Best DNA project/company for tracking British Isles relatives?

+5 votes
I have loads of info and relatives that are already here in North America.   Through Ancestry and Family Tree DNA.  HOWEVER, I want to track my Y-DNA (CLARK)   line back further than the 1680s (Virginia)  and need to find DNA relatives back on the British isles so I can try to plug in some data from that end.   Sometime in the past part of my Male line Clarks were named Hurst.   Or at least I have modern DNA cousins with that last name.  Plus there is a Wallace in the mix now.

Are there any DNA testing outfits that is UK specific?

Alex Clark, Homer Alaska
in Genealogy Help by Alexander Clark G2G Crew (980 points)
edited by Ellen Smith
FTDNA is the only company that offers yDNA STR testing for the time period you are interested in. Living DNA tests SNP markers for Haplogroups, better for deep ancestry. STR markers are best up to 29 generations. The Clark(e) project on FTDNA has 411 members. They also have projects specifically for UK areas and also Haplogroups so you can join multiple projects to maximise results comparison.

8 Answers

+4 votes

Living DNA is a good one.

by Ros Haywood G2G6 Pilot (632k points)
Living DNA is focused on making precise determinations of British ethnicity.  But I gather from the post that ethnicity estimates are not the goal.  For matching, I hear Living DNA is having all kinds of problems -- people with 0 matches, pairs of people who know they match from other sites but don't show up as matches, etc.
Living DNA uses a different chip compared with most other companies; the overlap between the results isn't great, so matching is a bit more of a headache. It's great for geographical precision on the British isles, and its results match with my documentary evidence.
Matching ability is something that living DNA added after they had a pool of testers. They are contacting their testers, but don't have a large pool of people who have opted-in to matching, yet, but the pool is growing.

I have gone from 0 matches to having a few in just the last couple of months.

+4 votes
At RootsTech last year one of the speakers was saying My Heritage was good for Europe. Ancestry has long been first choice due to their database size and the fact that they don't accept uploads from elsewhere.
by Hilary Gadsby G2G6 Mach 5 (55.3k points)
I have only had disappointment with My Heritage: the DNA was absolutely ridiculous with unexplained 20% Scandinavia/Finland and 8% Iberia; the rest was England with nothing of importance. All of the Scotland side of the family is missing but I have 2500 "cousins" in the USA although nobody known ever emigrated there. Then the search function is the most stupid system I've ever seen: Normal search with all information available (Name, parents, siblings, DOB, DOD, Address etc. gave over 27.000 "finds" - Exact "finds" were 0. And that although the whole "Scott" family are available in the Scots census of 1881. A complete "rip-off" - so keep away from this company before you waste your money.
+6 votes
If you are looking to track your paternal line to the 1600s, you need to do Y-DNA testing, for which FamilyTreeDNA seems to be your best (or only) choice.

Autosomal DNA testing (which is what AncestryDNA, 23andMe, Living DNA, and My Heritage offer) is great for finding cousins and confirming relationships, but it's only useful for fairly recent generations.
by Ellen Smith G2G6 Pilot (950k points)
Living DNA's 3-in-1 does offer Y-DNA and MtDNA, but it's not nearly to the level of FTDNA, so far as I can tell.
YSeq is also a good place to test Y and mt DNA.
+4 votes
You've hidden a lot in the phrase "plug in some data from that end".  Plug into what?  With what goal?

In the 1680s you're talking about what, 10 generations back?  Y-DNA won't be a miracle bullet that finds you someone in Britain or maybe another American that shows you the Clark who is 11 generations back.  Heck, even if you are lucky enough to find matches who have the name "Clark" today, you almost certainly won't be able to pinpoint a person 15 generations back who is a common ancestor and say, well, I don't know exactly how you get back the additional 5 generations, but both of our immigrant ancestors were g-g-grandchildren of that same guy.

These sorts of identifications very rarely happen. If you have a particular pair of people you want to test to decide if they are closely related or not, then Y-DNA testing can be much more useful. Perhaps that is what you have in mind with the Hurst connection?  I can't tell from your post.  If you believe you have common paternal ancestors with some living Hursts, then by all means get two Y-DNA tests from FTDNA and compare.  I'd start with the cheapest ones.

Otherwise, what is your goal for this y-DNA testing?

Ellen is right that FTDNA is the only site with a significant pool of matches, where you can try to compare and find someone who probably has a common ancestor in the last 5, 10, or maybe 20 generations.  It also has surname projects, often run by real experts who are trying to group large numbers of people into clusters with very distant common ancestors. But it is exceedingly rare to find a match out of the blue and say, "hey, we just broke through our common brick walls!"  I can't tell exactly from your post, but it sounds like maybe that is your hope.

If that is not your hope, then there are other options to test your Y-chromosome than FTDNA.  But right now there is emerging somewhat-affordable whole genome sequencing that will cover your Y-chromosome and all of your other chromosomes in much more detail than the big DNA testing companies do right now.  There are a lot of things you can do right now with data like that, and certainly in 5 or ten years there will be tons more that can be done.
by Barry Smith G2G6 Mach 5 (54.4k points)
+3 votes
Ancestry and 23&me databases are mostly filled with Americans with ancestors who have been in america since the 1700s.

Your best bet for elsewhere is to go with FT DNA and/or My Heritage.

That is actually what I did. I did my test through FT DNA and I immediately found some second cousins (once removed) - with the MCRA traced back to Ireland. Then I uploaded my data to my Heritage and promptly found a first cousin (once removed) who has the same MCRA from Ireland.

