Stewart 700 Conference, Paisley Abbey, 10 September 2016
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Discovering descendants of King Robert II through DNA testing

The strand of genetic genealogy research which formed part of the Battle of Bannockburn Family History Project (2013-), has been followed up by further research by researchers from the Genealogical Studies Postgraduate Programme at the University of Strathclyde and has focussed on identifying male line descendants of King Robert II (1316-1390). It is likely that only four of his sons have left male line descendants still living today, King Robert III (1337-1406), Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany (ca 1340-1420), Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan, ‘The Wolf of Badenoch’ (1343-1405) and one of Robert II’s illegitimate sons, Sir John Stewart, Sheriff of Bute (d ca 1445).

So far, DNA tests have been carried out on documented descendants of three of these sons – on Archie Shaw-Stewart, from Robert III’s line; Patrick, 8th Earl Castle Stewart, from Robert, Duke of Albany’s line and a confirmed descendant of Sir John Stewart. Advanced testing has revealed distinct genetic markers for the first and third of these lines. These two SNPs have been named ZZ52 and Y14197. ZZ52 is carried by male line descendants of Robert III and Y14197 by male line descendants of Sir John Stewart. Already, several other individuals have been found to carry ZZ52 and several others to carry Y14197. It is not yet known whether these SNPs occurred in the originators of these lines, or in one of their descendants, but they are likely to have arisen in a fairly early generation. Because the occurrence of these SNPs has not been dated, it is possible that some descendants may exist who do not carry them.

The four charts displayed here show the descent of Robert II from Walter FitzAlan, 1st High Steward of Scotland (d 1177); the descent of the three documented testees from Robert II as well as that of one other individual who carries ZZ52 (Donald Stewart) and one other carrying Y14197 (Thomas Philip Stewart); and, two phylogenetic trees showing genetic groupings which are identified by a specific SNP. Phylogenetic trees illustrate the evolution of a genetic grouping in terms of changes in DNA, where SNPs mark out the branches of the group.

It is hoped that eventually it will be possible to identify and test a descendant of Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan, ‘The Wolf of Badenoch’ and also to discover more recent SNPs which would mark branches of the Stewarts in more recent times.

The early High Stewards of Scotland

DF41 phylogenetic tree

Z38845 phylogenetic tree

Selected descendants of King Robert II