DNA Surname Projects

Surname Projects

If you’re doing a Y-DNA test, you need to know about DNA surname projects. These projects help connect people with the same last name for the purpose of finding common ancestors and extending their family trees.

Surnames and Y-chromosomes both pass down from father to son. So people with the same (or similar) last name can use a Y-DNA test to determine if they share a common ancestor.

If you’re an adoptee, like me, you may not know your biological surname. In that case, you need to get your results first to identify your surname (See Adoption Search to learn how I did it). Then you can join a project for your newly discovered surname.

Reasons to Join

First of all, you may be able to get a discount on testing by ordering it through the project. Plus, your testing company may give people the option of only comparing their results to people in their surname project. So you could be missing some matches if you’re not a member of the project.

Furthermore, DNA testing can only tell you that you and another person have a common ancestor somewhere in the past. It can’t identify that ancestor. DNA surname projects combine DNA test results with conventional genealogy data to help you answer that critical question.

Finding Your Project

Many surname projects have their own web sites run by a project administrator. Family Tree DNA has the largest Y-DNA database of any testing company and sponsors about 7,000 surname projects.

They also offer additional projects for different haplogroups and for many geographic areas.

Go to Family Tree DNA and click Projects at the top of the page. Type your surname into the Project Search box to search for related projects.

If you are an adoptee, type "adoption" into the box. Click the link to Global Adoptee Genealogy Project and join that project. That way you can take advantage of any project discounts, even if you don't know your surname yet.

Starting A Project

If you can’t find an existing project for your surname, you can start one. To see exactly how to do that, get a copy of “Trace Your Roots with DNA” by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak and Ann Turner. They tell you exactly how to do that. The book is available at Amazon.com and possibly other booksellers.

The International Society of Genetic Genealogy also has tips for starting and running a project on their FOR ADMIN page.

WorldFamilies.net offers free project websites for DNA surname projects and many levels of support for project administrators.

My DNA Surname Project

Once I knew that my biological father was a Richards, I joined the Richards DNA Project at Family Tree DNA and now have several strong matches to others named Richards. In January 2009 the original project administrator asked me to take over this project.

If your paternal line is Richards or something similar, please join this project.

Then submit genealogical data on your paternal line through the Richards Ancestors form.


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If you already have results from another autosomal DNA test, you may be able to get into My Heritage and Family Finder for free.