Y-DNA and the Griffis Paternal Line – Part One

At a certain point in my research on tracing the Griff(ith)(is)(es) family surname, I reached a ‘brick wall’ regarding its origin in Europe. Despite written references of oral history in family genealogies that indicate the surname and its respective fore-bearers came from Wales [1], there was no actual evidence or corroboration of this fact based on my traditional genealogical research.

Based on my current traditional genealogical research, it is assumed that the father or grandfather of William Griffis (the earliest documented male with the surname) emigrated to the British colonies, possibly from southern Wales. It is believed that this person and possibly family traveled from Bristol or London and arrived to Boston, Salem or another northern port. It is conceivable that they then traveled to one of the settlements from Massachusetts or Connecticut to Huntington, Long Island. This would imply that William’s descendants conceivably emigrated between the 1640 to the late 1600’s or possibly the early 1700’s. 

The lack of tangible leads through traditional genealogical research sources and the advances of commercial direct-to-consumer DNA genealogical tests lead me to looking into Y-DNA genetic tests as a possible avenue to gain insights and possible leads on identifying information about the family surname line of descendants.

Y-DNA: Linking Three Periods of Geneaological Research

DNA testing for genealogy has become really popular in the past few years, and incredible discoveries are being made through DNA testing that in many cases, could not be made any other way. … Y-DNA testing also provides great genealogical value, and while more limited in scope, it can be a tremendous aid in breaking through more distant genealogical brick walls.[2]

“In most cultures Y-DNA tracks the same line of inheritance as surnames. A Y-DNA test can be used to answer questions such as whether two men with the same surname from different parts of the country share a common ancestor, or whether two variant spellings of a surname have a common root. You will get the most out of a Y-DNA test if there is already a structured one-name study for your surname.” [3]

Based on the limitations and the realistic expectations of what Y-DNA tests can find [4], I had a few expectations of what I might be able to find by taking a Y-DNA test:

  1. Finding genealogical matches would be slim. The size of current databases of Y-DNA testers for genealogical matching is relatively small. The probability of finding matches is obviously related to the size of the population that has completed a Y-DNA test with the particular company that you are utilizing. While DNA testing has appreciably increased over the past 10 years, Y-DNA testing has specifically increased at a lower rate than the popular ‘ethnic heritage’ tests. Like fly fishing, I knew my ability to snag a ‘lead’ through Y-DNA analysis might be slim but a catch would be delightful.
  2. Finding genealogical matches with different surnames. Since the Griff(is)(es)(ith) surname was purportedly a Welsh surname, the use of surnames did not become firmly established in certain parts of Wales until the late 1700’s to mid 1800’s. Based on my traditional genealogical research I knew the Griffis family line had three spellings of the surname (Griffis, Griffith, and Griffes) in America. Y-DNA tests could increase my chances of finding genetically related ancestors with different surnames in Europe.
  3. Finding genealogical matches currently confirmed through traditional research. The Y-DNA test may find matches with individuals that have already been documented in my family tree. I might be able to find additional clues to male family members that are descendants of William Griffis.
  4. Finding genealogical matches that point to Wales. If I am able to locate genealogical matches, regardless of surname, there could be a chance that they would lead to family trees that locate descendants in Wales. Obviously, one’s ancestors could be Welsh and have lived in London or other parts of the British Isles.
  5. Identify unknown ancestors and lineages in timelines where no records exist.  The DNA test could narrow the search of male ancestors to specific genetic Y-DNA lines and identify the branching in these paternal lines.
  6. Identify ancient groups and migration patterns associated with the genertic paternal line. By choosing an appropriate Y-DNA test, I should be able to obtain information about ‘deep ancestry’. I should be able to obtain information on the patrilineal line at a higher, anthropological level and gain insights into the population level origins of the lineage.

With these expectations in mind, I did a comparative review on various “direct to consumer” types of Y-DNA tests. [5] I decided to complete a “Big Y” 700 DNA test from FamilyTreeDNA. [6]

The Big Y 700 test provides the capability of obtaining genealogical information on what David Vance calls the “three periods of ancestry” (as depicted in the illustration below). Vance’s ‘three periods of ancestry’ model provides a framework to visualize how various levels of genealogy are integrated through recent technical and scientific breakthroughs related to genetic genealogy.

Illustration 1: Y-DNA: Three Periods of Ancestry

Click for larger view.

Source: Page 13 of a readable transcript of the narration in a YouTube at https://drive.google.com/open?id=1CdU…, The video is by J. David Vance, DNA Concepts for Genealogy: Y-DNA Testing Part 1, 10 Oct 2019, https://youtu.be/RqSN1A44lYU

On the bottom of the illustration are the family genealogies that have been created through traditional genealogical research. At the top of the illustration is ‘deep ancestry’, a realm of genealogical research that has been documented through various studies of ancient cultures, archeological studies, and genetic testing of ancient human remains.

Recent developments in paleo-genetic science allows us to see what Y-DNA mutations occurred among groups in various geographic areas, what they have in common and where they differ. These developments and discoveries have enabled researchers to reconstruct a timeline and genetic tree of when different genetic groups, called haplogroups, went their separate ways. General ancient haplogroups and specific branches of haplogroups ( called subclades) can be predicted from genetic signatures obtained from ancient bone fragments and mapped out in what is known as a haplotree. The results of these paleo-genetic studies have generated new information and informed theories for where and when certain Y-DNA was carried by certain groups and cultures, and more knowledge is gleaned from ancient digs and genetic technological innovations that enable the mapping out the locations by points of time of where Y-DNA had spread.

An haplogroup is a genetic population group of people who share a common ancestor through a unique series of Y-DNA or mitochondria DNA genetic mutations through time. A haplotree is like a family tree but is based on the tracing of genetic mutations on the Y chromosome. Haplogroups can be traced through the maternal and paternal lines. [7] However, unlike generations in a family tree, the branches in a haplotree can represent hundreds or thousands of years based on the variable nature of when genetic mutations occur.

The following phylogenic diagram depicts the major branches of the Y-DNA haplotree.

Illustration 1: The Major Branches of the Y-DNA Haplotree

Phylogeic diagram of the Y-DNA Haplogroups. The Griff(is)(es)(ith) patrilineal line descends from Haplogroup G (M201), originated some 48,000 years ago and its most recent common ancestor likely lived 26,000 years ago in the Middle East. It spread to Europe with the Neolithic Revolution.

. . . in between deep ancestry and the genealogy of named ancestors, we have what I’m calling “lineages” for lack of a better term.  These are genealogies if you will but of unnamed ancestors over a period of time when you have known interconnections.

The generations may be estimated, the timeframes may be estimated, but you know that the connections happened because the Y-DNA tells you that there were mutations that were passed on by men who lived in those time periods and those men had descendants who had further mutations and so you can map the family relationships between those men even if you can’t ever name them.  ” [8]

The BigY 700 test is the most comprehensive in a variety of ways and provides information on all three ancestry levels. It is primarily designed to explore deep ancestral links. This test examines thousands of known Y-DNA branch markers as well as millions of places where there may be new Y-DNA branch markers. As the Y haplotree grows, the genetic markers, Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) [9] that have been tested in a Big Y-700 test and are identified with individuals that have taken the test will gradually be placed on the Y- DNA Haplotree, furthering individual genealogical research. 

The Big Y test is not technically one test but a package of Y-DNA tests. While the Y-DNA 700 test provides information on ‘deep ancestry’ and ‘lineages’, the purchase of the Big Y test includes other separate tests that provide potential ‘match’ results with the company’s other Y-STR tests which touch on the genealogical level, such as the Y-37, Y-67, and Y-111 tests. The “Y-” numbers refer to the number of genetic Short Tandem Repeat (STR) [10] markers that are analyzed and compared with other individuals who have taken the test. The results of these tests are included with the Big Y test. [11] STRs and SNPs are discussed later in the story.

Every male’s Y-DNA carries within it the mutations that formed in his male ancestors going back thousands of years. Deep ancestry analysis focuses on the population level origins and distributions of the haplogroups based on these genetic mutations. While a handful of these mutations have been identified before the recent explosion of DNA testing, over a million of them have been identified in the last ten years. Y-DNA testing shows that each male carries several hundred thousand of those identifiable mutations that represent our respective branches of the haplotree. These mutations ultimately connect every male on the planet back to the earliest ancestor of all males who have tested thus far. This earliest ancestor was not the first man who ever lived, he is just the most recent common ancestor of all men who have had their Y-DNA tested. There may certainly have been older men who lived but they have not left any paternal descendants or ancient remains have yet to be found to identify someone who is older. 

As indicated in the illustration 2 below, the paternal line of all men is represented in a genetic ancestral tree – the YDNA haplotree. The various branches in this haplotree are marked by unique Y-DNA genetic SNP mutations found on the Y chromosome. Each mutation defines a branch or sub-branch of the haplotree. 

Illustration 2: TheY DNA Haplotree from Ancient to Recent Genealology

Source: .J. David Vance, DNA Concepts for Genealogy: Y-DNA Testing Part 1, 10 Oct 2019, https://youtu.be/RqSN1A44lYU page 11.
Click for larger view.

Coupled with the Y-STR tests, Family Tree DNA offers a wide variety of Y-DNA Group Projects to help further research goals. The group projects are associated with specific branches of the Haplotree, geographical areas, surnames, or other unique identifying criteria. Based on their respective area of focus, the research groups have access to and the ability to compare Y-DNA results of fellow project members to determine if they are related. These projects are run by volunteer administrators who specialize in the haplogroup, surname, or geographical region that one may be researching.

For my research on the Griff(is)(es)(ith) family, upon the receipt of my Y-DNA test, I joined five Y-DNA Family Tree DNA based projects to assist in my ongoing research:

  1. The GRIFFI(TH,THS,N,S,NG…etc) surname project is intended to provide an avenue for connecting the many branches of Griffith, Griffiths, Griffin, Griffis, Griffing and other families with derivative surnames. The Welsh patronymic naming system, practiced into the latter 18th century, makes this task more difficult. Evan, Thomas, John, Rees, Owen, and many other common Welsh names may share common male ancestors. (820 members as of the date of this article).
  2. The G-L497 project includes men with the L497 SNP mutation or reliably predicted to be G-L497+ on the basis of certain STR marker values. The L-497 is a branch or subclade of the G-haplogroup (M201+). The project also welcomes representatives of L497 males who are deceased, unavailable or otherwise unable to join, including females as their representatives and custodians of their Y-DNA. The primary goal of the project is to identify new subgroups of haplogroup G-L497 which will provide better focus to the migration history of our haplogroup G-L497 ancestors. (2,326 members as of the date of this article.)
  3. The G-Z6748 project is a Y-DNA Haplogroup Project for a specific branch that is a more recent, ‘downstream’ branch from the L-497 branch of the G haplotree. It is a project work group that is a subset of the L497 work group. The G-Z6748 subclade or brand appears to be a largely Welsh haplogroup, though extending into neighboring parts of England. (33 members as of the date of the article)
  4. The Welsh Patronymics project is designed to establish links between various families of Welsh origin with patronymic style surnames. Because the patronymic system (father’s given name as surname) continued until the 19th century in some parts of Wales, there was no reason to limit this study to a single surname. (1,572 members as of the date of this article.)
  5. The Wales Cymru DNA project collects the DNA haplotypes of individuals who can trace their Y-DNA and/or mtDNA lines to Wales (the reasoning by many researchers being that there was less genetic replacement from invaders there than elsewhere, excepting small inaccessible islands and similar locales). Tradition holds that the Celts retreated as far west in Wales as possible to escape invading populations. This project seeks to determine the validity of the theory. This project is open to descendants from all of Wales. (842 members as of the date of this article.)

Summary of the Story

The results of completing the Y-DNA tests have currently led to the following results:

Deep Ancestry Results: The Griff(is)(es)(ith) patrilineal line belongs to the G Haplogroup. The G haplogroup was one of the earliest branches of Y-DNA to emerge from Africa. My test Y-DNA results also identified a new ‘recent’ terminal branch on the G haplogroup tree which was named Haplogroup G-BY211678. G-BY211678 represents a man who is estimated to have been born around 500 years ago, plus or minus 250 years. This corresponds to about 1500 CE with a 95 percent probability he was born between 1285 and 1685 Common Era (CE). G-BY211678’s paternal line was formed when it branched off from G-Y132505 about 800 years ago, plus or minus 300 years.

Confirmed Haplogroup for Griffis Family Y- DNA

The Y-DNA Griff(is)(es)(ith) descendants were part of the second wave to populate Europe. The G Haplogroup were Neolithic Europeans who were descendants of Neolithic farmers from the Anatolia region, among some of the earliest groups in the world to practice agriculture. The percentage of haplogroup G decendants among available samples from Wales is overwhelmingly from the G-P303 subclade of the G branch. Such a high percentage is not found in nearby England, Scotland or Ireland. [12]

Lineage Ancestry Results: It is highly likely the paternal line of the family ‘recently’ lived in the area known as Wales and may have lived on the southern coast of what is Wales. The paternal descendants lived in this area about 1,600 years before the present. I have come to this tentative conclusion based on the work of the project administrator for the G-Z6748 project. The project administrator correlated information of Y-DNA test results with information on reported locations of the most distance ancestor for project members with similar DNA compositions. The geographic information is from project group members and is based on their ability to trace their ancestors back to specific geographical areas in southern Wales based on traditional genealogical research.

Genealogical Results: The results of the Y-DNA testing thus far have also confirmed one distant Griffith relative, Henry Vieth Griffith (1923 – 2017), who was originally discovered through traditional research. Henry Vieth Griffith is my fifth cousin once removed. Henry’s third great grandfather was James Griffis. James Griffis was the second oldest son of William Griffis.

