y-DNA ~ Begin with 12 STR Markers?

This 12 marker test was cruelly taken away from us. It is bad PR to take it away. The men who make the trust to results of DNA always buy more. Do not force it. Do not force intercourse on the first date – first hold hands.

We could eliminate – with 12 markers.

I can hear them now – heads exploding, fists pounding, objections in every corner of the DNA-for-genealogy world. Let them squeal.

ADD – August 1st, 2018 – Family Tree DNA has a summer sale for the month of August – now you can upgrade at a discount! (There will be another sale at the holidays later in the fall!


Some people can’t afford a Big Y and it is wrong to imply nothing can be learned from 12 markers. I wish I could count the times a person got other advice for their first purchase, but often the result has been folks have usually gone and bought an au-DNA test instead because of the costs. And went to that really really really big company that has more people in their database than… and we lost the participant.

We lose the people – we lose them – they are gone to autosomal maybe never to know the joys of their own haplogroup(s).

All the bellowing aside – yes – learn about your father’s father’s father’s father’s father with y-DNA and start with 12 – especially if there is not a sale on you can always add more markers later – there will ALWAYS be more markers to add and for the near and first families of generations you really will enjoy taking this in steps.

But if there is a sale then certainly try for 37. The reason for this is – if it turns out you are, for instance, R1b or another prolific Haplogroup, then straight up you might have more matches than anyone can dream and even with 37 markers you might remain befuddled about about a family group unless you get lucky.

BUT – for goodness sake IF you are going to “get lucky” with a match of a male who has already tested who you guess IS your line based on traditional genealogy research then you will get lucky at 12.

I first began reading family y-DNA in 2004 and many people only had 12 markers so the stigma of buying in stages is unjustified. One can still get the full sale price benefits from buying in stages during sales in most cases.

So yes, you CAN begin with 12 male markers to start – I say do not fail to participate in y-DNA for genealogy and if you are a lady you will have to have your father to test or if not him, a paternal line brother or cousin or uncle and then yes – you will likely also want the au-DNA test.

This is an expensive hobby. But we need to help our brothers with only 12 y-DNA STR markers also. Recently, MyHeritage announced 15,000 free kits for people adopted, looking for their biological families and there are volunteers everywhere for free for helping. But what about seniors and people on a limited income. I have a cousin – I won’t mention his surname project. Now over 70, he has shared every shred of research he and his father ever gathered – freely. He sent the project administrator everything, for free. But he could not afford a kit – even 12 markers. I had to get him one – and 12 markers was plenty to prove him and he did not need to be embarrassed or emasculated over finances.

We applaud MyHeritage for their part in helping adoptees and hope that we all can support them also.

I have my y-DNA 12 STR marker results and I have ten gazillion matches. What does this mean?

This means you are likely one of the most prolific male haplogroups and your group is one of the reasons that many say you will have to have more than 12 markers. And in this case you will likely need to consider more markers ‘when’ you can – when there is a sale on – if you can. You have added yourself to the most wonderful repository of DNA for genealogy, your test results for your y-DNA – you are added to the annals of your presumed haplogroup and you will also be able to learn about your haplogroup. See Link below for   ‘Haplogroups Are Not Ethnic, Clan…

But carefully read every page of those ten gazillion matches and look for common ancestry. You should not be writing to matches unless you have documented traditional primary and secondary research to correspond with the genetic match. So if you have the traditional genealogy documentation of vital records for your line to a particular ancestor and you have a genetic match with another male from the same line – then your DNA for genealogy answers is within reach.

More than a few times – I see a man take the 12 marker test, We already know who we think he is based on diligent research and then a person turns up in the 12 marker matches who also has the paper traditional research to the same ancestor – this is not rocket science. As is said in some genealogy circles – if it is walking like a duck and quacking like a duck, it is likely a duck. Or a Smyth or Jones.

But often some people do get very lucky and at 12 y-DNA STR markers they match a male who has tested and a line can certainly be presumed. And if that match might have tested their terminal SNP then you have a bonus at 12 markers. You will know the possible terminal SNP of your ancestral line. You see this in your results where you are lined up with your matches and in the results the haplogroup for you will be in RED and if your match has tested the terminal, their haplogroup will be listed in green.

This is why it is so wonderful –

Many people whether they test at 12 25 37 even 67 or more – you might not have a match of any closeness – you might be rare and adding markers takes away matches – it does not add them.

But for those now with the 111 markers test and the Big Y test and so on, to tell people who are considering the beginning 12 STRs that they are ‘nothing’ tests at that level –  is like saying we have all been scammed and shammed – and with the next breakthrough of testing will the Big Y be thrown under the bus as shabby testing?

I welcome all people at all levels – and do not want to run folks off before they are even in the door.

There is a lot to feel wonderful about with one’s first 12 STR markers and I intend to support people in their joy ! Even if the bad news comes, there is little to learn for matches, the man will still have his presumed haplogroup – And that is not some guess of some admixture – this will be your ancestor.

Certainly if you are on a very strict budget and are looking for biological family – you must consider bypassing y-dna altogether and of course go where the largest database of matches is and that is Ancestry.com and their DNA test – and take their au-DNA test to begin.

