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Cory Society DNA Project

A web site for the Cory, Corey, Corrie, Corry, Coray, Corie... Families

A report by Arthur T. Corey
June 2006

Dr. Arthur CoreyOur DNA project began five years ago following conversations between Art Corey and our Society Genealogist, Charlotte Muller. In the Cory Family newsletter, dated December 2001, Art explained the rationale as follows: ?Questions concerning the relationship between Cory family lines in North America and Britain have engaged our Society since its founding. Examples include the relationship, if any, between the William of Portsmouth and John of Long Island lines, as well as the Thomas of Chelmsford line. Our British cousins have similar questions, for example, the questions of whether or not the Cory families of Bramerton and Cornwall are related to the Scottish Corries. Such questions have not been answered positively by the traditional genealogical research to date, and there is reason to suspect that answers to many questions will never be found in available documents.?

After an investigation Art determined that DNA analysis involving the Y chromosome was a reliable method for determining whether males bearing similar surnames were related genetically, within a number of generations considered significant from a genealogical point of view. To answer the first question, whether the Thomas, William, and John lines were related, Charlotte selected two of our society members from each of the three main Cory/Corey lines who had reliable documentary evidence indicating descent from one of the primary progenitors in the USA. The selected members agreed to furnish DNA samples for analysis. Art contacted the Sorenson laboratory in Salt Lake City operated by Relative Genetics to conduct the analyses and interpret the results.

Before the results of DNA analyses became available it had been suspected by all investigators (here and in Britain) that the three primary progenitors of the Cory/Corey surname in North America were related. Each had arrived in America within a period of five years, 1638-1643. We had especially strong circumstantial evidence that William of Portsmouth was a son of John of Long Island (see ?The John Cory Mystery?), an article appearing in our newsletter of September 1999. Consequently, we were shocked when results of the selected participants showed clearly that the three main Cory/Corey lines in America are unrelated in a genealogical sense.

The next major question we wanted to answer was how our three Cory/ Corey lines in North America are related to current family lines bearing the Cory surname in Britain. We also wanted to discover where in Britain the original progenitors came from. We had ample documentation that William had immigrated to Portsmouth, RI from Bristol, UK, but we had no documentation regarding the birthplace of John or Thomas. Answering this question required the cooperation of our English cousins. The newly formed English Family Society appointed Jean Hayes as coordinator of an English DNA project to cooperate with us by identifying participants from Britain. Later Margaret Goffin replaced Jean and continues to serve in that capacity today.

Results for the English participants show that several Cory lines exist in Britain that are not closely related, and to date only one has been found to be clearly related to an American line. Our surname evidently originated in a number of places. Before the development of standard dictionaries individual writers interpreted spelling of surnames phonetically. The surname Cory is now standard spelling in England for a large number of original surnames that sounded alike when spoken by native speakers. This problem was aggravated because modern English derives from several very different phonetic systems. Ida Birch printed articles in the April and December issues of the English Cory Family newsletter identifying a large number of surnames that may or may not be related genetically to the Cory/Corey surname. Her articles were reprinted in part by Art Corey in the July, 2005 issue of our newsletter.

The one Cory line in Britain that to date has been shown to be clearly related to a major Corey/Cory line in America is a line found today in the village of Harpole near Northampton in the English midlands. The earliest Cory from that line, for whom we have a record, built a large home in Harpole circa 1435. That home, carefully maintained and modernized, still exists in Harpole and continues to be occupied. Y-chromosome results (from participants living today in Harpole) match those of a number of American participants, some of whom have good documentary pedigrees extending back to Thomas of Chelmsford, Massachusetts.

Our English members from Harpole have substantial evidence that Thomas Corey and a cousin, Giles Corey, were born in Harpole, circa 1621, and both immigrated to America circa 1642. The famous (or infamous) Giles settled in Salem Village, MA, and Thomas settled in Chelmsford, MA. Giles had no male heirs, but Thomas became a progenitor of a large line of American Cory and Corey families. Before their arrival in America, the family name was usually spelled ?Corye?, a spelling formerly found occasionally in Cornwall and Devon as well. Although we have found no concrete evidence linking the John line to a community in Britain, we continue to hope that additional participants from Britain and elsewhere will provide a clue as to the origin of this family line.

