4 Types of DNA Projects Worth Joining

Boost what your DNA may tell you about your origins by joining projects that compare your DNA to others like you. Here are 4 kinds of DNA projects to consider joining.

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Some people are “joiners.” They’re happy to enlist, sign up or participate in all kinds of groups, clubs, causes or movements. Well, there’s another kind of thing to join out there: DNA projects. Even if you’re not the type who happily totes a plate of refreshments to monthly meetings, consider joining a DNA project.

The major types of DNA projects are organized around location, haplogroup, YDNA surname, and autosomal DNA. In each case, they might help you connect with kin and learn more about your heritage.

4 DNA Projects worth signing up for

1. Location Groups

Location groups gather together individuals with heritage from a particular area. For example, there are DNA projects for families who passed through the Cumberland Gap (both for YDNA and MtDNA) and are associated with parts of Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky during the era of European settlement. A kind of location-based subgroup are certain studies of royalty groups from specific regions, such as groups for those who believe they come from Swedish nobility or Russian nobility.

2. Haplogroup Projects

A haplogroup is a deep ancestral group that is reported for both mitochondrial and YDNA testing. Studies surrounding haplogroups are usually focused less on genealogical efforts and more on identifying deep ancestral origins. And I mean REALLY deep. Your haplogroup tells you where your ancestor was up to 10,000 years ago!  It is named with alternating letters and numbers, and most often just identifies a very broad geographic area of origin.

Haplogroup projects are especially helpful for individuals who want to pursue additional YDNA testing to more accurately define their deep ancestral groups. Group administrators are generally very knowledgeable and can provide guidance through the maze of YDNA testing options.

3. Surname Projects

Surname projects are just what they sound like: they’re associated with a specific surname and its variants. This concept has existed since long before DNA testing was available, but these traditional projects are called one-name studies. Now many traditional one-name studies have incorporated DNA into their work, and others have since been built around genetic data which may have associated trees.

A perk of YDNA surname projects is that they can sometimes reveal who you’re NOT related to, even though you may share the same surname. If the DNA tells you there is no connection, this might keep you from unwarranted investigation into otherwise very tempting paper-based connections. In fact, there are times I have had to be quite firm with a client who REALLY wants to find meaning in surname connections (like a Scottish clan) that aren’t genetically solid, and the results they can view overwhelmingly in surname projects can help dissuade them.

YDNA projects also reveal the actual YDNA values that you share, and don’t share, with those that you are related to. This clue may also lead to further hints about your paternal line connections.

4. Autosomal Groups

A relatively new and still-growing segment of DNA projects are dedicated to autosomal DNA studies. My favorite is a very well-organized project focused on those with ancestry in Iowa (which also qualifies as a location-based project, but we’re talking about it here instead.). This project aims to connect members who may not otherwise find each other. The hope is that cohesive genetic groups and family connections may form and lead to better understanding the genetics of the state’s population.

Find a DNA Project

Most DNA projects are hosted at Family Tree DNA: search for one here. But you’ll also find them other places, like in individual family organizations and via the website www.WorldFamilies.net. Learn from your DNA, and from others’ DNA—and you’ll never be asked to bring refreshments.

What to read next: One-Name Studies and DNA


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