Before Ireland


List of Names

 Before Ireland, the DNA Evidence and the Connection with the I-BY184065 Haplogroup ("Augusta/Washington Co.") Berry Family in the USA


 A Tribute to Carol Vass

(Last changed on 6 November 2023)

Dr. Lorton Wilson investigated the origins of the name Berry in Ireland, and the  the following references are of interest. The earliest record of the name that he was able trace was in 1406, when Henry IV in Letters Patent granted to John Berry (aka Gilbery O’Coyng) that he and all his issue might enjoy the Laws of England.  (See and scroll down to #85).

 In the Close Rolls he found an instrument of 29 Oct. 1422 by which Richard Nugent, Baron Delvin, the son of John Tuite, William Nugent and John Nugent, Chaplain, became sureties under the penalty of £100 that John Berry should not do any bodily injury to Robert Westeill.

 On 26 Nov. 1473, William Berry proved in the Diocese of Dublin the will of Thomasine, his wife.

 Letters Patent of 10 May 1476 show that the King, Edward IV, with the consent of William, Bishop of Meath, Deputy to George Duke of Clarence, Lieutenant of Ireland, granted to the said Bishop, to Sir Roland FitzEustace, Chancellor of Ireland, Christopher Nugent, Baron Delvin, Philip Birmingham … Walter Piers … William Berry and others that they might found a certain brotherhood or gild of the glovers’ art in the city of Dublin, to be called the Brotherhood Gild of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Lorton Wilson concluded that no one with the name Berry received a grant of Crown Lands, nor does the name appear in grants under the Acts of Settlement, Certificates of the Court of Claims, Certificates for Adventurers, Soldiers etc., adjudications in favour of Officers of 1649, Certificates of Converts nor the Convert Rolls.

The first Berry of my "Eglish family" line for whom there is unequivocal documentary evidence is Thomas Berry who settled in Knockerville Townland, Westmeath in the Parish of Killucan, Ireland. His origin was unknown until recently and his d.o.b. was estimated to have been c.1675, based on the date of birth of his first son, John in c. 1702. ( I now favour a slightly earlier estimate of c.1670 for reasons explained below). Thomas was still alive in 1730, but no record of him has been found after that. 

Family legend asserts descent from the Berry family of Berrynarbor, Devon (see and the arms of two members of my Irish Berry family have incorporated the ‘or three bars gu’, of that family .  However, this is not supported by the available DNA evidence (discussed below).

Because documentary evidence directly linking my Irish ancestors and their antecedents may no longer exist, I have tried to trace living male Berrys with a documented link to the Devon Berry family in order to compare their Y-chromosome DNA with mine. Bearing in mind that the Berrynarbor family apparently went extinct in the male line with the death of Thomas Berry in 1708, I have had to rely on what appear to be cadet branches of the early Berrynarbor family. The first person that I was able to trace, with the assistance of Leonard Smith of Porthcawl, lived at Swimbridge, Devon and  Donald Berry, with a pedigree in the Swimbridge family that can be traced to at least c. 1560, has tested with the Berry Family DNA Project (kit #106697). However, instead of matching my I1 (I-M253) haplotype, Donald’s haplotype is R1b1b2 (R-M269) .  In 2013 I discovered another Berry family with an eight generation history in Holcombe Regis, Devon which also claims descent from the original Berrynarbor family via the Chittlehampton branch. David John Berry of this line has now joined the Berry Family DNA Project ( kit #251688), but his haplotype is I2b1 (I-M223), which matches no others tested in the Berry DNA Project thus far. In 2019 I was contacted by Ronald G. Berry who is I-FTB80197 and has a family tree that links to the early Devon Berry family, but no recent history in Devon.  His and my STR and SNP  results show  that our families are unrelated.  Similarly, John Berry (kit #203553) who lives in the UK and has a Scottish ancestry, is also unrelated to me, despite being I-M253.  At this stage there are at least three genetically unrelated Berry families with a long, well-documented, history in Devon, as well as other families, including mine, Ronald's, a family from Gartross, N. Ireland and two other FTDNA Berry Project participants (kit #251688 and #IN47769) who claim descent from the ancient Berry family from Berrynarbor, Devonshire.  The Gartross family descendant (kit#572288) is haplogroup E-M35.  Which, if any, of these families are actually descended from it remains unresolved, but it seems most likely that the famous  Berry family (originally de Berry in the 12th C.)  had a Norman origin.  I am now convinced that the legend of descent of my  family from the famous Berry family of Devon is a fiction  that originated  when  James Middleton Berry applied for confirmation of Arms in 1848. 

