Wednesday 8 December 2021

Unexpected Y-DNA results - as an Admin, what do you tell the test-taker?

Someone does a Y-DNA test to find out more about their direct male line and "where my surname came from" only to find that the results are not what they expected. So they join the DNA project relevant for their surname and ask the Administrator for an interpretation. What information are they going to find useful? And, as an Admin, what information can you give them?

These were the questions I pondered recently when a new project member joined my O'Malley DNA Project. And I think it would be useful to take you through my response to his email and point out some of the challenges that Admins face when confronted by the unexpected results of one of their project members.

I have privatised any identifying information. My comments are in italics.

Dear Mr O'Malley

I had a look at your results and here are some top line observations …

You have 13 matches at the 111-marker level of comparison, 20 matches at 67 markers, and 20 at 37.
Your top matches are to people called Leyden/Layden/Lyden, Ward & Corcoran.
You have no O’Malley’s among these matches.
You do not match any of the genetic groups within the O'Malley Project.

This suggests that there may have been a Surname or DNA Switch somewhere along your direct male line, which means that your Y-DNA signature was associated with some other surname prior to switching to O’Malley. This could have happened relatively recently, or centuries ago. The previous surname could have been Leyden/Layden/Lyden, Ward, Corcoran ... or some other surname.

Already we may have shattered a lot of the hopes that the test-taker may have had when they first took the Y-DNA test. Some people may be interested in the deeper origins of their surname, but I suspect that the reason most of us do any type of DNA test is to help with our genealogy and perhaps to break down a specific Brick Wall. In the case of Y-DNA, the Brick Wall will be on the direct male line, and in the case of Irish genealogy, this typically halts abruptly at 1800. So, for many test-takers (including perhaps Mr O'Malley above), the hope with Y-DNA may be "can it help me break through my 1800 Brick Wall and push it back by a generation or two into the 1700s?". Alternatively, the Brick Wall may be more recent (say mid-1800s) and the test-taker's genealogy may be stuck in America (for example), in which case the hope may be "can Y-DNA help me jump back across the pond to Ireland?". Another possibility is that the test-taker has explored the relevant surname project and sees that there are several well-defined genetic groups within the project and wants to find out which one of these he belongs to.

In all of the above cases, Mr O'Malley will be disappointed. He was aiming to find an O'Malley in Ireland, and instead he has discovered that he is "not an O'Malley". Has his line of genealogical enquiry been completely derailed? Is his Y-DNA telling him he is not on the right track? Has he been sidelined into completely foreign territory?

As an Admin, what do you do in such a situation? What kind of information might be helpful for the test-taker? What information can help him navigate through this new uncharted territory?

The sort of additional questions that may arise include: 
  • if I am not an O'Malley, what am I? what surname did my ancestors carry before it was switched?
  • where did the name come from?
  • when did the switch happen?
  • why did the switch happen? was there some secret adoption or illegitimacy in the recent past? or did the switch happen centuries ago, for reasons lost in the mists of time?
  • do I have any hope of breaking through my Brick Wall? and what's on the other side - is it an O'Malley or a complete stranger?

The sad truth is that Y-DNA is severely limited in its ability to answer these questions. It will possibly give you some clues, but the answer may not be definitive and you may have to spend a lot of money on expensive tests to arrive at a nebulous conclusion. I know this sounds pessimistic ... but that's because it is. From the perspective of day-to-day genealogy, there is a lot less to Y-DNA than meets the eye ... especially when you compare it to the information you derive from autosomal DNA testing. I'm not saying its useless ... just less useful, from a genealogical point of view. And I feel as frustrated about this as the average test-taker.

Update: some feedback on this post spurs me to make some additional points:
1) another possibility is that this man comes from a very rare branch of O'Malley's - a branch that arose completely independently of the other major branches and is in no way connected to them in the immediate pre-surname era (e.g. 700-900 AD in Ireland) - and he is currently the only man from this rare branch in the entire FTDNA database. He will have to wait for another member of this rare branch to join the project before he (and this new member) can be allocated together to a new genetic subgroup. I sometimes mention this in feedback to new members with an SDS / NPE but the O'Malley DNA Project is quite mature and a variety of genetic subgroups have already been identified, and there are no outstanding O'Malley groups mentioned in the historical record (e.g. surname dictionaries) so I would be very surprised if any additional rare subgroups were to emerge (it is not impossible but it is improbable) - hence I decided not to mention this rare possibility in this particular reply. I may mention it if the response from the project member raises any questions about the probable SDS, but it is always a balance between giving just enough information to adequately inform the new member and not too much that it overwhelms the recipient. It's a judgement call. What would you have done? Hmmm ...
2) Most people take the prospect of an ancestral surname switch quite well, but some jump to the decision that they have wasted decades of research on their genealogy and half of it is now useless. I go to pains in my presentations to explain how commonplace such SDS / NPE events are and point out that each of us has somewhere between a 33% to 55% chance that our direct male line does NOT go back to the progenitor of the surname that we carry today. So if we insisted that you could only call yourself an O'Malley if you matched the DNA of the progenitor of the surname, then about half of us would not be who we thought we were. For me, anyone who carries a surname, owns that surname, and has every right to claim that surname's history and heritage - "an O'Malley by any other name would smell as sweet".

