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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 measured for Plant, Plantt, Plants, Plenty and Plante, and the study is yet to be extended to other `Plant like' names such as Planty, Planta, Plantard, Planterose, etc.

This project started early in this century in Y-DNA investigations of names (such as Warren, Cornwall and Somerset) associated with possible male-line descents from the Plantagenets (since Plantagenet is another "Plant-like" name). However, only many mismatching Y-DNA signatures were found amongst these claimed Plantagenet descendants. (This same situation has been found again in more recent and more widely publicised investigations in connection with the skeleton of the Plantagenet king Richard III). These mismatches suggest that there were false claims of royal or noble descent in earlier centuries or that there were, for example, wifely infidelities introducing non-Plantagenet Y-chromosomes into these lines. (The more sensational newspapers have pointed in particular to the long-debated possibility that there were infidelities in the supposed male-line of the successive Plantagenet kings themselves). 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.

Plant and possibly-related name sub-branches so far

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

Location/spellingCode for Earliest known ancestor of sub-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 + YSEQ 410 + YF4268
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 + YSEQ 2849
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 + YF4270
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
California, USA. PlantP38a Louis Jefferson Plant, b Mussel Shoals, Alabama 1832 or 1835. Descent through Forrest Plant, attorney, Sacramento.FT 402360
co. Durham, England. PlantP41a John Plant bc 1775 descent through John bc 1815 Burslem,Staffs d 1867 St Marlebone, London; John Robert (1838-82) Marlebone; Harry b 1876 St Pancras d 1922 Goole (m E. Alice J. Simonette b 1884 Coundon, Co.Durham) professional musicians FT 444923
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
Somerset, UK. PlentyPEY1a Theophulis Plenty, Walton, Somerset. Descent through his son John Francis Plenty.FT 399575
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

New volunteers awaiting results from lab

Location/spellingCode for Earliest known ancestor of sub-branchTesting company,
volunteerkit number
Aukland, New Zealand. PlantP39a William Plant 1770-1830. Descendant William Plant (b 1838 son of Daniel and Phebe Plant) moved from Tunstall, Staffordshire, England to New Zealand. FT B68907
Toronto, Canada. PlantP40a John Plant, b ca. 1667 Swynnerton, Staffordshire, grandfather of William Plant b 1716 Tur Langton, Leicestershire, England (cf. P2a and P36a). FT 436455
Hebden Bridge, England. PlantP42a FT 446600
Port Augusta, Australia. PlantP43a FT 453216

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 and also, where appropriate, to a FT kit number of the testing company FTDNA.

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 most 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). 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.

YSEQ extra measured markers

P1a, #410, Z2571-
P2a, #2849, DYS504=16, DYS513=13, DYS532=13, DYS552=24, DYS561=15, DYS593=15, DYS650=18, DYS712=22, DYS715=22

YFull extra measured markers

P1a, #YF4268, FGC22149+, 422 reliable Y-STRs
P19a, #YF4270, F3085+, 13211302-C-T+, 13239222-T-A+, 419 reliable Y-STRs

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).

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.

Detail of somme amendments.The large red circle for the 12-marker results (shown in the 12-marker Network diagram above) is in fact differentiated into quite closely matching smaller red circles, nearly all of which are singletons when 37 markers are considered. However, three of the markers are fast changing and, though they are useful for studying the detail of close family "twigs" in the last few centuries, they tend to distort the overall picture for the main Plant family (red circles) which has developed over perhaps around seven hundred years. The effects of these three fast-changing markers are hence omitted from the 37-marker Network diagram above. Also, the link to P38a is in fact longer and has been shortened in this diagram.

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 all of the 37-marker data (excluding P38a) 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 their stability

The markers CDYa and CDYb, for example, are very fast changing (i.e. "unstable"). For the main Plant family, similar problems arise for the marker DYS456. Down the 700 or so years of the Plant surname these markers 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). It is hence instructive to test the MEGA6 tree's resilience to omitting them.

  • 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 can hence sensibly be omitted from "stable mutation" MEGA6 trees.
  • The marker DYS456 is said to mutate around four times more slowly than CDYa and CDYb. We omit it also from the "stable-marker" trees even though its mutation rate is similar to those of other markers that are used below as the "defining mutations" for some "major branches" of a tentative explicit descent tree. 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), as well as less often (17) and (16) - it seems that these rare values might well be particularly unstable.
  • With the advent of Next Generation Sequencing, an indefinite number of Y-SNPs are likely to become available at a more affordable price and, as these are generally much more stable, they can be expected to determine the branching far more reliably.
The following diagram shows the 37-marker tree after these unstable markers have been omitted.

