Sproul yDNA Project

This is a yDNA project started by Philip Sprowl. The intention of the project was to prove that nearly all, if not all with the variant of Sproul came from the same proginator, Walter Spreull. The initial results of the study can be found (it appears as of July 1, 2015 the website is no longer active) at the web address www.sprowlgen.com. The project is still in existence but not being maintained at Family Tree DNA at www.familytreedna.com. Below is the Discussion Page of Phil’s project page. It is important to note that some of the speculation Phil has mentioned below has been dis-proven based on SNP testing. Therefore it is suggested you follow “My DNA Trail” for further updates.


Discussion of this Project


When I began this project, I had two objectives in mind: Test the hypothesis that most Sprouls are descended from Walter Spreull, Senechal to the early Earls of Lennox (Family Hypothesis), and help persons researching their Sproul ancestry to punch through their brick walls (this includes myself). Those remain as project objectives. At the outset, it was not clear how to organize the project; I only knew that the core procedure was to obtain as many Sproul yDNA samples as might be required to achieve those goals, accompanied by whatever genealogic tidbits each might bring. Why yDNA samples? Because this recently developed genetic technique can provide clues to relationships when traditional records cannot be found. By this time the project details are beginning to come into focus.


Family Hypothesis


It is possible, using small sample statistical methods, to make a very good test, a proof’ if you will, of a hypothesis involving a large population, using as few as 28 samples collected as randomly as possible. The result, true or false, will be unbiased if the sample is unbiased. In our case, the hypothetical question is: We are descended from Walter, true or false. There are only two possible outcomes. Statisticians call such a test a binomial experiment.


Professional genealogists have determined that in typical old European families, only about half of living male members can be expected to carry the family yDNA, the family haplotype. It follows that only 15 samples must match that haplotype, with significantly fewer mis-matches, to prove the question true. We currently have 13 matches, 3 mis-matches. The ratio of matches to total samples has, as new project members are added, consistently swung about 75%-80%. I believe we are as near as possible to a definitive answer!


Brick Walls


If it were possible to collect yDNA samples from every living Sproul head of household, together with what he knows of his ancestry, we could no doubt readily learn the identity of the common ancestors of nearly any two of them together with when and where most of those ancestors lived. We are not at all likely to collect that much data, but I am optimistic that we will eventually have enough to satisfy many of us. From what we have already, I suspect that we have identified the primary branches of the family tree, and half or more of the secondary branches. I suspect there may be about 12 – 15 tertiary branches. This means that each living Sproul male head of household will share his exact haplotype with, on average, 80 to 100 others. This is a surprisingly small tree for 25 to 26 generations of Sprouls.


Project Results


The Genetic Tree is the centerpiece of this research. When fully developed, it will show when and where our various common ancestors lived. My goal is to name each of them, and list their vital statistics. The tree is derived byFluxus Engineering software from the data in the yDNA Comparison Table. I will attempt to interpret it as each new participant is added. If that does not fully answer your questions, please contact me. I will explain it further.


The yDNA Comparison Table, is fairly straightforward. The upper table simply lists the haplotype data for each participant. Although this site is intended primarily for the use of project participants, it is available for public viewing. Therefor each participant is identified, not by name, but by code. This is to protect privacy. The significant data in the lower table, Genetic Distance, is in the column labeled modal. In addition, at the bottom of theGenetic Distance table, are hyperlinks which take you to the Family Tree DNA web site for interpretation of the significance of genetic distance. Use the link for 37 markers. That is close to the 43 which we are using.




One of the interesting facets of genetic genealogy is the research in progress aimed at tracing ancient ethnic roots. I have taken a SNP (pronounced snip) test which identifies me as R1b3*, called a haplogroup. Anyone who has the Sproul family matching yDNA haplotype will be in that same haplogroup. There is no need to pay for a test to determine where you fit, anthropologically speaking. Our ancestors, 12,000 – 15,000 years ago are thought to be those who created the famous cave paintings at Lascaux in France and Altamira in Spain. Learn more at The Genographic Project.


My Present View


As a point of interest, a subset of 12 specific markers is often used to predict to which haplogroup a testee belongs. These markers are selected to predict the results of a SNP test. They can identify your ancient ethnic ancestry (before use of surnames). There are, by this date, various searchable public databases which one can use to find matches for this subset of his yDNA. There are, in total, probably more than 100,000 different samples listed on these data bases at this time. More are added almost daily. Most of them are of European origin. Often, a database will list several persons with different surnames, but with identical haplotypes. I have found only 7 perfect matches for these 12 Sproul family markers outside of the Sproul family.


My interpretation of this apparent near uniqueness, and from what I have so far learned of genetic analysis and of Sproul family history is this: Our genetic progenitor was born ca. 800 – 1,000 AD somewhere in Western Europe, perhaps at Dumbarton, located in present-day Scotland. This was an ancient stronghold of the Britons, who held control there almost to the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066 AD. The Britons were a Celtic people, distinct from the Irish and Scots, who inhabited much of Great Britain before the coming of the Romans, Angles, Saxons, Scots, Norse, Danes, and Normans, and who appear to have been largely absorbed by these successive waves of newcomers. Walter Spreull, our genealogic progenitor, was born in 1244 AD probably at Dumbarton. The family yDNA suggests that he was not an ethnic Scot. I speculate that he was of a Briton family, more akin to the modern Welsh. He was apparently the only representative of his family whose progeny has survived to the present time. This assessment is tentative. It assumes that evidence will continue to accumulate in favor of one, and only one, Sproul family, with Walter the Senechal as its progenitor. Genetic anthropology may eventually identify conclusively our ethnic roots.

2 thoughts on “Sproul yDNA Project”

  1. I would be keen to take the DNA test, I believe from work I have done on my family tree that there is a strong probability of a direct link back to Walter Spreull.

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Ancient and Modern Ancestors of the Sprowl Family of New Castle County, Delaware and Camden County, New Jersey