Woody DNA Project Discussion

DNA Helix






This page is for the dissemination of information relative to the Woody DNA Project. This includes progress updates, conclusions, success stories and answers to correspondents questions.

Click here to join the Woody DNA Project and order a discounted yDNA test. Y-DNA37 or Y-DNA67 are the preferred tests.

September 29, 2019 - We now have 53 official yDNA members in the Woody DNA Project. We have made great progress; however, the number of yDNA distinct Woody lineages remains at four. Most other surname DNA projects with this number of participants have many more groupings. We also have quite a few more project participants that have only been tested for atDNA, mainly at Ancestry.com. While we have not attempted to discourage these atDNA participants, other surname projects have done so. It seems clear to us that most of the atDNA project participants do not understand that atDNA and yDNA are completely different and that their participation in the project will not aid their family history research one iota. If they would encourage a male Woody relative to purchase a yDNA test and join the Woody DNA Project, they might be rewarded with some undeniable genetic data. In addition, if they suspect that a male relative with any surname might be the son of a Woody, a yDNA test would most likely prove or disprove this supposition.

June 4, 2013 We now have 43 members in the Woody DNA Project; however, our total for yDNA tests is 39. The other four are mtDNA and Family Finder tests. The most unexpected yDNA result came from a descendant of Nicholas Woody (1773 - bef 1850) of Spartanburg County, South Carolina. This result has placed his lineage in Group 3 (the Woody Family of Old Virginia group). This came as quite a surprise since adjacent Greenville County was the home of the family of William and Sarah Persel Woody (Group 2) in the late 1800s. However, a Henry Woody (bef 1755 - bef 1810) was enumerated in the 1790 and 1800 Spartanburg censuses and he was probably the father of Nicholas. Henry had a large family including six additional males over age sixteen in the 1800 census. We do not know the parents of Henry, but suspect that he was a son of William Banks Woody of Henry County, Virginia or the son of Samuel Woody of Hanover County, Virginia, who died intestate in the late 1700s. In the early 1800s, there were several other Woodys in northwestern South Carolina and southwestern North Carolina that have not been linked to any established lineage and consequently seem to be good candidates for relatives of Henry Woody of Spartanburg.
            We finally have a new participant in Group 2 (
William & Sarah Persel Woody group). His yDNA is an exact match for the three other participants in this group. Additionally, two participants that have had at least 37 markers tested are descendants of two sons of William and Sarah, so we now believe that this group is on a solid yDNA footing. However, the participation in this group lags significantly behind two of the other groups and we would like to see several more new participants and/or upgrades to 37 markers. With this success come a mystery. The yDNA of this group is a very good match with many of the Chumley members of the Cholmondeley DNA Project. Excellent sketches of the family histories of the many the different surname variations associated with this yDNA project are at the Chumney/Chumley/Chumbley Family History web site. As far as we can discern, none of the members of either DNA project has any record of Woody and Chumley interactions, so we can't even hazard a guess as to the source of this connection. However, the fact that we have exactly matching yDNA from the descendants of two sons of William and Sarah Persel Woody means that the mystery is connected to William Woody or to an ancestor of William. Since the William C. Berry Day Book  alleges that William was a "native of England" and that Sarah was an "English lady", this ancestor would have likely resided in England.

August 27, 2011 We now have the the 67 marker results from a descendant of David Woody/Brooks. Comparing these 67 marker results to the 67 marker results of the Love descendant described below reveals a GD=8.  A GD=8 means that the semi-close 37 marker match described below has a very high probability of being a random match and, as a consequence, the probability of a Woody/Love connection is reduced to nearly zero.  So, at this time, we are left with an almost unique yDNA for the descendants of David Woody/Brooks. Perhaps, in the future, other matches will be found as more and more men have their yDNA tested. Or perhaps, traditional research will provide more evidence relating to the ancestors of David Woody/Brooks. At any rate, we now have a proven forth major Woody line. We anticipate that the number of participants in this group will grow, just as two of the other groups have grown substantially since the project was initiated in 2007.

