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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)
Y-DNA SURNAME STUDIES
[Georgia Bopp / 24 July 2010]
  These questions address surname studies using Y-DNA. For more information about other types of genetic genealogy tests such as mtDNA, SNP (deep clade, deep ancestry, anthrogenealogy), autosomal, or "ethnic ancestry" DNA tests, see Georgia's DNA Project Notes and the web site of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG).  
     
  A few remarks have been added below (in green) for National Geographic Genographic Project participants who chose to upload their results to Family Tree DNA (FTDNA).  
     
  Most of the participants in the above listed projects tested with Family Tree DNA (FTDNA).  If you have already tested with another company, contact the volunteer group administrator for additional information.   
     
 
Big News!
 
  There is now a DNA test that females and males who are not of the direct Y-DNA (or mtDNA) line can use in their genealogical research  (FTDNA’s Family Finder test).
See GEORGIA'S HOT TOPICS
 
     
 
 
  1. What is a DNA Surname Project? Includes "Confused about chromosomes?"
  2. What are the Project Objectives?
  3. Is it a blood test? Do I have to go to a lab?
  4. Is this a paternity test?
  5. How much does it cost?
  6. What is a marker?
  7. How many markers should I order?
  8. Can I participate if I am a female?..Can I participate if I am a male with a different surname?
  9. What about privacy?
  10. Will we get to know who everybody is? Can we contact them?
  11. What about other testing companies?
  12. Why do different companies offer different marker tests?
  13. I do not live in the U.S. How might I go about having the testing done?
  14. Do I need to complete a Customs Declaration form?
  15. What if someone else starts a project later just for my exact spelling?
  16. What else should I know? - includes Project Policies and other important information
  17. I want to do it. What do I do next?
 
 
Answers to FAQs
 
 
  1. What is a DNA Surname Project?  
  A DNA surname project involves the Y chromosome testing of males who share the same surname; only males have a Y chromosome. For hundreds of years the Y chromosome has been passed from father to son unchanged except for very infrequent mutations. The test result is a series of numbers, called a haplotype (see *END NOTE ) By comparing your numbers to others with your surname you can determine with a high degree of probability if you share a common ancestor; the results do not tell you exactly how you are related. A single test is useless - it must be compared to others carrying the same surname and used in conjunction with traditional research (e.g., pedigree/ancestor chart, etc.). In addition to testing, we need information (e.g., pedigree chart) on each participant's line of descent from the earliest known male ancestor. This helps to identify the various unconnected links.  
     
  Confused about chromosomes?
Chromosomes are packages of DNA. At conception the mother's egg provides 23 chromosomes and the father's sperm provides 23 chromosomes. This results in an embryo with 23 sets of chromosomes (for a total of 46 chromosomes). Thus, half the DNA is from each parent. The first 22 sets of chromosomes are called autosomes and contain almost all of the DNA information. There are two different types of sex chromosomes in the 23rd set - called X and Y. The mother can only contribute an X. The father can contribute an X or a Y. If he contributes an X, the child is a female (XX). If he contributes a Y, the child is a male (XY). That is why only the DNA of males can be used in a surname study. Only males have a Y - that is what makes them males. The male participant needs to carry the study's surname because it is assumed he received that Y from a father with the same surname. If there are any known (or unknown) adoptions or other "non-paternal events" and the biological father had a different surname, the Y is not going to match others in the surname project (but could match someone in another surname project).

Note: About half our participants are females, or males with a different surname, who found a relative whose DNA will work. See below Can I participate if I am a female - or a male with a different surname?

 
     
  2. What are the Project Objectives?  
  A group project is coordinated by a volunteer Group Administrator as a labor of love.
There are no "kickbacks" to the administrator or anyone else involved in the project.

Most surname projects begin with the objective to identify others who are related; throughout the project the other objectives are achieved simply as a result of the project.
  • Identify others who are related [It will not tell you exactly how you are related]
  • Prove or disprove theories regarding ancestors [Results may help you focus your research]
  • Solve brick walls in your research
  • Determine a location for further research
  • Validate existing research
  • Develop a DNA database for future researchers [If we don't find our answers now, perhaps our descendants will]
 
     
  3. Is it a blood test? Do I have to go to a lab?  
  No. It is a buccal test (sounds like buckle). You take the test at home. The sample is obtained by "scraping" the inside of the cheek. I tried it and it is painless; it felt like rubbing the inside of the cheek with the edge of a spoon. You take one sample and put it in a little vial of "soapy" solution; you take another sample at least 8 hours later. The kit includes instructions (read them all the way through first!), two "scrapers," two vials of "soapy" solution, a release form, and a return envelope (requires two postage stamps).  
  Note to National Geographic Genographic Project Participants: You have already taken this test.  
     
