The Sawyer DNA project was started in January 2005 with the purpose of being the "clearing house" for worldwide participants to check their DNA connections with the Sawyer surname.
This project is part of a company, Family Tree DNA, that does only genealogy DNA work. They map the Y chromosome, which is passed from father to son to grandson and so on, with no appreciable change. Thus they can take a saliva sample from two or more males and tell if they have a common ancestor, they can't tell who that ancestor was, but they can tell approximately how many generations back he was. In this way a relationship theory can be proved or disproved, allowing the researcher to work harder to prove a paper trail or forget that theory and move on to another.
I initiated the "Sawyer Surname Project" thus I am the "group administrator" (the worker, the clearing house), I assure you that I receive no monetary gain for this, only the genealogy research benefit.
As of January 2010 we have 32 participants with test results completed. There are several exact matches and several close matches that might bear further testing.
One conclusion that can be drawn from the results so far is that there are at least two separate, unrelated, lines of "Sawyers" in the United States.
One is a line that came into the Northern Colonies and generally continued to spread westward across the northern part of the country. I am not related to that line for at least 600 years, so I guess you could say that I'm not related, period.
The other line came into Virginia, or sometimes northern North Carolina, and spread southward into the Carolinas and then westward across the country. Some went westward from Virginia or North Carolina into Kentucky or Tennessee. Some came farther south into South Carolina and then went into Georgia and Alabama then moved to south Arkansas and north Louisiana. Of course there are exceptions to this progression but generally this was the migration pattern.
In May of 2006 we asked Sharon Gable, President of Family Research Society of Northeastern North Carolina, to help us locate a suitable donor from the Pasquotank County area of North Carolina. She agreed to help and brought it up at their next meeting. Florence (Sawyer) Till volunteered her cousin Asa E. Sawyer of Virginia Beach, Virginia. She put us in contact with Asa and he agreed to participate so we immediately sent him a kit. Unfortunately the initial 12 marker test came back with one significant marker mutation, which was not conclusive. We then ordered an upgrade test, to the 25 marker, hoping that would prove what we wanted.
In early September of 2006 we received the results, all of the additional 13 markers matched, so that meant that we only mismatched on one out of the 25 markers. This proves that Asa and I are definitely related, something like a 90% probability in the last 20 generations. This is what we have been looking for, now we know that our John (and thus the rest of us) is really related to the Sawyers in the Pasquotank area. It does not prove that he came from there but the odds are very good that he did since he was in Onslow Co., North Carolina in 1754. It is possible that he came in completely separate from them.
Charlene renewed her research efforts and added an extensive search of the Pasquotank "Sawyers" but could still not make the paper connection to our "John". She is still searching.
In January of 2010 we received an interesting email from FRANÇOIS SAWYER, of Quebec.
"My ancestor, one Johannes Sauer, a German mercenary soldier (so called "Hessians") came to Province of Québec, Canada and got married to a French-Canadian woman in 1784. Birth records for their children and grand-children are somewhat unclear but, probably through misunderstanding by Churchmen taking these records, the names of those children eventually was changed from Sauer to Sawyer. I would suppose that there may have been real Sawyer families around and the Churchmen may have confused those names. Anyhow, a fairly large number of current Sawyer families in Canada are not descendent of British Sawyer families, but of one German Sauer family."
This is a prime example of how a person's surname could very easily be changed when he came to the "New World". If you have ever been to the museum at Ellis Island you know surnames were changed at will for any number of reasons. Just another brick in the wall that constantly faces the genealogist in his/her search.
This page has a lot information on the Southern Branch, which is where most of our research has been conducted. If anyone would like to post a history of, or links to, the Northern Branch, please let me know, I would be glad to help.
If you have any questions, comments or would like to join our project, feel free to contact me