Francis Surname Project

Using DNA to Learn About the Francis Surname

David Francis started the Francis Surname project in 2004 to verify the descent of four men from Samuel and Ann Francis, residents of Baltimore County, MD soon after the American Revolution. Since then, the number of participants has grown to more than 80. We have isolated several more Francis lines and have learned a great deal about many other Francis lines.

The Francis surname project is a y-dna project, meaning that we track relationships by looking at markers on the y-chromosome. Unfortunately, since only males have the y-chromosome, the main test used in our project can only be taken by men. Furthermore, since the y-chromosome markers are passed down generation to generation with the surname, only males who are descended from people named Francis through the direct paternal line (father to son to son, not father to daughter to son or father to son to daughter), which is usually only men actually named Francis, are eligible to participate in the y-dna part of the study. Because we are also interested in determining whether a relationship exists between individuals named Francis and those with similar surnames, we are also admitting individuals with surnames such as France, Francois and Francisco. A separate surname project also exists for the surname Francisco and may well exist for other, similar surnames. We encourage individuals with such surnames to join those projects as well.

Although women cannot take the y-chromosome themselves, they can gain the benefits of project participation if they can get a male relative named Francis to take the test. Additionally, we have recently started allowing women and men who take the Family Finder test and believe they are related to the Francises through any line to join the project, although we do not currently report on their results on this website. Individuals who take only the maternal DNA test are unlikely to gain anything from joining this project.

Participation in the study is free, but requires a y-DNA test, which is not. If you have not already tested, Family Tree DNA is the preferred testing company for this project, and only those who test through FTDNA will have their results show on the separate FTDNA website. However, y-dna results from other companies are also allowed.

Participants should be aware that the Francis family is polyphyletic, which means that we do not all share a common ancestor. The surname was taken independently by different people at different times and for different reasons.

DNA information obtained in this study is used for genealogical and historical purposes only and appears on the website by kit number and perhaps earliest known relative only.

How to Participate

Participation in the y-dna part of the project is open to anyone who can submit a y-dna test from a male surnamed Francis or is believed to be related to a male named Francis through the paternal line. Since only males have y-chromosomes, only males can actually take the test. However, if a woman can get a male relative to take the test, she is free to get the results and administer it.

We have also recently started accepting individuals who take either the Family Tree DNA Family Finder test or the 23andme Relative Finder test and believe they are related through any line, although it will be up to you to check on your own results through your personal page, as the project administrators do not report on them.

We do not usually admit individuals who take only an MTDNA test, as the project is unlikely to be of any use to them or us.

Participation in the surname project itself is free. However, Y-DNA testing is a prerequisite, and there is a cost for this. The testing company for this project is Family Tree DNA. If you sign up for testing through the Francis surname group, the company normally provides a discount.

To sign up for DNA testing,

  1. Go to the Family Tree DNA website.
  2. On the right side of the page, locate the two text boxes below the word "search." The one on the left should say "equals" and the one on the right should be empty.
  3. Type the word "Francis" into the box on the right.
  4. Hit submit.
  5. You will be brought to a page containing all of the surname and geographic projects that contain individuals named "Francis."
  6. Click on the Francis surname project.
  7. At the bottom of the page, click on the "Order Now" button for the type of test you want to take. (A y-dna 37-marker test is recommended.).
  8. The site will then lead you through some forms that will allow you to put in information, such as your address and credit card number.
  9. After you complete the order, DNA testing kit will be sent to your home, containing instructions for use.
  10. Complete your test and mail back to Family Tree DNA.
  11. Family Tree DNA will contact you when your test results are ready in a few weeks.

The Study

The following links go to this project's pages on the Family Tree DNA website. Family Tree DNA is the official DNA tester of this surname project. Some content is duplicative. The results listed may be more up-to-date than they are on this website, but only individuals who tested through Family Tree DNA are listed.

Surnames of this Website

The Francis surname project contains members with many different surnames. To learn more about the origins and meanings of one of the names, click on its link below.

