A Breakthrough in Zachariah Dutton’s Paternal Ancestry

DNACousins, there’s been a breakthrough in DNA research toward identifying Zachariah Dutton’s paternal ancestry. Y-DNA research has uncovered evidence that Zachariah’s father may have been an O’Caine, of the same family as Judith O’Caine who married Matthew Dutton of Charles County, Maryland. This is still a speculation and not proof, but it is a significant advance over what we knew before. Here is an account of how we’ve come to this conclusion. Let me begin by giving a brief overview of the science involved in this discovery, and then the background of the research leading up to it. Finally, I will relate the recent developments that brought us to this discovery.


Overview of Y-DNA Research

Normal karyotype
Humans generally have 23 pairs of chromosomes: 22 pairs of autosomes and one pair of sex chromosomes.

Y-DNA is the DNA on the Y-chromosome, the sex chromosome that only males have. Sex chromosomes are the pair of chromosomes that all people have that determine their sex: Males have a Y-chromosome and an X-chromosome, while females have two X-chromosomes. When a child is conceived, a female receives an X-chromosome from both her mother and father, while a male receives an X-chromosome from his mother and his father’s Y-chromosome. This Y-chromosome — since the father received the same Y-chromosome from his father, and the grandfather from his father — is passed down mostly unchanged from father to son, and has been for millennia.

Because the Y-chromosome is passed down mostly intact, the Y-chromosome of a direct male patrilineal descendant of Zachariah Dutton (that is, through only the line of Dutton fathers to sons; his name will likely be Dutton) has the same Y-chromosome that Zachariah himself had — and that Zachariah also received from his father. We do not know who Zachariah’s father was, only that he was not a Dutton, since his Y-chromosome does not match the Y-chromosome of Mike Dutton or other patrilineal descendants of the Duttons of Charles County, Maryland. So identifying who else shares Zachariah’s Y-chromosome is a crucial task in discovering who his father was.

STRs (short tandem repeats) and SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms). (Prof. Mark Jobling, University of Leicester)

I said the Y-chromosome is passed down mostly intact. There is a type of common mutation called a short tandem repeat (STR) polymorphism, in which a sequence of repeating genes, in a section of DNA that does not actually code for anything useful but instead acts a place-marker, changes the number of times it repeats from a father to son. In the tables of genetic markers we view for Y-DNA, the numbers in each column are the Y-STRs. The fact that some patrilineal descendants of Zachariah Dutton have different values for some of these STRs indicates that there have been STR polymorphisms in the line. This mutation is not a cause for alarm: it is harmless. The mutation is random, but statistically, we can predict a small chance of an STR polymorphism at a given STR marker in each generation — and based on these statistics, estimate the number of generations that have passed between a descendant and an ancestor.

Zachariah Dutton’s Y-testers and their STRs.

Molecular lineage haplogroups
How STRs define haplogroups. (Wikimedia)
Macro y-haplogroups
The major human Y-chromosome haplogroups.

There is another type of DNA mutation that we pay attention to in Y-DNA research, called a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP, pronounced snip). This is a change in a gene in DNA that should not change. This is also random, but exceedingly rare, occurring only once in several thousand years. When a SNP occurs, an ancestor passes the same mutation to all his descendants — such that when a man tests positive for a particular SNP, he is almost certainly a descendant of the originating ancestor. Of course, this ancestor lived many thousands of years ago and no one knows his name, so this is not useful in itself genealogically; but the fact that only descendants of particular patrilineal lines have a given SNP means that we can classify all males into categories, called haplogroups, based on their SNPs. We can exclude men as sharing the same patrilineal line, or verify that they do, based on whether they share the same Y-SNPs and are members of the same haplogroup.

And that’s where this new progress in understanding Zachariah Dutton’s paternal ancestry comes in.

Zachariah Dutton’s Haplogroup

Because a Y-SNP proceeds from an ancestor to all his descendants, and because SNPs keep occurring over time, SNPs form a “family tree” or haplotree. One of our first discoveries about Zachariah Dutton’s paternal ancestry is that he falls into the haplogroup E1b1b1 (E-M35), a population group originating in ancient times in northern Africa, eastern Europe, and the Middle East. The fact that his Y-chromosome descends from this group means only that he had an ancestor in prehistoric times who lived in those places, not necessarily that any such ancestor came from that part of the world within a genealogical timeframe. This is in contrast to the most predominant haplogroup of western Europeans, R1b (R-M343) including the other Duttons of Charles County, Maryland, who presumably descended from English Duttons.

