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Thread: Starting and Running a YDNA Surname Project

  1. #1
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    Starting and Running a YDNA Surname Project

    I am sure there are some here with experience in this. Is anyone willing to share information? I've been disappointed that some of the surnames I am interested in in my family did not have a project, so finally decided to look into starting one, beginning (very recently) by trying to recruit possible members from my matches.

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    Go to this FTDNA page to find the project application you wish to fill. As long as there are no other projects that do what you are trying to do, you should get approved. Start to recruit people. Once the project is up and running and these people join, you can use their match lists to recruit even more.

    Whatever you do learn along the way can be used as an example to convince more people to join. Protect their privacy. If they can't trust you that can hurt your project's growth. Keep your initial messages to potential project candidates short. Explain how to join your project. Don't overload everyone with data unless they want it. Some do some don't. Don't promise them answers you can't give them. Be frank in the potential from the project and that it can take a long time. If you or these future project members have tested in other places, use that to recruit people from those other databases.

    While those in existing FTDNA group projects may already understand how projects work, be ready to answer questions from people who have never joined a project. These may include how does your project work, why are you doing this research, and who are you. Some people will be suspicious of your motives. Be kind and keep things simple.

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    Before starting a surname study, I would check and see if your subclade has a study that is well run with a reasonable number of members and is set up to use Big Y data in a logical fashion. Lots of times, closely related people with a different patrilineal surname are the ones that are going to have the key data to solve your problem.

    I am beginning to wonder if surname projects are obsolete.
    Last edited by C J Wyatt III; 08-02-2021 at 07:40 AM. Reason: typo

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    For surnames that less than ten testers known, they do not provide much value. I think there needs to be a lot more smaller haplogroup projects (but some haplogroups do not have good charateristics for relatedness being high). Here is a video on creating a haplogroup project (many issues are common with surname projects as well):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpb8OoixBGA

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  9. #5
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    Decide first whether you’re willing to take on a surname project or if you’re really just concerned about that surname’s connection to your immediate family or your own genealogy. Your surname’s origins will help there of course; if it’s an uncommon surname that originated more recently or in one location and no other then those two purposes may be synonymous, but more often if you start a project for the surname you’ll very quickly find multiple subgroups of different Y-DNA lines that carry the surname; some may well be from different origins of the surname while others may be “NPEs” (breaks in the Y-DNA/surname connection through adoptions or other changes in paternal biological ancestry), and as an admin you should really treat all of those equally. That’s partly to be fair to all the people who may carry that surname and partly because even if you have one “main” surname line and other Y-DNA subgroups the “NPEs” can often shed light on the genealogy of the main surname line still if that’s where the surname was passed on from.

    Anyway, even if a surname project starts with one Y-DNA line it will often as it adds new members evolve into multiple subgroups of different Y-DNA lines which are “unrelated” (meaning not related within the timeframe that surnames have been in use at least, even if they ARE connected thousands or tens of thousands of years ago). You’ll probably end up treating those subgroups each individually for analysis. There are tons of examples of this in surname projects already.

    I’m assuming you mean starting a surname project in the FTDNA project network, which is still probably the easiest way to do it and gives you automated access to their larger database of matches. That would drive you naturally to the FTDNA Y-STR or BigY700 tests. There is also the YFull project network or even manual project analysis where the admin/analyst makes use of WGS Y-DNA information and possibly YSEQ STR tests. That second method can be cheaper for your testers but more labor-intensive for the admin. Personally I think the FTDNA projects are still easier to work within but that’s still a choice you can make.

    When starting out with a completely new group of testers your main push is for all of them to get tested to the highest level they can reasonably afford and the main explanation is that the higher they test the more you can discover. Or if you’re starting with a group that already took a variety of tests then you start by looking at what you have. But starting out you’re really exploring the patterns of both STRs and SNPs within your subgroup(s) to see what questions can be answered by which patterns.

    It’s great if all of your testers can afford a Big Y700 or WGS test but you don’t have to insist on it. Obviously the higher levels of testing give you more genetic information but mutations within any smaller group will vary significantly and which testing levels answer which questions will be unique to each subgroup even within a surname project. For some of your subgroups for example it could happen that quantity of testers (i.e. getting more to test at perhaps entry-levels like Y37) is a better direction than quality (i.e. getting everyone to Big Y700 or WGS) because there are some immediate higher-priority questions that can be answered that way. Again those are choices you get to make but in a lot of projects many members are older and on fixed incomes and your testing recommendations may limit the participation more than you want.

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    I run a project loosely tied to YSEQ and YFull, as the poster above indicates this gives me flexibility as it puts me in charge of what tests we use whereas the other firm effectively force you to use STRs or at least start with them. For my surname it happens that STRs are utterly useless so I start with haplogroup panels* usually and/or go straight to a WGS which is not too expensive these days. I track test progress and headline results in the inevitable spreadsheet but results sharing is done either via the YFull tree and/or trees drawn using family history software. Comms can be either private email or social media groups but I tend to be a bit wary of the latter to avoid giving an external company control over what I do.

    Another advantage of my approach is I'm not constrained to use one particular lab, I don't have to sign any binding contract with a testing firm. My emails don't have to be vetted by anyone!

    *you could of course deploy STR panels via YSEQ too as they have ones that broadly map to the ftdna ones but you can do that in the order you want.
    YSEQ:#37; YFull: YF01405 (Y Elite 2013)
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    I'm willing to take on a surname project. A lot of this surname in the US is related to me, but certainly not all, and I've also been working it already and thinking of signing up to manage it for the Guild of One Name Studies. I'm interested in the various sources of the name.

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    My project has been at the Guild since 2006 when it started. But a lot has changed in the world of surname/DNA studies since then, to highlight a few

    * vastly more digitised record collections so you hardly ever get questions about historical records - a few one-namers now collaborate with sites like wikitree (so-called 'One World Trees') etc which is arguably a more modern approach
    * the big rise of autosomal testing has tended to drown out Y studies a bit (even the Guild now flogs Ancestry kits!)
    YSEQ:#37; YFull: YF01405 (Y Elite 2013)
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacUalraig View Post
    * the big rise of autosomal testing has tended to drown out Y studies a bit
    Yes, I have several (2nd or further) cousins who are autosomally tested, but not otherwise, I could have known the y-line of my maternal grandfather and other great-grandfathers which I still don't.

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  19. #10
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    I don't know what the various YDNA subclades are for my name yet, but so far I don't see any YDNA tests from matches with the surname at FTDNA (most of my matches are at Ancestry). At 23andMe, I have variously:

    R-CTS8401 -- this seems to be my family, and is R1a. I think the family came to America from England. I have a lot of connections from different assumed common ancestors, so if this is right (and we get more specifics) it would supplement the documentary evidence of descent from early American ancestors. The surname seems to be most common in Northumberland, Cumbria, and then London and Manchester.

    R-CTS241 (apparently this is R1b-L21-DF13, Niall of the 9 hostages) -- it seems to be a coincidence with the connection on another side of my mom's family, but a good option to expand the surname project and I emailed but haven't heard back.

    R-L21 -- Irish, turns out to have been adopted and so not really of the surname, so he declined joining. I haven't figured out how we are related yet.

    I have a lot of surname matches or close to surname matches (sisters or daughters) on Ancestry.

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