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Newsletter 97.1.2

To see full list of articles in this Summer '98 Issue, Click Here
X-Genes as Related to Prentice, Prentis and Prentiss Toe Numbers
By L. J. Dewald, Editor

In our Winter '97 Issue, we reported an interesting study relating to a possible correlation between women having a damaged second X chromosome, or only a single X chromosome, and the manner in which it may affect the spelling of our surname as PRENTICE, PRENTIS or PRENTISS. (Naming Gene) (See Fn. 1)

One of our correspondents has directed our attention to a previously unknown supposed side-effect of such gene irregularity: the number of toes produced.

As in our earlier study, we conducted a survey among our correspondents as to those who had knowledge of their X chromosome structure, or, in the case of men, the X structure of their mothers.  In order to minimize the number of variables, we limited our survey to descendants of Valentine Prentice. Understandably, all were quite sensitive to intrusive questions and provided information only upon receiving a firm committment that all data would be mainained in srictest confidence.

For those families in which the mother had two X chromosomes, just as there was a very high correlation with the spelling of the surname as Prentice, the number of toes resulting was always the standard ten toes (five per foot).

However, interestingly, in those families in which women had only a single X chromosome, just as they tended to spell the name Prentis, there was also a variation in the number of toes produced: there tended to be at least one extra toe, sometimes on the left foot, and sometimes on the right.

Finally, in those families in which women had a damaged second X chromosome and tended to spell the name Prentiss, there was an even more marked differentiation. Not only were there extra toes, but the number of toes seemed to have a direct, positive correlation to the number of generations in which they had spelled their surname as Prentiss. The largest number of toes were found in a family in which they had spelled the name Prentiss for the past eight generations: there were a total of 18 toes, eight on the left foot and ten on the right.

Whether there is a direct cause-and-effect relationship, however, is not entirely free of doubt. One of the main contributors to this article, Lydia Prentiss, has expressed some conern that no genetic linkage between the two has ever been found, nor has it been established that having excess toes is a sex-inherited trait. After pointing out that any such connection ought to be substantiated, she suggested that a geneological pedigree indicating affected family members would be a good way to determine the mode of inheritance. It could be an autosomal dominant with incomplete penetrance.

Further, such a relationhship, if it truly exists, may indicate a larger kaleidoscope syndrome. This may explain the completly unusual skip of three generations in a family line, although incomplete penetrance may also explain that.

Excess toes have been known to occur in a non-typical fashion as part of various syndromes with symptoms which can include cleft palat, anal fisure, mental retardation and nail abnormalities, although further discussion of such syndromes in the Prentis and Prentiss families is not within the scope of this article and perhaps should be covered in more detail in a later issue of our Newsletter.

A related article, Genes, Surnames and Toes, considers other aspects of the possible interrelationship between genes, spelling of the surname, Prentiss, and extra digits, including the issue whether the excess toe problem existed prior to, or subsequent to, the immigration of the various families to America.

If you have any comments, other than that the researcher must have toes for brains, we would enjoy hearing from you.  You may contact us at dewald@prenticenet.com..


  • Footnote 1: Lydia Prentiss, one of our fellow researchers, did express strong doubts as to the possibility of a "naming gene." She relates the X chromosome is passed in a criss-cross mode of inheritance: father > daughter > son >daughter >son. In such instance, it could not be passed on with a surname for more than two generations.

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