Here's how I continued my response to my new project member. I veered into deeper origin territory and if you get the impression that I was clutching at straws, you may be right ...

Your matches are relatively distant. The closest matches have a Genetic Distance to you of 6 at the 111-marker level of comparison (i.e. 6 steps away from an exact match), 3 out of 67, and 3/37. Nevertheless, it may be helpful to write to each of them and ask if they have any connection to the O'Malley surname. The geographic origin of their MDKA (Most Distant Known Ancestor) may also provide some clues.

We could get further clues from looking at SNP markers. Some of your matches have done SNP testing (usually the Big Y test) which allows us to see where they sit on the Tree of Mankind. The question is - is there a pattern? Here are the SNP Sequences (i.e. list of ancestral SNP markers) for your matches at 111 markers (generated via the 
SNP to Breadcrumbs tool here):
  • R-L21 > S552 > DF13 > DF21 > S5488 > Z16294 > BY4001 > L130 > BY3308 > BY16783 > BY16785
  • R-L21 > S552 > DF13 > FGC11134 > FGC12055 > Z3026 > Z16250 > A114 > CTS4466
  • R-L21 > S552 > DF13 > DF21 > S5488 > Z16294 > BY4001 > L130 > BY3308 > BY16783 > BY16787 (x2)
  • R-L21 > S552 > DF13 > DF21 > S5488 > Z16294 > BY4001 > L130 > BY3308 > BY16783 > BY16785
  • R-L21 > S552 > DF13 > DF21 > S5488 > Z16294 > BY4001 > L130 > BY3308 > BY16783 > BY16787 > BY16790 (x2)
  • R-L21 > S552 > DF13 > DF21 > S5488 > Z16294 > BY4001 > L130
  • R-L21 > S552 > DF13 > DF21 > S5488 > Z16294 > BY4001 > L130 > BY3308 > BY16783

From the above we can see that most of your SNP-tested 111-marker matches fall on or below the branch characterised by the SNP marker BY16783 (in bold). It is therefore likely that (if you were to do SNP testing) this is where you would sit too.

You can see the path of migration of the people who sit on this particular branch of the Tree here …

This SNP marker arose about 2400 years ago (i.e. 400 BC, well before the advent of surnames), probably in Ireland.

Rob Spencer's tools are great for illustrating the deeper origins of a particular SNP marker and the SNP Tracker tool provides a great visual that captures the imagination. Customers like it. However, this is closer to archaeology than genealogy, and does not address the immediate questions of the test-taker as described above ... but is it the best we have to offer?

Only 7 people fall on or below this branch (according to FTDNA's public Y-DNA Haplotree) - 2 report Ireland as their ancestral homeland, 1 reports USA.

The Big Y Block Tree (which is visible only to those who have done the Big Y test) shows the more fine-detailed branching structure of this portion of the Tree of Mankind, including the number of SNPs associated with each branch.

It is a pity that the Big Y Block Tree is not publicly viewable, unlike Alex Williamson's "Big Tree" which has proved to be so useful over the years. Nowadays the Block Tree has much more data than the Big Tree and better delineates the more fine-detailed branching structure of the Tree of Mankind. However, a big drawback of the Big Y Block Tree is that it does not display surnames for each and every branch. I wish it would. Instead it reports the entire name for matches (rather than just the surname) and only for those matches closest to the test-taker in question. This makes it far less useful as a research tool. We don't need to see the entire name of matches on the Block Tree - just the surname would do very well thank you.

The next question is - what surnames do we find most commonly in this portion of the Tree of Mankind?

