TWO leading branches of Clan Campbell are actually unrelated, according to genetic profiling by Scots researchers.

Scientists at the University of Strathclyde identified the genetic profile of the Campbells of Glenorchy and concluded it is a separate line to the Campbells of Argyll.

Alasdair Macdonald and Graham Holton, from the Strathclyde Institute for Genealogical Studies (SIGS), are leading the project.

The Campbells of Glenorchy are a family descended from Sir Duncan Campbell, 2nd Lord of Glenorchy, who died at the Battle of Flodden in 1513.

They said this is a separate line to the Campbells of Argyll, whose descent is from the first Lord Campbell, also Sir Duncan Campbell, who died in 1453.

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Strathclyde University explained in a release that the study used the Y chromosome, which can only be passed directly down the male line from father to son, to identify that descendants of Duncan Campbell of Glenorchy are defined by a genetic marker called R-Y33315.

Macdonald said: “Dating of marker R-Y33315 suggests that the common ancestor of those who carry the marker was born around 1500.

“Another, smaller branch, defined by the marker R-Y130955, and also carrying the name Campbell, probably branched off a little earlier, with these two branches having a common ancestor defined by the marker R-BY23069 around 1150.

“The Campbells of Glenorchy and the Campbells of Argyll share a marker called R-L1065, but the common ancestor lived around the third century.

“To all intents and purposes, these two major families named Campbell are not genealogically related but it is not yet certain why the Campbells of Glenorchy carry a different genetic marker, and so have a different male-line ancestry, from the Campbells of Argyll.

“An ancestor of the Campbells of Glenorchy may have adopted the name Campbell out of loyalty in the 13th century, but how did one or perhaps more members of this family come to be accepted as sons of Duncan Campbell, the first Lord Campbell?”

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Holton said: “It could be that this acceptance happened due to illegitimacy but this might be too simplistic, as the Campbell branch which carries the R-Y130955 marker shared the same progenitor as the Glenorchys. This line traces back to Kenmore on Loch Fyne but may have moved there earlier from Perthshire. The common ancestor between this branch and the Glenorchys was a man who lived around 1150.

“This date may be firmed up by further testing of documented descendants, but it is clear that there was a major family named Campbell, genetically different to the Campbells of Argyll, in existence from the earliest days of fixed surnames.”

Anyone who may be able to assist the research project by having a documented descent, or by commenting on the current findings, is invited to contact Holton or Macdonald at SIGS. An article detailing the initial findings is to be published shortly in West Highland Notes and Queries.