Question of the Week: Has Y-chromosome DNA testing helped you with surname research?

+59 votes

Note that if you're researching a surname using Y-DNA, there are a couple of features here at WikiTree that can be very valuable:

If using DNA for genealogy is new to you, check out the Getting Started with DNA on WikiTree tutorial.

in The Tree House by Julie Ricketts G2G6 Pilot (440k points)
retagged by Abby Glann
Stone Family Association has a dna project on the internet, recording a large group of Kit numbers dys color coded with individual tested y dna markers, easily found in a google search.  The recorded finds are playing havoc with my well documented, proven ancestors.  For example: William Stone 1608-1683, yellow coded, kit numbers 60829, N80630, haplo group R-M269 has a y-dna profile, also in the same dys color coded, R-M269 is listed a profile on Capt. Simon Stone 2 Jun 1770-23 Dec 1818, kit # 246815 with matching dys markers, his wife Charlotte Hall 1771-1818, dau. of Asa Hall 1752-1825.  This Simon Stone 1770-1818 is a descendant of immigrants Simon 1585 and Gregory Stone 1592, children of David Stone (married twice 1. Elizabeth, 2. Ursula).  These are two different Stone families, un proven to be related.  Now this William Stone 1608-1683 has a brother John 1610-1687, signers of "The 1639 Covenant, New Haven Colony", and William's markers are the same as Eusebius Stone wiki Stone-1692.  Go Figure ???-May I Trust Results?

Hi Joan, I'm confused by what you've written. My son-in-law is a descendant of Eusebius Stone-1692. His DNA test information is displayed on the Stone-1692 profile. As far as I know, Eusebius Stone-1692 is not a descendant of William Stone-70 and Verlinda Graves-36. WikiTree doesn't show that they're related.

I assume the 'Stone Family Association' your refer to is the Family Tree DNA Stone surname project at

On that project's page, kit #s 60829 and N80630 show they are descended from William Stone-1398 and are in R-M269 group B.  Kit #246815 is alone in group R-M269 group ZE, descended from Simon Stone (1769-1818) who doesn't appear to have a WikiTree profile. Two of the descendants of Eusebius Stone-1692, kits #142048 and #838135, have profiles on WikiTree. Kit #142048 is in group R-M269 group H and I'm working with the Stone project to see that Kit #838135 is added to that group. These men are in different groups because they don't share common Stone ancestors (in a genealogical time frame).

You asked if you can "Trust Results". Yes, you can. yDNA is an excellent way to sort out different families with common last names like Stone. (My mother's maiden name is Smith, and I've had great success sorting out Smith men who could have been confused with one another.) I can see that your maiden name is Stone, but your 'private' privacy level doesn't allow me to see how you're related to any of these Stone families. I'd be happy to work with you to help you sort out how to use yDNA for your Stone family. Please reply either here, or send me a private message. 

Hi Graham, I’m sorry for your experience. I can say that I know how you feel though. We found out (with my brother’s y-DNA results) that our paternal family name isn’t Wylie. I was stunned and had a terrible time with that information at first. That was a few months ago, and I’ve come to terms with it for the most part. But now I have this massive brick wall mystery surrounding our ‘true’ genetic surname. I’ll always identify as a Wylie, just can’t help but be curious about the other name though. I know this sort of thing is common, but I haven’t bumped into others who had the same experience yet. Feel free to message me if you’d like. It’d be nice to talk with others who can relate on the unexpected surname surprise after testing DNA.
Joan I've got these Stone ancestors  in my direct line. Can you provide a web address for their study? Thanks so much.   Leigh Anne
Thank you for the Stone study web address. I need to upload my deceased brother's son (my nephew) YDNA as we're from William atte Stone.  My bro. died unexpectedly with the DNA kit on his to do list. :-(
Y-DNA testing definitely helped in my case, confirming my pedigree as a Blankenship, and putting me closer to determining the father of my 3rd great grandfather, and thus taking it all the way back to emigration. I think I've got him, but it will take a little more testing by a few more people to be certain. Anyway, I'm close, and closer than I have ever been previously. An entry in the DNA project for our most distant ancestor, well, 12 through 67 markers, and we're an exact match. I upgrade to 111 markers, and we're a match at a genetic distance of 1. We're still the closest match of all the others in this group in the project. Like I was saying.
Having recently upgraded to BigY, now 700 markers, you enter a whole new and exciting ball game. Well worth the cost if you can afford it. Our group has 22 Y37 matches and we are encouraging them all to join the DF27 project. Only 3 700 testers so far, with several in the pipeline, and already SNPs are giving indicative dates of when the different surnames split - before patronymic names were introduced. Insufficient testers yet to split my surname group over the last say 5-15 generations, but working on it.
Lately, we've been using autosomal DNA to isolate other families that might have YDNA test subjects.
Our surname family of Bailey through the FamilyTreeDNA Y-700 testing has now confirmed our Ternimal SNP matched to two other Bailey/ Bailie’s. Our Baileys immigrated in the early to mid 1700’s to South Carolina. My 6th great-Grandfather’s  last name is listed on the land Grant as Bayley as is his brother’s. He was “known to be from Scotland. Several spellings of our surname are found. We are now told that we are confirmed with this Ternimal SNP, we are all three “Bailie” until we test the line of the immigrated “Baillie” or the perfect person willing to test.

