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The Dorsey/Darsey/Darcy/Dawsey/Dossey/D'Arcy

Surname Project


 To Define and Verify Family Lines and Connections

Established 2002
This project is organized, administered, and paid for by family members
for the purpose of linking ourselves to the past.

We have no commercial interest in any testing companies. 

However we recommend testing at Family Tree DNA.

What is Genetic Genealogy?

The purpose of this project is to analyze Y chromosome DNA of males with the surnames  Dorsey, Darsey, Darcy, Dawsey, Dossey, and D'Arcy to learn more about the interconnections between and within families of those surnames.  In our culture, surnames are handed from father to son.  Happily, a father also passes a copy of his Y chromosome, virtually intact, to all of his sons.  This makes the Y chromosome DNA (Y-DNA) a kind of biochemical signature for the surname.  In the last ten years or so, (relatively inexpensive) procedures have been developed to characterize specific segments of the Y chromosome DNA.  Now there is a growing  movement within the genealogy community to utilize this procedure to compare the characteristics of the Y-DNA segments to identify and define patrilineal lines.

Fortunately though the surname is beholden to the vagaries of spelling skills, accents, "non-paternal events", and invented genealogies, its partner in inheritance, the Y chromosome stays relatively consistent and is a much more reliable gauge for grouping individuals and families into their proper lineages.

 Since only males carry the Y chromosome, our study will, by necessity, be limited to  direct line Dorsey/Darsey/Darcy/Dawsey/Dossey/D'Arcy males (or anyone who suspects he is).   Figure 1 illustrates the way the Y chromosome is passed down through four generations.

Male sharing Y chromosome via an  uninterrupted male-male link  with a common ancestor

Male with Y chromosome from outside the paternal line

Females--have NO Y chromosome

Figure 1  The Path of Y Chromosome DNA Through Four Generations

Unfortunately the other 45 chromosomes do not share this exclusive trait and are mixed and shuffled at each generation so that any information about the source of ancestral DNA is lost.  In answer to a frequently asked question, the Y chromosome of a woman's son will not carry any information about her paternal line as he will have the Y chromosome of his father.  For more information about the science of DNA testing for genealogy, please see Molecular Genealogy.  From there you will find links to more detailed explanations in case you want to fill in any gaps in your knowledge about DNA.  Another excellent site for learning about the use of DNA testing for genealogy is John Blair's DNA 101 page. 

The Surname

It is a curiosity of the Dorsey surname that it is found primarily in the United States and Canada (ranking 604th with a frequency of about .02 in the general US population).  Irish and English families use the name Darcy or D'Arcy almost exclusively as do some US families (ranking 13816 together in the US).  Also found in the United States are the less common Dossey (ranking 20939th) and Dawsey (27807th) names.1   Other spellings and misspellings include Dorsie, Dorsy, Dorcey, Dorcy, Dorcie, Darsey, Darsy, Darsie, Darcy, Darcey, Darcie, D'Arcy, Dossey, Dossie, Dosy.  .  .  The misinterpretation of the early American way of writing the letter "s" has even led to the name being indexed as Dawfey for three 1790 census entries.   

In many cases, these spellings are reflective of the phonics skills of census takers and other clerical workers of the 18th and 19th centuries and  multiple spellings can be found sprinkled through legal documents of one individual or one family line or even the same document.   Consequently, anyone who is researching one of these surnames must,  by necessity,  study them all.   And, for this reason, this DNA project must take the cumbersome title:  The Dorsey/Darsey/Darcy/Dawsey/Dossey/D'Arcy DNA Project.    It is with heartfelt apologies to those of the other five surnames that we often shorten the name to The Dorsey DNA Project for convenience.  It is your project as well and we welcome and encourage participants from all variant surnames.

Information about the Dorseys in the public record has been extensively mined and reported, but, for many, their connections remain a tangled mystery.  The 1880 census enumerates 3530 white males with the surname Dorsey. Of those, 457 were born in Ireland, 33 in Canada, 20 in England, 18 in France, and a smattering from eight other countries.  The remainder were US born and of those  many had wandered far by 1880 and little documentation exists to connect them to their origins.  Add to this number, 716 white males by the name Darsey, 74 by the name Dawsey, and 54 with the name Dossey. The same 1880 census reports 2445 black males with the surname Dorsey, 105 named Dawsey, 88 named Darsey and 44 with variants of the surname Dossey.  Presumably some of these men were descendants of the large group of Dorseys from colonial Maryland, some descended from other immigrant Dorsey lines, while others took the name Dorsey (or some variant) after the Civil War. 

Some questions about the Dorsey and other variant surnames that we hope to answer with this project are:

  • How many different common male ancestors are associated with the Dorsey/Dawsey/Dossey/D'Arcy surnames?

  • How are the different Dorsey (and other variant spellings) family lines related (or not related)?

