The tale of a Fairbairn mystery that dna testing has "solved" - well the immediate questions possibly, but there's always one more ...

I didn't realise I was undertaking this particular journey for the entire 13 years it took to solve, and the journey has continued to fascinate as each new piece of the jigsaw is added.

Many years ago (around 1996), I posited that the William, who married Jean Wanless, and David, who married Jane Williamson, just might be brothers belong to my Archibald (who married Alison Crosser). This was based purely on Scottish naming patterns, as each family had a first son Archibald, and William also had a second daughter Aylsie, which had been sometimes recorded as Alice, which is often interchangable in records with Alison, ergo, William's and David's parents might be Archibald and Alison.

I was undeterred by the family lore (Reby Dodds' 1970 book on the Fairbairn/Johnston families) which had William's parents as William Fairbairn and an Elsie (Aylsie) Elliot of Minto, as she also had this father William as a schoolteacher, and uncle of Sir William Fairbairn. However accurate the many ancedotes and documentation of the later generations of this family may be, it is doubtful that this claim is correct, unless there were two schoolteacher Williams in Selkirk at the same time. (The schoolteacher appears to be a William married to a Margaret Scott.)

Proof of any of this was lacking, and unlikely, at the time, to be found, so all this speculation was shelved, with flurries of activity as assorted descendants got in touch, one such being 2003 when Ross popped up and David was finally connected as a brother to William (in my database, others no doubt already had that)

Then in 2007 along came dna testing to add a bit of science into the mix. The Fairbairn Surname DNA project started with Martin, believed to be a descendant of Archibald and Alison (the final link is unprovable as the chap believed to be their son Archibald inconveniently died prior to civil registration), and the sole participant in the project.

Lo and behold, when his preliminary (12 marker) results came back there was an exact match with another person who had tested with Family Tree DNA, an Earl M Fairburn, who didn't answer his email. I was left on tenterhooks for a while trying to figure out who he was. Eventually his daughter replied and confirmed my research of where her father fitted into the Fairbairn scheme of things. He turned out to be a descendant of another Archibald, a contempory of my one, whom I had forgotten about in the intervening years. This one had married a Mary Grierson and the two Archibalds were having families in the same timeframe, mine around Swinton and Morebattle, Earl's around Bowden, St Boswells, and Southdean. Earlier research Martin had commissioned had decided that the Grierson link was his, but I had assigned his line to the Crosser couple, again, based purely on naming patterns as there was neatly a first son Archibald and a second daughter Alison. Earl was added into the Fairbairn dna project and the remaining results awaited.

At the 37 marker level there was a 36/37 match, which made me feel that my decision to link Martin's family to my Archibald (Crosser) was correct.

While all this was going on there was a discount on testing in the lead up to Christmas and I recruited Roy, a descendant of William and Jean (Wanless) thinking it would be interesting to see any results, but not really expecting a close match given the published family stories about connections to Sir William's family etc.

Initial results showed Roy was an exact 37/37 match with Earl, and 36/37 with Martin. At which, I revived my theory that the brothers William and David were sons of an Archibald, regardless of what the family lore said, not mine, but the Grierson one instead, after all William and Jean did have a daughter Mary, albeit not the second daughter.

All participants agreed to go for an upgrade to the 67 marker test. The results are just in (Apr 2008). They show Roy and Earl as exact matches still, 67/67, but Martin slipped to 64/67 (he is 2 generations younger than them, more chance for gene mutations to creep in).

My initial reaction to all this was to say 'yipee, yes, they belong to Archibald", but when I went to connect them up in my database I was forced to realise this cannot be. If William was indeed born around 1790, then he wouldn't fit into the children of Archibald and Mary. He would have to be between Isabel, born March 1789 at Whinfield, Par. of St Boswell and Robert born Jun 1791 Thornylaw, Par. of St Boswell, or be born much later, as Archibald and Mary have children at regular 2 yearly intervals up to 1793, then a gap to 1804 and 1806, when they may have moved outwith Roxburghshire.

So, Reby came into her own again. Family lore has to have come from somewhere, especially given that those who had worked on the research for the book were known to be Reby and her mother, Elizabeth Frances Johnston nee Fairbairn, daughter of George and Eleanor (Mullen) Fairbairn *. Elizabeth was born 1867 and died 1949. Although her grandfather William (marr. Jean Wanless) had died in 1872, Elizabeth would have had ample opportunity to learn from those who knew him, as of the 8 children, at least 5 survived into the 1900s.
"My" Archibald is hereby banished as the father of William and David, and William Fairbairn and Elsie (Aylsie) Elliot of Minto, declared the winners - for now!

