Sometimes testing the Y chromosome can help when you are looking for a missing father, grandfather, or further back as long as you have a tester descended on the male only line. Remember the Y is passed father to son, so any changes are rare and are caused by mutations not recombination. Typically a man would start with a Y 37 STR marker test at Family Tree DNA to see if this avenue is worth pursuing. A STR test gets the most recent changes rather than the haplogroup, thus can suggest a surname. Click here for my article explaining Y testing.
The Y results will not help if no other men from that Y lineage have tested unless you have a theory. In that case you need to test someone else descended on the male only line from the presumed ancestor.
Y testing can be very useful when the unknown parentage occured many generations ago, such that autosomal testing may not be able to solve it.
If your ancestors have been in the USA for some time then a Y 37 STR marker test may find a probable last name. In that case there may be a surname project with other Y testers at Family Tree DNA. I recommend contacting the admins of that project as they can often be a great help in your quest. However if you are from a population group which has only had inherited surnames for two hundred years or less, quite likely you will have no luck. Continue reading →
Father’s day is always an occasion for the DNA testing companies to offer discounts on their kits and this year is no different. Give Dad a DNA kit is the message. Why should you? Well his autosomal DNA might find cousins you had lost track of, discover ethnicity you were curious about, or solve an unknown parent mystery. After all, he is one generation closer to your ancestors. I tested my late father long ago and am grateful to have that information. Click here for my evaluations of the different autosomal testing companies.
Dad and I in about 1953 (he was in the Air Force)
Only men have a Y chromosome and there are tests for just the Y. Those tests can give you information about your surname and your deep father line ancestry. Family Tree DNA is the place to test just the Y although both LivingDNA and 23andme will give you a high level Y haplogroup, plus there are tools to determine the haplogroup from an AncestryDNA or MyHeritage test (discussed at the end of this post).
If you know what a Y haplogroup is you can skip this paragraph … The 23rd pair of chromosomes is an XX for a woman and an XY for a man. The problem or benefit is that there is no second Y for that Y to recombine with. Thus unlike the other 22 chromosomes a man’s parents give him, the Y is unchanged from his Dad’s and his Dad’s and his Dad’s and so on, except for mutations. Those little changes accumulate over thousands of years and allow scientists to catalog the Y and trace the migration of mankind around the globe. Each set of Y mutations is assigned to a haplogroup, and subgroup, which can tell you where your ancestors came from thousands of years back. Here is the latest diagram from the
wikipedia article on Y
Y haplogroup world expansion – start at the big Y in Africa (A was the first haplogroup) -image from wikipedia by Maulucioni [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]
Due to DNA testing, in a round about way, we have probably solved the brick wall of our ancestor Lars Monsen who was born in the Bergen area and lived in Kristiansand, Norway. His great-grandson Lauritz (later Lawrence Josiah Munson), my grandfather, came to Brooklyn, NY, with his family when he was six. That story is posted on this page about the Monsens at my family history site.
Lars Monsen had been our brick wall for a long time since it is a common name in the Bergen area although not, we thought, in southern Norway. Well it turns out there really were two men named Lars Monsen in Kristiansand at that time. One was Lars Monsen Suldahl (thus from Suldahl) and ours was Lars Monsen or Mognsen Aastvedt from Eidsvaag (just north of Bergen)
Here is the story. Dad’s Y DNA matched almost 6000 people at 12 markers on the family tree DNA site. So I used the Ysearch site to look for only Bergen area matches. I contacted those two people and heard back from one. Next we both upgraded to 37 markers to see if we still matched. In the meantime our match, Sigmund, posted some queries in the best Norwegian forums for Bergen and Kristiansand areas and the local historian/genealogy experts weighed in and found a likely candidate for our Lars. Sigmund now found us a male line descendant from Lar’s grandad and sent him a Y DNA test kit! [UPDATE: they matched, see http://blog.kittycooper.com/2013/05/its-a-match-lars-monsens-ancestors-are-found/ }