Francis

Most sources give the origin of the Francis surname as English, although it occurs throughout the United Kingdom, Ireland, and has spread throughout the English-speaking world. An ancestry.com map of the distribution of the surname in England based on the 1891 census shows that, aside from London, the surname occurs most frequently in Wales and East Anglia. Similarly, an ancestry.com chart of all immigrants named Francis shows that nearly all gave Ireland or a part of the U.K. as the port of departure. The few that did not list one of these listed Germany, and even here, it is not certain that the passengers actually originated in Germany.

There are three etymologies that are most commonly given for the name Francis.

  • The place of origin etymology. The meaning of Francis is given as "from France" and is typically associated with the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 and Scotland soon after. The Normans came from Normandy, France, but the majority of them were probably descended from a Danish army (hence the name 'Norman' or "Northman")that had conquered the area in 911 and other Vikings who had been pillaging the area for many years, had been given the land by the French king, and had taken up French language and customs. There is abundant evidence of descendants of Norman invaders,both in England and Scotland, who took up the name. According to some sources, when found in Ireland, it may refer to French Huguenots.
  • The patronymic origin. The name was given to the descendants of someone with the given name Francis, just as the names Johnson, Jones, Johns and John were all given to descendants of men named John. The given name Francis was very common in Medieval times because of the influence of Francis of Assisi(), who was sainted by the Catholic church. Although christened "Giovanni", Francis was given the nickname "Francisco" because his mother was French and his father was in France at the time of his birth. A possible variation on this is that the name was short for "St. Francis" and that some individuals took their family name directly from the saint himself.
  • The Anglicization origin. The name was sometimes taken by immigrants to English-speaking countries who had other names, which perhaps sounded similar. The ancestry.com website specifically mentions people of Jewish descent, but one of our survey participants also knows a Francis who is descended from a Portuguese doctor named "Francisco", who changed his name to "Francis" when emigrating to England. Similarly, the singer Connie Francis was born with the surname "Franconero", but changed it to Francis to make her name more recognizable to American audiences.
  • The Migration Ship Origin (hypothetical) DNA evidence has linked one line (Francis-I1-02) to the family of Robert Rose, who came to North America in 1634 aboard a ship called the Francis. It has been hypothesized that this line of Francises might originally have been a branch of the Roses that took the name Francis because of the ship that brought it to the New World.
France

Like the Francis name, the France name also has different origins. The Ancestry.com website lists 4.

  • French ethnic name for an inhabitant of France. See also Lafrance.
  • Czech
  • Slovenian from the personal name France, a vernacular form of FranciĊĦek, Latin Franciscus.
  • GermanAn Americanized spelling of German Franz. Although ancestry describes this as only a "possibility", this is the only derivation that has been verified by a member of the project.

Additionally, one France line has the haplogroup of the Niall of the Nine Hostages line, which suggests North Irish ancestry. Another participant believes his ancestor changed his name from Francis to France. Clearly, this is a surname that comes from many places.

Francies
Variation of Francis
Francisco

According to Ancestry.com, this name is a Spanish and Portuguese patronymic, deriving from the common personal name. It may also be Italian.

Fraunces
Variation of Francis
Francois
According to Ancestry.com, this name is French and patronymic, coming from the personal name "Francois."
French

Ancestry.com provides two origins:

  • Apparently English ethnic name for someone from France, Middle English frensche, or in some cases perhaps a nickname for someone who adopted French airs.
  • variant of Anglo-Norman French Frain.

Groups

This site no longer displays the markers of all members of this project, as almost all of the information is available at The Site for the Study at Family Tree DNA.

Resources

Please make use of the following resources in your genealogy or genetic genealogy research. To see the items under a given category, please click on the link.

Francis Family Genealogy Sites
The Samuel and Ann Francis Family of Baltimore County, MD
Website dedicated to the history of the Baltimore line of the Francis family
Seventy Years in the Coal Mines
Website dedicated to the autobiography of Philip Francis (1853-1945), with an annotated version by his great-grandson, Paul Bailey Francis
Online Genetic Genealogy Research Resources
DNA Testing Companies
Y-DNA Databases
mtDNA Databases
Blogs
Books
Genetic Genealogy
Mapping Human History, by Steve Olson
Saxons, Vikings and Celts: The Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland, by Bryan Sykes
The Seven Daughters of Eve, by Bryan Sykes
DNA USA, by Bryan Sykes
The Scots: A Genetic Journey, by Allistair Moffat
Deep Ancestry: Inside the Genographic Project, by Spencer Wells
The Origins of the British, by Stephen Oppenheimer
History
Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in North America, by David Hackett Fischer

What have we learned from the Study So Far?