 Most American researchers have concluded that our Berry family has  Scots -Irish origins in view of the extensive migration of lowland Scots to Ireland in the 17thC.  There is indisputable genetic evidence (Y-DNA) of a close relationship of my “Eglish Berry” family with the “Augusta/Washington Co.” Berry family  of the USA, for which there is good documentary evidence that some early members were Presbyterians.  However, to my knowledge, no primary documentary evidence has ever been found (despite efforts of many investigators) that proves that the “Founder” American ancestors, James and John Berry, or my Irish ancestor, Thomas Berry, were of Scots-Irish decent. The surname Berry does not appear on the lists of Scottish surnames contained on Muster Rolls and Estate Maps of the eight Plantation Counties of Ulster for the period 1607 - 1633, which was the initial phase of the plantation scheme . (However, the name is recorded in the late 18th Century)4. According to Pritchard 2 (1999) "Presbyterianism was not restricted to Scotland. Nationally, Presbyterians were the strongest non-conformist group in England in the early 18th C, with 637 congregations and some 180,000 members (3.3% of the population). Protestant non-conformist views were particularly strong in Devon where the first Presbyterian congregations date from 1662. Plymouth was also an important staging-point for non-conformists emigrating to the American colonies, who joined local congregations whilst waiting for a ship". The possibility therefore cannot be discounted that, on arrival in America from Ireland, along with thousands of Scots-Irish Presbyterians, James and John Berry may just have joined the most acceptable Protestant church available in the predominantly Scots-Irish settler community in which they found themselves. My Thomas Berry ancestor, who remained in Ireland, was certainly a member of the Church of Ireland. If the James Berry who was recorded as  a communicant in the Vestry Minutes of the Killucan Church in 1703 was indeed Thomas' cousin (see below) and one of the two "founders' of the American branch of the family, he too was apparently originally Church of Ireland. 

This does not preclude contemporary generations of our American Berry family from having a Scottish heritage; autosomal DNA testing shows that most do, but it would be through their maternal lineages because the early generations of American Berry men tended to marry within the largely Scots/Irish settler community in which they lived; e.g marriages to Hall, MaGill, Buchanan 1.

The Link Between the “Eglish Berry” family Line and the I-BY184065 (I-M253) Haplogroup ( “Augusta/Washington Co.”)  Berry Family of the USA

The earliest known ancestors of the Augusta/Washington Co. line are a James Berry, thought by American researchers1 to have been born in Ireland, (c. 1690 – aft. May 1756), and a John Berry, also probably born in Ireland, (c. 1695 – 1770/71). Y-DNA STR results  show that James Berry had a close family relationship with John Berry. (A detailed analysis of the relationship and dates of James and John Berry is given  by Jackson et al.1 ).  Descendants of these two "founders" can be found in Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas, Oregon, Arkansas, Louisiana, Indiana, Iowa and Illinois. Several 8 th generation "Eglish Berry" descendants (including myself), and descendants of both James and John, have a genetic distance (GD) = 2,  tested on 111 markers, a remarkable degree of matching all things considered, and indisputable evidence of a relatively recent common ancestor. (See charts and tables at the bottom of the page for a summary of STR genetic distances and time to most recent ancestor. ) This genetic relationship has  been confirmed and enhanced by SNP testing. Based on 17 Big-Y  tests, I- BY184065 has now been established as the "signature" SNP of our Irish Berry family.

The ‘window’ in time for the most recent common ancestor to have lived is fairly narrow and I think that the following are the two most plausible hypotheses:- The first is that the American James Berry  (c. 1690 Ireland – c. 1756 Virginia, USA) and John Berry (c. 1695 Ireland – 1772  Augusta Co. USA) were brothers of my “Eglish” family  Thomas.  (See diagram below). If so, Thomas would be the oldest brother which would fit with his ability to buy land at Knockerville Townland in Co. Westmeath – he obviously had some financial means. His younger brothers may well have gone to America to seek their fortunes. The sudden arrival of my Thomas Berry in Westmeath and his acquisition of land there suggests that he was a newcomer to the district. Until recently I had been unable to trace any records for Thomas or his wife Elizabeth (Dames) in Ireland prior to 1703. The only documentary evidence I am aware of for a possible familial connection is between Thomas and James Berry. There  are two records of a James Berry as a communicant in May and August of 1703 at the Killucan Church, where Thomas was a parishioner. In a third (undated, but of the same period) record in the Killucan Vestry minutes James Berry is also recorded as a donor in a collection for the Episcopal Clergy of Scotland. Perhaps James was visiting Thomas. The other Berry family that were parishioners of the Killucan Church (Berry of Wardenstown) had no member called James. Counting against the brother hypothesis is the approximate 15/20 year time span between the estimated birth dates of Thomas and the American migrants.

Summary of the "brother hypothesis" for the relationship between the "founders" Thomas, James and John Berry (with traditionally used dates).

