erratic behaviour in the main Plant family which may be due its very rare (0.1% and 1.6%) values (19) and (18) - these values might be particularly unstable. Its values in the major branches of this model are: A (19, 18, 18, 18); B (19, 19, 18); C (19, 19, 19, 19); D (18, 18, 17, 17, 17, 16).
  • The markers DYS570, DYS534, DYS458 and DYS712 are used for the defining mutations of each of the four major branches even though there is a moderate chance of parallel mutations in the descent lines. A mutation rate for DYS712, in particular, is not well known and it might be faster than for the other three and hence less reliable.
  • Branch A is relatively well defined by a rather unusual (8%) value (20) for the marker DYS570.
  • PT1a has both of the "defining markers" DYS458 and DYS534. At least one of these must be a parallel mutation. It is hence debatable whether the marker DYS458 should be given precedence in placing PT1a in Branch B instead of Branch C though the former choice is indicated by the 37-marker MEGA6 tree which does not include DYS534.
  • Branch D so far depends, for the most part, on the 37-marker MEGA6 tree.

Resilience of the Four Branch Model

The above four branches are useful at least as a basis for further discussion. We here assess their resilience to different analyses of the 67-marker Y-STR data, as illustrated by the following two MEGA6 trees.

First, we can consider the situation when all 67 markers are included. The results of this analysis combine Branch A (represented solely by P1a at the 67 marker level) and Branch D as two sub-branches of a "SuperBranch AD". Similarly, Branches B and C become two sub-branches of a "SuperBranch BC" though P25a becomes rather more closley attached to sub-branch B than C. Most notably, P29A is displaced from Branch B to D though otherwise the four branches remain largely intact.

all-67-marker MEGA6 tree with the four major branches

Next, we can consider the effect of ignoring the "unstable" markers CDYa, CDYb and DYS456. This returns P29a to Branch B (P19a-P29a-PT1a) which is still loosely linked to Branch C (P25a-P26a-PT3a). However, the linkage of Branch D (P28-P30a and P7b and P36a) is now largely lost along with any evidence of a link to Branch A (P1a) to form a SuperBranch AD. As only two in Branch D have been tested so far at the 111-marker level and found to be linked (P7b-P36a) by the marker DYS712, it remains to be seen how useful this marker will be in holding together the whole of this putative Branch D.

all-67-marker MEGA6 tree with the four major branches

Migration maps for some apparent main Plant family branches

The following DNA descent tree derives from those diagrams above that are based on at least 37 Y-STR markers. As has been outlined, it is not unique: in particular, there is some uncertainty about whether P29a belongs to Branch B or D and, more pervasively, some uncertainty also remains about Branch D as a single branch. Some aspects of the tree might be amended as more DNA data becomes available.

Descent Tree with four major branches

The evident fourteenth-century homeland of the main Plant family is indicated by the grey circle labeled A on the following map. Documentary evidence for the earliest known Plant ancestor of each tested man is not adequate until several centuries later, by when their ancestral line has generally migrated away from this homeland. The earliest known ancestors of PT1a and P7b are in the USA and they are hence omitted from the following map. The early ancestry of P36a is evidently similar to that of P2a.

Descent Map including Four Branches

The red circles in the above map show that the DNA-tested Plants whose earliest-known male-line ancestors were near Sheffield (P23a, P1a, P1c, P33a) were not only geographical neighbours but also are genetically linked in the computed Branch A of the DNA descent tree. This suggests that a particular branch of the main Plant family found its way from the ancestral homeland across the Dark Peak to NE Derbyshire and Sheffield before 1700, as was already suspected for the genealogically-linked P1a and P1c but not necessarily for P23a or P33a. The more recent addition, P33a, has since been considered to have a similar genealogical descent to that of P1a.

However, the DNA data also indicate that geographic proximity does not always correspond to a close family relationship of Plants in that region. For example, there is evident migration of the main Plant family across the Irish sea and the map indicates that PT3a links back to England through a different branch (Branch C) from that of P28a and P28b (Branch D) despite the geographical proximity in Ireland of their known ancestors. The earliest known ancestors of PT3a and P25a are more distant from each other in Ireland though both evidently belong to Branch C.

