I must admit that I have always been a bit embarrassed to admit that I cannot prove the origins of my own surname. I have been researching my family tree for more than thirty years and have found most of my ancestors back into the 1700s with quite a few families traced even further back. Yet there has always been one glaring exception: the origins of my EASTMAN ancestors. I once remarked in a video interview, "Well, for years I've had this mystery. I have a great-great-grandfather who was deposited by a Martian spaceship...".
Obviously, that's a bit of a joke; but this man's origins remain a mystery to me. It is as if he had come from another planet. I have not been able to prove his origins. Along the way, I have traced the origins of other families in his area who shared the same surname. Indeed, I have strong conjecture and circumstantial evidence of his origins, but I have never found the one scrap of paper that ties him into the other Eastman families in the area. Now, thanks to some great assistance from Katherine Hope Borges and from the folks at Family Tree DNA, I have that proof.
To be sure, DNA does not give the first names of any of these ancestors. It does not state, "Your great-great-great-grandfather's first name was...". DNA cannot do that. However, for the first time, I now have proof that I am a member of the same family as the other EASTMAN men who have had their Y-chromosome DNA tested. Since most of the other men have been able to document their descent from Roger Eastman (often spelled “Easman”), a 1638 immigrant to Salisbury, Massachusetts, I am almost certainly descended from the same man.
NOTE: "Almost certainly" is not the same as undeniable proof. There is still a slight chance that I might be descended from some other person of that time period who was a brother or cousin of Roger Eastman, perhaps even a rather distant cousin. However, I am obviously related. This one immigrant appears to have been the only man of the name in Colonial America. A few other EASTMAN men did arrive 200 years or more later, and their family connections to Roger Eastman, if any, are unknown. Several of the other Eastman immigrants came from Sweden, Denmark, Germany. Spain, and one immigrated to the United States from Argentina. I doubt if they are all related to the 1638 immigrant from England.
Roger Eastman and his wife Sarah had ten sons. Several of those sons also raised large families, so the Eastman Y-chromosome has been widely disbursed. I always assumed that I was related to this one couple but never had proof until now.
Luckily for me, I met Katherine Hope Borges, a DNA expert and Director of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG). In the course of conversation, She mentioned that I should start a DNA project to prove or disprove my relationship to others with the EASTMAN name. Katherine then volunteered to do all the hard work. If you have ever met Katherine, you already know that she is quick to do things like that!
Today, thanks to Katherine and also thanks to the folks at Family Tree DNA, I now have proof that I am related to the others who are known descendants of Roger Eastman, the 1638 immigrant. I am "in the family."
Katherine Hope Borges has since written a description of the process she went through to establish my family identity. The article was published in the Southern California Genealogical Society's newsletter and is now available online.
If you would like to read a typical example of how any male can prove or disprove his connection to another family, please read Katherine Hope Borges' (non-technical) article at http://www.scgsgenealogy.com/EastmanDNA.htm.