Y DNA Matches: How Are You Related?

Diahan Southard

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How are you related to your Y DNA matches at FamilyTreeDNA? YDNA tests don’t give shared cM clues about how closely you’re related. Take this video tour of your Y DNA match list to start figuring out your relationships to your Y DNA matches.

YDNA Matches Match List How am I related IO.pngY DNA can help you investigate ANY genetic male on your family tree—as long as you test the right person, of course. But you can’t calculate your relationships to your YDNA matches at FamilyTreeDNA* in the same way you do with your autosomal matches at AncestryDNA, MyHeritage, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA or Living DNA.

Good news, though! Some of the same principles—like genetic distance—DO apply to your Y DNA matching experience. So if you’ve done any work organizing and identifying your autosomal DNA matches, you’re a step ahead.

The following short video tutorial (and the summary below it) will help you start using the information on your Y DNA match list to answer questions about your paternal lineage.

Your Y DNA Match Page: What You Need to Know

Your Y-DNA matches

Haven’t taken a YDNA test yet for family history? Family Tree DNA* is the only company that sells them.

Haven’t taken a YDNA test yet for family history? FamilyTreeDNA* is the only company that sells them.

Your DNA matches can often help you with so many different family history questions. They can help you distinguish between different paternal lines with the same surname. They can help you link different surnames together (such as when the birth father’s name wasn’t attached to his descendants). Sometimes they can help you sort out specific family relationships, too.

A Y DNA profile is essentially a list of numbers and their locations along the Y chromosome. Your Y DNA match list at Family Tree DNA helps you spot others who have similar series of numbers and locations as you. Given enough time, many people will find at least one Y DNA match.

3 top features of your YDNA match list

Your match page contains a lot of information, as shown in the video tutorial above. Here’s a summary of the most important things to do with your Y DNA matches:

  1. Focus on the genetic distance column. The closer the genetic distance (preferably zero!) the better.
  2. Use the TiP calculator. It shows you the likelihood that you and this match share an ancestor within 6 generations. (If you and that person have both taken a Family Finder autosomal test at FamilyTreeDNA, you can also explore that relationship.)
  3. If you have important matches who have tested at a higher level, consider upgrading your test to 67 or 11 markers (or even to Big Y).


What Next?

Not sure where to go from here? You can get started by taking a FamilyTreeDNA YDNA test* (or having a male family member take one). Or check out our Y DNA Quick Guide to learn everything you need to know, and nothing more, about Y DNA testing.

Take me to the YDNA Quick Guide!

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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. Les

    I have an illegitimate father. I recently did the 37 marker test. At 12 marker I have 8 matches at 0 genetic distance, and 3 at 1 GD. At 25 markers I have 3 at 1 GD, and at 37 markers I have these same 3 but now showing as 2 GD. I have cancelled plans to upgrade to 111 markers on the basis that that would be a waste of money. However, I have a big interest in my deep ancestry and migration paths, so am upgrading my predicted haplogroup of I-M253 with that snip package. I expect to be I1-Z58 (as 23andMe state), hopefully a subclade or more below that. It’s a fascinating subject and one which I hope to learn more about re human expansion.

    • Diahan

      Yes, deep ancestry IS fascinating. It is so interesting to watch for the intersection of historical migrations and genetic groups.
      And yes, upgrading to 111 is only helpful if others have upgraded to 111. If not, there will be no one to compare with.

    • dpierce

      I took the 700 marker test. Been trying to figure out a conundrum with my surname reaching its paper trail end in the year 1849. My ancestor went by Pierce but it looks like he was born with his mother’s surname. There’s no father listed on his baptism. I match with 3 people who have the last name Mortimer. I definitely share a common ancestor with them after the time surnames were introduced to England. I have narrowed down the area which the connection with my matches lived, I just need to find how we match.

  2. Michael

    We’ve recently discovered with reasonable certainty that my 2x great grandfather was not who we thought he was. The official story is remarried and we’ve tracked down some offspring of that second marrage and they dont aDNA match me, my father or either of his two cousins. So we have an NPE.

    As a newbie I ambitiously took a Y111 Marker test a couple of years ago and couldnt understand the results. I am now revisting . I have zero matches at Y111, three at Y67, and 8 at Y37 . I have a little cluster of 3 surnames names I will call "MW". MWx1 matches at Y37 (1 Step) and MWx2 that match at both Y67 (6 Steps) and Y37 (4 Steps).
    I cant find any "MW" in my fathers aDNA matches. Is this a blind alley or is there anywhere useful to go with this.?

    • Diahan

      These matches are only related to you if they haven’t tested at a higher level.
      So have your 67 or 37 marker matches tested at 111? If they have, and they don’t match, you aren’t related.
      But even if they haven’t tested at 111, you aren’t related because you have too many differences at the lower levels. You should be 3 or fewer steps from you to be related.
      So, don’t go looking for "MW" in your father’s matches. You won’t find it.

  3. Nicole Burgos

    My Husband has an unknown father/paternal line he has an exact match at 37 with TIP showing 59.37% at 2 generations, the exact match only took the 37marker test and not Familyfinder. Any advice? Thanks!