The ‘What’ & ‘How’Genetic Genealogy Works is a Challenge to Comprehend

The process of Y-DNA testing was personally a learning experience in terms of understanding and interpreting DNA genealogical results. The research methods associated traditional genealogy are relatively straightforward, involving the search and assessment of various historical documents. Genetic ancestry, on the other hand, requires one to master a new set of terms and gain an understanding of how to interpret DNA results.

The literature of genetic genealogy ranges from the esoteric scientific peer reviewed articles, to DNA company based blog articles to popular magazine / social network stories. The scientific and test company based articles are at times difficult to understand. The DNA company based literature is frequently inadequate in demystifying the technical components of how results are determined and interpreted. The DNA company based literature also is limited in terms of explaining how company results differ from other companies. The popular stories are often deficient in explaining the science of DNA. The results are often labeled differently, based on which organization is managing the results.

Despite the dramatic technical advances in testing and explosive growth of DNA databases and results, even after 20 years, the field of genetic genealogy is still relatively young, ever changing and akin to the “wild, wild west”. At the same time, discoveries are frequent.

“The field of ancestry DNA testing is a work of progress. Companies continue to expand their population reference panels, refine their algorithms and improve on the markers used in a sample to infer ancestry. Customer demand may be ahead of what companies can offer. “ [13]

Because the methods for undertaking DNA genealogical analysis and nomenclature are not currently entirely standardized, in contrast for example, to forensic DNA identification, commercial Y-DNA companies have their own unpublished proprietary reference databases and methodologies. It is not unusual for the outcomes of genetic ancestry tests to vary across companies and research organizations.

The naming of genetic markers (SNPs and STRs) are sometimes different between companies. This observation was noted over 10 years ago by the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG), a leading professional scientific membership organization for human genetics and genomics researchers in the world as well as genetic scientists about the need for standardizing tests and genetic marker nomenclature [14].

Haplotree are also different between organizations and databases. In the 1980s and 1990s, individual academic research groups each had their own nomenclature for naming Y-DNA haplogroups. In 2002, the Y-Chromosome Consortium (YCC) published a proposal to standardize the naming of all Y-Chromosome haplogroups. This effort was based on comprehensive retesting of DNA samples (YCC 2002). [15]

As of the writing of this story there are four major Y-DNA haplogroup trees managed by various groups. The most widely used versions are Family Tree DNA, YFULL, the BigTree, and ISOGG. Each of the companies or organizations have different representations of the tree.  They also do not uniformly use the same branches or SNP names. Some of the reasons for the differences between the various haplogroup trees are:

  • Different databases: the databases of the tested men differ between companies and groups. The different databases reflect the SNPs and order of those SNPs that have been found through their analysis of that database. The different companies and analysis groups use different sources for there SNPs: their own testers (YFull does not test), academic databases, historical sources archeological site analysis.
  • Synomyn SNPs: Different companies may select different synonyms for the same SNP even though  the mutation may appear in same place on each of their Y-DNA haplotrees it may not have the same name. Oftentimes different labs or analysis companies will discover the same SNP and provide independent names for the SNP. Different companies may select different SNPs from the same equivalent block of SNPs that are part of a branch to represent a particular branch of the D-DNA haplotree.
  • Equivalent SNPS: Each of these haplogroup trees are developed by analyzing a group of tested men and developing a SNP mutation history that shows how these ancestors branched from each other. Many branches have died out before present day men were tested. As more men are tested, mutations will be found that are new but related to specific older branches. If a number of men who are tested by a given company and found to have new mutations they may form a new branch. However, the results from this one company may be viewed by other companies who manage other haplotrees as ‘private’ SNPs and therefore will not be viewed as a new branch.
  • Selection Criteria: The companies also have different criteria for testing quality, region of the chromosome, for which SNPs belong on their haplogroup tree. SNPs which may be selected by one company may not be acceptable to another.

An Intuitive View of the Griff(is)(es)(ith) Genetic Paternal Line in Time

Before I get too deep into an attempt to explain the ‘what’s’ of genetic ancestry and the ‘results‘ of the testing, I thought a bit of visualization of the ‘deep ancestry’ results would be intuitive and perhaps more appealing and entertaining. Hopefully this will keep your attention.

The following on-line interactive program called “STR Tracker” [16], developed by Rob Spencer, traces individual genetic lines of ancestry. Based on the terminal point on the haplotree, provided by the user, it provides an animated route over time from where modern day humans evolved, starting with the haploid group A – “Adam” Haplogroup, to an end point on the map.

“(T)he emphasis here is on getting the most out of personal Y DNA data by applying original algorithms to create informative graphics. If you’re like me, you find large tables and spreadsheets more exhausting than inspiring. DNA is an intrinsically digital medium for information, and so its patterns are ideally suited for computer analysis and visualization.” [17]

STR Tracker shows a walking man icon traversing the path of either your paternal or maternal ancestors. Selected major events and cultures appear as the walking man traverses the continent. I have entered my ‘terminal STR’, BY211678 (which is genetically akin to a small twig on an ancestral tree composed of branches, limbs, twigs and leaves). that was confirmed by my Y-DNA test and created a video of the path that illustrates the paternal migration time line for the Griff(is)(es)(ith) family. While the accuracy or reliability of the statistical results of such an illustration are fraught with possible sources of error, Spencer does an amazing job at bringing historical and DNA data to life. [18]

The historical path generated from this program is probably not the actual path of he ancestors of the Griff(is)(es)(ith) patrilineal line but captures the time period and general location of each successive genetic mutation that occurred along the paternal lineage. A brief discussion on possible paths of migration are provided later in the story.

For a larger rendition of the video click here (recommended) and then click on the video arrow for the animation to start.

Video: Historical Path of the Griff(is)(es)(ith) Paternal Line

Click for larger presentation of video.

We will come back to the walking man’s journey from Africa to the English Isle later in the story. Suffice to say, the video is a concise intuitive summation of the ‘deep ancestry’ of the Griff(is)(es)(ith) paternal line.

The Emergence of Consumer-Based Genetic Ancestry Testing

A review of the literature on DNA Genealogy reflects that the last 20 years has experienced rapid technological advances, the reduction of costs associated with testing, and an ever changing market of consumer products for genealogical research. As I said, it is the ‘wild wild west’ in terms of the growth of genetic ancestry testing. Similarly, one finds rapid advances in the field of paleogenetics or paleogenomics that are associated with deep ancestry.

Genealogists grew interested in genetic research at the turn of the millennium when genetic testing became commercially possible to analyze bits of information from the Y chromosome. Because the Y chromosome is passed from father to son with little mutation and because surnames historically were passed down the same way, this confluence became worthy of exploration for commercial applications for ancestry research.

For an excellent overview of Y-DNA concepts and how it fits into traditional ancestry research, J. David Vance provides a cogent book on the subject as well as a three part series of videos: [19]

In the late nineties, Bryan Sykes, an Oxford geneticist, persuaded forty-eight men who shared his surname to take Y-DNA tests. [20] The name was thought to have arisen separately among unrelated families. But the genetics suggested that the men descended from a single ancestral line. “If this pattern is reproduced with other surnames, it may have important forensic and genealogical applications”, Sykes concluded. Theoretically, researchers could use Y-DNA to establish the pedigree of a man with an unknown identity. Sykes made a similar case for mt-DNA (mitochondrial DNA) , which is passed down on the maternal line, in a book titled “The Seven Daughters of Eve.” The book described the seven major mitochondrial DNA haplogroups of European ancestors.

The first company to provide direct-to-consumer genealogical DNA tests was the now defunct GeneTree. In 2001, GeneTree sold its assets to Salt Lake City-based Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF) which originated in 1999. While in operation, SMGF provided free Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA tests to thousands. Later, GeneTree returned to genetic testing for genealogy in conjunction with the Sorenson parent company and eventually was part of the assets acquired in the Ancestry.com buyout of SMGF in 2012. [21]

In May 2000, Family Tree DNA in Houston, Texas, began offering the first genetic genealogy tests to the public. This provided the commercial basis to test and amass data to validate the theory of tracing genealogy through the Y chromosome outside of an academic study. [22] Additionally, Sykes’ concept of a surname study, which by this time had been adopted by several other academic researchers outside of Oxford University, was expanded into online surname projects and the effort helped spread knowledge gained through testing to interested genealogists worldwide.

Bryan Sykes launched Oxford Ancestors, in anticipation of the expected demand for mitochondrial DNA tests from the publication of Sykes’ book The Seven Daughters of Eve, which appeared in the spring of 2001. In the wake of the book’s success, and with the growing availability and affordability of genealogical DNA testing, genetic genealogy as a field began growing rapidly.

By 2003, the field of DNA testing of surnames was declared to have officially “arrived” and by the mid 2000’s the number of firms offering Y-DNA tests, and the number of consumers ordering them, had risen dramatically. [23]

In 2007, 23andMe was the first company to offer a saliva-based direct-to-consumer genetic testing. [24] It was also the first to implement the use of autosomal DNA for ancestry testing, which other major companies now use (e.g., Ancestry, Family Tree DNA, and MyHeritage).

By 2012, there were 12 companies that provided various types of Y-DNA tests. [25]

In 2013 Family Tree DNA released what they called the the advanced Big Y test and since then, they have analyzed 32,000 Y chromosomes. This process has resulted in the identification of hundreds of thousands of unique Y chromosome mutations. The human Y chromosome contains about 56 million positions or base pairs. Of them, roughly 23 million base pairs (40%) are useful for phylogenetic analysis. In these 23 million positions, the company has detected over 500,000 unique mutations in the total 32,000 individuals who have completed the Big Y test. The company maintains one of the largest Y-DNA data bases and maintains one of the most up to date phylogenic Y-DNA trees. [26]

MyHeritage launched its genetic testing service in 2016, allowing users to use cheek swabs to collect samples. In 2019, the company provided new analysis tools called autoclusters (grouping all matches visually into clusters) [27] and family tree theories that suggested possible relations between DNA matches by combining several Myheritage trees as well as the Geni global family tree. [28]

Living DNA, founded in 2015, started providing a genetic testing service. Living DNA used SNP chips to provide reports on autosomal ancestry, Y-DNA, and mtDNA ancestry. The company provides detailed reports on ancestry as well as detailed Y chromosome and mtDNA reports. [29]

Illustration 3: DNA Database Growth 2013 – 2022

In 2019 it was estimated that large genealogical testing companies had about 26 million DNA profiles. In 2022, estimates based on the same companies were roughly 40.7 million. Many transferred their test results for free to multiple testing sites, and also to genealogical services such as Geni.com and GEDmatch. GEDmatch said in 2018 that about half of their one million profiles were from the USA. [30]

In 2019, FamilyTreeDNA announced an enhanced chemistry formula for Big Y. This allowed the company to detect more mutations.  The human Y chromosome contains about 56 million positions or base pairs. Of them, roughly 23 million base pairs (40%) are useful for phylogenetic analysis. In these 23 million positions, the company detected over 500,000 unique mutations in the total 32,000 Big Y testers. In May 2019, FamilyTreeDNA documented over 20,000 branches in the Y haplogroup tree. The branches are defined by over 150,000 unique mutations. Compared to other organization and company haplogroup trees, this made the company’s haplotree the largest and most detailed phylogenetic tree. [31]

FamilyTreeDNA is the clear forerunner in terms of having the largest Y-DNA database. As of August 28, 2022, the FamilyTreeDNA database contained a total of 1,199,769 records. This number includes transfers from the Genographic Project and resellers in Europe and the Middle East. The company had 809,908 Y-DNA records and 226,790 mtFull (mitochondria) DNA records . [32]

Relative to the size of autosomal DNA databases that showcase “ethnic backgrounds’ and genetic matches of ‘foruth and fifth cousins’, Y-DNA databases are relatively small. Consequently, finding genealogical matches via Y-DNA can be a challenge. The nature of the consumer audience for Y-DNA tests is also perhaps unique and specialized. Individuals obtaining Y-DNA tests have usually completed autosomal tests and are looking for more advance and refined results.

While rapid technical and market based advances were happening with the rise of the consumer based DNA testing, the scientific breakthroughs associated with the ability to extract DNA from ancient bones, “the ancient DNA revolution’, was also happening. During the past decade technological advances have made it cost effective and efficiently possible to sequence the entire genome of humans who lived tens of millions of years ago. The result has been an explosion of new information that has fueled in an emerging academic field of paleo-genetics or paleo-genomics that is transforming archaeology and the mapping of deep ancestry at a macroscopic level. In 2018 alone, the genomes of more than a thousand prehistoric humans were determined, mostly from bones dug up years ago and preserved in museums and archaeological labs. [33]

Illustration 4: Source: David Reich, Who We are and How We got Here, Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past, New York: Vintage Books, 2018, Page xvi Click for larger view.

The analysis of ancient genomes provides the equivalent of the personal DNA testing kits available today, but for people who died long before humans invented writing, the wheel, or pottery. The genetic information is startlingly complete: everything from hair and eye color to the inability to digest milk can be determined from a thousandth of an ounce of bone or tooth. Similar to personal DNA tests, the results reveal clues to the identities and origins of ancient humans’ ancestors—and thus to ancient migrations.

