In Y-DNA genetic research, a group of people who share a common ancestor is known as a haplogroup. The surname Mullins is most often associated with R-M269, which is the most common haplogroup among Europeans. Richard's Mullins haplogroup is extremely rare by contrast. It is currently classified as I-L 161, Isles A. This indicates the area of the densest population of his deep ancestors is now known as Ireland. International Mullins researcher and expert in Richard's genetic line, Gary Mullins, says this about Richard's haplogroup:
"Isles-A is found in low frequency in Ireland and Great Britain and is roughly 15,000 years old. But, they have had considerable contributions that are now well-documented. . . This subgroup (I2a2b) has its roots among the earliest peoples repopulating the British Isles after the Last Ice Age. Multiple surnames characterize the subgroup with an indication of a old (pre-gaelic) presence in Ireland.
Bernie Cullen, administrator for the Family Tree I haplogroup has added this note about the small surname cluster: 'In general, all three families (Mullins, Adkins, O’Driscoll) belong to the I-L161 and more specifically "Isles-A" branch. From new SNP tests (L1498 and PF4135) we know that Isles-A is not closely related to other I-L161 people in Britain/Ireland or in Europe. It seems to be a rare branch that survived only in Britain/Ireland but not on the continent, and which had a small population boom recently. Part of that population boom was part of whatever led the O'Driscolls to becoming one of the dominant families of part of Cork, and another part of the population boom was the Mullins/Adkins etc. being earliest settlers of Virginia etc. and going west.'"
Y-DNA is definitive scientific proof of an individual's ancestry, unlike written or oral records. As we can see from the notes above, Y-DNA research often reveals new branches of a family tree that would not have been expected simply by looking at a pedigree based on surnames alone. Although the birth of a child was often recorded, some events were not recorded by our ancestors--like adoption, pregnancy out of wedlock, rape, a common-law marriage or an affair leading to an addition to the family. Science, too, has its limits. Thanks to genetic testing, we can know who an individual's ancestor is, but often we cannot explain precisely why. Genetic researchers tend to seek to answer the more general questions of who, when, and where a family line developed.
Early in the process of discovering Richard Mullins' genetic ancestry, Gary Mullins and other researchers found a conundrum: the David Mullins line descending from "Old Booker" Mullins did not match the Y-DNA results (known as haplogroups) of other Mullins families. Instead, other old families who were early settlers of Virginia turned up Y-DNA that did not match their respective surname groups, but instead matched that of "Old Booker." These matching families include McGuire, Hall, Sloan, Adkins and Mullins--a group Gary Mullins currently refers to as the "Adkins cluster." Fortunately, evidence was discovered in the form of a letter written in 1936 by Lemuel Goodson Mullins, (a son of Abraham Mullins, who was a son of Sherwood Mullins, who was a son of Booker Mullins SR) to the regional historian James Taylor Adams. The letter indicates that the biological father of Booker Mullins was an Adkins, and is reproduced here:
Jan. 3, 1936
Mr. James Taylor Adams
Big Laurel, VA
Dear Mr. Adams:
This will acknowledge receipt of your communication of the 30th. Probably I didn'tmake myself clear. I didn't intend to say that my grandfather Sherwood Mullins was an Adkins. I was referring to my great‑grandfather "who's name I am sorry I cannot [re] call," could have gotten his name Mullins from his mother. You know that far back, marriage licenses were hard " to secure owing to distance to Clerk's offices, and quite often a man and woman would consider theirselves married and raise a family, living true to each other, without being lawfully united.
All I know about the matter is I heard my father, Abram Mullins say one time while we were working in the fields, that he had been told "that if his grandfather, or great-grandfather (as the case may be) had have been married he would have been an Adkins".
Nothing sure about this, you can take it at what it is worth.
You spoke of being told on Bold Camp that old Spencer Mullins was of illegitimate birth. I know that quite well; his father was supposed to have been a Mullins, as well as his mother. know that, I In fact I don't care to discuss old Spencer, but rather forget him, as he, like some of the younger generation, is no credit to the Mullins family.