I have had this same situation.  Been researching my Webb family line & been at a brick wall for years.  Took the Y37 test at FamilyTreeDNA, and it shows that I match 37 of 37 markers to descendants of a one William Adkins, b. 1689 VA.  Had a rough time with it too.  Will share more if U wanna email me:

157 Answers

+30 votes
After my 2nd great grandfather Thomas Goodman was killed in 1906, several papers reported his last name was Goodwin and that he came from a well-known Goodwin family in the area. Indeed his father did list his last name as Goodwin on his first marriage certificate, but all my research showed that they were descendants of an Arthur Goodman who settled in the Hart County, Kentucky area by 1813 from Virginia . My Y-DNA test confirmed that we are in fact Goodmans and most likely descendants of Benjamin Goodman who arrived in Maryland in the late 1600s and died in Virginia in 1735. Our Arthur Goodman's exact lineage to Benjamin is unclear, and all of my closest Y-DNA matches also hit brick walls in the late 1700s/early 1800s. So the Y-DNA test helped link my Goodman family to our first colonial American ancestor but so far has not been useful in establishing our lineage from Benjamin to my 5th great grandfather Arthur.
by Jacob Goodman G2G5 (6.0k points)
As told to my father by a local Goodman......."Mr Carey, in the old days everyone was named Goodman, but to keep the name, you had to "live up" to the name.   Pretty soon a Goodman got caught for horse stealing and he changed his name to Smith.   Another Goodman ran off with another man's wife and he changed his name to Swain.   Mr Carey, there's only a few of us remaining."
Yes living up to your family name was terribly important, I can remember it being dragged up every time I commited a misdemeaner as a child just remember dear you are a Douglas and Douglases dont do that. (Obviously she didn't read our history they did much worse things) However she told me when she was growing up it was remember you are a Stewart and a Royal Stuart they have a reputation to uphold greatgreatgrandmother(obviously never read history either) However I have found in research murder in a family branch and there is a quick name change for the others and often emigration to another country. Not to mention running away with the maid, the shop assistant, a cousin, your relatives wife or an attractive person totally out of your social class both male and female. I have found them all and suspect that no matter how peculiar the reason a name change appears to be there is always a darn good reason.
So amazing, Heather!--What tools did you use to find in your families' lines  all the unlikelihoods above?  These are like the mysteries that people tend to cover up, and we are all so curious about them in our own families !!
I stumble upon them by accident in newspapers also a lot of the time or comments like. But thats not our real family name it should be XXXXXXX then I check it out to find out why? or things like "the family never aproved of that marriage so then I wonder why? I even found an online photograph of a family group last week hoping to give to a relation but on the bottom was written. The one sitting XXXXX from the front they all disowned her after that! so then you think what was that? However other family members have made me promise not to put their branch on. I have honoured that but discovered somewhere else someone has done it anyway. All families have black sheep or secrets and generally I let sleeping dogs lie.
Thanks, Heather. You're more the True Detective and truly (in a good way) suspicious. I must learn to think anew, I suppose.
"Sleeping dogs" turn family trees topsy-turvy.
One lying naughty granny can mean that your Smiths are really Jones, and another naughty granny can switch your Jones back to Smith.