We already know that common surnames among your matches are Leyden/Layden/Lyden, Ward & Corcoran. We can look at relevant Haplogroup Projects to see if there are any others. And the relevant Haplogroup Projects for this portion of the Tree includes the R-DF21 and subclades project (1664 members). This has the following people grouped under or near BY16783 …

From this we can see that the surname Duffy sits on a neighbouring branch.

It is unfortunate that new members are not added automatically to the Haplogroup Projects relevant to their Y-DNA signature. This would help make Y-DNA testing more useful to FTDNA's customers. In the present case, only a handful of relevant matches have joined the project and this decreases the value of the Haplogroup Project for research purposes.

Is there a pattern for the distribution of these surnames on Surname Distribution Maps?

It is difficult to draw any firm conclusions from this, but there may be a preponderance of these various surnames in the west of Ireland, around Galway & Mayo, and this suggests that this could be where this particular SNP marker arose. Coincidentally, this is close to the origins of the Mayo O'Malley's.

You may benefit from joining the R-DF21 and subclades project - the Admins there could offer additional insights into the origins of your Y-DNA signature. 

There are no DNA Projects for the surnames Corcoran, Duffy or Leyden/Layden/Lyden, otherwise I would have referred him there too. There are a few Leyden's and Layden's in the Lyddon/Lydon/Liddon Project so that might be worth joining, but none of the participants on the public Results Page sit anywhere close to BY16783.

For now, I have moved you into the Ungrouped section of the O'Malley project. This will change if another O’Malley tests and joins the project and is a match to you.

Hope you find this of interest.

Best, Maurice

So there we have it. Have we been able to answer any of the burning questions this test-taker may have had? Let's recap on what they might have been ...
  • if I am not an O'Malley, what am I? what surname did my ancestors carry before it was switched? 
    • we are still none the wiser - our additional analysis has not pinned down a most likely candidate
  • where did the name come from?
    • possibly the west of Ireland.
  • when did the switch happen?
    • we still have no clue. Only (expensive) sequential Y-DNA testing of progressively more distant male cousins could possibly address this question (but only if it was within the last 200 years or so). See an example here from the Gleason DNA Project.
  • why did the switch happen? was there some secret adoption or illegitimacy in the recent past? or did the switch happen centuries ago, for reasons lost in the mists of time?
    • we may never know the answer to this question. If it was a recent switch, there may be some clues in documentary records (e.g. the lodger's name was Corcoran and he lived with the family for 20 years after the husband left).
  • do I have any hope of breaking through my Brick Wall? and what's on the other side - is it an O'Malley or a complete stranger?
    • his close matches may offer some clues.
    • Big Y testing may place him on a specific branch of the Tree of Mankind that is associated with a specific single surname, but with only 7 people sitting on or below BY16783, it may be that a specific single surname cannot be identified and therefore no firm conclusions can be drawn. In which case it is a waiting game for more people to join the databases and do the Big Y test and fall on the same or adjacent branches.
    • autosomal DNA testing may help if the Surname or DNA Switch has been recent (i.e. within the last 200 years).

So the test-taker has been supplied with a huge amount of information to digest ... but at the end of it all, he still remains in limbo. He does not match any of the O'Malley groups within the project. His closest matches are not that close and have completely foreign surnames. He arrived with a whole list of questions and leaves with a whole set of new ones (and the original list unanswered). His options for moving forward are limited and his Brick Wall looms larger than ever.

This unfortunately is the current state of the art.

Maurice Gleeson
Dec 2021

Sunday 27 June 2021

How to set up a FREE Ancestry account

You don't need an Ancestry subscription to start building your tree, but you do need an account on Ancestry and you need to sign in to start building your tree. 

The easiest way is to create a FREE account on Ancestry is to just click here, start filling in the details, and then click on the green START YOUR TREE button ...

There is NO need to take out a subscription if all you want to do is start building your tree. However a lot of people accidentally land on the Start a Free Trial page, and if you do, you can start a free account from there too. Here's how ...
  1. go to the Ancestry website (there are several, all with different endings ... e.g.,, etc)
  2. click on Start Free Trial (note: you will NOT be starting a free trial)
  3. fill in your details, create a password, tick the SECOND box only, and click CONTINUE
  4. ignore everything on the next page - do NOT sign up for a subscription. Instead, just click on the Ancestry logo in the top left
  5. Welcome to your free account - you can start building a free family tree. You won't be able to see any records or anyone else's family tree but this is a start at least.

