Project Goals

SUTHERLAND DNA SURNAME RESEARCH PROJECT
GENEALOGY AND GENETICS

For hundreds of years, men (and more recently women) have been interested in tracing and recording their family history, generally called pedigree or lineage. In most cases before the modern era they were either seeking to establish a right to succeed to a dormant peerage, baronetcy or barony, usually associated with lands and estates, or having made a fortune, as part of the process of gaining social acceptability, they wished to establish a history as a building block to seeking promotion within the higher social classes, often procuring a title in the process.

Some families have been fortunate in that for one of many reasons, the history of their name or indeed even their own family has been researched and recorded down through the ages. For the vast majority of course, this is not the case. The Sutherlands are more fortunate than most in that our history has been recorded.

Sir Robert Gordon, 1st Baronet of Gordonstoun 1580-1656 was the younger son of Alexander 12th Earl of Sutherland and his wife Lady Jean Gordon, the former wife of James, Earl of Bothwell who married Mary Queen of Scots 8 days after their divorce on 7th May 1567. Sir Robert wrote the History of the Earldom of Sutherland before 1630. It was finished to 1651 by another and it was published in 1813. Although there are some acknowledged errors, much of its contents form the basis of our understanding of the earliest generations of the Sutherland family. Sir William Fraser wrote The Sutherland Book in 3 volumes, published in 1892. This added to our knowledge of the family.

Unlike most other major families, the Sutherland family was placed under considerable scrutiny between 1766 and 1771 when the right of Elizabeth the 19th holder of the Earldom to the title was challenged by both the Head of the House of Forse claiming right as the most direct male Sutherland and the Gordon of Gordonstoun Baronet claiming right as the most direct male Gordon. As part of the Sutherland Peerage case as it became known, the extent and existence of each known branch of the Sutherland family both before and after Elizabeth 10th holder of the Earldom was examined in great detail.

I am not a geneticist, I am a genealogist. However, I see the role of genetics in breaking down the brick walls which have built up over the centuries. To me there are 4 distinct groups of families who call themselves Sutherland or one of the other names associated with it:

1) Those descended from Freskyn either through the male line or through marriage of a female descendant. This of course includes virtually every member of the old aristocracy of Scotland and England and numerous members of mainland European aristocratic and royal family houses.
2) Those who took the Sutherland name through being retainers or servants of the 4 principal Sutherland families, of Dunrobin, Duffus, Forse and Kilpheddar
3) Those who took the Sutherland name through being tenants of the 4 principal Sutherland families
4) Those who lived on the lands of the Sutherland family or for some other reason adopted the surname, probably to acquire protection or affinity.

From this project, I hope that we will establish men who fit into one of these 4 groups. For those who fit within the first group, to place their family into the extended Tree of the Earls, Dukes, Lairds and Chiefs of Clan Sutherland. Also, to establish Sutherland families who are related to one another and not being members of the first group, place them into one of the other groups. It may also be the case that men by the name of Duffus in particular if tested, will be linked to male Sutherlands who fit into the above groups. People who hold family names long associated with Clan Sutherland are welcome to submit their yDNA results for comparison and hopefully linkage.

Beyond the Sutherlands, I hope that we will be able to establish a link to a group of Murrays who also claim a common descent from Freskyn. Also, to better understand the exciting new DNA match discovered between the Sutherlands and Douglases who claim descent from another Freskyn, such as whether this may be a male cousin of our Freskyn.

Mark Sutherland-Fisher

  • Tim Sutherland

    Hello. My name is Tim Sutherland and I am an archaeologist who lectures in Battlefield Archaeology at the University of York. My brother, Simon and I have been researching our family tree and are surprised to find that our relatives all come from Yorkshire back into the 1700’s from a very confined area around Rotherham. Although not a positive link – yet – there are Sutherlands living there in the mid 1600s. This suggests that their family left Scotland at quite an early time. This might have been due to something like the English Civil War when large groups of people migrated around Britain. Your project sounds fascinating. If you have any links to any Yorkshire Sutherlands then I would be very grateful to hear of them. Good luck with the project. With best wishes, Tim

  • darlene dial

    walter sutherland is in my family line and we have no idea of where he came from or who his parents were. he died in texas as part of the old three hundred in 1835 or 37. he was married to minerva cassandra arnold and had three children . have you any information on him?