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Gist, Gest, Guess, Guest Project Mystery

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  • Gist, Gest, Guess, Guest Project Mystery

    It's difficult to write too much about a project mystery while maintaining member privacy to the degree it must be respected these days. I hesitate to even mention kit numbers, let alone members' names. Back In May I became the admin of the Gist, etc. DNA Project (my mom's maiden name). Fortunately for me the former admin, who passed away in October of 2018, was a pretty sharp guy who left some very excellent notes. Those have helped a lot, but there is still a big mystery in the project that remains to be resolved.

    The difference between groups 01 and 02 (as seen on the DNA Results page of the project web site) is the heart of the Gist Project mystery, because both groups have a core of members whose pretty decent paper trails say they descend from Richard Gist (1683-1741), the only son of the English immigrant Christopher Gist (d. 1690). Group 01's claim is based on descent from Richard's son, Nathaniel Gist (1707-1788). Group 02's claim is based on descent from Nathaniel's (alleged) brother, William (1711-1794). From what I can see, the paper trails are equally good, so obviously something slipped, some form of NPE: sexual indiscretion, informal adoption, simple surname change, something.

    Group 01 thus far has only men with the Gist spelling of the surname. Group 02 also includes men who use the variant Guest. None of those with the Guest spelling claims the immigrant Christopher Gist as mdka, and when one runs the whole Gist/Guest Group 02 in Dave Vance's excellent SAPP tool, the tmrca drives things back to about 1100 AD. It is only through separating those with the Gist spelling in Group 02 from those with the Guest spelling that any part of that group gets a tmrca in which Christopher the immigrant could be a shared ancestor. Group 01 doesn't have that issue. That doesn't mean Group 01 has the sole claim on descent from Christopher's son Richard. It just complicates things.

    After the former project admin died on 21 October 2018, I was the first one with a connection to the Gist Project to notice, and I did not start noticing until the spring of 2020, when I tried to send him an email and got no answer. I was the one who figured out he had passed away and contacted FTDNA about it.

    That just shows you how inactive that project is.

    I put out a plea for the Big Y-700, however, and this evening word came in that the daughter of one of our members in Group 01 actually ordered it for his sample. Unfortunately her dad passed away some years ago, so FTDNA will have to make do with what they have from him in cold storage. I pray it's good enough.
    Last edited by Stevo; 5 October 2020, 09:30 PM.

  • #2
    Here is a summary of the current situation that I wrote recently.

    The book, Christopher Gist of Maryland and Some of His Descendants, 1679-1957, by Jean Muir Dorsey and Maxwell Jay Dorsey, is regarded by many as an authoritative genealogical source for the Gist families and others descended from the immigrants, Christopher Gist (d. 1690) and Edith Cromwell. Christopher and Edith had but one son that we know of, Richard Gist (1683-1741), who married Zipporah Murray. Thus all men who claim y-chromosome descent from Christopher do so by way of Christopher's son Richard.

    There are currently 11 separate groups in this project. Of those, only subsets of Groups 1 and 2, 1a and 2a, include men who have gap-free paper trails purporting to trace their ancestry back through Richard Gist to his father Christopher Gist. There are three such men in Group 1a, and three such men in Group 2a. All six of them have paper trails that are readily traceable in the Dorsey book. You will no doubt notice that only two men appear on our public web site in Group 1a. That is because one of its members, who passed away in 2010, did not test with Family Tree DNA. Instead he had 32-marker Y-DNA STR results from the old, now-defunct company Relative Genetics, which was acquired by AncestryDNA around 2008.

    All three of the men in Group 1a who trace their lines back to Richard Gist, and thence to his father Christopher, do so by way of Richard's son Nathaniel (c. 1707 - after 1787). All three of the men in Group 2a who trace their lines back to Richard Gist, and thence to his father Christopher, do so by way of Richard's son William (c. 1711 - after 1794).