As the chart to the left illustrates, ancient DNA labs are now producing data on ancient human artifacts so quickly that the time lag between data production and publication of the results is longer than the time it takes to double the data production in the field. David Reich published this chart in 2018. In the matter of two years, Reich updated the chart (below) [34] to reflect the dramatic increase in the number of completed whole genome sequencing of ancient remains. He referred to the dramatic increase in sampling of ancient genome data as “Moore’s Law of Ancient DNA”. [35]

Illustration 5: Growth of Genome Sequencing of Ancient Remains

“Over the past few years, David (Reich) and a tiny handful of other scientists have reordered our understanding of humanity’s pre-history. Open questions pondered by generations of archaeologists have been suddenly and definitively answered. …  It’s hard to overstate the significance of this work, and the speed with which it’s unfolding. So rapidly, that even electronic scientific journals can’t keep up. It’s prompting one of the biggest shifts ever in our understanding of ourselves as a species. Yet most people are hardly aware of it. “

Robert Reid, After On Podcasts, July 31, 2018, Episode 34: David Reich – Ancient DNA https://after-on.com/episodes-31-60/034

The technological and statistical breakthroughs associated with paleo-genomics has been reflected in the recent award of the Nobel Prize in Medicine to Svante Pääbo.

“Through his pioneering research, Svante Pääbo accomplished something seemingly impossible: sequencing the genome of the Neanderthal, an extinct relative of present-day humans. He also made the sensational discovery of a previously unknown hominin, Denisova. 

“Through his groundbreaking research, Svante Pääbo established an entirely new scientific discipline, paleogenomics. Following the initial discoveries, his group has completed analyses of several additional genome sequences from extinct hominins. Pääbo’s discoveries have established a unique resource, which is utilized extensively by the scientific community to better understand human evolution and migration. New powerful methods for sequence analysis indicate that archaic hominins may also have mixed with Homo sapiens in Africa. However, no genomes from extinct hominins in Africa have yet been sequenced due to accelerated degradation of archaic DNA in tropical climates.” [36]

Notes

The story was updated on Oct 3, 2022, based on the news of the Nobel Award in Medicine to Svante Pääbo.

Feature Image of the story is a rendition of the double helix DNA, source: background image in Big Y-700: The Forefront Of Y Chromosome Testing, Blog Update, 7 Jun 2019, Family Tree DNA, https://blog.familytreedna.com/human-y-chromosome-testing-milestones/

[1] One quote attributes the surname change to the turbulence of the Revolutionary War and the effects of the name being transcribed in various formats.

“In the tumultuous days preceding and during the Revolution, many records and many buildings were destroyed. At best the records are sketchy and inconsistent, and, obviously the spelling by clerks laboriously writing by hand as casual and irregular; for instance, in one book we find the name spelled GRIFFIS on one page and then spelled GRIFFITHS on another page.”

Source: Griffith & Peets, Griffith Family History in Wales 1485–1635 in America from 1635 Giving Descendants of James Griffis (Griffith) b. 1758 in Huntington, Long Island, New York, compiled by Capitola Griffis Welch, 1972 . Page 8

Another quote attributes the name change to William Griffis’ purported lisp and inability to pronounce Griffith and his resultant behavioral actions to hide his impediment by spelling the surname as ‘Griffis’.

“According to the family legend, as told by Albert Buffet Griffith… , William Griffith had difficulty pronouncing ‘th’, and in a name or worth ‘th’ sounded like an ‘s’. As this speech impediment was an embarrassment to him, he allowed the clerk to record his name as Griffis rather than confessing the spelling was Griffith which would have called the clerk’s attention to the impediment.”

Source: Griffith & Peets, Griffith Family History in Wales 1485–1635 in America from 1635 Giving Descendants of James Griffis (Griffith) b. 1758 in Huntington, Long Island, New York, compiled by Capitola Griffis Welch, 1972 . Page 9

A third quote from a grandson of William Griffis states that he was told the family came from Wales and it was not known why the name changed from Griffith.

“My Great Grandfather, on my father’s side came from Wales & settled in Huntington, Long Island. They spelled the name Griffiths. My Grandfather, who died at my Father’s house could never give me a reason why he changed it to Griffis.” – William Case Griffis

Source: Information that was added by William Case Griffis to his father’s personal journal, William Griffis, in a family manuscript written compiled by Mary Martha Ryan Jones and Capitola Griffis Welch, compiled by, Griffis Sr of Huntington Long Island and Fredericksburg, Canada 1763-1847 and William Griffis Jr, (Reverend William Griffis) 1797-1878 and his descendants. A self published genealogical manuscript, 1969. Page 103  PDF copy of the manuscript can be found here.

Family folklore indicates that Albert Buffet Griffith told his daughter-in-law, Lillian that 

“his great, great grandfather’s name was Samuel”

Source:  Mildred Griffith Peets, Griffith Family History in Wales 1485–1635 in America from 1635 Giving Descendants of James Griffis (Griffith) b. 1758 in Huntington, Long Island, New York, compiled by Capitola Griffis Welch, 1972 , page 8 .PDF copy of the manuscript can be found here.

If Albert Griffith’s recollections are true, then William’s father was perhaps Samuel Griffith, from Wales.

[2] Testing: The Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of Y-DNA Testing, Legacy Tree Genealogists, Page accessed 21 Jun 2022

[3] Debbie Kennett, What is Y-DNA?, Who Do you Think You Are?, May 17, 2022 

[4] Things that DNA tests cannot do:

Y-DNA tests can not tell you if your paternal line was from a particular culture or tribe, or some other group in the past.  If based on the results of your DNA test you connect with another person in a Y-DNA project who had documentation of this knowledge, then indirectly the DNA test can provide leads to document this specific fact. One does not learn about this information through Y-DNA.  Certain genetic configurations of designated markers of Y-DNA have been found in human remains in areas inhabited by specific ancient cultures. The results of various studies indicate that specific Y-DNA spread historically in general geographic areas at certain, general time periods.  The mapping of ancient DNA distributions are more precise in the last ten years but as to whether one’s ancestors spent time among a particular culture is completely unknown.  Current knowledge reflects that we do not know where all the Y-DNA mutations started.  We have an idea of what cultures certain Y-DNA may have traveled with but that does not mean anyone’s specific ancestors traveled with them and did not travel with another culture. 

DNA tests per se can not break brick walls encountered in ancestry research. DNA tests can help to break through brick wall but only with help. Typically the test results will facilitate finding other individuals with knowledge or documentation that helps you break through your own brick wall because they knew something farther back that you did, or you put your two sets of knowledge together and you find discoveries based on common ancestors.

Y-DNA tests can not identify specific ancestors or where they lived.  The original, geographical locations and names of ancestors can be determined through traditional historical sources based on genetic lines that may be discovered. 

Y-DNA tests can not identify the exact generation of a common ancestor with supporting data. Age estimation of a common ancestor has a large margin of error and is a topic of contention among DNA companies and scientists. 

[5] The best Y-DNA tests are from FamilyTreeDNA (FTDNA). They are the only company of ‘the big five’ to offer dedicated Y testing and the only company that provides matching capabilities based on other testers who may post gnealological trees with supporting information. FamilyTreeDNA offers three levels of Y-DNA STR testing: Y-37, Y-111, and Big Y-700 (Big Y also tests SNPs). The numbers refer to how many DNA markers the test examines. The more markers, the more useful the results will be. They also have the largest population of Y-DNA testers. LivingDNA tests the most number of Y SNPs among the big five autosomal companies. 23andMe will test the Y-chromosome as part of their autosomal test, but only enough to tell you your haplogroup. Their test does not allow you to compare your results against other users to find distant paternal ancestors. Ancestry.com unfortunately does not offer Y-DNA testing at this time. But they do actually “test” the Y chromosome and supply the results if you look at your raw data. The amount of SNPs tested are roughly half of what 23andMe reports and about 20 times less than LivingDNA.

Additional references:

Genealogical DNA Test, Wikipedia, This page was last edited on 11 August 2022, page accessed 12 Aug 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genealogical_DNA_test

A  Y-STR testing chart provides comparative information on the Y-STR Y chromosome DNA tests offered by 3 major DNA testing companies. Y-STR tests are used for genetic genealogy within a genealogical timeframe and are generally co-ordinated through surname DNA projects. See: Y-DNA STR testing comparison chart, International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki, This page was last edited on 11 July 2022, https://isogg.org/wiki/Y-DNA_STR_testing_comparison_chart

A Y-DNA SNP testing chart in this article provides comparative information on the Y chromosome SNP tests offered by 6 major DNA testing companies. For information on the Y-STR tests used for genealogical DNA matching purposes within surname DNA projects see the Y-DNA STR testing chart. See: Y-DNA SNP testing chart, Y-DNA SNP testing chart, Y-DNA STR testing comparison chart, International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki, This page was last edited on 16 February 2022, page accessed 20 Feb 2022, https://isogg.org/wiki/Y-DNA_SNP_testing_chart

Marc McDermott, Best Y-DNA Test: Everything you need to know about Y-DNA testing for genealogy, 17 Nov 2021, smarterhobby.com, https://www.smarterhobby.com/genealogy/best-y-dna-test/

Coakley L. Which DNA testing company should I use? Genie1 blog (a review from the perspective of people living in Australia and New Zealand)

Griffith S. Buyer beware linksGenealogy Junkie, 14 May, 2014.

Griffith S. Notes for UK (& Ex-US) residents re DNA testing companiesGenealogy Junkie, 16 January 2014.

MacArthur D. Ready to test your DNA: how to choose a genetic testing companyPRI’s The World, 22 March 2012.

Aulicino E. Which DNA testing company fits your needs? Genealem blog, 23 May 2009.

Wagner JK, Cooper JD, Sterling R, and Royal CD. Tilting at windmills no longer: a data-driven discussion of DTC DNA ancestry testsGenetics in Medicine 2012:14(6):586–593. The article provides a bit outdated snapshot of the direct-to-consumer DNA ancestry testing industry in April 2010 based on a survey of company websites.

[6] Diahan Southard, What’s the Big Y-700 Test? Should I Choose a Y-DNA Test?, Family Tree Magazine, Jan / Feb/ 2018, https://familytreemagazine.com/dna/big-y-700/

In a nutshell, the following blog article provides an overview of the business model that Family DNA employs for customers researching the genetic path of the Y chromosome and providing possible leads to family members. Working with Y DNA – Your Dad’s Story, DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy, 5 Jun 2017, Page accessed 26 Jan 2021

Y-chromosome DNA (Y-DNA),FamilyTreeDNA Help Center, Page accessed 14 Aug 2022, https://help.familytreedna.com/hc/en-us/articles/4414463886351-Y-chromosome-DNA-Y-DNA-#y-dna-snps-0-0

2020 Review Of Big Y, FamilyTreeDNA Blog, 1 Feb 2021, https://blog.familytreedna.com/2020-review-of-big-y/

Big Y-700 Tests: Any advice for advanced analysis of results?, WikiTree G2G, 19 Apr 2021, https://www.wikitree.com/g2g/1223388/big-y-700-tests-any-advice-for-advanced-analysis-of-results

Big Y, FamilyTreeDNA Blog, not dated, https://blog.familytreedna.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/big-y.pdf

2019 Review Of Big Y, FamilyTree DNA Blog, 27 Dec 2019, https://blog.familytreedna.com/2019-review-of-big-y/

Family Tree DNA’s Y-500 is Free for Big Y Customers, FamilyTreeDNA Blog, 23 Apr 2018, https://dna-explained.com/2018/04/23/family-tree-dnas-y-500-is-free-for-big-y-customers/

Davis, C., Sager, M., Runfeldt, G., Greenspan, E., Bormans, A., Greenspan, B., & Bormans, C., Big Y-700 [White paper] 2019: https://blog.familytreedna.com/big-y-700-white-paper/ 

Biology Dictionary: https://biologydictionary.net/dna-sequencing/

FamilyTreeDNA Public Y-DNA Haplotree: https://www.familytreedna.com/public/y-dna- haplotree

McDonald, Dr. Iain. Recent human genetic anthropology: http://www.jb.man.ac.uk/~mcdonald/genetics.html

[7] A haplotype is a group of alleles in an organism (i.e. a person) that are inherited together from a single parent, and a haplogroup is a group of similar haplotypes (i.e. a group of people) that share a common ancestor with a single-nucleotide polymorphism mutation. 

For Y-DNA, a haplogroup may be shown in the long-form nomenclature established by the Y Chromosome Consortium, or it may be expressed in a short-form using a deepest-known single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP).

see for example: Haplogroup, Wikipedia, page was last edited on 12 August 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup

Haplogroup, International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki, This page was last edited on 27 June 2022, https://isogg.org/wiki/Haplogroup

[8] Page 13-14 of a readable transcript of the narration in a YouTube at https://drive.google.com/open?id=1CdU…, the video is by J. David Vance, DNA Concepts for Genealogy: Y-DNA Testing Part 1, 10 Oct 2019, https://youtu.be/RqSN1A44lYU

[9] Chris Gunter, Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPS), National Human Genome Research Institute, 12 Sep 2022, https://www.genome.gov/genetics-glossary/Single-Nucleotide-Polymorphisms

What are single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)?, National Library of Medicine, accessed 10 Jul 2022, https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/understanding/genomicresearch/snp/

Single-nucleotide polymorphism, Wikipedia, page accessed 4 Apr 0222, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-nucleotide_polymorphism

What are SNP’s, Genetics Generation, Page accessed 15 Jun 2022, https://knowgenetics.org/snps/

Sampson JN, Kidd KK, Kidd JR, Zhao H. Selecting SNPs to identify ancestry. Ann Hum Genet. 2011 Jul;75(4):539-53. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3141729/

[10] National Institute of Justice, “What Is STR Analysis?,” March 2, 2011, nij.ojp.gov: 
https://nij.ojp.gov/topics/articles/what-str-analysis

STR analysis, Wikipedia, page was last edited on 13 June 2022, page accessed, 4 Sep 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/STR_analysis

Short Tandem Repeat, International Society of Genetic Genealology Wiki, page was last edited on 31 January 2017,page accessed 10 Oct 2022, https://isogg.org/wiki/Short_tandem_repeat

[10] 2020 Review Of Big Y, FamilyTreeDNA Blog, 1 Feb 2021, https://blog.familytreedna.com/2020-review-of-big-y/

Big Y-700 Tests: Any advice for advanced analysis of results?, WikiTree G2G, 19 Apr 2021, https://www.wikitree.com/g2g/1223388/big-y-700-tests-any-advice-for-advanced-analysis-of-results

Big Y, FamilyTreeDNA Blog, not dated, https://blog.familytreedna.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/big-y.pdf

[11] In human genetics, the haplogroups most commonly studied are Y-chromosome (Y-DNA) haplogroups and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroups, each of which can be used to define genetic populations. Y-DNA is passed solely along the patrilineal line, from father to son, while mtDNA is passed down the matrilineal line, from mother to offspring of both sexes. The haplogroups are based on the identification of a unique series of genetic values for specific genetic markers. These unique sequences in the Y-DNA and mtDNA change only by chance mutation in various generations. When a mutation occurs, the haplogroup branches off into another branch that can still be identified through its past branches.