"TOO funny, Jim Yates" as old timers would have said, but really, your first line earns "lineage royalty," Jim, No kidding!

    Anyone remember the name for it????

I propose this song as theme music for this thread.....
+21 votes
My surname is Thomson and I have contact with a relative with whom I share DNA with our common ancestor being a Thomson born 1739.

Most of my Y-DNA matches have the surname Williamson.

This supports my Norse Viking Y-DNA as the surnames on the Orkney and Shetland Islands were not fixed until around 1830.
by Colin Thomson G2G3 (3.1k points)
My mothers surname - Tulloch - is widespread on Orkney and dates back to the 1300s. My understanding is that Norse origin surnames became regularly handed down in Orkney from the 1600s.
+25 votes
When I considered joining WikiTree, I noticed that there was another Lavoie family on the site that had already done Y chromosome testing.  Comparing trees, I noted that we only shared in common the Québécois pioneer ancestor René de la Voye (1628-1696).  My lineage runs through his first son René, while their lineage runs through the second son, Jean François.

This meant that testing could establish paternity going back about 10 generations on each side.  I received my results back within a couple months of joining the site, and was pleased to find a convincing match between the two families.

I should add that there weren't any suspected non-paternity events in my lineage, so this wasn't going to resolve any deep mysteries about my paternal background.  That said, it was still great to see DNA being put to use to establish paternity across so many generations.
by Greg Lavoie G2G6 Pilot (347k points)

By you matching your cousin's Y DNA you did him and you a big favor. Up till that time you were probably from the same line. Now you know for sure. Be thankful that there were no NPEs. They are almost impossible to figure them out.

I just recently joined, added my Big-Y and DNA-Y 37 results and very quickly authenticated into Greg and the other Lavoie's connection.  I was able to validate two points on my Lavoie lineage which just builds a stronger case.  Thanks to trailblazers, your subsequent cousins may find things a bit easier down the road!
Bravo!, Phil, Bravo!!
+21 votes
MY answer is: Yes! Absolutely! I have a lot to tell. PARKER Y-DNA GROUP #1. Anyone in this group, please contact me!
by Kathy Jo Bryant G2G6 Mach 1 (16.0k points)
+22 votes
I have submitted a Y-DNA67 test for  first my cousin Bill Dietrich at Family tree DNA and the big Y at FTDNA.  Our Dietrich family are haplogroup E-M35, sub-clade E-BY4543.  Has this helped  for finding our Dietrich ancestors beyond what my genealogical research has already found?  No, it has not!.  It has only created new questions for me as to the origins of our family in Germany. Our closest Y DNA matches were from Dresden, Saxony, and yet our ancestors emigrated to Hungary about 1786.  Most of the Lutheran Germans that emigrated to the Batschka were from the Alsace and from the Pfalz.  I've not found any yet from Saxony.

So what is important to understand about Y-DNA results is that often the matches can be from thousands of years ago.  This is not very helpful for genealogical purposes. Most of my matches are not Dietrich. Of cours,e this may or may not mean anything.

From my experience, autosomal DNA is much for useful as a genetic genealogy tool.  Especial the Ancestry DNA test, since they by far the largest data base of testers   I have found many important clues through my test and the tests of my siblings.  Of course the problem with all of these DNA tests is the reliability of the information provided by those that have tested.  Many have no trees attached.  And those that do, I personally question some of the accuracy.  Also when submitting questions to those DNA cousins, most don't respond.  Many of those that do, know less about our common ancestors than I do.

Anyway, for what its worth, this has been my experience.
by Kelly Dazet G2G4 (4.2k points)
Well I noticed with my husbands Y that the people who had put trees seemed to go back to William the Conqueror trusted 15 gentlemen as I read somewhere a long time ago that those he brought with him were relatives, that although you couldn't totally trust your relatives in those days. Other people were even less trustwothy and easily bought. However what really annoys me even more is people who put up a tree and then ban everyone from looking at it. I thought relationship was sharing and give and take.
Almost every white person goes back to William the Conqueror.   Those that don't just haven't thought it out.