August 18, 2011
Sometime the results of yDNA testing provide surprising information, but that is the nature of yDNA and yDNA surname projects. If we could forecast these results in advance, we would not have much of a reason to do the testing and compare the results in DNA projects.
            The yDNA 25 marker results of a descendant of Allan Woody, the son of David Woody/Brooks closely matches the results of the two men mentioned directly below. This result seems to rule out a non-paternal event that could additionally complicate the research on David Woody/Brooks; however, the yDNA of these men seems almost unique. Besides their own rather close matches, there is only one other semi-close match to any surname in the FTDNA & ySearch databases. The one and only semi-close match is to a Love descendant living in Scotland and his yDNA is in a Love DNA Project "Unmatched Group". This is not a real close match to the two Woodys (GD=4 & GD=5), but considering that the two Woody cousins have a GD=3, it cannot be easily dismissed. This means that this Love yDNA is also nearly unique and that it do not match any of the many other Love results in the Love DNA Project. The Love descendants first known ancestor was John Love born about 1817 in Scotland and there is no record of any of his family emigrating to America. Of course, this does not rule out the distinct possibility that an ancestor or older relative of John did come to America. Additionally, there several Loves living in Caswell Co., NC the late 1700s. Part of Caswell was used to create Person Co. in 1791/1792. Because of the unique nature of these yDNA results, the ambiguity associated with the David Woody/Brooks name and the fact that Loves were present in the same area as Woodys , we conclude that there is a possibility that these Woodys and Loves are somehow connected; however, this connection could have occurred many generations before the birth of David Woody/Brooks and long before David or his ancestors immigrated to America. It is also possible that the Woody-Love yDNA match is merely a random event.
             The Love descendant has been tested for 67 yDNA markers. Testing of the 38-67 marker suite for one of our Woody participants is also underway. If the two 67 marker tests compare favorably, more emphasis will be placed on the possible Woody-Love connection.
             Although the almost total lack of significant matches across all surnames is a rather unusual event, it certainly is not unprecedented. This event has occurred in other yDNA projects, but it is a first for ours. Although the yDNA databases contain hundreds of thousands of samples and are steadily growing larger, these databases contain only a very small fraction of the total number people that are candidates for testing. The overwhelming majority of these samples come from the United States, so the rest of the world is even more underrepresented. Many yDNA projects require large amounts of  patience, but this patience can result in significant genealogical dividends, sometime in ways we least expect.    

Jul 8, 2011
Recently, two descendants of David Woody, aka David Brooks, (c1755-1821) of Person Co., NC have joined the Woody DNA Project. Their yDNA 37 marker results indicate that the two men are related (GD=3); however, these results are completely different from the yDNA results for the three previously identified Woody families/groups found in Colonial America. In addition, their yDNA is not a good match for any Brooks yDNA in the FTDNA database. The only other match of any surname is found in the Love DNA Project. Both of the Woody participants descend from William Henry Woody, the son of David Woody/Brooks. David also had several other sons: John, Aaron, Moses, James & Allen. To further investigate this situation, we would like to know the yDNA of a descendant of one or more of these additional sons. So we would like a descendent of one or more of these sons to join our project. As a result of this information, we have created a new Woody Group 4 and the "Not Grouped" category has been reduced to three participants. 