[12] “The percentage of haplogroup G among available samples from Wales is overwhelmingly G-P303. Such a high percentage is not found in nearby England, Scotland or Ireland.”

source: Haplogroup G-P303, Wikipedia, Page updated 1 Feb 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_G-P303

Human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup, Wikipedia, page was last edited on 24 August 2022, page accessed 30 Aug 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Y-chromosome_DNA_haplogroup#cite_note-isogg2015-10

Specifically, the descendants are part of the Y-chromosome subclade Haplogroup G-P303 (G2a2b2a, formerly G2a3b1). It is a branch of haplogroup G (Y-DNA) (M201). In descending order, G-P303 is additionally a branch of G2 (P287), G2a (P15), G2a2, G2a2b, G2a2b2, and finally G2a2b2a. This haplogroup represents the majority of haplogroup G men in most areas of Europe west of Russia and the Black Sea.

source: Haplogroup G-P303, Wikipedia, Page updated 1 Feb 2022, page accessed 28 Jun 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_G-P303

G2a3b1a  This is the dominant G group in Europe (perhaps 80% of G samples) and may reach up to about 7% of all men in a country but averages about 3%.  A high percentage of G2a3b1a samples form three major subgroups, DYS388=13 (L497+), YCA=19,20  type of L13+ and DYS568=9.  One G2a31a subgroup (U1+)  is also confirmed in some frequency outside Europe only in the Caucasus region, particularly in the northwest.  North of the European borders of the once Roman Empire, the prevalence of these three G2a3b1a subgroups (and G in general) drops considerably, and the three subgroups are found in noticeable amounts in almost all regions of the once Roman Empire in Europe except among the Basques of Spain. An Ashkenazi Jewish cluster from northeastern Europe comprises about half of the DYS568=9 subgroup, and this Jewish subgroup represents an exception to usual European boundaries mentioned.  The connection of these three G2a3b1a subgroups to Etruscans, Alans and Sarmatians and other groups who migrated to Europe is widely debated.  (data from Adams and abt 2000 G2a3b1a samples in G project)”

source: Y-DNA Haplogroup G and its Subcldes – 2018, ISOGG,8 March 2018 https://isogg.org/tree/ISOGG_HapgrpG.html

[13] Sheldon Krimsky, Understanding DNA Ancestry, Cambridge: Cambridge University , 2022, Page 126

[14] The American Society of Human Genetics  Ancestry Testing Statement, November 13, 2008 https://www.ashg.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/Statement-20081311-ASHGAncestryTesting.pdf

J.M. Butler, Nomenclature Issues and the Y-Chromosome Genetic Genealogy Conference, Houston, TX, October 20, 2007, https://strbase.nist.gov/pub_pres/GeneticGenealogy_Y-STR_nomenclature.pdf

Michael L. Hébert, -DNA Testing Company STR Marker Comparison Chart, last updated 8 Jan 2012, http://www.gendna.net/ydnacomp.htm

[15] The Y-Chromosome Consortium for many years left individual groups to maintain this standard. In 2008, they again published a comprehensive review of tree changes and retested samples. With this work, they strengthened their recommendation to move to a nomenclature system they referred to as shorthand (Karafet 2008). The Y Chromosome Consortium (2002) defined a set of rules to label the different lineages within the tree of binary haplogroups. Capital letters (from A to R) were used to identify 18 major clades. Two complementary nomenclature systems were proposed. The first system used selected aspects of set theory to define hierarchical subclades within each major haplogroup using an alphanumeric system (e.g., E1, E1a, E1a1, etc.). A shorter alternative mutation-based system named haplogroups by the terminal mutation that defined them (e.g., E-M81).

Karafet, T. M.; Mendez, F. L.; Meilerman, M. B.; Underhill, P. A.; Zegura, S. L.; Hammer, M. F., Y Chromosome Consortium, A Nomenclature System for the Tree of Human Y-Chromosomal Binary Haplogroups, Genome Research, (18) 5, 2008

Conversion table for Y chromosome haplogroups, This page was last edited on 29 January 2022, page was accessed on 18 Jul 2022.

YDNA-Warehouse: The Y-DNA Warehouse is a free community initiative to allow collection sequencing results of the human genome. Members can upload and combine their sequencing results from labs such as 23andMeAncestryDNAFamilyTreeDNAFull Genomes CorporationYSEQ or one of the many newer WGS providers. A suite of tools is in development to help allow members learn more about what was found in these tests individually through a match messaging system or enrolling in anonymized studies. The primary goal is to construct a public YSNP Tree that is explicitly reusable under the Creative Commons license. https://ydna-warehouse.org

yFull Y-DNA Haplotree: https://www.yfull.com/home/

[16] Rob Spencer, STR Tracker, http://scaledinnovation.com/gg/snpTracker.html

[17] Rob Spencer, Tracking Back: a website for genetic genealogy tools, experimentation, and discussion, Page accessed 3 Feb 2022, http://scaledinnovation.com/gg/gg.html

[18] See Spencer’s comments on updates to the tracker: Robb Spencer, Highway Maintenance, Tracking Back, a website for genetic genealogy tools, experimentation, and discussion, Page accessed 1 Aug 2022,

As one individual indicated in his assessment of Spencer’s SNP Tracker tool:

“Rob Spencer does his best with this tool, but ultimately this is a very tricky subject to get right. Consequently, you should take anything you see on the SNP tracker with a very large pinch of salt. The results are meant to be instructive, but not accurate.”

source: Comment about the SNP Tracker at R1b-U106@groups.io This is a forum for discussion of Haplogroup R1b-U106 and related genetic genealogy topics.

A lot of the problems come from the fact DNA testing is very biased towards testing people from the British Isles, by factors of up to 12:1 or more compared to other European countries. This is changing as more individuals are completing Y-DNA tests from other regions of the world. This means that the tracker can not work with a homogeneous data set. Rob has corrected the British / European Continental bias as best he as he can, but as he professes, he does not correct for variations within Europe, and he can not remove the basic fundamental problem that he has to use small numbers of testers from poorly sampled regions to fill in a lot of the gaps. Consequently, the origins he marks for individual haplogroups are usually too far west. He indicates that he has pinned some of them manually to increase historical accuracy. Many of the haplogroups he claims have originated in the British Isles are simply there because they show up as a handful of cases in Britain or Ireland and we have no evidence of their existence elsewhere due to this bias. Unless a haplogroup has a very unique geographical distribution or is wholly found in continental Europe (a lot of haplogroups do fit these criteria), it takes several hundred testers to accurately place its origin at the level of individual countries.

As stated in a related post on this forum, the ages in the SNP tracker come from YFull.org.

“YFull only contains a small subset of the overall data that’s available to Family Tree DNA. This means their underlying set of tests is small, and their uncertainties are correspondingly large. Potentially, the most serious consequence of this – and I don’t know how Rob deals with this – is that haplogroups that are on YFull’s tree don’t always match up with those on Family Tree DNA’s tree, even when they have the same name. This is because many of those haplogroups have been split by FTDNA. I also don’t know exactly what Rob does for haplogroups that don’t have ages in YFull – I presume he just counts SNPs down the tree, but he’ll have to do this without knowledge of whether those SNPs come from BigY-500 or -700 tests, which makes a big difference.” PDF of comment:

See: Original Threaded post: SNP Tracker 19 Jan 2021, https://groups.io/g/R1b-U106

YFull’s uncertainties also remain large because they only take SNP data into account. If you take STR data and any other historical information you can get your hands on (paper trails, surnames, ancient DNA), then you can create much more accurate results… at least, in theory.

[19] J. David Vance, DNA Concepts for Genealogy: Y-DNA Testing Part 1, 10 Oct 2019, https://youtu.be/RqSN1A44lYU

Part 1 of a 3-part introduction series to Y-DNA for genealogists. This first video focuses on “Why?” use Y-DNA for genealogy – what benefits does it offer and why should genealogists consider using Y-DNA as part of their research?

J. David Vance, DNA Concepts for Genealogy: Y-DNA Testing Part 2, 3 Oct 2019 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhBYXD7XufI&t=355s

Part 2 of a 3-part introduction series to Y-DNA for genealogists. This second video focuses on “What?” for Y-DNA for genealogy – what are STRs and SNPs, what is genetic distance, what is the haplotree, and other related questions

J. David Vance, DNA Concepts for Genealogy: Y-DNA Testing Part 3, 10 Oct 2019  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03hRXVg9i1k&t=4s

Part 3 of a 3-part introduction series to Y-DNA for genealogists. This third video focuses on “How?” for Y-DNA for genealogy – how do I use the information provided by Y-DNA tests to advance my genealogy and/or my lineages?

J David Vance, The Genealogist Guide to Genetic Testing, 2020 https://www.amazon.com/Genealogists-Guide-Testing-Genetic-Genealogy/dp/B085HQXF4Z/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

For other recent guides, see:

Blaine Bettinger, The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy, 2nd Edition, Penguin Random House LLC 2016

Diana Elder, NicoleDyers and Robin Wirthlin, Research Like a Pro with DNA: A Genealogist’s guide to Finding and Confirming Ancestors with DNAEvidence, Highland UT: Family Locket Books, 2021

[20] Bryan Sykes and Catherine Irven. Surnames and the Y Chromosome. American Journal of Human Genetics, April 2000, Vol 66, issue 4, pp 1417–1419.

Bryan Sykes, Wikipedia, This page was last edited on 3 August 2022,  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bryan_Sykes

Oxford Ancestors, International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki, This page was last edited on 11 May 2022, https://isogg.org/wiki/Oxford_Ancestors

Bryan Sykes and Catherine Irven. Surnames and the Y Chromosome. American Journal of Human Genetics, April 2000, Vol 66, issue 4, pp1417–1419.

Bryan Sykes, Wikipedia, This page was last edited on 3 August 2022,  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bryan_Sykes

Oxford Ancestors, International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki, This page was last edited on 11 May 2022 https://isogg.org/wiki/Oxford_Ancestors

Roberta Estes, Bryan Sykes Finally Meets Eve’s 7 Daughters, DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy 20 Dec 2020, Page accessed 28 Jun 2020, https://dna-explained.com/2020/12/20/bryan-sykes-finally-meets-eves-7-daughters/

The Seven Daughters of Eve, Wikipedia, This page was last edited on 20 April 2022, page accessed 7 Jul 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Seven_Daughters_of_Eve

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Dobush, Grace (12 July 2012). “Ancestry.com Acquisition Means Changes at GeneTree and SMGF.org”Family Tree. Retrieved 10 April2019.

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[23] Mark A. Jobbing and Chris Tyler – Smith, The Human Y chromosome: an evolutionary marker comes of age, Nature Reviews Genetics, 4, 598-612, 1 Aug 2003

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[24] Hamilton, Anita (29 October 2008). “Best Inventions of 2008”Time. Archived from the original on 2 November 2008. Retrieved 5 April 2012.

[25] Y-DNA Testing Company STR Marker Comparison Chart, page updated 8 Jan 2012, http://www.gendna.net/ydnacomp.htm 

[26] Big Y-700: The Forefront of Y Chromosome Testing, 7 June 2019, https://blog.familytreedna.com/human-y-chromosome-testing-milestones/

Caleb Davis, Michael Sager, Göran Runfeldt, Elliott Greenspan, Arjan Bormans, Bennett Greenspan, and Connie Bormans, Big Y-700 White Paper, 22 Mar 2019, https://blog.familytreedna.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/big-y-700-white-paper_compressed.pdf

[27] “Introducing AutoClusters for DNA Matches”MyHeritage Blog. 28 February 2019.

