Here’s a YDNA test Q&A with questions from a Genealogy Gems Podcast listener. Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard has answers: where to test, on joining a family DNA project, and those conflicting DNA ethnicity percentages.

Recently Lisa Louise Cooke received a voicemail from Genealogy Gems Podcast listener Ken. He’s been doing genealogy for more than five years and he’s listening to the entire podcast series (he’s up to episode 180 already!). He says, “I’ve made amazing discoveries and listening to you give all of these tips is fantastic! I listen to you on the way to work; I listen on the way home.” (Love it!) Then he asked some DNA questions that Lisa forwarded to me:

“My last name is Maloney. There’s so many of them, it’s crazy. My dad told me that my grandfather got into a fight with his brothers over a piece of land, so they never talked after that. Well, I found out that I have a second cousin with my exact same name who lives three miles from me. I’ve lived here my whole life and I never knew him. I saw him in the phone book, but I never dreamed that he had anything to do with me. I finally met him about two months ago.

Anyway, I want to take the YDNA test and the only one I know about doing it with is Family Tree DNA. Is that a good company to deal with? And, one more real quick thing: AncestryDNA says I’m 69% Great Britain. These other places say I’m like 30-some percent Scandinavian. So who’s right?”

Maloney is a common surname in the United States. In the 2000 census, it ranked #1049 in popularity (click here to see how we know that). There are also a lot of Maloneys in Ireland. This 1906 photo of the Maloney family of Newtown, Waterford, Ireland is at the National Library of Ireland (we found this digitized image at Wikipedia).

On taking YDNA tests

Thanks so much for your question, Ken. I wish everyone had your enthusiasm about YDNA testing! You are absolutely right in thinking that the YDNA test can help you answer questions about your direct paternal line. Because of the way YDNA is inherited, other Maloneys who share your YDNA also share a common ancestor with you.

Yes, the best place to start with YDNA testing is to first test at least 37 markers at Family Tree DNA. 67 is more ideal, but you can always test more later.

Take your YDNA test results a step further

The next thing to do is to join a family project. You can search for family projects right from the homepage at Just put in any surname of interest, and you can see how many people with that surname have been tested, and if there are any family projects associated with that surname. Clicking on the name of a project will take you to that project page where you can join the project and contact the project coordinator with your questions. (Learn more about family or surname projects below.)

Now, while it is of great benefit to see others matching your YDNA and sharing an ancestor with you, an often overlooked benefit of the family project is your ability to see all of the people who are sharing your surname, but do NOT share a direct paternal line with you. This list can be a goldmine, as it can save you hours of wasted research barking up the wrong tree. Any ancestor represented in the surname project who does not share YDNA with you is not your ancestor! It doesn’t matter if their name is spelled just like yours, or that they named all of their eldest sons Solomon, or that they lived in the same county as your family. THEY ARE NOT YOUR FAMILY. So you can move on, and find other, more valuable leads.

DNA ethnicity: Conflicting results

As for your questions about ethnicity, you may want to check out a couple of blog posts here at genealogy gems to point you in the right direction:

Keep up the good genetic genealogy testing, Ken! It is bound to help you and your Maloneys.

More on YDNA tests in Premium eLearning

If you’re a Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning member, you have access to a quick-and-easy video tutorial series on YDNA testing from Diahan Southard (Premium eLearning now has more than 20 DNA video tutorials). You also have access to the recent Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 160, in which Diahan compares her current ethnicity percentages at major testing sites and gives tips for better understanding them. Click here if you’d like to learn more about Premium eLearning.

About the Author: Diahan Southard has worked with the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, and has been in the genetic genealogy industry since it has been an industry. She holds a degree in Microbiology and her creative side helps her break the science up into delicious bite-sized pieces for you. She’s the author of a full series of DNA guides for genealogists.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

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