Question of the Week: How are you using Y-DNA in your research?

+15 votes

It's Father's Day this weekend in the US so we think it's a great time to talk about Y-chromosome DNA! Are you using it in your research? If so, how?

If you are 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.

You can get a Y-DNA test down through Family Tree DNA

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in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (2.5m points)
edited by Eowyn Walker
What is Y-chromosome DNA? My Dna has been tested by both "My Heritage" & "Ancestry" but no mention of Y-chromosome.
Here's information about yDNA testing:

You can take a yDNA test at Family Tree DNA.

Your MyHeritage and Ancestry DNA tests are autosomal DNA tests.  Here is information about those tests:
I used it to find my Perkins family and found some interesting information on my husband's family through YDNA.
Gerald, most entry level genealogy-type DNA tests look at autosomal DNA ("au-DNA")--for example FamilyTreeDNA's Family Finder,'s basic test, etc. If you are male, you can get Y-DNA tests, which look strictly at your paternal line, which in many cultures (notably Western European) is also where the family name comes from. Thus the link between Y-DNA and Last Name Studies.

Note that once you get past au-DNA, there are different levels of testing. With FTDNA's Y-DNA products, for example, you can have just the first 37 STRs computed, or you can test 500 STRs and thousands of SNPs.

Anyone can also get a mitochondrial DNA test ("mt-DNA"), which is passed from a mother to her children. Since men don't pass it on, it is used as a direct maternal line test.

Here in Wikitree, you'll see different symbols for each. If you look at my profile, in the DNA section on the right, you'll see both a blue "Y" box and a green "au" box, meaning I have had both my autosomal and Y DNA tested.

33 Answers

+11 votes
Best answer
You betcha I'm using yDNA! Not only did I "adopt" a couple of surname projects at FTDNA when closed, but I now have two one-name studies registered with the Guild. I keep thinking I have processes and procedures down pat so that I can handle three times as much as I used to. Wrong. But hey: if we don't make mistakes we can never learn from our mistakes.  :-)

On a more personal front, we have a Williams splinter project moving along nicely. This line has been DNA identified for over a decade; there are four distinct branches that we know share a common paternal ancestor but we simply haven't been able to connect them, or to definitively link them back to the place of surname origin, the British Isles. By the end of the year we expect to have at least eight and possibly as many as 10 Big Y-500 kits tested on these Williams lines. We're gettin' closer!

What's also interesting is that, from the Big Y testing, we also know of over a half dozen men with three surnames other than Williams to whom we match paternally. These are generationally more distant, with the SNPs telling a tale of shared ancestry before the time surnames began to be regularly adopted in Britain, for now call it around the time of the Danelaw to around 1300. The DF27 clade indicates a likely Iberian Peninsula origin circa the Atlantic Bronze Age (around 1300-700 BC), and the genealogical history of one set of those surnames shows--in keeping with immigration from western Iberia across the Atlantic--that we're on the cline from eastern Ireland through western England/Wales and southwestern Scotland. We're right around the shores of the Irish Sea.

But, alas, DNA research has been going on since 2003 on this line, and we have yet to see any yDNA matches from someone whose branch has lived in the UK for generations. Over 25 Y-67 STR matches, but nobody in the UK. We still hold out hope! We may get to within a 200-mile radius of identifying where the surname was adopted before we get someone who lives there to take yDNA tests...
by Edison Williams G2G6 Pilot (447k points)
selected by Leigh Geschwill
One of my dreams is that we will one day be able to do a WikiTree search for "Williams" born "United Kingdom" circa "1800".  What is left is to have WikiTree then display that male's direct paternal line descendants (this last part WikiTree can already do).
Several of my lines have flourished in America and Australia but no sign of them in Britain. Need more testing in the motherland.
+13 votes
Yes.  That's what it's for.  With a mess like Hendersons it is our only hope.
by Christine Henderson G2G6 Mach 1 (13.4k points)
+14 votes
Great Question Eowyn!

