(These articles were originally published in The December 2011 issue of An Darach, the newsletter of the Clan Hamilton Society)

What Happened Here? – DNA Results Indicating a Break in the Senior Male Hamilton Line

Gordon A Hamilton <gah4@psu.edu> and
 Donald L Glossinger <glossinger@comcast.net>

In an article in An Darach in September 2008 the results of an ongoing DNA study of those with the Hamilton surname were summarized. One of the more interesting conclusions derived from the investigation is that there was a break in the senior male Hamilton line around 1390, specifically that the biological father of Sir James Hamilton, 5th of Cadzow, (about 1390-1440) was a male other than a direct male line descendant of Walter Fitzgilbert de Hamilton (about 1270-1340), the usually considered patriarch of the Hamilton family. In the accompanying article by Henry Lloyd Hamilton a summary of the historical events involving the Hamiltons and allied families that were occurring around 1390 is given along with some suggestions concerning how the break might have happened. In this introduction to that article we briefly give some background on the DNA studies and summarize the evidence for the break in the senior male Hamilton line.

In the DNA techniques used in this investigation specific markers on a special chromosome, the Y-chromosome, that males have and females do not, are analyzed. Analyses of this chromosome have been particularly useful in following male lines because the chromosome is passed from father to son to grandson, etc., over many generations with little or no change. Thus, all living males descended along all male lines from one specific male who lived say 500 to 1000 years ago will have a very similar Y-DNA profile, while males derived along all male lines from an unrelated male of that same era will have a different Y-DNA profile. Thus, these methods have been particularly useful in surname studies to determine, for example, whether all individuals with that surname are derived from just one initiator or whether there were multiple initiators. If the latter, then one can conclude from the results which initiator gave rise to any current male (descended along all male lines) if the lines of descent for at least a few participants from that ancestor are known.

As of November 2011 the Hamilton DNA Project has results for approximately 425 participants who have had their DNA analyzed. About 80% of those analyzed have a DNA profile that matches (is the same or very similar) the profile of at least one other person in the project while 20% have a profile that does not match the profile for anyone else in the project. The majority of those with matching profiles can be placed in one of two groups, either in Group A which has about 35% of all participants, or in Group B which has about 18% of all participants. These are the groups that are the focus here because within these groups are several individuals with well documented lines of descent from very early members of the Hamilton family.

The DNA profiles for all those in Group A are similar enough that they are probably all related to each other along all male lines within the last few hundred (500-1000) years. The same is true for all those in Group B; the DNA profiles for those in this group indicate that they are all related to each other along all male lines in the same period of time. However, the Group A DNA profile is quite different from the Group B profile, so different that those in one group could not be related along all male lines to those in the other group within the past few thousand (2000 plus) years.

It is well known that much of the recorded history of the Hamilton family begins with Walter Fitzgilbert de Hamilton who was probably born about 1270 and who, in the early 1300s, was granted by King Robert Bruce extensive amounts of land in Scotland, especially Cadzow,  centered around the current city of Hamilton. Because many of his descendants and supposed descendants (see later) are titled, held land, and have played prominent roles in Scottish and British history, the genealogy of many of his previously suspected descendant lines are quite well documented. By obtaining the Y-DNA profiles for several living members of these well documented lines it has been possible to determine which of the groups identified in the Hamilton DNA project are derived from some of these well established British Hamilton lines.

Since Groups A and B are by far the largest groups that have individuals with matching DNA profiles, it was suspected that the DNA profiles for known descendants of the well documented British lines (all supposedly derived from Walter Fitzgilbert) would match either the Group A or Group B profile. The surprising result that was obtained is that the DNA profiles for known descendants of some of the lines were similar to those in Group A while the profiles for descendants of other lines were similar to those in Group B. This result clearly indicates that not all of the well documented Hamilton lines are derived along all male lines from Walter Fitzgilbert; there must have been a break in at least one of the lines where someone other than a Walter Fitzgilbert all male line descendant fathered a child who ultimately became the ancestor to some of the well established Hamilton lines. Subsequent investigations have shown that this event occurred in the senior male Hamilton line, specifically in the conception of Sir James Hamilton (subsequently referred to as James1) who was born about 1390, married Janet Livingston and died about 1441.

