DNA-investigation opens new perspectives on our family history.

The restrictions of research in archives

Through the years research in archives is the basis of our knowledge of our ancestors. With a lot of patience and exertion and a bit of luck one can dig up from archives centuries of family history, and that is for many a fascinating pastime.

But the research in archives has its restrictions. It establishes the family relations as put on record, but do they really correspond with the true biological relations? Pregnant brides are more the rule than the exception, and the child is ascribed to the young spouse. But is he really the father? When a single mother marries, her child is often acknowledged by the spouse. But is he really the father? And even in the best families conjugal unfaithfulness cannot be excluded completely. Among genealogists a winged expression says: 'Maternity is a science, paternity is a belief'. So putative relationships can be registered in archives that are not correct at all in reality.

Moreover, archives are the work of men, both in registration and in examining mistakes can occur, making a check no luxury. And when a relationship found in archives, is confirmed genetically, it gives a lot of extra certainty.

The possibilities of DNA-investigation

For some years past, interesting results from DNA-investigation are presented. It is common knowledge, that in procreation the Y-chromosome that determines the gender of the child, is transmitted unchanged from father to son. Mutations therein occur, enough to make differences in the long run, but so little, that family relationships that go back for centuries can be made visible. At first those techniques were laborious and expensive, and they were only used for scientific projects. Little by little this investigation has developed into a handy process that can be offered for genealogical purposes at a reasonable price.

An American company, 'Family Tree DNA', that executes these investigations in co-operation with the University of Arizona, has built up a great name in this field. On demand they send to those interested handy test kits for the taking of samples of the buccal mucous membrane. Those samples are investigated in their labs, and the Y-DNA or the mitochondrial DNA is analyzed, or both. Such investigation can be executed on 12, 25, 37 or 67 'markers'. The higher the number of markers, the higher the accuracy, but of course also the price of the investigation. Mitochondrial DNA is transmitted unchanged from mothers to their children, which is very interesting for research in the female line, but not applicable in our case.

Such investigation can be done individually, then the results are compared with all profiles present in their comprehensive database, containing over 500.000 test results. So one can detect unknown, sometimes unexpected, relationships. But what's especially interesting for us, they do also 'surname-projects' where people with the same or derived surnames can have investigated if apart from their common surname they also have common ancestors. By participating as a group one can be considered for a reduced price, moreover someone can come forward as 'group administrator', who is informed about all results and can act as a co-ordinator. When persons with equal surname match on 12 investigated markers they state that it is already for 99 % sure that they have a common ancestor. And with more investigated markers the certainty rises considerably. Of course only male namesakes are considered for such a project, as the investigation is based on the Y-DNA.

But the most fascinating aspect of the DNA-investigation is that from the results, the 'haplogroup' can be determined, which is the section of the population to which one belongs originally, since many thousands of years, and how that group migrated across the globe. That is the basis of the 'Genographic Project', a worldwide investigation of population migration, that is carried out in co-operation with 'National Geographic Magazine'. Once genetic relationship has been established, the haplogroup is applicable to all family members involved in male lines, and provides an insight into the roots and the vicissitudes of our earliest ancestors, from the origin of modern men, 200.000 years ago in Africa.

The execution of the investigation

I have entered a 'surname-project' with the name 'Van Staveren' and derived names 'Vanstaveren' and 'Staveren, van' and myself as 'group administrator'. Thereupon I have tried to find male representatives from different branches of the family who are prepared to make available a sample of their oral mucosa for the good cause. For privacy reasons it was agreed that only positive outcomes would be disclosed. The investigations are made on 37 markers.

The participants

The following persons have participated with a positive outcome:

Arie van Staveren.

Arie was born in 1947 and lives in Amsterdam. He is married to Karen Reinhardt, and they have one daughter, Claire Celina(1989).

Dick van Staveren

Dick was born in 1953 and lives in Capelle aan de IJssel. He is married to Helga Kooijman. They have two sons, Kees (1987) and Arnie (1991).

Herbert van Staveren

Herbert was born in 1956 and lived in Amsterdam. He was married to Anna ten Bruggencate. They had two daughters, Marie (1991) and Isabel (1995). Herbert passed away in 2014.

Ton van Staveren

Ton was born in 1945 and lives in Lopik. He is married to Caroline Verschore. They have three children, Pascal (1974), Nicole (1979) and Maurice (1983).

Roland van Staveren

Roland was born in 1953 and lives in Velp. He is married to Madeleine Louise Chandon. They have two adopted children, Carlos and Guus, twins born in 1984.


The results

The outcome gave the results we had secretly hoped for. Arie and Dick proved to match on all 37 investigated 'markers' and Herbert differed by only one point of the 37 markers from the others. Spontaneous mutations can occur, especially over a considerable number of generations. So the lines of these three participants to their 'MRCA', the 'Most Recent Common Ancestor', has genetically been proven. That MRCA is Arie van Staveren, born in 1801 at Moordrecht. But the crowning sensation was that both Ton and Roland showed an exact match on 37 markers. These two descend by a completely different line directly from Pieter van Staveren, the earliest known ancestor of our family. Pieter probably was born in 1683 at Zwammerdam, he married Adrijaantje Huiberts de Wilde in 1731 at Moordrecht and died there in 1757. They had five children, among them Arij Pietersz (1732-1810), forefather of Arie, Herbert and Dick, and Dirk (1748-1820), with whom the line of Ton and Roland begins. Consequently this Pieter is not only the 'Most Distant Ancestor', but also the 'Most Recent Common Ancestor' and therewith the whole descent is genetically confirmed. And, what makes this story so special, this Pieter inevitably must have had the same Y-DNA-profile that has been found with Arie, Dick, Herbert, Ton en Roland, apart from the small mutation in Herberts line. And his male descendants all have the same. It may safely be considered to be 'the' profile of this branch of the family

In the overview below Ton hasn't been inserted yet. His descent goes through the right-hand column till Jacobus (1889-1944), then his father Jacobus (1913-1996) follows and finally Ton himself.


