Guthrie Genealogy




There seem to be many versions of the tale of the Three Brothers Guthrie: Robert, James, and John who were from a family of ironmongers in Edinburgh, Scotland. Just how much truth exists in the old family story is anyone's guess, but traditional research only leads to that old brick wall. DNA is providing a method of proving and disproving which Guthrie lines belong to the same large Guthrie Family Group 2 tree and which don't. More specifically, it is providing a detailed look at which Guthrie lines belong to the same branch. 

The Branch I lineages remain underrepresented in the DNA Project. Read more about 'The Three Brothers Theory'.

THE DNA PROJECT: Guthrie Family Group 2A - Branch I - Cluster 1 - Three Brothers Theory

GENETIC MATCHES:  William Glen Guthrie (WG) 

Participant WG has a well-documented lineages back to James Guthrie & Ann _____ of Brandywine Township, Chester County, PA, one of the presumed sons of James Guthrie & Miss Bissell. 

CLUSTER 1: The Three Brothers Theory

WGG has the genetic marker value of 15 at DYS534, which matches the majority of the MD/PA Group (Clusters 1-4).

He has been placed amongst the "Cluster 1" subgroup because of the Guthrie/Bissell connection to the Three Brothers Theory, and because his ancestors are directly associated with Brandywine Township and potentially to Connecticut where other Cluster 1 lineages lived. 

WGG does not have 'Mode DNA' as do some of the other Cluster 1 lineages. On a 111-marker DNA test, WGG has 4 genetic variances from Mode DNA. 3 are completely random and not shared by any other participant. The 4th is shared by 1 other participant from Cluster 2. This is also likely to be a random change rather than being the sign of a pattern marker.


We have 2 participants in the DNA Project who trace their lineage back to Thomas Guthrie 1744-1837, another presumed son of James Guthrie & Miss Bissell. They are fairly close cousins whose most recent common ancestor is Richard LeRoy Guthrie 1879MO-1946AR (Musedora Page). Their DNA does not match the MD/PA Group or any other Guthrie Family Group. Analysis of their genetic matches suggests a likelihood of a paternal event or adoption involving a male of the Vaughn surname. After searching through census records we discovered that there is indeed a Vaughn neighbor living near Thomas Guthrie Jr 1775-1848 during the period of the 1810 census. The child in question, William D. Guthrie, was born in 1817. This is only supposition at this point.

Further DNA testing of the Thomas Jr line is recommended to determine the point at which this genetic break occurred.

In the meantime, descendants of Thomas Guthrie & Mildred Howell's other sons should consider DNA testing to verify your MD/PA Group Lineage. If Thomas Sr was indeed a brother to James Guthrie 1731-1799, then the DNA should match the MD/PA Group. 

We also have have 1 other participant who traces his lineage back to Robert Guthrie 1752-1815, another presumed son of James Guthrie & Miss Bissell. Like the two men above, his DNA does not match any established Guthrie group. Unlike them, his DNA does not match one specific surname or have one overwhelmingly recurrent surname. The closest comparative match within the Guthrie Groups is GFG4, which descends from its ancient Viking/Scandanavian origins from Haplogroup I1. However, beyond those ancient commonalities, there are too many differences compared to the GFG4 folks to call them a confirmed match. Chances are this participant descends from a paternal event or adoption at some point in his lineage. Again, unlike the men above, there is no hint as to which generation this might have occurred. To clear up this mystery, we will need a Y-DNA test from at least 1 more Guthrie male descendant of Robert Guthrie for comparison. Those of you who descend from female Guthries of this line can compare Family Finder Tests to see if you match others from a specific group.


References to James Guthrie and Miss Bissell/Bussell can be found all over the internet and documented in online and published family trees.

One problem.

There doesn't seem to be any proof that James Guthrie actually existed.

James Guthrie and his equally elusive wife, the unknown Miss Bissell/Bussell, are briefly mentioned in American Guthrie and Allied Families, by author Laurence R Guthrie, as the progenitor of this particular Guthrie branch. So, for the purposes of gathering more information, we'll leave the Guthrie/Bissell pairing listed until some actual evidence comes along.

If you are a direct paternal descendant of this Guthrie line, we need your DNA to work out some of these relationship questions.

James Guthrie is identified as one of the triad of men in the "Three Brothers Theory", which states that John, Robert, and James Guthrie came to America from Scotland and/or Ireland. The brothers reportedly arrived in Boston first, then moved on to Connecticut, with Robert and James moving into Pennsylvania.

Descendants associated with the lineages of the 'Three Brothers' match Guthrie Family Group 2A, so DNA does prove that they all shared a common ancestor. Does this prove the theory to be completely factual? It cannot prove on its own that John, Robert & James actually existed and that they were brothers. However, it does not rule out the possibility that the theory could be correct. [UPDATE: DNA of 2 descendants of Thomas Guthrie/Mildred Howell does not match GFG2A. They have been designated 2B. Likely evidence of a paternal event. Research & DNA evidence suggests it could have occurred in the generation of Thomas Guthrie Jr. So we still need a Thomas/Mildred representative descending from a different son to prove/disprove a connection to GFG2A.]

Proof of the brothers' existence must be established. This means finding some original documentation. Unfortunately, when you get back to these early generations where documentation gets pretty thin and all that is left are family rumors it can become very difficult to weed out the fact from the fiction. Due to the very common usage of the names James, Robert and John by the Guthrie family it is also often difficult to differentiate the disposition of various documents as belonging to one man versus another.

DNA can tell us whether the presumed sons of James Guthrie & Miss Bissell are genetically related and whether their descendants have any shared genetic markers that hint toward a closer relationship, something that might suggest that their ancestors might have been siblings.

In the meantime, this line needs a lot of traditional genealogical research. The Documents section here at Guthrie Genealogy includes scans of all Guthrie Deeds for Chester County, PA available to download. Look under the Family History Research category. 

Follow the links for detailed ancestor pages, timelines and collected research.



James Guthrie 1731-1799 m. Ann_________. Lived in Brandywine Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania. Children: James, Ann, Sarah, William, John.

William Guthrie 1735-1829. Lived in Washington Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. Was this man childless or did he have a family?

Thomas Guthrie 1744-1837 m. Mildred Howell. Lived in Cumberland County, PA, Fauquier County, VA, and Woodford County, KY. 

Robert Guthrie 1752-1815 m. Elizabeth Jane Caldwell. Lived in Washington County, Pennsylvania, and Cadiz, Harrison County, Ohio.