In published genealogies of the Hamilton family James1 is listed as being the first son of Sir John Hamilton and Janet Douglas and a great great grandson of Walter Fitzgilbert. James1 is then the ancestor of many different Hamilton lines including the line to the Duke of Abercorn, usually considered the senior male heir of the Hamilton family. A close relative of the Duke of Abercorn, as well as four other participants who have well documented lines back to James1, all have the Group B DNA profile. Consequently, one can conclude unequivocally that James1 had the Group B DNA profile and that all of his descendants along all male lines will have this profile.

One of the well documented Hamilton lines in Britain is the Raploch line which current evidence (see, for example, the 1933 book “A History of the House of Hamilton” by George Hamilton) indicates was initiated by Walter Hamilton, a brother of James1. The DNA profiles for four well documented descendants of the Raploch Hamiltons have now been determined and they match the Group A profile. Thus, James1 (Group B profile) and Walter, the patriarch of the Raploch line (Group A profile), could only have been half brothers, not full brothers. This indicates that one of the brothers must have been fathered by someone other than a Walter Fitzgilbert all male line descendant, but which one was it?

This question was answered by determining that well documented descendants of lines that branched off from the Walter Fitzgilbert line prior to James1 have the Group A profile. One of these lines is the Preston line. The patriarch of the Preston line is Sir John Hamilton, Lord of Fingalton, who was born about 1337. Sir John is a grandson of Walter Fitzgilbert, in other words two generations closer to Walter Fitzgilbert than James1. Another early branching line is the line to the Olivestob Hamiltons. The patriarch of this line is George Hamilton who is a great grandson of Walter Fitzgilbert so he is one generation closer to Walter Fitzgilbert than James1. The only possible explanation for the observation that Preston and Olivestob descendants have the Group A profile while James1 and his descendants have the Group B profile is that someone other than a Walter Fitzgilbert all male line descendant was the father of James1.

The mother of James1 was Janet Douglas, daughter of James Douglas of Dalkeith. But who was the father? That is not known but one can speculate. If he or other relatives left male line descendants then they should show up with the Group B profile but with a different surname. The Group B DNA profile has some very unique features so someone with another surname who has the Group B profile is almost certainly closely related to the Group B Hamiltons. There are several people with other surnames that have been found to have the Group B DNA profile. Of these, currently the most likely candidate to be the father of James1 would appear to be an ancestor of those who now have the surname Frame. Three people with the surname Frame have been shown to have the Hamilton Group B profile. The possible close connection of the Hamiltons and the Frames is accentuated by the fact that most of those with the Frame surname have a DNA profile very similar to that of another group of Hamiltons, namely those in Group C. It should be emphasized that a Frame as the father of James1 has not been proven; it is just a current working hypothesis.

The foregoing analysis suggests that all Hamilton participants in Group B are male line descendants of just one person, namely James1. This is consistent with the limited dispersion of marker values observed for those in Group B; the dispersion is about what would be expected for a 600 year (or about 20 generation) time period. The dispersion of marker values in Group A is greater indicating that the common ancestor for all those in Group A lived in an earlier time period. Also, the fact that there are considerably more participants in Group A than in Group B implies that the Group A line was initiated earlier. It is likely that Walter Fitzgilbert himself is the ancestor for most Hamiltons in Group A but the results would be consistent with some in Group A being derived from earlier male ancestors or male cousins of Walter Fitzgilbert.

What Happened Here? – Janet Douglas Hamilton and the Mystery DNA of 1390

Henry Lloyd Hamilton

In 1388, John Hamilton of Cadzow married Janet Douglas of Dalkeith.  (Janet’s name is variously recorded as Janet, Jane, Jean, or Jacoba.  In the Middle Ages, these were all essentially the same name.  Jacoba was the Latin form of the name.)  Examining the recorded history of the Hamiltons and the Douglases at the time of this marriage does not reveal any information pertaining to the occurrence of an extra-marital affair on Janet’s part, nor any indication of an out-of-wedlock birth.  However, when examined in the light of the recent DNA evidence, the recorded history certainly can be seen to set the stage for these events. 

