Sullivan County Cowan Group



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Sullivan County Group

The designation "Sullivan County Group" is used only because lineage data for some of the first kits in this group that were examined, came from individuals whose ancestors were then believed to have passed through Sullivan County TN. Other members of the group are known from South Carolina, Connecticut, Ulster, Australia, England the Isle of Mann, and Scotland.

All members of the group fall into the R1b1a2 haplogroup, and share a relatively similar YDNA signature with at least one other member of the group, but this is partially driven by numerous low marker tests (12 and 25 markers). While members of the group are generally more similar to each other than any other group, it is likely that some (perhaps many) of these "matches" would break down at higher level testing. Some kits within this group have made use of extensive SNP testing. The results of this testing have not been used to refine the relationships within this group. Eventually, consideration of existing SNP results may better show the relationship (or lack thereof) between members of this largely artificial group.

Currently, three subgroups are recognized:

  • Sullivan County A
  • Sullivan County B
  • Sullivan County Bridge

Sullivan County subgroup A is probably an "organic" subgroup with a relatively recent, potentially identifiable, common ancestor, though we can not currently identify that ancestor.

Sullivan County Subgroup B is probably composed of several discrete organic subgroups lumped together because of matches with 12 and 25 marker kits that "Bridge" between, and obscure the identity of the subgroups. Considerable further work is needed to understand the relationships between members of this subgroup.

Kits in the Sullivan County Bridge subgroup are mostly limited to 12 and 25 marker tests. When subgroups are closely related, such kits tend to match more than one group. A number of these kits did in fact test at 37+ markers. They are nonetheless placed in the Bridge subgroup because those are the only kits with which they matched. It is likely that the Bridge subgroup, including both 12 and 25 marker tests, as well as 37+ marker tests included with them, represent multiple independent lineages. Some may ultimately prove to be related to Subgroups A or B, but it is possible that further testing might show them to be altogether independent of any of the other kits in the Sullivan County Group.


The following matrix shows the YDNA dissimilarities between subgroups A, B and Bridge, using a 14.5% dissimilarity as the acceptance criteria. Also shown are portions of the Seven Brothers Group, and the Old Cumnock Group, with which some Sullivan County kits show a somewhat distant similarity.[1]

Image quality in this display is very poor[2]The current image is sufficient to show the overall relationships between Sullivan County Kits. One third of the Sullivan County kits are at the 12 or 25 marker test level. Testing at this level does not permit accurate definition of relationships between kits. Increasing markers tested will most likely remove some of these matches and give a cleaner depiction of the relationships between kits.

The purpose of the above display is to show the difficulty in getting an accurate depiction of the relationships between kits in the Sullivan County Group. This is shown by the numerous "out of subgroup" matches. Not only do these out of subgroup matches confuse the relationships between members of the Sullivan County Group, they also extend to members of the Seven Brothers and Old Cumnock Groups.

Sullivan A & B

The above diagram looks reasonably "clean" with the two Sullivan County subgroups clearly differentiated. However, this clarity is achieved at the price of excluding the 12 and 25 marker kits. When those are included, the picture is much less clear. Taking this into consideration, Sullivan County Group A can probably be described as an organic subgroup with a relatively recent common ancestor. Sub group B is much more chaotic. Note that even in the cleaned up display shown above for Group B, most of the "matches" are very distant, and frequently above the usual acceptance criteria. Reducing the acceptance criteria to a more typical 13.5% seriously reduces the cohesivness of subgroup B. It is likely that this subgroup is in reality composed of multiple independent lineages, each with their own common ancestor, and probably not closely related to any other subgroup. Indeed, more detailed haplogroup testing has been applied to some of these kits. some of these kits have taken more detailed haplogroup testing. In a few cases this testing has proceeded to a level where it is clear that certain kits in the Bridge group are unrelated to each other. Haplogroup testing of most kits is not sufficient to permit us to conclude that they are unrelated to other members of the group that have not tested so extensively.

Sullivan Bridge

The kits in the Sullivan Bridge kit are primarily 12 and 25 marker kits. They are included in the Sullivan Group because they show YDNA signatures similar to that of Sullivan A or B, and tend to form a "Bridge" between these two subgroups. The small number of markers tested makes these kits vulnerable to both false positive and false negative matches. That is, they may match some kits fairly well in terms of YDNA similarity, but if the marker numbers were expanded, those matches might disappear (i.e., at their current testing level they give a "false positive" match. ON the other hand, its possible that an expansion in the markers tested would lead to matches with kits not currently seen as close matches (i.e., at their current testing level they give a "false negative match".) In gereneral, these test results are not a reliable basis for inferring a relatively recent common ancestor. Such a common ancestor might indeed be present, but that conclusion is probably not warranted at the current levels.

Some of the kits in this group did indeed test at 37 or more markers, and should give reliable results when compared to similar higher level marker tests for other kits. Currently they show matches only with the 12 and 25 marker kits. As a result, no firm conclusions can be drawn from their results, other than to say that they do not match either Sullivan A or B, or any other group in the Cowan YDNA project. They probably represent independent lineages in the Cowan YDNA project, unrelated to any of the existing groups, including the Sullivan A and B.