Moreover, from these results it appears that in the lines from the MRCA to Dick, Arie, Herbert, Ton and Roland the 'recorded' genealogy matches completely with the biological, so no false conclusions have been drawn from the found documents and no children appear in these lines where the 'official' father is not the biological father.

For a good understanding of the results one can compare the DNA molecule with a sort of rope-ladder, twisted spirally. The ropes than represent the double helix of the DNA. In the Y-DNA investigation a number of specific 'steps' of that rope-ladder are analysed and these steps are the 'markers', indicated with their DYS-number. Each step is built up from a number of repeated 'building-stones', a DNA-string that repeats on a certain 'locus' or place. Such a building-stone is called 'allele' and the number of alleles for each DYS-number forms a piece of the genetic fingerprint. That number is called Short Tandem Repeat (STR). The more markers are investigated, the completer the fingerprint. With 37 markers a very reliable result is obtained.

Our early ancestors

The Haplogroup that has been established for the investigated persons, on the basis of their DNA-profile, is the group R1b1a2a1a1a4. That applies consequently to the whole Van Staveren family. From that the migration of our early ancestors across the globe can be reconstructed out of Africa, that is regarded as the origin of modern mankind. That migration must have proceeded more or less as follows:
  1. M168: 'Adam', our earliest ancestor, abt. 50.000 years ago
    He lived in North-east Africa in the environs of the Great Rift Valley, probably in the present-day Ethiopia, Kenya or Tanzania. After the African Ice Age the Sahara became hot and dry and the inhabitants followed the better weather and the animals they hunted in the northern direction.
  2. M89: The drift through the Middle-East, abt. 45.000 years ago
    The first people to leave Africa followed a way along the coasts, that ended finally in Australia. Our ancestors belonged to the second migration wave, that followed the vast stretches of grass and the plentiful quarry to the Middle-East through the present-day Iran and beyond.
  3. M9: The Eurasian clan spreads out, abt. 40.000 years ago
    The hardened hunters of this extensive lineage followed the herds ever further to the East over the vast Eurasian steppes. Finally they ran up against the massive chains of mountains of Southern Central Asia, the Hindu Kush, the Tian Shan and the Himalayas. The nodal point of these mountain-ridges, known as the 'Pamir Knot', lies in the present-day Tajikistan. Here the tribes split up in two groups, some travelled to the North into Central Asia, others went to the South to what is now Pakistan and India.
  4. M45: The journey through Central Asia, abt. 35.000 years ago
    Although there lived abundant big game, the Eurasian steppes became less hospitable when the glaciers of the Ice Age started to extend again. It became dryer and more desert-like, and our ancestors followed the wildlife in Northern direction.
  5. M207: Central Asia abandoned, abt. 30.000 years ago
    After having lived in Central Asia for a considerable time and having their skills to survive under unfavourable new circumstances further developed, new resources were tapped, and a group of this clan traveled to the West, on their way to the European subcontinent.
  6. M173: Entry into Europe, the first modern Europeans, abt. 30.000 years ago
    The coming of our forefathers into Europe meant the end of the era of the Neanderthaler, a human race that lived in Europe and parts of Western Asia from 230.000 till 29.000 years ago. Superior interchange of thoughts, weapons and richdom of resources probably enabled our ancestors to score off the Neanderthaler in the struggle for the limited necessities of life
  7. M343: Direct descendants of the Cro-Magnon, abt. 30.000 years ago
    About 30.000 years ago the marker M343, the determining marker of our haplogroup, developed with a descendant of the tribe that found its way to Europe. Our family descends in direct line from the Cro-Magnon, the people that ruled the human expansion in Europe. The Cro-Magnon are responsible for the famous rock-drawings in Southern France. These spectacular paintings furnished the archaeological evidence of a sudden flourishing of artistic skills when our ancestors entered Europe.

This is a brief summary of the outcome of the Genographic Project of National Geographic and IBM. Those who want to know more about it are referred to the website of the Genographic Project and to the complete report that can be read online or printed out at will.

How to proceed?

Is it useful that more members of the family apply for a test? I want to warn against it. The main lines from the 'common ancestor' to the participants in the investigation turned out to be correct, and everyone knows his relationship to those main lines. What new information could be the outcome of an individual test? A confirmation of the already known relationship or . . . a deviation. And a deviation can hardly mean anything else, than that in the line from the participant to the main line a paternity is not correct. And do we want to know that? When two first cousins don't match, grandma or one of the two mothers must have had, wittingly or unwittingly, a child of another man. That is no knowledge to cheer someone up, so I advise strongly against it. It's for that reason that I have carried out the tests as far as possible with persons where the common ancestor was at least five generations away. In case of a 'mismatch' the cause is impossibly to trace and nobody can be blamed.

However, for other branches of the Van Staveren family, where the relationship to our family is (still) unknown, participation in the 'Surname Project' can yield interesting complementary information. Who knows? Along genetic lines relationships can be shown that were not to be found in archives. Male namesakes if interested, can contact me or participate directly in the surname-project 'Van Staveren' and apply for a Y-DNA 37 test.


To conclude I wish to express my thanks to the participants in the investigation.

Gouda, May 2012

Peter Danz