Heathcock/Hathcock/Hathcoat Surname Y-DNA Project

The Hathcoat/Heathcock Surname Project is hosted by Family Tree DNA (FTDNA). The administrator is Clayton Heathcock.

Basic Y-DNA tutorial. What is the deal with Y-DNA and why are we interested in it in connection with genealogy? The answer is that what differentiates a male from a female, at the DNA level, is that males have a Y- and an X-chromosome, whereas females have two X-chromosomes. Since only males have Y-chromosomes, this means a man's Y-chromosome is identical to his father's Y-chromosome, and the same as his paternal grandfather's Y-chromosome, and so on. In other words, the Y-chromosome is passed from father to son. Since surnames are also passed from father to son, it follows that all people with the same surname should have identical Y-chromosomes.

However, we all know that surnames change slightly from time to time. For example, in the late 1700s and early 1800s, my surname ancestors spelled their names as Hathcock. In the middle 1800s, when Alfred Hathcock settled in central Texas with his four sons, John, Asa and Columbus, the name acquired an "e" and became "Heathcock." In other parts of the country, we find the same family name spelled as Hethcock, Hathcock, Haithcock, Harthcock and Hethcox. In addition, some of our Hathcock ancestors chose to deliberately change the name by replacing "cock" with "coat" and now we have cousins whose surname is Hathcoat, Haithcoat, Hethcoat and Hethcote.

In a similar way, the Y-chromosome DNA sequence can undergo small changes from time to time. The Y-chromosome DNA markers that are evaluated are called "short tandem repeats" (STRs). At each of the111 markers that are tested, the STR has a value like 9 or 13 or 26. This is the number of times a given DNA letter sequence is repeated. However, occasionally when the DNA is copied, the machinery makes a slight error and instead of making a copy with 26 repeats, it might "miscount" and make a copy with 25 or 27 repeats. Biologists sometimes refer to this as a "stutter". The probability of a miscopy is low--only about 0.2%. However, since we evaluate 111 DNA loci, the chances of a miscopy in one of them is 0.002 x 111= 0.222 or 22.2%. That is, in each conception event, the chances are about 1 in 5 that the son will get a slightly altered copy of Y-chromosome DNA from his father. This then becomes the son's version and he will pass it on, with the error, to his sons (at least to 80% of his sons, since there is a 1 in 5 chance that there will be another copy error in the conception of each of his sons).

How to Join the Project. The Y-chromosome DNA test is simple to carry out. Contrary to what many people think, it is not necessary to provide a blood sample. Instead, the actual test consists of swabbing in your cheek with a small cotton swab, which is sent to the testing laboratory. In a few weeks you get a report of the profile. Visit this link to join our surname group and order a test kit.

So far our group has more than 40 members and we have also received reports from a number of others whose tests have been carried out by other testing laboratories. At the moment, it is possible to get a full report of 111 different markers and if you are already sure that you are a biological Hathcock (or one of the many obvious surname variants) this is the best test for you because many of the informative variations from the consensus family modal occur in markers 68-111.

Privacy. The DNA samples collected will be analyzed purely for anthropological and genealogical data; no medically-relevant data will be collected or analyzed, nor will the the DNA be shared. The tests do not tell us anything about your health or about health problems you or your family may have. In addition to that, in 2008 the Congress approved legislation that was signed by the President, preventing insurance companies to use DNA information to deny insurance coverage (the GINA Act).

Results. Click here to see the results to date. This table shows several groupings. The first group are men who are believed to trace back to Edward Hathcock, who was born about 1700. The second group afre men who trace back with some confidence to Joseph Hathcock, also born about 1700. Edward and Joseph had plantations near each other on the Virginia-North Carolina border; Edward in Northhampton Co NC and Joseph in Brunswick Co VA. These two groupings are made on the basis of one DNA difference, a at marker named Y-GGAAT-1B07. All of the men with Edward as ancestor have a value of 11 at this marker whereas the men with Joseph as an ancestor have a value of 12. We think that Edward and Joseph were either brothers or first cousins so one of them probably has the "original" Y-DNA and the other has accumulated a one-step mutation.

My own profile is identical to the "Joseph family modal" in all of the marker sites except at marker number 32, where my DNA has 17 repeats, compared to 16 for the family modal.

It is actually the small deviations from the family consensus that are most useful for genealogy. For example, James David Hathcock Jr. and Earl Williams both differ from the family modal at markers number 10 and 12 (these two markers are coupled, so this does not correspond to two mutations, but only to one). This tells us that James David and Earl share a common male-line ancestor who lived more recently than the earliest common ancestor for the surname group. Another example is marker 92, which is discussed below.

Marker #92, an Example of an "early" mutation. Marker number 92, Y-GGAAT-1B07, is very informative in that modern descendants of Edward Hathcock all have a value of 11 at this marker whereas descendants of Joseph Hathcock all have a value of 12 at this marker. Since Edward and Joseph Hathcock were contemporary and had plantations only 9 miles apart, they were almost certainly brothers, first cousins, or uncle-nephew. They lived in the early 1700s and would therefore represent two of the earliest Hathcock men in America.

Surname Variations. You will notice that the study group includes a number of men with names other than Heathcock or an obvious variant. In a few cases, we have a very good idea how these men came to have Heathcock Y-DNA but another surname.

