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Y-DNA of Sir Thomas Powys (1648-1719)

Sir Thomas' Descendants

I have so far found over 1700 descendants, male and female.

Y-DNA is passed more or less unchanged from father to son. All fathers and all sons.

Y-DNA changes slightly as the generations pass. This has two benefits: first as the changes are several generations apart, we can identify people of the same male lines. Second as the changes occur this separates out one male line from another. More of less this means that the Y-DNA follows the surname practices in European society.

So we would expect that all the male line descendants of Sir Thomas will have the same Y-DNA. Further his close male line ancestors for quite a few generations will also have the same Y-DNA. The only problem to be found with this is when the apparent is not the actual father but does carry the Y-DNA of their actual father. These are given the acronym of NPE, Non-Paternal-Events.

Fortunately NPEs do not occur very often particularly in the property-owning classes for whom inheritance is important. Daughters got chained up a bit. Anyhow the result is that we have found a couple of males lines where the two people are 17 conceptions apart who have identical Y-DNA. A Result, as they say. The two people are Ian Powys and myself, who are very distant half-seventh-cousins and I think once removed. Seen from a historical point of view, the only explanation of this identity of Y-DNA is that our common ancestor is the historically known such, Sir Thomas.

Once you have realised that there is no other explanation you conclude that the tested identity of Y-DNA solidifies that historical evidence and means that the history was right. We are both historically and genetically known to be descended from the one person. Also all our respective ancestors are double certified to be descended from the one person. Others, male or female, who are closely related can increase the confidence level of their Powys genealogy.

This is not a reason to lie back and say the genealogy is over. First there are opportunities to widen the scope by testing other male lines as quite a few survive. The more that test, the more we can be confident about this historical genealogy. But it must also be admitted that some male lines have died out so such tests are not possible for all branches of the wider Powys descendants.

Sir Thomas also has a few Ancestors

His Y-DNA is known to be carried by all known living male line descendants of William Powys of Ludlow who lived from 1494 to 1577.

A bold statement. It may be false. I know of three further male lines of descent from William Powys but which have been lost in obscurity and could, just, have survived. Have a look at this chart of actual and speculated other Y-DNA lines.

If any of those three lines have survived, they will carry the same Y-DNA as their male forbears. Assuming that Sir Thomas was a biological great-grandson of William, then William had the same Y-DNA as his male offspring.

The Berwick line is of particular interest. Various genealogical studies have been made of this line and they all have inadequate information of the grandson of William in that line, one Thomas of Bryndrynocke. There is no evidence that this Thomas was the son of the previous generation or the father of the next generation. Currently I have the odd will to explore but no other leads. But if there was a male line going through him to a male of the present day, that male could be tested for their Y-DNA and if identical to Ian Powys's and mine it would be near-to-proof that they were descendants also of William Powys.

There are two known and one possible male lines from John Powys of Liverpool and Swansea and who is of the Berwick line. The two known lines are his Powys and Johnson sons with Margaret Johnson, though nothing more can be found of them. The possible line is whether this John Powys was the John Powys of England who went to Norway around 1828 and who was said before the clergy to be the father of the son of Maren Halvorsdatter of Norway. Records survive in Norway of her invigilation on this matter. The son was called Halvor Powys, where Halvor was his maternal grandfather's name, and in turn he had a son, but the line of the latter cannot be found. Remarkably, though, some Norwegians have been found alive today whose Y-DNA is very close to ours and which conceivably could have branched off around 1500 from William Powys. I am of the opinion that these Norwegians could easily be descendants of 'John Powys of England' and thus are relations of ours and could prove the validity of the descent of the Berwick line from William Powys. But I have been unable to establish any communication with them via the owners of FamilyTreeDNA, the company concerned. Perhaps I must try harder?

The other Powys line that has vanished is those Powyses that stayed behind in Ludlow when Thomas Powys of Snitton moved out. My brother Martin discovered that these were in fact the family of Thomas of Snitton's eldest brother, and thereby that this Thomas was not himself the eldest son of William's second marriage as all the genealogies had hitherto asserted. There are certainly many Powyses born in Ludlow from 1600 to around 1800 and quite a few of the males followed the apparent family tradition of becoming church-wardens. But Ludlow slowly lost its eminence as a March castle and the government of Wales slipped away and with that the employment in the town would have declined. So, we speculate, any Powyses left in Ludlow would have moved out. I have not been able to discover any stray Powys line that clearly leads back to Ludlow.

With the above lack of knowledge, I can nevertheless confidently repeat that the Powys Y-DNA of our family is the Y-DNA that we have identified as being carried by Sir Thomas and passed on by the conceptions of his eldest son in 1687 and of his youngest son in 1703.

Tim Powys-Lybbe
January 2023