The original aim of the Francis surname project was to confirm the descent of several men from one line of Francises, which lived in Baltimore County, MD, about the time of the Revolution. Having succeeded in that goal, the project has added other research questions: listed below. To make an answer visible, click on one of the questions below.

Are all Francises descended from one individual with the Francis surname?

No. Our study has turned up many different haplogroups. This implies that any common paternal line ancestor of all of our participants would have to have lived tens of thousands of years ago, long before the Francis surname existed. Further, even people named Francis with the same haplogroup are not necessarily related in a historical time frame, and, as the surname origin page shows, the name has several different origins. That said, some of the participants in our study clearly do share a common ancestor.

Does the study show any relationship between the Francis surname and similar surnames?

For the most part, no. Although some individuals in the study report having had ancestors who changed their names to Francis from Francisco or to France from Francis, and there are documented other cases of this having occurred, the only surnames that have so far been found to match Francises are Fraunces and Francies, both of which are probably simply variant spellings of the same English names. The group also contains individuals named France, Francois and Francisco, and so far, none have found any matches with Francises.

Has the study found any ties between individuals with the Francis surname and dissimilar surnames?

Yes, several Francis lines have close DNA matches with individuals with other family names. The Wethersfield Francises, for example, have been proven to be related to the descendants of Robert Rose of Wethersfield, CT. Other surnames with close matches to individuals named Francis include Duke, Haydon, Hunt and others. In most cases we don't know why. On the other hand, no matches have been found between any Francis line and individuals named Blair, who are said to be descended from a John Francis, who changed his name when knighted.

What does the study say about the ancestral national origins of its participants?

Looking at haplogroup alone, the study suggests that the majority of the group's members originated in Western Europe. By far, the largest number of lines in the study belong to the R1b1b2 haplogroup, the predominant Western European haplogroup. Of the smaller groups, most are reasonably common in Western Europe. I1 appears mostly in Northern Europe, including Scandinavia, Germany, the Low Countries, Norman France and Great Britain. I2b has a similar, but slightly more southerly range. T is very common in parts of Italy and southern Germany. The other small groups may appear more commonly in other areas (R1A in Eastern Europe, E1b1b2 in southeastern Europe and North Africa, J2 in the Mediterranean and Middle East, G in the Caucasus), but sometimes show up in Western Europe. A few Francises show evidence of African or Jewish descent.

Self-reported ancestry of members supports this evidence. Most members are from North America, with a few Australians, Europeans and others. Among these, by far, the largest group reports British -- usually English or Welsh ancestry, although this varies somewhat among the different surnames. The English derivation of the name, combined with an 1891 census showing the distribution of the Francis surname in Great Britain supports this, showing the two largest clusters in Wales around Glamorgan and East England from London extending eastward. British ancestry is not universal among Francises, however. One individual reports descent from a Portuguese named Francisco, who changed his name to Francis; another believes he is descended from a child of German extraction who was adopted by a Francis family; and one claims French ancestry. Others, as mentioned above, show evidence of Jewish or African ancestry.

Among individuals surnamed France, the picture is less clear. According to a genealogist working with one branch of the France line, that particular line is descended from a Swiss individual named Frantz, but has the haplogroup of E1b1b2. Another line is of the R1b1b2a1b5b subgroup of R1b1b2, indicating that he may be related to the Great Northern Irish king, Niall of the Nine Hostages, and possibly of Scots-Irish descent. A third France line has not provided an ancestry but comes from a branch of I2b that is common in Great Britain.

Not surprisingly, both Francoises in the study claim French ancestry. The French in the study claims Irish descent, while the Franciscos do not indicate ancestry, but are probably of Spanish, Italian or Portuguese ancestry.

Where in Britain did the different lines of Francises came from?

So far, there seem to be two large nodes: Eastern England on the one hand, and Wales, Cornwall and southwestern England on the other. The eastern England group seems to be made up primarily of I1s, while R1bs predominate in the west. This is not surprising. I1 is more common in eastern England than any other part of Britain, although even here, it is much less common than R1b. On the other hand, R1b is much more common in the west. Aside from the R1bs and I1s, the only other individual we can place in a part of England is a J2, which comes from Wales.