    • Danielle Francis

      I would recommend checking out our YouTube video on YDNA (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYdt0o2p85I, starting around the 4 minute mark). Diahan’s rule of thumb for YDNA matches is to look for the common ancestor at the generation around 70-85%. Since that is usually about 6-8 generations back, and since your husband has an unknown paternal line, that may be difficult. The thing is, YDNA is better at ruling out people that are definitely not realted, than confirming close relatives. If you’re looking for more information on how to find an unknown birth father check out this article: https://www.yourdnaguide.com/ydgblog/dna-testing-to-identify-a-birth-father-or-birth-mother

  4. Bob St. Cyr

    Through MyHeritage we discovered that my grandfather was not my grandfather – that is my grandmother had an affair. I have done the big 700, and I’m waiting for results. Hopefully there will be some matches to follow up. My father was born in Canada (northern Ontario) and DNA shows that I have ancestors in Sweden. How do I use the Ydna results to follow this up when I don’t have a surname

  5. Lee Morgan

    I have the same surname and the same haplogroup number, but there is a genetic distance of 1. Are we related? If so, what is the relationship.

    • Diahan Southard

      Without seeing more of your YDNA profile and other genetic information we can’t be certain exactly how this person is related to you, but usually someone with a genetic distance of 1 is related within 6-8 generations or less. This video gives a good explanation of how genetic distance can be used to estimate relationship: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMtE7pg13xU (around the 3:40 mark). Our YDNA Course (https://www.yourdnaguide.com/ydna-course) is another great resource to teach how to figure out relationship from genetic distance.

  6. Terrance Brown

    I have a FTDNA match that has taken Y and au testing he matches me on both .He has a sister who has also au tested and matches me at 11 cms her brother my Ydna match , matches at 7.2 CM. On the Ydna test we match on a gd 3 on 67 markers . We both trace our family to the Donegal Washington county Pennsylvania area . We’ve both traced to our 3rd gr8 grandfather’s. Is it possible they were brothers ?
    Thank you

  7. Trevor Sode

    I have a strong suspicion my 3rd great grandfather was an illegitimate child. His birth index only shows his mother which he took the last name of. He was born in 1849 and his mother married in 1853. My ancestor’s relationship to the head of household on census documentation is stepson. I have taken the Big Y DNA test and get 3 matches all with the last name of Mortimer. My ancestor went by Pierce. My top match on 111 markers is 6 steps genetic distance which isn’t very close. Would this have a high probability of sharing a paternal ancestor within the timeframe of surnames in Britain?

    • Diahan Southard

      For YDNA matches at the 111 level, the most useful matches for you are those with a genetic distance of 5 or less, a genetic distance greater than that is usually too distant of a relationship to be useful or practical. If you’re interested in learning more, I would recommend checking out our YDNA for Genealogy Course.

  8. Cheryl Fromhold

    Some years ago I decided to search for my maternal 4th great grandparents, the parents of William Beach b. 1800-1805 in NY. To that end, in addition to traditional research (because the New England Beach lines seemed to disagree quite a bit), I had my maternal uncle take a 37 marker y-dna test hoping to match with a Beach line. That was 13 years ago and as of today he has no matches at 37 markers, with Beach or any other surname. At 25 markers he has 23 matches, none of them Beaches and none that hold together beyond 25 markers. What should I make of this?
    Thank you!

    • Diahan Southard

      It sounds like in your case, there just haven’t been many close YDNA relatives that have tested, which is unfortunately one of the downsides of DNA testing. You can look at upgrading to the Big Y-700 (more info here), you can also keep on waiting to see if you get a closer match that pops up.

  9. Eugene White

    I have a male cousin match through autosomal testing, that tests 6 steps removed through “Y” testing. This male matches other 4th cousins that descend from my GGG Grand parents, This is somewhat confusing.

    • Diahan Southard

      Is this cousin related to you through your direct paternal line? It may be that you and this cousin come from different direct paternal lines, but that your paternal lines are from a similar area. For example, if you both have 4x great grandfathers from Ireland on your direct paternal line, then you might have a fairly simlar YDNA profile despite the fact that you’re not related through that line.

  10. Kathy Ellis

    I just got my husbands Y-DNA 37 marker test back and it said he has no matches at this level! I didn’t even get a list like you show on your webinars to see how far his matches snip or steps were to see how much higher than 3 steps they were from my husband. Why no list at all? My question is on FTDNA my husband has some matches with his same haplogroup so why are they not at least showing up on this list? Do I need to keep upgraded to a higher test until I see these matches show up at least? Thanks for your help.

    • Your DNA Guide

      Hi Kathy – Sometimes that happens! Unfortunately, there isn’t anyone else in the FTDNA database that shares enough STR markers with your husband to be included in his match list. So everyone in the database is multiple steps away. Those that you have seen with the same haplogroup probably only share a few markers because the common ancestor between your husband and them is from thousands of years ago. You shouldn’t upgrade to more markers until you have a match show up at 37 markers that has also tested at a higher level.


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