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[28] “Is this the most detailed at-home DNA testing kit yet?”CNN. 22 April 2019

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[31] Why Choose FamilyTreeDNA, FamilyTreeDNA, page accessed 10 Sep 2022. https://www.familytreedna.com/why-ftdna

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[32] Big Y-700: The Forefront Of Y Chromosome Testing FamilyTreeDNA Blog, 7 June 2019, https://blog.familytreedna.com/human-y-chromosome-testing-milestones/

[33] David Reich, Who We are and How We got Here, Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past, New York: Vintage Books, 2018

Michael Hofreiter, Johanna L. A. Paijmans, Helen Goodchild, Camilla F. Speller, Axel Barlow, Gloria G. Fortes, Jessica A. Thomas, Arne Ludwig and Matthew J. Collins, The future of ancient DNA: Technical advances and conceptual shifts, Bio Essays 37 (3) Nov 2015. original publication Nov 21 2014, , https://www.researchgate.net/publication/268579140_The_future_of_ancient_DNA_Technical_advances_and_conceptual_shifts 

Chinese Academy of Sciences, Researchers chart advances in ancient DNA technology July 21 2022, Phys.org, https://phys.org/news/2022-07-advances-ancient-dna-technology.html 

Lorelei Verlhac, DNA and New Technologies: Is Paleogenomics yer Future of Archiealology?, Byacardia, https://www.byarcadia.org/post/dna-and-new-technologies-is-paleogenomics-the-future-of-archaeology

Tsosie KS, Begay RL, Fox K, Garrison NA. Generations of genomes: advances in paleogenomics technology and engagement for Indigenous people of the Americas. Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2020 Jun;62:91-96  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7484015/

Evan K Irving-Pease, Rasa Muktupavela, Michael dannermann, Fernando Racimo, Quantitative Human Paleogenetics: What can Ancient DNA Tell us About Complex Trait Evolution?, Frontiers in Genetics, Agustust 2021, Volume 12 Article 703541, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fgene.2021.703541/full

[34] David Reich, Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past, 3 Mar 2021, Simon’s Foundation Presidential Lectures, https://www.simonsfoundation.org/event/ancient-dna-and-the-new-science-of-the-human-past/

[35] Moore’s Law refers to Gordon Moore’s perception that the number of transistors on a microchip doubles every two years, though the cost of computers is halved. Moore’s Law states that we can expect the speed and capability of our computers to increase every couple of years, and we will pay less for them. Another tenet of Moore’s Law asserts that this growth is exponential.

Moore’s Law, Wikipedia, page last updated 23 Sep 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore%27s_law

[36] The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet, Press release: The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2022, 2022-10-03, https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/medicine/2022/press-release/?fbclid=IwAR0nEVI5fMOglx2FR3nZyxMsWttqTOJug8lPYF8cRzd3JLz05QTtR3It1i

Benjamin Meuller, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine Is Awarded to Svante Pääbo, New York Times, 3 Oct 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/03/health/nobel-prize-medicine-physiology-winner.html

Part Three: How Do You Spell Griffis?

This is the third part of a four part series on tracing the Griffis surname for the family that started in Huntington, Suffolk County, New York.

From my father I picked up a patterned answer to a common question when asked what is your last name. I can recall in the past and to the present, when asked to provide my last name, I state it and then intentionally spell the last name, “Griff… two f’s as in Frank.. i…s… as in Sam“. Even today it is oftentimes challenging for others to hear and accurately identify the spelling of my surname. I can only wonder what it was like in the 1700’s to the present.

The name purportedly started as Griffith or Griffiths then morphed into Griffis, Griffith and Griffes. The variability of spellings across and within the documented second and third generations of the family perhaps reflects the fluid nature of how individuals viewed and used surname conventions among Welsh descendants in Colonial America. It also may reflect how others hear the name and how it gets transcribed in various public documents.

Depending on the source of information, some of the family individuals are referenced by two or more spellings of the name. Without direct proof, it is not entirely certain if ‘Griffis’ or Griffith’ was used.

“Griffis … G…R…I..two ‘F’s’… I…S… as in Sam” – Typical reply on questions on what is my last name.

Family Folklore:

“In the tumultuous days preceding and during the Revolution, many records and many buildings were destroyed. At best the records are sketchy and inconsistent, and, obviously the spelling by clerks laboriously writing by hand as casual and irregular; for instance, in one book we find the name spelled GRIFFIS on one page and then spelled GRIFFITHS on another page.”

“According to the family legend, as told by Albert Buffet Griffith… , William Griffith had difficulty pronouncing ‘th’, and in a name or worth ‘th’ sounded like an ‘s’. As this speech impediment was an embarrassment to him, he allowed the clerk to record his name as Griffis rather than confessing the spelling was Griffith which would have called the clerk’s attention to the impediment.”

“My Great Grandfather, on my father’s side came from Wales & settled in Huntington, Long Island. They spelled the name Griffiths. My Grandfather, who died at my Father’s house could never give me a reason why he changed it to Griffis.” – William Case Griffis [1]

It is not until the third or fourth generation of the descendants of William Griffis that the surname was finally stabilized in a respective branch of the family tree. A major challenge in reconstructing the family past is determining what constitutes evidence and proof of how a specific individual and their descendants spelled his or her name.

” The OW (old world) form was Grippiud (Gripiud); this would change in the first place to Griffudd, and then to Gruffudd, for when i was followed in the next syllable by u, the i changed to u. (In the name Griffri, the i of Gripp – or Griff remained unchanged). When u came to have the same quality as the ‘clear y’ (the y of monosyllables and final syllables) the name generally became Gruffydd, and this is now regarded as the standard form. But forms such as Gruffith, Gryffydd are not uncommon in early documents. In South Wales the peculiar vowel sound of u/y was lost entirely and ‘Griffidd’ would be the normal pronunciation. The medieval scribes who were not Welsh generally wrote Griffith, even when they heard the original Welsh vowel, for Griffith would be the nearest they could get within their writing system. And this form, Griffith and Grilfiths came to be used almost universally, as forename and surname, throughout Wales.

The addition of -s to Griffith, which came about when the name became a surname, might not cause any alteration in appearance, i.e. in the spelling, but the pronunciations of -iths cannot be expected to stay unaltered and Griffiths is inevitably simplified to Griffis (which is the way the surname is usually pronounced) or Griffies. Versions of this kind are found in the Shropshire registers, and it is possible that other versions such as Griffits represent a simplification of -iths . There is very little point in trying to classify the many versions and provide an explanation because in most cases the various versions merely represent attempts to spell in English a name of Welsh origin with an unusual combination of sounds.” [2]

As indicated in part one of this story, there are a number of web based family trees and manuscripts of family genealogies that reference William Griffis(th) and his 12 descendants. There are four notable limitations for all of these sources on the Griff(is)(ith)(es) family from Huntington, New York: 

  • The proposed ancestors of William lack sound, corroborating facts that support the linkages to his purported parents or grandparents and other ancestors;
  • many of the internet based family trees contain inconsistent or contradictory facts;
  • many of the family trees list family members with the same uniform surname without documenting or recognizing facts regarding the discrepancies in the spelling of the surname in the various branches of the family tree; and
  • none of the genealogical sources, whether they are family trees or manuscripts, provide complete family lines of descendants for all of William’s 12 children.

While this part of the story and remaining fourth part of the story do not attempt address these four limitations, I will hopefully provide documentation on how the surname changed between family members across and within generations. Documenting the complete family tree for William’s 12 descendants coupled with the variations of the surname spelling is an ongoing process but will be covered in a future story.

My Madness in the Method

In my attempt to document the different spellings of the surname within and across generations of the Griff(is)(th)(es) family, I have compared various genealogical sources for an individual person and assessed the reliability of those sources. It is not a fool proof method. I may still have missed the target on specific individuals.

The following ordinal scale of ‘proof’ was used as a heuristic guide to determine how I reviewed various sources of evidence for a given individual . In many cases, if I was able to find a family or individual headstone, I figured a headstone with a name carved into the stone reflected a convincing basis of how the surname was spelled. While mistakes have been made on head stones, the amount of effort put into creating a marker for an individual’s burial is much more involved than simply transcribing a name on paper. Proof of a headstone and its spelling of the surname also may have influenced my views on how an individual’s immediate family may have spelled their surname since they were the ones that had the tomb stone made.

One thing I am certain of is you can not totally rely on how census or tax roll enumerators spelled names in their census, tax, or government documents. I imagine they relied on what they heard from who ever answered the door. In relation to the spelling of the surname in census sources, I am inclined to believe that any spelling of a family member as ‘Griffiths’ would point to or corroborate the actual spelling of the surname as ‘Griffis’ since phonetically it sounds very similar. So if I found the name spelled as ‘Griffiths’, I assumed the name was ‘Griffis’. This could also be true for the recording of the name as ‘Griffith’ since this was a common form of the spelling of the surname.

In the end, I felt the determination of the spelling of the surname for a given individual in a branch of the family came down to finding: primary sources (e.g. actual documents written by an individual, which, unfortunately is rare), a headstone, or following a person’s line of descendants to see if there is any continuity of how they spelled their last name.

Table One: Levels of Proof and Genealogical Evidence

Proof LevelLevel of CertaintyDescriptionConsistency Between Sources &
Examples / Types of Sources of Evidence
ONEConclusiveBeyond a Reasonable Doubt Consistency between all available records

Evidence supported by birth marriage & death certificates, wills, probate and court records, headstones, family headstones, family names in bibles, personal direct knowledge, how descendants spelled the name, etc.
TWOAlmost CertainlyPreponderance of EvidenceConsistent spellings across a wide range of types of various documents.

Evidence supported by sources found in level one but there may be a few exceptions in surname spelling in sources.
THREEMost LikelyPreponderance of EvidenceConsistent spellings across most sources of documents

Evidence supported by sources found in level two but there may be a number of exceptions in surname spelling.
FOURProbable Preponderance of EvidenceConsistent spellings across at least half of all types of various documents

Spellings of surnames in transcribed documents are numerous and the lack of a majority one way or another draw support to those that identify key events such as both marriage and death.
FIVELikely Conflicting EvidenceLimited sources of conflicting evidence.

Based on available genealogical sources of information, it appears that three variations of the surname have been used by the descendants of William and Abiah Griffis. For some individuals, it is not entirely certain if they used Griffith or Griffis.

An Overview: The First and Second Generations of the Family

The variations of spelling the Griff(is)(es)(th) surname in the first two generations of the family. Click for larger view.

The chart to the left reflects the variations in spelling in the family surname among William’s 12 children.

Based on my assessment of genealogical evidence, seven of the children used the ‘Griffis’ surname, three used the ‘Griffith’ surname and one used the ‘Griffes’ surname.

The third generation of the family reflects a continuation of various spellings of the surname. The descendants of William’s second child, James Griffis, reverted back to the ‘Griffith’ surname. The descendants of the third son, William Griffis, used both Griffis and Griffith. Three of his four sons used ‘Griffis’ while a fourth son used ‘Griffith’.

The fifth son, Stephen Griffis, appeared to have used or was recorded as a Griffith and Griffis but it is not entirely certain what he actually used as a last name.

Nathaniel Griffes, the sixth son, was the only child that spelled his name as an adult with an ‘es’ on then, Griffes. His descendants continued the tradition.

While it is not entirely certain, Joel Griffith probably spelled his name with a ‘th’ on the end.

Little is known of the second daughter of William, Esther Griffis, but she probably spelled her last name with an ‘-is’.

Epenetus and John used Griffith and Daniel and Jeremiah used Griffis.

A Review of Historical Sources

Starting with the ‘Pater Familias‘ William Griffis and his 12 children, the following story goes through all of the various sources that led me to my conclusions on what surnames each of the first two generations of the family used.

Not much is known of William Griffis. I can only find two records that document his existence. Both records are not original documents so it is assumed the individuals who documented and transcribed the records in publications had spelled the surname as it was reflected in the original document. Baptism records indicate his name as William Griffis. [3] An assessment of property in Huntington, Long Island about the close of the war in 1782 referenced a “William Griffis” living in Huntington, New York. [4] Published and unpublished family manuscripts spell his name as William Griffis or William Griffith. [5]

William Gates Griffis was baptized 7 Nov 1756 and his name is spelled ‘Griffis’. [6] Not much is known of William Gates Griffis. Records indicate his possible participation in the Revolutionary War and in receiving a pension for his service between 1831 thru 1849. Records indicate the spelling of his name as ‘Griffis’. [7] It is not known if he was married and had children. A family manuscript indicates that he “served in the American Revolution, settled in Oneida County, New York“. [8] However, I have not been able to corroborate this assertion.

The records associated with William’s second son, James Griffis, document a confusing reflection of how others spelled his surname in different sources. His name is either spelled as Griffis or Griffith. Based on a review of the various records and accounts by his descendants in family manuscripts, I am lead to believe, it is ‘almost certain’, he spelled his name as Griffis despite the fact that his descendants reverted to spelling the surname as ‘Griffith’.

James William Griffis was baptized with the surname name “Griffis’ on 2 July 1758. [9] When James William Griffis was born in 1758, in Hauppauge, New York, his father, William, was 22 and his mother, Abiah, was 29. When he was 26 years old, he married Sarah Totten on January 11, 1785, in Smithtown, New York. They had seven children in 16 years. He died on November 21, 1838, in Dix Hills, New York, having lived a long life of 80 years.

Between the ages of 17 and 21, James Griffis also fought in the Revolutionary War. Various war roll call and payment records indicate the spelling of his name as Griffis. He is listed as James Griffis, an enlisted soldier in the First Regiment of Minutemen from Suffolk County. [10] He is listed as James Griffis in pay roll records of Captain Nathaniel Platt’s Company in Colonel Josiah Smith’s Regiment of the New York Militia in 1776 for pay drawn from July 26th to December 2nd. [11] He is also listed as James Griffis as an enlisted man in the Third Regiment for the New York Troops. [12]

Census enumerators in various census years have spelled his name in various fashions. In the 1790 Federal Census, he is listed as James Griffiths [13]. In the 1810 Federal census, he is listed as James Griffis [14].

What is interesting about the 1820 census is that five family members are listed in close proximity to each other. The census enumerator spelled the surname as ‘Griffis’. Brother Stephen Griffis lived one household away from James Griffis. Another brother, Jeremiah Griffis, lived 8 households away from James Griffis. A census page before the three aforementioned Griffis households lists another brother, Epenetus Griffis, who lived next to a William Griffis who was a son – a member of the third generation of the Griff(is(es)(th) family. [15]

1820 Federal Census
1820 Federal Census
1830 U.S. Census

The 1830 census also reflects a number of Griff(is)(its)(iths) family households in the Huntington area. This time the census taker spelled the name as ‘Griffiths’ or ‘Griffith’. [16]

Based on the route the census enumerator took, the family households of Epenetus Griffith and James Griffith were next to each other. Eight and eleven households away were the households of Jeremiah Griffith and William Griffith respectively.