What lines of Francises have you isolated?

A complete listing of the lines uncovered appears on the groups page.Some lines that we understand reasonably well in terms of both a paper trail and DNA are:

  • The Baltimore Line of Samuel Francis
  • The Wales to Pennsylvania line of Philip Francis
  • The Wethersfield line of Robert Francis, although we can only prove descent genetically to his son, John Francis.

There are several other lines that are reasonably well-documented in terms of paper trail, but do not have enough matches to isolate the DNA signatures, while another cluster has 4 matching individuals, but has not provided much information about its background. For others, we have neither enough paper trail background nor enough matches. Even the Theodore Francis line above is only a sub-group of a major group of Francises that is not yet well-understood.

Contact Us

  • Founder & co-administrator: David Francis

    David Francis founded this project in 2006 to determine whether he and several other men were descended from the Baltimore line of Francises. He lives in Rhode Island and works in the financial services industry.

  • Webmaster & co-administrator: Gregory Francis

    Greg Francis traces his ancestry to the Wethersfield Francises and is very interested in their mysterious relationship to the Wethersfield Roses. He is also the administrator and webmaster for the Dubbels Surname Project.He is a web developer in Denver, Colorado, USA.

Francis and France Lines

France lines

Christian France of Muskingum, OH, USA

Francis Lines

Alfred Francis of New York State, USA
This R1A individual was born around 1813 in New York state. This line carries a 6-marker haplotype that is characteristic of Ashkenazi Jews, according to research by Ellen Levy-Coffman (www.jogg.info/11/coffman.htm). This line, along with the other R1A line, about whom we have no information, are the only two that seem to have this Ashkenazi signature, and are exceptions to the generally British nature of the line. Of course, either line might well have passed through the United Kingdom en route to the United States.
Charles Francis of Louth, Lincolnshire, UK
This I1-AS individual was born around 1850 in Louth, Lincolnshire, U.K.
Evan Francis, William Francis of Kentucky
This R1b1b2 line has five matching members in the project, which makes it tied for the largest group of related individuals in the project, even leaving out a second group of R1b individuals who appear to be slightly more distantly related. Unfortunately, little information has been provided to the project so far. One member claims descent from Evan Francis, who died in Bourbon County, KY after 1820. Another claims descent from William Francis, who was born in Pennsylvania and died in Boone County, KY in 1828. DNA testing has shown that Evan and William were somehow related, but it is not clear how at this time.
George Francis of Kent County, England
This R1b1b2 line descends from an individual born in 1810 in Kent County, England. The family is believed to be descended from an individual with a different surname and a 12/12 match with an individual named Hunt has been discovered.
Henry Francis of Frederick County, MD, USA
Henry Francis was born around 1735. After the apparent death of his father, he, his mother and two brothers were taken in by a Dr. Orlando Griffith. When his mother, Mary Francis died around 1749, the boys were bound to the doctor and stayed with them until their 21st birthdays. Henry served in the Virginia Militia in the 1750s as a private. Later, when the war broke out, he re-joined, fought in many battles and was promoted to captain. He died at the Battle of Shallow Ford in 1780.
Henry Francis of Warwick County, VA, USA
This R1b1b2 line is descended from Henry Francis, born circ 1805 in Warwick or York County, Virginia. The earliest found documentation of Henry was his 1822 Surry County, Virginia marriage to Polly Taylor. He first appeared in the census as Head of Household in Surry County, Virginia in 1830. Henry Francis died without a will in 1851 in the Southwark Parish of Surry County. It is believed his father was John or Thomas Francis, Revolutionary War pensioners of Virginia.
John Francis of Cornwall, UK (1)
The earliest known descendant of one of the members of one of the project's largest groups. He is related to Micajah Francis and John Francis of Campbell County, VA, but not, apparently, to the other John Francis of Cornwall.
John Francis(2) & Ann Robert of Cornwall, UK