  • Are all Dorseys from an ancestral country related, or are there an assortment of different Dorsey et al families within each country?

  • Can a connection be made between the descendants of the American Immigrant Edward Darcy-Dorsey and any specific English or Irish family?

  • Can a connection between the Dorseys from Ireland and the Dorseys from England be made?

  • Which Dorsey researchers should be collaborating because they share a common ancestor?

  • Though a bit vague and heavily reliant on statistics, an analysis of the mutations in the Y-chromosome can also be used to estimate the "Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA)" in terms of number of generations since the separation occurred.

If your Dorsey research has hit a "stone wall," DNA analysis could be the break through you have been looking for to push your Dorsey Genealogy research back generations by finding connection to other Dorsey family lines. We now have DNA profiles that match five different groups of Dorsey/Darcy/Darsey/Dossey/D'Arcy/etc lins.

The Project

The Dorsey DNA Project invites all men with the Dorsey  surname (including all variant spellings) to participate.  This project is being coordinated by Family Tree DNA (FTDNA).  FTDNA is a Houston, TX based company founded strictly for performing genealogical DNA testing and analysis. All work is done in the lab of Dr. Michael Hammer of the University of Arizona. Dr. Hammer is a highly respected geneticist who is actively pursuing DNA surname research and other areas of population genetics.  As part of the Family Tree DNA Family Reconstruction Project Program we have obtained the following  prices for our project:

Y-DNA 12-marker test $99

Y-DNA 25-marker test $124

Y-DNA 37-marker test $149   

Y-DNA 67-marker test $239 

We strongly advise the 37 marker test.  The 67 marker test is better yet and may be necessary for defining various lines from a common ancestor.  However, if cost is an issue, even the 12 marker test may be sufficient for excluding connections for some lines.  The DNA connected with some of our Dorsey lines happens to have several unusual marker values among those included in the 12 marker test.  Matches of unusual markers are exciting because they greatly reduce the chances that a match between two or more individuals is the result of a random coincidence thus adding credence to a hypothesis of a recent common ancestor.  Other Dorsey lines lack a significant number of unique markers making the 37 or even 67 marker test necessary to verify that matches are not the result of random coincidence. 

Unless otherwise directed, Family Tree DNA retains all DNA samples in storage so that additional  markers can be measured after the initial testing (with no need for another DNA collection).  Prices for upgrades at this time (August 2009) are:

Y-DNA-Refine (upgrade 12-marker test to 25-markers) $49

Y-DNA-Refine (upgrade 12 marker test to 37 markers) $99

Y-DNA-Refine (upgrade 12 marker test o 67 markers) $189

Y-DNA-Refine (upgrade 25-marker test to a 37 marker test) $49

Y-DNA-Refine (upgrade 25 marker test to 67 markers) $148

Y-DNA-Refine upgrade 37 marker test to 67 markers) $99

The Project Coordinator is Family Tree DNA's direct link to the project. The Project Coordinator for the Dorsey DNA Project is a Lineage III descendent of Andrew Dorsey (MD > NC, 1766).

Results will be returned to the Project Coordinator and the participant as they are received by FTDNA.  Each participant will also receive a certificate and report containing his personal test results.  In addition, information on test analysis relative to other participants and groups will be published on this website.  I will be happy to discuss individual results as they relate to other results from the group.

To Participate

All direct line Dorsey/Dawsey/Dossey/Darcy/D'Arcy males (and those with other variant surnames) are invited to participate in the Dorsey DNA Project.   Females do not have a Y-chromosome.  However, they can participate by recruiting a direct male line Dorsey/Dawsey/Dossey/Darcy/D'Arcy relative (father, grandfather, brother, uncle, cousin) as their proxy. The Family Tree DNA test kit consists of three cheek scrapers and three collection tubes (all to be used by the same person). The kit also includes instructions for collecting three DNA samples at  at least eight hour time intervals and a release form allowing for sharing information with others with matching results. (This release form is optional.) The sampling technique is painless and only involves the use of a swab to collect a small sample of cells from the inside of the cheek. This collection can be done in your own home.   One of our very enthusiastic participants, Bob Dorsey, has provided an informative and entertaining "photo journal" of his DNA Collection for our project.  Don't miss Bob's DNA Collection Report

Each participant will collect his sample and return the kit, along with payment by check or credit card, to Family Tree DNA. 

Please Click Here to Join the Dorsey/Darsey/Darcy/Dawsey/Dossey/D'Arcy DNA Project

Remember the DNA for your test must be from a male with the surname Dorsey or a known or suspected variant spelling or from a male who suspects his (or an ancestor's) name has been changed FROM Dorsey to another name. 

If you are a Dorsey male (or a male with one of the many variant forms of this name) who has tested with another DNA Testing company, in most cases, we will be happy to include your results in this project.  Please contact the project administrator for more details.  We also welcome transfers from the National Genographic Project which can be made through Family Tree DNA.


