YDNA Test Upgrade | Is It Worth It?

Kelli Jo Bergheimer

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Considering a YDNA test upgrade? It can be well worth it. Here’s what happened after Kelli updated her husband’s YDNA test. And then–after a little patience–along came an exciting new match! See what YDNA can do for your research questions.

Have you ever had a DNA surprise that felt like Christmas? I recently experienced just that with my husband’s recent YDNA match. But the surprise didn’t happen overnight. My husband first took a YDNA test in 2017, and we are still making new discoveries due to upgrading tests and new matches emerging.

When my husband first took a YDNA test in 2017, he took a 37 marker test. Initially, he didn’t have any matches at that level. We received an email from FamilyTreeDNA to purchase more SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) testing, and we did. 

Then by 2018, he had eleven matches, all at GD 4 (genetic distance of four). There weren’t any Bergheimers in the group, no recognizable surnames, and no recognizable earliest known ancestors. His assigned haplogroup was I-M253. It felt like we stalled out! 

While I waited for a close match to come in, I learned about STRs (Short Tandem Repeats), SNPs, phylogenetic trees, and haplogroups. If you find yourself not sure what these terms mean, or what your next steps to take after YDNA testing, the YDNA for Genealogy Course will help you understand your results, the terminology, and how to approach your research question.

YDNA test upgrade: What came next

In 2020, I upgraded my husband’s 37-marker test to a 111-marker test. He was finally placed into a surname group with an updated haplogroup of I1_Z140, but in order to more clearly define his branching, he was told to either purchase more SNP testing or upgrade to Big Y-700, so we upgraded to Big Y-700 later that year.

Then his haplogroup was updated to I-Y5497 and eventually I-FTB41221. (There is an entire lesson in the YDNA for Genealogy Course titled “Getting to Know Your Surname Project” and another that takes you as deep as you care to go into haplogroups and all the stuff you see in the chart below.) 

Block Trees

When my husband’s block tree was available, I was excited to learn more. As each new man is added, the block tree changes, and the branching can become more defined. Here’s a tip: Make sure you frequently take screenshots, particularly of the block tree! (Not sure what block trees are? Again, you should take the YDNA for Genealogy Course.)

A new YDNA match

And now to the Christmas surprise this year! A new match with the surname Roth was placed in my husband’s branch. Unfortunately, the MRCA (most recent common ancestor) is likely too far back to find without many more testers in the database, more research, or specifically targeted testing within this group of Germans. However, this match lists his YDNA patrilineal ancestor as Gottlieb Roth of Meßstetten, Germany. My husband’s Bergheimers are from Reidlingen, Germany. Imagine my surprise to find these two towns are about 50 km from each other. I can’t help but feel like I’m getting closer!

As you can see, you can uncover a lot from YDNA testing–especially if you know how to mine its wealth! These discoveries are just a sample of some of things you can learn about in our YDNA for Genealogy Course

Enroll in Our YDNA for Genealogy Course


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<a href="https://www.yourdnaguide.com/author/kellijobergheimer" target="_self">Kelli Jo Bergheimer</a>

Kelli Jo Bergheimer

Kelli Bergheimer is a writer, teacher, editor, and national genealogical speaker. Kelli is the Director of Curriculum and Assessment for Blue Kayak, a K-12 textbook company. Her passion for education reaches beyond the classroom to teach others how to use genetic genealogy to solve family history mysteries. Kelli also works as a DNA editor for Legacy Tree Genealogists.

1 Comment

  1. Chris Schuetz

    “Frequent screenshots”
    This applies to all sorts of stuff. So much disappears when we think it will always be there.

    Or my sight problem causes me to see something in a different way from the way it really was, so the screenshot is there so I can go over it again, exactly as it was.

    Taking screenshots is a tiny investment with great rewards.


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