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Beginner question - y DNA matches without common surname

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  • Beginner question - y DNA matches without common surname

    Hello fellow researchers, I recently tested my Dad who sadly passed away before I got his results. I now have results and am trying to make some sense of them! The y DNA test (37 markers) has revealed 78 matches (at a genetic distance of 3 or 4 ) including 6 exact matches at 25 markers. What puzzles me (and I have done a little reading here..) is that in the whole 78 there is only one person who shares the same surname? (White) Is this to be expected? There are no known adoptions etc. for at least the few generations back that I have some knowledge of.
    There are lots of Mahoneys

    Is this unusual?

    Secondly, I have had my own family finder and mitochondrial DNA tested and my dad also has had family finder done. Where should he and I match?

    Apologies in advance if these are silly questions but any help to get me started would be very much appreciated.

  • #2
    Starting with your second question. He should be your best match.

    For you 1st question. Yes it is unusual, but not unheard of. Maybe no one else from his paternal line has tested. Maybe a large group of people from the Mahoney family have tested. During the current sale I suggest you upgrade his Y-DNA to at least 67 markers and add Y-DNA to your kit with a minimum of 67. The two of you should be very close Y-DNA matches, if not exact matches.


    • #3
      Does that White match show as having tested to a higher level? (next to the matches' name it will show the Y-STR level tested, and other tests taken, such as FF or Big Y). If this match has also done the FF test, see if he is in your father's FF match list. Perhaps he is a cousin of some degree; it's worth checking. You might consider upgrading your father's kit to the Big Y 700 (if you've considered it and can afford it), which will include Y-111, and be done with it. That would avoid finding out later that there is not enough of his sample left to do various other tests (individual SNPs, SNP packs, or mtDNA), if you think you might do so at a later date.

      Before upgrading both your father and yourself for Y-DNA, was there a reason you asked where you and your father should match in Family Finder? I would check to see how you match your father in Family Finder first, because a parent gives 50% of his/her DNA to each child, for about 3400 cM total (more or less), and it will be immediately evident in the Chromosome Browser. When the parent and child are compared in a chromosome browser, you will see the parent matching the child completely on each chromosome (except the X chromosome in your case, because it is not passed from father to son). I am not aware of any cases of a parent not matching a child between 3330 cM to 3720 cM (those are 2017 figures from the Shared DNA Project by Blaine Bettinger, taken from the chart in Roberta Estes' post comparing figures from two years of that project, for each relationship). If your father shares DNA with you, but with less cM than the range for a parent, you could also enter the total cM shared with him using the Shared DNA Project tool, at the DNA Painter website. This will show a range of possible relationships.

      If your father matches you in Family Finder with the amount expected for a parent, I don't think it's necessary for you to do Y-DNA testing to compare with your father for relationship purposes. Comparing Y-STR results might show if a mutation occurred between the two of you, if you are interested in that.

      You might also join a project at FTDNA, either for your surname (if there is a project for it), or for your Y-DNA estimated haplogroup. The project administrators should be able to help you.

      In the FTDNA Learning Center, check the page for Y-DNA Matches, and particularly the question on it "Why do I match men with different surnames?" Even though you have knowledge of the first few generations back on your father's direct paternal line, a surname change could have taken place before that. Y-STR matches can be from long ago, so the surnames of your matches may reflect such a change, from before a genealogical timeframe.
      Last edited by KATM; 13 December 2019, 11:30 AM.


      • #4
        Thank you Jim and KATM - I will try and digest all of this over the weekend but realised I have missed an important piece of information for you... I am my fathers’s daughter not son! Hence my question about family finder


        • #5
          When looking at your Family Finder matches, click on 'Advanced Search' under the magnifying glass on the right side. Enter White in the 'Search Name' box. This will list matches with White in their name. Is your father near the top of the list?


          • #6
            No Jim, he’s not there at all?! I have 5 ‘White’ matches (5 th cousin to remote) We are in Australia so not so many people tested but I know HE has been ?


            • #7
              Sorry for the loss of your Dad.

              your father tested Y-37 and FamilyFinder;
              you have tested mt-dna and FamilyFinder.

              What can you see on Dad's FamilyFinder match-list?
              (You can sort the columns by clicking on the title of the column. Longest segment, for example.)

              What about his privacy settings? Go to Account settings > Privacy and sharing
              (if he is hidden, you cannot see him on your list of matches)

              We must first exclude technical issues, then think of possible unexpected scenarios, if necessary.

              Your mt-dna was inherited from your mother, and this is another story.


              • #8
                For the record, it is not unusual to have few or no very close matches for Y DNA. It is also not at all unusual to have no good matches that share your surname. Some people happen to end up in a well-sampled and well-documented cluster where there are many good matches and almost all of them have the same surname. If you happened to be a descendant of Deacon Edmund Rice of early New England, or a Buchanan, you would probably see lots of very good matches and likely some excellent clues for further (traditional) genealogical research. However, many of us don't fall into that situation. Instead, we end up in some loose cluster with many different surnames, none of which is particularly helpful. The logical explanation is that our particular Y DNA pattern was "fixed" well before permanent surnames became fashionable. In some areas, that might be as late as the beginning of the 19th Century. I'm still waiting for an informative close match, but at least I know that my McCoy ancestor did not belong to the main group of McCoys who have been tested -- they are in a completely different part of the R1b haplotree. I'm out on a little twig of the haplotree, pretty much by myself, and my closest neighbors on the tree are several different Scottish families, and not very many individuals. When you get this result, you just have to await further developments -- more men testing! Serendipity does strike in genealogy, if you are very, very patient and very, very persistent. Meanwhile, the Family Finder matches, while sometimes difficult to interpret, give you another genetic approach to your paternal genealogy. Keep digging!


                • #9
                  Emona, I checked his settings ( and mine) - not private. Not exactly sure what to look for in family finder?
                  Maybe I should get my sister tested?


                  • #10
                    Very good idea, to test your sister (FamilyFinder), if she agrees.
                    You both need to take a deep breath first, and accept whatever shows up.
                    Not matching your Dad is - well, very sensitive.

                    When you look at your FamilyFinder matches, you try to identify relatives, find common ancestors.

                    Here is a link to a very useful tool:
                    It helps you to estimate where approximately a person could be in the family tree.
                    In general: big numbers - close relatives.

                    But you probably wish to see your sister's results first.


                    • #11
                      So can I just be absolutely clear about these results.... we should 100% appear in each other’s family finder?


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by vwaddell View Post
                        So can I just be absolutely clear about these results.... we should 100% appear in each other’s family finder?
                        Yes and FF should show a father-daughter match between you. Also you will match on essentially the full length of all 23 chromosomes.

                        While a mix-up in data or technical problems might be the cause of the problem, that very rarely happens.

                        I am sorry to be the bearer of news which you did not expect to hear, but it is likely that you have a different biological father.


                        • #13
                          Ohhhh right.... that does put the cat amongst the pigeons....


                          • #14
                            Is there a protocol for asking FTdna to “double check” our results?


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by vwaddell View Post
                              Is there a protocol for asking FTdna to “double check” our results?
                              You can have them retest your kit, his kit or both kits, but they will charge for each retest. If they get different results on the retest they 'may' refund the retest charge on that kit. I'm not sure of the current policy.

                              I'd start by testing your sister. Place an order for a new Family Finder test now while the test are on sale. If your sister won't use it maybe you have a close relative of your father who will use it.

                              If your sister does test it will be interesting to see if she matches you as a full sister or a half sister and if she matches your father. Her results should tell you a lot.