Family Tree DNA’s Big Y DNA test can help you distinguish fine shades of relationship on the paternal side of your family tree using YDNA. What is Big Y, and when is it worth taking?
In January 2019, Family Tree DNA* released the latest-and-greatest version of its Big Y DNA test: the Big Y-700. As the name suggests, this is a Y-chromosome DNA test that genetic males can take, useful for sorting out genealogical relationships on your paternal side (father’s father’s father’s father, etc.). A regular 37- or 111-marker DNA test can help you determine whether two men with the same or similar surname are related, or help you find a surname for an unknown male line.
The Big Y-700 test just takes those same principles to the next level. It is especially good at helping you determine HOW you might be related to someone that the regular Y DNA test says you are related to. More on that later.
Need to back up? What is Y DNA and when to take a Y DNA test
What is Big Y-700?
Big Y-700 explores two different kinds of genetic markers: STRs for more recent DNA connections and SNPs for more distant connections.
STRs are short repeating sections of DNA that can have a lot of variability between generations, making them good for identifying genetic relationships within the past 10 generations or so. So while the 67 marker Y-DNA test looks at 67 STRs, the Big Y-700 test looks at 700 STRs (hence the name of the test!).
SNPs are single changes in the DNA, and lots of times they change SUPER slowly (like, over thousands of years), so they point to your paternal ancestors’ ancient populations and migrations. However, there are lots of SNPs that may have changed in more recent generations, but just haven’t been well documented yet.
The Big Y test is helping us build a database of those newer SNPs. It does that by finding unique Y DNA SNPs specific to your paternal line for the time frame of about 10 – 20 generations back—effectively filling part of the genetic gap between what STRs can reach, and the more commonly reported deep ancestral SNP markers that tell you about ancient migrations.
When should you use Big Y-700?
The Big Y-700 test is most useful when you have solid paper trails for a paternal line and traditional YDNA testing with good matches going back at least 8 generations. This test can help you make genetic connections in the shadowy, pre-genealogical timeframe most people encounter at 10-20 generations, where records often don’t survive, surnames didn’t exist, and autosomal testing isn’t helpful.
The “700” part of Big Y-700 can help make greater distinctions between lines you know are related: for example, help you distinguish your ancestor from among his three brothers. Lower-marker Y DNA testing (even at the 111-level marker level) may not be able to answer that question for you. However, it will only be helpful if you can get you matches to take the test also. Having just your own Big Y results won’t be very insightful.
If I took the original Big Y test, do I need to upgrade?
Well, that depends. According to the white paper published by FTDNA, “Big Y-700 customers can expect to receive 40% more STRs and 50% more high-quality SNPs than they did with Big Y.” That means more data to help determine family relationships.
Family Tree DNA has the world’s largest Y DNA database. Whether you’re ready for Big-Y 700 or starting at a lower level, Family Tree DNA is the place to take your Y DNA test.
Learn What Your YDNA Is Telling You
Learn more about Y DNA in our free Why the YDNA Mini-Course. Learn the many ways YDNA might help you answer your questions about your family history. The Mini-Course is an excerpt from our YDNA for Genealogy Course, which takes you deeper into understanding Y-haplogroups and using them in genealogy research (as well as other topics such as Y DNA matching, surname project participation, and when to use Big Y).
Can you please elaborate on this statement:
"The “700” part of Big Y-700 can help make greater distinctions between lines you know are related: for example, help you distinguish your ancestor from among his three brothers."
That is exactly what I am trying to do, but have not found a clear explanation of how to go about it. I have Y-111 results and will soon have Big Y results for descendants of different sons of our MRCA. My line is and NPE, so I don’t know which brother I descend from.
Safety Harbor, FL
Don, yes, interpretation is tricky. You are looking for a pattern of mutations. It seems like you may have what we need to do it effectively, as it requires DNA from the descendants. This is something that we could help with.
Now, this doesn’t always work – as the YDNA doesn’t always cooperate. How far back is the NPE? Too far to use autosomal (which would be more than 5 generations back).