  4. Is this a paternity test?  
  No. A Y-DNA test only looks at the Y chromosome (one of 23 chromosomes that a man has). A paternity test does not look at the Y; it looks at the other 22 which recombine in each generation. The Y does not recombine which is why it can be so successfully used for male direct line descent genealogy.  
     
  5. How much does it cost?  
     
 

FTDNA prices mentioned below are as of 24 July 2010 and are subject to change.

The group rate prices (including any special sales) are available online at FTDNA. Locate the project, click on the order link, and see the products/prices. Clicking on the order link does not require that you order at that time. For example, here’s a link to the English (and variations) project:
http://www.familytreedna.com/surname_join.asp?code=C72164

There are various genetic genealogy tests and all are described at the link. The test of interest to this project is the Y-DNA test. Prices for that test range from $99 to $239 depending on how many markers you order (plus shipping and handling). Order as many markers as your budget permits; see FAQ’s #6 and #7 below.

The special rate for group projects offers a substantial savings. For example, the 67 marker Y-DNA test group rate is $239 and the non group price is $268.

A group project is coordinated by a volunteer Group Administrator as a labor of love. There are no "kickbacks" to the administrator or anyone else involved in the project.

Shipping and handling as of 24 July 2010:
USA orders: $4.00
Foreign orders: $6.00
Prices are in US $. Payment may be in US $ denominated check or credit card. You may need to complete a Customs Declaration form when you return your test kit. FTDNA recommends that you put "genealogy swabs" on the form. The time for the kit to arrive back at FTDNA will depend on your country, the route the package takes through customs, and Homeland Security.

Note: Family Tree DNA also has a multilingual site in Europe. With links to information in Deutsch, Francais, Espanol, and Italiano.
http://www.familytreedna.ch/

 
     
  6. What is a marker?  
  A marker is a location on the Y chromosome that may be tested for genetic genealogy. These locations, or markers, have names, such as DYS #19 or DYS #385a or DYS #439. When a marker is tested, the result is reduced to a number, which represents the number of repeated patterns in the DNA at a specific location on the Y chromosome.  
     
  7. How many markers should I order?  
 

The more markers, the better. If you can afford it, order the 37 or the 67 marker test. If not, you may wish to start with the 12 marker test. If you get a match, you will mostly likely want to upgrade to more markers (see prices in the above chart). Some participants have a common haplotype - they match many people with different surnames. In these cases, more markers are needed to make a determination about relationship to others in the study.

If you share the same surname (or variation) and match others in the project, it is likely you share a common ancestor. If you have a paper trail to a line with an established DNA signature, you already know who the common ancestor is. If you do not have a trail, the MRCA (most recent common ancestor) may have been in recent generations or may have lived 1,500 years ago. For example, if there is a perfect match on the 37 marker tests, there is a 50% probability that your MRCA was no longer than five generations ago. The statistical probabilities vary depending on results. See the table and other information at this link: Georgia's Results - Meaning.

Note to National Geographic Genographic Project Participants: You already have the results of the 12 marker test. Depending on interests, you may or may not wish to upgrade to more markers.

 
     
  8. Can I participate if I am a female?
Can I participate if I am a male with a different surname?
 
  We can not use your DNA in this study. But you may have a qualified family member (male carrying the surname). For example, I am a female using my father's DNA. Other female family historians/researchers are using a brother, cousin, or uncle (male researchers are using a cousin or uncle). If no there is no longer a qualified male in your line, you may choose to donate towards the testing of a qualified male who descends from a line of interest to you (someone who is willing but cannot afford the test).

If you are confused about why your DNA won't work, see Confused About Chromosomes?
 
     
  9. What about privacy?  
  Your privacy is protected by both the company processing the tests and by your group administrator. Your surname variation, and in some cases initials, will appear on our web site (see results table) if this is a concern, that presentation can be modified.  More on privacy.  
     
