A couple of years ago, ‘Tom’, a member of my family, submitted a cheek swab to one of the biggest DNA testing companies in the US, Family Tree DNA. I’d signed on the dotted line whilst I was at the ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ family history show in Earl’s Court, London. I paid for and was given a testing kit comprising a couple of sterile swabs, a container, labels and paperwork. I’d hoped that Tom’s DNA might connect us with some other Ridouts and Rideouts around the world and perhaps even make sense of our ancestry.
The genetic material in the Y chromosome (yDNA) changes (mutates) very little from grandfather to father to son and indeed very little down the entire male line in a family. However, there are small mutations which occur at specific areas of the Y chromosome called STRs (single tandem repeats) or, in the world of comparative yDNA testing, markers. In order to arrive at a working hypothesis on the relatedness of two males with the same surname, it is valuable to compare 37 of such markers in each man’s yDNA. Since the mutation rates for each STR are fairly constant, one would expect that second cousins should show a perfect match of 37/37 markers; their common ancestor being as close as their great-grandfather. However, the greater the number of generations away from a common male ancestor two male descendants are, the more likely it is that their yDNA sequences will mismatch slightly. So, for example, two men with a x6 great grandfather in common might match only 36/37 markers. Hence, a statistician will compare two yDNA sequences and, taking mutation rates into account, determine the probability that two men with the same (or similar) surname are related and will offer a very broad estimate of when their common ancestor probably lived. This is especially useful when those two men have each researched their family history and can compare notes.
My own research indicates that my family have the same origins as the descendants of Christopher RIDOUT of Sherborne. My cousin Tom had also submitted a saliva sample to a UK company called Oxford Ancestors in 2004. This was only tested for 10 markers but we were delighted to find that we had an exact match with many other descendants of Christopher and so I knew that my research was at least on the right track.
Many people in the US and Canada will know of their ancestors George Ridout the baker (1701-1779) and his father Christopher the miller (1669-1743). I have written about these folk extensively elsewhere on this blog. With luck, many Ridouts will have a family tree indicating just how they are related to George and Christopher but I am not so lucky, even though my family actually lived in Sherborne as recently as 1827. My own family tree peters out at my x4 great grandfather who I know simply as John Ridout of Sherborne, born in approximately 1750-3. It’s not much to go on!
So, what did yDNA testing reveal? For a start, there are only two other Rid(e)out men on Family Tree DNA’s results database who come close to matching Tom’s 37 marker results. One man is called ‘Dick’ and the other ‘Harry’. Tom and Dick shared 34/37 markers in common and, as Dick is a x7 great grandson of Christopher Ridout, I was rather disappointed as I had hoped our connection with that family was closer – in fact, Tom and Dick’s common male ancestor probably lived ‘within the past 1,680 years’ which, genealogically speaking, is not much use to someone whose known family doesn’t stretch back further than 1750!
The match between Tom and Harry, 35/37 markers, was much more interesting. Harry’s earliest known ancestor was William Thomas Rideout (1839-1885) of Virginia. There are a dozen or more public family trees on Ancestry.co.uk all suggesting that William Thomas Rideout was probably a grandson of Elijah Rideout (1768-1862) and possibly great-grandson of a John Rideout, although opinion seems to be divided on John Rideout’s origins. I don’t think anyone quite knows for sure just who it was in this family that first left England in the eighteenth century and sailed across the Atlantic to settle in America. Anyway, Tom and Harry share a common male ancestor within twelve generations, a man who lived roughly 300-360 years ago (about 1652-1712). This time frame equates to a Ridout male who was alive at a similar time to Christopher (1669-1743) or George (1701-1779).
The most interesting result amongst all this yDNA confusion is that Dick and Harry are more closely related to each other than either of them is to Tom! They share 36/37 markers, meaning that there is a 90% probability that their common male ancestor walked the earth as recently as eight generations ago (roughly 1772-1812). We know that Dick’s x6 great grandfather was George Ridout and Harry’s x6 great grandfather was the father of John Rideout. But their common male ancestor is unlikely to be George Ridout himself since he probably didn’t father another boy named John, in addition to two other sons named John (one was christened John and the other John Gibbs). So, Dick and Harry’s common male ancestor might be one generation back from George i.e. Christopher Ridout. So, who was John Rideout’s father? Here’s a wild guess … how about John Ridout, Christopher’s son, born in Sherborne in 1699 and about who very little seems to have been written other than that he left England and sailed to America at some point in his early life? Just saying 🙂
Interested Ridouts and Rideouts, from all over the world, are cordially invited to join our RID(E)OUT yDNA project.
STOP PRESS! Family Tree DNA have a special offer on 37 markers which extends to the 14th January… !!