A bright retort, Kelly Dazet !  but that gives more answers isn't as impressive as you might think. That GM site advertises heavily on television, garnering more visibility than other sites, alas.

Smarter, more careful genealogists get onto other sites is my bet.

::-)  Thanks Roberta.  Actually I'm not sure how many smarter, more careful genealogists use or are interested in DNA and genetic genealogy.  Don't think it matters which testing company. Most who have submitted their DNA with any of these companies are only interested in their ethnicity estimate, not in finding clues through cousin matching. Some are looking for an unknown biological parent/s.  

Of course what I have written here is just my personal opinion based on my experiences. I've tested or uploaded my DNA now with FTDNA, Ancestry DNA, MyHeritage DNA and Living DNA. and well as GEDmatch.  

So far, of the four companies, I like MyHeritage and Ancestry the best.  MyHeritage because they have the best tools and the most people testing in the countries of my research interests, mainly Germany, Ireland and Norway. Ancestry because of the number of cousin matches and useful clues that i've found so far.  Also have the feeling they are the most accurate (though I have no proof that that is a fact). But their tools are poor, they don't provide matching of cousin more distant that 4th and I don't think they are interest in listing to suggestions on imporvements.

GM?  General Motors? is a technology service provider.  I assume you mean Ancestry DNA.


I suppose some people are concerned with privacy, though also some just don't want to share all the time, effort and expense they have put into their research, though they should probably then just keep their family tree's in computer software and not online. Someone has  traced their family back to William the Conqueror?  1066? I feel lucky to have traced family into the 1700s,  I don't follow the 15 gentlemen statement. not sure what you are saying. Our Y DNA test matches are probably from ancestors 800 to 2000 years ago, which is for my research, not so useful.
Personally I suspect by only five generations we all have a relationship, because of those huge families, imagine winning a prize for having the most children in the country! Certainly it saved the government a lot of money paying for emigration. As in hardly more than a decade the females were ready to procreate again and the males into the workforce, after having already worked their butt off at home or on the family farm anyway, as a type of unpaid apprentiship.

By that time also they were almost fodder for testing the new types of weaponry invented anyway.

You win some you lose some and here we are.

:-) Ok, I think reading into your social/economic/political comments you are saying that 5 generations is about max for the reliability of Y DNA staying with the surname family line, because of NPEs (non paternal events) or "hanky-panky"  on the part of our ancestors.  Of course I have no idea if that could be true for the majority of our families.  I can only say that in the past, the church was extremely important to our ancestors. In other words they were "God fearing", so I wonder how often NPEs occured.  I'm sure they did, just not as often as in today's world.  Babies were baptized soon after birth, because often they did not survive and parents wanted to be sure if they did not survive their souls would ascend -- because of the importance to them of God and church. However if my family research is correct, there could have been an NPE at about 6 generations.  But Y-DNA is telling me my research is incorrect! :-)
+18 votes
YDNA testing can be very helpful when you have a common surname. My grandfather and his cousins in both Illinois and Tennessee consistently claimed that "Ford" was the anglicized version of a French name, and we did have circumstantial evidence to link us to the Faures of Manakintown, Virginia. But there were many different Ford families living in Virginia, the Carolinas, and Tennessee in the 1700s and early 1800s, often quite near one another, so YDNA testing was an obvious choice for us. We were lucky in that my brother did closely match a group of Fords and Fores who appear to be descended from the Faures of Manakintown. Unfortunately, we've been unable to find a Ford/Fore male to test who has a solid paper trail aaall the way back to Jacques. (I'm beginning to wonder if anyone really does!)
by S. Ford G2G6 (6.3k points)
+15 votes
I orderrd the FTDNA Y37 test in hopes that it would help me extend my paternal CASTIGLIA line in Palermo Province, Sicily. After about two months, I received results that included six matches with varying genetic diatances. None of the matches were Southern European, let alone Sicilian/Italian. It appears our common ancestors were from the Arabian Peninsula  thousands of years ago. I hope to find more matches as the databasee grows. Autosomal tests have been much more useful for confirming my research.
I think you have to understand the history of your background to understand your results people those families came from small populations that had lived in isolated areas and kept marrying within that community or the new community they shifted to can expect a straight line back with little deviation. Others like my Border Raiders whose livelihood was rape and pillage and the women entertained the raiders so the men could get the cattle to a safe place certainly couldn't. Others in the family that were presecuted for generations and had to shift from pillar to post changing surnames as they went a pretty good reason for that, also. The naming systems in different countries for instance where the surnames were taken from the mother how complex is that? Or living on islands where you had no surnames at all just a first name and when you shifted to a larger continent either made one up yourself or the customs officer made one up for you. So you could be either Tom Dick or Harry where-ever you came in the Q
y-DNA matches reveal cousins with whom you share a common paternal ancestor.   y-DNA doesn't reveal ancestors because your match's tree may be total fiction......and yours too.