If you ever want to delete your account, do the following:

  1. sign in to your account
  2. click here (or paste this into your browser) ... 
  3. enter your password and click the green CONTINUE button
  4. follow the steps - they will send you an email with a Verification Code. Copy and paste this into the box and click Continue - your account will be deleted.
NOTE: this deletes everything from your account - all your trees, all your data, etc. So only do this if you want to delete everything. 

Maurice Gleeson
June 2021

Tuesday 23 February 2021

Honorary Research Fellow

I have been privileged to have been appointed recently as Honorary Research Fellow with the University of Strathclyde. I am looking forward to working with the team and advancing academic research into genetic genealogy.

The University is located in the heart of Glasgow and last year won Scottish University of the Year. I'll be working within the Department of Genealogical Studies which is part of the Centre for Lifelong Learning which itself is part of the Faculty of Humanities & Social Science.

Many of you will be familiar with the Department of Genealogical Studies as it runs several popular Postgraduate Courses, including the MSc in Genealogical Studies. These courses are organised by Course Director Tahitia McCabe and she presents an overview of what is on offer in this video here.

Genetic Genealogy is strongly represented among the courses offered and the team includes some familiar names including Graham Holton (Principal Tutor), Alasdair Macdonald and Dr Iain McDonald (Honorary Research Fellow), all of whom have spoken at Genetic Genealogy Ireland or Family Tree Live.

Research undertaken by the team includes the following:

Battle of Bannockburn Family History Project
In June 1314, the Battle of Bannockburn saw the Scots (under Robert the Bruce) beat the English (under Edward II). The project was established to mark the 700th anniversary of the battle and aimed to highlight some of the principle participants. The project has both a genealogical strand (which includes biographical information and 4-generation genealogies) and a genetic genealogy component, which utilises Y-DNA of living descendants to identify the genetic signature of the combatants.

Declaration of Arbroath Family History Project
Over 40 Scottish nobles appended their signature or seal to the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, asserting the independence of Scotland as a separate sovereign nation. This project also has both genealogical and genetic strands and aims to build the genealogies of each of the Scottish nobles and connect people living today with these signatories of the Declaration. Further information of the project can be found here. The output of this project will form the basis of a touring exhibition throughout Scotland. It is hoped that an online version of this exhibition will also be available.

The announcement of my appointment

Maurice Gleeson
Feb 2021

Thursday 28 January 2021

How to group Surname Project members

There are several important questions that face Project Administrators of Surname DNA Projects:

  1. Why should I group people together?
  2. How should I group people together?
  3. What does each group tell me?

As an Administrator of 15 DNA Projects for a variety of Irish Surnames, I have pondered these issues, explored different alternatives, fallen down rabbit-holes, and revised my thinking. So here is my current streamlined approach - no doubt it will evolve further as time goes by. These are just my own personal musings - other admins may differ in their approach (and that's fine - there is no right way or wrong way to run a project). And the discussion below applies only to Surname DNA Projects - other DNA Projects will have different reasons for grouping and therefore alternative grouping strategies.

I offer these thoughts and ideas so that project members may get a better understanding of the thinking behind the process of grouping people, and so that project administrators might pick up a few useful tips - please take what you like and discard the rest. 

So let's explore each of these topics in turn.

Why should I group people together?

For me, the purpose of a Surname DNA Project is to study the surname. That may seem obvious but it has several important implications.

Firstly, fixed inherited surnames arose in Ireland about 1000 years ago and in England & Scotland about 800 years ago. Wales was a bit later still (with some parts of Wales not adopting the practice of a fixed inherited surname until the 1850s). This defines the period of study as being roughly the last 1000 years. And therefore, we should aim to create subgroups of people who are related to each other within that timeframe.

For Irish and Scottish surnames at least, anything beyond 1000 years ago steps into the realm of Clan history, and that in itself is a fascinating area of research, but one that falls more under the remit of geographic projects (e.g. the Munster Irish project), haplogroup projects (e.g. R-L226 project), or even specific clan projects (e.g. Ancient Breifne Clans project). 

So for surname projects, we should be aiming to identify groups of related people, with the same surname, who are likely to be related to each other within the last 1000 years. Such groups are likely to descend from a single individual who was the progenitor of the surname for that group.

And if we are lucky, we may be able to make a case for having identified the genetic signature of the first person to bear the name 1000 years ago. For Irish surnames, we may even be able to link this to some of the Traditional Genealogies and therefore to a specific Irish clan, thus connecting project members with a much deeper part of their ancestral heritage.

How should I group people together?

