DNA Molecule

Cheek/Chick DNA Project

Summary of Results

As of April 10, 2009, we have we have received Y-DNA test results for 44 participants.  We have now identified three distinct family groups with the Cheek/Chick surname.  We are calling these Family Group 1, Family Group 2, and Family Group 3.

Approximately 80% of our participants so far fall into either Family Group 1 or Group 2.  Two participants are in Family Group 3. The remaining 20% of the participants have unique (non-matching) DNA results.  As the study progresses, we hope that some of our "uniques" will ultimately find a "match" that will reveal new, as-yet-unidentified Cheek/Chick family groups.


• Number of Participants: 26 (+2 more distantly related)
• Time to Most Recent Common Ancestor: highly probable within 300 years
• Ethnicity: Haplogroup R1b1 (Western European), probably English of Celtic ancestry
• Possible common ancestor: John Cheek, Sr., of Old Rappahannock/Essex Co., VA
• Comments: rare genetic quirk!
Click here to view the results table.

The participants in Family Group 1 are descendants of various Cheek and Chick families in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, and other Southern states.  Many of these families trace their origins to a man named John Cheek, Sr., who settled in Old Rappahannock (Essex) County, Virginia, during the mid-1600's.  We can't completely rule out the possibility that some branches of Family Group 1 are descended from male relatives of John Cheek, Sr., such as his brothers, uncles, or cousins who immigrated around the same time.  However, John Cheek, Sr., "of Old Rapp." is the best-documented possible ancestor of the Cheek family who is found in the Virginia records.

John Cheek, Sr., was probably English, like most immigrants to Virginia during the 1600's.  The participants in Family Group 1 have Y-DNA markers that put them into a DNA "super-family" known as "Haplogroup R1b1" which is typically found in men from the Atlantic coast of western Europe.  In the British Isles, Haplogroup R1b1 is associated with the Celtic populations of southern England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland.  We think that John Cheek's family probably came from southern England, possibly Devon, Dorset, Somerset, or Hampshire, where the Cheek and Chick surnames seem to have originated.  (For more information about the Cheek/Chick surname, click here.)

Two other participants in our study (Participants #18 and #34) are descendants of a family named Cheek/Chick who lived in Somerset, England, in the 1500's.  Participant #18's family migrated to Australia.  Participant #34's family came to the United States from England in the mid-19th century.  These participants appear to be related to Family Group 1, but more distantly (several hundred years at least).  The DNA similarities, however, suggest that the family of John Cheek, Sr., "of Old Rapp." was from southern England, possibly Somerset.

Rare genetic quirk!  Most members of Family Group 1, including the two Somerset participants, have an interesting genetic quirk: the value of the marker called "DYS# 464d" is "20."  This result is extremely unusual.  In fact, scientists had never previously reported a value of 20 on DYS# 464d.  It is always 19 or less.  The FTDNA lab had to run most participants' tests several times to make sure that the unexpected value was not an error.  After many delays and re-tests (some of our early participants waited five months for their results), the FTDNA scientists concluded that our "quirk" really does exist, and it's turned out to be very useful for our study.  A few members of Group 1 have a "19" instead of a "20" on #464d, which is still pretty unusual, as it is found in less than 2% of the population.  Some members also have extra markers (duplications) in the 464 series.  The 464 series of markers are fast-mutating and small variations of this nature are not uncommon even among close relatives.

Progenitors.  Major branches of Cheek Family Group 1 include the following (see Participants page for a complete list):


• Number of participants: 5
• Time to Most Recent Common Ancestor: highly probable within 200-300 years
• Ethnicity: Haplogroup R1b1 (Western European), probably English of Celtic ancestry
• Probable common ancestor: William "of London" Cheek (London, England; Bedford Co., VA; Surry Co., NC)
Click here to view the results table.

The participants in Family Group 2 are descendants of William Cheek who immigrated to Virginia from London, England, in 1754.  William lived for a time in Bedford Co., VA, before moving to Surry Co., NC.  He was married twice and had six sons: Thomas, Henry, John, Nicholas, William Jr., and Pleasant Cheek.  So far, we have tested descendants of Henry Cheek (1767) of Adair Co., KY, John Cheek (c.1781) of Surry Co., NC, and Nicholas Cheek (c.1784) of Shelby Co., KY; all the results closely match each other but do not match Family Group 1.  Therefore, it appears that William Cheek was not related to John Cheek, Sr., of Old Rapp./Essex Co., VA.

