Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) Analysis

June 20, 2011 in Haplogroup R1b - Lineage II by redheadkelly

There are 6 DNA donors that have been connected to Henry Fry Sr. Two of them are descendants of his sons, Henry Fry Jr & James Fry.

Four of the tests were processed by FamilyTree DNA. They fall into Haplogroup R1b – Lineage II.

Haplogroup R1b – Lineage II
ID Kit Earliest Ancestor Haplo
148059 EL Fry R1b1a2
F-37 N60727 Martin Fry b.1814, m. Elizabeth R1b1a2a1a1b4
F-11 71999 FRY R1b1a2
F-36 111636 William Finley Fry R1b1a2
  • Kit 148059 – EL Fry can be traced back 6 generations to Henry Fry Sr through his son, James Fry.
  • Kit N60727 – Martin Fry b. 1814, m Elizabeth is descended from Nicholas Frey who came to Philadelphia with his parents, Johannes & Johaneva, from Rotterdam aboard the Ship Britannia in 1731 as part of the Palatine immigration. The donor, F Blanton, can be traced back 9 generations to Johannes & Johaneva.
  • Kit 71999 – FRY can be traced back 7 generations to Henry Fry Sr though his son, Henry Fry Jr.
  • Kit 111636 – William Finley Fry can be traced back 4 generations to Joseph L Fry b. 1818 in Virgina. Joseph’s father was born in Germany.

Two more connections were found by entering the Kit 71999 results from FamilyTree DNA into’s DNA finder.

  • According to, donor C Spencer has an MRCA with Kit 71999 at 18 generations. C Spencer’s line can be traced back 8 generations to Zachariah Spencer.
  • According to, the MRCA between donor MB Fry and Kit 71999 is at 23 generations back. MB Fry’s line can be traced back 5 generations to Cornelius J Fry b. 1793 in Pennsylvania.

All of the results were then entered into & analyzed by the Y-Utility: Y-DNA Comparison Utility in order to obtain a DNA Comparison & MRCA estimates.

…This is my attempt to begin to make some sense of it.


This is the same table presented by Y-Utility, but reformatted so that it is easier to see the data.

Time to Most Recent Common Ancestor


Living Descendant A B C D E F
A: EL Fry 10 10 16 17 21
B: Anon Fry 10 15 21 21 25
C: F Blanton 10 15 16 17 21
D: C Spencer 16 21 16 26 16
E: WF Fry 17 21 17 26 22
F: MB Fry 21 25 21 16 22


This is the same data from the table above, but displayed in a different arrangement.

Time to Most Recent Common Ancestor

EL Fry & Anon Fry A B 10
EL Fry & F Blanton A C 10
Anon Fry & F Blanton B C 15
EL Fry & C Spencer A D 16
F Blanton & C Spencer C D 16
C Spencer & MB Fry D F 16
EL Fry & WF Fry A E 17
F Blanton & WF Fry C E 17
EL Fry & MB Fry A F 21
Anon Fry & C Spencer B D 21
Anon Fry & WF Fry B E 21
F Blanton & MB Fry C F 21
WF Fry & MB Fry E F 22
Anon Fry & MB Fry B F 25
C Spencer & WF Fry D E 26


The idea of the second table is that the donors who have the most recent Most Recent Common Ancestor are of the most interest to us at this point.

The first thing to notice is that EL Fry & Anonymous Fry have a Most Recent Common Ancestor at 10 generations back, according to the DNA. What we already know, though, is that their Most Recent Common Ancestor is Henry Fry Sr. He is 6 generations back for EL Fry & 7 generations back for Anonymous Fry.

The next thing to notice is that F Blanton is the closest relative for both EL Fry & Anonymous Fry. The DNA is telling us that their lines cross somewhere between 10 & 15 generations back. We could then assume that Henry Fry Sr’s line crosses F Blanton’s line anywhere from from 3 to 7 generations back from him.

We have traced F Blanton’s line back 9 generations to Johannes Frey who immigrated in 1731 from the Palatinate region of what is now Germany. This means we could be close to the connection if the MRCA really is at 10 generations back. We only have 8 known generations of Henry Fry Sr’s line, though, so there is clearly more work to be done before the connection can be found.