+18 votes
It's worth people paying attention to what DNA tests come with Y-DNA included. 23andme does, correct me if I'm wrong, AncestryDNA doesn't.
by David Roberts G2G Crew (740 points)
Living DNA does too, and I was very impressed with how deep the haplogroup information they provided.  It was much better than any of the FTDNA STR tests, which I also have (Y111).
How can anyone know which company's results is more accurate?   If one company's results fits what you're looking for, then naturally you're more happy with that company.

The old saying is, "If you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail."
Living DNA provided a quality yDNA result that exactly matched my FTDNA results, as far as it went, to R-L257.  Their result was much deeper than the STR predictive haplogroup, deeper than the M269 pack, and well into the Z18 pack, stopping only 2 SNP's from my FTDNA result.  That's a very good result.  Their mtDNA haplogroup exactly matched my FTDNA Full Sequence result, except it didn't report the extra mutations.  That's also a very good, quality result, but not as good as FTDNA.  Their autosomal test was equivalent to the rest.  So for far cheaper ($99 currently I believe) than FTDNA, I got as good or almost as good a result on all 3 tests.

As far as I can, I avoid subjective analysis, try to be strictly data driven.  In this case, I wanted a double check, a verification of my current DNA results, and Living DNA was completely satisfactory, totally identical results, at a far lower price.  Even though I know it's just one data point, for those with limited funds, I am perfectly happy to recommend Living DNA to anyone.  (I'm sure you were just being rhetorical.)
Thanks Ron.  Based on your recommendation, I'll probably test at Living DNA.
Do they have much of a database?  i.e. Do they provide matches?
There needs to be a y-DNA central clearing gedMatch for autosomal.

I figure that our money spent for y-DNA is an investment in the future, when there is a much larger database.   The payoff will not likely occur in our lifetime.

"Do they provide matches?" Later this year they'll provide this.

They can also tell you which parts of the UK your ancestors came from:

You can also upload your raw DNA data to other ancestry sites for further matches.

+13 votes
Yes and no. Some interesting connections surfaced and I do get new DNA matches mails all the time. But no confirmations by DNA. However, the physical lines Are all massively entertwined and part of our {{Dutch Cape Colony}} project and if that is not finished and correctly filled in, the DNA results will still not make any difference. All those thousands of profiles need to be primarily validated first. Besides, it is a separate branch of genealogy that I understand too little of, and need to make the time for (after all the project work has been done) to understand and triangulate.
by Philip van der Walt G2G6 Pilot (160k points)
+21 votes
ABSOLUTELY NOT!  I have done the 111 marker test and get no matches at that level and not good matches at any other level.  In fact, I don't see my surname in any matches except the 12 marker level and most of those matches did 37 or 67 marker tests (meaning they are not positive matches).