Sep 28, 2010 We are experiencing a rather slow project participation period. The current economic situation seems to be the reason for this situation. Overall, however, the progress progress has been successful. We have eleven confirmed participants in the John Woody line, twelve in the Henry Woody line and three in the William line. We also have four participants in the "Not Grouped" category. Should we receive another match for any of the "Not Grouped" participants, we will form a new Woody grouping. 
So far, we have project members from seventeen states: They hail from the heartland to both coasts and both borders.
Dec 15, 2008
The 37 marker results for W-15 have confirmed that he is a descendant of John & Mary Lindley Woody. We now have four proven descendants of John & Mary in the project and are awaiting the results of W-21, whose paper trail suggests that he is also a descendant of this couple.
            The results of W-20 are a perfect 12 marker match with the results of two descendants of William & Sarah Percel Woody. It would be very useful for this participant to upgrade to 37 markers. We now have three proven descendants of William & Sarah in the project.
            The results of W-17, a descendant of George Woody, and the results of W-18 & W19, descendants of James Woody, show that these men share a common ancestor with the other Woodys that have paper trails originating in Western Virginia. We now have ten proven descendants of this common ancestor in the project and we continue traditional research in an effort to prove this ancestor.

Sep 25, 2008
One of our recent 37 marker results is for participant W-16.  The paper trail for W-16 hit a dead end with James B. Woody bc 1822 Tennessee and married in 1847, Roane Co., Tennessee to Prudence Mathis.  The DNA results for W-16 are a close match for those of W-4 & W-5, who are descendants of John Woody who died 1762 in North Carolina. These results, together with the  knowledge of where and when James and  Prudence were married  has narrowed the possibilities and focused the search for the parents of James. It is very likely that his grandfather was John Woody born 1758 in North Carolina.
        We have also received the 12 marker results for W-15 and they are an exact match for W-16, W-4 & W-5, discussed above. Although the paper trail for W-15 is short, this match gives us a family line and locality to focus our research. Hopefully, W-16 will upgrade to 37 markers, since these additional markers could be very useful in separating the branches of this tree. Currently all of the sons of John Woody, born 1758, are being researched with new focus and renewed  enthusiasm. We will keep you posted of the results.
        Additionally, two descendants (W-18 & W19) of James Woody, bc 1740, and first found in Pittsylvania Co., Virginia, have joined the project. To our knowledge, James has never been connected to any of the other Woody lines. He could be related to the Virginia Woodys, the North Carolina Woodys or he could be part of another completely separate Woody line in Colonial America. 

Aug 20, 2008 Participant No. 17 has just joined the project. He has a well established paper trail back to George Woody, bc 1790 in Virginia. We hope his yDNA will help us  shed some light on the Woodys of Western Virginia.

Aug 7, 2008
After a long drought, we now have two new participants (W-15 & W-16). One is using yDNA testing to determine which of the existing Woody lines he is associated with. The other is possibly a descendant of John & Mary Lindley Woody  (W4 and W5) but the paper trail is not complete. The project currently has the yDNA results of two other members from this lineage. This line is especially interesting because the I1b haplogroup indicates a deep ancestry from Scandinavia, rather than Western Europe. We are very glad  to have these new participants;
however, we still need more participation from descendants of the William & Sarah Percel line.

Jun 4, 2008 We now have the 37 marker results for the fifth descendant of Henry Woody. The previous discussion was based on four descendants. As anticipated, the average mutation rate changed slightly from .0098 to .0090. The Average Marker Longevity changed slightly from  2.75 generations to 3.00 generations. These revised figures do not change any of the conclusions at all.

To help illustrate fast mutating markers, it is instructive to look at the results of W-8 & W-9 on the Results Page of this project. Participants W-8 & W-9 are first cousins. The results of these two men are identical except for marker 389-2. The results show that this marker mutated in W-9 or his father. Marker 389-2 is not considered to be a fast mutating marker in the general population

May 23, 2008: We now have enough yDNA results from the Henry Woody line to reach some interesting conclusions. The following discussion is somewhat complicated and I have tried to condense the ideas as much as possible. In truth, I may have over simplified the concepts and explanations; however, the basic conclusions seem valid to me.

It is well known that DNA genetic markers mutate over time. This characteristic is called polymorphism. The number of mutations per hundreds of generations is called the mutation rate. In the early days of genetic studies (c. 2001), a mutation rate of .002 or .2% was thought to be accurate. However, in 2004, FTDNA indicated that the average mutation rate for the general population was .004 or .4%.  Note that this is the average mutation rate for all markers in the general population. It is also well known that the mutation rates for the individual genetic markers are not the same.