Hello, I’m wondering if I’ll glean anything worthwhile by doing the Big Y test. I know my father and some information about his father, who was born in Poland, but that’s all. I did a test on 23andme that gave me my paternal haplogroup, but I don’t know if the Big Y will tell me anything beyond that. What do you think?
I think you should start with just a regular YDNA test from Family Tree DNA. Like say a 37 or 67 marker test. Then join the Polish YDNA group (which is fantastic) and then they can help you decide what to do from there.
Our family is from Ireland, but we don’t know where.
Will 700 puta finer point on our search? We have an
Unusual last name in ireland, found in specific areas
Without a doubt… I was able to determine I wasn’t an Ellis, but a Ryan through Big Y 700. You’ll just want to join a project to see others with similar DNA, then the rest somewhat unfolds in front of you.
There’s an Irish Ancestors project you can join which may help you quickly get to your answers.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Scott. Yes, Lyle, the BigY has potential to help, but it really depends a lot on your haplogroup and who else has been tested.
I just want to know the origins of my paternal line in ancient times would I be better off with a y37 or y700?
Erik, for deep ancestral origins, you will want BigY-700, for sure. The Y37 is really just for family matching.
I’m not sure if I should go with a Y700. I just want to be able to fill out a paternal family tree as much as possible. And on the side, I would like to see how close of a paternal haplogroup i can find about myself. The most recent haplogroup that I know I have is R-Z94, but I want to see what sub groups and sub-sub groups etc I am. Would the Y700 be good for that even though I only know up to my great-great grandfather?
The BigY700 WILL help you find out which sub-sub-sub group you are a part of. So if that is one of your primary goals, the BigY is going to be worth it. But it will unlikely help you find out who your 3X great grandfather is. However, the YDNA combined with the autosomal DNA may be able to help you fill in that ancestor.
I have no idea. could the Big Y-DNA change my Y haplogroup if it appears something by Y-DNA67? you got me? I mean the big hug differences.
You will not get a completely different haplogroup with BigY. It will be in the same haplogroup family. It will just be significantly more defined.
Something I’ve not yet found information about is what the next stage will be. We had BigY500, now 700, so is there something even more refined in development, and what sort of timeframe?
Great question. I am sure our DNA testing companies will continue to advance in their efforts to provide the latest and greatest. But I am not privy to any details about further BigY updates at FTDNA.
I did a YDNA 111 and found out I’m R1b R-M269 and was talking to Family Tree yesterday and they said I should take a BigY test. I have done my tree with Ancestry and male line to Rollo Ragnvaldsson 860-930 but what I hear nobody has DNA from him or his grandson’s, so what would be the point? Also in my tree has many King’s & Queen’s. What are your thoughts?
You have hit the nail on the head here. If there isn’t anyone to compare your DNA against, then your match page will be empty. However, given your extensive paper trail, it is very likely that you could be a kind of standard for others who have not yet pushed their paper trail back this far. So you would be helping to record this extensive DNA profile for your ancestors that may help others find and connect to your ancestral line. Also, there is a small chance that another descendant of this family HAS taken a YDNA test. But that far back, they may not look like a close match at the 111 marker level, but the BigY SNP test will show your connection.
Diahan, my recorded line goes to c1000, France/Normandy. I would like to work with Charles Hill on this if you could pass my contact to him.
That’s amazing, Mike! I believe Charles will get an alert that someone else has posted here. But I don’t have contact information for either of you.
Hi, I already have my analysis and haplogroup definition and I’d like to know the effective impact of BigY. I have 11 basic Y mutations. Will BigY refine these mutations and add more after the 11th, creating more geographic discoveries related to minor changes in the Y mutation? I’m actually not interesting in recent history of my relatives, only in the big picture of these migrations, because I have several!
I am not sure what you mean exactly by ’11 basic Y mutations" but absolutely YES BigY will add to your knowledge about the history and migration of your direct male line.