One of our Y-testers, Paul Dutton, had an additional test to his DNA done to determine the specific subclade of Zachariah’s Y-chromosome. This test revealed he was haplogroup E-M78, a subclade of E-V68. For about ten years, this was where we left it. We had no family to even try to connect to, not even a direction to look in, so it seemed we were at a dead end.

Eupedia E1b1b tree
The E1b1b haplotree (Eupedia). We knew early on that Zachariah was E-M35; a deep clade test soon confirmed that he was E-M78.

The Cain Connection

When we look at the Y-DNA results of men who have tested, we receive a list of other men in Family Tree DNA’s database whose Y-STRs match the tester, with the total number of differences between the tester’s STRs and the match — that is, how many times more or less the STRs repeat, or how many mutations there have been since the two’s shared common ancestor. Based on this number, the genetic distance, FTDNA offers a statistical estimate of the number of generations back the common ancestor of the two was.

Sample Y-DNA results
A sample page from our Y-DNA STR results from Family Tree DNA.

For a number of years, I’ve noticed several matches in the results of our Y-testers with the surname Cain. I remember even someone years ago bringing this to my attention as possibly significant — but because the genetic distance between was so great, seven or more steps, indicating only about a 40 percent chance that we shared a common ancestor within 8 generations (but a 94 percent chance that we shared a common ancestor within the past 16) — I dismissed it. This was too long ago to help in determining who Zachariah Dutton’s father was, likely before even the origin of surnames.

Y-DNA TiP report
A Y-DNA TiP report, showing the estimated number of ancestors between our Dutton tester and one of the Cains.

Then in January, when I returned to genealogy and to DNA research with a renewed focus, I happened upon a post from someone on a Dutton message board that upset me. We have always suspected that Zachariah Dutton had a connection to the family of Matthew Dutton, because Zachariah named a son Gerrard, and Matthew Dutton’s father-in-law, the father of his wife Judith O’Caine, was Gerrard O’Caine. For a while, until Y-DNA disproved it, I speculated that Matthew’s son Gerrard Dutton was Zachariah’s father. This post alleged that Gerrard Dutton was actually Judith O’Caine’s brother Gerrard O’Caine Jr., of whom Matthew Dutton became the guardian following Gerrard O’Caine Sr.’s death, Gerrard Jr. having adopted the Dutton name — and Zachariah, his son, “wasn’t a Dutton at all,” but an O’Caine. Most offensively, this person went so far as to rename Zachariah and all of his descendants: not Zachariah Dutton, but Zachariah O’Caine, William O’Caine, Edmond O’Caine, etc.

This was hogwash, of course. Y-DNA had proved that Gerrard Dutton son of Matthew was indeed Matthew’s son, since Mike Dutton claims Gerrard as an ancestor, and he matches the Y-DNA of descendants of Matthew by other lines. It also proved that Zachariah was not the son of Gerrard Dutton. But this nonetheless got me to thinking about this O’Caine allegation. What if there’s something to do this? We do keep seeing these Cains in the Y-DNA results…

What if these Cains we keep matching with were kin to the O’Caines? It kept nagging me to look into testing the Y-DNA of some other descendant of Gerrard O’Caine, but by all appearances, there weren’t any. His will only identified the one son, Gerrard Jr., and the estate proceedings of Gerrard Jr., who died in 1734, don’t appear to name any heirs at all (I have only seen abstracts). The prospects of finding an O’Caine whose DNA to test didn’t seem likely.

But the fact that I was neglecting was that our Dutton Y-testers matching these Cains might have been significant even if they didn’t share an immediate common ancestor. Even if their common ancestor was somewhere far back in the mists of time, even a thousand years ago, he could still help identify the family to which Zachariah Dutton’s father did belong. In the case of the O’Caines, these Cains and Gerrard O’Caine of Charles County, Maryland, could share a common ancestor, even if we cannot find a confirmed descendant of Gerrard O’Caine to test.

Clan O’Caine

Especially with the Irish, whose strong family identification with clans went back more than a thousand years, surnames could certainly have had such an early origin and could persist over such a length of time. Could we possibly know to what clan the family of Gerrard O’Caine belonged?

To know that with certainty is probably not possible without written documentation or without a descendant to test, but we can speculate. I decided to check to see if there was a FTDNA surname project for O’Caines, or if there was any way to compare the Y-DNA of any other O’Caines who have tested.

Cain DNA Project
The Cain DNA Project.

There is a Cain-Caine Surname Project, which includes the name O’Caine. And the first thing I discovered almost had me falling out of my seat: there is a Clan O’Keane or O’Caine (Ó Catháin Uí Fiachrach) of Connemara and County Mayo Ireland who are Haplogroup E, same as Zachariah Dutton.

