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If it hasn't happened already, eventually the paper trail guiding your Morley research will become faint; the records needed to take your Morley line back another generation (with any degree of confidence) are either missing, inaccessible or ambiguous. You've hit a brick wall, and traditional genealogical approaches aren't providing any more clues.

This is where genetics can come to the rescue.

Each man inherits his Y chromosome from his father, who in turn got it from his father, and likewise for previous generations. Y chromosomes are therefore transmitted in the same manner as surnames (in Western cultures, at least), and it is possible to employ Y-DNA testing to supplement your existing research.

The result of a Y-DNA test is a set of numbers – a genetic code. In theory, every male-line (patrilineal) descendant of a surname’s founder should have a similar Y-DNA code. This allows us to compare the data for male Morleys and determine whether they descend from a common ancestor. In practice, the values of a family’s Y-DNA signature occasionally undergo non-harmful mutations as the code is passed from generation to generation. We can therefore compare the genetic signatures of various Morley family groups and use this information – in conjunction with the available genealogical information – to estimate when the branches diverged.

Y-DNA testing helps to validate existing genealogical research and to test guesswork. It can strengthen or disprove family lore. It is never totally conclusive, but it is often helpful.

Y-DNA testing can point your research in new directions. For example, a genetic match with another Morley participant from another county/state/province/country may help you discover a long-lost branch. Or near-matches with several surnames from the same geographical area may give you insight into the location of earlier ancestors.