I am using Y-DNA research to learn that my last name is a derivative. GAULDEN is from GAULDING. I also know that I am related to every single Gaulden/in/ing and a few other spellings in the Americas.

I am using Y-DNA and WikiTree to try and connect those long lost Gauldingish cousins to our original gateway Gauldings who are documented to New Kent County, Virginia.


If I could find descendants of the Gauldings who were in Boston in the 1600's I could confirm that we go back to a Puritan Preacher in Bermuda (exiled) and helped found Eluethra Bahama.

by Mags Gaulden G2G6 Pilot (648k points)
+13 votes
My first reason was the surname study for Clan MacCallum/Malcolm Society and to see if there were any matches. The results made me more curious since I didn't match any others and the surname it really matched was O'Neill. Years later, I got a close match and he is about a third cousin. I now plan to find someone who descends from my first ancestor in Canada but doesn't intersect my own line and make sure there wasn't a non-paternal event before the current intersecting cousin's line meets mine. Also need to find someone from the "other" family with the same surname in the same area and confirm that it is the same family.

One branch of the family has maintained a legend that we descend from an O'Neill princess. Like a lot of legends, there seems to be some tie to that Irish clan.
by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (542k points)
+9 votes
Oh I wish, I wish, I wish! I've gone so far as doing the Big Y test, and the MRCA for my closest matches is ~3000 years ago. It seems like I am a unique individual (:
by Living Hampson G2G6 Pilot (114k points)
+9 votes
I decided that my Christmas present to myself (for 2017) would be to figure out where I came from genetically. I've taken the FTDNA Big-Y 500 test and uploaded to Y-Full. It hasn't so far resulted in any "Parman" ancestors, but I did discover that "Wright" is a Surname that shows up in about 90% of my Y-67 level results. To me that means that there may have been an adoption or second marriage somewhere in my family history, possibly before records were kept.

It also looks like I'm pretty far down the I-M253 tree.  As a matter of fact, I am part of a new branch (I-A13216) which may be added to the next version of the Y-Full tree. So far, there are only two others that are on that particular branch which could be less than 1500 years old. Still, I'm hoping for it to be much newer so there will be a hope of having some form of written documentation I can follow.

As far as my Parman line goes, I can only track it back to the 1700s and my 4th Great Grandfather with documentation... beyond that, it's still a mystery. I believe I'm the only Parman on WikiTree to have taken the Y-DNA tests. So do I recommend getting a Y-DNA test?  Heck yes!!!
by Ken Parman G2G6 Pilot (122k points)
+8 votes
Well its what pulled me down this rabbit hole! My Y test connected me to my 3rd c once removed who had done a ton of geneology work on our line. It also confirmed that we werent matching up to any other Elliott lines. We have several other names tbat have poped up at 2 & 3 GD & there is still hope of a new tester connecting us to an Elliott Immigrant.
by Jesse Elliott G2G6 (7.4k points)
+8 votes
I tested with Family Tree DNA with their Y-DNA 111 three years ago. So far, it's been absolutely worthless in my genealogical research. Autosomal is, by far, the most useful.
by Larry Herbstritt G2G5 (5.3k points)
+8 votes
I did my yDNA test through FTDNA  including the Big-Y and also the Y test at LivingDNA. I did it more for making a contribution to the genetic genealogy community.  It really isn't something that has advanced my genealogy.  It has been  useful for just identifying my haplogroup.  My most useful test of all is autosomal. That has confirmed several branches of my family tree.
by James Stratman G2G6 Pilot (104k points)
I did the same, at least, the big Y, and for the same reasons, however I think I found out more than I bargained for. You can find much about your families history by studying the SNPs. Use the Tracking Back tool...

specifically the SNP tracker, and you might learn something. I had thought my ancestors might have been part of the Anglo-Saxon migration to Britain that followed the exit of Rome. I found out they arrived well before the Romans left, and I would think with the Roman army, making my descent, most probably from a Germanic soldier, likely from the Netherlands, on the frontier of the Roman Empire in the British Isles. Wowee! That's like I just did the impossible, and gazed past the dark ages. Quite a feat, huh?.
+9 votes
Well, I've used it to determine that my dad is, in fact, NOT related to his 3rd cousin along the paternal line or their shared surname.