In 1388, John Hamilton of Cadzow was approximately twenty-three years old.  His father, David FitzDavid Hamilton, had passed away seven years earlier.  This had left John as the senior male of the senior male line of the Hamiltons.  As such, even at this young age, John had become the recognized Head of the House of Hamilton.  He was the great-grandson of Walter FitzGilbert Hamilton, the progenitor of the Hamilton line.  It was Walter FitzGilbert who had first brought the Hamiltons to prominence, and it was Walter FitzGilbert who had been granted the lands of Cadzow by King Robert the Bruce sometime after 1314. 

In or around 1390, John and Janet Hamilton became the parents of a son whom they named James.  John and Janet went on to become the parents of several more children in subsequent years.  Six hundred years later, we discover that their eldest child, James, was not fathered by John.  Because his parentage was not questioned at the time of his birth, James Hamilton later succeeded John as Head of the House of Hamilton, and his descendants inherited that position and passed it down to the present day. 

So, if John and Janet were married in 1388 --- and she became pregnant in 1389 or 1390 --- but not by John --- what went on here?  It appears that the true parentage of James Hamilton remained unknown and uncontroversial at the time.  Obviously, Janet Douglas Hamilton must have been aware of the true situation or at least its possibility.  Whether or not her parents or her husband were aware of the situation, however, we will probably never know.

Under the social mores of the time, John Hamilton and Janet Douglas appear to have been a good match.  John Hamilton was the head of an established “House,” capable of putting many men-at-arms and other retainers in the field when necessary.  He had been knighted by the Earl of Carrick (King Robert II’s heir and Regent), and was master of extensive lands throughout Lanark and Renfrew, and in Kinneil near Edinburgh.  His father (Sir David Hamilton) had been a close associate of King Robert II, and his grandfather (the first Sir David) had fought alongside, and spent time in an English prison alongside, King David II.  John’s mother had been the daughter of Sir William Keith, who had been King David II’s ambassador to England and was himself a grandson of the Lord Marshal of Scotland.  John’s grandmother was the daughter of the Earl of Ross.  John’s great-grandmother (the wife of Walter FitzGilbert) was the daughter of the Head of the House of Gordon.  His great-great-grandmother (the probable mother of Walter FitzGilbert) was a Douglas, daughter of William “Long Leg” Douglas and sister of William “le HardiDouglas. 

After John’s father died in 1381, his mother married Alexander Stewart of Darnley.  Through his Darnley stepfather, John could claim at least a social connection with the Royal Stewarts, of whom the Darnley Stewarts were cousins. 

We are not trying to make John out to be more than he was, but he did have a pedigree that would highly recommend him to Janet Douglas and, more importantly, to her father.  During this time, the House of Douglas was becoming the most powerful family in Scotland, and the power of the Douglas chiefs (the Earls of Douglas) rivaled that of the King.  Janet’s father was one James Douglas, a cousin of the Douglas chiefs but somewhat removed from the center of Douglas power.  Indeed, several of his ancestors had managed to get themselves into trouble with the Douglas chiefs and had even been killed by the Douglas chiefs in several instances.   

However, this James Douglas was smart, shrewd and extremely ambitious.  By the age of fifteen, he had worked his way into the good graces of his distant cousin Archibald Douglas, otherwise known as Archibald the Grim.  Archibald the Grim was an illegitimate son of Sir James “the Good” Douglas and a cousin of the first two Earls of Douglas.  Archibald was a fearless warrior in the Douglas tradition who had acquired power and influence solely through his military skills and strong personality.  Soon after he had reached adulthood, Archibald the Grim had been made Lord of Galloway. 

For much of the rest of his life, James Douglas’s fortunes were tied to those of Archibald the Grim.  In 1371, at the age of sixteen, James Douglas accompanied Archibald to France as a member of the party sent by King David II to negotiate a renewal of the Auld Alliance.  At the age of seventeen, with the assistance and encouragement of Archibald, James took as his wife the sister of George Dunbar, 10th Earl of Dunbar. 