Some years ago I developed the concept of Markers of Potential Relatedness (MPR). Simply said, these are markers that point you toward the conclusion that two or more people are related to each other. And by "related" I mean within the last 1000 years.

These Markers of Potential Relatedness help us to identify people who may be related within the last 1000 years and who therefore belong within the same subgroup. 

You can see a presentation that takes a deep dive into this concept in this video here, but the most useful MPRs in practice (and the main ones I use for grouping people together) are as follows:

  1. a known relationship
  2. same downstream SNP
  3. close Genetic Distance to people with the same surname
  4. same USP (Unique STR Pattern)

Let's go through each in turn.

A Known Relationship

The first one is obvious - if two people have a known relationship, then clearly they are "related within the last 1000 years" and therefore belong in the same group. Some people may not know that they are related (e.g. 4th cousins) but have the same common ancestor showing up in the "Paternal Ancestor Name" column on the project's Results Page.  A little communication between these project members can confirm the connection and justify their being grouped together.

Same downstream SNP

If two people share the same "downstream" SNP (i.e. close to 1000 years old or less), then I group them together, especially if they have the same surname. 

Rob Spencer's Admin Utilities tool is a great way of seeing exactly where a particular SNP sits and what SNPs sit above it. Entering any SNP will generate the SNP Sequence for that SNP.

TMRCA dates for downstream SNPs can be checked by simply googling the SNP name and YFULL.

People with the same downstream SNP but a different surname may be an indication that a Surname Switch has happened at some point in the past - the trouble is that without other information, you won't know on whose ancestral line the switch occurred.  Then you are faced with the classic question: which came first? - the Fry chicken or the Boylan egg?

The Big Y test gives much more definitive data than SNP Packs or single SNP tests and is my preferred (and recommended) method of SNP-testing.

Close Genetic Distance to people with the same surname

When a new member joins one of my projects, the first thing I do is check whether or not he has the surname being studied (or one of its potential variants). I then check his Y-STR Matches and see if he matches any other project members - if he does, I assign him to the same group that they are in. I will also double check that any downstream SNP data he has is consistent with the SNP results of other members of that group. And I may also check to see if he shares any Unique STR Pattern that characterises that particular group (see below).

Much of the time this criterion is perfectly fine for grouping people together, but we can run into major difficulties if there is significant Convergence present i.e. just by chance, the genetic profile of a person is similar to the profile of many other "non-related" people. This has been a significant issue with the M222 groups in some of my projects. 

You can recognise when Convergence is likely to be present by looking at the number of matches - if a project member has a huge number of matches to a wide variety of different surnames, then Convergence is likely and most of these would be "false positive" matches. Yes, he does share a common ancestor with every single match but this may be thousands of years ago rather than hundreds. In other words, the connection is a lot further back than it looks. And it may be well beyond the arbitrary 1000 year threshold we have set for defining subgroups.

In this situation, I would group everyone with the same surname (or variant) into the same large overarching group (call it, say, Group 3). All of these people may or may not be related within the last 1000 years.

Then within this large group, I would create subgroups (3a, 3b, etc) of people with known downstream SNP data that places them on a downstream branch of the Tree of Mankind close to our 1000 year threshold. I may look up the age of the SNP on YFULL to make sure the TMRCA date is roughly somewhere between 1000-1500 years ago.

Having created these SNP-defined subgroups, I would then add in non-SNP-tested individuals based on much more restrictive Genetic Distance criteria than those used for "declaring a match" i.e. 2/37, 4/67 and 5/111 as opposed to 4/37, 7/67 and 10/111. This approach minimises the risk of inappropriate grouping but does not get rid of it completely. Ultimately the only way of being sure that someone has been placed in the correct subgroup is for that person to do the Big Y test to identify their SNP profile. This is the recommended course of action for anyone who has not managed to make it into one of the SNP-defined subgroups.

If you are taking over a dormant project with many Ungrouped individuals, there is a helpful shortcut to the above process. First, download a csv spreadsheet of the results from the FTDNA Results Page and upload it to Chase Ashley's Y-DNA Grouping App. Next, click on the "See Reorganized Table" button and the app will automatically group all the people for you. These new groupings are usually fairly accurate but will need to be checked visually. Problems occur when any new groups are likely to be plagued by false positive matches due to Convergence (e.g. any M222 groups). In this case, create subgroups using only SNP-tested participants - all non-SNP-tested individuals can remain in the Ungrouped section. Then click on each of the Ungrouped members to see how closely they are related to each of the SNP-defined subgroups you have created. If they do not meet the more stringent Genetic Distance criteria defined previously (i.e. 2/37, 4/67, 5/111), then they can be left in the overarching group (e.g. Group 3) rather than one of its subgroups (3a, 3b, etc). If they meet the criteria for 2 or more of the subgroups, then similarly they can be left in the overarching group. But if they meet the criteria for only one subgroup (e.g. 3f), then they can be moved into that group. 

