Barnum Family Genealogy: 1350 to the Present

Barnum Family DNA Project

 –Remember, DNA is the Gene in Genealogy –


Project Surnames:

BARNUM                                BARNHAM                                BARNAM

Project Goals and Objectives

Tracing family roots has traditionally relied on using genealogical records — including certificates of births, marriages, deaths, etc. — which allow the tracing of relationships using surnames that are passed down through the male line. But recent advances in DNA analysis have offered a new possibility—that of tracing our ancestors through the sequence of DNA markers that make up the alphabet of our genetic code.

A word of caution is necessary about the aims of genetic genealogy. Sometimes the aim of those wanting a test is to fill a void in their personal history; others have wanted to complete a genealogical search of their family, a hunt that may have come to a dead-end using conventional paper trails. Several companies now offer a large selection of DNA tests that attempt to locate a person’s racial or ethnic origin or to find genetic factors shared by people with the same surnames. All use tests based on analyzing the Y-chromosomes of men. The problem is that, although such tests may indicate a degree of relatedness, they do not provide accurate information on how far back the common ancestor lived.


The main purpose of the Barnum Family DNA Project is to provide an opportunity for males with the Barnum surname to participate in a DNA test of the Y-chromosome sequence for genealogical purposes. Female Barnum descendants are encouraged to participate by having a close male Barnum relative take the test. When we find a match of the Y-chromosome DNA sequence between two or more participants, we will have found a genetic link to a common ancestor. With good family history documentation and research added to the DNA test, it may be possible to determine who that ancestor was.


Another purpose of DNA testing is to enable certain members of the Brown family to confirm their Barnum ancestry. Eli Bearss Barnum (b. 1795) changed his surname to Brown in later life. As a consequence of that name change, there are persons bearing the surname Brown who may be able to trace their ancestry through him to the Barnum family.

We would like to have at least two participants from each of the major Barnum lines of descent that have been thoroughly researched and documented. So, the first goal will be to obtain reliable grouping of the samples taken.  Each group will be built by matching similar DNA sequences. Independent research should show that each “group” has a common ancestor. The grouping should help to determine to which genetic subgroup each of the four sons of the immigrant ancestor Thomas belongs.


The surname Barnum has a very limited population. I am the unofficial Barnum family historian internationally and have been tracing the Barnum family for nearly 50 years. I hope that the results of DNA testing will help to confirm what that research indicates — that all Barnums in America descend from a single ancestor who arrived in the American Colonies in 1640. Through diligent genealogical research, following the paper trail, we have been able to determine that at least 2 of the 4 sons born to the immigrant ancestor have male descendants living today. Because of the small population of Barnums available to us, we have actually made a large penetration into the group even with our small number of family members. Because we have a well-researched genealogy, we are able to pick participants to represent separate lines who descend from these 2 brothers. In addition to confirming that descent, it is hoped that DNA testing of participants from various “orphan” generations will confirm their relationship to one or the other of the two remaining sons of the immigrant ancestor whose lines of descent have not yet been documented down to the present.

Therefore, one of the goals here is to split the fine lines between the genetic groupings. Perhaps this will enable us to focus future research upon the specific Barnum lines to which “orphan” families most likely belong.

Another goal should be produced as a side effect, that being to help verify the country of origin of the immigrant ancestor, Thomas, and determine those of his earlier ancestors.

A similar side effect should be that this testing will enable us to determine Native American and African American ancestors. Although all Barnum lines presume descent from England, there exist some Barnum descendants who believe that they are of Native American or African American descent. This is something that, eventually, we should be able to verify.

For example, if your ancestor was an African-American slave who took on the Barnum surname after gaining freedom, three participants in that line would establish the haplogroup to which the family belongs. That haplogroup then can provide clues as to the original ancestral lines in Africa, allowing an informed search for earlier, non-Barnum ancestors.

Later, we will be able to determine the Most Recent Common Ancestor, which may tell us something about our paleo-Barnum ancestors who first arrived in Europe.


Our main interest here, of course, is to split the fine lines of our more recent ancestors and allow “brick walls” in Barnum paper-based genealogy to be overcome.


A Research Guide to the Genealogy of the Barnum/Barnam/Barnham Family Worldwide

The information on this site is developed and maintained by Patrick Barnum

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