George Dunbar’s sister was Agnes Dunbar.  Agnes and George had been niece and nephew of Patrick Dunbar, 9th Earl of Dunbar.  Their aunt, Sir Patrick’s wife, was their mother’s sister, Agnes Randolph.  Young Agnes Dunbar had been named after this aunt.  Aunt Agnes was known throughout northern Europe as “Black Agnes,” the famous defender of Dunbar Castle.  While her husband was away at war, an English army arrived and laid siege to his castle.  Assisted only by a few guards and her household servants, Black Agnes successfully defended Dunbar Castle against the English forces. 

As children, young Agnes and George Dunbar had been raised by their aunt and uncle.  Young Agnes was inside Dunbar Castle when her Aunt Agnes had thwarted the English siege.  When their Uncle Patrick died, the Earldom of Dunbar passed to young Agnes’s brother George.  In the meantime, young Agnes had married a man named Robert whose surname and pedigree are lost to history.  At some point, she became a widow and thereafter became the very prominent mistress of King David II.  It is thought that King David was intent upon finding a way to marry her, but when he died in 1371 any such plans died with him.  King David’s successor, King Robert II, threw Agnes out on her ear. 

Agnes soon became perceived as a cast-off and a potential burden to her brother George, Earl of Dunbar.  George prevailed upon his friend Archibald the Grim Douglas to help him find a match for her.  Archibald approached his cousin, James Douglas, with the idea.  Although Agnes was several years his senior, James agreed to marry her.  The wedding took place in 1372. 

James Douglas had been working hard to achieve recognition as the head of a branch of the Douglases.  Indeed, he was the senior male heir of what was emerging as yet another prominent line within the Douglas Clan, the two most prominent lines being the Black Douglases and the Red Douglases.  It was around this time that James began to style himself as James Douglas of Dalkeith and even as Lord of Dalkeith in some instances.  (The actual title of Lord of Dalkeith did not come into existence until after James’ death.) 

By his wife Agnes, James Douglas of Dalkeith had five children in very quick succession – two boys and three girls.  One of the girls was the Janet Douglas whom we have been here discussing.  Agnes Dunbar Douglas died sometime prior to 1378 (perhaps while giving birth).  Janet would have been a very young child, perhaps only an infant.  In 1378, James Douglas of Dalkeith took as his second wife the twice-widowed Egidia Stewart, a half-sister of King Robert II.  By the terms of the indenture by which this second marriage was contracted, it appears that Dalkeith was induced by the offer of a match for Dalkeith’s eldest son with one of the King’s younger granddaughters.  These arrangements certainly served to establish a close connection between James Douglas of Dalkeith and King Robert II, and between Dalkeith and the greater household of the Royal Stewarts. 

At the same time, if we examine the matches that Dalkeith secured for his daughters, we find that John Hamilton fares well by comparison.  Dalkeith had married off his other two daughters to an Arbuthnot and a Livingstone, respectively.  The Arbuthnots and the Livingstones were respectable families, but they had nothing over the Hamiltons.  It appears that James Douglas of Dalkeith actively sought out John Hamilton as a match for his daughter and may have accomplished a small coup in the process.  The indenture documents under which this marriage was arranged make it clear that Dalkeith was the promoter of this marriage and was hoping to benefit thereby. 

In 1375, King Robert II had prevailed upon John Hamilton’s father, Sir David, to yield some of his lands in the barony of Bathgate to the very same James Douglas of Dalkeith.  This land transfer was to settle some unspecified issues existing among Dalkeith, the King, and Sir David Hamilton.  As compensation for his loss of the lands of Bathgate, David Hamilton was to be relieved of his obligation to make annual payments to the crown out of his Cadzow revenues.  (This annual payment dated back to the original grant of Cadzow to Walter FitzGilbert Hamilton.)  This relief from the annual payments was intended to be permanent, but the demand for payment was reinstated in 1384 when King Robert was removed from direct rule and replaced by a Regency government.  In response, John Hamilton then petitioned for the return of the Bathgate lands, relying upon the terms of the original charters by which the lands had been “resigned” to Douglas of Dalkeith. 