Based on publicly available data supplied by the participant. Additional data has been added ("localization") from other public sources, when possible.

Subgroup KitWeRelateDOBPOBDODPODDOMPOMSpouseFatherMotherSonNotes
Sullivan A
133632* Person:Robert Cowan (20) 1744 1826 Sullivan, TN c1780 Washington, VA ? Person:Nancy Rutledge (5)
181408* Living Living Merrit Burwell Doyle (Step Father) Margaret Eileen Young Recent non-surname match; Believed to have immigrated to the US in the 20th century from Ireland.
164964* Insufficient Lineage data
190429* Insufficient Lineage data
180079* Tom Allan / Allen 1941 Non surname Match
44773* Person:John Cowan (88) c1811 Ireland 1879 Two Wells, South Australia, Australia Person:Margaret Lammey (1) POB sometimes given as Ireland, sometimes as England; Documentation of POB is limited. Scotland also considered by some to be a possible POB. Spouse sometimes named in some online sources as Margaret Lammay/Margaret Hill.
Sullivan B 14520* Person: Joseph Cowan (13) 1710 1812 Dumfriesshire, Scotland Person:John Cowan (94) YDNA line descends through Great Grandson Joseph J Cowan, who emigrated to America in 1853.
See:Transcript:Memoirs of Joseph J. Cowan (1834-1918)
193185 Person:James Kitchen () 1727 Insufficient information to justify localization, but this could be the James Kitchen born 1727 in England, die d1792 South Hampton, VA, = Margaret mathews
N253310* Person:Robert Cowen (1) 1765 CN Lydia Harrell John ? (1800-1872) Ancestry PMT indicate only this single son, died in Decatur Indiana. Presumably this is the kit line.
2640 Cowin, Isle of Mann Insufficient information to localize.
There appears to have been, and still is, a line "Cowin's" on the Isle of Man from an early date (14th century on).
There are several researchers looking at them based on various surname forums, but its not possible to say much aboutt this specific kit.
52021* Person:Rev William Riley McCowan () 1827/1828 Wayne County KY 1883/1884 Laurel Kentucky 1850 Laurel KY Mahala Ann Watkins John McCown Elizabeth Riley Several variants for mothers maiden name
and given name (Elizabeth>>Sarah>Elizabeth Sarah).
Spouses given name usually given as "Hiley" a short form of Mahala.
At least one Ancestry source indicates that some of William's children used the "Tacket" surname, and that William Riley may have been raised by a stepfather.
N20114 Person:James Cubberly () 1600's England Insufficient information to localize.
104481 Person:Andrew Cowan (38) 1742 SC or Ireland April 1789 Old 96. Ann There may be a confusion in this lineage. Andrew is frequently identified as being a member of the 7Brothers Group, but those taking the YDNA test, claiming him as their ancestor, do not share the 7b YDNA signature. The andrew who died about 1789 in Old 96 had three sons, John, Isaac, and William. We do not know which lines these kits descend through. No progress on this line can be made without further information on the lineage.
Sullivan Bridge
14520 Joseph Cowan 1710 Dumfrieshire 1812

238685* Person:Hamilton Cowan (1) 1805 Derrycor Townland, Tartaraghan Parish,
County Armagh, Ireland
1888 Thornberry, Collingwood County, Ontario. 1830 Tartaraghan Parish,
County Amrmagh, Ireland
Eliza Greenaway Thomas Cowen Mary Hamilton Immigrated to Canada, 1836; Settled in
162433 Insuffcient data to localize
83808 Insuffcient data to localize
46345 Insuffcient data to localize
134467 Person:Jeremiah Cowan (1) 1768 Old 96 SC 1822 Union, KY 1788 Charleston SC Elizabeth Hayes To KY before 1820
25655 person:William Cowin (1)
Wm M. Cowin
1820/30 TM/MO/ARK ? 1882 TX 1847 MO Jeasnette Woolsey Henry Cowin Honor Howard
N11251 Insufficient data to localize
132282 Insufficient data to localize
89545 Insufficient data to localize
7388 Edward Coyan, Cowan, Coyn c1755 Ulster 1816 Bever, PA Sarah Threaker Insufficient data to localize.
There was a John Edward Coyan b 1755 Ireland, died 1816 Bever PA, married Srah Threaker,
and an Edward Cowan b 1777 United States, died 1796 Bufgalo TN, married Polly Manners who could be Ned Cowan the Long Hunter
Most likely John Edward Coyan=Sarah Threaker, based on birth in Ireland.
147001 Jerry Burdette Cowan 1825 Haywood or Burke NC 1903 Jackson, NC 1853 Jackson, NC Martha Vaughn 46 Ancestry Public Member Trees
none id his parents.
POB variously given as Haywood or Burke County NC.
226141 Insufficient data to localize
206521 Charles Hagle Van Idenstine/Cowan 1899? Insufficient data to localize
N42581 James McCown Insufficient data to localize

  • Member of the CowanShortList.