 *    According to "Eglish Family" legend, this John Berry was from Middleton in Wales and he disinherited his son John for marrying a Catholic. However, the documentary evidence to support this Welsh John Berry as the e.k.a. is probably largely fictitious and he should now be abandoned as e.k.a., and replaced by Thomas Berry I  of Castlecuffe, Queen's Co., Ireland (d. c. 1673 ).

The second hypothesis is that the American James and John were first cousins of my Irish 6 x g. grandfather, Thomas Berry. I have recently (March 2022) come across documentary evidence that I believe supports this hypothesis in the form of the abstract of the will recorded by Lorton Wilson, of a Thomas Berry, merchant, which was probated in 1673 to his brother, Francis and made in Castlecuffe, Queen’s Co. (Laois)   (see below and map in Chart 7). 

It seems very probable that this Thomas Berry of Castlecuffe's son, also Thomas (who would probably have been a child in 1673) is my 6 x g. grandfather (Thomas Berry c.1670 - c.1730) who was first recorded living in Knockerville Townland, Westmeath in about 1703 with a young son (John) and who had recently married Elizabeth Dames of Greenhills, King’s Co. (Offaly). The proximity of Kildare Town and Greenhills, c. 45 km by road, seems to support the likelihood of this marriage. Tullamore, the closest large town to both is approximately midway between the two residences and the likelihood of Thomas and Elizabeth meeting would have been high.  Francis Bury (note the interchangeable use of Berry/Bury), Thomas’ named brother is stated to have had "relations", but had he had  children at the time they would likely have been mentioned in the will. I therefore believe that Francis was younger than Thomas. I suggest that this Francis was the father of “founders” James  and John  who went to America. “Founder” John had both a son (b. 1719) and a grandson (b. 1754) named “Francis” and “founder” James had a grandson named Francis (b.1762) and a son named Thomas (1718-1799)).  Francis is a name that also recurs in the Eglish Berry lineage and in the American "Tennessee William" Berry (?-1823) lineage (see Chart 3).

The dates in the literature cited for the three "founders" are all only estimates and in the case of James and John their birth dates vary significantly.  There is also uncertainty about when the latter two arrived in America. I believe that, based on the date of the will, and if my hypothesis  that the three "founders" were cousins, not brothers is correct, their more probable birth dates  are:- Thomas Berry  c. 1670 (not c. 1675),  James Berry c. 1680 (not c.1690) and John c. 1685 (not c.1695).  If James is the James Berry who is recorded  in 1703 in the Vestry Minutes of the Killican Church which Thomas attended,  he could not have migrated to America before this date.

That Thomas of Castlecuffe directs that his son is to be brought up a Protestant suggests that he was concerned that his son might be brought up Catholic.  My 6 x g. grandfather, Thomas Berry of Knockerville, Westmeath, was certainly a Protestant and apparently well educated and literate as he became the agent (estate manager) to Lieut. Colonel William Berry of Wardenstown and later his son Richard Berry, High Sheriff of Westmeath. I believe that his Protestantism and his grandparents' familial links  to the Malone family of Ballynahown , Westmeath and the L'Estrange family of Moystown, King's Co. probably account for his move from Co. Kildare, to settle in Knockerville, Co. Westmeath.

Thomas of Castlecuffe was apparently a young man (probably aged about 25-30) when he died as he had only one young child. That he made a will suggests that he anticipated his death which must have been just prior to  probate in 1673. Perhaps he was a victim of the black plague epidemic that swept Ireland between 1649 and 1670. This might explain why his wife, Mary, and young son, Thomas, had been sent to Kildare  (where Berry/Bury relatives may have  resided) and why it was a nuncupative will (dictated before witnesses, one of whom was Grany L'Estrange, who I believe to have been his mother in law). His estimated birth date would be around the early 1640s. There is  evidence of a Catholic Berry family living in Kildare around this time. A Thomas Huetson, in a deposition made in 1641, accuses  Bonaventure Berry, reputed son of William Berry, a "Popish" Priest",  a near kinsman of the priest, Thomas Berry, and several other Irish rebels of being  involved in disinterring the bodies of his brother and grandmother  from the Kildare Cathedral and relocating them outside the grounds (see ).  If Thomas of Castlecuffe did indeed die young and was born about 1640 he could not have been the Catholic priest's relative, Thomas.  However, the latter could have been his father. There is also a record of a John Burye (or Bury) of KiIdare in the 1659 Census of Ireland who could also be the father of Thomas of Castlecuffe. John Burye was one of the nominated Commissioners for executing the Poll-Money Ordinances of 1660 and 1661 in Co. Kildare 5 . To have held this position he would have been a Protestant. Thomas of Castlecuffe's maternal Malone relatives, originally from Ballynahown, Westmeath  were Irish Catholics initially, but Anthony Malone (1652-c.1744) and his son, Richard Malone (1674-1744) converted to Protestantism and it seems probable that John Burye and indeed Thomas of Castlecuffe may have converted around the same time in response to the 1652 Act of Settlement . (This Act confiscated existing lands held by Catholics and excluded Catholics from land ownership or official office). 