The Sorenson Laboratory that does our Y-chromosome analyses now provides Y-haplogroups for classifying our participants, based on the number of repeats of chemical groups at either 26 or 43 sites examined on the Y chromosome. A Y-haplogroup indicates the history of a male line of descent from ancient times. Haplogroups are interesting to historians and anthropologists studying migrations of populations over thousands of years but offer little help to individuals searching their personal family pedigrees.

In any case, Relative Genetics has classified 25 of our participants as belonging to the R1b haplogroup. All of our participants from the William line are in that group, and many of our English participants also are classified as R1b. Relative Genetics? website states that this is the most common haplogroup found in Europe as a whole. It appears to have had its roots in Celtic migrations across Europe in prehistoric times. Currently, this haplogroup is found in its largest proportion of the population in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Southeast France and Northwest Spain. However, it is frequently found in all parts of Europe.

Six of our participants (who are from the John line) are classified as Haplogroup R1a. This is a less common haplogroup in Britain that may have its roots in Slavic migrations from Eastern Europe in the 5th century. Presently, this haplogroup has its highest degree of frequency in the region south and east of the Baltic Sea, but it is widespread throughout South and Central Asia and into Siberia.

Those of us from the Thomas (Harpole) line have a distinctly different haplogroup from either the William or John lines. Our Y-chromosome differs from theirs at 31and 32 sites out of 43 sites examined. This is very significant because more than 4 mismatches is regarded as indicating no genealogical relationship. Our haplogroup is designated as I1a. This haplogroup appears to have its roots in a Scandinavian migration at the start of the Holocene epoch 10,000 years ago. Presently, it is found in greatest frequency in Scandinavia, but a particular version of this haplogroup, I1a-AS (Anglo Saxon) is found (with highest percentage of population) where Anglo-Saxons are thought to have originated, i.e., Netherlands, Northwest Germany, and Denmark. The Harpole Cory/Corey line matches I1a-AS at all sites considered characteristic of this haplogroup. The entire I1a-AS modal is remarkably stable, and this probably accounts for the fact that our 9 participants belonging to the Harpole line in Britain and America have Y-chromosomes with mismatches at no more than one site of the 43 sites examined. Three of us in this family line have no mismatches.

Only one participant, Gordon R Corey from Bahama, NC, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday, does not belong to a haplogroup found in Britain to date. His haplogroup is G, a haplogroup found most often east and south of the black sea, and especially among the Druze people in Lebanon and Israel. The surname ?Khouri? or ?Khoury? is found frequently in Lebanon and Syria. Some immigrants to America from that region are known to have changed the spelling of their surname to Corey upon arrival in America. It is likely that Gordon R. Corey is descended from an immigrant (possibly a remote ancestor) from this region who changed the spelling of his surname upon arrival in this country.

Most families in America and Britain bearing the Cory/Corey surname have no idea which Cory/Corey line they are descended from. Our Society (through the DNA project) continues to provide a service to those curious to discover their paternal pedigree. Participating in our DNA project is the most effective and inexpensive way to begin their investigation. Relative Genetics provides a website allowing individual participants to access their results, and to compare their results with all others who have participated in our project. We now have the results for 42 participants, and several more participants have provided DNA samples awaiting analysis. New participants continue to apply, and the more participants the more helpful the project becomes for individuals seeking information about their family history. If you are interested in participating in our project, you will find directions explaining how to participate elsewhere in this newsletter.

Art Corey organized our DNA project in 1999 with the help of our late genealogist, Charlotte Muller. He has been coordinating the project ever since with the help of English partners, Jean Hayes and Margaret Goffin. However, Art plans to resign following our 2006 general meeting in Washington, DC. Because of advanced age and other commitments Art believes it advisable for the Society to find a younger member to lead the DNA project. Fortunately, Thomas E. Corey of McCook Nebraska has agreed to take this position, as well as the position of Society Historian and Genealogist, a position vacant since the death of Charlotte Muller. Thomas was one of the original participants recommended by Charlotte Muller as one with a well-documented pedigree representing the William line. Thomas is experienced in genealogical research, and is an expert in using a computer for this purpose.