Holder DNA Genealogy Project


DNA tests can show:
  • Are two or more currently living males descended from a common male ancestor?
  • Were people with the same surname who lived in the same geographic area related to each other?
  • Are people with variant spellings of the same surname related?
  • Can we prove a genetic link to branches of the family in Europe?

For the U.S. and Canadian Holders specifically, our goals to date have been:

  • 1. Determine whether the family descended from John Holder (1694-1784) and Barbara Volck have a distinctly different lineage from the presumed various "English" lines. This has turned out to be true.

  • 2. Determine whether the "New England" Holder line is related to the various "Southern" Holder lines. So far we have no representatives from New England Holder families.

  • 3. Indicate if the various Southern lines out of VA and NC have a common ancestry. Analysis so far is sorting these into several distinct groups. We still need more samples to fill in many gaps in the puzzle. Most of these families came through Virginia and North Carolina and then moved west and south. If your Holders are from Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, the midwest or the deep south, we'd especially like to have you as participants. These states in particular seem to have more than one early family of Holder settlers.

    Don Holder's site for Holders in Texas [link added October 2018].

  • 4. Identify any crossover Holder <-> Holden lines. We know of one family who changed their name from Holder to Holden around 1900, but so far haven't found any earlier instances of this.


While we think most U.S. Holder families came originally from the British Isles, there may also be Holder or Holter families in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. We would like very much to add representatives from the other side of the pond, as well as from Australia, New Zealand and wherever else Holders may be.

Background material

The Y Chromosome passes virtually unchanged, from father ... to son ... to grandson ... to great-grandson, etc. That is why it is of interest to genealogists. A male has exactly the same Y DNA as his father ... grandfather ... great-grandfather, etc (or close to the same when counting in mutations - random changes that rarely occur). The DNA tests of men with the same surname can be compared to see if they had a common ancestor or not. If two Holder males share the same DNA test results, they share a common ancestor somewhere back in time. If the DNA test results are different, the two men can rule out being related.

DNA testing is useful in several circumstances. If a Holder ancestor from many generations ago had two or more sons, then DNA tests of descendants of each of these sons would help to confirm genealogy research showing that these people are part of the same family and not a different person who happened to have the same last name. If two or more people with the same last name lived in the same place at the same time but there are no records that show if they are the same family, DNA tests of their descendants can be compared to see if they are related or not. Genealogists also face difficulties in proving that people who moved from one location to another or that people with variant spellings of the same surname are related or not. Matching, or mismatching, DNA test results from their descendants may be able to provide the answer.

Since markers on the Y-chromosome are analyzed to determine the DNA test results, the person taking the DNA test must be a male with direct paternal Holder lineage. Males have one Y chromosome from their father and one X Chromosome from their mother. Females have two X chromosomes - one from their father and one from their mother. Since females do not have Y-DNA, they are unable to be tested themselves; however they may be able to find a father, brother, uncle, or male cousin to take the test on their behalf, someone who is a direct patrilineal descendant of the Holder ancestor.

Tests for the Holder Genealogy Project are done for us through a company called Family Tree DNA, one of the leading companies in the field of genetic genealogy. The test is simple, painless, done at home, and does not require blood to be drawn. After receiving the test kit in the mail, the participant swabs cells from the inside of his cheek with a small brush and mails the test tubes and release form back to Family Tree DNA in Houston, Texas. The tests are processed by a lab at the University of Arizona. Family Tree DNA sends results to the participant and also will inform them in the future when someone else has a matching DNA test. The Holder DNA Genealogy Project organizes matching results into groups of related individuals and posts that information in the results table of this web page along with genealogy information submitted by the participants about their ancestors and the places their ancestors lived.

The Holder DNA project is run by volunteers who are Holder descendants and interested in genealogy. We do not make any money from the DNA tests or the project but are interested in providing a forum where Holders doing DNA testing can compare results to further their genealogy research. If you have questions, contact Elizabeth Harris - the coordinator of the Holder DNA Genealogy Project at the address listed below.

Sometimes the Holder surname has been spelled as Holden, and vice versa. DNA tests can show whether the two families are related or not. To compare results to the Holden DNA project, see: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~holden4dna/

Join Our E-mail List

You may also want to subscribe to the HOLDER-DNA e-mail list:


The first list described on this site is a general Holder family list which is linked to the Holder message board at Rootsweb. The list for the DNA project is at the bottom of this page, and is the one you should join for information about DNA analysis and also for more information about future Holder group meetings.

Holder Meeting, September 2008, Durham NC

PowerPoint file of the Holder DNA presentation at the meeting

Submit a DNA Sample

To order a test kit as part of the Holder surname group, go to FamilyTreeDNA.com, click on surname projects, find the Holder surname, and click on the link there, or go directly to the Holder submission page.

Check the Family Tree DNA site for the complete schedule of tests available and their prices..

Payment can be made either on line or by mailing a check with your invoice. Some families choose to have several family members chip in to cover the cost of the test.

Family Tree DNA also maintains a general fund to help pay for testing. You can earmark your contribution for the HOLDER project at this site.

Testing more markers helps in narrowing down the time frame to the most recent common ancestor (see the FAQ at FamilyTreeDNA). We recommend getting either the 25 marker or 37 marker test. The 12 marker test is used mostly to prove that two males do not have a common ancestor by finding mismatching results and thus ruling out relationship to someone who was thought maybe to have been related. Matching results on a 12 or 25 marker test may need to be upgraded later to the 25 or 37 marker test in order to narrow down the time to the most recent common ancestor.

After ordering a test kit, you also need to send a list of your ancestors and the locations where your ancestors lived (not including current generations and living people). This information is used to organize results by family groups on the results page of this web site. To ask questions and to submit data about your ancestors, contact Elizabeth Harris - the coordinator of the Holder DNA group - at: ncgen@mindspring.com