As to any relationship with Sir William's tribe, that's still open to interpretation, and I would dearly love to find a participant for the dna project from his family, Andrew Fairbairn and Margaret Henderson to join in and prove this one way or the other. So much "research" out there on so many FAIRBAIRN families claims this relationship it would be good to set a few records straight.

Now for my next theory ...

Reby not only reports that William and David's father was a cousin of Sir William's, but also gives them a brother Thomas, M.D., married to an Helen Kinniburg.
This is incorrect, as the Thomas, M.D., married to Helen, belongs to the family of Thomas Fairbairn and Margaret Clarkson, and his brother William was born in 1814, and married Agnes Dodds.
However, given there was probably a grain of truth in this somewhere, I noted in passing a while ago (FAIRBAIRN GenForum posting Aug 2001) that there was a Thomas Fairbairn reputed to have emigrated to Canada to work on the Rideau Canal, as was "our" William, and that just possibly, this Thomas is the brother remembered by the family?

Dec 2008 Update
Although there is a relationship, it looks unlikely that Thomas is as close as a brother to William.
New results in for the dna project are proving increasingly interesting in that 6 family lines are now shown to be related, with nary a paper trail to link them.
Monitor the full results of the dna project for the latest details, and the Project Diary, for breaking news.

Jan 2009 Update
The next particular theory being investigated is that of the cousinships reported between the following, or their descendants:

  • Walter & Clarissa (FAIRBAIRN) FAIRBAIRN - "cousins" who married, the quotes being because it looks rather more like they are 2nd cousins, Clarissa a descendant of David and Jane (WILLIAMSON) FAIRBAIRN, Walter of John A & Sarah Ann (DAUGHTERTY) FAIRBAIRN
  • John A FAIRBAIRN of Hoquiam - uncle to the above Walter, but also claiming to be "cousin" to Angus, the above Clarissa's uncle
  • Robert and Elizabeth (TAYLOR) FAIRBAIRN, who married 1811 Newcastle upon Tyne, and have no known Scottish connection, but a descendant of whom emigrated to Hoquiam, Washington State, USA in the early 1900s

All of the other families in this Hoquiam "cousinship" tangle had been in North America since at least 1820, possibly earlier, so how come Albert picked Hoquiam to emigrate too in the early 1910s when the families had presumably been separated at least 100 years?
But his obit says he was a cousin of John A's.
Check John A FAIRBAIRN Snr's page to see why I've connected him to David's family.
DNA results are showing that there is definitely a match between Albert's grandson Joe (F-10) and Roy (F-3) the descendant of William, David's brother, but a better match (so far) with the other group of Lineage 1. Puzzling.

Mar 2009 Update
With the preliminary results in for Bill (F-12), a descendant of John A FAIRBAIRN, it does look clear that John was indeed the son of John/David and Jane (WILLIAMSON) FAIRBAIRN, regardless of what his marriage and death certificates say.
Bill shows as a very good match with Roy the descendant of John/David's brother William. But we are still not much closer to figuring out where this places the Sunderland side of the Hoquiam triangle though.

The next theory about to be tested is that I've found what happened to Archibald son of Archibald and Janet (SCOTT) FAIRBAIRN. Not having any info on him beyond his baptism, I'd assumed he had died young.
However, south of the Border is an Archibald who married Jane BLAKEY in Newcastle, and emigrated to Canada around 1851. Known sons: Robert, miller of Vegreville; Walter of Orangeville; Archibald of Oakville.
The Archibald married to Jane BLAKEY was born about 1813 in Scotland, and his marriage certificate shows his father as a gardener also named Archibald, which mostly fits the Archibald, son of Archibald and Janet (SCOTT) FAIRBAIRN.
The dna project now has a candidate down Robert the miller's line, but another from either Walter of Orangeville, or Archibald of Oakville, and Parry Sound would also be appreciated to confirm this line's dna signature.

Also on the theory-to-be-proved books is the possibility that Robert, son of Robert and Agnes (LANDRETH) FAIRBAIRN, is the one married to Margaret ELLIOT, and that this latter couple's son Robert is the one married first to Agnes BLACK, then Euphemia ROBSON, one branch of whose descendants, Robert & Isabella (WEAVER) FAIRBAIRN, moved south to Stody in Norfolk. Another, David & Margaret (WHILLANS) FAIRBAIRN, stayed behind in Jedburgh.