How this petition might have played out in the courts is far from certain, but before any such determination could be made, James Douglas took action to render the issue moot.  He offered his daughter Janet to John Hamilton, with the Bathgate lands being a part of her dowry.  In this way, Dalkeith was able to spare himself a great deal of his landed wealth by providing a dowry out of lands that he might lose to Hamilton anyway. 

At the time of their marriage in 1388, Sir John Hamilton of Cadzow was approximately twenty-three years old.  Janet Douglas was somewhere between twelve and fourteen.  Such marriage contracts and betrothals involving what today would be considered “underage” girls, were the norm in those days.  Regardless of whether Janet was twelve or fourteen, immediately after the wedding ceremony her new husband was gone from home for an extended period.  Her father was gone also, and for similar reasons.

Scotland and England had been at war with each other up until October of 1385.  At that time, the two countries entered into a truce which was to expire in June of 1388.  During the entire three years of the truce, Scotland and England still engaged in a form of cold war, and insults and animosities continued to rise to a boiling point.  When the truce ended in June 1388, war broke out almost instantaneously.  So, immediately after his wedding day, Sir John Hamilton of Cadzow along with his father-in-law Sir James Douglas of Dalkeith, and thousands of other Scots, were called into the service of the King. 

Scotland was to invade England with two separate armies, one in the east marching toward Newcastle, and one in the west marching toward Carlisle.  By this time, the elderly King Robert II had been removed from direct rule of Scotland and (unfortunately) the resulting “rule” was being exercised by two competing factions under the leadership the King’s two sons – the Earl of Carrick and the Earl of Fife.  This division of power was reflected in the two-pronged invasion of England.  The Scots army of the east was under the nominal command of the Earl of Carrick, while the army of the west was under the command of the Earl of Fife.  In reality, the actual commander of Carrick’s eastern army was the Earl of Douglas.  The actual commander of Fife’s western army was the Lord of Galloway.  The Lord of Galloway, of course, was Archibald the Grim Douglas.  Serving under Archibald the Grim was Sir James Douglas of Dalkeith and a contingent of his Dalkeith Douglases.  Also serving under Archibald (perhaps at the behest of Dalkeith) was Sir John Hamilton of Cadzow and a contingent of his Hamiltons. 

This was yet another in a long line of wars between Scotland and England and the story surrounding this latest conflict is long and complex, but suffice it to say that Janet Douglas Hamilton was without her husband for large portions of the next two years.  She was also without her father.  In addition, as already mentioned, her mother had died soon after her birth.  What accommodations were made for Janet while her husband and father were away?  Was she with her stepmother, Egidia?  Was she with her mother-in-law, who was now the wife of Stewart of Darnley?  Was she left on her own at Cadzow Castle accompanied by a few guards and the household servants?  We just do not know.  So let us engage in a bit of pure conjecture:  We have a young woman who has just been married and whose husband then “abandons” her for the better part of the next few years.  Further, she was both a Douglas and a descendant of Agnes Dunbar and “Black Agnes” Randolph.  So, there is reason to believe that this young woman may have been strong-willed and self-reliant, and not content to just sit alone for months at a time, counting the clouds in the sky. 

In any event, if unknown circumstances led Janet Douglas Hamilton into a fling or an affair, the timing and other circumstances could not have been better.  Immediately following the campaigns against the English in 1388 and 1389, John Hamilton of Cadzow and James Douglas of Dalkeith were to be gone yet again.  For the greater part of another two years, they assisted Archibald the Grim and the Earl of Fife in Fife’s campaigns against the renegade “Wolf of Badenoch” in the north of Scotland. 

It would not be until after 1390 or 1391 that John Hamilton would have returned home for his first extended period of domesticity with his young wife and “their” young son.  The son, James, had evidently been named after Janet’s father, James Douglas of Dalkeith.  The name “James” had not appeared in the Hamilton line until this point.  Thereafter, and in the succeeding generations, it would become one of the most popular names in the entire family.

