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Morley Y-DNA Project: Frequently Asked Questions

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Q: How can I find out more about Y-DNA testing?

Here are some resources.

General reference

Y-DNA analysis in action


More about the testing company

Q: What does the testing process involve?

  1. Order your DNA kit, through this project. The kit is shipped from Houston, Texas within a few business days.
  2. Collect cheek swabs (no bloodwork involved!), one hour after eating and drinking. Instructions are included with the kit. The procedure is quick and painless.
  3. Mail the kit back to the lab for analysis. Postage fees apply.
  4. After several weeks of analysis, results will trickle back in stages, as available. You will receive email notifications, although they may be late by a few days.
  5. Progress can be checked online.
  6. The project administrator will analyse your result by comparing it against other data in the project. If possible, you will be assigned to a family group.

Q: What are the limitations of Y-DNA testing?

  • Y-DNA testing should complement standard genealogical techniques. It does not replace traditional genealogy.

  • A total mismatch between Y-DNA tests will prove that two men do not share a common male-line ancestor within a genealogically relevant time period. In general, a match or near-match between two Y-DNA tests suggests – it alone does not conclusively prove – that the two men share a common ancestor.  But the degree of certainty increases dramatically when the matching men both carry the Morley surname and both have paper trails converging to the same time and place.
  • TMRCA (time to most recent common ancestor) analysis provides a rough estimate for how long ago a common male-line ancestor lived; it should not be taken as gospel.
  • Y-DNA testing will often answer one set of questions, only to leave you with an even larger set of new, unanswered questions. Be warned, genetic genealogy is a trip down the proverbial rabbit hole.

Q: What should I do if I've already tested with another lab?

See here.

Q: Why doesn't my Morley result match any of the others?

You may be the first in your Morley family group to have their Y-DNA tested through this project. You can wait for a match to be found. Or, if you want to be proactive, consider recruiting your most distantly related male Morley cousin to test as well. A match with this cousin will confirm your patrilineal descent back to the point where your Morley lines diverged.

Q: What can females and non-Morleys do to help?

Those ineligible to participate as test subjects (i.e. those who are not male Morleys) can still contribute greatly to this project, by helping to locate eligible participants from their Morley lineage, by contributing data to the Morley distribution maps, and by helping to fund these tests.

Q: What Y-DNA tests are available?

Our recommended lab, FTDNA, offers Y-STR testing at the 12-, 25-, 37-, 67- and 111-marker levels. The 25-marker test includes everything tested at the 12-marker level. The 37-marker test includes everything from the 25-marker test. And so forth. Since FTDNA stores your DNA sample, you can upgrade to a higher level at a later date, without having to submit more DNA vials.


Y-SNPs are another type of Y-DNA testing, and are quickly becoming useful for genealogical purposes. But start with Y-STR testing.

Q: Which Y-DNA test should I order?

How many markers you test at the outset depends on your budget and your research objectives. This project advises against going "all-in" and ordering the 111-marker kit right away.

Your Y-DNA results are just sequences of numbers. They only make sense through comparison with other people's results. The more markers compared, the more robust the comparison. Just keep in mind that the last 30 markers in a 67-marker test won't make much sense if nobody else in your immediate "genetic neighbourhood" has tested past 37 markers yet (although this may allow you to peer into adjacent genetic neighbourhoods).

Most project members will want to start at 37 markers. This will give you a sense for the composition of your genetic neighbourhood, and the degree to which its members have tested. If you match other Morleys at this level, you can be next to certain that you share a common Morley progenitor. If you turn out to be the first Morley from your lineage to test, you might luck out and find clues from the patrilineal surnames and locations associated with your non-Morley matches. You can always upgrade to a higher level if you want to investigate these non-Morley matches, or if a Morley match appears later on.