  10. Will we get to know who everybody is? Can we contact them?  
  When there is a match, FTDNA sends automatic emails to anyone with a close match (assuming you, and they, signed the release form). Their names and emails appear on your personal pages at FTDNA. If you change your Email, be sure you change it at FTDNA (and notify me, your Project Administrator). I also post general updates (but don't name names) to our web site and to the various surname lists on RootsWeb (many of the participants belong to these lists). I am in frequent communication with most participants. However, if something unexpected happened to me - remember that everything you need is at your personal pages at FTNDA.  
     
  11. What about other testing companies?  
  If your surname has an established surname project, it is to your advantage to test with the same company. Our study uses FTDNA, but if you have already tested with a different company (or do not wish to use FTDNA), you can still be part of the project. If you provide your results, I'll include them on the web site. If you test elsewhere, be sure you order a Y STR chromosome test (preferably 25 or more markers) and not one of the other type of DNA tests that are available. Not all companies test the same DYS numbers but you will still be able to compare your results (see number 12).

See this site for a list of labs/companies and price comparisons:
http://www.isogg.org/ydnachart.htm

See also:
http://www.duerinck.com/dnalabs.html

Note to National Geographic Genographic Project Participants: If you chose to "upload" your results to Family Tree DNA (FTDNA), your results are now with that company.

 
     
  12. Why do different companies offer different marker tests?  
  At this time, no one company offers testing on all currently known markers. The several markers tested by all companies are those for which testing protocols have been available for the longest period of time (but that does not necessarily mean they are the "most important" markers). After a scientist (usually in a government funded research lab) discovers a new marker and is granted a new DYS number, the information to duplicate the test is made available to the scientific community. However, a commercial laboratory's entire testing protocol would have to be redesigned each time a new marker test is added and this is an expensive procedure. Companies have to standardize what they offer or they would "go broke" very fast.  
     
  Here are links to results of two people who "Y" DNA tested with more than one company (some markers require adjustments due to different reporting conventions):  
  (1) Easy to read chart by person who "Y" DNA tested with three different companies:  
   
  (2) More complicated chart by person who tested with many companies:  
   
     
  13. I do not live in the U.S., how might I go about having the testing done?  
  FTDNA handles many international orders. The prices quoted are in US $. The only difference for foreign orders is that the mailing feel is $4 instead of $2 for domestic first class mail. Payment may be in US $ denominated check or credit card. You can also write FTDNA personally if you wish, and ask questions about "foreign" orders. But if you sign up, do it with this study so you can get the group rate.

New! Family Tree DNA has a multilingual site in Europe. With links to information in Deutsch, Francais, Espanol, and Italiano. Check it out. But for now, don’t order through that site until I have the group project procedures (and group rate) details worked out.
http://www.familytreedna.ch/
 
     
  14. Do I need to complete a customs declaration form?  
  For those who are at an international destination, you may need to complete a Customs Declaration form at the post office when you return your test kit. FTDNA recommends that you put "genealogy swabs" on the form. If you are at an international location, the time for a test kit to arrive back at FTDNA will depend on your country, the route the package takes through customs, and Homeland Security. (Prior to "9/11", FTDNA had no problems with international orders. Later, during the "anthrax scare," there were two cases in which nervous postal workers saw DNA on the address and refused to accept the package.)  
     
  15. What if someone else starts a project later just for my exact spelling?  
  If you join this project, and some day, someone starts a project that includes variations (or results) more conducive to your interests, you can simply ask them to include your results in their study (indeed, they would want to have them!). When you test, you get a series of numbers and you may give them to anyone you wish.  
 
 
  16. What else should I know?  
  <> Your full name and other private information will never appear on our public websites.  
     
<> If you have a sensitive situation, we will discuss this with you privately to find a solution that works for you and the project.  
     
<> When results are in, the project administrator will upload data to Ysearch.  You will be notified of your Ysearch ID and pass code.  
     
<> Your kit number, results, surname variation, project member number and YSearch ID will appear on our public results page.  
     
<> Your known lineage information for direct paternal line is required for project participation. If you are new to genealogy we may be able to help you with this. You may join if you are adopted and have the surname. You may join if you have a different surname but believe your Y-DNA line may be from a project surname variation.   
     
  <> Be sure to read about False Paternal Events (found on our DNA topics page). There is always a chance there was an unknown adoption, infidelity, etc. in the past. That is why it is desirable to have two or more males who are distant cousins tested for each known line to prove the line to a common male ancestor and establish the genetic identification of that line. If you know that you, or an earlier ancestor with your surname, were adopted into the family, you do NOT want to participate in a project for your legal surname because you carry a different Y chromosome.  
     