This R1b1b2a line descends from John, who was was born about 1811. He married Ann in 1837 and six of their eight children immigrated from the Channel Islands to New York City in 1853. One of them, Robert, was born in Guernsey, the Channel Islands.
John Francis of Campbell County, Virginia
This R1b1b2 line goes back to John Francis of Campbell City, Virginia and died in 1792. His date of birth is controversial. He is related to Micajah Francis, Thomas Francis of England, and the first John Francis of Cornwell.
Leon Albert Francis of London
This R1b1b2 line descends from Leon Francis, born in 1846, in Lambeth, London, England. He was said to be the son of a French surgeon traveling on a French ship, but was raised by the Green family, which seems to have been his mother's. He founded a successful London company of Quantity Surveyors and died in 1928.
Matthew Francis
Matthew Francis was born in TyrellSpeth, Westmouth, Ireland in 1768. His son, Daniel (1810-1867), emigrated to Boston. Daniel is the grandfather of the American poet, Robert Francis. As far as we know, this line has not been tested.
Micajah Francis
Earliest known descendant of one member of one of the largest R1b lines, Micajah Francis was born in Halifax, VA, some time around 1790 and died before 1849.
Philip Francis - Wales to Pennsylvania
This R1b1b2 line is descended from Philip Francis, who was born in 1853 in Danville, Montour County, PA, USA. His parents were Welsh immigrants. His father was descended from Lewis Thomas, who was born about 1650, in Glamorgan, Wales (probably St. Fagans) and died Sept 1690 in S. Fagans. He hade one known child, Francis THOMAS who also used the name, Francis LEWIS. Francis THOMAS/LEWIS was born about 1675 possibly in St. George-super-Ely, Glamorgan, Wales. He had at least four sons and three daughters. The three daughters adopted the LEWIS surname. One son, Francis, adopted the THOMAS surname. Another son, William adopted the FRANCIS surname, and two sons, Lewis and John, also adopted the FRANCIS surname but used it interchangeably with the FRANK surname.
Robert Francis & Joanne Sibberance of Wethersfield, Connecticut
Robert Francis was born in 1627, 1628 or 1629 depending on the source, probably in Norwich, Norfolk, England, probably the son of John Francis and Elizabeth Browne(dates unknown), who married in 1613 at St. Peter Mancroft Church in Norwich. All records of his voyage to North America are lost, but he does show up in the town records of Wethersfield, CT in the 1640s. Several members of the study have proven descent from his son, John, via DNA testing through three grandsons. Important members of this line include Simeon Francis, newspaper editor, Civil War paymaster, and political advisor to Abraham Lincoln; Capt. John Francis, a sea captain and famous housebuilder in the Hartford area. This is an I1a3a1a West Germanic line.
Samuel & Ann Francis of Baltimore County, Maryland, USA
This I1-N line is descended from Samuel and Ann Francis of Baltimore, who lived in Baltimore, MD soon after the American Revolution. This study has identified a string of genetic markers common to the descendants of this couple called a modal haplotype in four men.
Thomas Francis of England
The earliest ancestor of this line is believed to be Thomas Francis, who was born somewhere in England in 1655. He emigrated to the New World, where his son, Henry, was born around 1700 in Henry, VA. He is related to Micajah Francis, the first John Francis of Cornwall, and John Francis of Campbell County, VA. Click here for marker information.
Thomas H. Francis of Pike County, Kentucky
Thomas H. Francis (haplogroup E1b1b1) lived in western Virginia in the 18th century and is reported to be the ancestor of all Francises in Pike County, KY. One descendant of this line was Washington Vance, who was born around 1815 in Kentucky and was adopted into the Vance family (Irish R1b).
Thomas & Phebe Francis of Wales and Australia
This J2b line descends from Thomas Francis, who was born in Wales in 1806 and died in South Australia some time between 1857-1871.
Thomas Francis of Southhampton County, Virginia, USA
This untested line descends from Thomas Francis(1716-66). A descendant of his, Nathaniel Francis, was a slaveowner, who lost much of his family in the Nat Turner slave rebellion of 1831. Nathaniel's pregnant wife escaped, however, and bore a son, William Samuel Francis, on Sept 27, 1831.
Thomas Layland Francis
This J2 line descends from an individual who was born in 1886.
Woodson Francis of Missouri, USA
This I2b line line descends from an individual who was born around 1785 and died in Missouri in 1835.