    Sounds great, but there is a problem. The men of Group 1a match each other, but they do not match the men in Group 2a, and vice versa. Clearly, however, if the six men with the solid paper trails back to Christopher Gist actually descend from him in his y-chromosome, father-to-son line, they should all match. In other words, we should not have a Group 1a and a separate Group 2a. The Y-DNA descendants of Christopher Gist should all match and form a single group.

    Without going into too great detail and listing kit numbers and names on a public web site, what can be gleaned from the matches within the groups, and from their shared Gist ancestors, is that the cause of this problem, whatever it was, arose at Generation 2: Richard Gist (1683-1741) and Zipporah Murray.

    Since all of the paper trail claims are 1) traceable in the Dorsey book, 2) appear to be valid, and are 3) supported by y-chromosome matches to other men who share Gist ancestors in common, Nathaniel on the one hand, and William on the other, it is apparent from the Y-DNA evidence that Nathaniel and William were not biological brothers. The only other explanation is that one or the other group of three claimants (six men total) has grievous errors in its pedigree or that perhaps both do. That does not seem likely, given the Y-DNA matches within the groups and the fact that they are all readily traceable in the Dorsey book.

    So which man was an actual biological son of Richard Gist: Nathaniel or William? Honestly, we do not know. The Y-DNA evidence as it stands cannot answer that question. Perhaps neither of them was.

    What occurred in this case is what is known in genetic genealogy as an NPE (Non-Paternal Event): sexual indiscretion, informal adoption (very common in early North America), or a simple surname change. As I mentioned above, whatever it was, it took place at Generation 2: Richard Gist (1683-1741) and Zipporah Murray.

    There is a tantalizing documentary clue that all was not as it should have been with the marriage of Richard and Zipporah. The following is from Baltimore County, Maryland, Deeds (I.S. No. H., p. 69, Hall of Records, Annapolis, Maryland), and is quoted on page 8 of the Dorsey book:

    Originally posted by Richard Gist
    This is to certify and give Notice to All Persons whatsoever that I Richard Gist of Baltimore County

    doe forwarne all manner of persons whatsoever to have any dealings with my wife Zipporah Gist

    to take or receive any Thing Watsoever upon pretence Whatsoever That is belonging to me or in

    any wise Whatsoever kind if that person Shall presume to doe that It be their own Peril given under

    my hand this Aug 1724
    What happened? We do not know. Perhaps we never will know, but as things stand, neither group of three men can claim clear title to y-chromosome descent from Christopher Gist the immigrant. Those in Group 1a are brickwalled at Nathaniel (c. 1707), who may or may not have been a biological son of Richard Gist. Those in Group 2a are brickwalled at William (c. 1711), who likewise may or may not have been a biological son of Richard Gist.

    I hope that does not offend anyone, but those are the facts. The Y-DNA evidence as it stands cannot resolve this dilemma; in fact, it is what exposed its existence. (It did not create it. It merely revealed it.) Without Y-DNA testing, no one would have been the wiser. All would have assumed the men in Group 1a and the men in Group 2a were distant cousins all descended in common from Christopher Gist the 17th century English immigrant.

    Here is something else that is interesting, from the book, Maryland Genealogies: A Consolidation of Articles from the Maryland Historical Magazine, Volume I, 1980, pages 506-507:

    Capt Richard Gist gives, 5 Sept. 1728, to his " son Christopher Gist," 350 acres in Baltimore County(I. S. no. I., 196) ; to his " son Nathaniel Gist" he gives, 6 March 1731, the tract Gist's Search, 284 acres, in Baltimore County (I. S. no. L, 201) ; and to his "son Thomas Gist" he gives The Addition, 216 Acres, in BaltimoreCounty (H. W. S. no. I. A., 189). There appears to be no deed of gift to his son William, but there cannot be the slightest doubt that William was the son of Capt. Richard, and he doubtless received from his father an equal share with his brothers.
    Kind of strange, and apparently the author of that article (Christopher Johnston) thought so, too, since he protested that ". . . there cannot be the slightest doubt that William was the son of Capt. Richard, and he doubtless received from his father an equal share with his brothers."

