YDNA Testing: Getting Started


YDNA testing is a great way to explore your paternal family line. To get started, be sure you have the right person take the right test—and then join a surname project.

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YDNA testing is a specific type of genetic genealogy test that can help answer questions about your direct paternal line.

1. Have the right person take a YDNA test.

Because of the way YDNA is inherited, only males can take a YDNA test. If you’re a man who is looking at his own paternal line, take a test yourself. If you’re not, or if you’re looking at someone else’s paternal line, look for a willing tester who is a male descendant of that male line. If you’re a woman exploring your dad’s line, that means to have a brother test (if you share the same biological dad) or a full brother of your dad, or a son of a brother of your dad, etc.

The genetic genealogy testing company that does YDNA testing is Family Tree DNA, so purchase your test there. For meaningful results, test at least 37 markers (67 markers is probably ideal, but it’s more expensive, and you can always upgrade your test later to include more markers.)

2. Join a family project.

You can search for family projects right from the Family Tree DNA homepage. Just enter any surname of interest, see how many people with that surname have been tested, and see whether 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. 

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 gold mine, 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.

Now that you’ve done these two get-started tasks, it’s time to start analyzing those matches. Want help? The Your DNA Guide video library series offers more than 30 training videos on topics that include YDNA and working with DNA matches. The videos are in plain English and make your DNA journey easier and more fun (and who doesn’t want THAT?).