This is where the DNA is helping. Henry Fry Sr’s descendants are often attributed to Col Joshua Fry‘s line or Johannes Heinrich Frey & Elizabeth Morris‘ line. People make these connections, think the problem is solved & then quit looking. The DNA is telling us, though, that Henry Fry Sr & his sons are not at all related to these families. This frees us up to start chasing new clues.

Unfortunately, all of the other connections are too far back to really be useful at this point, but they are all serving to further substantiate that we should be looking for families of German descent.

Even though we still need to dig into the records to find many more generations in each line before we can make any connections, I thought I would try to do some analysis just to see if I could further understand the DNA.

For instance, we have already seen some things that don’t quite seem to gel in my “scientific” mind. Like – the data says that the MRCA between EL Fry & Anoymous Fry is 10 generations back, but we know it is actually 6 generations for EL Fry & 7 generations for Anonymous Fry.

Next, the MRCA between EL Fry & F Blanton is 10 generations back and the MRCA between Anonymous Fry & F Blanton is 15 generations back. But how could that be? EL Fry & Anonymous Fry share a grandfather at about 7 generations back, so shouldn’t the their MRCAs with F Blanton be about the same?

From here, the data gets even more difficult to interpret.

For instance, in what possible scenario are all 3 of these facts true?

  1. the MRCA that connects EL Fry & C Spencer is about 16 generations back
  2. the MRCA that connects EL Fry & WF Fry is about 17 generations back
  3. the MRCA that connects C Spencer & WF Fry is about 26 generations back

It’s like a problem from the back of a math book. If EL Fry & C Spencer connect at 16 generations back and EL Fry & WF Fry connect at 16 generations back, then shouldn’t C Spencer & WF Fry also connect at 16 generations back?

Either there is some room for interpretation here or my “scientific” mind is just not sophisticated enough to comprehend this complex model.

The goal of my effort was to develop some sort of graphical representation that would make this all very easy to understand, but, try as I might, I just wasn’t able to come up with a tree where this all worked out. The best I could do was this simple diagram.

This is sort of a “best case scenario” situation. For example, EL Fry’s lowest MRCA is with Anonymous Fry at 10 generations. But his highest MRCA is at 21 generations with MB Fry. So, the pink highlighting in his column goes up to 21 generations representing how many more ancestors we will probably have to uncover before we can connect EL Fry with MB Fry. At the same time, we already know enough ancestors to connect EL Fry with Anonymous Fry, so I filled those in & added connecting lines. Then we already know almost enough ancestors to connect Henry Fry Sr with Johannes Fry, so I added a “placeholder” for the unknown generation & added some more connecting lines.

Basically, in the end, the highlighting represents the highest MRCA for each donor. This is how far we may have to go before we can connect that particular donor to every other donor. The names & “placeholders” represent what we already know & the lowest MRCAs for each donor. This is our “best case scenario.” We just need to figure out who the actual people are that the placeholders represent.

Most Recent Common Ancestor Chart

Most Recent Common Ancestor ChartNames & initials are displayed for the generations that we have already proven.

The “placeholders” for unknown ancestors are a combination of the donor’s letters from the tables above combined with numbers that correspond to the generation.


So lets look at this again, just because no matter how many times you do, it still feels like it just can’t quite work the way the numbers are saying it does.

Connecting lines are added in the chart at generations indicated by the lowest MRCA numbers.

The shaded areas represent the maximum number of generations that the data suggests we may need in order to make a connection as dictated by the highest MRCA numbers.

For instance, the MRCA for C Spencer & WF Fry is 26 generations back, so both of their columns are shaded for all 26 generations.

As mentioned above, though, the data also says that the MRCA for EL Fry & C Spencer is 16 generations back and the MRCA for EL Fry & WF Fry is 17 generations back. Follow the connecting lines from EL Fry’s column to C Spencer’s column. They meet at 15 generations back from EL Fry. And the connecting lines from EL Fry’s column to WF Fry’s column meet at 16 generations back, as the DNA MRCA numbers indicate.

By looking at these connecting lines, though, we could infer that it is possible that C Spencer & WF Fry’s lines cross somehow about 17 generations back as represented by the individual “E&C”, even though the DNA says their MRCA is at 26 generations back.