My question is why is Y DNA testing so expensive and why does nobody else offer it? I dont want to over simplify but testing process usually gets cheaper with time. I have a break in my paternal line in 1865. I did a Y111 test two years ago but the results were poor. I have no matches at Y111, 3x 4 gen matches at Y67 and 8 at Y37. I’ve seen two new matches above Y25 in two years. I’ve recently doubled down on Big Y because my father is dying and if possible i’d like to solve the mystery for him but i’m not hopeful because nobody is Y testing. My conclusion is that its an expensive test and of limited use so most people don’t bother. If it were cheaper more people would bundle it in at purchase, the database would be bigger and it would be more useful so more people would buy it. I have persuaded several potential relatives to take atDNA testing. I’ll usually offer to pay but under a $100 people seem to be OK to find out something about themselves and help. Nobody is interested in taking Y-DNA testing at these prices.
The short answer is: I don’t know. But one reason that YDNA testing is so expensive is that other industries are not using it. One reason autosomal DNA testing is so inexpensive is because there are LOTS of other industries using this same chemistry to investigate a variety of things. The same is not true for YDNA.
And is HAS gotten cheaper over time. Perhaps just not as fast as we hope. At $119 it is not too far from your $100 mark, and often you can find it on sale.
But I agree, we need a bigger database!
If your brick wall in 1865 is closer than a 3X great grandparent, you could try to solve it using autosomal DNA…
My oldest known direct paternal ancestor, going back six generations, has solid YDNA matches with descendants from seven other men with the same last name. The DNA results along with a genealogical paper trail show the men are related, but the question is what is their relationship? If I can get men recruited from each of the lines to take the Big 700 YDNA test, would the results tell us the nature of their relationship?
I think BigY would be the perfect next step. But there may be things you can learn about your relationships at the current level of testing. We are actually enrolling in our YDNA Course that starts on February 21. I think that would be a great next step for you to learn how to put your current data to the best use, as well as learn more about the BigY. https://www.yourdnaguide.com/ydna-course.
Hi, my ancestry beyond from my 2x great grandfather back (paper trail to 6x great grandfather) is 100% French. Given that the French are “not allowed to do DNA tests for genealogy” is it worth doing a Y DNA test, and, if so, which Y DNA test? There is a family story of adoption somewhere along the line so surnames would be a great help. The family pretty much died out in France in the 1800s apart from my line so maybe Y DNA would not be much help.
John, you are right in that the database of French individuals is not large, but it is bigger than you might think. I can see at Family Tree DNA there is a French Heritage YDNA project https://www.familytreedna.com/groups/frenchheritage/about/background and a French surname YDNA project https://www.familytreedna.com/public/french/default.aspx?section=yresults to name two. So yes, I think it is worth it to test at FTDNA. Go to our YDNA testing page to learn more. https://www.yourdnaguide.com/ydna.
I purchased Y37 and was disappointed that I got ONE match! I purchased add ons, thinking I would get more matches. Nope! Early on, I did have more than one match. After the system was improved, I went to one match and have stayed there 2 years.
Will Y111 help me get more matches?
Probably not. When you don’t have matches and you want more, you have two choices: target test or be patient. Target testing can be valuable if you go back to your earliest known ancestor (let’s say your 3X great grandfather) and come back down to another one of his descendants through a different son. Testing that person can help verify your connection back to your earliest known ancestor.
Testing at 111 won’t find more matches, but it does further document your own line, which someday will have more matches.
Hi, I am wondering why for a particular Y-DNA match there is a genetic distance of 3 steps at 67 markers yet this increases to 5 steps at 111 markers.
I recently upgraded to the Big Y 700 but was disappointed with the results. I have 25 matches at 67 markers and 5 matches at 111 markers.
Hi Geoff. At each level you are reviewing (37, 67, 111) FTDNA shows you the number of differences you have from that person AT THAT LEVEL. So when you are comparing just the 67 markers you have 3 differences, but at the 111 marker level you have 5. I do have a quick sheet on YDNA that goes over the test in detail, if you are interested. https://www.yourdnaguide.com/product/ydna-quick-reference-guide
I had a test by a well known geneology organisation. I was bitterly disappointed and felt misled. It turning up some real odd connections about a few times a year. However I am in strying to solve a victorian geologist who has all my ilk coming from some ficticious Hungarian Prince. How much should I pay for the big Y700 and what is a likely good
suppliers who has a reasonable turnround. Thanks
The only place to take the BigY test is Family Tree DNA. So that makes it easy!