May 2009 Update
Win two, lose one: Norfolk FAIRBAIRNs 1, Lorna nil, but win:win with the Vegreville, Alberta FAIRBAIRNs, and most definitely with the New York family of John & Elisabeth (MILLER) FAIRBAIRN.

The descendant of Robert and Agnes (BLACK) FAIRBAIRN (who moved south to Norfolk) turns out to be a completely different haplogroup to all of the above FAIRBAIRNs, so no relation to them, nor to the other lines in haplogroup R1b1.

The Vegreville, Alberta family however prove to be closely related to Martin (F-1) the known descendant of Archibald and Janet (SCOTT) FAIRBAIRN, so I think we can claim that the Archibald married to Jane BLAKEY is their son.

And finally, after 10+ years, Ed and I can finally claim we are cousins.  Michael (F-16), a descendant of John & Elisabeth (MILLER) FAIRBAIRN, has proven to be a DNA match to "Lineage 1e" of the Fairbairn Lineage 1 participants.  Although 12/12 is not conclusive as yet, I have taken it as read that the he will be most closely matched to Martin, and therefore John is a previously unknown son of Walter, fitting right in by both age and naming pattern.  Hope I don't have to review that as I've now linked the family up!

(At 67 markers the match is 66/67 with a descendant of Archibald believed to be the son of Archibald and Alison (CROSSER) FAIRBAIRN).

Jul 2009 Update

Another line, that of John & Jessie (JOHNSTON) FAIRBAIRN, has also now been shown to be connected to the main line of Borders FAIRBAIRNs.

Not "ours", but one of the unmatched families, that of the Fifeshire line of Thomas & Jean (LOWSON/LAWSON) FAIRBAIRN, in the R1b1 haplogroup are showing up as a match (only 24/25 so far) to a line of FREEBORNs who were supposedly from Ireland when they emigrated to Canada sometime between 1830 and 1851.

The FAIRBAIRN DNA Project continues to look for male FAIRBAIRN descendants interested in helping us determine how the assorted families look like they may inter-relate, as for the Scottish Borders families, it rather looks like they all do, with few exceptions to date, from our probably rather biased sample.

Mar 2010 Update
We finally have results from a confirmed paper trail descendant of my Archibald and Alison (CROSSER) FAIRBAIRN, and thankfully, he's an excellent match to those assumed to belong to that portion of the FAIRBAIRN jigsaw.

May 2010 Update
We now have 20 matching FAIRBAIRN participants in the project, plus 5 "ring-ins" from the ELLIOTTs and IRWINs who are marginally closer to the modal value for our matches, hinting at the signature for the earliest FAIRBAIRN lineage.
Six others in the project belong to separate haplogroups, with at least two not having any matches in the Family Tree dna tested world.
See the theoretical dna signature chart under development on how the matching lines may fit together.

Aug 2010 Update

Our Lineage 1 now contains 5 ELLIOTT and 2 IRWIN participants matching our 22 FAIRBAIRNS The latest FAIRBAIRN result shows that the line of James & Agnes (LINDSAY) FAIRBAIRN is now our closest FAIRBAIRN result to the modal for Lineage 1.
As this is a line with Ednam connections, and the closest match is to the line of John and Jessie (JOHNSTON) with all those pedigrees quoting stones in Ednam (see My Ancestor was first cousin to Sir William), the FAIRBAIRN One Name Study pages will probably next show updates from an examination of the Ednam parish registers.
In addition, a further exploration of the ELLIOTT connection is now included on the dna pages.

Feb 2013 Update We now have 32 known matching FAIRBAIRN I1 haplogroup results, along with 8 closely matching ELLIOT/IRWIN outliers; 7 R1b1 haplogroup results in 3 loose matching lines; and one FAIRBAIRN in haplogroup J2.
One line is now fully on modal for haplogroup I1, that of the Cockburnspath FAIRBAIRNs, which just happens to be one of the earlier documented pedigrees.

Dec 2014 Update
Preliminary indications are that we may be able to formally welcome Robert FAIRBAIRN of Napanee, Ontario into the family of Archibald and Alison (CROSSER) FAIRBAIRN. This blogpost refers.
This is from autosomal testing, not Y-dna, which latter would be more certain, but it does look promising.


* from a 1983 visit Roy had had with Reby