William L'Estrange's forebears were from Norfolk England,  and already Protestant when they first settlement in Ireland in the 16th Century. His will, made in1677 ( ) mentions that he had daughters, plural ("...daughters and their heirs...") which is the basis of my thesis that these were “Sibie L’Estrange” and “Mary Bury”– both being named in Thomas Berry of Castlecuffe’s 1673 will (above), the latter as his wife. William L’Estrange’s will also names Edmond Malone of Ballynahown, Co. Westmeath as one of several men appointed to aid and assist his wife and Executrix, Grany. This connects Grany to the Malone family of Ballynahown, the distinguished Irish family of lawyers and politicians. In view of the dates, this Edmond Malone seems most likely to have been Grany’s brother who married ? Byrne in 1617. Burke 9. does not identify Grany’s father beyond that he was a Malone and mentions only one daughter, Mary, who is recorded as having married “Thomas Moony” of Turin. There seem to be two possible explanations for this statement which does not accord with my thesis: (i) Mary remarried Moony after Thomas Berry died and went to live in Turin (which is very close to Killucan in Westmeath). However, this seems unlikely as there is no mention of any Moony or Mooney in the Killucan Vestry Minutes. (ii) there was a transcription error in Burke from the original handwritten record and Thomas Moony of Turin should have been Thomas Berry of Turnings. This  would be consistent with the hypothesis that John Burye of Turnings was Thomas of Castlecuffe’s father. The marriage of Mary L'Estrange to the young merchant, Thomas Berry, would account for his going to live in Castlecuffe, where the titulado was William L’Estrange. This association with the influential L’Estrange and Malone families would have been key to his orphaned son, Thomas, moving to Knockerville, Co. Westmeath and being accepted by the Protestant gentry class.

Additional documentary evidence that supports the close familial association between Thomas Berry of Knockerville and members of the Malone family of Ballynahown, Co. Westmeath is contained in the following two deeds, summarized by Lorton Wilson. 

Richard Malone was a second cousin of Thomas Berry of Knockerville, and Anthony Malone, Richard's father, was a first cousin once removed, based on Burke9.. Thomas has a history of not being concerned to be recorded as a Discoverer - see the bottom of this webpage : "The ownership of Broadwood". I suspect that this is another example and that Richard Malone, respected lawyer and politician, probably did not want to be seen as a Discoverer, so used his relative, Thomas Berry, as a proxy in the 1725 deed. The 1726 deed seems to reveal what the real objective may have been. Anthony Malone was the grandfather of Richard Malone Jr.

So far I have been unable to trace any record of Francis Bury, brother of John of Castlecuffe, in Ireland. The possibility that this is because he joined his sons in America is being further investigated.

Summary of the "cousin hypothesis" for the relationship between the "founders" Thomas, James and John Berry based on the abstract of the will of Thomas Berry of Castlecuffe shown above, with revised birth dates for the American "founders.

Until recently, I thought that our Irish Berry family was most likely to have been Anglo-Irish, and  to have been associated with the Cromwellian settlement of Ireland by English Protestant soldiers and Merchant Adventurers  (see  6.  However, no primary documentary or genetic evidence has been found to support this.  In fact, recent SNP (Big-Y) testing now indicates that our Berry family ancestors arrived in Ireland many centuries earlier, and may be descended from a Viking founder. Between around 800-1100 C.E. Viking ports and settlements were established at Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Cork and Limerick7. 8..  Haplogroup I- BY184065 branched off from I-FT91420 and the rest of humankind about 1700 years ago, plus or minus 500 years, and has been established as the "signature" SNP of our Irish Berry family on the basis of 17 Big-Y tests . The most recent common ancestor of our I-BY184065 lineage is estimated to have been born around 370 years ago, plus or minus 100 years i.e. in about 1650.  He has at least 12 descendant lineages known as I-FT126869, I-FGC50473, I-FT75939, I-FTA15544 and 8 as yet unnamed lineages. All 17 of his descendants tested thus far have the Berry surname only.  Ten report Ireland as the origin of their eka, one England,  and six report an unknown origin. The sole sister subclade of I-BY184065  is I-FTC2828 and it has three non-Berry surnames (Stephens, Joyner and Bomar), but their reported earliest known ancestors (ekas) are uninformative in terms of European origins, being currently given as "United States" and "Unknown". The SNP above I-BY184065 and I-FTC2828 is I-FT91420 which has a tMRCA of about 250 CE - a thousand years before modern surnames came into general use and before the Vikings left Scandinavia. The SNP above I-FT91420 is I-FGC69702 which arose just a little earlier, in about 200 C.E.  It has reported descendant lineages that do include reported European origins such as England, Norway, France, Scotland and Poland. However, these lineages clearly split off before our I-BY184065 Berry lineage. This is shown in two summary diagrams below,  produced using Robin Spencer's Tree Discovery tool in "Tracking Back" :- . Use to explore SNPs mentioned above . 