Doubting the veracity of various enumerator’s abilities to reliably transcribe names is underscored when looking at the Huntington, New York Tax Rolls (see below). The surname is spelled as Griffeth, Griffeths, and Griffiths. In 1799, the tax assessors located three of the brothers. I imagine the enumerator of the tax information probably knew the three ‘Griffis’ brothers. Nonetheless their names were spelled three different ways: Stephen Griffeths, Epenetus Griffeth, and James Griffiths! [17]

1799 Hunting Tax Rolls

There were two applications for membership into the Sons of the American Revolution by descendants of James Griffis. [18] Both applications list his name as Griffis or Griffith. It is interesting to note that one application, submitted by Everett Arthur Babcock, incorrectly lists James’ wife as Ann whereas the application submitted by Clarence Albert Griffith correctly lists his wife as SarahTotten. His marriage to Sarah Totten is documented in a genealogical application and his last name is spelled as Griffis. [19]

William’s oldest daughter and third child was Nancy Anne (Ann) Griffi(s)(th). When Nancy Anne Griffith was born in 1760, in Huntington, New York, her father, William, was 24, and her mother, Abiah, was 31. At the age of 20, she married Alexander Brush on November 11, 1781, in Smithtown, New York. They had ten children in 21 years.

“Four years after Elisha Maynard (first ) settled in what is now Bovina, Alexander Brush came from Long Island and settled on the site of the present Bovina Center. He cleared brush from an area that is now the home of Tim McIntosh and purchased about 400 acres of land, including the present site of the hamlet of Bovina Center. Parts of this land he later sold to new settlers. In 1796, he erected the first grist mill in Bovina at the site of the current Town Garage. Brush also was the local preacher for the Methodist Society. In later life he became blind and crippled, but continued to preach – often from a rocking chair. For nearly a half century after his death Bovina was called “Brushland” in his honor. Mr. Brush’s friend and nearest neighbor was James Bogardus. His home was on the site of the Parsons residence, next to the current United Presbyterian Church. He cleared and owned a large piece of land at the northern end of the village. For many years, Brush and Bogardus existed here in real pioneer fashion.” [20]

She died on October 13, 1835, in Delaware, New York, at the age of 74, and was buried in Bovina Center, New York. She died five years before the passing of her husband Alexander.

Based on a review of available records, how she spelled her maiden name is a toss up. However based on marriage records and documentation on her burial, despite not having a photo of a headstone, it is ‘probable’ her maiden name was spelled as Griffith. A transcription of records of the First Church in Huntington by Moses Scudder, indicate her name as Ann Griffis. [21] Another genealogical publication documents her marriage to Alexander Bush and her name is listed as Ann Griffith. [22] Although a headstone is not identified for Ann Bush, a memorial record in the Find A Grave website lists her name as “Nancy Griffith Brush” . [23]

William and Abiah had two sons named William. The fourth child was William Griffis. When William Griffis was born around the early part of February of 1763, in Fresh Pond, New York, his father, William, was 26 and his mother, Abiah, was 33. He married Tunta “Content” Noxon in 1791 in Dutchess, New York. They had four children during their marriage. He died in 1847 in Fredericksburg, Ontario, Canada, having lived a long life of 84 years.

William Griffis’ name is consistently spelled across a wide range of sources as Griffis. A family tree website provides instances of his name being spelled as ‘Griffis’, ‘Griffits’, ‘Griffes’, ‘Griffiths’ [24] He and his four sons are listed as Griffis in a list of American loyalists that emigrated to Ontario [25]. In Revolutionary War Pension claim files, he signed various affidavits as William Griffis but is at times is referred to as William Griffith. In fact the cover folder lists his name as William Griffis or Griffith. He is referenced as William Griffis in Daughters of the American Revolution lineage documentation. [26]

William was listed in The Executive Council List in Ontario, Canada, as a United Empire Loyalist; however, he also had joined up with the Americans in Dec 1775 for short stints, three times for 3 month periods, one for 4 months, and one 5 month period, until Dec. 1780. In a family manuscript, which documents his descendants in Canada and provides individual accounts, the surname ‘Griffis’ is consistently used by William and his descendants. [27] However, one of his four sons, Gilbert, appears to have used the Griffith surname, contrary to what the family manuscript states. [25] His descendants also used the Griffith surname, as documented the fourth part of this story. The Ontario Bureau of Industries census listed William Griffis from March 18, 1794 with a wife and three sons but sometime about 1815 his name disappears from the records. 

Stephen Griffis was William’s fifth child. He was born nine months after his older brother William. When Stephen Griffith was born in December 1763 (he was baptized 19 Dec 1763), in Fresh Pond, New York, his father, William, was 27 and his mother, Abiah, was 34. He married Nancy Anna Ruland on March 4, 1789, in Smithtown, New York. He died on December 24, 1838, in Huntington, New York, having lived a long life of 75 years.

Based on available records of his existence, it is possible he went by either Griffith or Griffis. I am tipping the argument in favor of Griffis based on census data and baptism documentation. As indicated above, census enumerators identified Stephen as ‘Griffis’ and as ‘Griffith’. In the first United States census in 1790, his name is spelled as Griffiths [28]. In 1800, Stephen and James are identified as ‘Griffiths’ [29]. An enumerator may be lead to spell Griffis as Griffiths based on sound. In 1810 Stephen and brother Epenetus are identified as ‘Griffis’. [30] In the 1820 census he is identified as a Griffis and in the 1830 census he is referred to as Stephen Griffith. [31] Records of Stephen’s marriage to Nancy Anna Ruland on 4 March 1789 indicate his name is ‘Griffith’. [32]

There is a Stephen Griffis referenced as an enlisted Revolutionary War soldier in the Albany County Militia (Land Bounty Rights) – Sixth Regiment Regiment. However, it is not certain that this Stephen Griffis is the same Stephen that lived in Huntington, New York. Similar to his older brothers, it is possible that he fought in the Revolutionary since he was born in 1763. [33] It is not known where Stephen or his wife are buried. Family manuscripts indicate Stephen Griffis died on December 24, 1838, in Huntington, New York, when he was 75 years old. [34]

The lack of documentation on Stephen Nancy Anna Ruland’s family makes it difficult to determine who are his descendants. In the 1800 U.S. Census for Huntington, New York , it indicates that Stephen, at 37 years of age, was a head of a household that had one male under 10 and one female under ten along with his wife Anna.

Headstone of Nathaniel’s wife Esther. Click for larger view.

Nathaniel Griffes, the sixth child of William and Abiah, is discussed in the second part of this story. Based on his will, church records, and gravesite documentation, there is conclusive evidence that he spelled his last name as ‘Griffes’. He is the only child of William to spell his surname as such. In the 1810 U.S. Census his name is spelled Griffis. [35] In the 1820 census, it is spelled Griffies. [36] In the 1840 census it is spelled Griffes. [37] A Nathaniel Griffis is found as an enlisted Revolutionary soldier in Albany in 1776 named Nathaniel Griffis. [38] Church records indicate that his name was spelled as Griffes. [39] His Will [40] and probate records also reflect that his name was spelled Griffes. [41] Burial documentation reflects his name was spelled Griffes and there is a large family presence of Griffes family members in Vale cemetery in Schenectady, New York [42]

A family manuscript erroneously indicates that he married Anna Ruland 4 March 1789. Unless Mildred Peets Griffith, who wrote the unpublished manuscript, had access to the original ledger or documents of the Reverend Hartt who conducted the marriage ceremony , a genealogical publication that lists marriages and baptisms by the the Rev. Hartt indicates that Anna Ruland married Nathaniel’s brother Stephen. [43]

There is not much documentation on the sixth child of William and Abiah Griffis: Joel Griffi(s)(th). In family manuscripts, it is mentioned that he was born on 26 December, 1770, Fresh Ponds, Suffolk County and died in 1816. [44] In the context of a discussion of the life of the Reverend Joshua Hartt, who was the pastor of the church in Smithtown, New York, it was mentioned that among the many roles he played, he opened a school in Smithtown.  One of his pupils in the school was a ‘Joel Griffis’. However, it is unlikely this Joel Griffis is the Joel Griffis who was born in 1770 since Reverend Hartt opened his school in 1793. It is unlikely Joel would have been a pupil at the age of 23 unless Hartt’s school was for young adults. [45] The Joel mentioned as a pupil of Reverend Hartt might be a nephew of Joel’s and son of Epenetus Griffith, Joel Griffith, who was born around 1818.

There is little information on Esther Griffi(s)(th). Given the limited pieces of evidence, I currently am leaning towards her surname as ‘likely Griffis’. Based on baptism records that were kept by the Reverend Prime for the First Church of Huntington, an “Esthes” Griffis was baptized on 27 February 1774. [46] Family manuscripts indicate that Esther Griffis was born 22 March, 1773, baptized on 27 February, 1774 by the Reverend Prime, and died 28 June 1829. [47]. Unfortunately there is no corroborating documentation on her birth or death.

As indicated in the second part of this story, reviewing the 1850 New York state Federal census in Mayfield revealed a puzzling household composition for Esther’s brother Daniel Griffis.  [48] In the 1850 New York census, Daniel is still listed as the head of the household at the age of 73. He reported is birth year as 1777 and born in Suffolk County. There is an Esther Griffis, age 86 in the household. While is it possible on face value that this could be Daniel’s wife, based on information in the 1840 Federal census, his wife would have been estimated to be in her 60’s when the 1850 census was undertaken. Daniel’s wife’s name is not known and presumably she died between 1840 and 1850. The 1850 state census did not list relation of family nor county of birth for individuals. This Esther might have been his spinster sister; and if so, the Griffith manuscripts have an erroneous date of death for Esther.

Table Two: Household of Daniel Griffis 1850

NameAgeBirth Year
Esther Griffis861764
Daniel Griffis731777
Sally Griffis241826
Stephen Griffis161834
Wm Griffis
1850 New York State Census, Mayfield, Fulton County

Epenetus Griffith was William’s ninth child. From cradle to grave, he and his two families lived in Suffolk County, New York. When Epenetus Griffith was born at the end of September or beginning of October in 1775, in Fresh Pond, New York, his father, William, was 39 and his mother, Abiah, was 46. Records of his baptism list his name as Epenetus Griffis. [49]

At the age of 29, he married Mary Smith in 1803. [50] They had four children. Mary died 19 January 1813 at the age of 31. Her fourth child, Mary Elizabeth Griffith, also passed away two months after her death. It is not known what were the causes of both their deaths. Their deaths may be attributed to what was called at the time, Spotted Fever, or Typhus. There are historical accounts of a wave of spotted fever that impacted areas in New England and part of New York in the winter of 1812-1813. [51]

Headstone of Mary Smith Griffith
Headstone of Mary Smith Griffith, click for larger view.
The short life of Mary Elizabeth Griffith, click for larger view.

Two years after Mary’s death, Epentetus then married Elizabeth Vail on 15 Feb 1815 and they also had four children. He died on the 24th of April 1857, in Northport, New York, having lived a long life of 81 years.

As mentioned above, U.S. census enumerators have spelled Epenetus’ surname either as Griffis or Griffith. [52] A record of his marriage indicates an Epenetus Griffis marrying an Elizabeth Vail on 15 February 1815. Documentation on his children from both wives however reflect their use of the Griffith surname.

The Children of Epenetus Griffith. Click for larger view.

Whether Epenetus used Griffis or Griffith, it is not entirely certain. Huntington tax rolls mention an Epentetus Griffith in 1801 and 1803 [53].

It is not known where he is buried. Documentation associated with the burial of his first first wife Mary indicate her married name was Griffith. [54] On the basis of available documentation, it is more than likely he went by the last name of Griffith.

When Daniel Griffis was born on April 1, 1777, in Fresh Pond, New York, his father, William, was 40 and his mother, Abiah, was 48. Based on the reported age and sex distributions of his household in various U.S. census, it is believed he had four sons and two daughters between 1802 and 1827. It is presumed that he died after 1855 and before 1860 in Mayfield, New York, having lived a long life of up to 83 years. His name is spelled as Griffis in various state and Federal census documents as indicated in part two of this story.

Not much is known about Daniel. However, as indicated in part two of this story, two of his sons, William and Joel, and his two daughters Sally and Ruth, were documented as using the surname ‘Griffis’. It is not known where he is buried. There is no evidence of a will. Despite the lack of genealogical sources that support his use of the Griffis surname, given information about his immediate family and census data, it is most likely he used the ‘Griffis’ surname.

John Griffith was baptized on 29 Jun 17, 1778 . [55] In a family manuscript, it is mentioned, based on unstated church records, that he married Hannah Smith in Smithtown, New York. [56] It is ‘likely’ that he used the ‘Griffith’ surname. There are no available records of his descendants if he had children. There are no known records of a will or where he is buried.

Jeremiah Griffis was the youngest William’s 12 children. Jeremiah was born on 9 January 1781 [57] and was baptized 18 September 1781 and his name was listed as Griffith. [58]

Jeremiah, listed as Griffiths, married Elsie Mott on 3 Nov 1814 in New York City. [59]

Click for larger view

Based on census documentation, Jeremiah spent his entire life as a farmer in Huntington, New York. His name is spelled in various forms in the U.S. census. In 1820, he is listed as Jeremiah Griffis. In 1830 he is listed as Griffith. In the 1840 census there is a Jeremiah Griffiths living in Huntington, New York. In 1860, there is a Jeremiah Griffiths in Huntington and in 1865 there is a Jeremiah Griffis. [60] The following illustrates the variation of spelling in the surname and the proximity of Griffis family farms in Huntington, New York in 1840.

