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Frequently Asked Questions

This page is to address questions that we're often asked about genetic genealogy. We've compiled it from e-mails gleaned over the years.

Questions & Answers


What DNA tests do you recommend?
That depends on what you want to learn:
* For paternal lineage within genealogical time -- to find which Taylor family is yours --  we recommend a Y-STR test of 37 or more markers to start with. (Some may need more markers.) See this. Most project activity focuses on Y-STR testing. It has about a 70% effectiveness rate.
* For paternal lineage in deep ancestry or to screen invalid matches, we recommend Y-SNP testing; see this for more.
* For maternal ancestry, we recommend mtDNA testing, the full genome version. See this. It is generally less effective at identifying a specific maternal lineage than Y-DNa for paternal lineages.
* For all ancestors to within four or five generations, we recommend autosomal tests such as (FTDNA) Family Finder, 23andMe or Ancestry DNA. See this.
What testing companies do you recommend?
* For Y-DNA, either STR or SNP, Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) is the testing company of choice. A proven performer, its database for matching is unequaled. It is now the only major geneetic genealogy company providing these tests.
* FTDNA is also the company of choice for mtDNA testing.
* For autosomal DNA, you may wish to review this objective comparison. We like FTDNA for a comprehensive look in combination with Y-DNA and mtDNA. However, 23andMe and Ancestry DNA are also excellent and may be more suited to individual needs. (It is possible, within limits, to transfer results from either to FTDNA.)
Does DNA testing & matching replace traditional genealogy?
Absolutely not; it merely supplements it. It can, though, focus your traditional research and put you in touch with genetic cousins and, by sharing information with them, you can flesh out your family tree. It can also lend confirmation to or refute a supposed relationship. These benefits make it especially useful for common surnames.
Can DNA testing reveal American Indian ancestry?
Sometimes. Certain Y- and mtDNA haplogroups are almost specific to American Indians. (They're also found in Siberia.) Also DNA may match cousins with documented Indian ancestry.
Can DNA testing reveal ethnicity?
To an extent, but only generally and probabilistically, We usually think of ethnicity in terms of countries in the immediate past few generations; DNA, though, reflects smaller groups over many generations. It's like using a foot-ruler to measure pounds; it can be done ,but with a large error margin. Our ethnic makeup, it turns out, is a lot more genetically complicated than we usually think. For example, the Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Norse and Normans who settled in England at various times were all genetic mixtures themselves. Humans left Africa 60,000 or more years ago and have been on the move, to and fro, ever since; groups split and developed separately into different groups, then came back together and mixed.
I was adopted. Will DNA find my birth parents?
Not specifically. Y-DNA may identify your paternal lineage, but not your father individually. Autosomal DNA may help you make contact with genetic cousins. These tests, however, could be important steps to identifying your birth parents.
Can DNA prove my genealogy?
Not as to specific relationships. It can say, to a high degree of probability, that you are related to a presumed ancestor and thus can provide confirming evidence. But DNA can not -- by itself -- prove the exact nature of the relationship. It can not, for example, completely distinguish between a father/son and brother/brother relationship.
Can DNA disprove false genealogy?
Very often. Y-DNA and mtDNA are actually better at exclusion than inclusion. Autosomal DNA isa not as good at exclusion.