The MCRA emigrated from Ireland to New Zealand in the year 1876.
by Robynne Lozier G2G6 Pilot (578k points)
PS if none of the british relatives ever do a DNA test then you will have a lot of trouble finding them through the paper trail since current living people are under new strict GDPR EU privacy laws - for as long as Britain still remains in the EU.
Our access to records hasn't changed post GDPR.There has always been an emphasis on privacy of certain records so for example censuses, medical records, school registers etc are not available for 100 years.The 1939 register is somewhat of an exception in that it is available; though people who were not known to be dead when it was first published are blanked out. Wills are also a matter of public record, the calendar which records death date, place of death and executors is freely available.

The indexes to the registers of  births(with maiden names of mothers)  marriages  and deaths (with ages) are available and you can obtain for a fee the certificates(including those that record my birth and marriage) . It really is no different!

My grandfather, born in 1902 had 12 siblings, We don't have contact with any of their descendants. When I matched  someone at the second cousin level (on 23 and me) it wasn't too  difficult to find that he was the descendant of one my grandfather's sisters.They like us remained in the UK I've also been able to trace through  DNA and the paper trail a cousin (a couple of generations  further removed)  whose family  remained in England.

Nevertheless, I agree with you that most of my matches on both 23 and me and Gedmatch are in North America. The few others that I have been able to trace are the descendants of people who moved to the USA and Canada in the early to mid 19th C.
+3 votes

Barry:  More interested in geographic locations. I have done the Y-DNA, via Family Tree DNA to the 111 marker level.  The 67 Marker level also worked out just fine. Since I have hard paper tracking on my direct Clark ancestor who was born around 1678-79, the generational matching guess-ta-mator used by FTDNA turned out to be pretty accurate with matching known cousins back to the generations in which we link up.  In some cases 9-10 generations ago.   ( This includes some other old Virginia family names who apparently were having Clark-blood children, care of one of my frisky ancestors)

ANYWAY, my Clark line cannot be proved back before around 1680.  Keyboard commandos claim they can, but I have been doing hard paper research for 50 years and it is pretty speculative.. So my line of Clarks just appear in Virginia with money and  lots of land.   Nobody really knows if they were English or Scot.  The one direct ancestor I can prove married a Scots woman, or at least from a Scot family.   

So my primary thought would be to try and stumble across any distant cousins who still live in the UK, who either have not moved in the last 300 years, or at least know what part of the country their family sprang from.

I have some US DNA cousins named Hurst, Hirst, and Hust.  That is an old place-name based surname which means a wooded or hidden spot.  ie," Barry from the Hurst".  My Clark name is an occupational name.  Since the Hurst folks link up at an earlier generation level on my Y-DNA, I would guess that at one time somebody learned to read and write and was hired on as a "Clark "  This that line became Clarks.   ( or vice versa...)

I would be happy just tracking back to a general area at first.   There are already various factions with my assorted relations who want the family to be southern English so they can link them to the Clarks of Forde Hall.  Then there are folks who are rooting for the Northern York area, and those that prefer a Scottish origin.

I have seen UK TV shows where they tracked down the counties from which some people's families originated.

by Alexander Clark G2G Crew (980 points)
The identification of counties was probably talking about the "People of the British Isles" project, and that autosomal database is used by the LivingDNA testing company.  I suspect your autosomal dna would be too dilute that far back in the past to pick one county out of many ancestors you will have that many generations ago.

I have done the Y-str and the Big-Y tests at ftdna. My nearest match on big-Y shares a common ancestor about 600 years ago. My few matches at 111 and 67-str are at the upper limits and most are underestimates of genetic distance.  However, I can say that all those who match and who have large enough trees  can trace ancestry back to an area of Scotland.  Now, I possibly have a simpler situation as my paternal line only left Scotland 4 generations ago, but I would have thought you could look at ancestral locations from all your matches at the various STR levels and then identify a common area beyond the US that many of them agree on.

A big problem with the Y-DNA testing on FTDNA is that many folks only did 25 or 37 markers.   I have contacted a few of my matches and asked them to do more.  EVEN IF I PAY for it.  They won't for some reason.  ( the military already had all of my DNA so I have nothing to hide)

My Y-67 marker shows a few folks whom I know all trace back to my 7th great grand father Militia Capt Christopher Clark of Virginia. ( 1678-1754 )   9 Generations before me.  FTDNA shows a 97.5 % chance of a match at that generation for a couple other Clarks, plus a line of SCOTTs and a WALLACE line that match up around the same generation.    Only 8 generations back I have some descendants from the neighboring families in old Virginia who are  actually Clark blood lines.

Then there are the Hurst, Hirst, and Hust,, links which are 17 to 18 generations back.

And a line of the old Bunch family of Virginia who link up 14-15 generations back.   Odd that they were neighbors but they were already cousins , at least some of them via DNA.

And there is an old family of either Bissex or Bisset.  They link up around 20-21 generations ago.

Maybe I need to try the Big Y dna well.  

+2 votes
Alex, your situation is similar to mine (paternal origin of England vs. Scotland). You might look into DNA haplogroup specific projects. I have my brother in the I1 Z-140 project (if you happen to be in the I M-253 haplogroup), and the project leaders are using SNP testing to track specific mutations, sometimes to specific locations. They've been able to show links to Gordons in Scotland for our surname (Witt). However, it's still not possible to say whether our ancestor emmigrated from Scotland to England then VA, or straight from Scotland (unusual before unification in 1707). Good luck in your search!

by Holly Witt G2G2 (2.8k points)
+1 vote
I heard that Find My Past has started offering dna testing.  You might check to see if they allow uploads of previous testing with other companies.  It is already known as probably the best source of English records.  They are my goto when researching my ancestors there.
by Janice Anderson G2G6 (6.1k points)

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