Because the early Viking settlers in Ireland were mainly men, most would have married Gaelic, Roman Catholic women. Over generations Norse paganism was abandoned and integrated Catholic, Hiberno-Norse communities were formed and eventually assimilated into the Irish population. 7. 8. Some time probably in the 17th Century, one of our Hiberno-Norse ancestors (probably a man with the Berry/Bury surname living in Co.Kildare -see above) must have converted to Protestantism from Catholicism, probably in order to avoid one of a  succession of English Parliamentary enactments that penalized Catholics, culminating in the Cromwellian 1652 Act of Settlement which confiscated existing lands held by Catholics and excluded Catholics from land ownership or official office. (By the end of the 1650's only 16% of Ireland was in Catholic ownership). Apparently it was through this expedient conversion that our family gained acceptance into the Protestant Ascendancy Class. 

We are unlikely ever to find the primary documentary evidence that conclusively proves where my 6x g. grandfather Thomas Berry (c.1670-c.1730) was born, or that he was the son of Thomas Berry of Castlecuffe. However, the documentary and circumstantial evidence for a familial connection with the Malone and L'Estrange families is strong. Similarly, when exactly some or all of the family converted from Catholicism to Protestantism remains uncertain, although in the mid-1640 Cromwellian era there would certainly have been very strong incentive to do so. In conclusion, I believe that the genetic evidence for a presence of our Berry forebears in Ireland going back to Viking settlement, together with the documentary evidence stemming from the will of Thomas Berry of Castlecuffe, provides a credible hypothesis for the deep origin of our family before Ireland that is likely to be closer to the truth than the discredited family legend invoking an origin in Wales and Devon, or an Ulster-Scots origin for which there is no documentary or genetic evidence.

When considering the Viking origins of our I-BY184065 haplogroup Berry family it is important to remember the realities of inheritance and DNA testing. Our Y-DNA STR markers and SNPs don’t code for anything functional. They’re just passive labels on the Y chromosome (which only determines sex) and get passed down the paternal lineage only. All of the coding DNA that accounts for everything else about us resides on the autosomal chromosomes, of which there are 22.  Those of us who have done autosomal testing (Ancestry, 23andMe etc.) should remember that from each of our parents we got approximately half of our DNA, from each grandparent, a quarter, each g. grandparent an eighth and so on. At 7 generations that’s less than 1%, and at 10 generations it’s under 0.1% — zero, for all practical purposes. We will therefore have no DNA at all from our Irish Viking founder ancestor, other than the passive Y-DNA label. If our autosomal tests show Scandinavian ancestry (mine show 3-4%) it will have been inherited from a fairly recent, probably 4x - 6x g. grandparent.

By about 1670 our family had certainly adopted Berry/Bury as a surname  (the spelling apparently having been interchangeable at the time). Early Medieval Ireland was one of the first cultures to adopt patrilineal surnames as early as the10th C 8 and our Hiberno-Nordic ancestor may have adopted the Gaelic name of his wife’s family.  If this was the case, “O’Beara” may have been the original version of our Berry/Bury surname2. (see ).  Another possibility is the place name "Carbury", also formerly spelt "Carbery" according to Wikipedia and is a rural community and a village in north-west County Kildare where Thomas Berry of Castlecuffe's family is known to have lived in the 17th C and probably earlier. The name may also have been adopted for apparently obscure reasons - see the case of Gilbery O’Coyng  who became John Berry (see the first paragraph at the top of this page). The genetic (SNP) evidence of our I-BY184065 lineage currently precludes an Anglo-Norman origin of the name. 

For a really excellent history  of Ireland, which places the above account of our Irish Berry Family  in context, I strongly recommend the BBC 2x DVD set "The Story of Ireland" presented by Fergal Keane.  

The FTDNA Berry Family DNA Project

Y-DNA testing has advanced significantly since inception of the original Berry Family DNA Project in 2003, hosted on the now defunct 'rootsweb' site. Unfortunately, most of the I-M253 members of the original Family Tree DNA Berry  Project have not kept up with these advances, both in terms of numbers of STR markers tested and the more recently available SNP testing. Some participants whose STR results were posted on the ‘rootsweb’ site have not joined the current FTDNA Project (some have died) so their results are no longer readily available for comparison. Of those  members of our Berry family who have joined, few have done more than the most basic 37 marker test . As of August 2023, only 26 (with the Berry surname) have tested for 67 markers, 19 for 111 markers (see STR Genetic Distance Tables 2, 2a and dendrograms in Charts 4, 4a and 4b below) and 17  have done the Big-Y Test . This has resulted in establishment of terminal SNP I-BY184065 as the "signature" haplogroup of our Irish Berry family. Chart 3 summarizes lineages based on the  documented and genetic  genealogy of the nineteen Berry men who have tested at 111 markers or more and/or done a Big-Y test, together with their current terminal SNPs.