More specifically, they are the very specific haplogroup E-L17, a subclade of E-V13 whose population centers in the Balkans of eastern Europe — which is a subclade of the haplogroup E-M78 Zachariah was already confirmed to be a part of. If we could confirm we are E-L17, too, and otherwise come close to matching these Cains in STRs, then there’s a very strong argument that his father could have been an O’Caine.

Before I realized this, I had already ordered a detailed a Y-SNP panel on Paul Dutton, to determine our specific subclade of E-M78, mostly out of curiosity. Suddenly receiving these results became urgent, and for the past six weeks or so I’ve waited with bated breath.

Those results came back Saturday night. Zachariah is in fact E-L17.

E-V13 tree
Haplotree of E-V13 (continued from E-M215 above), showing E-L17 (Eupedia).

Haplogroup E-V13 (Eupedia)
Population distribution of E-V13, parent haplogroup to E-L17 (Eupedia).

What this means

There is a very strong chance that Zachariah Dutton’s father was an O’Caine, of the same O’Caines as Judith O’Caine wife of Matthew Dutton. There is no proof of this, since we have no proof that Gerrard O’Caine was in fact of this same Clan O’Caine that we are matching. But we do now know that there is a Clan O’Caine of haplogroup E-L17, the same as Zachariah Dutton’s confirmed haplogroup, and that we already match known descendants of this clan in STRs within nearly a genealogical timeframe.

Zachariah Dutton’s haplotype compared to Cains.

This revelation may answer one question, but it raises numerous others, and it may dash the whole framework of speculation we’ve been making about Zachariah thus far. What O’Caine was Zachariah’s father? We believe Gerrard O’Caine Jr. died in 1734, ending Gerrard O’Caine’s line. We have speculated that Zachariah Dutton was not born until about 1750. Is it possible that he was 16 years or more older than we thought? Technically yes, but it would mean he was over 40 when he served in the American Revolution, over 40 when he married and began having children, over 60 when his youngest child was born, and pushing 100 when he died in 1829. Alternately, we do know that Gerrard O’Caine Sr. apparently had other brothers and nephews who could have fathered Zachariah.

More dire is that this could upset everything we thought we knew about how Zachariah Dutton connects to the Duttons. I have been speculating all along that Zachariah’s mother must have been a Dutton, and he probably was born illegitimate. There is now no necessity of that. The reason for assuming his mother was a Dutton was because we had autosomal matches with other descendants of the Charles County Duttons. But because his father may have been an O’Caine, these matches with the Duttons could be through his father’s line, since all surviving lines of Charles County Duttons are descendants of Matthew Dutton and Judith O’Caine, so have both Dutton and O’Caine DNA. Zachariah could be simply adopted by some Dutton, and not have Dutton blood at all.

So we may have gained a father for Zachariah, but lost a mother. There is no documentary evidence for either, only speculation based on DNA. Zachariah’s mother still could have been a Dutton. But this adds another layer to the difficult questions we were seeking to answer from autosomal DNA. It was already concerning to me that our autosomal matches with Mike Dutton and other Charles County Duttons were relatively few and distant, suggesting that our connection was not so close as I had speculated. This needs to bear some deeper statistical analysis. I need your help: the more of you can test and share your DNA, the more information we can gather to look into these questions.

There may be no way to sort this out from DNA alone. To prove anything, we need documentary proof. We need to look into both the Dutton family and the O’Caine family in records in Charles County, Maryland. Until I can go dig into the records myself, I will continue working on the DNA. This is progress, but it is not easy progress. It is one large step forward into the unknown.

Matilda Dutton Bass: Doubts and Questions

I’ve been working on a lengthy and detailed post about establishing firm dates and birth order for the children of Zachariah Dutton Sr., based on the available sources. The first time that post was derailed by Zachariah Dutton Jr. and the stunning revelation about his slaveholding. Now it’s been derailed again by the same family. Here is the problem.

Matilda Dutton

1790 Census, Charles County, Maryland: Zachariah Dutton
Zachariah Dutton on the 1790 U.S. Census, Charles County, Maryland, page 17. He listed as 1 white male over 16, 5 white males under 6, 2 white females over 16, and 3 slaves.

We have always assumed, since Darlene Cole’s early speculation sheet on which I based my own research, that Matilda Dutton, daughter of Zachariah Dutton Sr., was his oldest child, born ca. 1774/75. In the 1790 census listing for Zachariah in Charles County, Maryland, there are two females over the age of 16, one presumably his wife and one an older daughter.

