01 November 2008

Why Test 67 Markers?

People who wish to test their Ydna often ask which test its best. First you have to determine what your goal is and then find the test that best meets it.

As genealogists, we want our test to further our research; therefore, it is imperative that the test be helpful within a genealogical time frame. The following numbers of markers that are tested give results which are and are not within genealogical time. Although the following are the tests provided by Family Tree DNA, any testing company using about that number of markers will produce a similar result. However, note that at this time, no other company tests 67 markers on the Y chromosome, except Family Tree DNA.

Thus chart indicates the time frame for a match within a set of markers.

DNA TMRCA (Time to the Most Recent Common Ancestor) and Probability to the Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA)

12 marker Ydna test tells you only about your most ancient ancestry....over 600 yrs ago and before surnames. The Genographic Project uses only the 12 marker for males as they are only interested in tracking the migration pattern of our most ancient ancestors. Their project is an anthropological study; not a genealogical one, but in time their data will help us.

25 marker match gives you a 95% probability of having a common ancestor within the last 600 yrs.

37 marker match gives you a 95% probability of having a common ancestor within the last 300 yrs.

67 marker match gives you a 95% probability of having a common ancestor within the last 150-200 yrs.

This means that the 37 marker and the 67 marker are the genealogists’ best choices as they fall withing a genealogical time frame. Prior to 600 years ago some cultures did not establish surnames. Actually, the Irish were probably the oldest culture and they began around 1000 years ago. However, the Welsh, the Jews and many others hae only had surnames for the last few hundred hears..

Although one can order the lesser number of markers (37) and upgrade at any time to a 67 marker test, the cost is a bit more than the difference between the two. There are also good reasons to update to a 67 marker and, in cases, reasons not to bother, at least until it is necessary.

So why upgrade to a 67 marker?

The following information will help the tester determine if a 67 marker is important to your goals.

It is important to know that a Ydna 67 marker test can:

* further refine the estimate of how closely related two individuals are.

* help groups of related testers find mutations which identify sub-branches in the family.

The following scenarios are good reasons to upgrade to a 67 marker:

If you are a member of a group of closely related testers with a good 37 marker match, but there is no paper trial to connect the croup, it may be wise to upgrade as:

* More mutations can result, giving you the opportunity to further subdivide the large group and look for more recent common ancestors.
(See Talley Project at www.familytreedna.com/puiblic/Talley-Tally)

If you are a member of a group with many mutations (more than the usually number…i.e., more than 3 with a 37 marker) and you think you are closely related with the paper trail.

* The marker increase may not increase the mutations.

* The marker mutations may increase, pushing the common ancestor too far away from the group.

* The marker mutations may help bridge the mutations within the group. Often this happens when you find a family who has many mutations and the paper trail supports a good connection. Some families do mutate more often than others. Finding more testers for the family may bridge the gap between those who have greater genetic differences. A 67 marker may also show the testers re closely related as the markers from 38-67 have few to no mutations. The more markers tested the greater number of genetic differences can be accepted for still being a close relationship.


Probability for Most Recent Common Ancestor

The following times back to the MRCA when ALL the markers match are based in the latest results of the mutation rate study conducted by the University of Arizona.

For example, with 37/37 match there is a 50% probability that the MRCA was no longer than 2 generations, and a 90% probability that the MRCA was within the last 5 generations.

Compare these with 25 and 12 -- with 25 markers, there is a 50% probability that the MRCA was within the last 3 generations, while with 12 markers, there is a 50% probability that the MRCA was within the last 7 generations.

For a chart showing the Probability for Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA), see: http://www.familytreedna.com/faq2.html

SO, in conclusion, if your test results fits within one of the above scenarios, it may be advantageous to upgrade to a 67 marker.

In time, there may be an increase in available markers to test so upgrading to a 67 marker may be only a step to the future and not the end.

©aulcino@hevanet.com, 1 Nov 2008


M. Richardson said...

Surely the better way to argue the case for more markers were if fewer markers weren't able to differentiate between the surname under research and other surnames. Even for the most common surnames (Smith, Walker, Brown etc.) it hasn't been necessary to go to 67 markers. The data at SMGF uses fewer markers with excellent resolution of groups.

I understand that additionally tested markers allow for additional chances to observe mutations and thus show sub-groups within a larger group, but is 67 the right number, or 670? Or could you have seen the same information at less than 67? What would you consider the best number and how would you quantify it?

In your own project, is there good evidence that 67 markers has resolved any further groups of significance? If so, at what cost? There was a time when genetic genealogists were told 12 markers was good enough. I believe by the same company. I guess I'm saying take caution in what you are being sold as it sounds like the message alters if you listen to the marketing dept vs. taking a hard look at data. There's a very good reason to question it as ultimately you are asking your own relatives to buy into it too.

Genealem said...