I should be getting my BIG-Y results soon, I am hopeful but pragmatic.
by Thom Anderson G2G6 Mach 6 (69.3k points)
My experience is the same as Thom's here.  For me, I was not expecting any great discoveries when i did the test, so with low expectations I was not disappointed and don't regret having done it.  I have traced my male ancestors back 10 generations and I am currently trying to verify two more generations beyond the 10th from the same Bavarian village in the late 1500s.  My closest match in the 98-99% is about 16 to 20 generations back.  None of my connections have the same last name as me, nor a similar one.  From Church records I can see that in the early 1700s my family name changed slightly, but not significantly.  I guess with the connections on FamilyTreeDNA that I have so far, the unknown shared common ancestors date from the time before last names in Europe were used.  The majority of my connections are from Britannia, so a huge branch went that way from Europe a long, long time ago.
Me too.. or at least not yet. Perhaps when there is more widespread coverage it will be more useful.
I don't believe that y-DNA will reveal much until the database is much much larger........mabe after we're all dead + 100 years.
Since I posted the message above, I realized that i have always assumed that my paternal y-dna ancestors followed the arrows shown on the FamilyDNA website, thinking that my line stayed in Germany but the other children of my ancestors continued on to Scotland.  But it is conceivable that my paternal ancestors continued to migrate from Continental Europe to Scotland, and then later at least one of them migrated back to Europe and settled in Germany.  I saw a TV show about Stonehenge and they stated that based on artifacts found there and in Germany, that there were likely people going back and forth between those two places.
Joe: I'm also a Kohl.  Our family is from Hesse of Celtic origins.  When we did the initial 12-markers we were identified as related to Irish Niall of the Nine Hostages.  Further testing, of course, didn't continue to match that.  But all of my 12-marker "matches" have been Irish.  I've had only one true Kohl match in ten years...which was also from the same area, but not able to find the actual relationship.  More helpful to the other person, but still interesting.
+16 votes
Yes, the Y-DNA matches on FTDNA show a large number of matches to the Hough (pronounced Huff) surname.  The BigY test then provided SNP matches to others connected to William Hough from Cheshire, England.  In addition, the BigY data also shows matches with other Cheshire Houghs but with an earlier common ancestor. The data enabled us to conclude that the Houghs from Cheshire, England who arrived in MA and PA in the 17th century and those who arrived in VA earlier are in the same Haplogroup and matching SNPs.
by Billy Huff G2G3 (3.3k points)
+16 votes
After several years since my y111 test and various SNP packs, I stlil have not received a single match higher than 25 markers, and only three matches at 25 markers. None of the 3 have my surname and they all have a genetic distance of 2. I am still very hopeful, but sadly disappointed so far.
by Richard Hollenbeck G2G6 (9.3k points)
Richard:  Any connection with the Dutch line "Hollenbeek"?

Gus, you wrote:

Richard:  Any connection with the Dutch line "Hollenbeek"?

I don't know.  My earliest "known" ancestor is Jasper Hallenbeck (1774-1861), with many different spellings, from Schenectady or Montgomery County, New York.  Yes, one of the spellings is Hollenbeek.  But also Hollenbach and Hollinback and Hollenbeak and Holsombeck.  In other words, I can't be sure of anything.  My basic haplogroup is R-L48 and my other Hollenbeck/Hallenbeck people in my Y-DNA project are haplogroup "I."  There is no way they are related by direct paternal line.  I did a "SNP Pack" and upgraded to 111 and learned that a more specific designation of my haplogroup is R-S18372. The other specific haplogroup in my  project is I-CTS616 and  the rest are all I-M223.  None of that group are even "R."

There are some Hollandbeck from West Virginia and Hollabaugh from North Carolina with R-M269.  My ancestors were from New York.  I don't know more than that.  I am in the Hollabaugh Y DNA Project and Hollenbeck Y DNA project at Family Tree DNA.  Any and all help is appreciated.  :-)  Thanks.

Hi Richard: I see your problem! Google: "". When it opens, switch from Dutch to English (click "EN" , top bar). Insert Hollenbeek into the Search box and you get all Hollenbeek's on record in the Netherlands. You can try your other name variants also. This tool may be useful to others as well, but our discussion gets off-subject. Better to switch to my e-mail address if you have more questions: "". Best.
I suppose if people haven't tested that are related to you in droves you wont get results fingers crossed for the future when more countries and people do.