Stable 37 loci MEGA6 tree

Fewer men have been tested at the 67 marker level but their MEGA6 trees evidently add some further useful hints of genetic clustering. The changes in the Main Plant Family part of the MEGA6 trees, at both the 37 and 67 marker levels, can be summarised as follows.

37+ (with unstable markers)
(a) P1a, P1c, P33a (and less tightly P23a)
(b) few mutations for P20a, P26a, PT3a
(c) P28a and P28b (which are also connected by doccumentary evidence) perhaps linked also to P30a
(d) P2a, P36a
(e) PT1a, P19a perhaps linked also to P25a
(f) loose linkage of P7b, P29a
37- (without unstable markers)
(a) P1a, P1c, P23a, P33a tightly linked
(b)/(f) no mutations for P7b, P20a, P25a, P36a, PT3a
(c) P28a/b, P30a tightly linked
(d) no linkage remains for P2a, P36a
(e) PT1a, P29a perhaps also linked to P19a
67+ markers
(a) only P1a tested and stands largely alone
(b) P20a, P26a, PT3a (P25a rather nearer (e))
(c) P28a, P30a
(d) only P36a tested and stands largely alone
(e) loose linkage of P19a, PT1a and perhaps P25a
(f) only P7b tested, loosely linked to P29a
67- markers
(a) only P1a tested and stands alone
(b) P20a,P25a, P26a, PT3a
(c) P28a, P30a
(d) only P36a tested and stands alone
(e) loose linkage of P19a, P29a and perhaps PT1a
(f) only P7b tested and stands alone
111 markers
As yet only 7 men tested, contribute little apart from a possible loose linkage of P7b, P36a in the 111+ MEGA6 tree

(67+) The following is the 67-marker MEGA6 tree with unstable markers

67 loci MEGA6 tree

(67-) The following is the 67-marker MEGA6 tree without unstable markers

Stable 67 loci MEGA6 tree

(111+) The following is the 111-marker MEGA6 tree with unstable markers. There are too few Plant men who have taken this test to expect more than one to share a well established branch. Tentatively however, in going from left to right, we might note that there is the most commonality before spliiting between P36a and P7b.

111 loci MEGA6 tree

It is clear that the above MEGA6 trees, which are based on relatively few men and limited Y-STR data, are not unique. Already, however, some parts of a Plant Y-STR descent tree seem more reliable than others. For example, we can tentatively identify the following groupings from the above MEGA6 diagrams.

Reasonably consistent
A: P1a, P1c, P23a, P33a from 37+(a) and 37-(a)
B: P20a, P25a, P26a, PT3a from 67+(b) and 67-(b)
C: P28a/b, P30a from 67+(c), 67-(c), 37+(c), 37-(c)
Less certain
D: P2a, P36a from 37+(d) (evidently also supported by shared ancestry)
D+: possibly add P7b to D from 111+
E: P19a, PT1a from 67+(e) and perhaps also P29a from 67-(e)

Four or so major branches of the main Plant family

The following explicit tree takes account of the above MEGA6 diagrams but it also seeks to identify specific mutations which identify some particular branches in the descent of the main Plant family. For the presentation of this descent tree, we omit some relatively unstable markers (CDYa, CDYb and DYS456). Though this tree is at least useful for further discussion, it may be revised as more Y-DNA data become available for more Plant men.

At the top of the evident tree below, there is a Branch A (P23a-P1a-P1c-P33a) whose individuals share a (+1) mutation of DYS570: this mutation is then shown to be followed by no further mutation for P23a and different ones for each of P1a, P1c and P33a. The next grouping below in the diagram is defined by an early shared (+1) mutation of the marker DYS534 which identifies a P20a-P25a-P26a-PT3a branch (Branch B). In Branch C, P28a-P28b-P30a share the DYS385b(-1) mutation. Branch D has the DYS712(+1) mutatation (as well as the possibly stable value 17 of DYS456) for P2a-P36a-P7b. The bottom branch shares a DYS458(+1) mutation which might be a basis of a loosely-connected Branch E, with 3 or 4 further mutations occuring more recently for P29a and P19a.

Explicit Decent Tree based on Y-STR markers

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

Such 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 (though we are now recommending a cheaper Y-DNA12 test, perhaps followed by more-tailored cost-effective testing, as an alternative possibility).

