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Y-DNA and surnames

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  • Y-DNA and surnames


    I've just received my nephews y-dna 37 results and he has matches, which is exciting cause this is the 3rd family member I've tested and the first with matches (different lines)

    He has 1 match of a genetic distance of 1, 8 at a genetic distance of 2, 7 at a genetic distance of 3, and 3 at a genetic distance of 4 all with the surname of Pike.

    However, his family name isn't Pike and there are no matches with his surname or anything close.

    So - am I right to assume that somewhere a paternal event was not what is was thought to be? I know it's at least two generations back as I have immediate family that match.


  • #2
    Not necessarily. Surnames were not necessarily passed down from father to child as is usually done today. At least as late as the 16th Century, surnames in many places were not that stable. Sometimes one or more children ended up with a maternal surname or some other name entirely. I have ancestors from French-speaking Switzerland where this happened at least 3 or 4 times in the course of a century. I have heard of families with Irish roots where the family used two completely different surnames interchangeably until well into the 18th Century. And of course Scandinavian family names and, in some areas, Jewish family names were not stable until the early 19th Century.

    The only thing a strong match for Y DNA tells you is that you MAY be on the same terminal branch of the haplotree as your matches. But the mutations may have occurred before surnames became stable.

    For what it's worth, SOME people find that their Y DNA puts them immediately into a group of people who all have the same surname, and almost no one with that surname falls into any other Y DNA group. If your surname were Buchanan, or if you were a descendant of Deacon Edmund Rice of early New England, you would probably have this experience. For other people, they may end up in a group with many, many surnames, a fact that suggests that, for such a group, the mutations occurred well before surnames became stable. In other words, your mileage may vary.


    • #3
      Has your nephew done the Family Finder test and, if so, does he have many matches with the surname Pike? Are they fairly close? Do any other of your members of your family who have done Family Finder or other at-DNA tests have Pike matches?

      Look back through the censuses. Any close neighbors with the surname Pike?

      This happened when my cousin tested. Luckily he matched a second cousin who had tested by chance, so I knew we didn't have a very recent NPE. My cousin matched a lot of Hamptons and I spotted one listed next to my supposed great-great-grandfather on the 1870 census. This was in 2010 when at-DNA testing was new and I had to find a descendant of this Hampton who was willing to do Family Finder.

      Today my mother's matches at would make things a lot easier, even if I did have to create trees for some of them.

      Study the situation, and if you think there may have been an NPE, I would recommend testing the relative who is the furthest back in the affected line, male or female, at Ancestry and here with Family Finder, and at 23andMe too if you can afford it. I tested my mother because she had no living parents or siblings. If you find close Pike matches, study the groups who are in common with each other to see if they have a common ancestor.

      If you think the NPE occurred many centuries ago, this approach might not work, but if it's not too many generations back it might. It did for me anyway.