I had the 3rd cousin do a Y-test when, while entering his family tree into Wikitree, I got a warning that his grandmother was already in my tree; I hadn't realized that on paper they were double-third-cousins, which blew my "DNA confirms the male line" theory out of the water. Y DNA was a big fat NOPE.

I'm now using it to try to track down my father's biological paternal line. I have a few good hits in terms of Y-DNA and autosomal matches, but I haven't been able to yet connect any of their trees to a time and place that could have created the NPE I'm trying to unearth. A lot of work left to be done!
by Elizabeth Price G2G Crew (900 points)
+7 votes
I took a sample from my mother's brother, the last of his generation. His Y chromosome comes from some Irish warlord in the middle ages, it says. One in 12 males in Ireland plus a lot on Scotland have that same ancestry. I get multiple emails "We found a YDNA match!" daily. Since it's a match from over 1000 years ago, it doesn't actually seem very helpful. His surname has yet to turn up among the 100s of "YDNA matches!" flooding my inbox.

Plus with the new privacy, I can't do much with it anyhow. All indications are that he is failing fast. At this point, I figure I'll keep working on my cemetery pictures or other non-sensitive issues, and just deal with his DNA info after his times comes.
by Living Winter G2G6 Mach 7 (79.3k points)
Elizabeth -

I thought I'd get a DNA sample once my estranged father passed, but was sadly surprised at how complex and expensive that became, ending up with not getting it.  And now, no possibility.  I thought it would be as simple as as a cotton swab and done...but no...something about "molesting a corpse" that only hundreds of dollars could resolve....what a scam!  just FYI....
+10 votes
Sixteen years ago I did the Y-chromosome test at Family Tree DNA as part of the Hull Family DNA Project.  At the time I had some conflicting information about the year of birth (and thus family of origin) of my 3rd great grandfather, Daniel Hull (which has since been resolved).  Doing the Y-DNA test proved that I belong to the Hull family originating from Crewkerne, Somerset, England, just as we thought.  My contribution, as well as that of many other Hull men, provided a base of test results to which others can compare.

Recently, my dad's first cousin did a Y-chromosome and autosomal test.  He is a male-line descendant of my great grandfather, Milton Mills Brooks, who was adopted as a child.  We had Milton's birth name as "Milton Mills Rice" and this Y-DNA test has verified that name.  It appears likely from the matches that Milton is a descendant of New England colonist Edmund Rice.  Now we are utilizing the autosomal matches to try to authenticate the identity of the birth father.
by Bill Hull G2G6 Mach 2 (21.4k points)
+7 votes
I took a FTDNA Y DNA test, hoping for a big reveal to find my paternal GGG Grandfather as my GG Grandfather was illegitamate and I've hit a brick wall trying to find him.

So far, no success, but I know it's a long game. My family originates in the United Kingdom and this particular ancestor is from somewhere in Devon and Cornwall. I think Y DNA is yet to take off in a big way in the UK, so perhaps that's why there is not much success yet, but I am certain that it will, as the use of DNA becomes more and more common.

I have done Autosomal testing through Ancestry in the UK and have had more luck making connections that way.

I've just been given "The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy: How to Harness the Power of DNA to Advance Your Family Tree Research" by Blaine Bettinger, so I am hoping that will help me understand my DNA results better so I can capitalise on them more.
by Neil Perry G2G6 Mach 2 (27.3k points)
+5 votes
I tested at Y37. So far I only have matches at Y25 and none particularly close.

My Bech surname is not much help, my Danish great grandfather's father is unknown. I took the Y-DNA test to give me some clues, but so far it has given me riddles. Most of my matches have the surname of Rainey or Haviland or Miller. Most of my matches at Y25 are English, Irish, Scottish.

