DNA Testing

The Hollingsworth family started to use DNA testing as a genealogical tool in 2003, and has now tested over 350 Hollingsworth males (Genetics testing is still so primitive that meaningful results require the participant to come from an unbroken male line) from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. The results have been astonishing.

Before the advent of DNA testing, there was a common belief that most, if not all, of the Hollingsworths worldwide shared a common ancestor who lived in Cheshire, England, at least as early as the 1400s. Most of us also believed that the most prominent members of the clan lived at Hollingworth Hall, Mottram, Cheshire, and that in the ensuing centuries this family spread to much of the English-speaking world.

DNA testing has shown that this theory is not correct. Thanks to genetic testing, we now know that there are at least a dozen Hollingsworth and Hollingworth families which do not have a common male ancestor in at least 1,000 years. It now seems more likely that the Hollingsworth surname came into use over 500 years ago in such different parts of England as Cheshire, Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, and Suffolk. It is also possible, although unlikely, that some branches of the Hollingsworth family could have their roots in locales such as Ireland, Scotland, and Sweden.

As DNA testing has evolved, we have discovered that some of the branches of our family have strong connections to other surnames. Among the other surnames that have close genetic ties to part of the Hollngsworth family are: FitzRandolph, Roper, Davenport, Barlow, Ainsworth, Hough, and Wood. We must await future genealogical breakthroughs to fully understand the meaning of these genetic links.

In this regard, we should remember that the development of surnames is relatively recent, in many cases developing in the fifteenth century. For example, I am aware that one wealthy man in the 1400s bought land that included the hamlet of Hollingworth in Lancashire and subsequently signed documents as Thomas de Holynworth. Nonetheless, it seems likely that some Hollingsworth cousins will find that, perhaps 500 years ago, their Hollingsworth link is through a female, rather than a male, Hollingsworth, name.

About 3 years ago (2014) FamilyTreeDNA launched a new DNA test called the Big Y test. Its primary purpose to date seems to be to provide genetic leads in identifying the origins of ancestors who lived as much as 2,000 years ago. While this may be interesting in the long run, it is of limited use to researchers trying to locate ancestors within the past 300 years.

However, one result seems to be promising to researchers who know from DNA testing that they descend from Valentine but are not sure about some of the intervening generations. Based on approximately 10 results so far, it looks like the results of the Big Y test can determine which grandchild of Valentine Hollingsworth one descends from.

This is still preliminary, but known descendants of Jacob of Thomas of Valentine appear have genetic characteristics that distinguish them from the descendants of Jacob's half-brother Abraham.

If you are a proven descendant through an unbroken male line of either Joseph of Thomas of Valentine or Thomas of Thomas of Valentine, it would be very helpful if you would be willing to upgrade your genetic testing to include the Big Y test.

Similarly, if you descend from an unbroken male line from John Hollingsworth of Calhoun County, Alabama, or John Hollingsworth of Sumter County, Alabama, the Big Y test may help you to pinpoint the parentage of these individuals.

In subsequent articles I will discuss some of the findings that have come to light on specific branches of our family as a result of DNA testing.


Doug Hollingsworth

originally posted April 27, 2009; Updated July 4, 2017