The Big-Y test of Brett Berry resulted in identification of a new sub-clade (I-FT126869) in which he and Charles Milton Berry were placed under I-BY184065. Conventional genealogy shows that Brett and Charles  were both descended from a John Berry, born c. 1748,  who arrived in Pennsylvania from England one year prior to the Revolutionary War, served throughout its duration, married Elizabeth Merritt of New Jersey and died in 1830, leaving a will i.e. he was not the "founder'"John Berry (c.1695-1770/71). I shall call him "Pennsylvanian John". The sharing of a private variant SNP by Brett and Charles, that is not shared by the other Big-Y testers, is interpreted to show that this mutation appeared at earliest in Pennsylvanian John or (given his dates) possibly his father or grandfather.

 Three other subclades of I-BY184065 have also been identified, namely  I-FGC50473I-FT75939 and I-FTA15544. The latter, to which Timothy Berry and John Edward Berry belong, represents a line that appears to have separated earlier than all the others based on STR and SNP results (see Charts 4a, 4b, 5 and 6). Their e.k.a. named William Berry (? -1823) who married Sueanne ? lived in Lee Valley, Hawkins Co. Tennessee. This William Berry, who I shall identify as "Tennessee William", is clearly important in understanding the origins of our I-BY184065 family. He was thought by Jackson et al 1 to be one of the three orphans of James Berry ( ~1716 - 1749),  but cannot be, based on current DNA evidence. (His birth date of 1758 which appears to be  an error that first appeared in the defunct rootsweb  Berry DNA Project is incorrect, but unfortunately has become established in the online literature). It should now be recognized that William the orphan and "Tennessee William"  were different people. Jackson et alwere aware of the close genetic relationship between the Hawkins Co. and the Augusta/Washington Berry families on the basis of low level STR marker testing, but were frustrated that they were unable to find "....a single shred of primary or secondary source documentation to connect the Hawkins BERRYs to the Augusta BERRYs". Carol Vass in her notes on William Berry (d. 1823 and who she thought was one of the orphans) also queried whether the slight differences between the DNA of the Lee Valley Berry family descendants compared to Bulls Gap family descendants might indicate that "...Wm. Berry (d. 1823) was related to the Aug/Wash BERRYs, but was a later immigrant to America?"  The distinction between the two William Berrys also seems to be supported by the fact that Thomas Berry, a son of "Tennessee William"of Lee Valley was a Baptist and his son - Jesse was a Baptist minister, whereas the Berry family of Bulls Gap, Hawkins Co. and the Augusta/Washington Co. descendants of "founder" John appear to have been Presbyterians. The Big-Y results of the two descendants of "Tennessee William" are evidence that this is in fact the case.  It seems probable that the "Tennessee William"  I-FTA15544 lineage descends from our most recent I-BY184065 common ancestor (c. 1661, see Chart 3), because  if this lineage had split off above I-BY18406 all the other Big-Y results  would generate I-FTA15544 under BY184065 and it’s not there. 

Thus all the American I-BY184065 haplogroup Berrys are descended either from “founders” James and John Berry who migrated well before the Revolutionary War, or from a William Berry (Tennessee William") whose origin is currently unknown.  "Pennsylvanian John" who, according to a secondary documentary source,  arrived in 1775 from "England" may be a descendant of George Berry (?-1803/04), the second son of American "founder " James (see Chart 3). However, as no descendants  of  George have done a Big-Y test, this has yet to be confirmed.

 Descendants of  "founder" Thomas Berry only migrated to Canada and the USA in the late 19th C. or early 20th C.  