In the meantime, the 1388-89 war with England had resulted in some interesting, if unintended, consequences.  During the Newcastle campaign, the Earl of Douglas had been killed by English forces under the command of Sir Henry “Hotspur” Percy at the Battle of Otterburn.  This Earl of Douglas had been the 2nd Earl, and he left no legitimate sons to inherit the Earldom.  The title of Earl of Douglas was then contested among the husbands of the 2nd Earl’s daughters, and the 2nd Earl’s illegitimate son, “Red George.”  It was the King’s son, the Earl of Fife, who managed to have the King and the King’s council agree to bestow the Earldom of Douglas on Fife’s close associate, Archibald the Grim.  Archibald the Grim had been an illegitimate son of the uncle of the 1st Earl of Douglas.  He was only a distant cousin to the 2nd Earl of Douglas (and only through an illegitimate line).  His claim to the Earldom was obviously much weaker than that of the other claimants.  Nevertheless, Archibald the Grim became the 3rd Earl of Douglas and ultimately passed the Earldom on to his descendants.  This event greatly enhanced the fortunes of Archibald’s close friend and loyal lieutenant, James Douglas of Dalkeith.  It also bode well for Dalkeith’s daughter Janet; Dalkeith’s son-in-law John Hamilton of Cadzow; and Dalkeith’s grandson James Hamilton. 

In the meantime, DNA analysis suggests that James Hamilton’s real father may have been a member of the Frame family.  Tracking down an individual member of the Frame family, or even a few good suspects, proves to be impossible at this late date.  First of all, the Frame genealogy and family tree for this period is very incomplete, if not non-existent.  The near total lack of any documentation of individual family members during this period leaves us at a dead end.  This situation is further complicated by evidence that the family may not have even used the name “Frame” until at least a century after this particular event.  Prior to that, it appears that the ancestors of the Frames were known under other surnames.  (This sort of situation is found in the histories of a great many families, although most families had their modern surnames straightened out long before the 1400’s.  Apparently, the Frames were one of those families that were just a little behind schedule in this regard.  The ancestors of the Hamiltons, for example, used surnames such as Vielles, Vitalis, Bellomont, Beaumont, and Hameldon before the name Hamilton became firmly established in the 1200’s.)

The Frames of Scotland appear to be descended from a male line that sequentially used the following surnames:  Bertran (Normandy, circa 980); Paisnel (Hastings, circa 1066); Paynel (Northumberland and York, circa 1200); Paynel de Osgoteby; Osgodby; Franceys de Osgodby (analogous to Hameldon de Beaumont); Franceys (Scotland, circa 1325); Fresne, Fransche and Frenche (Scotland, circa 1380).  By the late 1300’s, Fresne, Fransche, and Frenche were all being used simultaneously by different members of the family.  Fresne was pronounced as “Frane.”  Fransche and Frenche were pronounced as “Frane-cha.”  Somehow, in the late 1400’s or early 1500’s, these names all morphed into “Frame.”

So, in the time period that we are interested in, members of the Frame family would actually have been known as Fresne or Fransche or Frenche.  There is some circumstantial evidence of close connections between the Fresnes and the Hamiltons dating back to the 1100’s and 1200’s.  This evidence connects the Paynels (the Fresnes under their previous name) with the Hameldons and Hamiltons of Northumbria and York.  Here, the Fresnes or Paynels appear to have been important members of the households of the more prominent Hameldons and Hamiltons.  They are found serving as executors and stewards for the Hamiltons, and even marrying into the Hamilton line and using the Hamilton place name as an additional surname. 

This still leaves us at a dead end, but we can at least speculate as to possible scenarios that would account for the known situation in 1388 to 1390.  There could easily have been a Fresne employed by Sir John Hamilton as a steward or other member of the household staff at Cadzow Castle in 1388.  Such a household staff member could have remained at Cadzow to oversee things while the laird of the manor (Sir John) and his retainers were off fighting the English.         

If the laird’s wife (Janet) was at Cadzow during this period, she would have had a close working relationship with the household staff while the laird himself was away.  Keeping in mind that this is all speculation, perhaps our Mr. Fresne would have been a younger man who had recently inherited a staff position when his father passed away.  Or perhaps a member of the household staff was an older Mr. Fresne who had sons (a number of young Mr. Fresnes) in the castle who were just now reaching adulthood.  In either scenario (or a hundred similar scenarios), Janet Hamilton and our particular Mr. Fresne would have had the opportunity for more than a mere working relationship.

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