y-DNA. No, it does not have admixture, but it does have thousands of years of human ancestry.

y-DNA. What is it? Who has heard of it? All the excitement about admixture aka ethnicity in at-DNA testing and matching trees took some of the focus away from the original DNA-for-genealogy testing and my own favorite test: — y-DNA.

What is your y-DNA, if you are a man? (Only men carry y-DNA.) Is it your father’s y-DNA? Your mother’s father’s y-DNA? And what is your haplogroup? (These are the oldest genetic families that have passed an ancient gene through centuries and millenia; we all belong to one of them.)

There are three main tests for DNA for genealogy. The at-DNA, or autosomal DNA test, is the most popular and all the major companies that provide DNA testing have this test in some form. AncestryDNA, 23andMe, MyHeritage, LivingDNA, others and the company that I am talking about today: Family Tree DNA. (Their autosomal test is called the ‘Family Finder’.) There is also the mt-DNA test, for maternal DNA. 23andme and LivingDNA tell you a presumed haplogroup when you test, but don’t not give the specifics. AncestryDNA and MyHeritage don’t offer it at all; they only test for at-DNA. Family Tree DNA has the mt-DNA testing and gives the specifics. But I always remind people to test with caution if you are looking for genealogy information, this test cannot answer as many questions as the other tests can and often do. Then there is y-DNA, which you can only get from Family Tree DNA. They give you very specific results and you can join projects with other people who share your family name or your direct paternal lineage from far back in time. Then you can begin the journey of what was the true first test of DNA for genealogy.

This chart is a fan shaped ancestry tree chart. You are the center circle and mom is on the right half with all her ancestors and on the left half is dad and all his ancestors. The yellow dots represent genes you get from the ancestors that you do get readable DNA from. This unscientifically represents at-DNA. Every person is 50/50 their mom and dad but from the grandparents back you get varying amounts from some, not all, ancestors. The mt-DNA, the red line is any and every person’s maternal DNA line. This is based on the strand of genes that passed from your mother’s mother’s mother’s etc etc etc… mother, all the way back in time. (Of course, even without too much genealogy to learn, eventually I hope all people will learn and know about their maternal DNA. (I am mt0DNA H10a1). Then there is the exclusive y-DNA. This is only passed from father to son. This is the blue line at the left above. Like with maternal DNA it is not all of that parent’s genes, just one set that passes down from any man’s father’s father’s father’s father’s father’s etc etc etc , back to the earliest known father, patriarch of a family. A person can learn about their male line ancestry in the recent and in the distant past.

I am a girl and have no brothers and I wanted the DNA of my late father, Sam, Samuel Harry Knight. Sam had no brothers, my paternal grandfather had no brothers, but my paternal great grandfather James Jim Knight had a known paternal half brother. That half brother had male sons and one son had a son and that led to his son my 2nd cousin, once removed Don Knight. This this distance of relationships, one should verify that the two people are in fact related and in this situation the autosomal test is perfect. Don and I both tested our autosomal and this test shows we are cousins, and so I can be certain that the y-DNA that Don carries would be the same y-DNA that my father had because the two men descend from a shared paternal ancestor, Stephen Samuel Knight.

This is my ancestry chart and you can see, one by one I am filling in all the haplogroups of my ancestral lines by testing a male of that line (and a few mt-DNA tests just to have the haplogroup). Only men carry y-DNA. Y-DNA comes from a man’s father and it came from his father and on back through time. The autosomal DNA comes from all over a person’s ancestry and back only a few generations. But the male y-DNA reaches back in time, on and on and we can learn if two men share a family line by comparing their y-DNA as well as using the autosomal. Family Tree DNA does this y-DNA testing. Through the results, men can join y-DNA projects for their surname, for their haplogroup, and for region connections. So in my testing my autosomal, I have matched males in autosomal DNA who are the carriers of their ancestral, paternal line genetic history. Then I learn their and my ancestors’ y-DNA and can sometimes verify the family group. But at the very least, even if there are not any y-DNA matches for a man, he still learns his haplogroup and learning about haplogroups through time is much fun ans you learn the names of ancestors. In DNA the ancestors are names with letters and numbers.

