Our family is unique! Based upon available genealogical and DNA evidence, it appears that only one family - ours - chose the name Allred
When you meet someone with whom you share the surname of Allred, do you ever wonder if you are related to him or her? The answer is “Yes”, either by genetics or marriage. I am often asked if I am related to the activist lawyer, Gloria Allred from Los Angeles. The answer is “yes, by marriage”. Gloria Bloom married William Allred in 1968. They were divorced in 1987 but Gloria kept her married name of Allred. And we are undoubtedly related genetically to William Allred.
How can I be so sure that if you are an Allred, you are related to William Allred and anyone else with our family name? Because DNA analysis indicates that all the males named Allred in our Family Tree DNA project, with a few exceptions, are from the same family, with documented connections to the Allred family of Lancashire, England.
To understand what this means, we need to delve into some history of family names. Our family is definitely English and, in traditional English society, a wife takes the family name of her husband. Their children also take the surname of the father. This system is called hereditary surnames. We take it for granted that this is the way the whole world operates now and has done so for a very long time. The fact is that except for Chinese rulers some 5,000 years ago, hereditary surnames were first used by the French about 1,000 years ago and came into England with the Norman invasion of 1066. Family names were slowly adopted by the populace over the period between 1250 and 1550. European nations adopted the hereditary surname system slowly over time, some only rather recently. Some never did.
As genealogists, we are fortunate that our ancestors chose the hereditary surname system. No doubt it was not deliberate just for us to find our ancestors because when that decision was made, they had no idea what genes were, never mind how they were inherited. Turns out, the male sex genes, located on the Y-chromosome, are passed from father to son in the same way that names are in the hereditary surname system! So that makes it easy – the Y-chromosome DNA matches the family name.
If you think about it, some surnames were used over and over again. For example, the word smith in Old English meant “metal worker.” In virtually every village there was a man who worked with metals: a blacksmith. And when people started choosing names, Smith was a natural for the village blacksmith. As a result, Smith is the most common surname in countries which were, at one time, part of what was called Great Britain. These include the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. But with so many different families choosing the name Smith, the name and Y-chromosome DNA pattern of any specific Smith family does not match those of other Smith families except for those descending from their own small ancestral village. To state it another way, there is not one Smith family but rather there are thousands of Smith families, each of which has their own ancestral Y-chromosome DNA pattern. According to Family Tree DNA, the Smith Official DNA Project which includes Smith and various spellings of the name has over 4420 members and over 385 groups whose Y-chromosome DNA matches within the group. That means there are 385 Y-chromosome DNA Smith families that have been tested by Family Tree DNA. You can see on line1 how many Smith families there are which match each other but not other Smith families. There are untold thousands of others. That is why it is very significant that the Allred name covers only one Y-chromosome DNA family!
Actually, I have taken poetic license to say there is only one DNA family with the Allred name. There are two major DNA groups, and the members of both are Allreds and are part of our family. We know from land records that Solomon and what we thought were four sons arrived in North Carolina in the mid-1700s, from Pennsylvania. It turns out that three of these men, namely Solomon, William and Thomas were in fact Solomon’s sons and they are ancestors of the larger group of 53 men whose DNA matches each other. All of these men have Solomon as a common ancestor which means they are also descendants of the Allreds of Lancashire, starting with Solomon’s gggg-Grandfather, John “Alrede” (Allred) who was born about 1500 in Eccles Parish. Dozens of these men have paper trails to prove it. Everyone whose DNA matches these 53 men has a “de facto” paper trail back to England, even if there are gaps in individual records.
A second group, all named Allred, have Y-chromosome DNA which matches each other but not the larger group of 53 men described above. We now know that these nine men descended from John Allred whom we thought was Solomon’s son but was actually Solomon’s grandson. Most of you know the story of John Allred and the “mystery Allreds”. Soon after the DNA project started about 20 years ago, it became apparent that there was a group of Allred men whose DNA matched each other but not the larger group of Allred men. This mystery group remained mysterious until Gary Austin Allred reported he had a paper trail back to John Allred of North Carolina. It was quickly discovered that his DNA matched that of the “mystery Allreds”. This proved that the “mystery Allreds” were descendants of Solomon’s grandson, John Allred. It had been known for years a John Allred had inherited the entire estate of a man named Samuel Finley in Pennsylvania in 1737. We subsequently discovered that when we compared the Y-chromosome DNA of the mystery Allreds, it matched the Y-chromosome DNA of a descendant of the Finley family, Dr. Wayne House Finley, Professor Emeritus, University of Alabama at Birmingham. Mystery solved . Linda Allred Cooper put the whole story together. John Allred was the illegitimate son of Samuel Finley and Solomon Allred’s daughter. John may or may not have been raised by Solomon and his wife but apparently, to the world at large, he was another one of the Allred boys. Thus, even though the “mystery Allred”, i.e. John Allred descendants, have a different Y-chromosome DNA, they are still members of the Allred family!
There is one other group of three men whose name is listed as Allred. They match each other but do not match any other Allreds. By a combination of brilliant scientific reasoning and just plain dumb luck (in a ratio of at least 1 to 100, respectively), I found that their DNA does match that of a large group (572 members) of Scandinavian men in a Family Tree DNA project called I1-S4795. While we usually see a surname attached to DNA projects, Scandinavians have not historically used a system of hereditary surnames. Instead, they used a patronymic naming system. One of the men stated that their ancestors came from Iceland. This is important because Iceland passed a law in 1925, still in effect, forbidding the hereditary surname system, thus they use the patronymic naming system. It does not take much searching on the internet to confirm that Allred is not a Scandinavian name and certainly is not compatible with the Icelandic patronymic naming system. I have no idea how these three men got the Allred name but it is evident that they do not represent another Allred family, in addition to our Lancashire Allred ancestors. Thus there are only two groups. The largest group is men who descended from the Allred family of Lancashire, most of whom reside in the United States but also includes some who still reside in England. The second group is those who descended from John Allred, son of Solomon’s daughter and Samuel Finley.
In working on the DNA project over most of the past decade it became apparent that there are men in the world who have the Allred genes but not the Allred name, and there are men who have the Allred name but not the Allred genes. This can happen because of name change, adoption or extramarital birth. Some of the men who are members of the AFO Y-chromosome project and listed outside the two major groups likely represent examples of these.
If you really examine what I have said here it is that I have found no evidence of another Allred family with Y-chromosome DNA different than ours. The problem with that is there is a fundamental principle in science that you cannot prove the negative, that is, it is impossible to prove that something did not happen. It is possible that sometime in the future, someone will find evidence of another Y-chromosome DNA Allred family somewhere. Until that time comes, we can tell our children we are the only Allred family anywhere!
 In the patronymic naming system, a male child’s last name is composed of his father’s first name plus the word “son”. A female child’s last name is composed of her father’s first name with the word “daughter” added. These added gender indicators are, of course, in the language of the country.