But for y-DNA and my first love of DNA for genealogy, know your families’ haplogroups.

For the objectors – say good bye to many who could test – you will see them in AncestryDNA and very happy with their pie charts.

But you can add markers any sale – or when there is not a sale. You will not be penalized – the worst thing will be having to wait for additional marker results.

But if a family is genetically established and several or at least a couple of male descendants of YOUR family line have tested and formed a family group – then most all the time – all you will need is 12 STRs to eliminate – so save your money $$$ for buying your autosomal test and start enjoying your admixture map AND know your y-DNA haplogroup! (smiley face)

And I always check on the 12 marker matches, I see more and more Europeans wanting to test the waters and many could be encouraged to consider more markers and learning about au-DNA to validate near matches with families. But having that Welshman in the Gower to test his y-DNA 12 marker STRs and match 12 or 12 and the surname and the family farm is the same? And I am supposed to poo poo this? No – when I saw his 12 STRs I didn’t waste a dime upgrading his y-DNA with more markers – based on his paper, I sprang for a Family Finder – it is like winning the lottery from America – 1st cousin 1x with 428 cMs, longest block 90 cMs? And it would not have happened if it were not for 12 STR markers.

There are sales every Father’s Day and oops – before that, some on DNA day in April – sometimes and oops, before that in St Pat’s – and Valentine’s?? I can’t remember – of course Mother’s Day will have their test sales. And the fall holidays get all kinds of sales and anyone can up grade then!

Just please join us with your y-DNA if you are a male. If you are one of us sisters get your dad or a paternal surname relative to test and join us – even if you start with a small number of markers!

01a Copy of cherie known dna haplogroups

And this is what can be achieved with y-DNA that cannot be – always – with only autosomal DNA. Each of these haplogroups represents a family. Through y-DNA (and mt-DNA) the maen from these families have tested their y-DNA and each of them are in surname projects and haplogroup projects. In the surname projects, the men have been able to match with other men from the same patriarch. Male descendants of at least two different sons of any patriarch are necessary to prove the DNA of the patriarch and this establishes which family, which patriarch your family is descended from. You can see I am slacking and need to work on this more – but we have several family members building. I also add the notes for choosing you y-DNA candidate carefully and I have notes fromn choosing the candidate in my blog Kissing Cousins – see links for both below. The fantastic chart is from old trees on AncestryDOTcom with much thanks.

Choose carefully


Kissing cousins – finding family to test


The extended project


“Haplogroups Are NOT Ethnic, Clan, National, Or Any Other Groups – Haplogroups Are Ancestors”




The Stag or The Venus – So many questions for human history, religion and… war or politics.

Reverence for our past.


Stag Looking For Its Mate, 1810 – 1820, Japan, illustration, woodcut, Kōrin hyakuzu. Kyōto: Hosokawa Kaiekidō, “The Floating world of Ukiyo-e: shadows, dreams and substances,” organized by the Library of Congress, 2001. AncestryDOTcom

Without a doubt ancestry.com offers one stop shopping


You can see their current admixture here – BUT!! There is much more to au-DNA than just admixture



The man that started it all

project of friends and family


7 thoughts on “y-DNA ~ Begin with 12 STR Markers?

  1. I agree with your theory. It’s best to get people interested in furthering their research, anyway you can, fi you are interested in learning more about your ancestry. Money can be hard to come by for many people. They need to get their grandparents tested. If they the grandfather has no living male descendants or brothers, it could be the last opportunity to get the male haplo and the great grandmother’s haplo. I have several male cousins from one of my uncles living and several granddaughters, whose mother was my grandmother. I’m a descendant of a father, who only had two daughters. He died before my grandmother. Time is of essence.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Tina. You are so right abut testing the older people in the family and testing the men of the family line before they are gone. In my blog Kissin’ Cousins, I talk about my research to find a male who could substitute for my father’s y-DNA – it is difficult after they are gone. Thanks again for your thoughts.


  2. Great advice and I agree!
    So far, my dad and I have only taken auDNA tests (with 23andMe). One of our main goals is to solve a very old adoption mystery on my dad’s male-line. By going through my dad’s raw DNA, I was able to narrow down his haplogroup to something more specific than the huge I-M253 that 23andMe gave us. I joined the FTDNA project for the more specific haplogroup. I don’t have the money to be able to pay for the Big-Y or the higher STR tests. The project manager suggested the Y-12 test from FTDNA (to get us in the system) and the SNP Pack test (for dad’s specific haplogroup) from YSEQ. That together was cheaper than the 37 test.
    Like you said, I can always upgrade if need be, but for our goals (and the project’s goals), this is a great start and we could get a lot of useful information from it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am thrilled you are now enjoying the y-DNA and can begin to explore his haplogroup, On facebook there is a group dedicated to this haplogroup and they have many great stories and support for the ancestry of our ancient SNP ancestors as well as helping to solve the mysteries of the recent family history. See my story about jean Manco’s website and at the very bottom there is an update to archiveDOTorg who has her site now preserved. From those pages on her Ancestral Journeys you can look at the ancient archaeological sites and those whose people have been sequenced. And also be sure to see Eupedia – so munch great info on haplogroup! Thank you!


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