Dai’s, my husband’s, y-DNA ancestry is from Wales. With few written records before 1800 and with the custom of no surnames late in time his paternal line ancestry comes to an abrupt halt (his earliest that we found was recorded as “John, son of John”). And worse, my husband’s y-DNA is relatively rare. For nine years he only had matches from 1,000s of years ago, or at least many 100s of years ago with nothing tracible.

But what we do have is the story of his y-DNA and how it fits in the ancestry of all y-DNA.

This is what you can make for yourself as a man with your haplogroup known. His initial y-DNA test told him he is G2a (the name G2a is called a long form of the name). That genetic place is called, in short form, G-P15 (You see above that G-P15 lived about 11,000 years before present). After Dai got his results then we tested his personal G itself, and this gives him G-P15’s “descendants” to his current, earliest known patriarch G-PF3148.

No man has to become a rocket scientist or geneticist to learn all about their y-DNA thanks to people who have been testing and enjoying y-DNA since the first DTC, direct to consumer, tests hit the market, and there are websites easily and freely available to help make every person an expert in their own genetic ancestry.

y-DNA helps to identify biological families and to group families to help to confirm ancestral lines. y-DNA will help to learn about the migration of modern humans across the entire earth through time.

I have a few favorite websites that were created and are maintained by folks who make DNA come alive, be part of life, be part of your life. But you have to test first and learn your y-DNA.


It is recommended to get 37 markers of y-DNA STRs tested. After that, once you learn your haplogroup you will want to get your terminal SNP (pronounced snip) if you can. But you can’t order a SNP pack until you know your haplogroup. Sometimes you might not even need to order more, maybe you will match a person from a family that is near in time, your family, and they might have added SNP testing you can learn from (You will see there are many different numbers of markers to get. Most people will never need or want to add large numbers of STRs. But it is good to know that as a general rule the first 12 markers are very old and then they progressively reach into the future toward today).

For every stage of learning about y-DNA there will be free pages of explanations to find so no one has to see these letter number names and think they need lots of research work to know about them.

Mascimo Hay and the site Eupedia – this site will tell you so much about most of the root haplogroups. What there is known about them for when they lived and where they lived. All is being updated on all sites all the time. So in the example of the G2a haplogroup I show above on the tree. Use the search slot and google to find their page for your personal haplogroup.


Wikipedia keeps a great and updated site. They have many great volunteers who are keeping the sites updated and monitored for accuracy. Here Wikipedia’s page is the root Haplogroup G and you can read down the page that the father G had son G2 and son G2 had son G2a and so on.


Blaine Bettinger – Blaine’s pages are magic – there are several sites and projects and you can follow him through your DNA journey with utter confidence. He has lessons and info like my pages, but he has so much more information and so many more lessons than I have been able to write.

And of course from me Cherie Lynns Herstory – I have many stories about y-DNA but this one is a bit the same questions to answer in the page. When you test a man for their DNA you need to be careful you are testing the right man with the right DNA.

Who begat whom? Choose your y-DNA testing candidate(s) carefully.

Another blog of my own is about the work of the late Jean Manco. Her pages were saved on archive.org. Everyday I think about her work, which is often, I say a hope that we will keep those pages for posterity. My blog here tells you about how to navigate the pages to search for your genetic ancestors in the database she created of ancient peoples whose DNA has been sequenced. We have begun planning vacations (pre-pandemic of course) around where we know our own personal ancients lived in the past.

Honoring Jean Manco ~ She took me on my Ancestral Journey

There is also the wonderful site Haplogroup.org

I love haplogroup.org to make my DNA trees, to check and update the accuracy of the ancestry. From any page you will go back in time or forward. So once you have your results you can search for your haplogroup on this website, and then learn abut each mutation haplogroup (man) back in time and forward in time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s