Unless there are very unusual circumstances (becoming more remote all the time) a Big-Y test (currently 700 markers) is the best Y-DNA test on offer.  The reason for this is that Big-Y (unlike other Y-DNA tests) is exploratory and "explores" your sample for all STR markers and SNP mutations - both those known to science and those currently unknown. This means that when your sample is analyzed you will end up with a list of previously unknown and unnamed SNPs (termed "Private Variants") - how many will depend on how rare they are and how well your particular line has been tested. It is these SNPs that are the key to unlocking both downstream and upstream lineages within our Berry family tree because, unlike STR markers which can mutate back and forth, SNPs generally remain unchanged. SNP testing is progressing so rapidly that SNP mutations occurring in the recent documented genealogical time frame are now being  placed onto the human Y-DNA haplotree . Our I-BY184065 Berry family requires further SNP testing if we are all to benefit from the advances being made using this technology and to better understand our recent genetic history. Typically, FTDNA needs to identify at least two matching private variant SNPs to be able define a new sub-branch of the human Haplo-Tree (HT)  (Chart 1). Recent Big-Y results of Brett Berry,  Donald Berry, Cameron Berry and Timothy Berry have done just this, and resulted in identification of four new sub-clades -  I-FT126869,  I-FGC50473,  I-FT75939 and I-FTA15544 under I-BY184065 (see Chart  2  & Table 1 below). Chart 2 shows the placements  of the current 17  Big-Y Berry surname testers on  my  Block Tree.  At the top of the screenshot is a large block below I-FT91420 containing 19 SNPs with names like BY184084, FT58966  etc. (The SNPs beginning with the letters BY were discovered with earlier Big Y tests, and the ones beginning with the letters FT were discovered with the more recent Big Y-700 test). They are grouped together because the order in which these occurred is not yet known. When a new Big-Y tester has some of these SNPs, but not others, the ones that are shared by the new tester will then be known to have occurred in earlier generations than the SNPs that are not shared. As more people test, it is possible for many of these SNPs to be placed in generational order on the tree and it will break up into sub-clades.  Currently our I-BY184065 block of 19 named SNPS represents a time span of approximately 1600 years  (using 1 SNP = 83 years on average) and we badly need some new tester to match one or more of these SNPs which will break up this block like some of the sister clades shown in Chart 2. 

As more  I-M253 Berry Project participants do Big-Y tests the better our "Private Variant" SNPs will be defined, hopefully to the point of identifying other sub-clades and, in particular, ones that  that bridge the gap to the documented genealogical time period .  SNP testing has just recently (2023) revealed that our Irish ancestry goes back much longer than previously believed and our Viking-descendant ancestors lived  in Ireland during the 700 or so years immediately before about the year 1700,  where our conventional documented genealogy begins.

 I look on the Big-Y test as an investment and a legacy for future generations, because the information about our lineage continues  to accumulate  over time as more men test (they may not necessarily even have the Berry surname) and new matches are found. So come on guys! I know that it’s pretty expensive. If you can’t afford it wait for a FTDNA sale or, at the very least, please consider upgrading your STR markers to 111.  In October 2023 FTDNA  announced that 100,000 Big-Y testers had now been placed on the Y-DNA tree of Humankind!

Here is FTDNA's current (Aug. 2023) Haplogroup Report for I-BY184065 which is the"signature" haplogroup for our Berry family:- " Haplogroup I-BY184065 represents a man who is estimated to have been born around 370 years ago, plus or minus 100 years. That corresponds to about 1650 CE with a 95% probability he was born between 1542 and 1756 CE. I-BY184065's paternal line was formed when it branched off from I-FT91420 and the rest of mankind about 1,700 years ago, plus or minus 500 years. He is the most recent common ancestor of at least 12 descendant lineages known as I-FT126869, I-FGC50473, I-FT75939, I-FTA15544 and 8 as yet unnamed lineages. There are 17 DNA test-confirmed descendants, and they have specified that their direct paternal origins are from Ireland and England with 5 from unknown countries. As more people test, the history of this genetic lineage might be further refined."   

I recommend that readers take a look at FTDNA's two new interactive tools - Time Tree  in "Discover" ( ) see Chart 6, and "Group Time Tree" (,249535,274251,284643,301746,307291 ) on your Berry Group Project page. I would encourage you to follow FTDNA's last paragraph: "You can help improve the estimates by specifying birth years on your Big Y kits, documenting your patrilineal genealogy in your Family Tree with accurate names and birth years, and linking Y-DNA matches with whom you share a known most recent common ancestor."

I also recommend that readers try Robin Spencer's interactive SNP tracker which gives a simplified pathway and a timeline for these Berry SNPs  ). Enter I-BY184065 first and try using some of the map options (three horizontal bars on the top right) as well as child SNPs of I-BY184065 .

For some of us it’s been a long time since we did our original DNA tests. Here are some things I suggest you consider doing in order to keep your DNA sample, your FTDNA account and your results current and available for future generations:-

Chart 1. Comparison of FTDNA public haplotree  placement of I-BY184065 with subclades I-FT126869 and I-FGC50473  (left, screenshot 27 Aug. 2021) and latest placement under new sister clade I-FT91420 and new subclades I-FT75939 and FTA15544 (right, screenshot 28 Feb. 2023).

Table 1. Private Variants of the current seventeen Berry Big-Y testers showing the basis for splitting subcades I-FGC50473, I-FT12869, I-FT75939 and FTA15544 from I-BY184065. Screenshot 21 Aug. 2023.

