About the Project




Launched in September 2000 by Michael Roy Burgess the Burgess DNA project had as its original goal to answer the question on how the major Burgess families in the United States are related, and where in the UK these lines originally derived. Today with members in England, Scotland, Canada and Australia, the project has expanded to become a one name study of the Burgess surname.


The goal of the Project is to identify unique Y-chromosome markers for each of the major Burgess families in the world. Roughly 50-100 apparently unrelated Burgess lines were recorded in North America prior to 1800, scattered up and down the Atlantic coastline. None of these families can be linked through conventional research to a specific European ancestor or place of origin, although most undoubtedly derived from the British Isles. These families account for 95% or more of all individuals named Burgess living in the United States today, the remaining having come from later immigrations. As test results have accumulated, a number of these Burgess lines have affiliated with each other in ways that could not have been predicted or proved through conventional genealogical research; some of these connections occurred prior to the time that our families settled in North America.

Another long-term goal is to identify possible points of origin for our Burgess families, most likely in the British Isles. Early rural parish records there indicate several clusters of families named Burgess located in different British counties. These may each represent unique creations of the name. Most of our families probably trace back to one of these sixteenth-century Burgess groups. If we get enough participation from British Burgess families, we will eventually be able to identify the origins overseas of some of the Burgess families currently living in the United States, Canada and Australia.

New technology (2015) is now enabling the convergence of research into historical migrations and modern records. Over the next few years as the data comes in we will likely be able to determine if the Burgess families in the UK were present in the neolithic or if they came over in subsequent migrations.


The genetic heritage recorded on the Y chromosome, the chromosome that determines that an individual becomes male, is passed virtually unchanged from father to son to grandson. Scientists tell us the line is continuous going back over 300 thousand years to a male ancestor common to all men living today. The genetic markers embedded on the Y chromosome remain almost identical for the majority of name-line male descendants of the original ancestor. Over long periods of time, some of these markers gradually change. For the genealogist working in timeframes spanning 600 years or about 20 generations the genetic signature brought by these changes will be recognizable for a paternal line.

The common approach today for genealogists is to look at Short tandem repeats (STRs) within the Y chromosome.  Over time the number of markers tested have expanded to provide better resolution for consumers.

The approach used by population scientists Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) is quickly becoming more important for genealogists as the rapid discovery of new branches are made almost weekly and some of these now extend into historic time frames.

Both types of testing are available to the consumer and are encouraged for participants.

Only a break in the chain of inheritance, caused either by an adoption or a natural birth, can produce a different set of markers for a particular family and its offspring.


All of the direct-line, male descendants who descend from one specific Burgess family should have near-identical number markers, unless a natural birth or hidden adoption intervene. If the markers from any one family match the markers of a descendant from one of the other major Burgess lines, then we know that the individuals have a male ancestor in common. If, on the other hand, the numbers don’t match, then they’re not related. It’s as simple as that. The numbers don’t tell us how far back families are related (if they are), although sometimes variations in markers in particular branches can be used to determine the lapse of time involved, or to identify those branches.


The key to ultimate success for a project of this type is getting as wide a participation among present-day Burgess families as possible. The more test results that we have available, the more matches that we’re going to make. We need at least two male volunteers named Burgess from each major line (and preferably from each major branch of that family). Knowing something about the genealogical background of the Burgess family being tested also helps considerably to provide a context to other researchers. To that end a database is setup under the Genealogies link in the left menu. Genetically related families will be grouped together in the database.


We are already discovering major connections between apparently unrelated Burgess families. We’re also disproving connections that had been assumed by earlier researchers. For example, the line of Col. William Burgess of Anne Arundel Co., Maryland, is not related to the lines of Edward Burgess of Prince Georges Co., Maryland and Pittsylvania Co., Virginia, or to William Burgess of Prince Georges and Montgomery Cos., Maryland; knowing this fact means that we can look elsewhere for possible ancestors for these lines. We’re also finding a number of very small Burgess families that are apparently unaffiliated with any others; some of these may originate from nineteenth-century European immigrants who changed their names from some other name to the more English-sounding “Burgess,” or they may descend from genetic breaks in those lines. The most exciting prospect is the continued discovery of unexpected links between our own families and those still living overseas. The conclusions are published on this website for everyone to use.