Thank you for your comments. I was not suggesting that everyone should upgrade to a 67 marker. I was only giving some reason why it could help. It surely isn't necessary to have 67 markers to know if one belongs to a particular surname.

Sixty-seven is the current maximum amount for Ydna in the genealogy area. Only if more markers are determined to be helpful in breaking people down into subgroups even further would it be necessary to increase the number of markers. I doubt that 670 on the Y-chromsome would be practical.

There is no "best number" for any one situation. Much of it depends upon the tester's goals and the findings within the project.

In one of my projects we have a large group who matches with some mutations. Some of them with perfect matches until they upgraded to a 67 marker. In particular, one person who couldn't determine the common ancestor to the larger group found he had a mutation in the markers between 38 and 67. Now when he finds someone with the surname who matches him, but has that unique marker, he will know there is a closer match than with the group. This can help focus the research to a more specific situation.

I also have a group who matched at a 12 marker, but was all over the place with a 37 marker upgrade. It was just a bit more than the average mutations for a 37 marker. They sworn their paper trails were solid. We tested more people and found the newer testers were bridging the gap. After upgrading to 67 markers we found a better percentage of markers matching and led us to resolve that this family mutated more than the average.

SO...yes, one needs to set their own goals for testing, work with their administrator to understand all this and whether any upgrade could be helpful or not.


Dave Cook said...

Emily - A little late to this conversation, but I discovered something tonight that makes me have more confidence in a very close 67 marker match my line has with another. My Cook line from KY has a 65/67 marker match with a Koch line from PA. One of my early Cooks went by "Dutch" and I could never figure out why. Then I found this tonight: "The Pennsylvania Dutch, are not Dutch, but are of German and German speaking heritage, They are the descendants of the early German speaking settlers of the inland counties of Pennsylvania who arrived in Pennsylvania prior to the Revolutionary War."

How much confidence can I have in a 67 marker match with 2 mutations?

Genealem said...


You can have a lot of confidence in the 65/67 match. That's very good. AND...with your line being German, it is possible that Koch and Cook really have the same roots. Often names were altered. To know the really pronouciation of the German Koch could help. I have German line with the ancester being Thones Kunders. Surprisingly, I have learned that his being called Dennis Cunard isn't far from the German pronouciation. I was shocked, but this comes from a person who knows German and German research.

digitalboost said...

Hi there,

I have never been able to find out anything about my father in terms of a name, or knowing much about his origins and which part of the country he might be from..just that he was British and a travelling businessman. Would this test allow me to find any close relatives?

Many thanks

Genealem said...


The Y-DNA tests can help with surnames for males. I would suggest at least a Y-37 marker test, but you may have to upgrade, depending upon what haplogroup you are and how you are matching those who also took the Y-37 test. You may wish to search my blog for more on Y-DNA testing (from 2014 to anything current). I would also suggest that you contact DNAAdoption.com as they help with unknown parents. Their advise is free, and they have had a lot of great success stories. How much they could help in Britain is the question, but free is worth a try. You may also wish to take the autosomal test to find close relatives on any part of your pedigree chart back 5-9 generations. You may run into a recent cousin who matches you somewhere on your father's line or who knows something about the situation. Family Tree DNA (familytreedna.com) has just reduced their autosomal test (called Family Finder) to $79 plus shipping. This one is the cheapest price out there, although it can be beneficial to test at all three companies as each has a different database. However, right now, only FTDNA tests more people in Britain than the other two.

Best to you...and don't give up!

wimom said...

My male cousin had a Y-67 test. His surname is KELLER. He shows a 0 genetic distance match to several people but they are all at the 12 marker level. Some of the people have taken Y-111 tests and he still only matches them at the 12 marker level. The surname of the individuals he matches is JOYNER or JOINER it seems many of them have the same MRCA. Does this indicate a significant match or could this be noise?


Genealem said...


Thank you for writing. A Y-12 (12 marker level) is too few to draw conclusions about matches, especially if the male haplogroup is a very common one, such as the R1b (R-M269) haplogroup. AND, it does no good to compare a 12 maker test with someone who has taken a Y-111 as only the first 12 markers are matched/compared. It would be best to upgrade to a Y-67 at least. If your Keller male is still matching only Joyner/Joiner men or men who do not share the Keller surname and if your male is an R-M269, the matches could be very long ago. Join the haplogroup that is relevant to your tester and confirm with the administrators of that group. Many of the haplogroup administrators have a view of what surnames tend to match each other longer ago.

For example, my cousin is R-M269 and matches six other surnames even at a Y-111. Granted he does match some with his own surname, but that is because I have actively recruited them to determine if they are related. After having my cousin do some extensive SNP testing, including the Big Y, the haplogroup admins determined that he and the other six names are actually members of the Seven Septs of Laois (a county in Ireland). This group was in that area in 1641. I have no proof that my line was there then, but this also gave me an alternative spelling of the surname used at that time.