Chart 2. FTDNA Block tree  of I-BY184065 with subclades I-FT126869, I-FGC50473,  I-FT75939 and most recently  I-FTA15544.  Sister clade I-FTC2828 was recently split and I-FTC2187 was created (screenshot on 21 Aug. 2023). 

Chart 3. Summary of lineages based on conventional documented genealogy reported by the nineteen Berry men who have tested at 111 markers or more and/or done a Big-Y test. (Screenshot 11 Oct. 2023)

Table 2. Genetic Distance on 111 Markers. 

NB I have a novel mutation at slow mutating marker DYS389-2, (one that my brother, my uncle and so presumably my dad didn't have). I have therefore calculated my results (#56996) at 30.

Table 2a. Time to Most Recent Common Ancestor on 111 Markers

- Probability is 75% that the TMRCA is no longer than indicated

- Average generaton: 30 years 

DYS389-2 value at 30 for #56996 

Chart 4. Section of Dendrogram from the FTDNA Berry DNA Project showing I-M253 testers at 37 markers with the Berry surname and closest matches with other surnames .

Chart 4a. Section of Dendrogram from the FTDNA Berry DNA Project based on  Y111 STR results (kit # ) . 

Chart 4b. Section of Dendrogram from the FTDNA Berry Project based on  Y111 STR results ( terminal SNPs) . 

Chart 5. FTDNA's new "Time Tree" -  (screenshot on 29 May 2023 for I-BY184065). . For the I-FGC69702 Time Tree see 

Chart 6. Tree generated using David Vance's SAPP utility, combining STR and SNP results with documented genealogy (most recent common ancestors i.e. "founders" Thomas, James and John Berry as well as "Pennsylvanian" John Berry  and William Berry (d. 1823) ). NB this tree is mapped to fit into the page and not according time in the vertical axis. For a key see 

Chart 7. Castlecuffe information provided by the Down Survey of 1656-1658. (Note that the entire population of 24 are recorded as English (Protestants). (,+Charles+Earl+of+Mountrath&l2=Coote,+Charles+Earl+of+Mountrath&mc=53.187913,-7.57789&z=11 

A Tribute to Carol Vass

Carol passed away on 28 Nov. 2018. Her remains were interred with those of her husband, Sam Frank Vass (1938-2015) at the Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent, King County, Washington. She spent the last few years of her life struggling with diminishing physical abilities which eventually drove her from her other love – family history research.

Throughout her life, Carol was very active in genealogy and was particularly focused on discovering the origins of what she believed were her Scotch-Irish Berry family roots. She was a driving force in the study of the “Augusta/Washington Co.” Berry family in the USA # and was a founder co-administrator of the Berry Family DNA Project* with Jim Berry. Her connection with this Berry family was through Barbara Berry (c.1740-1811/18), daughter of Thomas Berry (1718-1799) and grand-daughter of  founding father, James Berry (c.1695 - after May 1756).

Her friend and collaborator, Jim Jackson, remembers her thus: “Carol was an exhaustive and thorough researcher, known for her strict adherence to objective analysis, and was always willing to change her theory if that was what the data demanded. Family stories were interesting but mostly just a starting point for extensive record research to either support or disprove the stories. Her insistence upon researching the entire family group, rather than merely her own personal lineage; her requirement to use primary source material to support her analysis and her method of acquiring all of possible data before making critical assessments, resulted in the widespread understanding within the genealogical community that her work was accurate and reliable. Between the information stored in her head and her extensive personal research files, she possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of Berry family information, and was a critical driving force in the study of that group.

Carol’s charming character, professional research style and intelligent analysis will be missed. As family history researchers, we have always stood on the shoulders of those who preceded us, and now hers are some of those shoulders”.



    1Jackson J., Vass C., Laughlin M. and Fischer D. 2002. Genealogy of the Berry and Associated Families. Unpublished Report pp 1 - 345. See the following link:-


      2  Pritchard John, 1999. The Presbyterian Church in Devon.

     3 History of Clinton County Indiana. Chicago Inter-State Publishing Co. 1886. page 633.


       Seamus Pender (ed.) 1939.  A Census of Ireland, circa 1659 with Supplementary Material from the Poll Money Ordinances (1660-1661). 


      6   The Down Survey:   


   8.  McEvoy B. and Bradley D.G. 2006. Y-chromosomes and the extent of patrilineal ancestry in Irish surnames. Hum Genet 119: 212-219. 

    9. Burke, Sir Bernard, 1912. Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Ireland.

     Links to results for the Berry Family DNA Project


    Links to USA I-M253 (Augusta/ Washington Co.) Berry family

    Copyright 2006-2023 Patrick Berry