The tested male P20a (black circle) belongs to an unknown branch of the main Plant family. At the 37-marker level, he has no known mutation from the apparent ancestral Y-STR signature, which rules out Branches A and B. His ancestral line has evidently migrated from the Plants' main homeland (grey circle labeled A) to near Birmingham by 1700. Nearby Plants are P19a (Branch B) and P26a (Branch C) whose ancestral lines may well have migrated independently south through Staffordshire.

As already indicated, P18a (green circle) belongs to a genetically distinct Plant family from south Lincolnshire that may well have had a separate medieval origin there (or an early NPE).

The L617 haplogoup of the main Plant family

The above section is so far based on Y-STR mutations some of which are more stable than others. Far more stable over millennia are Y-SNP mutations and these are used to identify haplogroups in the descent of mankind. Y-STR clusters in a particular haplogroup can then be considered to represent the more recent divergence of decent families within a haplogroup.

The following diagram combines data assembled by John Marsh with 37 marker Y-STR data for the main Plant family. Though the details of Network diagrams are sensitive to the chosen markers and to who is included (see above) it shows the main family groupings for tested individuals known to belong to the R1b-L617+ haplogroup. This R1b-L617+ clade is believed to have first formed perhaps around four thousand years ago, in Iberia or SW France, with the further FGC14951+ Y-SNP mutation perhaps occurring nearer England several hundred years later.

The limited number of bearers of L617+, found so far, largely have English surnames; this is especially true for those with the further mutation FGC14951+. There could have been an early arrival of a shared ancestral line from western Europe which then branched out in England before the formation of these English surnames. However, it cannot be ruled out that their ancestral lines arrived separately in England at various dates between the Bronze Age and late medieval times.

Network diagram of surnames within the L617 haplogroup

In the above diagram, the label T1 corresponds to four individuals from the surnames Teague, Westmoreland, Spink and Marsh and it can be seen that this closely clusters with other individuals from the surname Marsh (labels prefixed M); the other nearby circle T2 is for Tyndal. The labels prefixed P are for Plant, R is for Rogers and O is for Oreel (which is found in northern France and Flanders). The R1bMod circle represents the R1b modal DNA signature which can be used to approximate the DNA signature of a much earlier ancestor from whom individuals in the R1b-L617+ sub-clade have descended. The Plant cluster is well separated to the left of the diagram and its ancentral line evidently diverged from those others in this diagram perhaps around three thousand years ago.

Y-SNPs for the main Plant family

As more Plants take the BigY (or similar) test, it should help to confirm and extend our knowledge of the branching points in the descent tree of the main English Plant family.

In BigY matching, the following 18 Novel Variants are so far shared by only P1a and P19a:

7050610 8013094 8109454 17566829 17947942 19276257 19288927 17030131 17064004 21520112 22053304 16338026 14070649 14229517 23884802 23887964 22460503 22775722
implying that they occurred after the Plant male line split from others in L617 (perhaps around 3000 years ago) but before P1a split from P19a (perhaps around 700 years ago). Since then, P1a has had five unique Novel Variants (7395249 9493697 15129909 16494359 1750827) and P19a has had six (13211302 13239222 13404996 17680770 18589702 19566267). Some of these (so far unique) variants are no doubt shared with other (untested) Plants on the same branch of the main Plant family as P1a (Branch A) or P19a (Branch B).