It just seems like this leaves a lot of room. It’s hard to tell exactly where the connections will happen.

What is clear, though, no matter how you look at it, is that these families are related. Unfortunately, we still have a way to go before we can connect most of these lines. More actual genelogical research is needed. The DNA has already been useful, however, in helping us know where not to look. It’s nice to scroll through the list of Palatinate immigrants & know that you can rule someone out because they belong to a different Haplogroup than you do.

This is what we do know about our Haplogroup R1b – Lineage II:

  1. EL Fry’s ancestor James Fry
    1. born abt 1780 in North Carolina
    2. proven to be a brother to Henry Fry Jr below
    3. owned property near his father, Henry Sr, on Abbott’s Creek near Salisbury, North Carolina, in what is now Davidson County
    4. James migrated to Jefferson & then Tipton County, Tennessee, in the early 1820s, so there doesn’t seem to be any interaction with the other lines after that point
    5. the DNA shows that the MRCA between this line & F Blanton’s line is 10, so there is probably one or two generations (represented as A&B in chart above) between Jame’s father, Henry Sr, and F Blanton’s ancestor Johannes Frey
  2. Anonymous Fry’s ancestor Henry Fry Jr
    1. born about 1782 in North Carolina
    2. proven to be a brother of James Fry above
    3. owned property near his father, Henry Sr, on Abbott’s Creek near Salisbury, North Carolina, in what is now Davidson County
    4. Henry also migrated in the early 1820s, to Smith County, Tennessee, so there doesn’t seem to be any interaction with the other lines after that point
    5. the DNA shows that the MRCA between this line & F Blanton’s line is 15, suggesting that there are at least two generations between Henry’s father, Henry Sr, and F Blanton’s ancestor Johannes Frey
  3. F Blanton’s ancestor Johannes Frey
    1. born in the German Palatinate about 1698 and came to this country in 1731 with his wife & one son, Nicholas
    2. There is a son, Philip, who is often attributed to Nicholas, but who was born only 10 years after Nicholas. Either the birth date is wrong, or this is potentially another child of Johannes.This Philip’s family, along with Nicholas’ family, migrated to Lincoln County, North Carolina, and then to Catawba County, North Carolina.
    3. There is a woman named Mary Margaret who is said to be a daughter of Johannes Frey, but I have not been able to verify this. She married a Leonard Killion in Pennsylvania. Several of Leonard Killion’s descendants are buried in Old Saint Pauls Lutheran Church Cemetery in Newton, Catawba County, North Carolina, along with some of Nicholas’ descendants. Leonard Killion’s son, John, married Nicholas Fry’s daughter, Susannah.
  4. C Spencer
    1. C Spencer still lives in the same area of North Carolina that his ancestors have been in since the early 1800s
    2. many of C Spencer’s ancestors are buried in cemeteries along with Johannes Frey’s descendants
    3. there are marriages between Spencers & other families that intermarried with Johannes Frey’s descendants in North Carolina
    4. The donor’s last name is Spencer, but DNA shows a Fry connection. This may make it difficult to determine where the lines cross since the union that produced the MRCA was probably not acknowledged
  5. WF Fry
    1. William’s line came to this country probably in the early 1800s
    2. census records show that his great-great-great-grandfather’s father was born in Germany
    3. his great-great-grandfather was then born in Virginia in 1818
    4. the family was then in Ohio by the 1850s
    5. no interaction has been found between this line & the other lines found in North Carolina
  6. MB Fry
    1. His 3rd great grandfather is Cornelius J Fry. It is speculated that his father was John Fry who was born in Germany, came to this country sometime after 1765 & was married in Pennsylvania in 1787, but I have not been able to verify this.
    2. the family then migrated to Ohio
    3. no interaction has been found between this line & the other lines found in North Carolina or Ohio

These known facts, combined with the MRCA numbers determined by the DNA, suggest that most connections will be found before the families migrated to this country. The exception may be the connection between Henry Fry Sr & Johannes Frey. It seems feasible that Johannes had more children after coming to this country & Henry Sr could possibly be descended from one of them.