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Now get your testing done

Exactly 61 years ago today, Cambridge University scientists James D. Watson and Frances H.C. Crick announced they were sure that the structure of DNA was the double helix — an event “considered by many to be one of the most significant scientific discoveries of the 20th Century.”1

To remember that achievement, anDNA.dayd to honor the completion in 2003 of the Human Genome Project, today continues to be recognized as National DNA Day 2 — a day that “offers students, teachers and the public many exciting opportunities to learn about the latest advances in genomic research and explore what they may mean for their lives.”

There isn’t any better opportunity to explore what this means for our lives as genealogists than getting DNA tested. And one of the key tests for genealogical research is the YDNA test — the father-to-son-to-son type of DNA that tells us about our direct paternal ancestors.3

The particular DNA sequences being looked at in YDNA testing are called short tandem repeats (STRs): patterns of DNA code that form sequences and where the sequences are repeated a number of times at those particular locations on the Y chromosome.4

And beyond those, to really narrow down exactly where a man fits into the human family tree, are the SNPs (single-nucleotide polymorphisms) — “a DNA sequence variation occurring when a single nucleotide … in the genome (or other shared sequence) differs between members of a species.”5

When geneticists first started figuring out where men fit into that human tree, there were only a few big branches — the haplogroups of the Y tree. Then as more and more distinctions were discovered, many through specific SNP tests, the tree kept sprouting more and more branches: specific places out from the main human trunk where clusters of individuals can be reliably placed.

So why is this a topic for today? Because Family Tree DNA, one of the biggest testing companies for YDNA, is going to be rolling out an updated version of the Y tree starting today. There’s a whole webinar to explain it and what it means scheduled for today at noon Central time (1 p.m. Eastern, 11 a.m. Mountain, 10 a.m. Central). You can register for the webinar here and listen in live, or listen in later after it’s posted to the Webinars page of FTDNA’s Learning Center.

The big news is a huge expansion of the tree. Instead of the old roughly 400 branches in that tree, the new tree will have more than 1200 branches — and a lot of the data came from the National Geographic Geno 2.0 project. Listen in — today or later — and learn more.

And — since you could listen in later — why couldn’t this wait until Sunday, when The Legal Genealogist usually writes about DNA? Because there’s a sale starting today on YDNA tests — you can get the 37-marker YDNA test (usually $169) for $135.20 starting today and running only until 11:59 p.m. April 29th (Central time). That’s a 20% discount. And if you want more precision — just where you might fit into that big new Y tree — specific SNP tests for those who’ve already tested are also 20% during the sale.

Not to be outdone on National DNA Day, AncestryDNA is also launching a sale today — for three days only you can get the autosomal (cousin-finder) test from AncestryDNA for $79, discounted from the usual $99. That offer ends at 11:59 p.m. Pacific time on April 27th.

And — sigh — I’m still looking for candidates in some of my YDNA lines. So if you’re a documented male descendant of any Cottrell family of Madison County, Kentucky, or a documented male descendant of the Faure family of Manakin Town, Virginia, let me know. I have a YDNA kit with your name on it… and…


  1. U.S. Senate S. Con. Res. 10, 108th Congress 1st Session (27 Feb 2003).
  2. National Human Genome Research Institute, “National DNA Day” ( : accessed 24 Apr 2014).
  3. See ISOGG Wiki (, “Y chromosome DNA tests,” rev. 5 Mar 2014.
  4. ISOGG Wiki (, “Short tandem repeat,” rev. 20 July 2013.
  5. Ibid., “Single-nucleotide polymorphism,” rev. 10 Mar 2014.
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