One of the more exciting happenings in the world of genealogy is the incorporation of genetics into genealogical investigations. At present, this is just beyond its infancy, but useful information can be derived, and advances are being made almost daily. I therefore started the Clan MacLaren Surname DNA Project with Family Tree DNA in 2004. Both the Clan MacLaren Society of North America and the Clan MacLaren Society (based in Scotland) have endorsed this project. Donald MacLaren of MacLaren, our Clan Chief, supports the DNA project and has joined the Clan MacLaren Surname DNA Project.

First, let me explain what a surname project is. The Y chromosome (the male sex chromosome) is passed to sons from their father (daughters have no Y chromosome). This chromosome is passed basically unchanged and therefore is the same for a son, his father, his father's father, his father's father's father, etc. A genetic match can be done between two males to determine common ancestry. The genetic matches are done comparing a number of markers on the Y chromosome. These markers have a very slow rate of mutation, therefore if all the markers are the same, or almost all the same, the two have a common ancestor. How far back this ancestor is depends on the number of markers checked and is subject to statistical variations. At this time, it is not possible to say with any surety exactly how closely related the two people are. However, by sampling a number of males bearing the same surname, one can start to sort out the various genealogical lines.

In our case, our surname changed many times as the original surnames were rendered into English, and then changed even more over time. Therefore, McLaren, MacLaurin, McClaren, McLerran are the same surname, as is Lawrence, Law, Lawson, Lowry, Laurie, etc. Furthermore, Patterson is said to be derived from a MacLaren before surnames became fixed. MacRory and variants are a surname associated with Clan MacLaren. Thus, if all bearers of these surnames came from one common male, the Y chromosome test would show all MacLarens to have very close results on the Y chromosome marker test. However, this is not likely since a more probable scenario is that a number of males took the name MacLaren (and its variants) over time. Thus, the Y chromosome tests would show these various lines (as is the case as shown by our DNA results). The test could also show the closeness of relationships between different lines.

At present, you can get a 12, 25, 37, or 67-marker test. The 12- and 25-marker tests are not sufficient for genealogical purposes -- we can get false matches with an insufficeint number of markers. I therefore strongly discourage getting the 12- or 25-marker test. The 37-marke test can be acceptable, but the 67-marker test is best since this gives us the most information. Furthermone, the 67-marker test is often needed to resolve any questions.

Signing up for the testing is simple. Go to Fill out the form and you will have a kit mailed to you. You can elect to use your credit card or have an invoice mailed with the kit. Collecting the DNA sample is painless -- you take scrapings from the inside of your mouth using three cheek swabs. You send the kit back to Family Tree DNA and about four to six weeks later, you will learn the results.

If you have already tested but tested less than 67 markers, I encourage you to upgrade. You will not have to submit another DNA sample since Family Tree DNA will use what you already send in. These upgrades can be ordered from your personal page at Family Tree DNA. If you do upgrade, I suggest that you upgrade to 67-markers.

I encourage all males bearing one of our surnames to be tested. These surnames include McLaren, MacLaurin, McClaren, McLerran and spelling variants, plus McFeaters, Lawrence, Lowe, Law, Lawson, Lowry, Laurie, McIntyre or Wright, Patterson, McRory, and spelling variants of all these. (NOTE: McIntyre or Wright can be a Clan surname, but most are associated with Clan MacIntyre.)

Remember, this test is for males bearing one of the MacLaren surnames. If you are a female that was born with one of the MacLaren surnames, talk your father or a male sibling or a male cousin with the name into being tested. If you are a male, but your MacLaren ancestry is through a maternal line, then unfortunately a test on your Y-chromosome will not shed any light on your MacLaren connections. However, you can get a male on your maternal line bearing the MacLaren surname (e.g., mother's brother, son of grandmother's brother) tested to gain knowledge of your MacLaren connection.

You can view the results of the Y-chromosome tests for members of the Clan MacLaren Surname DNA Project at This page will be automatically updated as new results come in.

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