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Family Tree DNA Y-DNA tests

FTDNA Y-37 vs. Y-67 vs. Y-111 vs. Y-500 Tests: Differences Plus Tips for Choosing the Best One

Wondering which Family Tree DNA Y-DNA test to order?

In this quick post, we’ll tell you the differences between the four Family Tree DNA tests and help you choose the right one for you needs.

Quick summary: the 37-marker test is a great starting place. The 67 and 111-marker tests provide more reliable and refined results about your relatedness to a certain match. The Y-500 is for expert genealogists.

When you want to research your father’s family line, a Y-DNA test is the place to start.

Because Y-DNA passes almost unchanged from father to son, you can trace your paternal lineage hundreds or thousands of years back.

You can even go as far back as Africa where all populations originated from by tracing your paternal haplogroups.

Family Tree DNA has, hands down, the best Y-DNA test among all DNA testing services.

AncestryDNA stopped offering Y-DNA and mtDNA tests back in 2014.

23andMe on the other hand bundles Y-DNA and mtDNA test along with their main autosomal DNA test.

But the Y-DNA and mtDNA tests are only for haplogroup identification and you cannot use them to find male matches on your father’s or mother’s side of the family.

FTDNA offers a more comprehensive Y-DNA test that’s not only important for identifying your paternal haplogroups, but also for finding other men you might be related to.

Note: Only men can take a Y-DNA test since only they have the Y chromosome. For women, asking a close male family member like a brother or uncle (on your father’s side) to take a Y-DNA test is the best way to research your paternal line.

FTDNA Y-DNA Tests

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There are two kinds of Y-DNA tests that FTDNA offers: an SNP test and an STR test.

A SNP (pronounced ‘snip’) or single nucleotide polymorphism is a change in your DNA code. Remember that Y-DNA changes very rarely.

These rare changes or mutations are called SNPs.

A SNP Y-DNA test looks for these changes in your Y chromosome.

The test is important in tracing your paternal haplogroup. It is also helpful when you want to join a Surname Project.

An STR or short tandem repeat is the repetition of a nucleotide sequence.

Comparing STRs between two males can determine how closely related they are. It identifies their most recent common ancestor.

FTDNA tests for 37, 67, 111 or 500 short tandem repeats (also called markers). That’s where the names Y-37, Y-67, Y-111 and Y-500 come from.

Which Family Tree DNA Test Should You Order?

Here’s what FTDNA recommends to their customers in regards to choosing the best type of Y-DNA test.

“Test only what you need, upgrade only when necessary”

More markers don’t necessarily mean more matches. In fact, you can start with the basic 37-market test and get the information you need.

Higher-marker tests are useful in adding more confidence to the matches you’ve already found and refining your level of relatedness.

To better understand the differences between these tests, let’s take a look at each of them individually.

Y-37

This is the basic Y-DNA test offered by Family Tree DNA. It tests for 37 short tandem repeats.

It is the best choice for someone who’s taking their first Y-DNA test and just wants to get a feel of Y-DNA testing.

Even if you want more refined results from a Y-67 or Y-111 test, you may still find it beneficial to start with a Y-37 test.

This is because your potential matches will likely have taken the Y-37 test.

Matching a Y-67 to a Y-37 test does not offer additional benefits. The confidence level of your results is restricted to the 37-marker test.

If you have 37/37 STR matches with someone, there is a 50% chance your MRCA (most recent common ancestor) is no more than 2 or 3 generations ago and a 90% chance he lived more than 5 generations back.

The fewer markers you match, the further back you likely go.

FTDNA MRCA probabilities based on the number of matching markers
FTDNA MRCA probabilities based on the number of matching markers

Y-67 and Y-111

There are some benefits of upgrading to a Y-67 or Y-111 test.

  • A higher level of confidence on your results. In other words, the matching results are more reliable.
  • Better-refined matches. You get a better picture of how closely you are related to your matches. If you match 67/67 markers, there a 50% chance your MRCA is 2 generations back (it’s 2-3 generations for a 37/37 match) and 90% chance your MRCA is 4 generations back (it’s 5 generations with a 37/37 match). Take a look at the table above to see how more refined the results get the more markers you both test for.
  • In a few cases, a higher-marker test can reveal a hidden match who was not listed with the 37-marker test.

The Y-67 and Y-111 tests are best if you have already found a match and want to better understand how you related.

It’s also helpful if you have too many matches at the Y-37 level who are most likely not real matches (they may be accidental matches caused by convergence).

A 67 or 111-marker test will narrow down your match list to those that are likely to be your actual matches.

Most people will be satisfied with the 67-marker test. The confidence level is high enough for their genealogical needs.

But if you need to explore your connection even further with a specific match, you can upgrade to the Y-111 test.

Y-500 (The Big Y)

This is the most advanced FTDNA Y-DNA test. They use next gen sequencing to test for 500 STR markers as well as 100,000 SNPs (including well known ones plus new ones that are unique to you).

This means you can use it to get a highly-refined level of relatedness to a particular match. It can also give you a more reliable haplogroup prediction.

You’ll rarely need to get a Y-500 test. It will not reveal any new matches and does not analyze more generations than the other tests.

This test is recommended mostly for expert users as well as genealogists who are studying a particular lineage.

FTDNA recommends that you first consult your group administrator (if you are in one) before ordering this test.

Joining Surname Groups

These results – whether from the 37, 67, 111 or 500 marker test – won’t give you the full picture on their own.

You’ll get much more out of them when you join a surname group or project. FTDNA offers them for free.

You can then coordinate with other people with a similar surname to learn more about your paternal lineage and maybe even find more family members.

In many cases, you’ll find it better to order upgraded Y-DNA tests from within a group in coordination with the project manager and other group members.

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About the Author Charles McKnight

I'm just another amateur genealogist investigating my American-Scots-Irish lineage. I built MyFamilyDNATest.com after buying all of the leading DNA tests to discover everything I could about my family history. Hopefully, this site will save you time and demystify the emerging science of DNA-based genealogy, for your family project.

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