Some statistical considerations

Y-DNA test results are often clear cut; but, in some cases, it is appropriate to consider their statistical basis:

Summary of Results for Plant-like names so far

A characteristic Y-line DNA signature has been found for 27 of the 41 Plant (and Plantt) volunteers tested so far. Different results have been obtained for 1 volunteer called Plants and for 10 volunteers called Plante (though 7 of the 10 called Plante match one another). Largely consistent results with at least half of the volunteers matching, such as has been found so far for Plant (and separately for Plante), can be considered to be expectable provided that one supposes each name, Plant and Plante, descended mostly from its own single family. The Canadian Plante family is of different male-line stock from the main English Plant family. Either might be fantastically imagined to have descended from the fictionally-supposed 7th century Plantard family in France; or, fiction aside, from Eimeric de la Planta (alias de Plant') in Anjou in 1202. Alternatively, the main Plant family could be just an English family from around 1200-1400; other evidence, taken with these Y-DNA findings, suggests that the name of the main English Plant family may have originated as that of perhaps polygynous children in the Welsh Marches in the 13th or 14th centuries and have the Welsh meaning `[many] children' or the surname might have been ascribed to several related men with the topolgical meaning `living near the newly planted vaccary (of the Black Prince)' which is where the name is first found in its main homeland; more certainly, this single medieval family has grown to an unusual extent.

The characteristic Y-DNA signature for Plant has been found to agree with one for Plantt. Plantt appears in early records in England and it is sometimes written Plantt. This might be fancifully imagined to point to a possibility that Plant was an abbreviation of a French surname such as Plantinet (rare) or even Plantagenet (see also further details about Plantt). The Plantagenets can also be associated with the surnames Somerset, Cornwall and Warren/Waring-like names (see also evidence for a Plant-Warenne affinity) and the Plants had early proximities to the Warren Earls in particular. The nineteenth-century claim that the Plants are illegimate descendants of the Plantagenets has been disconfirmed however. It has emerged that, unlike Plant(t), Warren and Waring are multiple-ancestor surnames, perhaps mostly descended from various unrelated individuals with the common Norman personal name Warin. Neither has there been any Y-DNA match to the surnames Corwall, Somerset nor to the skeleton of Richard III. Any possible connection to the Plantagenet name is hence more likely cultural, perhaps relating to contemporary belief in the nutritive, augmentative and generative powers of the plant soul, such as at the above mentioned vaccary of the Black Prince.

Grossly inconsistent results, unlike those found so far for Plant(t), could have been expected if there had been many false paternity events down the centuries or if there had originally been many different Plant families. The DNA results so far tend to disconfirm such suppositions as ones that there were many different Plant families who happened to be called Plant simply because they were (a) all `gardeners' or (b) all influenced into calling themselves Plant out of respect for the Plantagenet name. It is possible of course that they all descend largely from one family that was so influenced, with most other Plant lines having died out. Our computer simulations indicate that there is perhaps just a handful of surviving Plant families, with in particular one dominant one that has grown abnormally as indicated by the DNA results. Another possibility that can not yet be discounted is that the English Plant name was sanitised from Plente (meaning abundant or fertile) - no DNA result is yet available, for comparison purposes, for the surname Plenty which may have derived from Plente.

Further Y-line testing of Plant-like names, such as for the Plante family of Gascony (SW France), or the Plantard family of Brittany (NW France), or the noble Planta/Von Planta family of Switzerland, might shed further light.

The Plant project was begun in late 2001 and initial accounts of its implications for the Plant and Plantagenet names have been published as:

Further advice for participants

The test involves the volunteer simply taking a swab of cells from the inside of his mouth. A summary of the results may be published here, with the personal names of each testee being kept anonymous.

The Plant Family History Group has a project with the FamilyTree-DNA (FT-DNA) Testing Laboratory. The standard FT-DNA test measures 12 markers for 59 US dollars, though 25 markers can be measured instead for 109 US dollars or 37 markers for 149 US dollars or 67 markers for 248 US dollars. You can take the 12-marker test and then subsequently upgrade to more markers if appropriate though measuring (or upgrading to), for example, 37 markers can be beneficial in the long run.

If you are interested in participating in the Plant DNA Testing programme, you can either:

It would be helpful to the project if you could supply me with the earliest known male-to-male Plant ancestor of the intended testee and that ancestor's historical location.

You may send your message with questions and/or comments to me by whatever method you prefer..

(email: john.plant@one-name.org or by postal address: Dr J.S.Plant, 7 Ontario Close, Trentham, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, ST4 8TG, England).


Plant Name
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