Matilda Dutton at Zachariah Dutton estate sale
Matilda Dutton’s purchases at Zachariah Dutton’s estate sale: 1 quart jug, 1 old walnut table, 1 blue cupboard, 1 bed quilt.

Little is known about Matilda Dutton. She appears in the list of buyers at the sale of Zachariah’s estate in 1829. I always imagined an older lady in her fifties, a spinster who never married. In 1830 Matilda has her own census listing in Granville County, North Carolina:

Matilda Dutton
1 free white male under 5
1 free white female 10-15
2 free white females 20-30
1 free white female 60-70
1830 NC Granville: Matilda Dutton
1830 federal census of Granville County, North Carolina, showing Matilda Dutton.

And it was this that caused me to pause. I reasoned, and it felt a little like a stretch, that the older lady between ages 60 and 70 (born ca. 1760-70) was Matilda, though this is a bit old for her. She should have been born, at the earliest, ca. 1774. The other females in the household were two women aged 20-30 and one girl aged 10-15. Surely the older lady is the head of household, I thought?

And then my eyes fell on the name two lines above: Henry Bass.

I had a sinking feeling. Uh oh.

Matilda Dutton Bass

Elijah Bass Cherokee application, page 4
Elijah Bass’s Eastern Cherokee application, the next page, naming Matilda Dutton’s parents as Zachariah and Mary.

As I’ve written previously, it was only through DNA evidence that we discovered the family of Matilda Dutton, who married Elijah Bass in about 1835 and moved to Ohio and eventually Wisconsin. The DNA — numerous, repeated matches between our Duttons in Alabama, North Carolina, Louisiana, and Texas and the descendants of Matilda Dutton Bass — certainly indicates she was a descendant of Zachariah Dutton. The document tying her to the family names the parents of Matilda Dutton as Zachariah Dutton and Mary Dutton.

Matilda Dutton Bass was born in about 1807 in North Carolina, per the 1850 census. Surely, then, her father must be Zachariah Dutton Jr., who moved to Brunswick County, North Carolina, about 1810 and then disappeared, rather than Zachariah Sr., who was surely done having children by 1807. I made this connection without much thought, and was overjoyed to have reconnected a “lost” line of the family.

A few things don’t add up, though. In the 1810 census of Brunswick County, Zachariah Jr. lists a son under the age of 10, not a daughter. Perhaps her birthdate is off by a few years, I thought, and she was actually born after 1810; perhaps it’s simply a mistake. Then, in researching the Basses, I realized that the Bass family hailed from Granville County, North Carolina, same as the Duttons — which left me to wonder how the infant daughter of Zachariah Dutton Jr. came to be back in Granville County to meet her husband. Perhaps, an orphan, she went to live with her grandfather’s family?

Having to speculate bothered me. Even as I was writing the other post, it occurred to me: What if we have the wrong Matilda Dutton? I pushed the thought aside, until writing the birth order post, I was struck: Matilda Dutton on the 1830 census lived near Basses.

Oh, I thought. Maybe the Duttons had been acquainted with the Basses for a long time, and that’s how the other Matilda Dutton met her husband. But then it sank in deeper, and serious questions started to form.

What is there isn’t an “other” Matilda Dutton? What if Matilda Dutton Bass was actually Matilda Dutton, daughter of Zachariah Sr., much younger than we thought she was? Do we really have any evidence that she was Zachariah Jr.’s daughter, or that he even had a daughter? Let us examine some of the questions at issue.


  1. How sure are we that Matilda Dutton was the oldest child of Zachariah Sr.? The truth is, not at all. This is an assumption based on several facts that have more than one interpretation: the existence of the second female older than 16 in Zachariah’s household on the 1790 census, and the listing of Matilda as the first child in Zachariah’s will. The first one is a guess; the second one is possibly not even significant. As I’ll detail in the birth order article, it’s difficult to follow Matilda through the 1810 and 1820 censuses: if she were an old maid born ca. 1774/75, she was apparently not living in her father’s household then. All we can say with any certainty, from Zachariah’s will and estate, is that Matilda Dutton lived to adulthood and was apparently unmarried in 1829.