I have taken the FTDNA Y111 with very few matches and a “Predicted” Haplogroup of E-M35. To receive a confirmed haplogroup FTDNA wants me to purchase more SNPs. They say “E-M35 is part of E – V13 SNP Pack
Remove the guesswork. Get 140 SNPs related to E-M35 for only $119.” However, I can upgrade to the Y-700 for $229. I am new to all this DNA and have hit roadblocks in both paternal and maternal family tree research. Do you have any recommendations on SNPs or Y-700 purchases? Thanks!
Our advice is the more the better! If you have the budget, we recommend upgrading to the Big Y-700. The Big Y significantly narrows down your haplogroup to a smaller area and more recent time, and that can be really useful in genealogical research.
The one male family member I have for Big Y-700 testing has Down Syndrome. (He is capable of giving consent and understanding how/why the test will be used.) Would Down Syndrome otherwise affect the Y results? Thank you.
Good question! Down Syndrome doesn’t affect the Y Chromosome, so that family member would be a great candidate for the YDNA test 🙂
Great news! Thanks so much for you quick reply.
My dad’s father apparently came from an affair in 1918. All documents list him as the son of his mother’s husband, and therefore we have no info other than finding 3rd-4th cousins who didn’t “fit” in our family tree and no matches with our current last name. According to a different test, my dad’s y-dna haplogroup is R-CTS241. I’m curious if I purchase the big y700, will it only help if close members also test with the big y and only show very close matches? Or would it also show matches at farther distances as well? I might not have a good enough grasp on this, but I wasn’t sure how much this test would help in finding who my great grandfather was. Thanks for any insight you might have if my question makes sense.
For cases like yours, autosomal DNA test results are most likely to be helpful. Matches on the Big Y can be related as close as siblings or as distant as 8th cousins and beyond, so it will be hard to narrow down a shared ancestor with YDNA alone. It sounds like you probably already have autosomal DNA test results from your dad, but if not, here are a few tips for autosomal testing: test the oldest generation, test multiple family members, and find the test that has the best features for you (https://www.yourdnaguide.com/ydgblog/best-dna-tests-ancestry). Also, check out this free guide that outlines how to use DNA results to find ancestors: https://www.yourdnaguide.com/find-ancestor-using-dna
Is there a way to print the GEDCOM file for an on paper tree?
Hi Mike! The only way to open a GEDcom file is through a family history software program. Check out this article on Ancestry about printing a tree – I hope it helps!
Hi I’d like to trace a missing grandfather going back (1820)5/6 generations I have history up to there on the paternal side and beyond on the maternal side.I’ve tried My Heritage and can’t get very far.
Would a Y DNA test do it?
What do you recommend?
As long as your grandfather is related to you along a direct paternal line, the YDNA test is a great option! Check out our free YDNA mini-course about how you can use DNA to get started https://www.yourdnaguide.com/ydna-free
My cousin took the Big Y-700 test. His closest match is someone who took the Big Y-500 test. At the 500-marker level their genetic distance is 6 steps, Big Y STR differences 11 of 573, haplogroup R-BY67159. Would that be considered a close match?
No, that wouldn’t be considered a close match. For more information about YDNA matching, check out our YDNA course (https://www.yourdnaguide.com/ydna-course).
My father took y700 test but no one matched him for quite awhile. Finally had a match with different surname but he’s also on his 67 marker list. Then recently a new y700 match appeared, different surname yet again. Then the original 67/y700 match kept the old number and my father was assigned a new number with the new match. The majority of 37, 67, 111 matches share my dad’s surname and come from Kilkenny, Ireland but none have y700 tested thus far. Experts from Ireland say my father is definitely from Kilkenny based on match lists (including the surname project grouping as well is all Kilkenny based). My question is my dad has 1% Irish genes. If the tip report on ftdna says his Kilkenny matches are 98% certain within 8 gens, would the 1% fit? His 25 marker (same surname) matches tend to be England based.