A complete summary of the living men who have been shown to have the "Hathcock family haplotype", with their known of suspected descent, follows:

Hathcock or Variant (descent from Edward or Joseph Hathcock, early 1700s):

  • Arnold Hethcox
  • Austin Wayne Hathcock
  • Boyce Dale Hathcock
  • Burley Hathcoat
  • Charles Robert Heathcock
  • Clayton Howell Heathcock Jr.
  • Curtis Henry Hathcock Jr.
  • Don Dickson Hethcoat
  • Francis Marion Heathcock
  • George Ray Hathcock
  • Howard C. Hathcoat
  • James David Hathcock Jr.
  • James Franklin Heathcock
  • James Hathcoat
  • James Whitlow. Haithcoat
  • Kenneth Earl Heathcock Jr.
  • Paul Lamar Hathcoat
  • Raiford Harthcock
  • Robert Ray Hathcock
  • Russell Brock Hathcock
  • Russell Patrick Hathcock
  • Tucker Lynwood Hathcock
  • Walter Liston Heathcock
  • Nortons (descend from Isham Norton, 1752-1833, a biological Hathcock):

  • Marcus Edward Norton
  • Carl Norton Jr.
  • Robert Gerald Norton
  • Archie F. Norton Jr.
  • Jacobs (connection with Hathcock haplotype unknown):

  • Danny Colon Jacobs
  • Cecil E. Jacobs
  • Cecil Franklin Jacobs
  • Larry Efrid Jacobs
  • John Jacobs
  • Other surnames:

  • Seth Quick (whose father was a Jacobs)
  • Gene Reynolds
  • Aubra Grice (descends from William Washington Grice, b ca 1810 Elbert Co GA, a likely biological Hathcock)
  • Artie Cone
  • Stephen Clark
  • Kenneth Herbert Scott
  • Michael Carl Johnson
  • Jesse Flood
  • Charles Davis
  • Ben Patton
  • Earl Williams (descends from Franklin Randolph Dixon, 1858-1941, a biological Hathcock)
  • Alfred Wayne Smith (likely son of Alfred Wheeler Heathcock, 1906-1971)
  • Origin of the Hathcock Surname. It has been widely accepted, mainly due to the exhaustive work in the 1960s-1980s by family genealogist Douglas Wilburn Hathcock, that the surname came to America in the person of 21-year old Thomas Hathcock, who was imported by William Stone as an indentured servant. We know that Thomas came from Gravesend, England on a ship named Paule and that he arrived in Virginia in the summer of 1635. We do not know more about Thomas Hathcock (spelled Hatcock in the original document that records his entry). In fact, the next people by the name for which there are extensive records are Edward Hathcock and Joseph Hathcock, both born about 1700. Edward and Joseph lived near each other, one on each side of the state line that separated Virginia from North Carolina. They were likely (step) grandsons or great grandsons of the immigrant Thomas Hathcock. All of the modern American Hathcocks (or variant spellings) trace their lineage back to either Edward of Joseph Hathcock.

    Modern English Heathcock DNA Profile. However, although Edward and Joseph probably got their Hathcock surname in the normal patrilineal way from the immigrant Thomas Hathcock, it appears that they did not get their Y-chromosomes from him. Three modern English Heathcocks have become members of our surname group project and their Y-DNA profile is quite different from that of the American Heathcocks. These three men live in different parts of England, do not know each other, and do not have a known, close family connection. They have the same Y-DNA profile and presumably respresent the English Heathcock family modal. Our project is interested in adding other modern English Heathcocks to the project.

    Ancestral Haplotype (Family Modal). If Thomas Hathcock brought the surname to America, but not the DNA, then where did it come from? In using DNA for the study of evolution, scientists use the term "haplotype" to describe a unique DNA sequence. Thus, what I called the "family modal" could also be called "the ancestral haplotype." Similarly, each of the men in our surname group who differ from this ancestral haplotype can be said to have a slightly different haplotype. In our project, for each of the 111 loci but one there is a clear consensus in that every single participant has the same number of repeats, or else only one or two men differ from the main pattern. The one exception is marker #92. At this locus 12 of the 21 men who have tested to this level have 11 repeats and 9 have 12 repeats. I believe that these two ancestral haplotypes represent descendants of Edward or Joseph Hathcock, as discussed above.

    Our Haplogroup. Scientists also use the term "haplogroup" which means a group of similar haplotypes that define a genetic population. In other words, a population that is descended from a common ancestor, as evidenced by a specific "single nucleotide polymorphism) (SNP). There are many haplogroups and each has its own scientific notation. Many of the Hathcoat/Hathcock surname group members have been tested for SNP and our haplogroup is E1b1a, sometimes called E-M2. The following definition of this haplogroup is taken from Wikipedia:

    Haplogroup E1b1a is the main haplogroup in sub-Saharan Africa, where it reaches frequencies of over 80% in West Africa. It has been hypothesized that E1b1a originated in Northern Africa and then spread to sub-Saharan Africa with the Bantu expansion. E1b1a is the single most common Y-chromosome haplogroup among people of Sub-Saharan African descent both inside and outside of Africa. It is observed at frequencies of 58%-60% in African Americans.

    This suggests that, in some way that will probably never be known, an African man contributed the Y-DNA that those of us in our surname group all share and the son of this paternal event must have been raised with the Hathcock surname. I believe that this must have occurred very early, probably in the middle 1600s, as there still are virtually no American Hathcocks who do not have the general family haplotype. Possibly it was even the immigrant Thomas Hathcock himself who adopted an orphan son of an African man and raised him as his own son.

    September 18, 2020