  2. How sure are we that Zachariah Dutton didn’t have children by second wife Judith Parrish? The answer is, again, not very. I’ve always simply assumed, based on an apparent “prenuptial agreement” between Zachariah and Judith found in the court records of Granville County, that the two did not plan to have children together. I don’t have the actual text, and think I’ve only ever actually seen an abstract, but the gist seems to be that at their deaths, the children of each spouse’s first marriage, Zachariah’s by his first wife and Judith’s by her first husband Claiborne Parish, would get the property belonging to their respective parents. This arrangement would only complicate things if they expected there to be children by the second marriage, and there is no evidence of any provision for this in Zachariah’s will or the proceedings of his estate. In fact, there does not seem to be any provision at all for Zachariah’s second wife Judith or her children. Which leads to the next question…

  3. How sure are we that Judith survived Zachariah? The answer, again, is not really at all. I always assumed she did, since she was apparently younger, or perhaps I didn’t pay much attention. But she does not seem to be present at the time of Zachariah’s death. Indeed, there seems to be no trace of her in Zachariah’s estate proceedings. Neither Judith nor her children were buyers in the sale of the estate. She is not mentioned in either the will or any other estate record. This has bearing on the next question…

  4. Who is the older lady, aged 60-70, living in the household of Matilda Dutton on the 1830 census? I’ve always assumed it was Matilda herself, with the date fudged slightly: if our assumption that she was the oldest child were correct, she would be about 56. When I began to question this assumption, I wondered if maybe the older lady were not Zachariah Dutton’s widow, Judith Parrish Dutton — Matilda’s stepmother, or, if it turned out that Matilda was younger than we think, her mother. Judith otherwise, according to the 1800 census, appears to have been born between 1756 and 1774 — that is, if she were alive in 1830, between 56 and 74. Whether or not she was alive in 1830 is therefore an important question.

  5. Could Judith Parrish Dutton even have more children? How old would she have been when she and Zachariah married? If she was born between 1756 and 1774, she would have been between ages 24 and 42. This date could probably be clarified if we knew the birthdates of her sons, but we don’t. If Matilda Dutton Bass was born in 1807, then Judith would be between 33 and 51 when she was born — the older age pushing past the limits of her possibly being Matilda’s mother.

  6. How sure are we that the Matilda Dutton who bought in Zachariah Dutton’s estate and is listed on the 1830 census is the daughter of Zachariah Sr.? We aren’t really, but it seems a reasonable assumption. We can’t tell anything from this about the buyer’s age. It is entirely possible that Matilda Dutton the buyer is a younger woman, or even that she is Zachariah’s granddaughter rather than his daughter.

  7. How sure are we that Matilda Dutton Bass is the daughter of Zachariah Dutton Jr. and not Zachariah Dutton Sr.? The answer depends almost entirely on how we answer these preceding questions. If we can accept as fact that Zachariah and Judith were not going to have children together, then Matilda Dutton Bass, born ca. 1807, could not have been the daughter of Zachariah Sr. If she were the daughter of Zachariah Sr., then her mother would have been Judith Parrish, and Elijah Bass Jr. was wrong in his statement that his grandparents’ names were Zachariah and Mary (granted, he probably never knew his grandparents). The truth is we don’t have any evidence besides this assumption that Zachariah Dutton Jr. even had a daughter named Matilda, or that there even were two Matilda Duttons.

    If we can accept that the older lady in the household of Matilda Dutton in 1830 is Matilda Dutton, then all our assumptions about her being the oldest daughter of Zachariah Dutton Sr. hold firm and Matilda Dutton Bass is probably the daughter of Zachariah Dutton Jr. If the older lady is not Matilda Dutton, then one of the younger ladies aged 20-30 must be — and she may the Matilda Dutton who married Elijah Bass.

There may not be any way to work out these questions with certainty. We are already treading on a paper-thin documentary trail connecting Matilda Dutton Bass to this family at all. And the DNA evidence involves so much randomness as to be inconclusive: matches between Bass descendants and the rest of the Duttons range between 20 and 60 centiMorgans, and seem to be largely unaffected by generational levels or the fact that some cousins are “double-descended” from more than one line of Duttons. My personal opinion is that the matches ought to be stronger than this if it were four generations and not five between the Bass cousins who tested and Zachariah Dutton, but this is entirely subjective.

It appears possible from the DNA that Bass descendants might have Parrish in their ancestry, which they would if Judith Parrish were their ancestor, but the matches that suggest this are neither very consistent nor very conclusive. There were a lot of Parrishes in Granville County, who might have intermarried with the Basses or Duttons, or for all we know, Zachariah Dutton Jr.’s wife was a Parrish. The matches who have Parrish ancestry could have Bass ancestry too, or any other connection is possible, with families who lived in the same county for generations.

Without any additional evidence, I am inclined to leave things as they are, with Matilda Dutton Bass the supposed daughter of Zachariah Dutton Jr., whose wife was apparently named Mary. But I wanted to be frank about this uncertainty. There is more than one way to interpret this evidence.