Hi, thanks for leaving your comment. It’s hard to know for sure about ethnicity results without seeing the whole match list. Did you get the 1% Irish ethnicity from one of the testing sites? Generally Ethnicity results are estimates. If you go into the testing site you can usually find that each ethnicity has a range of potential percentage for that person. For instance, the site may list Irish ethnicity at 1%, but the deeper report may say that the possible range of his Irish ethnicity is 1-10%. You can also check out our YDNA Course for more information on the Big Y-700 test: https://www.yourdnaguide.com/ydna-course
My last name is McLeod, and I have traced my father’s line back to the man who landed on the East Coast in the 1700s and started our American line. However, I know nothing about where he came from (assuming Scotland). Can your Y testing help me move beyond this plateau? I would probably not splurge for the Big Y-700 test but would for the Y-111 if you thought it would be worth the extra money over the Y-37.
Your situation is a great one to use YDNA testing on. I would recommend the Y-111 test in your case. Most of the time the Y-37 is most effective at saying if someone is or isn’t related to you, while the Y-111 is more effective at telling you HOW you are related. With any YDNA test, you can always test at lower level, and then if you decide later you’d like to upgrade to more markers, you just pay the price difference to upgrade. I also recommend our YDNA Course for Genealogy, it goes step-by-step through teaching how to use your YDNA results to find answers (https://www.yourdnaguide.com/ydna-course)
Hi yourdnaguide.com administrator, You always provide valuable information.
I wish to have produced a SNP graphic that shows the individual SNP branches of and convergence for 3 men who do not have the same surname but do have a GD of 2 based on their Y STR’s. Two men share a Guernsey heritage and one of these 2 also shares a root [ancient] northern European surname heritage. Two men tested for Y37 and the other Y111. Would you please recommend what is the minimum extra testing needed to furnish just sufficient SNP’s to do the job. Thank you.
I would recommend looking at our YDNA Course for more information on SNPs and YDNA testing! You can check it out here: https://www.yourdnaguide.com/ydna-course
Dear yourdnaguide.com owner, Thanks for the in-depth post!
Hi yourdnaguide.com webmaster, Thanks for the informative and well-written post!
On my father’s paternal line, we can’t seem to get further back than a few vague details about his grandfather. Our Scottish ancestors were travellers who married into families with the same Christian names and surnames as each other and of those in their community. He has one of the most common Scottish surnames. We have struggled to find records of births, deaths and marriages – even when we think we might have found a record that could match, there tends to be multiple people with the same name as their parents and the spouse’s parents in records of that time and place.
We’d love to be able to trace back at least a few more generations. My father, my brother, myself and some paternal extended family can see many 3-6% shared DNA matches via our individual Ancestry DNA results and have heaps more of 2% and less shared DNA but can’t seem to work out how we are related. We feel like we’ve hit a brick wall so want to invest our money in a Y test. Which Y test would you recommend to help us discover more specifics please?
Here’s our page with our YDNA test recommendations, you’ll definitely want to test with Family Tree DNA, and we usually suggest starting with the Y-111 test, but that page I linked will have more information.
Another option you may want to consider is testing/ uploading your DNA to other companies. This can help you gather more matches (this article explains more). MyHeritage is an especially good one to transfer to since it’s free to upload your DNA results and they have some useful DNA tools.
I’ve bought a Big Y Dna. I have traced my 3rd great grandfather to Donegal in Ireland, but i have no evidence of his birth and only his fathers name, will this test help me pin point potential brothers or earlier descendents of my 3rd great grandfather?
Big-Y is a great option to help learn more about your ancestors that are 3x great grandparents and beyond. Of course, the usefulness of the test is usually also influenced by how many descendants of this line have also taken a Big Y test, so depending on how many have tested and how closely related they are to you. For more detailed information on exactly how to use your Big-Y results, I recommend checking out our YDNA for Genealogy Course, we have a whole lesson in that course devoted to understanding and applying Big-Y results!
My father was adopted and I do not know his biological family. Which test would be best for me to find biological relatives and see how we’re related?
Autosomal DNA tests are the best tests for finding biological relatives that closely related. We recommend testing with Ancestry since they have the largest database. You can read more about the different DNA tests and how they compare to each other here.
