Short summary: At least a few of us Cockburns (and perhaps many more) share a common ancestor with the main lineage of the Dunbar family. It is unclear (due to a lack of male Cockburn Y-DNA test results) what fraction of present-day Cockburns have this similarity. It is presently unclear whether Cockburns descend from Dunbars, or Dunbars descend from Cockburns, or that both families descend from a third common family. What is certain is that if you average together the Y-DNA test results of my five tested male Cockburns, who share a common Cockburn male ancestor in Stirling 1591 (found thanks to Tracy Trim's hard work with conventional records), then you end up with reconstructed Y-DNA that is identical to the reference Dunbar Y-DNA of that time.
This is an update to a few postings that I made back in the fall of 2007 and winter of 2008. In September 2007 I received the results of a Y-DNA test that I had ordered through the testing company Family Tree DNA. Y-DNA testing allows you to trace the genetic similarity of men only. The Y-DNA is passed mostly unchanged going from father to son. Every now and again, a son gets random (usually harmless) new mutations that are not present in their father. Starting with a distant male ancestor, the Y-DNA test of their descendants will tend to diverge in all possible ways. Consequently, close male cousins will have very similar Y-DNA, and very distant cousins will have more different Y-DNA. Men from different families will have very different Y-DNA.
Well back in September 2007 I discovered that my Y-DNA was very similar to dozens of other men of the Dunbar family (another family from the Scottish Borders). In the meantime I have had four other Cockburn men tested, and the results of a fifth male Cockburn are pending. The five available test results (which include me and my father) are all of the Dunbar pattern. You can see the available Cockburn results alone at:
Perhaps more interesting to see are how similar the available Cockburn test results are to the Dunbar test results. The Dunbar (and my Cockburn) results can be viewed at:
My results have been listed under Ysearch.org code P9PK5, and those of my father are under BXS4M. Note that we differ in only one mutation. The three other tested Cockburns are listed nearby under codes UQFVJ, 9YZC9 and WN4RR. These other Cockburns differ from me (and my father) in several more mutations because our most recent common male ancestors are much older.
I would very much wish to get in touch with any male Cockburns who would be willing to contribute their Y-DNA to this project. One top priority is to get test results for Cockburns who are descended from the Baronets of Cockburn. Their Y-DNA results would give us some "reference" Cockburn Y-DNA, which has a confirmed conventional pedigree going back to the Middle Ages. The more of these results that we can obtain, then the more accurately we will be able to reconstruct the Y-DNA of the earliest possible Cockburns, and thus be in a better position to determine more precisely the relationship between the Dunbar and Cockburn families.
I described the process of getting tested in my earlier postings. It is a painless procedure where you use plastic "rakes" to collect cells from the inside of your cheek. The plastic rakes are included in a test kit that is mailed to you by Family Tree DNA. The three resulting samples are then mailed back to the company by regular mail, and the test results are posted to a password protected website about six to eight weeks later. Your test results are never published with your actual name. Optionally, then can be posted under ysearch codes like the ones that I used above. (Ysearch.org is a public database where anonymous Y-DNA test results are exchanged by genetic genealogists.)
Please get in touch with me if you are interested in participating in this project, or if you would simply like to learn more about it. You might be eligible to have the testing done at no cost to you. I will pay for tests for individuals who would most directly advance the priorities of the Y-DNA Cockburn project.