To estimate how long ago a connection between two individuals occurred, the concept of  Distance (GD) was introduced.  Very basically, the GD tool uses the number of marker differences (mutations) between individuals to estimate the probability of the Time to the Most Recent Common Ancestor (TMRCA) in years or generations. FamilyTreeDNA (FTDNA) has widely publicized that it uses different mutation rates for each genetic marker when computing GD and TMRCA. Although FTDNA does not publish the specific mutation rates, it appears that they may be using a rate of .007 for some markers. However, most tools that compute TMRCA use the average mutation rates for the general population, even if different rates are used for each marker. This includes the FTDNATIP and GD tools at FTDNA. Obviously, since each marker has an average mutation rate for the general population, there must be rates that are higher and lower than the average.  In fact, some surname mutation rates are much higher than average and some hardly mutate at all. Over the years, it has become apparent that the markers associated with a very few surnames mutate at a much higher rate that for the average population.  Although this phenomenon is quite rare, it appears that the Henry Woody line falls into this category.

Using the 37 marker data that we have accumulated for four descendants of Henry Woody, we have calculated an average mutation rate of .0098. This translates to an Average Marker Longevity (AML) of 2.75 generations. For 37 markers, this means that we can expect to see, on average, a marker mutation every 2.75 generations. By way of contrast, a .002 rate would produce a 13.5 generation AML and a mutation rate of .004 would produce a 6.67 AML.

If you look at the yDNA project results of most surnames you will see line after line of exactly identical or very similar results for many individuals. This is to be expected since the average mutation rate of most surname markers is .004. This rate produces a mutation, on average, every 6/7 generations and 6/7 generations is the extent of many lineages.  In contrast, the 37 marker results for the four descendants of Henry Woody do not contain a single exact match. This is because we can expect to see, on average, a mutation every 2.75 generations. Since most of our Henry Woody lineages are 6 generations, we can expect to see at about two mutations for each individual during this period.

There is one online tool that calculates TMRCA and also allows the selection of an average mutation rate. To use this tool, go to Dean McGee's Y-Utility: Y-DNA Comparison Utility, FTDNA Mode. Using an average mutation rate of .0098, we have used this tool to analyze the yDNA markers of the four descendants of Henry Woody.  These results are in close agreement with our paper trails for the four individuals.


The Henry Woody line has a very fast average mutation rate.

The DNA testing companies have not provided tools to analyze lineages with very fast average mutation rates.  This is because the number of surnames with these rates is very small. The GD and TMRCA tools that they provide are based on the average mutation rates of the general population and satisfy the needs of the vast majority of surname lineages. These traditional TMRCA and GD tools have very little value when used to analyze the DNA results of the Henry Woody line.

There is a TMRCA tool available that allows the selection of an average mutation rate.

Feb 5, 2008:  The Woody DNA Project continues to make substantial overall progress.  We now have the yDNA results of twelve people posted on the "Results" page, with two more in the pipeline.
We have posted four new lineages and updated one.

In the William & Sarah Percel line, we have posted the results for W-11 and he is a perfect 12 marker match with W-10. Coupled with excellent conventional research, this match has unlocked a dead end and revealed a previously unrecorded branch of this line. As a result, we have updated the lineage of W-10.  Since William Coffee Berry, the primary source for this line, alleges that William & Sarah first "settled on the Potomac River in the state of Virginia", some have speculated that they were related to the Henry Woody line. These yDNA results show that these two lines are unrelated. However, since Berry's work focused mainly on the descendants of William & Sarah's son Jonathan, other branches of this tree may be discovered by DNA testing and analysis.  Someday the yDNA of participants to this project may be used to prove the ancestors of William Woody in England but, in the meantime, there are probably many more unrecorded branches in this lineage.  Hopefully, this progress will encourage Woodys with brick walls to join our project.