Now, do not do any SNP testing or the Big Y until you upgrade to at least a Y-67 and until the haplogroup people advise you to do so. Sometimes the SNPs aren't needed or just a few are needed if others who would match your cousin in the haplogroup project have done so.

Best wishes,

Anonymous said...

I get confused with all of this. I have an exact match at 12 markers. He has taken Y-37 and I have taken Y-67. What does this mean?

Genealem said...

I am not totally clear on your question. If you are telling me that you have an exact match on a Y12, but your match has taken a Y37 and you have taken the Y67, then what it means depends on what you are seeing. If you are still matching this Y12 match at a Y37, then your common ancestor is closer in time than only if you matched on a Y37. I'd ask the tester to upgrade to a Y67 to see if you still match. If the match has a small genetic difference, then, again, your common ancestor is closer in time.

Depending upon your haplogroup, matches testing only 12 loci (locations) can be hundreds to thousands of years ago...or your father/brother/son. If you are matching someone at 12 markers perfectly and that match does not appear at a Y37 or higher, you are not closely related. Each grouping of markers (Y37, Y67, Y111) have their own thresholds. If the genetic difference is above that threshold you won't see a person as a match.

In the case your questions is really asking what does the Y-37, etc. mean, that is the number of places tested on the Y-chromosome.

There are many sources to aid your learning. Family Tree DNA has free webinars with a link at the bottom of their homepage, there is my book Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond, and the ISOOG Wiki.

Hope this helps.

Andrew Petersen said...

I've done a fair amount of research into these "Internet DNA tests" and I can't seem to find a definite answer.

Is it possible via a saliva/cheek swab DNA test to determine with 100% accuracy the Racial Profile of a human?

My parentage is uncertain due to being adopted and there being a Court Seal on the parent information (Michigan Laws on adoption in the 70's favored parental anonymity.).

I have anecdotal information on what my racial makeup is from what my mom and dad say they were told by the Adoption agency.

And my parents just recently got me a competitors DNA test kit. But the results are regionally wide spread.

Does a DNA test by your company provide enough detail to Know if the donor is American Indian, for example. If yes, is it detailed enough to know what specific Tribe?


Andrew P.

Genealem said...


No company's "ethnic" percentages (bio-geographical comparisons) are 100% correct. Each company vets what populations they think are good and compares you with those. Over time, those populations could change or be refined; therefore, the percentages and areas could change. Also, if your family strongly states you are from a particular population, it is wise to test several family members as each person receives some different autosomal DNA segments. For example, if your family or your genealogical paper trail indicates you are Native American, but your test shows none, that doesn't mean you aren't, but means you may have not inherited enough DNA from that line. This is the reason you should test other family members along the line of what ethnic group you are trying to determine.

Andrew Petersen said...

Thanks for the reply. My issue is I was adopted and have no one I can ask those questions to due to A court seal on my records.

Genealem said...

The "ethnic" percentages won't help a great deal. I would advise that you search online for DNAAdoption.com and get involved with them. They provide free advise. I would also tell you to do the autosomal test with all the major companies (23andMe, Family Tree DNA, AncestryDNA, and MyHeritage. You can transfer the 23andMe test or AncestryDNA test to FTDNA for $19 and can transfer to MyHeritage for free. ALSO, test your Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) at Family Tree DNA. Many people have found their biological family, so don't give up.

Best wishes,

Genealem said...

My follow-up with more clarity on the subject of Bio-geographical Comparisons

The major DNA testing companies provide a bio-geographical comparison which is more commonly referred to as Ethnic Groups or Percentages. Each company vets their own set of populations and compares your autosomal DNA with those populations. Some companies chose to be more conservative than others. Regardless, over time as more populations are refined, the groups to which you “belong” as well as the percentages will change. This is not something you can “take to the bank” as being firm.

This bio-geographical comparison can be used to substantiate family oral history that indicates you are from one population or another. However, to prove or disprove those family stories of being related to an African American, a Native American, or some other group, often more test is required. You may find from your test that you have a small percentage from a particular group. There needs to be enough DNA from that group to give you at least a 1% on the list of populations. However, if you do not see a particular group and you wish to prove or disprove your family story, you need to have siblings and other relatives take the autosomal test.

For example, one person I know is said to be from the Wyandot Native American group on his mother’s paternal side and from the Choctaw on his mother’s maternal side. After testing more family members, he found that several cousins and uncles has 4-6 Native American DNA segments on his mother’s paternal line and no segments on his mother’s maternal line. Hence, he is related to the Wyandot, but not the Choctaw.

If you find that other relatives do have the targeted population group on the suspected lines for that population, but you do not, that doesn’t mean you aren’t from the population, but it means that you didn’t inherit enough DNA from that ancestor to show on the bio-geographical comparison chart.