Are We or Are We Not?

by Justin Howery, Genealogy-DNA-L (Nov. 17, 2000).

Howery DNA Project

After reading all the grand plans that other families have for doing a formal DNA project, I’m almost embarrassed to report the simple results of our Howery effort.

We Howerys (Howrys, Hauris, Haurys, Howreys) supposedly all descend from single ancestor who lived c1400 in the Swiss village of Beromünster. Although the main branch of the family is easily traceable through the excellent Swiss records, quite a few modern branches don’t know the precise details of their connection to the larger family. However, there is very little doubt that there’s only one family. (I should add, however, that we’re almost certainly an entirely different family from the Orcadian (Orkney) Howries and we are probably a different family from the Béarnese (France) Hauries.)

Some of us on the Howery mailing list had some preliminary discussions about DNA testing and four of us decided that we were interested enough to look into it. It didn’t take us long to settle on Family Tree DNA as the folks to do the testing. To make a long story short, one of the four of us backed out and one has dallied a bit. The two of us who went ahead with the testing got our results a few days ago. We matched on all 12 loci.

The result surprised and pleased the two of us who participated. My branch of the family left Switzerland around 1700 and came to America. The other guy’s family left Switzerland about the same time, went to Bavaria, and didn’t come to America until the mid 1800s. Theoretically, we were supposed to match, but I don’t think either of us expected to. First, there have been occasional suggestions that the Haurys in southern German might not have really come from Switzerland after all. (Pure nonsense, but some genealogists love to spin theories.) This particular theory suggested that the German Haurys just happened to adopt the same surname as a Swiss family. I think that my test partner might have harbored doubts about his connection to the rest of us.

I had my own doubts. My branch of the family has preserved a tradition that we’re not really Howerys; we just adopted a step-father’s surname somewhere along the line. My genealogical research hasn’t shown any indication that this happened, but I thought that the tradition might have an element of truth. Alternatively, there was some indication that my colonial Howry ancestors have been improperly identified with the Swiss family and that they were originally members of the Orcadian family with the same name. So, I was expecting a dramatic disconnect between my test results and those of my test partner. Then, with a heavy sigh, I would turn from Howery research and start looking for that elusive step-father.

However, we matched. In essence, the test results of just two guys — albeit the right two guys — dramatically swept aside a lot of meaningless and irrelevant “what-ifs.” I now have the first real evidence that my descent is really through the Howerys, and it’s now clear that the Virginia Howerys and the Bavarian Haurys have a common origin, an origin that must certainly be what the evidence has always suggested — a common descent from the Swiss Hauris. So, our little Howery DNA project gave us some very useful information. Finally, I can’t say enough good things about the lab we used, Family Tree DNA. They were uniformly supportive and professional, answering a zillion questions, listening to long rambling concerns, and going out of their way to keep us updated after we committed to the test.

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