I have a question of how the Y700 test might relate to a full genome test .. are they redundant in any way ?
I took the FTDNA 37 test and got only one match .. from a man who does not know who his father is.. I am G M201 .. I have paper conection back to Plauen Germany to Adam Lober born in 1489.
From what I know the 700 will not give me any more matches at least from Family Tree .. will the Nebula full test give me any more interesting Y dna informtion ?
Youe site is great and the fact that you answer questions .. amazing ..
Big Y-700 is testing SNP-rich regions, so the testing company is scanning the majority of the Y chromosome, but not all of it. But scanning all of it will not likely give you more information as part of the full genome testing. You won’t know how many matches you will have at the Big Y level until you test. It’s possible to have 1 match at 37 and more matches or fewer matches at Big Y. G-M201 has quite a bit of further branching shown here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_G-M201, so it might be possible to match other descendants further out on the branches.
Good morning Diahan,
I know I am GM-201, which is uncommon in the UK, and S-9409, which is rare.
I am in the GU1-YDNA, the Circassian DNA and the Armenian groups on FTDNA, and tested to the 111 marker level.
I have about 190 matches at 12 markers, 9 matches at 25 markers, and none thereafter.
My g-grandfather was probably 1/4 ethnically Caucasian, but as far as my Y line of descent goes that is all I have been able to find.
I believe I have tracked his paternal ancestry from the Caucasus in @1760, throgh Armenia and Turkey, into Germany/France at about 1820, and then into England, probably as an Ottoman merchant in Manchester.
The ethnic Caucasions were almost wiped out between 1760 and 1863, by Russia, and again in 1915 in.Armenia by Turks, so it is no surprise that most of my Y ‘matches’ are historical.
I have no known recent male relatives connecting me to him.
Will the Big Y- 700 give me any more information than I already have.
The Big Y-700 will definitely give you more information than you have, the question of course is what it will tell you and how useful the information will be. As with any DNA test, this is a bit of a catch 22, you run the risk of paying for the upgrade and not getting any useful information, but if you don’t test you’ll never know if you were missing out on useful information. Ultimately it’s up to you to weigh the costs and the benefits. You can read more about the different YDNA test options here.
I am wondering if the Big Y test would be useful to determine whether my great uncle is of Scottish male lineage as per our paper trail, which has quite an uncommon surname, or of possible Greek Lineage instead on his father’s side (maybe a NPE situation in the line)?
His Autosomal DNA tests do not appear to indicate Scottish Ancestry, and with no close matches I am wondering if this could assist in determining if there is a NPE situation going on. I understand that ethnicity is inherited randomly, but would like to confirm that we have an accurate paper trail.
The Big Y-700 is most effective at tracing back if you already have decently strong documentation for about 8 generations back on that line. If you don’t have that, I would recommend testing at a lower level first (probably 111), from there you can see if that tells you the information you’re looking for, or if you should upgrade to the Big Y after all.
When I copy and paste all my father’s YDNA matches into Excel, then color code the markers to approximate the colors in my surname project, I copy and paste into a 2nd sheet in my Excel workbook. Then, because it is so hard, even after color-coding the differences, I delete all rows in which the repeats are identical. That way you might not go cross-eyed trying to read across numerous rows all the way to the end. Freezing the top row and at least the column with kit number helps.
Thanks for the great tip!
My biological father died several years ago with no DNA test. I have no known full brothers or sisters, but a half brother on my maternal side and a half brother on my paternal side and several half sisters on both sides. I have identified over 20 cousins on both sides (> 40 altogether) through autosomal DNA on both Ancestry and 23 and Me and have good paper lineage. Would a Y test on my half brothers yield any new useful information and which Y test? We did the 40 marker test years ago on one half brother with Ancestry and it proved to be total garbage. Would Y test be helpful on cousins?
The YDNA test tells us about the direct paternal line of whoever takes the DNA test. So your half-brother on your dad’s side would be a great person to test to learn more about your dad’s YDNA. You could also test one of your cousins on your dad’s side, as long as that cousin is a son of one of your dad’s brothers.