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Genealogy project identifies family’s genetic group

Arbroath Abbey

Thirty people have been identified as descendants of an ancient Scottish family, after its specific genetic group was identified in a genealogy research project run at the University of Strathclyde.

The group has been identified for the Boyd family, which includes Earls of Kilmarnock and which was first recorded in Irvine, North Ayrshire, in 1205.

The discovery has been made as part of the Declaration of Arbroath Family History Project, which is seeking descendants of the historic document’s ‘signatories’, to coincide with its 700th anniversary next year.

A member of the family, London-based architect Tim Boyd, was invited to take a Y-DNA test by the researchers. He was already documented as a descendant of Gilbert Hay, Constable of Scotland, who was named in the 1320 Declaration which asserted Scottish sovereignty. He was also known to be a male line descendant of Sir Robert Boyd of Noddsdale, who, while not a signatory of the Declaration, was a prominent supporter of King Robert the Bruce.

Members of Boyd families who have already taken a Y-DNA test, or are planning to take one, will be able to discover whether they are descended from the 13th-century family.

Graham Holton, a Lead Tutor in Strathclyde’s Genealogy Staff Team, said: “The genetic group we have identified forms part of R-U198 and several more specific genetic markers have also been identified via advanced testing.

“They distinguish this notable family from others of the Boyd surname, some of whom have a very interesting male ancestry of African origin, belonging to another genetic group, A-M32.”

As well as being descended from two prominent figures during the period of the Scottish Wars of Independence, Mr Boyd has other notable people in his ancestry. They include William Boyd, 4th Earl of Kilmarnock (1705-1746), whose wife was a descendant of Gilbert Hay, and who supported Bonnie Prince Charlie in the 1745 Jacobite rising. After the Battle of Culloden in 1746, in which his son, James, fought on the victorious Government side, the Earl was captured and subsequently beheaded.

James Boyd later became Earl of Erroll and, as a result, took on the name of Hay. In 1941, his direct descendant, Josslyn Hay, 22nd Earl of Erroll was the victim of a notorious murder case in Kenya, which became the subject of the 1988 film White Mischief.

Mr Holton said: “Around 30 of the members of the Boyd Y-DNA project now know that they belong to the Boyds of Kilmarnock. Scotland is now unfamiliar territory to most of these, since almost all of them live in North America or Ireland, but it remains part of their heritage.”

The research was carried out in co-operation with the R-U198 haplogroup project and the Boyd Y-DNA project.

Find out more about the Declaration of Arbroath Family History Project

The Centre for Lifelong Learning offers a range of postgraduate courses in genealogy. The courses, intended for people with an interest in and experience of the subject, have been developed by academics and genealogy professionals to provide a thorough grounding in the theory and practice of genealogical research, family history, records, archives and heraldry. Find out more