The Project does not examine anyone’s DNA for genetic illnesses or other such inherited characteristics. These are entirely different tests. The researchers only examine samples that are coded by randomly assigned ID numbers, not by individual name. They’re counting the repetitions of specific markers on areas formerly known as  “junk” portions of the Y chromosome (the chromosome that is passed virtually unchanged from father to son to grandson, etc., in the direct-male line).

The reports consist of lists of numbers that in themselves are meaningless. Only when compared to the results of similar tests done by other male Burgesses do the numbers statistically demonstrate either a relationship between the families, or the lack thereof.


Family Tree DNA offers three basic Y-chromosome tests, one generating a set of 37 number markers, the second 67, and the third 111. Each test builds on the others. The increase from 37-111 markers provides better resolution between individuals being tested. The more numbers that are generated, the shorter the time period involved for matches, down to a level of perhaps three generations (75 years) or less with the 111-marker test.

The markers are broken for display purposes into groups of about a dozen each. These are referred to as panels.  A 25-marker DNA test, for example, generates results from the first two sets of markers (12 and 13 numbers, respectively). Each marker within the group corresponds to a specific place, a “locus” (plural “loci”) on the Y chromosome. These segments have been assigned standard ID numbers by geneticists, usually prefixed by the letters DYS (an abbreviation for “DNA Y-Chromosome Segment”). The markers picked are known to experience relatively predictable change rates, although these may vary from family to family.

The first set of 12 markers has the following labels, in this order: DYS 393, 390, 19 (or 394), 391, 385a, 385b, 426, 388, 439, 389-1, 392, 389-2.

The second set of 13 markers has the following labels, in this order: DYS 458, 459a, 459b, 455, 454, 447, 437, 448, 449, 464a, 464b, 464c, 464d, sometimes amended in a small percentage of the cases by 464e, 464f, and 486g.

The third set of 12 markers has the following labels, in this order: DYS 460, GATA H4, YCA IIa, YCA IIb, 456, 607, 575, 570, CDYa, CDYb, 442, 438.

The fourth set of 30 markers has the following labels, in this order: DYS 531, 578, 395 S1a, 395 S1b, 590, 537, 641, 472, 406 S1, 511, 425, 413a, 413b, 557, 594, 436, 490, 534, 450, 444, 481, 520, 446, 617, 568, 487, 572, 640, 482.

The fifth set of 44 numbers has the following labels, in this order: DYS 710, 485, 632, 495, 540, 714, 716, 717, 505, 556, 549, 589, 522, 494, 533, 636, 575, 638, 462, 452, 445, Y-GATA-A10, 463, 441, Y-GGAAT-1B07, 525, 712, 593, 650, 532, 715, 504, 513, 561, 552, 726, 635, 587, 643, 497, 510, 434, 461, 435.

Initially these numbers were reported in the Ancestral files on the website for each family. With changes made to the website we are now able to link directly to the results page at FTDNA. The link is under Burgess y-DNA chart in the left menu bar.


When an individual agrees to be tested, we ask him to provide some basic idea of his family history, to the extent of which he is aware, so that we can include the context on this website when reporting results. It’s important for genealogists to know whether a participant claims descent from Col. William Burgess of Anne Arundel Co., Maryland, or Thomas Burgess of Barnstable Co., Massachusetts, or from one of the other major or minor Burgess lines. We try to summarize in each instance the name of the individual’s earliest known Burgess ancestor and where and when he lived, and also the branch of that family from whom the present-day Burgess participant derives. Susan Mortensen, Sherrie Boone, and many others have helped us in identifying these lines, and we owe them all a major tip of the hat.

We also ask each participant for permission to post his name on this website, in a way that is impossible to trace by any outsider, with a list of his Y-chromosome number markers. We will not post anyone’s data or name without his consent.


The project uses  Family Tree DNA in Houston, TX to perform the actual test­ing; there are other providers, of course, and we welcome participants who've been tested elsewhere. The test is simple and easy, inexpensive, and painless, with no blood involved. Each person is sent a kit with two mouth swabs to rub on the lining of the inside of his cheek. Only direct-line males named Burgess can participate, since only males carry the Y chromosome.


DNA testing is the only way that we can ever go beyond the extant civil and religious records, which are fragmentary, incomplete, and ultimately frustrating to the genealogist. Every line eventually comes to a dead end, as any researcher soon discovers. With Y-chromosome testing, we are able for the very first time to break through these limitations, and to establish links between our lines that can be found in no other way.


Additional information