WISH LIST: to round out the study of William Cheek, we need to test descendants of his sons Thomas L. Cheek (c.1765) of Craven Co., NC; William Cheek, Jr., of Surry (Yadkin) Co., NC; and Pleasant Cheek (c.1795) of Vigo Co., IN.


• Number of participants: 2
• Time to Most Recent Common Ancestor: highly probable within 200-300 years
• Ethnicity: Haplogroup E1b1b (Mediterranean?)
• Probable common ancestor: George Cheek (Front Royal, Warren Co., VA)
Click here to view the results table.

The participants in Group 3 are believed to be descendants of George Cheek, an early settler in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  George Cheek first appears in the records of Culpeper County, VA, in 1767, and he was one of the founders of the town of Front Royal, originally Frederick (now Warren) County, VA.  George Cheek and some of his children migrated to Dearborn County, Indiana, in the 1790's.  Other members of the Cheek family, believed to be related to George Cheek, remained in Virginia and are found in Frederick, Warren, Culpeper and Rappanhannock Counties during the 19th century.  The DNA results of two descendants, one from the Indiana branch of the family, the other from Virginia, are a perfect match.  Their DNA haplogroup, E1b1b (formerly known as E3b) is a Mediterranean haplogroup that is relatively rare in northern Europe and the British Isles. 


• Number of participants: about 20% of the study
• Time to Most Recent Common Ancestor: at least several thousand years
• Ethnicity: all are European, mostly Haplogroup R1b1, also I1a
Click here to view the results table.

The unique participants do not match anyone else in the study so far.  A unique participant may be the first representative of a new family group which we will have to call Group 4, once we find additional matches.  Alternatively, a unique participant may have a "non-paternity event" in his direct male line such as an adoption, step-child name change, or child born out of wedlock.  In such a case, it is often helpful to test more descendants from that particular family line.  According to the FTDNA company, the chance of a DNA mismatch due to a "non-paternity event" is about 2%-5% per generation.  That works out to 18%-40% in 10 generations (roughly 250 years).  Our study is pretty typical.  In Family Group 1, for example, we have tested 8 presumed descendants of James Cheek of Laurens, SC, who lived about 250 years ago.  Of these 8 descendants, we had 3 mismatches (apprx. 37%) which we were able to identify as probable non-paternity events.

If you don't match the other descendants of your presumed ancestor, scour your family tree for clues such as remarriages with step-children, divorces and separations, and children who seem to be either too old or too young considering their mother's age and date of marriage.  You may be able to identify where the "break" occurred.  For example, one classic scenario is a child born out of wedlock who is raised by his maternal grandparents.  He will probably be the youngest child in the family and possibly separated from his next-oldest "sibling" by several years.  His "mother" (grandmother) may have been in her 40's or even 50's when he was born.  He will be identified as a son on census records because of the social stigma of illegitimacy.  Another common situation is a woman who marries after being divorced or abandoned by a first husband, or having a child out of wedlock, and the child takes the step-father's surname.  County divorce records, bastardy bonds and records of "base-born" children who were "bound out" can be rich sources of genealogical information.  However, you may have to search original records or microfilm at the county court, state archives or at an LDS Family History Center.  In most places, only a small percentage of the available court records have been indexed and published.

Mystery Men: we are currently looking for more descendants of the following individuals to determine whether we have a non-paternity event or a new family group:

For those disappointed in their DNA results, don't despair.  If you go back 10 generations, assuming no cousin marriages, you have 1,024 great(x8)-grandparents.  That's 1,024 different lines of descent in 10 generations, and the number doubles with each additional generation.  Y-DNA testing provides information about only one line of descent—the exclusively male ("patrilineal") line.  Although Y-DNA gives us a unique insight into our male lineage, there are plenty of other branches of the family tree to explore.  And of course, you could still be related to the Cheek family through a female line, such as a child born out of wedlock who was raised by his grandparents.  Don't toss out your years of genealogical research based on a DNA result until you have exhausted every possibility.