Not sure how to use yDNA for genealogy? Check out these 3 common reasons to test–or have a male relative do so.
The Y chromosome DNA test, more affectionately referred to as the yDNA test, is the darling of the DNA testing industry. (Atleast, I think so.) In fact, of the three kinds of DNA tests, the yDNA is my favorite. It has several excellent qualities that make it useful in many genealogical scenarios, but let’s look at three.
Use yDNA for Genealogy When…
1. You Have a Missing Father
Now all of us should be able to identify with this genealogical problem. Every line in your family history has this problem. Any ancestor whose father is currently unknown falls in this category.
And yDNA can help.
The specific quality of yDNA that makes it so attractive in this case is its faithfulness in passing down its record generation after generation, without fail, without changing, from one man to the next. That means that any living male today has the same (or very similar) yDNA as every male in his direct paternal line, back 8, 10, 12+ generations. Therefore every man’s yDNA is the clue that could lead you to discover that missing father. Usually what it takes is a match in the yDNA database with another descendant of your common ancestor. Ideally, this person knows something that you don’t about that missing father, and the two of you can work together to verify and extend your family history.
2. Your Relative is worried about Privacy
While DNA testing has certainly entered a season of relative acceptance among genealogists, there are still many skeptics who wonder what the eventual ramifications of having your DNA tested might bring. While this is a subject that certainly deserves some attention, the yDNA is actually the easiest test to sell to a nervous relative. The very qualities that make yDNA testing valuable, namely that every male descendant of a given ancestor will have the same yDNA, make it equally impossible to identify any particular individual uniquely. This means that the yDNA record that is created when a man takes a yDNA test cannot ever be traced back to him alone. That same record could have easily come from his brother, or 1st, or 5th cousin.
Similarly, the yDNA test results do not have a link to your health. The regions that are tested are generally parts that are not useful for determining any kind of personal health or trait information.
3. You Have a Surname Mix-up
One of the best applications of yDNA for genealogy comes when trying to disentangle the relationships of various men living in close proximity with other men of the same or similar surname. Having descendants of these men test their yDNA is like traveling back in time and conducting personal interviews of each of these men. It’s like saying, “Excuse me, Mr. Moffat? Is this neighbor of yours, Mr. Moffit, your uncle?” Wouldn’t you give anything for a chance to have that conversation? Well, yDNA testing gets you almost there. You might not be able to determine if they are uncle and nephew, but you will at least know if they are kin.
The bonus quality of yDNA is that it is only offered at one testing company, Family Tree DNA. So you don’t even have to decide where to be tested. Your biggest decision will be in determining what level of testing to choose. If your budget allows, you can go with the 67 marker yDNA test. But the 37 marker test is also a very good choice, and you can always upgrade to more markers at a later date without submitting a new sample.
So what are you waiting for? If you have your own yDNA, go out and start the testing process. If you have been blessed instead with two X chromosomes, send this article over to your favorite male relative and let him know that he holds a very old, very valuable record in his DNA and you want to help him make use of it.
If this post gets you antsy to test some “Y,” I recommend you check out two of my DNA quick guides: Y Chromosome DNA for Genealogists and Understanding Family Tree DNA. Or learn more from me at YourDNAGuide.com.