1840 U.S. Census, click for larger view.

While a Jeremiah Griffis(th) is found in Federal and New York state census in 1860 and 1865, it is not certain that this is the Jeremiah that was born in 1781. If he was living in the 1860’s he would have been 84 in 1865. It is possible that the Jeremiah listed in the 1860 and 1865 census was a son named Jeremiah.

One Family Three Surnames

As reflected in this story, it is difficult to pinpoint with certainty what surname may have been used by some of William’s children. What perhaps can be distilled from this journey through genealogical records and the discovery of an occasional grave site is three surnames have been used and passed on to the descendants of William Griffis who lived in Huntington, New York.

The last part of this four part story will provide information on the third and fourth generations of the family surname. However, given the number of individuals, it will not provide the level of detail as found in this third part of the story.

The following table provides a summary of the genealogical sources that informed my judgements on whether ‘Griffis’, ‘Griffith’, or ‘Griffes’ was used by William’s children.

Table Three: List of Family Members and Names Based on Sources

NameSpellingSource
William GriffisGriffisFamily manuscript (Peets)
GriffisFamily manuscript (Hall)
GriffisFamily Lore
GriffisTax Record
GriffisBaptism
William G. GriffisGriffisBaptism
GriffisFamily Manuscript
GriffisRev. War Pension Records (Peets)
GriffisFamily manuscript (Hall)
James GriffisGriffisBaptism
GriffisRev War Participation
GriffisPay Roll War Records
Griffiths1790 U.S. Census
Griffis1810 U.S. Census
Griffis1820 U.S. Census
Griffith1830 U.S. Census
Griffiths1799 Tax Record
GriffisApplication for Rev War Ancestor
GriffisFamily manuscript (Peets)
Anne GriffithGriffisBaptism
GriffisMarriage
GriffithMarriage
GriffithBurial
GriffisFamily Manuscript (Peets)
William GriffisGriffisSurvivor’s Pension Application File
GriffisFamily manuscript (Peets) (Welch)
GriffisThe Loyalists in Ontario
Griffisdaughters of the American Revolution
GriffithsCanada Land Petitions
Stephen GriffisGriffisRev War: 6th NY Militia Albany Co.
Griffiths1790 U.S. Census
Griffiths1800 U.S. Census
Griffis1810 U.S. Census
Griffis1820 U.S. Census
Griffith1830 U.S. Census
GriffithMarriage
Griffiths1801 Tax Assessment
Griffeth1803 Tax Assessment
GriffisFamily Manuscript (Peets)
Nathaniel GriffesGriffis1810 U.S. Census
Griffies1820 U.S. Census
Griffes1840 U.S. Census
GriffisLand Bounty Rights 6th Regiment Albany NY
Grifes1776 Residence
GriffesChurch Records
GriffesWill
GriffesHeadstone
Griffith(s)Family manuscripts (Peets) (Hall)
Esther GriffisGriffisBaptism
GriffisFamily manuscript (Peets) & (Hall)
Griffis1850 U.S. Census
Epenetus GriffithGriffithBaptism
GriffithTax Rolls
GriffisMarriage to Vail
Griffis1810 U.S. Census
Griffis1820 U.S. Census
Griffith1830 U.S. Census
Griffiths1840 U.S. Census
Griffeth1799 Tax Rolls
Daniel GriffisGriffisBirth
Griffis1810 U.S. Census
Griffies1820 U.S. Census
Griffis1830 U.S. Census
Griffis1840 U.S. Census
Griffis1850 U.S. Census
Griffis1855 N.Y. Census
John GriffithGriffithBaptism
GriffithMarriage
Jeremiah GriffisGriffis1820 U.S. Census
Griffith1830 U.S. Census
Griffiths1840 U.S.census
Griffiths1860 U.S. Census
Griffis1865 U.S. Census
GriffithsMarriage

Sources

Featured Image: Gruffudd or Gruffydd is a Welsh name, originating in Old Welsh as a given name and today used as both a given and surname. It is the origin of the Anglicised name Griffith[s]. The Welsh form evolved from the Common Brittonic Grippiud or Gripuid. – Morgan, T.J., Welsh Surnames, Qualitex Printing Limited, Cardiff, 1985, The Orthography of Welsh Surnames 5-8Gruffydd pgs 103–105

[1] The first quote is from Mildred Griffith Peets, Griffith Family History in Wales 1485–1635 in America from 1635 Giving Descendants of James Griffis (Griffith) b. 1758 in Huntington, Long Island, New York, compiled by Capitola Griffis Welch, 1972 . Page 8

The second quote is also from the Peets manuscript, page 9.

The third quote is from information that was added by William Case Griffis to his father’s personal journal, William Griffis, in a family manuscript written compiled by Mary Martha Ryan Jones and Capitola Griffis Welch, compiled by, Griffis Sr of Huntington Long Island and Fredericksburg, Canada 1763-1847 and William Griffis Jr, (Reverend William Griffis) 1797-1878 and his descendants. A self published genealogical manuscript, 1969. Page 103 PDF copy of the manuscript can be found here.

[2] T. J. Morgan M.A., D.Litt., LL.D. and Prys Morgan M.A., D.Phil., Welsh Surnames, Cardiff: Cardiff University Press of Wales, 1985, Page 102.

[3] Moses L. Scudder, ed., Records of the First Church in Huntington, Long Island, 1723 – 1779, Being the Records Kept by the Rev. Ebenezer Prime the Pastor During Those Years, (from old catalog) (Huntington, NY: Moses L Scudder, 1899) Page 31.

Record of baptisms and marriages performed by the Rev. Joshua Hartt as extracted from his daily journal. This journal is in the hand writing of Rev. Joshua Hartt.  The extracts were made by Evelyn Briggs Baldwin on November 5th and 6th, 1910 from the originals held by great grand daughter Miss M. L. Brown and they supplement the records obtained from his great grand daughter Mrs. Martha Hartt Collars of 1652.

[4] “Assessment of property in Huntington about the close of the war – 1782” in Charles Rufus Street, ed. Huntington Town Records, Including Babylon, Long Island, N.Y.: 1776-1873. Volume III, N.p., Huntington, L.I.: The “Long Islander” Print, 1889.

“William Griffis 16 pounds page 91”

[5] The three manuscripts are 

Mildred Griffith Peets, Griffith Family History in Wales 1485–1635 in America from 1635 Giving Descendants of James Griffis (Griffith) b. 1758 in Huntington, Long Island, New York, compiled by Capitola Griffis Welch, 1972 . PDF copy of the manuscript can be found here.

Mary Martha Ryan Jones and Capitola Griffis Welch, compiled by, Griffis Sr of Huntington Long Island and Fredericksburg, Canada 1763-1847 and William Griffis Jr, (Reverend William Griffis) 1797-1878 and his descendants. A self published genealogical manuscript, 1969. PDF copy of the manuscript can be found here.

M.K. Hall, Griffith Genealogy: Wales, Flushing, Huntington, Unpublished Manuscript 1929, originally published 1937. It has been reproduced for commercial access by a variety of publishers. The copy I accessed was published by Creative Media Partners, LLC, Sep 10, 2021. This work is in the public domain in the United States of America. A PDF copy of the book can be found here.

[6] Moses L. Scudder, ed., Records of the First Church in Huntington, Long Island, 1723 – 1779, Being the Records Kept by the Rev. Ebenezer Prime the Pastor During Those Years, (from old catalog) (Huntington, NY: Moses L Scudder, 1899) Page 48.

[7] William Griffis, Ancestry.com. U.S., Revolutionary War Pensioners, 1801-1815, 1818-1872 , Volume 10: Revolutionary War: 1838 – 1850[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007. Page 51

Original data: 

Ledgers of Payments, 1818-1872, to U.S. Pensioners Under Acts of 1818 Through 1858 From Records of the Office of the Third Auditor of the Treasury, 1818-1872. NARA microform publication T718. 23 rolls. Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury, 1775-1978, Record Group 217. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Pension Payment Roll of Veterans of the Revolutionary War and the Regular Army and Navy, 3/1801 – 9/1815. NARA microform publication M1786. 1 Roll. NAI: 2600769. Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, 1773–2007, Record Group 15. The National Archives at Washington, D.C.

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William Griffis, Ancestry.com. U.S., Revolutionary War Pensioners, 1801-1815, 1818-1872 , Volume 9: Revolutionary War: 1849 – 1864 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007. Page 147

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[8] Mildred Griffith Peets, Griffith Family History in Wales 1485–1635 in America from 1635 Giving Descendants of James Griffis (Griffith) b. 1758 in Huntington, Long Island, New York, compiled by Capitola Griffis Welch, 1972 , Page 10.

[9] James Griffis baptized 2 July 1757, Moses L. Scudder, ed., Records of the First Church in Huntington, Long Island, 1723 – 1779, Being the Records Kept by the Rev. Ebenezer Prime the Pastor During Those Years, (from old catalog) (Huntington, NY: Moses L Scudder, 1899) Page 49.

[10] Frederic Gregory Mather, The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to Connecticut, Westminster, MD: Heritage Books Page, reprint 2010, Page 995

[11] James Griffis, U.S., Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783, 28 Sep 1775, Third Regiment of the New York Troops. Image 668,

Ancestry.com. U.S., Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007.Original data: 

Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M246, 138 rolls); War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records, Record Group 93; National Archives, Washington. D.C.

Revolutionary War American Forces included various organizations formed by the Continental Congress as well as individual states, counties, and towns. Regular military units created by the Continental Congress comprised the Continental Army. Often this Army was reinforced with units created by individual states. The records contained in this database regard only the Continental Army, and state and other units that served with them.

James Griffis, U.S., Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783, 28 Sep 1775, Third Regiment of the New York Troops. Image 668, Click for Larger View

See also: James Griffis, U.S., Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783, York 2nd Regiment, 1777-1783 (Folders 31-37) – 3d Regiment, 1776-1780 (Folders 40-41), Image 631, Nov – Dec 1779

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[12] Frederic Gregory Mather, The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to Connecticut, Westminster, MD: Heritage Books Page, reprint 2010, Page 1006

[13] James Griffiths, 1790 United Stated Census, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York, Image 2 of 9, Page 79, Line – third name from bottom of the handwritten list.

Stephen and James Griffiths 1790 census
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[14] James Griffis, 1810 United Stated Census, Smithtown, Suffolk County, New York, Page 536, Line 5

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[15] 1820 U.S. Census; Census Place: East Hampton, Suffolk, New York, Page 295 NARA Roll M33_74: image 308

James Griffis, 1820 United States census, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York, Page 153, Line 28

Stephen Griffis, 1820 United States census, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York, Page 153, Line 26

Jeremiah Griffis, 1820 United States census, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York, Page 153, Line 36

William Griffis, 1820 United States census, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York, Page 152, Line 39

Epenetus Griffis, 1820 United States census, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York, Page 152, Line 38

[16] 1830 United Stated Census, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York, NARA M19_ 103, Page 300, Image 7 of 72, Family History Library 0017163

Epenetus Griffith, 1830 United States census, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York, Page 300, Line 11

James Griffith, 1830 United States census, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York, Page 300, Line 12

Jeremiah Griffith, 1830 United States census, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York, Page 300, Line 20

William Griffith, 1830 United States census, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York, Page 300, Line 23

[17] 1799 New YorkTax Assessment Rolls of Real and Personal Estates, 1799 – 1804, Suffolk County, 1801, Huntington, Image 8, Lines 30, 31 and 37.

Data source: New York State Archives, Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., Tax Assessment Rolls of Real and Personal Estates, 1799-1804 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: New York (State), Comptroller’s Office. Tax Assessment Rolls of Real and Personal Estates, 1799–1804. Series B0950 (26 reels). Microfilm. New York State Archives, Albany, New York.

In 1799 the New York state legislation provided for the collection of taxes on real estate and personal property in the state of New York. This database includes tax rolls that were prepared on the county level and submitted to the state comptroller’s office. It also includes some lists of taxes that remained unpaid.

The tax lists include the name of the “possessor,” a description of the real estate (e.g., farm, house, land), value of real estate, value of personal property, and the amount taxed. The lists of unpaid taxes list the name of the possessor, the amount, and in some cases a brief description of what was being taxed and the reason the tax wasn’t collected.

[18] Everett Arthur Babcock, Application for Sons of American Revolution SAR Membership Number 88189 for James Griffith 16 Feb 1962, National Society, Sons of the American RevolutionAncestry.com. U.S., Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

Original data: Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970. Louisville, Kentucky: National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. Microfilm, 508 rolls.

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As reflected on the pages below, Mr. Babcock incorrectly states that James Griffith’s son was Epenetus Griffith. Epenetus was actually a brother of James Griffith(is).

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Clarence Albert Griffith, Application for Sons of American Revolution SAR Membership Number 94594 for james Griffith 27 Oct 1966, National Society, Sons of the American RevolutionAncestry.com. U.S., Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970 

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[19] Baldwin, Evelyn Briggs contributed by, Marriages and Baptisms Performed by Rev. Joshua Hartt of Smithtown , Long Island, with a Sketch of his Life, New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol 42, April 1911, July 1911 . Page 137

[20] Ray LaFever, Brief History of Bovina,  Delaware County NY Genealogy and History Site, 8 February 1999, page accessed 13 March 2022

[21] Moses L. Scudder, ed., Records of the First Church in Huntington, Long Island, 1723 – 1779, Being the Records Kept by the Rev. Ebenezer Prime the Pastor During Those Years, (from old catalog) (Huntington, NY: Moses L Scudder, 1899) Page 51.