Only the person providing a DNA sample and the Family Coordinator will know what his results are (unless the participant decides he would like to share that information - see Sharing Results below). An ID number and password will be assigned to each sample by Family Tree DNA.   Only the test sample and the ID number are forwarded to the testing lab.  No one other than the coordinator and a clerical person at FTDNA will know who participates in the study or which result is from which person.

An incredible amount of human DNA serves no known function. If you were to think of the all the human DNA together as a book of instructions for making a human (written in English for the sake of this discussion:), a large part of the writing would be gibberish--random letters in random order. Sometimes the letters would form little patterns and repeat themselves (seemingly) meaninglessly. Buried in the gibberish, you would find words that, with careful study, you could dissect out and arrange into a meaningful message.  Over 95% of human DNA is not functional. Some geneticists even refer to these areas of the DNA as "junk DNA." (Others suggest the "gibberish" is functional and we just haven't figured out what the function is:)

The DNA tests that are done for genealogical purposes examine parts of the DNA molecule that do not code for any trait--the "junk DNA". There will be NO information about physical characteristics or other inherited traits in your results.

When test results are posted on this website, no names of living people will be included.  Each test result is posted under the name of the earliest known ancestor.  Of course, participants must help by supplying enough information to determine the name and hopefully dates and geographical location of at least his most recent non-living ancestor.  

Privacy will always be preserved to the degree with which each person can be comfortable and still give the project meaning.

Which  leads to the topic of:

 Sharing Results

As pointed out above, DNA analysis can help answer the question : 

Which Dorsey researchers should be collaborating because they share a common ancestor?

However, to collaborate effectively,  the participants will need to know each others identities.  All participants are encouraged, but not required, to provide contact information to the other project members so they can share information.  In many cases, the contact person may not be the person providing the DNA sample but rather someone who is researching the provider's line.  After the DNA analysis results are posted and participants have the opportunity to review their results compared to others, we hope participants (or their representatives) will release contact information for further collaboration.

 A Final Word of Caution

There is always a possibility that your DNA will not match the expected line--perhaps nullifying years of traditional genealogical research.  Samples that vary significantly from the group they are expected to match may do so for a number of reasons.  

The advent of the Internet has brought powerful search engines and a growing collection of online records--some scans of original records, some transcripts made by generous individuals, some databases provided by commercial companies.  Almost all of us have found a record (or more!) that is inconsistent with some highly lauded genealogy prepared by an early twentieth century researcher who worked without the luxuries of the digital age.  And, sadly, there has been a proliferation of poorly researched online trees that have propagated many mistaken conclusions.  DNA has brought to light a number of these mistakes and help researchers refocus their efforts in the right direction. 

  Even a well researched genealogy may not reflect the reality of a “nonpaternal event” at an unknown past time. There are several possible types of nonpaternal events besides a maternal indiscretion.  For example, a child may have been adopted at an early age and given the Dorsey name though the adoption was never officially recorded.  Adoptions have been common in every age, i.e.. parents died by disease or war and a relative took in the children and raised them with their name; or young daughters had a child out of wedlock and the parents raised it as their own.  A man may have taken the Dorsey name when he married a Dorsey daughter. A Dorsey man may have married a pregnant widow and the child given the name Dorsey.  A couple whose wife's maiden name was Dorsey may choose to give their children the Dorsey name for various reasons.   Particularly in early America, new identities were often taken for a variety of reasons and family ties severed.  Clerical error in public documents may assign a Dorsey name to the wrong person, and so on. 

The number of surname DNA projects are growing rapidly.  Family Tree DNA provides an optional matching service for people to look for matches among other surnames.  In addition, there is a growing public database at in which you can enter your result to try to match up with other people who share your Y chromosome signature.  However, at the present time, those databases are far too small to produce magical matches to people whose DNA may have strayed from its original surname.    In time, however, it even may be possible for those individuals to search a database and discover their Y chromosome DNA's original surname.  In fact, a few fortuitous matches have already been made that, particularly in the case of unusual DNA signatures and supporting documents in the public record, have identified or confirmed past name changes.

While these discoveries may be disappointing at first, most researchers  eventually dig right in and, in many cases, using clues from their DNA matches, create new and accurate genealogies for their lines. 

[1]Surname frequencies from:  US Census Bureau, “Frequently Occurring First Names and Surnames From the 1990 Census”, datasbase online, searched, February 25, 2006


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Contexo Home Project Home Page Site Contents Report Introduction Results Overview Lineage I Lineage II Lineage III Lineage IV Lineage V Lineage VI Ancient Irish Origins Andrew Dorsey? Harvey Kelley? Dorsey DNA Blog DNA Basics Support This Project Project Supporters Order a Kit

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