    Maybe it's nothing. Perhaps William's father gifted him in some way that has simply not passed down to us in surviving records. Still, it is interesting.

    What can be done about this Gist dilemma? Well, as mentioned in the quote above, Richard Gist had two other sons (at least on paper) besides Nathaniel and William: Christopher the very famous frontier scout and explorer (c. 1705), and Thomas (c. 1712). We need Y-DNA test results from a y-chromosome descendant or from y-chromosome descendants of one or both of them, preferably from descendants of both.

    As the Everly Brothers once sang, "Dream dream dream . . . "
    Last edited by Stevo; 31 October 2020, 07:50 AM.


    • #3
      Kind of relieved this morning. I mentioned, I think, that I recruited a male Gist 4th cousin (we share the same Gist 3rd great grandparents) for Y-DNA testing. He got his Y-37 results back in September along with FTDNA's usual R-M269 prediction. Well, the source of my relief this morning is his Family Finder results.

      The relationship is now confirmed, since he matches my mother (my mother's maiden name was Gist) on 50 cMs, with a longest block of 15 cMs, and the two are predicted to be 3rd-5th cousins, which is right, since my mother is his 3rd cousin once removed. In fact, my mom is his only Gist match on Family Finder thus far.

      This Gist 4th cousin does not show up among my matches. Evidently my mother did not pass on to me the chunk of autosomal DNA she shares with my 4th cousin. Luck of the recombinant draw, I guess.

      Anyway, this is good, because it means I can rely on the fact that his Y-DNA results reflect the Gist Y-chromosome heritage that my maternal grandfather also carried. That's good to know.
      Last edited by Stevo; 28 November 2020, 10:21 PM.


      • #4
        Big news for Gist Group 1: Kit 25861 got his Big Y-700 results on the morning of 22 December 2020.

        His terminal SNP makes him R1b-BY93500. Here is the complete SNP pedigree under R-M207:

        M207>M173>M343>L754>L389>P297>M269>L23>L51>P310> L151>P312>Z290>L21>DF13>ZZ10>Z253>FGC3268>ZZ6>BY43439>BY4303>FGC59516>BY93500.

        I put L21 and Z253 in bold because they are fairly well known and help identify the haplogroup. I put BY93500 in bold because it's the current terminal SNP.


        • #5
          Here is an R1b-BY93500 stair-step graphic I made. Of course, many of the SNPs are placeholders or representatives for whole blocks of SNPs currently treated as if they are all on the same level.

          Think of this as a pedigree in which the names of SNPs take the place of the names of ancestors.

          Gist_BY93500 stair-step tree.jpg


          • #6
            BY93500 has been available for a while at Genetic Homeland, which is a really useful web site. Here is its pedigree.

            You can look up SNPs at Genetic Homeland. Go to, and click on "DNA Marker Index" on the right, under "Quick Links". Make sure you choose "Y" in the "Chromosome" box on the left, then enter the marker name or numerical position in the box on the right, and click the green "Search" button. If they have data on that SNP, it will come up. You can click "View Pedigree" in the "Notes" box to see the phylogenetic pedigree of that SNP.


            • #7
              A member of Group 2e (Guest) has received his Big Y-700 results! His terminal SNP is FGC48997.

              Its pedigree is as follows:

              R-M207>R1-M173>R1b-M343>L754>L389>P297>M269>L23>L51>P310> L151>P312>ZZ11>DF27>ZZ12>Z2559>FGC49020>DF83>Z2563 >Z2567>Z2566> CTS6519>FGC49010>FGC48997.

              Think of that as a Y-DNA family tree and the name of each SNP as the name of an ancestor.

              R1b-DF27 (one of the ancestors of FGC48997) has been found in an ancient Bell Beaker skeleton in Germany dated to the third millennium BC. Bell Beaker was an offshoot of the Corded Ware culture


              • #8
                I've updated the R1b-BY93500 stair-step graphic from a couple of posts back to show the SNP S552 between L21 and DF13.

                Gist_BY93500 stair-step tree.jpg