by Peter Badham

Purposes of the DNA study

Before we examine the possible nasties to emerge from the DNA box, let us recap on the purposes of the study, which are to:

  • Identify the DNA profile of the various family groups known to us
  • Examine these profiles for overlap and revise our research strategies in the light of the findings
  • Compare with other surnames where there is some evidence for a possible common origin.

Just to put the flesh on the bones of the third item, if male line survivors could be found, we would be mainly interested in looking at any links with the families of Adams of Hoyland in Pembrokeshire who used the ap Adam coat of arms and the Herberts from Gwent with their possible ap Adam roots, although there are a few others and more may emerge as the study develops.

False paternity

At the time of writing we already know that there will be no easy results. We will not find that all the families known to us have the same Y chromosome profile. We know that what has been called false paternity will inevitably rear its head. We can define this as a situation where the records of parentage do not match with the genetics. There are many ways in which this can happen and what follows is an attempt to demonstrate simply what these might be. The first of these to be considered should probably be where a deliberate change of surname has taken place.

By chance, the day before I wrote this, I visited Calke Abbey in Derbyshire, the seat of the Harpur Crewe family, and this is a situation where Crewe is in the female line but deliberately adopted because of marriage to an heiress. I mention it as an example but also in order to record the fact that the 17th quarter in a mid-19th century achievement of arms1 is identical to the ap Adam coat recorded at the Battle of Falkirk. This quartering is said to belong to the St. Medard family, a branch of whom it is said were settled in Buckinghamshire, where there is an early brass in St. Michael’s Church, Chenies. The brass is a memorial to Anne Semark whose surname is said to derive from St. Medard.2

A second process which would lead to a change of name is that of adoption. As an informal process this would often happen in families through the death of parents and if the children were taken on by a female relative we can easily see how the surname changed. Adoption only became a legal process in England and Wales with the passing of the Adoption of Children Act in 1926. Records before this will, almost certainly, only exist in family papers, if they exist at all, unless there was some subsequent legal proceeding. A kind of adoption occurs frequently with the early death of the father and remarriage of the mother, especially when the mother has children with the new husband. The child will tend to use the surname of the stepfather in common with any half siblings. We can see how a child baptised late could even be baptised with the stepfather recorded as the parent. Similar comments to the above will apply where some sort of guardianship is set up and a maternal relative is the guardian. Within the Scottish clans there was a tradition of fostering. Very often children of the chief were fostered with ordinary members of the clan and we have referred before to the Welsh notion of the “gwelly”,3 which was a similar kind of social process and which would be likely to take in and absorb orphaned children and the like.

We now come to the issue of illegitimacy and, of course, this can show itself in a number of ways. Depending on attitudes at the period concerned, the situation may be an open one, which seems likely in the case of Eleanor Badham of Bishops Frome who is referred to in her father and brother’s wills and in turn refers in her will of 1808 to her children Richard and Maria. We have no record of her marrying another Badham so descendants of her son Richard would be carrying the surname but not Eleanor’s father’s Y chromosome. Many baptisms appear in the registers quite clearly labelled as illegitimate although I note that these illegitimate children seem to have an extremely high infant mortality rate. Illegitimacy is not restricted to unmarried mothers but can also arise where the mother is married but the husband is not the father. These may be completely concealed by the mother or concealed with the collusion of the father. In other words there is a deliberate element of deceit in the recording of the baptism or birth and the presentation to the outside world. We sometimes see a situation where a daughter’s child is presented as her sister or brother. One of the pressures which would result in deliberate deceit was the need to retain a male heir and we know from a few notorious cases that this most certainly happened. We do not know how true it was but certainly Anne Boleyn was accused of incest with her brother in order deceive Henry into thinking he had finally “gotten” an heir.

We noted earlier that illegitimacy would cause a break in the transmission of the Y chromosome, however there is an exception to this in the case of incest with father, brother or uncle, and again we can see how families would be likely to close ranks to conceal the real parentage. One of the driving reasons for needing a male heir was that land frequently passed to male heirs in a lease of lives, a common copyhold practice in many manorial courts. In some situations where large estates were transmitted by an heiress these estates would be entailed to the male descendants of that couple and again we can see that there would be substantial pressure to defeat the system. It may be something of this nature that caused the disputes between Thomas ap Adam and the de Gurney family in the early 14th century.4

Rape, of course, can produce illegitimate offspring and it is easy to envisage a situation where a family would close ranks and conspire to conceal the origin of the child and take it in with the family surname. I’m not sure how much it would apply in the period we are interested in but a particular form of rape was that commonly known as “droit de seigneur” and we can be sure that children of such a coupling would not carry the surname of their genetic father. These are some of the many ways in which the Y chromosome descent can be disrupted and genealogists of future generations will need to think about surrogacy and other fertility techniques.

All this of course is salutary thinking for genealogists and we have to face the inevitability of false paternity. Clearly the more generations we cover the greater the chances that such an event will have occurred. At 20 years per generation we can calculate that there are about 37 chances for false paternity to crop up in any line of descent from Adam ap Iorwerth, the Steward of Gwent.

We need to think, therefore, whether DNA studies might disprove the hypothesis of a single family origin for the surname Badham. Clearly this is not the case if we are simply considering the descent of the name, as it may have started in a single genetic family but have descended in the ways described above. This is in many ways the difference between a one-name study and what is more widely understood by genealogy or family history in its narrower usage. In our case, with a Welsh-derived surname, we need to remain aware of a further possibility, namely that any son of any Welsh Adam might chose to adopt the surname Badham as a way of hitching on to the baronial ap Adam bandwagon.

Possible hypotheses

So what are our possible hypotheses? The first might be that all Badhams derive their surname genetically from one or more of the children of Adam ap Iorwerth, Steward of Gwent, that is what we described above as a genealogical derivation. A second hypothesis would be that all Badhams derive their surname from the family of Adam ap Iorwerth in what we might term a social derivation and the third possible hypothesis is that the surname derives from random occurrences of “ap Adam”. Clearly we also need to remember that it may have more than one origin.

One research technique is to develop what is called a null hypothesis, in other words a hypothesis which if proved would disprove the original hypothesis. So we might say that a null hypothesis for the first “genetic” derivation above is that no Badham males derive genetically from Adam ap Iorwerth. Clearly this cannot be done unless some archaeological miracle produces a verifiable source of Adam’s Y DNA!

A second one would be that some Badhams derive their surnames from other roots. One example would be from place-names. To establish this would require a hundred per cent reliable local and family history to prove that there were no Badhams in the area before each place-name came into existence.

The third possible null hypothesis is in relation to the idea that derivation is from random occurrences of ap Adam. This null would be that present holders of the name derive it from identifiable families living in identifiable non-random geographic areas over a number of generations. I would suggest that this, at least, can be partially demonstrated.

16th Century Taxation returns ApAdam - Badham Derivatives 2.5 mile circles

On the attached map of the Frome valley in Herefordshire, the inner circle has a radius of about 2.5 miles and for the concentric circles outwards the radius increases by 2.5 miles each time. The blue numbers are the number of individuals found in early 16th century taxation returns5 with a guess of the number of families in brackets. Each red dot represents he earliest, reliably known centre for 10 members of the Society. A look at the full map in Delvings will show you even more clearly that the distribution is not random. Having said that, results for three out of the ten so far available do not show any Y DNA matches, so there is much still to do and think about.


  1. On the main staircase at present amd just visible over the ropes!
  2. See http://www.cb5.co.uk/StMedard1.htm
  3. Peter Badham, Badham Delvings (2007), p.17
  4. See Delvings, p.23
  5. See Delvings, map 6, p.54