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Elizabeth (Mims) Brooks and Jordan Clinton Brooks, photograph ca. 1868

How Can I Help the R-L21 Private Project

Both deep ancestry researchers and genealogists are too biased with the spending of their limited funds. All researchers have a tendency to only test their own submissions while expecting others to test their own submissions. Unfortunately, the reality is that others are not going to share your enthusiasm about testing and your genetic project will suffer due to a lack of planned spending that returns the maximum return for your investment. It is human nature to want to understand everything that there is to know about your own submission - but this is taken to a such a point that it becomes wasteful of research funds. For any kind of genetic research, it is always much more cost effective in the long run to test what the project needs vs. over-testing your own submission with every test that is possible.


There is a strong tendency for random testing of the latest discovered Y-SNPs - hoping to win the lottery with extremely low odds. For every newly discovered Y-SNP, there are around 50 to 100 random tests for newly discovered Y-SNPs where minimal analysis has been done to determine if your DNA fingerprint matches the DNA fingerprint of the newly discovered Y-SNP. This random testing should be replaced by planned testing of better candidates for WTY testing and targeted Y-SNP testing that expands the scope of existing Y-SNPs. For every Y-SNP that is discovered, there is usually enough randomly testing to sponsor two more WTY tests and 20 targeted Y-SNP tests.

For well established haplogroups, there seems to be a race for who can establish the largest haplogroup. Researchers are continually encouraged to test for broad Y-SNPs where the results can be easily predicted. For deep ancestry researchers, the primary goal should be to discover as many branches of the haplotree as possible. For larger haplogroups, funds should be targeted for new WTY tests to find new sons and grandsons of well established Y-SNPs. The contest should be to see who can have the most terminal Y-SNPs under each son of R-L21. The researchers of DF21 are clearly winning that race (primarily because they are the latest broad Y-SNP to be discovered).

Many WTY tests are conducted simply because the sponsor wants to participate in WTY testing without any analysis to determine if their submission is a good candidate for WTY testing. Here are some examples of poor WTY candidates: 1) If your Y-STR searches return extremely few matches - you do not increase your chances of finding matches by ordering a WTY test. You are better off building your Y-STR database by testing more Y-STR candidates. 2) If your geographic origins are from areas that are not well tested for Y-STRs, you are better off building your Y-STR database first. 3) If your DNA fingerprint closely matches previous WTY tests, do not re-test for more coverage or re-test any submission that is related to previous WTY tests. For both deep ancestry and genealogical testing, it is always best to test the most remote submission in your grouping first.

Since there is a tendency for deep ancestry researchers to randomly test for newly discovered Y-SNPs, there is a misconception that since nobody has tested positive after 10 to 50 random tests that the Y-SNP must be too private to warrant further testing. L555, L557 and L561 appear to be fairly broad Y-SNPs that could have 50 to 100 positive tests. L371 is another Y-SNP that could be fairly broad and could have 40 to 80 positive tests. There are also around 10 to 20 "near private" Y-SNPs that could have 10 to 50 positive tests for each Y-SNP. Added together, these "near private" SNPs could reveal another 200 to 500 new positive tests over time. Check DNA fingerprints of existing Y-SNPs and test for Y-SNPs where your submission (or preferably your genealogical cluster) exceeds a 50 % match for the DNA fingerprint of the Y-SNP. This web site will document the DNA fingerprints of many of the Y-SNPs that have been around for some time (over 6 months).


Most genealogists are not aware just how important deep ancestry research is to their surname projects. With Y-SNPs approaching the genealogical time frame, "private" or "near private" Y-SNPs are making deep ancestry research even more important to genealogical research. Most surname admins are struggling to keep up with the required analysis of the submissions that they are responsible for. Many surname admins are reluctant to expand the scope of their responsibility to include how deep ancestry can solve many genealogical issues that their members are attempting to solve. Most surname admins also just do not have the skills to fully integrate deep ancestry testing into their surname project analysis.

For those deep ancestry researchers who also manage larger surname projects, we have an obligation to integrate deep ancestry research into our surname projects and spread the word of the advantages of broad testing of deep ancestry to complement the Y-STR testing that dominates today's genealogical research. Since deep ancestry researchers dominate the deep ancestry research, they should also educate surname admins and other genealogists on the importance of deep ancestry research. They should emphasize the significance of "near private" and "private" Y-SNPs to maximize genealogist's involvement in deep ancestry research. Deep ancestry researchers need to understand that genealogists fund over 95 % of testing for genealogical and deep ancestry research. Just shifting 1/20th of their funding to deep ancestry research would double funds devoted to deep ancestry research (more time should be spent recruiting and supporting genealogists for deep ancestry research).

For majority of the most common 500 surnames that have numerous genetic origins, surname admins have long been using haplogroups to separate submissions into more reasonable and smaller groupings. As haplogroups approach genealogical time frames, this will remain the primary focus of deep ancestry research for most surname admins. Due to common DNA marker values across haplogroups (Mark Jobling labels this "overlapping haplotypes"), deep ancestry testing is now necessary to analyze this scenario which is quite common. This remains a very hard sell to casual genealogists who sponsor most of the Y-STR submissions. Unfortunately, 90 % of haplogroup testing by genealogists is driven by cluster separation goals. This is an easy sell to most surname admins but remains a major challenge to get sponsors of submissions to test for haplogroups.

For larger surname clusters with 20 or more submissions, many are hitting a brick wall with Y-STR testing revealing the connections that they desire. Many of these clusters have exceeded $5,000 in Y-STR testing and expensive Y-STR testing is producing diminishing returns once the surname cluster becomes well established. For those surname clusters that are broad in scope (many submissions that are related), a pooled WTY test could now provide one or more "private" Y-SNPs and could reveal major well behaved branches within their surname cluster. These tests could also reveal major new haplotree branches or "near private" Y-SNPs as well. These WTY tests should be jointly funded by genealogists and deep ancestry researchers since both parties benefit from WTY testing.

Just as deep ancestry researchers tend to over-test well defined broad haplogroups, surname admins do the same (sometimes with encouragement from deep ancestry researchers). After two or three submissions have tested positive under any well defined surname cluster, additional testing of haplogroups is really wasteful of limited funds for genetic testing. These funds should be then pooled for WTY testing to discover more recent haplogroups that greatly help both genealogists and deep ancestry researchers.

The recent WTY test that discovered L555, L557 and L561 could be the "poster child" for the benefits of deep ancestry research for genealogists. The Irwin surname project is a very mature and well run surname project that has over 150 submissions that appear to be L21 related. A Y-Search for the L555 DNA fingerprint reveals that 80 % are Irwin variant submissions (at a 70 % match of the DNA fingerprint). Both genealogists and deep ancestry researchers should be extensively testing submissions for these Y-SNPs since the implications of gaining widespread genealogical interest would greatly benefit deep ancestry research as well as genealogists.



R-L21 researchers are really blessed with leadership that are both highly skilled and willing to help with the extensive analysis that is required. I highly recommend that you trust some of your budget to these individuals to conduct testing that is planned and will have the maximum return on our investment. The best way to show that you support your R-L21 leadership is to make donations to haplogroup projects. The best two projects would the R-L21WTY project and the R-L21PLUS project. For information on how to donate funds for well planned and organized testing, see the DONATIONS.