I found out that I'm a direct male descendant of a clade of Grahams who can trace their common ancestor well over 400 years ago to Scotland. I found this out after doing extensive genealogy research into other lines of my family as well, and created a tree with well over 1000 named ancestors. I'd love to share my experience in genealogy. It's a pastime that anyone can enjoy. If you would like help creating your family tree please feel free to contact me.
I've been learning the cutting edge technology available to genealogists. I have experience with several software tools and websites that assist in searching historical records, that walk you through building pedigrees and family trees, and that help long-lost distant relatives connect. I also have found that DNA tests can help connect the dots when the paper trail runs cold. One of the most valuable things I've learned in my research is that no amount of sleuthing online can beat a good old fashioned interview with a distant family member. Sometimes its the Great Aunts and Uncles that you've never met who can help with the family tree the most.
Still, DNA testing can tell us a lot that no amount of family record keeping would possibly be able to. Paternal lineages can be traced through DNA from the Y chromosome that is passed down from father to son. The more people who get tested and share their results the more detailed genealogists are able to get in their models of how all people are related. The data already provides enough detail that we can trace where families came from, and how they migrated throughout the world over time. The Haplogroup Migration Map shown here represents the predicted general migration pattern of a particular Y-DNA haplogroup from 60,000 years ago to 25,000 years ago.
While the map only goes into enough detail to show the break between the family groups, or haplogroups, labeled as R1 and R2 and the later break into R1a and R1b branches, we can trace smaller groups much farther than that. DNA testing shows that my paternal line branched again to form the R1b1a2 group. According to the wikipedia artical on R1b1a2 the line is defined by the presence of SNP marker M269. This is the bloodline of about 80% of Europe. As the map shows, the theory for this blood line's origin is that they came from Eurasia into southern Europe. Thankfully for me matches between my Y-DNA test and other Grahams paired me with someone who tested for 24 different SNP markers. The result seems to put my family of Grahams into the category R1b1a2a1a1b4, with positive matches for SNP markers L11, L21, M173, M207, M343, P25, P310, P311, and P312.
As I understand it, the history for this branch is less certain, but evidence suggests that during the Neolithic age, from 10,000 to 4,000 years ago, the family migrated from southern Europe up to Germany, then at some point probably made it over to the British isles. They then would have been in Ireland up until about 1000 years ago, and finally would have settled in Scotland between the years 1300-1700. It seems that some of my family ended up spelling their name Grimes, while others ended up spelling their name Graham. These different spellings of the name go back at least 300 years, though DNA shows that our families seem to be about 500 years apart. I'd like to believe that this means that my family had been using the same last name for longer than they've been writing it down, though they may have pronounced it with slight variations.
My research allows me to pick up on a paper trail starting with my first ancestor who traveled to America from Scotland. According to documents I've hunted down, my 6th Great Grandfather John Graham moved from Scotland to North Carolina with his family sometime about the period of the Revolutionary War. I've found papers at the University of Notre Dame referencing my family which included tax records as well as letters. It seems both my 6th great grandfather John Graham, as well as my 5th great grandfather Alexander both did at least a bit of teaching, since I found receipts from both referencing such. My 4th Great Grandfather, Nathaniel Smiley Graham, moved to Alabama in 1827 and was a Farmer. My 3rd Great Grandfather Reverend Malcolm, was a Methodist Minister. My 2nd Great Grandfather Keith Graham is the oldest ancestor I've had anyone tell me they knew, and then there's my more recent family. My dad left Alabama for Georgia not too long before I was born, and that's where I was raised.
A Colorized chart of the different clades of the Graham family can be found at the FTDNA Graham Surname DNA Project. I intend to produce an improved visualization of the information from this project to show an easier to read info graphic on the splittings of branches of the family tree. Please let me know if you know of any such project that aims to do something similar, or if you would like to help me with my own.