Your patience may finally be partially rewarded with an opportunity to try and tie a couple of apparently unconnected trees. I originally tested (via 111) as L48. By adding a "SNP Pack" I just learned that a more specific designation of my haplogroup is R-S18372. If there are no NPEs, my brick wall Y-DNA ancestor is Anders Nielson Wiborg, giving three R-S18372 groups on WikiTree that should tie somewhere in the past 800 years:

+16 votes
Not in my case. I tested my brother in the hope of trying to find out whether our Crackett surname might have originated from Crockett, but I am no further forward.
by Lynda Crackett G2G6 Pilot (635k points)
+20 votes
Absolutely YES.

As a tool within a one-name study it is invaluable.

It has proved the link between the line of Henry Kingman who emigrated to America in the 1630s and the Kingmans of Somerset who stayed in England - where there is no paper trail to connect them.

It has proved the link between Robert Kinsman who also emigrated to America in the 1630s and my own (maternal) Kingsman family from Wiltshire - again there is no paper trail to connect them.

It can also throw up problems. Within the tree of Robert Kinsman there is a branch for which the yDNA just doesn't fit, contrary to published histories of the family. I know where the break is - but who the real progenitor of this branch is remains work in progress.

The key is patience. It takes years for matches to come to light as volunteers are few and far between. Personally, I'm a case in point. I was one of the early testers - hoping for a clue as to my illegitimate G3 paternal grandfather. Twelve years on and I'm still waiting for a yDNA match. BigY has taken me a step closer, but my most recent branch point on that is still some 1500 years ago. I'm ever hopeful of a closer match.
by Derrick Watson G2G6 Mach 4 (43.4k points)
I thought it would be easy for the Watson family as they seem to be on every branch in every tree that I have been associated with perhaps thats the problem the large families from the past.
Excellent post.

Yes, it takes years, maybe decades before a link is made.

We're still waiting for ours.

I've gone proactive: I've studied the surname and searched out records of different Baty/Beaty/Beatty trees and then compared them against the FTDNA Y-DNA database.  Any tree that doesn't have a member sample, I email the descendants and solicit them.  I have also created Wikitree profiles for possible "link" ancestors and posted (in research notes) that I'm looking for a descendant.

One thing I've learned in 21 years of genealogy research: patience.

Easily 1/2 to 2/3rds of my tree is distant cousins answering surname forum posts, "Oh, you're looking for Joe Schmoe 1835?  I'm descended from his brother, he's the family line going back to the old country."

In time, a descendant will submit DNA that will match to ours and we will know where our tree leads.
+16 votes
Yes, it has helped me greatly. I hit a brick wall with my 4x great grandfather and because of my YDNA test I matched up with other Harveys who were able to find how they were related and so I knew in general how I might be related to them but couldn't connect the dots. Thankfully I had a great surname project leader researching the Harvey's and got me in touch with members in my group who were also very helpful. After a lot of research and collaboration we discovered one person who had to be the father of my brick wall. So it's with YDNA testing and a very helpful project group we were able to break through the brick wall. Not everybody will have that much success. Obviously others will have other issues like adoption or a name change or just no relatives testing. But for me, it was awesome. Couldn't have gotten back to the 1500s without YDNA testing and collaboration.
by David Harvey G2G1 (1.3k points)
+15 votes
Not yet. The only person who's matched Dad at 67 markers is his brother, useful information but not helpful in figuring out further back generations. They get a lot of 12- and 25-marker matches, but so far they've only had one 37-marker match besides each other. That match has a different surname and genetic distance of 4, so I suspect their common ancestor is too far back to say anything definitive about NPEs.

They don't match anyone else in the FTDNA Casteel surname project, but as far as I can tell no one else who descends from either the definite paper trail ancestor or his suspected grandfather has tested, so we haven't been able to confirm or deny anything from that yet.

The relative on my mom's side who's tested has had a couple matches with people who descend from a person of the same surname who's in the right state a hundred years before our ancestor, though not the same county. It's a promising possibility, but it hasn't gotten us through our brick wall on that line.
by Sharon Casteel G2G6 Pilot (138k points)
+15 votes
Not yet. I have no matches with my surname at all. Just one person 2 away at Y-37 from the county next door.  A handful of related people at 3 away.

