The Mallett Surname DNA Study got underway in 2003 with about 6 participants. It has since grown to 64 members, clustered into several different family groups, and many lone wolves not, apparently, related to anyone else in the group. The study involves an analysis of the Y-chromosome, carried only by males, that is passed from father to son (along with the surname) with, usually, no change. Mutations do occur over time however, and there are known mutation rates that allow one family to differentiate itself from another.
The Malet surname is one of a very few surnames that has been in existence for 1000 years or more. This opens the door to possibilities not open to other surname studies in that we can look for a common ancestor anywhere within the last 1000 years, but it is difficult to declare with certainty that two or more individuals are related over such a long period of time, and next to impossible to prove in a genealogical sense. Most studies are looking for common ancestors "within a genealogical time frame" which is to say within a period of time in which it is possible to find documentary evidence of a relationship. Since it is highly unlikely that any documentary evidence exists earlier than the 16th century, if that, then "genealogical time frame" really means 500 years ago or less. The genealogical time frame for this study is no different than any other, but since the Malet name has been in existence for twice as long as that, we do allow for the possibility that, based on the DNA evidence, there might be a relationship between 2 otherwise unrelated lines within the last 1000 years.
Why a DNA study?
"Genealogy by DNA" has become an indespensible tool of the Genealogist. It is not meant to replace traditional methods of research, but rather to supplement them. It can:
- Confirm that 2 family groups are related where the traditional paper evidence is suspect or weak.
- Establish a timeframe in which to look for traditional evidence when this is not well understood or unknown.
- Suggest the type of records that one might seek to prove a relationship: if the DNA evidence shows that the common ancestor for two family groups lived prior to the time when BDM records were systematically kept, for instance, the only evidence available might be a will.
- Prove that a relationship exists even though no traditional evidence has been found, or is likely to be found, because the records needed to prove the relationship in the traditional way simply do not exist.
Autosomal DNA testing as provided by Ancestry (AncestryDNA), Family Tree DNA (Family Finder), and others have become the go to DNA test for most people, mostly because anyone, male or female can utilize them, and because they tend to be less expensive than Y-DNA tests. But, autosomal tests have limitations. Because they analyse all of a person's chromosomes they will identify relationships to everyone in a person's lineage; mother, father, grandparents and so on, because a portion of all of one's ancestors' DNA will be present in the tester's DNA. As one goes further up the tree the amount of DNA inherited from any particular ancestor becomes diluted, as can be seen in the following diagram. Because of this, it can be difficult (not impossible) to determine conclusively the nature of a relationship between two testers.
Because Y-DNA only anaylyses one chromosome, and one that doesn't change much over time, when a match is found between two testers, there isn't any doubt about the relationship. One can see in the accompanying diagram that only the male line is followed.
This test is particularly useful when we know that the common ancestor is quite far back in time, even as far back as 1000 years, which is what the Mallett DNA study is attempting to do.
- To identify the haplotype of a given branch of the Mallett family, while at the same time looking for similarities with other branches of the larger Mallett family group.
- To identify a timeframe in which a common ancestor existed for apparently different branches of the family, using currently accepted Y-DNA mutation rates and years per generation, and to develop an ancestral haplotype for those groups.
- To prove, or disprove, as the case may be, the theory held by many Mallett researchers that all Malet/Mallet/Mallett/Malettes etc., regardless of the particular spelling of their name today, and whether or not their forebears came from England, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Spain, or elsewhere, descend from the Norman Barons known to have carried the Malet surname in Normandy, France, at the time of William of Normandy's Conquest of England in 1066 and before.