Recent posted results have confirmed that William Banks Woody of Goochland & Henry Counties, VA was very closely related to Henry Woody of Franklin Co., VA. William died in 1817 in Lincoln Co., TN and his sons moved to Arkansas.  We now have six individuals in this grouping that are related, but not as tightly as expected using traditional yDNA analysis. However, recent large scale DNA studies have shown that the genes associated with some surnames mutate much faster than the genes associated with other surnames, but only time and more participation will determine the mutation rate of this line.  On a very positive note, our two very recent participants are descendants of different sons of Henry. Their pending results should shine more light on this line.

Our progress with the John Woody (died circa 1758, Orange Co., NC) is currently at a standstill. After quickly achieving a good match in this line, we have not attracted other participants. This match resulted in proving a previously undocumented branch of this line. The line of John Woody is a very interesting since the associated I1b haplogroup is rooted in Scandinavia rather than Western Europe. This suggests that this branch of Woodys descends from the Vikings that once ruled much of the British Isles. Adding to this interest is the "Three John Theory" that postulates the early Massachusetts Woodys as the progenitors of this line. Judging from the number of message board postings and on-line genealogies, there seems to be no lack of interest in this line, but it would also seem that the proponents of the Three John Theory would be eager to move toward proving this interesting idea.  I first heard of this theory some fifteen years ago, but I haven't seen much, if any, progress towards proof.  There are no guarantees, but DNA may be the key to extending the proven lineage of John Woody.

In less than fifteen years, the computer and the internet have become the primary research tools used for family history study and genealogy.  DNA testing/analysis is simply another powerful research tool that is available to those with more than a casual interest in their heritage.  In a very short time, this tool has been used by this project to open a two closed doors and to prove a suspected connection.  In my opinion, even more dramatic results will be achieved, just as they have been achieved with other surname DNA projects.  But DNA projects take time, patience and, most of all, participation.

Jun 26, 2007 Welcome to the Woody DNA Project. My name is Dave Woody and I have been doing family history/genealogical research on the descendants of Henry Woody of Virginia for about fifteen years. During this time I have corresponded with many other folks that were/are researching the various Woody lines. I have read several theories that attempt to connect some of these lines, but I have never seen any proof that substantiates these theories. Over the years, several people have asked me about starting a Woody DNA Project. To my knowledge, no such project exists, so I have initiated such an endeavor at this site. I have scoured the internet, but have found only one posted Woody DNA submission; a yDNA 12 marker test. The Woody DNA Project is based on yDNA marker tests and is open to males with the Woody (Woodie, Woodey, Wooddy, Woode, etc.) surname or any male that has an unbroken male lineage to a male Woody ancestor. I have received the results of my yDNA 37 marker test and have posted them on the Result's Page of this site, along with the abovementioned 12 marker test results. Also, a short version of my pedigree is posted on the Patriarch's Page. To date, two other yDNA kits have been ordered and I will post the results when they are available. The genealogical benefits of DNA testing are explained in detail elsewhere on this site.

The early stages of a DNA project can be very frustrating because of the reluctance of candidates to invest in testing without knowing that others will do the same. Also, the eight weeks that the laboratory requires to process the DNA sample is a problem for some. I have been told by other DNA project coordinators that about ten submissions are needed to achieve momentum. After that milestone is reached, other candidates are much more willing to join the project. So, if you are interested in your heritage, please think very seriously about contributing to the project. If you are a female and know of an potential male volunteer, please encourage him to join the project. Even if you can't be a yDNA contributor, you can contribute a short pedigree or family history to this project. I am totally committed to this project, but I need your help in making the Woody DNA Project as successful as other surname DNA projects. If others can do it, Woody's can do it.






Dave Richards - Project Administrator & Line Leader [richardj AT gmail.com]

Dave Woody - Project Line Leader [geneped AT hotmail.com]

Revised Sep 29, 2019