As others have noted, it is a waiting game. Waiting for a close match and possible autosomal confirmation.
by Paul Bech G2G6 Mach 8 (81.4k points)
+5 votes
We have tested my brother's Y to 37 and on Big Y, but so far the main benefit has been to researchers working on refining the haplogroup tree. We're glad to contribute to science but also would like to discover new branches of the family through Y the way we do with autosomal testing! Huebners/Hubners/Hibners etc., test your Y!
by Karla Huebner G2G6 Mach 1 (14.0k points)
+6 votes
Yes, tested to 111 markers and have found two cousins with our common ancestor who imigrated in 1645 and two more with an as yet unidentifiable common ancestor a little further back in time.  The Surname Project and administrator Marleen van Horne have been invaluable.

The yDNA test has enabled us to validate our genealogical lines in some cases and point that further research is necessary in others.
by Andrew White G2G1 (1.5k points)
+8 votes
Yes, I do DNA testing. My surname project, McDonald, existed well before FTDNA came into existence. (The tests were done by an academic in Belgium!). It helps some men a lot, others, not at all!

What it does do, for us, is to tell men whether they descend from our Clan "founder" in the 12th century. This is trivial to determine, a Y-37 will do it. People consider this a "big deal".

What it has also done, and this is a big warning to others, is to show that in our "main line" (which is R1a Norse Viking) an STR close match, even at 500 markers (we have about 100 of those) is not useful for reliable matching back to the year 1300. If two men are perfect matches, or 1 or two off at 500 its a good hint, but only a hint, that we should be seriously looking for a paper trail. A worse match than that means that SNP tests are absolutely needed to tell which group of Clan Donald men are in!  These groups date back to about 1400-1500 AD.

BigYs come in all the time, and only 50% of the time do they confirm "family lore" or "Y-111 hints" that the man is in the group he expects.

And the Y-500 has proven useless, so far. Some of the markers in it are so slow that eventually small family groups will be helped by them.

My own line is a very rare branch, for which we got a specific marker (L175) in the very first R1a Walk the Y test, and the BigY right away found  a SNP (CLD23) which so far is unique to me alone. Testing these markers is cheap and easy to get men to do. Testing positive for L175 spurred a couple of men to a burst of activity looking for paper trails.

I've written enough ... off to the local Morman Church to chase the paper trail!
by James McDonald G2G6 Mach 1 (11.6k points)
+5 votes
On the web site there are many unconnected Baber ancestral trees. Y-DNA test results have enabled us to connect 11 of these into two trees. These two trees are not related to each other. In one case, a family member who previously knew his ancestry only back to his grandfather (b. 1900) now knows his ancestry back to about 1480. Five BigY tests have identified two new haplosubclades within the family.

We have also identified more than 400 STRs (markers) and the haplosubclade for many of our ancestors in our largest ancestral tree. We know its MRCA (most recent common ancestor) only by his Y-DNA; we do not know his name, date or place of birth or death, or anything else about him.

In another case, a change of surname was associated with a break in the Y-DNA, indicating a coinciding adoption or other NPE (non-paternal event).

This work is still in progress. Many more unconnected trees remain, waiting only for additional persons to have Y-DNA tests to tell us where they fit into our overall ancestral picture.

Our ancestors never completely died. They continue to live in our DNA — even if we know nothing else about them.
by Robert Baber G2G2 (3.0k points)
+4 votes
I recently did my DNA from MyHeritageDNA,  but I don't think they do the Y. We are likely going to use 23andMe next. My father was our genealogist and traced us back to Edward Doty (Mayflower). The Y will help me confirm it for us.
by Ivan Beals G2G Crew (320 points)
+6 votes
Yes, on my Fairweather One-Name Study as well as my own tree.  Y-DNA helped me confirm that a McKain ancestor who was born before his parents married was indeed the son of Daniel. There had always been the possibility that she was pregnant by someone else and now we know that he had the same father as the others born after they married.
by Pam Thomson G2G4 (4.4k points)

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