Below is an example from the Riley DNA Project. Everyone in the overarching Group 1 needs Big Y testing in order to be accurately grouped in one of the subgroups (1a to 1f in this example). 

Participants who do not meet the criteria for a subgroup are left in the overarching group
(Group 1 in this example)

A good example of this process in practice is from my O'Malley DNA Project. Many Mayo O'Malley's test positive for the M222 SNP marker. I placed them in Group 3 - a large overarching group for all M222+ O'Malley's. So far, downstream SNP testing has identified 6 subgroups below this. The common ancestor for all 6 subgroups lived about 2000 years ago (the TMRCA for the M222 SNP Block), and the common ancestor for each subgroup lived about 1000 years ago or less. You can read a detailed account of this specific example in this blog post here.

The common ancestor for each of the individual 6 subgroups is within the last 1000 years

Same USP (Unique STR Pattern)

When a group of people have the same value for several specific STR markers, this can indicate a specific "signature" for that particular group and anyone with the same signature can be deemed to be "related" and thus should be grouped with them. The number of STR markers that make up a Unique STR Pattern varies a lot, but the more markers involved, the more robust the USP.

USPs were easy to spot on the Results Pages of the old WorldFamilies.Net (WFN) website (sadly now defunct) and a similar scheme would be most welcome on FTDNA's Results Pages. The WFN website compared each group's genetic signature against the signature (modal haplotree) of an upstream branch of the Tree of Mankind and thus identified any USPs and presented them as coloured columns on their Results Pages. The coloured pattern in the diagram below beautifully portrays the Unique STR Pattern within different subgroups of the Gleason DNA Project. 

It is much more difficult to see USPs on the FTDNA pages because they are not highlighted in colour. You would need to use Dave Vance's SAPP Programme or Chase Ashley's Y-DNA Grouping App to highlight any USPs.

So those are the main methods I use for assigning project members to a specific group.

In addition, I have some general advice on formatting the name for each group:

  • number each group (01, 02, 03, etc) - it makes it easier to refer to when writing about it or discussing it with project members. 
  • include the possible ancestral location (this may be obvious from the MDKA information)
  • include the abbreviated SNP Sequence (get it from Rob Spencer's Admin Utilities)
  • include any specific guidance (e.g. if R-M269, upgrade to Big Y) or point members toward additional information (e.g. see Updates tab in About section for Next Steps) - this may include links to haplogroup, geographic & clan projects that they should join, as well as useful general information (e.g. how to get the most out of your Y-DNA test, essential things everyone should do).

What does each group tell me?

Far more has been written about how to group project members than about how to analyse the resultant groups. The grouping process only takes you half-way ... you then need to analyse each group in turn. If the overall objective of a Surname DNA Project is to study the surname, then grouping merely lays the foundation upon which subsequent analysis is based.

The sort of questions that can be explored in any analysis of a specific group include: where is the group from? does this link us to the known history of the surname? how old is the group? what is the branching structure? how did the name evolve over time? is there an association with a pre-surname clan?

A practical example of how to approach analysis of individual groups is detailed in this video here (delivered at the O'Malley Clan Gathering in 2019).

Having a clear picture of the desired outcomes of your research allows you to create more specific project goals. Thus the objectives for any surname study could include the following:

  • To identify distinct genetic groups of people carrying surname X (or one of its variants)
  • To analyse each genetic group and assess where did it come from, how old it is, and is there any connection to a pre-surname "clan"?
  • To communicate the conclusions of the analysis for each genetic group
  • To help focus project members on specific directions for their own ongoing genealogical research

After all this work, you will need an effective way of communicating it to your project members. Different admins use different methods. Some publish regular updates on the project website on FTDNA. Others create a separate website or blog or newsletter or annual report. Whatever method you choose, you should plan to keep your project members informed about the current status of the project and any new developments affecting specific groups. Also bear in mind that you will eventually need to pass this task on to a successor so it is wise to design your communication strategy with this in mind.

Hope you find something of use among these hints and tips.

Maurice Gleeson
Jan 2021