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Newbie looking for hope in finding a surname

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  • Newbie looking for hope in finding a surname

    Hello, all! I just joined forums yesterday, and just ordered my Y37 DNA kit. I transferred my Ancestry test results a good while back, and have found quite a few matches, one now established as a third cousin on my mother's side of the family. I'm sure that I'm not the first to have the situation I have, and I'm wondering how much hope to place in being further tested. My father was not adopted, at all, but I discovered, 25 months ago, at age 69, that my surname is a "borrowed" one. Apparently, my dad was about two years old when his mother married the man I'd thought, all my life, to be my biological grandfather, and they simply gave my dad his stepdad's surname, Hand, when he started school. There is, of course, no birth certificate, not an uncommon matter in rural areas of Tennessee in 1902. I'm going to take the Y37 test, in hopes of possibly finding a likely surname. Have any here had similar circumstances, and, if so, could you tell me how much success you may have had with the YDNA testing? Many thanks for any reports/advice you might offer!

  • #2
    Hello and welcome. Have you uploaded your Ancestry data to It is free and could increase your matches as people from the 3 major DNA testing companies upload there. Though if you already have that data in Ancestry and FTDNA, you might not gain much through Gedmatch from the 3rd company. Though Gedmatch has some useful tools.

    As for your situation, well Y-DNA testing seems like a good tool to help. Just keep in mind that Y-DNA testing is not like autosomal DNA testing (called Family Finder here at FTDNA, and AncestryDNA over at Ancestry). You will have less matches on Y-DNA testing. It will vary a lot depending on how many of your paternal cousins have also tested.

    I took the Y67 test and have no matches at any level. I expected this with my uncommon surname. At least I can help represent my surname if someone from the same line comes along and tests. I tested my mother's brother with Y37 and he got 40+ matches. About half of which share his last name. The rest have various different surnames.

    If you have numerous matches at the 37 STR marker level, you might consider upgrading to help narrow down which matches are closer and therefore more meaningful. For my uncle, I intend on upgrading when the chance presents itself (during a sale).

    If you haven't already, it is strongly suggested you get your father to take an autosomal test (AncestryDNA or Family Finder) like you already have. You only got half of your DNA from him, so if you have 100% of him you have more leads to follow. In fact, you should always test the oldest relatives of each branch.
    Last edited by The_Contemplator; 7 April 2016, 11:08 PM.


    • #3

      Thanks for the welcome! I have put my Ancestry results on GEDMatch, but I've actually had more success here than I've had there. As to my dad, he died in June of 1979. His only brother died in 1966. I have only a sister, myself, so there'd be no YDNA there. My dad's brother had three sons, two of whom are now deceased, and I lost contact with the only surviving son some years ago. My dad and his brother were half-brothers, anyway, same mom, different fathers, so I'd get no useful YDNA from any test by my cousin, if I could find him. I think I'm honestly looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack, but, so long as there's life, there's hope, ever how little. I guess my only real hope is that of finding several YDNA matches for individuals with the same surname? That's my current hope. Thanks again!


      • #4
        When I suggested testing other relatives, I meant for autosomal DNA (Family Finder or AncestryDNA) and not Y-DNA. As for relatives with the same Y-DNA, you don't really need to test your known relatives even if you can find that one cousin. I have several paternal first cousins I'm met, and I suspect I might have second cousins whom I've never them. None of them have tested since they either aren't interested in genealogy like I am or don't know about the options.

        I did find a paternal half second cousin interested in genealogy but he has never gotten himself tested. His grandfather was my grandfather's half brother who never met. So it is very possible to have distant cousins out there that have the same Y-DNA you do, but who knows if any of them have bothered to test. So if you eventually have leads to potential bio-grandfather, you could track down a descendant and ask them to test. Of course at this point you don't have any leads, so you can't do that. Maybe find a census record from the area your grandmother was from around the time your father was born. There could be nearby people you can track down through Ancestry's trees.


        • #5
          Hello,like you I found out late in life that the surname I share with my sisters was not my father's and that I was giving my mother's x husband name on my birth certificate as my father and her were only living together and not married at my birth So when my father was killed in a car accident shortly after my birth and before they married she thought it would be best to say nothing to me until shortly before her death. I wanted something on paper so I took first the 37 marker test and was lucky and got 14 matches there all the same surname,the same one that I had been told was my father's surname.One of them had take the 111 marker So I took the 111 marker test and we show up at distance of 5 different markers.I then got in touch with a son of the sister of the man who I was told was my father and also his last living daughter by his marriage to his first wife and lucky we all agreed to take the family finder test. He came back as first cousin and she as half sibling to me.So I was lucky and got what was searching for.

          As The_Contemplator suggested test other relatives if you can.I wish you the best of luck in your search.


          • #6
            Who's my Grandfather?

            My situation is similar. Autosomal testing on Ancestry showed no matches on my paternal grandfather's side, which I found suspicious. I eventually found 4 individuals who were my (3rd-4th) cousins on paper, on my paternal grandfather's side, and who had taken the Ancestry DNA test. They were not a match to me. I also had my brother take the Ancestry test, and he doesn't match them either. We have plenty of matches on my mother's and paternal grandmother's sides.

            So, I suspect my father was born as a result of an NPE. (Or maybe my grandfather was adopted, which I think unlikely.) My grandmother, "grandfather", father and his siblings are all dead. So, I'm left with a 90 year-old family secret and no clues.

            I took the Y67 test. There were no matches to my (common) surname. I have 29 total matches at Y37 and four at Y67. The closest genetic distance at Y37 is two, and the closest at Y67 is four.

            There were two recurring surnames in my Y matches. I have a couple of "Jones", which I tend to discount just because it is such a common name, it shows up everywhere. The other surname (not common) shows up several times in Y37 with a closest genetic distance of four at Y37 and a variant at distance six in Y67.

            How seriously should I take these not-too-close surname matches since any relationship is likely hundreds of years ago?

            I think Y67 was the right testing level for me. Y111 might have narrowed the field down from four to one, or probably to zero. Y37 would not have been a bad choice -- I would have the same list of suspects as I do now.


            • #7
              Originally posted by JamieCox View Post
              How seriously should I take these not-too-close surname matches since any relationship is likely hundreds of years ago?
              Hard to say. It might be best to contact them and get an idea where their line comes from. Maybe if the locations are anywhere near your known line, it could present a clue. As always you don't know how good a clue is until you find where it leads.