[22] Baldwin, Evelyn Briggs contributed by, Marriages and Baptisms Performed by Rev. Joshua Hartt of Smithtown , Long Island, with a Sketch of his Life, New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol 42, April 1911, July 1911 . Page 134

Another source indicates that her maiden name was Ann Griffis:

Anne Griffis and Alexander Brush – Printed by order of Gideon J. Ticker, Secretary of State, Names of Personsfor whom Marriage Licenses Were Issued by the Secretary of the Province of New York Previous to 1784. Albany: Weed, Parsons and Company, : Page 160

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[23] Nancy Griffith Brush. Memorial Number 66781372, Created by Rick Bushong, Find A Grave, Brush Cemetery Bovina Center, Delaware County, New York, Plot: First Row

[24] William Griffis, Individual Web Page, Person Id: I6051, Tree Id: 118202, RootsWeb, Updated 14 Oct 2019, owner: Cheryl (Kemp) Taylor

[25] William Griffis of Fredericksburgh and Adolphustown, William D. Reid, The Loyalists in Ontario: The Sons and Daughters of the American Loyalists of Upper Canada, reprinted Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co. 1973, page 134

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Ancestry.com. The Loyalists in Ontario [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006.Original data: Reid, William D. The Loyalists in Ontario: The Sons and Daughters of the American Loyalists of Upper Canada. Lambertville, NJ, USA: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1973.

[26] William Griffis, Pension Year 1845 Application, Applicant Designation Survivor’s Pension Application File, Archive Publication Number M804, Archive Roll Number 1133, 39 pages in packet; Ancestry.com. U.S., Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files (NARA microfilm publication M804, 2,670 rolls). Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Revolutionary War Pension File folder for William Griffis

[26b] See also a reference in Daughters of the American Revolution for William Griffis:

Charter member 39800 Mrs. Mary Jones, Lineage Book National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, of the Charter Members of the DAR Vol 040 Harrisburg, Pa: Telegraph Printing Co. 1915, Page 293-294

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[26c] Another reference to William Griffis can be found at a website: Fort Plank, Bastion of My Freedom, Colonial Canajoharie, New York, Additional Partisans

“His pension file is too light to read on microfilm]. See also American State Papers Class 9, page [ ]. In October of 1780 he served under the command of Captain Jacob Lansing of Colonel Morris Graham’s Regiment at Schoharie. He states he took part in the pursuit of Sir John Johnson through Stone Arabia under the command of Major Melancton Woolsey of Colonel Lewis Dubois Regiment of Levies in October of 1780. His file contains depositions by Jellis A. Fonda and [ ] Gates [Cates].”

[27] Mary Martha Ryan Jones and Capitola Griffis Welch, compiled by, Griffis Sr of Huntington Long Island and Fredericksburg, Canada 1763-1847 and William Griffis Jr, (Reverend William Griffis) 1797-1878 and his descendants. A self published genealogical manuscript, 1969. PDF copy of the manuscript can be found here.

[28] Stephen Griffiths, 1790 United States Census, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York, Page 79, Line 31

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[29] Stephen and James Griffiths, 1800 U.S. Census, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York, Page 84, Lines 3 and 12.

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[30] Stephen and Epenetus Griffis, 1810 U.S. Census, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York, Page 519, Image 9, Lines 8 and 22.

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[31] Stephen Griffith, 1830 U.S. Census, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York, Image 31, Line 14

[32] Marriage of Stephen Griffith and Anna Ruland 4 Mar 1789, Baldwin, Evelyn Briggs contributed by, Marriages and Baptisms Performed by Rev. Joshua Hartt of Smithtown , Long Island, with a Sketch of his Life, New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol 42, April 1911, July 1911 . Page 137

[33] Stephen Griffis, Albany County Militia (Land Bounty Rights) – Sixth Regiment Regiment, New York in the Revolution as Colony and State, Vol. I: The Militia, Compillation of Documents and Records from the Office of the State Comptroller, Albany: J.B. Lyon Company, 1904, page 227

See the page reference below. This page also reveals puzzling information on other individuals named ‘Griffis’. To date, I have not been able to link Abner Griffis, Jasper Griffis, and Nathaniel Griffis to the Huntington, New York family. In fact, it is not certain that the Stephen Griffis listed in this source is the Stephen Griffis that resided in Huntington, New York. Since Nathaniel Griffes lived most of his life in the Schenectady / Albany area, this reference of Nathaniel Griffis may be our Nathaniel Griffes.

Abner Griffis enlisted at Little Hoosick, Albany County, New York and served various times an in various New York Companies, accounting to 12 months and eleven days in all from 1776 to 1781. He served as a first corporal in various companies in New York. In 1834 he was living in Unadilla, Otsago County, New York when he moved to live with his son.  A son of Abner, Solomon Griffis was a resident of Unadilla. The might be related to the Huntington Griffis family.

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[34] Mildred Griffith Peets, Griffith Family History in Wales 1485–1635 in America from 1635 Giving Descendants of James Griffis (Griffith) b. 1758 in Huntington, Long Island, New York, compiled by Capitola Griffis Welch, 1972 . 

[35] Nathaniel Griffis, 1810 U.S. Census, New York, Albany, Watervliet, Line 20, Page 1312

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[36] Nathaniel Griffes, 1820 U.S. Census, New York, Schenectady, Niskayuna, Line 16, Page 577

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[37] National Griffes, 1840 U.S. Census, New York, Schenectady, Niskayuna, Line 15, Page 353

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[38] Nathaniel Griffis, Albany County Militia (Land Bounty Rights) – Sixth Regiment Regiment, New York in the Revolution as Colony and State, Vol. I: The Militia, Compillation of Documents and Records from the Office of the State Comptroller, Albany: J.B. Lyon Company, 1904, page 227 See footnote 32 above for image.

[39] Nathaniel Griffes and family were members of the Dutch Reformed Church in Schenectady, New York. The church records indicate that Nathaniel Griffes and his wife Mary Ann Griffes, and Mary Esther Griffes became a members in 30 October 1834. The three are listed again as being received into the church on 1 November 1842. Nathaniel’s son James A. Griffis was received into the church congregation on 6 June 1853. His wife was received by ‘confession’ on 4 June 1869.

Click for larger view of left had photo | Click for larger view of right hand photo.

[40] Will of Nathaniel Griffes, U.S. Wills and Probate Records, 1659 – 1999, Schenectady Wills, Vol D – E, 1832 – 1845, date of Will 20 May 142, date of Probate 15 Apr 1842, Probate Place Schenectady NY, Image 325 – 327, Pages 386 – 390. See PDF copy of will.

[41] Nathaniel Griffes, Probate Date 15 Apr 1842, Probate Place Schenectady, New York, Inferred Death Date 1842 Letters Test, Vol 0004-0006, 1839-1863, image 68, Page 32, Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1659-1999 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: New York County, District and Probate Courts.

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[42] Vale Cemetery Memorials for Individuals named Griffes, Find a Grave website, accessed 31 Mar 2022. There are nineteen individuals buried in the cemetery with the surname Griffes.

[43] Mildred Griffith Peets indicates that Nathaniel married Anna Ruland (page 8), Mildred Griffith Peets, Family History in Wales 1485–1635 in America from 1635 Giving Descendants of James Griffis (Griffith) b. 1758 in Huntington, Long Island, New York, compiled by Capitola Griffis Welch, 1972 . 

However, Anna marriage with his brother Stephen is documented in : Marriage of Stephen Griffith and Anna Ruland 4 Mar 1789, Baldwin, Evelyn Briggs contributed by, Marriages and Baptisms Performed by Rev. Joshua Hartt of Smithtown , Long Island, with a Sketch of his Life, New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol 42, April 1911, July 1911 . Page 137

[44] Baldwin, Evelyn Briggs contributed by, Marriages and Baptisms Performed by Rev. Joshua Hartt of Smithtown , Long Island, with a Sketch of his Life, New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol 42, April 1911, July 1911 . Page 129:

[45] Mildred Griffith Peets, Griffith Family History in Wales 1485–1635 in America from 1635 Giving Descendants of James Griffis (Griffith) b. 1758 in Huntington, Long Island, New York, compiled by Capitola Griffis Welch, 1972 . PDF copy of the manuscript can be found here.

M.K. Hall, Griffith Genealogy: Wales, Flushing, Huntington, Unpublished Manuscript 1929, originally published 1937. A PDF copy of the book can be found here.

[46] Moses L. Scudder, ed., Records of the First Church in Huntington, Long Island, 1723 – 1779, Being the Records Kept by the Rev. Ebenezer Prime the Pastor During Those Years, (from old catalog) (Huntington, NY: Moses L Scudder, 1899) Page 58.

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[47] M.K. Hall, Griffith Genealogy: Wales, Flushing, Huntington, Unpublished Manuscript 1929, originally published 1937. A PDF copy of the book can be found here.

Mildred Griffith Peets, Griffith Family History in Wales 1485–1635 in America from 1635 Giving Descendants of James Griffis (Griffith) b. 1758 in Huntington, Long Island, New York, compiled by Capitola Griffis Welch, 1972 . PDF copy of the manuscript can be found here.

[48] Daniel Griffis family household, 1850 United States Federal Census, Mayfield, Fulton County, New York, National Archives and Administration, page 38, lines 6-10

[49] Baptism of Epenetus Griffith, Baldwin, Evelyn Briggs contributed by, Marriages and Baptisms Performed by Rev. Joshua Hartt of Smithtown , Long Island, with a Sketch of his Life, New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol 42, April 1911, July 1911 . Page 282

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[50] Marriages are referenced in: Mildred Griffith Peets, Griffith Family History in Wales 1485–1635 in America from 1635 Giving Descendants of James Griffis (Griffith) b. 1758 in Huntington, Long Island, New York, compiled by Capitola Griffis Welch, 1972 , Pages 8 – 9

Baldwin, Evelyn Briggs contributed by, Marriages and Baptisms Performed by Rev. Joshua Hartt of Smithtown , Long Island, with a Sketch of his Life, New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol 42, April 1911, July 1911 . Page 279:

[51] See, for example: Alan F. Rumrill, The “Spotted Fever” Epidemic of 1812, Historical Society of Cheshire County Website, 15 February, 2021,

[52] See [14] 1810 U.S. Census, Epenetus Griffis;

Epenetus Griffis, 1820 United States census, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York, Page 152, Line 38

Epenetus Griffith, 1830 United States census, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York, Page 300, Line 11

Epentetus Griffiths1840 U.S. Census, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York, Page 192, Line 6, image 79

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[53] Epenetus Griffith, New YorkTax Assessment Rolls of Real and Personal Estates, 1799 – 1804, Suffolk County, 1801, Huntington, Image 9, Line 20.

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Epenetus Griffith, New YorkTax Assessment Rolls of Real and Personal Estates, 1799 – 1804, Suffolk County, 1803, Huntington, Image 13, Line 3.

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Epenetus Griffeth, New YorkTax Assessment Rolls of Real and Personal Estates, 1799 – 1804, Suffolk County, 1799, Huntington, Image 8, Line 31.

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[54] Mary Smith Griffith, Find A Grave Website:

BIRTH31 Jan 1781
DEATH19 Jan 1813 (aged 31)
BURIALCrab Meadow Burial Ground, Crab Meadow, Suffolk County, New York, USA Add to Map
MEMORIAL ID30620772 · View Source

[55] John Griffith baptism: see footnote [48]Baptism of Epenetus Griffith, there are two references to baptisms of Griffith brothers Epenetus and John.

[56] Mildred Griffith Peets, Griffith Family History in Wales 1485–1635 in America from 1635 Giving Descendants of James Griffis (Griffith) b. 1758 in Huntington, Long Island, New York, compiled by Capitola Griffis Welch, 1972 . Page 9

[57] Ibid, Page 9

[58] Baptism of Jeremiah Griffith, Baldwin, Evelyn Briggs contributed by, Marriages and Baptisms Performed by Rev. Joshua Hartt of Smithtown , Long Island, with a Sketch of his Life, New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol 42, April 1911, July 1911 . Page 284

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[59] Marriage of Jeremiah Griffiths and Elsie Mott, Book 1, Marriages Bloomingdale, New York, Marriages from 1804 – 1868, page 65, image 80, Ancestry.com. U.S., Dutch Reformed Church Records in Selected States, 1639-1989[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Image 80, New York > New York > Bloomingdale Church Records Consistory, 1805 – 1913.

Original data: 

Dutch Reformed Church Records from New York and New Jersey. Holland Society of New York, New York, New York. 

Dutch Reformed Church Records from New Jersey. The Archives of the Reformed Church in America, New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Founded in New York City in 1885, the Holland Society is home to collections relevant to the settlement and history of Dutch colonies in America, with an emphasis on New Amsterdam and Hudson River settlements. This Holland Society collection includes records of the Dutch Reformed Church dating back to 1639. Within the collections are records of baptisms, marriages, and burials. 

For more information see the Holland Society.

[60] Jeremiah Griffith, 1830 United States Census, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York, Page 300, Line 20

Jeremiah Griffis, 1820 United States Census, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York, Page 153, Line 36

Jeremiah Griffiths, 1840 United States Census, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York, Page 168 , Line 18

Jeremiah Griffiths 1860 United Stated Census, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York, Page 9 , Line 12

Jeremiah Griffiths 1865 United Stated Census, Huntington, Suffolk County, New York, Page 62 , Line 39