Big Sale and Big Y

News from Family Tree DNA

This is the time of year when genetic genealogy goes on sale — and 2013 is no exception. Family Tree DNA has just announced its big sale prices on most of the key tests for genetic genealogy — and a pre-release sale price on a new YDNA test called the Big Y.

The end of year sale

For most of us, the prices we’re interested in are the end-of-year prices on the standard DNA tests we use day in and day out. prices for these regular every-day DNA tests and test products end December 31st.

For those who want to add their autosomal results from another company to the database at Family Tree DNA — to fish for cousins in the FTDNA pond after testing with AncestryDNA or 23andMe — the sale price is $49, down from the regular price of $69.

And for new tests, here’s the line-up of prices (good through December 31 for kits bought and paid for by then):


Regular Price

Sale Price

mtDNA Full Sequence












Family Finder + Y-DNA37



Family Finder + Y-DNA67



Family Finder + mtDNAFullSequence



Y-DNA67 + mtDNAFullSequence



Y-DNA67 + mtDNAPlus



Y-DNA37 + mtDNAFullSequence



Comprehensive Genome (Y-DNA67, FMS & FF)



Big Y test

There’s also a lot of buzz in the genetic genealogy community about the announcement by Family Tree DNA of its Big Y test.

This is essentially the Big Daddy test — for men only, since YDNA is the type of DNA that only men have and that is passed down from father to son to son in an unbroken male line.

Where, today, the typical YDNA test looks at a small portion of the YDNA looking for short tandem repeat (STR) markers, this test will look at somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 million base pairs and approximately 25,000 SNPs.

And where the most extensive regular YDNA test — 111 markers at Family Tree DNA — will set you back $359 ($289 on sale right now), the Big Y test is available right now for a pre-release price of $495, and will be $695 when the discount ends December 1st.

So… you may be sitting there thinking The Legal Genealogist is going to push this one. After all, I’ve never met a DNA test I wouldn’t take (or get a brother or uncle to take if I couldn’t). And I think this is a terrific test, with the potential to tell us more about our direct male lines than anything that’s ever been developed.

But it’s not for everybody. And it’s not where I’d put my first DNA testing dollars by any means.

For most of us, we can learn everything we really need to know about our direct paternal lines from a genealogical standpoint with the Y-37 or Y-67 marker tests.

My primary point in having one of my uncles tested, for example, was to make sure that our wily ancestor George Washington Cottrell had started life as a Cottrell and hadn’t changed his name when he started — shall we say engaging with the forces of the law. The test proved that he was always a Cottrell.

With my Baker line, our purpose was in finding out if our ancestor Thomas Baker of Virginia was descended, as the family stories said, from Alexander Baker of Boston. The test proved that he wasn’t.

With my Gentry line, the purpose was to see if our Mississippi Gentrys could be linked to the original Nicholas Gentry of Virginia. And the test proved that they were.

What the Big Y will do, generally, is much deeper than these kinds of questions, helping analyze the YDNA family tree down to its very basic configuration. It’s going to be useful primarily for folks who can’t get their answers with the other YDNA tests. Roberta Estes of the DNAeXplained blog noted yesterday (read it here) that it’s really designed for men who fall into two categories: those who’ve already taken the 111-marker tests and still need more information to separate out family lines (adoptees trying to distinguish this surname from that surname, for example, or if it was needed to tell these Bakers from those Bakers); and those who are curious and want to help advance science.

So while it’s a wonderful test and a great advance, don’t start there if your budget is limited.

And if your budget isn’t limited, let’s talk… I’ve got some great ideas and …

Print Friendly
This entry was posted in DNA. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Big Sale and Big Y

  1. Lynne Klemens says:

    Thanks for this sale info. I’m confused, however. I had my son take a 12 point DNA test with Family Tree DNA and it gave very little info with no matches. We wanted to test his father’s Eastern European line. I also had my male cousin take the same test for our Irish line and he has gotten tons of matches. My question is: if I update my son’s test to 37 markers, will we get some matches? Or do matches depend on who tested with which company? I’m worried that if his Eastern European line got no matches with the 12 markers at FTDNA then maybe he will still get zero matches even with more markers tested.
    Thank you.

  2. Pingback: DNA Testing – A stuggle | A Worthington Weblog

  3. Carolyn Lea says:

    I have now read enough to know that my FF test will produce different results than my siblings and plan to ask both of them to do FF on this sale and compare cousin matches and DNA browser results.

    My question relates to my brother – who when I told him this is what he was getting for Xmas said it sounded more like what he was giving me. I want to do a YDNA test and am trying to determine how many markers – 37 or 67. There is not a male with the surname Schwarzbaum to match so I have no real goal in that regard. But given Jews did not take surnames before about 1812 I am hoping this may lead to information I may not be able to find in other ways – narrow down cousin matches, suggest other surnames taken, ancestors geographic trail, etc.
    My expectations are not high anymore. I see this as providing possible clues, not answers. It will also contribute to our knowledge of the population group.

    Which would be most useful for an Ashkenazi Jew? How do I manage my siblings results? I can’t find it anywhere in FTDNA FAQ’s and have received no answer by
    using their help email.