Branch A
Identified by DYS570 marker of a Y-DNA37 test: P1a, P1c, P23a, P33a
Branch B
Identified by DYS534 marker in a Y-DNA67 test: P20a, P25a, P26a, PT3a
However, either DYS458 or DYS534 is a parallel mutation for PT1a making him somewhat ambiguous between Branch B and a tentative Branch E
Branch C
Identified by DYS385b marker in a Y-DNA12 test: P28a, P28b, P30a
Branch D
Suggested by DYS456=17 (Y-DNA37 test) and confirmed by DYS712=22 (in a Y-DNA111 or YSEQ test): P2a, P7b, P36a
Branch E
Suggested by DYS458 marker in a Y-DNA25 test: P19a, P29a, PT1a
However, either DYS458 or DYS534 is a parallel mutation for PT1a making him ambiguous between Branch B and this tentative Branch E

The Y-DNA tests identified above are standard tests that are available from the testing company FTDNA. However, tests for some specific markers (such as DYS712) can be bought more cheaply at the testing company YSEQ. Those who are not yet tested are advised that they could begin with a realtively cheap Y-DNA12 test at FTDNA and then we are always available to advise on what further testing could be the most cost effective.


  • The markers DYS385b, DYS570, DYS534, DYS458 and DYS712 are used as defining mutations 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 some of the others and perhaps hence less reliable. Though DYS456 is omitted from some of the above MEGA6 diagrams, the value (17) might be adequately stable to be useful as a proxy (as well as confirmation) for DYS712=17.
  • It is possible that Branch A might be quite well defined by a rather unusual (8%) value (20) for the marker DYS570.
  • PT1a has both of our so-called "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 the tentative Branch E.

State of the Art. The prospects for making progress with the branching of descent lines in the main Plant family are now good, as both the Plant project and the available DNA tests have advanced. As well as Y-STRs, relevant knowledge of Y-SNPs is now beginning to become available. Once the major branches are firmly established, progress with the more recent sub-branching can be expected to develop more readily.

Migration maps for some apparent main Plant family branches

The following DNA descent tree summarises the above analyses for those Plant men who have tested for at least 37 Y-STR markers. As has been outlined, it is not unique: all branches might change as more data become available though Branches A, B, C may be more resilient than D and E.

Descent Tree with Five 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 adequately available until several centuries after this family's first surname bearer, by when each living descendant's ancestral line has typically migrated away, presumably from the grey circle. The earliest known ancestors of PT1a (Branch E) and P7b (Branch D) are in the USA and hence they do not appear in the following map.

Descent Map including Five 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. The Irish ancestors of PT3a and P25a are evidently in Branch B whereas P28a and P28b have a shared genealogical ancestor from Branch C. The closest proximity in Ireland is of P28a/b (Branch C) with just one (PT3a) of the pair from Branch B.

Though quite distant in Ireland, the earliest known ancestors of PT3a and P25a are both linked through Branch B to P20a and P26a in England. These two instances of Branch B are both south of the main ancestral homeland in Engalnd. They are not, however, far from the ancestry of P19a who evidently belongs to a different branch (Branch E) which shows itself in the case of P29a with ancestry in the main Plant homeland.

As already indicated, P18a (green circle) belongs to a genetically distinct Plant family with ancestry in 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 descent 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 some main family groupings for tested individuals known to belong to the R1b-L617+ haplogroup.

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.

Increasingly many L617+ individuals are currently being identified beyond those in the above diagram. The following MEGA6 diagram shows those individuals who have been identified as L617+ along with a Warren, for comparison, who has not yet been tested for L617. Tight groupings, such as Marsh-Westmoreland-Teague are likely to be resilient whereas looser groupings, such as Plant-Warren-Coursey-Dunstan, are more likely to be revised as more data become available.

MEGA6 diagram of surnames within the L617 haplogroup

Living individuals in the parent clades of R1b-L617+ are found mostly in Iberia. In particular, individuals in the parent clade R1b-DF27+, perhaps originating a few hundred years before R1b-L617+, are found mostly around the Pyrennees. Though we cannot be certain, it is reasonable to suppose that these locations may be near where these clades first formed and that most of their descendants have not migrated far from their ancestral origins, near the Pyrenees.

Those so far found for L617+ might well represent a biased dataset. It might so far be noted that they are mostly for surnames further to the north. It seems that the ancestors of these individuals had migrated northwards between around 3000 to 1000 years ago.

