Y DNA Testing: Get Started

Diahan Southard

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YDNA DNA testing family history Family Tree DNA FTDNA paternity Get Started IO.png Y DNA testing is a great way to explore your paternal family line. Here’s a quick get-started video tutorial and two essential tips for taking a YDNA test for family history.

Y DNA testing is a specific type of genetic genealogy test that can help answer questions about your direct paternal line. Follow these 3 steps to start your Y DNA journey!



1. Watch this quick tutorial video on Y DNA.

2. Have the right person take a YDNA test.

Family Tree DNA test kit cropped.jpg Because of the way Y DNA is inherited, only genetic males can take a Y DNA test. If you are not a genetic male, or if you’re looking at someone else’s paternal line, you’ll have to look for a willing tester who IS a genetic male descendant of that male line. For example, if you’re a woman exploring your dad’s line, you can have a brother test (if you share the same biological dad) or your dad’s brother (by the same father), or a son of a brother of your dad, etc.

The genetic genealogy testing company that does Y DNA testing is FamilyTreeDNA.* Testing 37 markers can produce meaningful results, but if you can afford to test 111 markers, that’s even better. (You can always upgrade your test later to include more markers.) Purchase a Y DNA test now.

3. Join a Y-DNA family project.

After you have your test results, join a Y DNA family project to compare your Y DNA to that of other men who share the same male lineage. You can often learn more about the surname(s) most commonly associated with that Y DNA signature. You may see others who match your Y DNA and may share 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 Y DNA 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.

Learn how to join a YDNA family project

Learn to Do the DNA—and Let Us Help!

Wherever you are in your YDNA testing journey, we can help you. That’s what we do. Learn more about YDNA in our YDNA FREE Get Started Course. Learn the many ways YDNA might help you answer your questions about your family history. The Get Started 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 YDNA matching, surname project participation, and when to use Big Y).

Tell me more about the YDNA FREE Get Started Course

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<a href="https://www.yourdnaguide.com/author/guideyourdnaguide-com" target="_self">Diahan Southard</a>

Diahan Southard

As founder and CEO of Your DNA Guide, Diahan Southard has been teaching people how to find family history answers in their DNA for several years, and she's been in the genetic genealogy field since its infancy. Diahan teaches internationally, writes for popular magazines, consults with leading testing companies, is author of Your DNA Guide–The Book, and producer of Your DNA Guide–the Academy, an online learning experience.


  1. Hope Shipley Welch

    Only sibling, a brother, tested Big Y last summer; passed away a month ago
    3rd Cousin – related to same 2nd great gf – BIG Y – information just received

    My brother had tested with Ancestry – YDNA – and was able to save raw data when they closed and used at ftDNA to add to their results.

    Have joined a Surname project and have been in contact with the manager.

    I did mtDNA both Ancestry and ftDNA – to use if need. Was told my brother did not need to have his mtDNA done because of that.

    • Diahan Southard

      Excellent work getting all of this documentation complete!

  2. Theodore Cheek

    I have taken the Y111 test and found 3 matches 1, 3 and 5 steps. The first match suggests a high probability we share the same gg grandfather (Richmond Sparks) but no stories of him having a second family or out of wedlock affair.
    Have joined the Sparks group project but not much help

    • Diahan Southard

      If you do share a 2X great grandfather, you would likely also share Autosomal DNA. Have you looked at that?

  3. Jane Bonny

    My husband has taken the Y-111 test and matches another man with the same surname, a known descendant of the same great-grandfather. The problem is that male descendants of the siblings of that great-grandfather are an entirely different haplogroup. This was not a complete surprise.

    There are two 7-step matches at the 67-marker level but none at the 111-marker level. I have been waiting patiently for someone from R-M269 to pop up (siblings are Haplogroup I-M233 & they came from Denmark) but can’t think of anyone to check

    • Diahan Southard

      Usually when haplogroups are different between YDNA matches, it’s just because in the generations following the shared ancestors there was a mutation on the YDNA for one (or both) individuals. These mutations may be “branch points” on the haplo group, so even though the haplogroups have different names, they are two branches of the same major branch. I hope you get some more matches pop up soon! Sometimes the best next step is just to wait for that key match to pop up!

    • Shanna Scott-Salmon

      On what site are you a member? My dad is R-M269 and he was adopted. I know it’s a long shot just read your question. He passed away several years ago but I administer his account on Ancestry etc. His name is Danny Scott. We’ve been trying for years to find his biological father. Just recently figured out his maternal side. My name is Shanna Scott-Salmon.


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