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Morrill, Morrell, Morrel DNA Project

DNA tests have been available since at least 1999 as a tool in genealogy. For most chromosomes, the DNA of the father and the mother combine to form a unique combination in each child. However, since the mother has no Y chromosome, a son's Y chromosome is more-or-less a carbon copy of the father's Y chromosome. The father's is in turn a carbon copy of the grandfathers, and so on. When testing for the presence of certain genetic markers, we find fairly wide variations between families but almost no variation within a family. Thus two men who share a common ancestor through an unbroken chain of male ancestors will have the same Y DNA signature. There is a chance of a mutation every few generations, but the changes are gradual and easily accounted for. Since surnames also follow along with the men, Y DNA studies are also surname studies.

I have been administering the study of the surnames Morrill, Morrell, Morrel, and related names since 2004. Many family members have been generous enough to get themselves tested and share their results. What we have found through this type of testing is that our extended family is not derived from a single ancestral stock. Rather, several independent families have emerged from Europe with similar or identical surnames. The distinct families that we have found so far are as follows.

  • Abraham Morrill of Salisbury, Massachusetts and his brother Isaac, who are believed to have emmigrated from the area of Essex, England to Puritan Massachusetts in 1632.
  • John Morrell of Kittery, Maine, who was a Quaker. There is at least circumstantial evidence that he was of Irish descent. Jacob Sawyer Morrill, whose father is unknown, is decended from John.
  • Thomas Morrell who came to Long Island, New York in about 1646. Although this area was principally a Dutch colony, he lived in a town of Englishmen founded by Lady Deborah Moody and is believed to be of English descent. Several of his descendents were loyal to the English during the American Revolution, and were forced to flee New York for Canada when the British troops withdrew. Many Canadian Morrells are of this line.
  • James Morrell is found in New Brunswick, Canada, in the early 1800s. We had all assumed he was somehow related to the New York loyalists, but surprisingly he represents a new lineage and may instead have emmigrated directly to Canada from England.
  • Reece Vandever Morrel derives from South Carolina shortly after the American Revolution. His haplotype suggests a Scandanavian or Eastern European ancestry.

We are still looking for more participants. If your lineage has hit a brick wall, you may be able to narrow down your search by placing yourself into one of these distinct family lines. And who knows, you may end up finding a whole new branch of the family, as happened with the Morrells of New Brunswick.

We have been using the testing kits from Family Tree DNA. When you order a kit, you are sent a cotton swab in a tube. You rub the swab on the inside of your cheeks and send it back to them. There are various costs depending on how many markers you want them to test. The results generally take six to eight weeks to get back, though it may take longer if they get an inconsistent result and feel the need to run the test again. If you purchase the kits through the surname study, the kits are generally less expensive.

  • 12 marker Y-DNA test $99 + postage
  • 25 marker Y-DNA test $148 + postage (the only way to get this kit is through the surname study)
  • 37 marker Y-DNA test $189 + postage
  • 67 marker Y-DNA test $269 + postage

Most folks should be ordering the 25 or 37 marker Y-DNA kit. Feel free to contact me if you are interested in participating. If you are ready to order the test kit, visit the Family Tree DNA Morrill Surname page. Once the results are back, I can help you interpret the results and tell you what all the numbers mean.


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