My Y-DNA Story - Along Borland Bank

My Y-DNA Story 

I first tested my Y-DNA with Ancestry in back in 2011.  I knew quite a bit about my Borland family in the United States.  My immigrant ancestor arrived from Northern Ireland around 1783, and settled in William Penn’s “Manor of Denmark” in the countryside of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, outside Pittsburgh.  Considerable work had been done by my Borland relatives (especially Ray Borland of Carrollton, Ohio) in learning the details of Samuel’s life and his immediate family from Kilraughts, Northern Ireland (including several of his siblings that also came to the US).  Samuel’s son James Borland, a music teacher by profession, was my 4x great-grandfather, and his line to me is well documented in records and photographs and through personal knowledge of my now deceased great-grandfather Weldon Borland who I came to know well as a child and a teenager, and who passed down much of the family history to me through stories.

Image of the Samuel Borland homestead in the Manor of Denmark, the first stone house in the Manor Valley, provided to me by Ray Borland.
Tracking family history beyond the mid-1700s in Northern Ireland is difficult.  While everyone in my branch of the family was aware that the Borlands were ultimately of Scottish ancestry, attempting to connect our line to a town or village in Scotland had proven futile over the years.  The emergence of Y-DNA testing shattered that brick wall in expedited fashion!

My closest DNA match at the time my test results came in was to a Borland, but from another line as of yet unconnected to my Borlands, members of which came to Michigan from Clondavaddog, County Donegal, Ireland, some 73 miles from where Samuel Borland’s father John lived in Kilraughts (County Antrim).  Ancestry predicted the genetic distance based on the differences in our STR markers to be approximately 10 generations, giving us a good time-frame of how early the Borlands may have been in the north of Ireland, consistent with the history of Scottish settlement of that part of Ireland.  History tells us that after the Irish Rebellion of 1641, many Scots who had come to Ulster as part of the Scottish army sent to put down the rebellion, settled in and around the Belfast area after the Irish Confederate Wars.  I was able to meet my match in person, and we sat down at a cafĂ© in Washington, DC and discussed the earliest known origins of our family lines.  He too, was unable to trace his Borlands further back to Scotland.

Clondavaddog and Kilraughts on a Google Maps in relation to nearby Scotland

The next closest Y-DNA match I had was to another Borland, at a predicted generational distance of 15 generations, who proved difficult to contact.  I therefore spent considerable time building his family tree and tracing his branch of the Borlands back generation by generation on my own.  After a bit of work, I learned that this line of Borlands did not pass through Ireland!  Rather, I discovered the birthplace of his immigrant ancestor and I was able to connect him to a quite large Borland family just outside of Kilmarnock, centered around the village of Galston.

Over the years, I have become more and more involved in the genetic genealogy community, and I had the opportunity to exhibit at a RootsTech convention in London last October.  Not sure of what I would find, I scheduled my flight to the UK three days earlier than the start of the convention with the express intention of taking a trip out to what I believed to be my Borland homeland in Scotland.  While I did not meet any Borlands currently living in the village or surrounding areas, I was able to find evidence where the family had once lived.  From Kilmarnock, I hiked a bit out of town and found my way to what appeared on an old map as the “Waters Borland,” and found a dried stream bed.  Approaching the stream, I encountered both a sign indicating a street named “Borland” and the local mail drop was named “Borland Bank,” indicating its proximity to what would have once been the banks of the Waters Borland.  It was nice to see that traces of my family’s presence had survived so many centuries later.  I concluded my excursion by hailing a taxi to nearby Galston, where I had opportunity to strike up conversation with some of the current residents.  They shared with me a bit about what it’s like to live in this part of Scotland today, and what they knew about life long ago in the region, over a plate of local black haggis, a local savory pudding delicacy!

To me, sharing a bit of haggis and a conversation on local history in the very same small town in Scotland where my Borland ancestors would have lived centuries ago, with people who may even be my distant cousins, was an amazing experience, that would have never been possible without having a database dedicated to comparing Y-DNA results.  Today, the Ancestry Y-DNA database is no longer public.  Nor is the cross-platform Y-DNA comparison database of the time, Y-Search.  While unfortunate, the loss of these incredible resources demonstrates the need for an organization like mitoYDNA, committed to serving the public with a perpetual database for Y and mitochondrial DNA cross-platform comparisons.  I uploaded my Ancestry Y-DNA results to the site, and I hope the other Borlands join me in doing so, and I encourage everyone else to add their data as well, as the value of these resources to the community grows with the size of the database.

Delicious local black haggis!
If you haven't already joined the mitoYDNA Facebook group, I invite you to share your Y-DNA story with us.  I hope to see you there!