At Y-67 I have no close matches at all.

So a bit disappointing, especially for some Americans trying to get across the Atlantic.
by Tim Partridge G2G6 Mach 3 (37.5k points)
Same thing has happened to my husband it makes you wonder if an ancient ancestor was living in a brothel and every child a different father.
+16 votes

Yes. With an not so common Surname it wasn't easy to find where we fit in. We are officially part of the Golden DNA study. Spent a while with my Dad''s DNA kind of  floating around the project until two distant cousins tested and confirmed my paper trail back to John Gaulding

I have just recently gotten permission to add one of the two testers to WikiTree so I can DNA confirm my Paternal line back to this John Gaulding.


by Mags Gaulden G2G6 Pilot (601k points)
+13 votes
Y-DNA testing has helped me a little bit with surname research.  More so just by identifying what haplogroup I am in as well as my maternal grandfather’s y haplogroup.  My paternal line goes back to Northern Sweden so there are a few different patronym last names, however I have found quite a few descendants from other branches of my old paternal line (both through family search and from a auDNA match's family tree).  So if I can get a few of them to take a Y-DNA test as well then we can compare.  For my grandfather’s test we have found a couple matches with the same Lukens last name so that all matches up nicely.
by Erik Granstrom G2G6 Mach 3 (39.0k points)
+16 votes

We were at a 25 + year brick wall. The other Ellis progeniture, William Ellis the shipbuilder, on Prince Edward Island was supposed to be related to my ancestor Robert Ellis. We had William's line back to the 1540's but could not fit my ancestor into the family. They were from north Devon but Robert's tombstone says he was born in London. I am thinking that his wife knew something that we don't and I am willing to think that his parents may have lived in London for a time.

Before my mom died, she came up with a theory of who Robert's parents were. There were a bunch of deeds concerning the Peacock Inn in Bideford with all the correct names and dates, some wills leaving a Robert some houses in Bideford, a receipt for the rents on some houses in Bideford sent to my Robert's widow, Roberts daybooks indicating that he had been an innkeeper.

Instead of spending a large amount of money on hiring a researcher in Bideford to search out all the deeds, I decided to have my dad and his third cousin from New Zealand tested and then hope I could find and convince one of "the other bunch" on PEI to test. If they didn't match there would be no point in looking into the deeds. It took awhile, but eventually it did prove that my Robert and William shared a common ancestor and it would be worthwhile to continue the search.

Finally, at long last, I found the voters lists that must not have been available when mom was alive. She wouldn't have missed them. After several years of a Robert and a William (his brother) both living in the same places (one place being the Peacock Inn), in 1841 the voter's list said Robert had removed to Prince Edward Island. I knew from his daybooks that that was exactly when he came back to the Island. I knew I had it and would have done cartwheels if I was able.

Having the matching Y-DNA gave me the encouragement I need to go on and finally find the key. I still have not found Robert's birth, but I am thinking that his wife did know something that we didn't as I found a baptism in London in the correct year, and with the correct parents. I may never be able to prove that it is my Robert, but I think it is...

by Dawn Ellis G2G6 Mach 9 (92.3k points)
No. There is only one match with the same surname and thousands with many other surnames. There is somewhat of a pattern with the same root part of a surname with changes according to the language of the country where the match's most recent ancestor came from. That root is in my tree and I have DNA matches to it, but no close link to my father's surname. There are a lot of Irish and Scandinavian surnames, but also some Ukranian, French and other northern Europeans. The closest surname in spelling/sound to my surname is German. The only record in the "old world" is in Germany, but it's sketchy.
Wow that is some great sleuthing well done.

Happily, I have to update my comment above (Nov. 8, 2017). YES! After 2 years of waiting, my full brother has a hit to the original spelling of our surname. I've been able to back it up further with 3 autosomal matches of my own to people who have the surname in their tree.

Randi, I have a dozen or more Rivenbark distant cousins.
Jim - If you're interested in learning about the Reifenberg lineage, contact me.
I wonder if we are related I had relatives there a long time ago, mind you the DNA has probably drifted away by now.

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