Y-DNA “Paternity Test” for an Ancestor

Diahan Southard

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Y-DNA isn’t quite a “paternity test,” but can help you solve paternity mysteries, including those for your male ancestors! Here’s how one man used YDNA to help identify an ancestor’s birth father.

Thanks to Bob Land for writing this story about how Y-DNA helped him rule out candidates for his ancestor’s unknown father—and then make more traction on who this ancestral birth father was!

I was fortunate to inherit a lot of genealogical research from many generations of men in my family. My father, Bill, was passionate about genealogy and worked on it tirelessly. He studied his family and my mother’s family, making many charts using glue sticks and cut pieces of paper and storing his work in binders. This was before the internet. He wrote letters to people in Ireland and England, and corresponded with long lost relatives around the country.

Unfortunately, as a teen, I was not too interested. When he passed away, that changed. I inherited the family genealogy—and a mystery.

My last name is Land because of a fluke. My 4th great grandmother had my 3rd great grandfather out of wedlock. She gave him my 5th great grandfather’s last name: her own last name, Land. Who was the father of this man? Was he the son of the man Anna was go on to marry and with whom she would bear several more children? Why did she give him her last name and not the last name of her husband? A hand-written family history composed by her grandson reported that his father was raised as one of the Reeves’ children. If the father wasn’t Reeves, who was it?

Years of genealogy failed to answer this question. Anna had her son in 1781 in South Carolina. Tracing women during that time is difficult; they leave little trace. I was fascinated by how this woman’s experience, which was probably quite difficult, has impacted my life and the life of the 4 generations before me.

Y-DNA acts as ancestral paternity test

Then I learned about yDNA and how it travelled up the male line. This type of research could help me uncover who this man was, but how? I had no clue who this person could be.

Family Tree DNA* is the only company selling YDNA tests that are useful for genealogical research purposes.

I got a Big Y DNA test from Family Tree DNA*, thinking that the data it provided would give me the answers, but all it provided was more questions. After the results arrived, I saw that I had no genetic connection to the Reeves family. I had no YDNA connection to the Land family, either. So who was I related to? The results were confusing, so I didn’t know what I was looking at.

I took Diahan’s course and pieces started to fit. I first learned about surname groups and joined one based on the last name of one of my matches. I found out that I had 3 close matches in that group. Diahan taught me how to find and evaluate those matches. I seemed to have several good matches.


Then came the Block Tree. The whole thing opened up for me. On MY branch of that block tree were two men from the surname group:

Diahan explained what that meant and I was able to put the pieces together. These two men were strong matches and the answer to my mystery would likely involve one of those two families. So then I decided to “DO GENEALOGY!” per my learning from Diahan, and found a strong match of a man who was in her area around the time my 3rd great grandfather was conceived. I believe this is the man I have been looking for. The mystery is likely solved!! I will continue doing the genealogy necessary to flesh out the answer.

Diahan’s course opened up my understanding and helped me solve the mystery.  I am so grateful to her and want her to know that on behalf of myself and 3 generations of men who came before me.


Learn more about DNA like Bob Did!

From the lessons and strategies in our YDNA for Genealogy Course Bob determined that he wasn’t genetically connected to the Reeves or the Land families and he learned what that Block Tree was and how it could help him find his closest and most meaningful matches, so he could figure out who he WAS genetically connected to.

Start off your YDNA learning with our YDNA FREE Get Started Course. It covers the many ways YDNA might help you answer your questions about your family history.


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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.

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