    Thank you.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      With the sale price right now, I’d go right for 67 markers on the YDNA. If you do end up with matches (and there’s no guarantee — remember, others from the same ancestral lines must also have tested to be in the database and many Europeans haven’t tested), having the additional markers may help distinguish among them. As for managing someone else’s kit, you need two things: (a) that person’s permission and (b) the kit number and password. You can log into any account with those.

  4. These tests are being shut down by the FDA. Ridiculous.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      No, “these tests” are generally NOT affected — only the health-interpretation part of one single company’s testing. See today’s blog.

  5. Peter MacDonald says:

    In case anyone is wondering about the Big Y Test release of results today… has been very disappointing for pretty much all involved as test results were not delivered as promised today (and a fourth date of “hopeful” release was passed along to customers of the Big Y Test from Nov/Dec 2013..

    FTDNA seems very noncommittal in their wording to its customers. Originally Big Y results for many were to be received on 31 Dec 2013. The it was pushed to mid Feb 2014, then to 28 Feb 2014. Now this is the notice that the majority of the Big Y customers received today from FTDNA not through an email but to there account on the FTDNA Website:

    “We expect that all samples ordered during the initial sale (last November & December) will be delivered by March 28th. We are processing samples in first come first serve order. If a sample doesn’t pass quality control, we will place it in the next set of results to be processed as long as we have enough DNA sample. If we require an additional sample, we will send a new test kit and place the new sample in the first set to be processed when it is returned.”

    The very loose wording at the shows that FTDNA is not guaranteeing delivery of order Big Y test results by 28 March 2014, the they clearly indicate “We expect…”

    To find out that the on 28 Feb 2014 that the expected date (which was changed three times to 28 Feb 2014) of 28 Feb 2014 will not be met, however it may are may not be met by 28 March 2014 (even if there are no issues above FTDNA having to process the test) is pretty horrible customer service.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      You might want to read the following from FTDNA’s chief business officer:

      Dear Valued Customer,

      Yesterday, February 27th, we began releasing results for the Big Y orders. We have received some incredibly positive feedback and this is much appreciated.

      We are also hearing the frustrations from those who have not yet received their results, and we would like to address the matter publicly in the form of a sincere apology. The entire FTDNA team has been working very hard over the last few months with high determination and many late nights. Launching a new product is always a challenge with many moving parts, some more predictable than others. Unfortunately we ran into some surprises beyond our control when one of our suppliers ran out of certain reagents we needed for running the Big Y product. However we recognize that it is our responsibility and duty to meet our deadlines and keep our customers informed when problems arise.

      With the Big Y launch, we failed to properly manage the expectations of our customers. This was an honest oversight, in which we internally had a target to release first results in February, but we didn’t pay close attention to the dates being communicated on the status pages for those orders. Big Y was a new product and the status entries were updated automatically. We should have manually adjusted these dates earlier on as needed. So while we were thrilled to release the first results in February, we failed to realize that everyone expected results this week. I personally take responsibility for this miscommunication and mishap with the website delivery dates and hope you accept my sincere apologies.

      I am well aware that as a company we have a bit of a history in missing deadlines. A big contributor to that is that we have typically been very ambitious in taking on difficult projects while still wanting to deliver information quickly to customers. The Big Y product is a great example. It was a cutting-edge project that pushed us deep into next-generation sequencing and advanced data analysis. Our ambitious, risk-taking attitude has won many of you over and delivered incredible thought leadership and leading products over the years. Unfortunately, our poor estimates and turnaround time expectations have frustrated many of you along the way as well. We are committed to continuing to be the company that is willing to push the envelope and take risks to bring you the best in genetic genealogy, but moving forward we will strive to be more careful in setting accurate time expectations.

      Again, we are sincerely sorry for any frustration we caused with the delays and miscommunication of turnaround time. We are very proud of our achievements with the Big Y and feel confident about the high quality product we are delivering! We hope you will let the wonderful product we produced make up for delays that were needed to refine it! We have updated expected results dates on customer pages and will work around the clock to beat them.


      Nir Leibovich
      Chief Business Officer

  6. Peter MacDonald says:

    I have received my Big Y Results and am very glad I signed up for the test. Prior to taking the Big Y, I knew that I was L1065. Results have immediately taken me 4 SNPs downstream of L1065. On top of this I have the Big Y has me positive with a high confidence for an additional 82 Novel (variant) SNPs. Once these novel/variant SNPs are compared with the results of others (which may take some time) much will be learned about my paternal linage.

    Although the Big Y had a rocky start this time around (remained of Big Y test results are scheduled to be completed prior to 28 March 2014) I am extremely satisfied with the product that FTDNA has created.

    Once all the novel/variant SNPs are sorted out, I believe that the Big Y will be the most beneficial genetic genealogy test on the market. From my personal experience with both my currently known results and the expected follow-on information that is expected, I highly recommend this product to anyone interested in their paternal ancestry. Well worth the investment.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Thanks for the first-hand report, Peter!

    • MarcTMattSr says:

      Peter,I saw your comments about the Big Y being a help to you in your findings of new SNP’s downstream of your research prior to Big Y. I on the other had also received my Big Y results but do not understand how to utilize the results. I presently have 67 Y-Markers and fit into the L-21 group but can not get much further with out help. I have been trying to find a researcher or testing facility that will help with finding out what this test result has done for me in my quest of DNA testing, so far I have not got a favorable answer where to turn for a analysis. If there is a way to have it done professionally it would be a load off my mind. Marc

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>