In the above diagram, there are surnames for Poland and Lithuania (Sobolewski and Puras), ones from evidently around the Netherlands (Oreel and Strydom) and Normandy (Coursey) as well as several English surnames. There is also one for Iberia (Ortiz) though he does not have the additional Y-SNP mutation FGC14591+.

For the English surnames, there might 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. Alternatively, the ancestral lines of some of these surname descents might have arrived separately in England at different dates between the Bronze Age and late medieval times.

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 (according to a FTDNA analysis):

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). So far, few have uploaded their data to The Big Tree but this is beginning to be shown diagrammatically in a relevant section there.

After the time when P1a and P19a split, P1a has had five unique Novel Variants (7395249 9493697 15129909 16494359 1750827) according to FTDNA [though The Big Tree analyses do not count 16494359 and 1750827 but list another 14 possibles to check out further]: and P19a has had six (13211302 13239222 13404996 17680770 18589702 19566267) [though The Big Tree do not count 13404996 and 18589702 but list another 15 possibles]. Some of these characteristic Y-SNPs 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).

Though such NGS testing is still expensive and the analyses incomplete, this can be expected to become cheaper and incresingly useful. It will potentially help in unravelling the early branching of the main Plant family which presents particular genealogical problems because this family is so unusally large.

Matching Diagram for Plante

Similarly as was outlined above for Plant, the following is a 12-marker Network diagram for the French Canadian Plante family. So far, all those tested with this spelling live in North America. Their locations are shown in this map though, as shown in another map, untested men with the Plante name live also in SW France, with a few also elsewhere. In the Network diagram below, it is clear that the green circles do not match with the main Plante family (yellow circles). All men with the Plante name that have been tested so far are genetically distinct from all those tested with the Plant(t) name.

12 loci Network for Plante

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 43 Plant (and Plantt) volunteers tested so far. Different results have been obtained for 1 volunteer called Plants and for 1 called Plenty 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 or Plante, descended mostly from its own main 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 of Cheshire/Staffordshie in England; more certainly, this single medieval family has grown to an unusual extent. Some uncertainties concerning the origins of the Plant and Plante families are highlighted by such limitations as no Plante in France has yet been Y-DNA tested to try to investigate further the belief that the main Canadian Plante family came from France and, also, though the main Plant family is generally regarded as English, it has an ancestral clade R1b-DF27 which is found mostly in the same region as the Plante name in France; this is gradually being investigated further.

Though research is ongoing, some major branches have been tentatively identified for the main Plant family. Since these branches evidently split early, the details are difficult to ascertain. However, geographical considerations suggest that `Branch A' might be associated with the sixteenth-century (Tudor) Christopher Plant of the Bakewell Old House Museum (Derbyshire, England). The other branches include early links to America. Though medieval peasants were generally tied to their local plot of land, it seems there was mobility that could have been as early as a fifteenth-century Sir John Plant of Dublin in Ireland who seemingly also had a link to the main Plant homeland of Cheshire in England. The possibilty of distant travel can be hightlighted by a thought that Sir John Plant in Dublin could also even have had links as far afield as France. More particularly, Y-DNA evidence for Plant that can be tentatively associated with a Branch D of the main family, indicates an ancestral migration to the USA in the seventeenth century.

The characteristic Y-DNA signature for the main Plant family 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 as well as, for example, the Lancastrians. The nineteenth-century claim that the Plants are illegimate descendants of the Plantagenets, much doubted since the twentieth century, has been disconfirmed by Y-DNA. In the course of investigating this, it 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 that had grown to similar extents. In as much as the evidence indicates otherwise, the DNA results so far do not confirm 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 descend largely from one family that was so influenced, with most other Plant lines having died out or grown little. Our computer simulations suggest that there is probably just a handful of surviving Plant families, with in particular one dominant one that has grown abnormally in keeping with the Y-DNA results. Another possibility that can not yet be entirely ruled out is that the English Plant name was sanitised from Plente (meaning abundant or fertile) - though the single Y-DNA result so far for Plenty does not match any similar name so far tested, we may note that it might have derived from the spelling Plente.

Further Y-line testing of Plant-like names, such as for the Plante name in Gascony (SW France), or the Plantard name in Brittany (NW France), or the noble Planta/Von Planta family of Switzerland as well as many with the name Planta in the Phillipines and South America, might shed further light in due course.

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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