Many matches to non-Morleys at the 12- and 25-marker levels will be coincidental, and will turn out to diverge from your results at the 37- or 67-marker levels. Still, a match/mismatch at the 12- or 25-marker level to one of the Morleys already tested through this project is very useful for checking whether your genealogical research is on the right track. Testing at the 12-marker level is better than not testing at all! A 12/12 match to another Morley will often be more meaningful than a 34/37 match to a non-Morley.

Those with rarer genetic signatures will have an easier time determining whether their matches are genealogically relevant.

Before you order your kit, please consult with the group administrator for advice on your particular situation.

Q: Can I split the cost of my kit with relatives?

Yes. Family Tree DNA has created a fund for the purpose of funding kits for the Morley DNA project. You can contribute online (using PayPal or a credit card), or through the mail. Please specify which kit/branch you are contributing toward.

General donations are also accepted. They will be spent at the discretion of the project administrator.

Q: If I join the FTDNA group, will my Y-DNA results become public?

Existing DNA results added to an FTDNA project are by default displayed on that FTDNA project's public results page. If this is a concern, please contact the Morley project administrator prior to joining. He can arrange so that your Y-DNA result will not appear on the Morley project's FTDNA public results page. The project administrator will still be able to view your data and use it in his analysis, but he will not make it share the specifics of your result without your permission.

Other FTDNA project administrators have different attitudes towards privacy. Because DNA results added to a FTDNA project are by default public, be aware that your data may become public if you join another FTDNA project.

If you ordered a new kit through the Morley Y-DNA project, your results will by default be private, until the Morley project administrator gets your permission to make your results public.

Q: How does Y-DNA testing compare to other types of genetic testing?

  • Y-DNA testing tests the Y-chromosome, passed from father to son. So only men can take this type of test. This is the primary genetic tool for surname studies such as this one.

  • mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) is the opposite: it is passed from mother to child (yes, both men and women inherit mitochondrial DNA from their mothers). This is more useful for answering anthropological questions rather than genealogical ones, since in most cultures mtDNA is not tied to a hereditary surname. Targeted comparisons of mtDNA are useful for some genealogical questions; for example, mtDNA was used to identify Romanov remains.
  • atDNA (autosomal DNA) is inherited from both parents; each child's atDNA is a mixture of atDNA from his or her parents. This is useful for identifying cousins related within the last 7 or so generations. The amount of expected atDNA overlap with a cousin decreases the more generations they are removed from you. So there is little chance that you will have a detectable atDNA match with a distant Morley cousin. Admixture estimates (i.e. ethnicity estimates based on atDNA data) are relatively new, and arguably still subject to some calibration issues.
  • The present understanding is that the Y-chromosome is not very relevant medically (apart from determining gender), but this attitude may change as we learn more about our genetic codes. Be aware that there is one Y-DNA marker whose absence is indicative of infertility.
  • General paternity testing does not test Y-DNA, because only half of the population carries it! And even a high-resolution Y-DNA match between two individuals with the same name does not unequivocally prove one is the father of the other; all close patrilineal relatives of the biological father would have almost identical signatures. Paternity testing instead compares quick-mutating segments of atDNA.
  • For similar reasons, criminal DNA databases (CODIS, at least) do not record Y-DNA markers.

Q: I've already tested. Which Morley cousin should I recruit to compare against?

Generally, the more distant, the better. Paper trail quality and willingness to take the test also play a role.

If you are looking to find and recruit a distant cousin, please consult with the project administrator. It is not easy to locate a candidate, let alone convince them to test. Be mindful of how you would react if a stranger were to approach you out of the blue, say you were related and then ask for your DNA!

Q: What is an SNP and how is it different from an STR?

Here is an analogy.

Q: I'm ready to order a Y-DNA test. What next?

Great! See here.

Q: I have a question that wasn't answered here.

Try Family Tree DNA's FAQ section. Failing that, contact the Morley project administrator. The learning curve for genetic genealogy can be daunting, so don't be afraid to ask.


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