  <> Results take several weeks. They can take longer if reruns are required. You may receive partial results at different times.  
     
  Note to National Geographic Genographic Project Participants: If you chose to "upload" your results to Family Tree DNA (FTDNA), the results of your 12 markers are already at FTDNA - they sent you your access codes when you uploaded from the Genographic Project site.  
     
  <> This is the beginning of a long-term project. If you don't have a paper trail to an established DNA line, you may have to wait for many more participants before you have a match. It is possible you might never get a match. No matter what happens, your results - and ancestry information - are contributing to a database that will assist family researchers now and in the years to come. (For example, a future descendant of yours who lost track of his family history might test 50 years from now and match to you. You may not be around to enjoy this - but it will be quite a thrill for him!)  
     
  <> Genetic genealogy is a new, exciting, and rapidly changing field. All of us (including you, if you participate) are pioneers. The first company to offer testing to the public was formed in 1999. The few companies in the business of testing, and most surname project managers, have had their ups and downs, and many are still going through a learning curve. Methods of reporting tests by different companies may vary but standard methods are evolving; some companies have different markers. As researchers discover more, offers from testing companies change. For example, an early surname project was only able to test 4 markers; now there are many more markers that can be tested. It is believed that in time test prices will go down.  
     
  <> These questions address surname studies using Y-DNA. For more information about other types of genetic genealogy tests such as mtDNA, SNP (deep clade, deep ancestry, anthrogenealogy), and "ethnic ancestry" DNA tests, see Georgia's DNA Project Notes and the web site of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG).  
     
  17. I want to do it. What do I do next?  
 

(1) First, be sure to read the FAQs found on this page

(2) Next, read about 'False Paternal Events' (follow link)

(3) Order the test at the below JOIN CODE link.

If you have more questions: Email Georgia .

The JOIN CODE links you directly with FAMILY TREE DNA, allows you to order the test at the GROUP RATE, and adds you to the project. You can use credit card or invoice method (return payment with sample). If you can afford it, order at least 37 markers. Once you have joined the project, we will follow up with information about DNA testing and obtain your ancestry information for the project.

When your order has been confirmed by FTDNA, see the Welcome & Links page link (also below). If you do not hear from a project co-administrator within seven days, it means we are traveling and do not have easy access to our email.

Note to National Geographic Genographic Project Participants, you have already "joined", see this page: Genographic

ENGLISH surname (and varitations) DNA project JOIN CODE (Group rate): http://www.familytreedna.com/surname_join.asp?code=C72164

Georgia Bopp's Welcome & Links (offsite)- read this after you order:
http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~gkbopp/DNA/LINKS_English.htm

 
     
  * END NOTE  
  <>When you test, your results will be a series of numbers (markers, allele values). This set of numbers is called a haplotype. A haplotype, or genetic haplotype, is often referred to as a DNA "fingerprint" or "signature." However, be assured that there is a big difference between a real fingerprint and the project's Y test result. Generally speaking, a real fingerprint is unique to an individual (no two are alike) and can be used to identify that individual. The project's Y test result is not unique to an individual. Several persons from different lines can come up with exactly the same results - in fact, we hope they do!  
  <>In addition to terms such as haplotype you will also see other terms: DYS#, STR, locus/loci, scores, alleles/allele values, and more. You don't need to know what these all mean to take the test and/or understand the results of the test.  
  <> These questions address surname studies using Y-DNA. For more information about other types of genetic genealogy tests such as mtDNA, SNP (deep clade, deep ancestry, anthrogenealogy), autosomal, and "ethnic ancestry" DNA tests, see Georgia Bopp's DNA Project Notes (offsite) and the web site of the ISOGG - International Society of Genetic Genealogy (offsite).  
     
  [G.K. Bopp - 18 Feb 2004]  
  Thank you to J. Kenney, our own personal geneticist, and my husband, T.Bopp (Professor of Chemistry), for help in answering the more technical questions. Some FAQs adapted, with permission, from the Blair surname project Website. [G.K. Bopp]  
     
 
If you have more DNA questions, Email Georgia
 
     
Additional INFORMATION & RESOURCES on our LINKS page.

 

 
Page created: 07 October 2004 / updated: 25 July 2010
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