L. G. Mullins
Gary Mullins' further research has demonstrated that those with this Y-DNA sequence are all descended from a common ancestor--William Adkins born circa 1690, a son of the Quaker John Adkins of Tidewater, VA. Out of all of the possible candidates for the father of Booker Mullins SR, there is one that stands out most: a son of William Adkins and Elizabeth Parker Adkins by the name of SHERWOOD ADKINS (note that the name Sherwood was not a family name until Booker came along, and has been passed down in all the generations that have come since. Sherwood Adkins lived near the Mullins when they resided off the waters of the Pigg River (in what was then Pittsylvania Co., VA); the Mullins moved to land off of Town Creek (in present Franklin Co., VA) in 1768--the very year that Booker was born. Later, after Booker had married, he and his new wife removed to Montgomery Co., VA where his father Sherwood Adkins had relocated. Booker's mother was a Mullins girl--by process of elimination, she was most likely Mary (daughter of William and Elizabeth Mullins) who later married Isham Hall SR.
In another surprise, the Y-DNA haplogroup of this Adkins cluster does not match that of those with the Adkins surname, but instead matches the results of many individuals from the old country with the Irish surname, Driscoll, of County Cork.
The next inquiry Gary Mullins is pursuing is the matter of documenting where and when Atkins and Driscoll lines met. Atkins is an English surname, not an Irish one, and the Driscolls are most numerous in County Cork, Ireland. The Atkins name appears on page one of a list of "Cromwellian Adventurers in Ireland," a list of soldiers petitioning for lands in Ireland under Cromwell.
Gary Mullins has a working hypothesis that Augustine Atkins is a progenitor/relative of the Atkins cluster who may have been the immigrant of Richard's line. Here are just a few of his findings:
Gary states: "I finally 're-found' the reference to a probable relative of Augustine Adkins in Virginia. It is from the old title “Some Emigrants to Virginia: memoranda in regard to several hundred emigrants to Virginia during the colonial period whose parentage is shown or former residence indicated by authentic records” (1911) and way too briefly states the following:
John Atkins (in Virginia 1636); grandson of John Atkins, of Chard, Somerset, merchant.
Since Chard, England was the birthplace of Augustine Adkins, I am convinced of a familial connection."
From “Index of Irish Wills Vol. 2 (1910) ‘Cork and Ross, Cloyne’ edited by W.P.W. Phillimore, Gary also cites:
". . . listed Augustine Atkins whose will was probated in 1682; among the many Driscolls listed is a John Driscoll whose will was probated in 1724."
Once a haplogroup is identified, most of us amateurs think the work is over and the answers are in, but to a serious researcher, the work of discovery has just begun. Researchers go on to confirm the historic records of migrations and meetings they document against the further refinements revealed by ongoing genetic findings of new markers. They look for tiny alterations in the Y-DNA called SNPs, or snips, short for single nucleotide polymorphisms, caused by mutations which can distinguish one segment of the larger family group from another.
Just a few months ago Gary Mullins shared with me his predictions regarding the most recent round of tests on the SNP results of Richard's line:. This past week, the most recent results were revealed. Gary reported:
"We just got results back from the p37 test of our direct male descendant of David Mullins (grandson of 'Old Booker') who is also Richard's direct male ancestor and his new terminal SNP is just as I predicted it would be: I-Y12072.
So--this tells us that ALL men tested at this level thus far, who collectively descend from either William Adkins (1690) or his brother Henry, and are:
all related to each other
do NOT relate to ANY other Adkins line
One of the testers is a direct male descendant of David Mullins who married Jane Short and was one of the grandsons of old Booker Mullins. His results have confirmed a new terminal SNP for all descendants of old Booker Mullins--Richard being one of these descendants."
"The Y-DNA genetic line keeps going through additional refinement; currently, it continues to be referred to as Isles-A which is downstream from L161."
Gary has kindly included an image of the latest I2a-Isles-Haplotree, which is posted above. He remarks:
"You can clearly see where we are in the A section (blue on the left side). The latest testing has uncovered a new terminal SNP which is being called I-Y12072."
Thank you for keeping readers posted, Gary, and for your hard work researching Richard's fascinating genetic line!
For more information about Richard's Irish ancestry, you can click on this link.
Here is a video I made for my friend Beverly Walker to thank her for her years of research on the Mullins family. She is a relative of Richard Mullins, who graciously took me to visit sites in Letcher County, like the Maggard graveyard pictured in the following video.