Can I join Taylor Family Genes without a test from Family Tree DNA?
No. You must have, or be in the process of, DNA test results in the FTDNA database. You may either purchase the test directly from FTDNA or transfer results as described above. The reason for this requirement is that the project is too large and complex for us to do the necessary analysis without using the tools FTDNA provides for its customers and projects.
How do I join Taylor Family Genes?
The easiest way is to go to the project's FTDNA website (click this link). Click on the
"Join Request" link on the top menu bar. The next page will give you two options:
  1. If you already have a FTDNA account, enter your kit number and password, then click the orange " LOG IN" button.
  2. If you do not have a FTDNA account, click the orange "Purchase a test.." link to order the test appropriate for you. Select the test and follow the other instructions.
At the completion of either process, you will have joined.
Is there a cost for belonging to or participating in Taylor Family Genes?
No. We do not have fees, dues or charges to project members. Nor, we do charge for any services provided. Further, FTDNA offers discounts on tests for joining a project, so the cost is actually negative. We do occasionally solicit voluntary donations for programs and activities to benefit the project. For example, we subsidize testing under certain conditions.
Can I donate to Taylor Family Genes?
Yes. Go to this link, select Taylor from the list of projects, enter the amount and complete the process. Funds received will be used to sponsor Y-DNA tests, particularly to enhance participation in the British Isles.
Can I get a test subsidized?
Perhaps. You must make a formal request, (see this page) explaining how the test will benefit others beside yourself. The project's administrative team will review your request to see if it meets the criteria established.
Can I participate in Taylor Family Genes without a test by FTDNA?
No. This is the sole absolute, iron-clad requirement for joining the project. We are a DNA project and require DNA results and do our work only within the FTDNA databases. You may, however, be able to transfer results from another company to FTDNA to meet this requirement.
Can I participate in Taylor Family Genes without sharing my information?
Not really. If you don't want to share, don't join. Genetic genealogy is a cooperative venture, not a solo voyage; it is only possible with mutual information-sharing. You can't see others' DNA results (and tell if you match) without them also being able to see yours. If you do not consent to release of your DNA results to project administrators and other FTDNA customers, we will terminate your project membership.
How much information must I share?
(1) Your Y-DNA and/or mtDNA results, with your surname and earliest known ancestors, will be published by FTDNA.
(2) We encourage you to use the Family Trees (or GEDCOM) feature at FTDNA; add your ancestors and link your matches to them. Or, submit your paternal lineage tree for publication on this website; your full name and/or e-mail will be published only with your permission.
(3) We ask you to communicate with project administrations and those whom you match and to share your genealogical information with them.
(4) We recommend you submit a paternal lineage tree for publication on this website.
Is there a way I can promote membership in Taylor Family Genes?
Yes. Share your experiences with other genealogists, and not just Taylors. Word of mouth is the best kind of advertising.
Should I join other projects? Would this mean quitting Taylor Family Genes?
Yes you should and no it wouldn't. We encourage TFG members to join as many projects as are relevant to them; these could include haplogroup and geographical projects for example. Joining other projects will not affect your membership in TFG.
How do I update my contact information?
We recommend that every project member keep his or her contact information on the FTDNA account current; that's what we'll use to contact you. To do this, you'll need your kit number (user name) and password. Log onto your My FTDNA pages and click on "Manage Personal Information"; review the Contact Information tab  and correct any wrong or outdated items. Then, click the orange SAVE button to record your changes.
How do I update my genealogical information?
Log oonto your My FTDNA pages & "Personal Information" as above but choose the Genealogy tab.
I had my cousin do a DNA test through Ancestry; I would love to add it to Taylor Family Genes. How do I go about that?
It is possible to transfer some tests by other companies to FTDNA and join the project; there will usually be a fee for doing so. Go to https://www.familytreedna.com/public/taylorfamilygenes/ and click the Join Request link on the top menu bar. On the next window, under Option B, click on Purchase a Test, scroll down to Third-Party Transfers and select the one that fits. If within the past two years, that would be an autosomal test.
If the test was a Y-DNA test (from a few years ago), it too can be transferred as described above. However, we recommend getting the tests with upgrades at the same time in order to find matches in the FTDNA database.
My cousin isn't showing as an autosomal match; what's wrong?
Perhaps nothing is wrong. It's entirely possible that you and your cousin share no DNA segments which are identical by descent (IBD). See this page.
I am testing for mtDNA at FTDNA and want to be included in my brother's Y-DNA group. How do i make this happen?
You can't. Y-DNA results and mtDNA results are about very different things -- paternal lineages for Y and maternal lineages for mt. The Y genetic family is for the paternal lineage; it typically joins your maternal lineage only in the most recent generation.


What is a match?
A match is similarity between two or more sets of DNA results (haplotypes). Matches can be described as
* "Exact" is a match in which -- from the measurements -- the data are identical and can not be told apart;
* "Close" is the term used by FTDNA to describe matches it reports within its database; "close matches" are determined by windows of genetic distance steps at specific resolution levels; and
* "Significant" is the term used by Taylor Family Genes to describe matches of genealogical importance; some close matches are not significant and a few significant matches are not reported as "close".
Does a DNA match prove my genealogy?
A DNA match can be strong evidence, but only one piece of evidence. In order to meet a burden of proof, it needs to be combined with other facts. However, a DNA match may focus research to develop the additional evidence.
Can you guarantee I'll find a DNA match?
No is the short answer. But about 70% of project members with Y-DNA who could conceivably match do match at least one other project member.
Finding a match depends on many factors and may take time and patience. We recommend making searches as broad initially as possible, then narrowing the list down to the significant matches.
How common is an exact DNA match?
That depends on the kind of DNA:
* For autosomal DNA, an exact match on all segments of 22 pairs of chromosomes is almost impossible except between identical twins;  there are too many points of comparison and too many things go on in the DNA transfers from parents to children. Very common, though, is an exact match on one or more segments of one or more chromosomes.
* For Y-DNA, exact matches (with adequate number of markers) are unusual except between brothers, father/ son or grandfather/grandson. With more generations, at least some differences between haplotypes is common.
* For mtDNA, exact matches are more common because mtDNA is more stable than Y-DNA and the mitochondrial genome is smaller.
What does an exact match mean?
That depends on the quality and precision of the measurements, and exceptions do occur. For example, in Y-STR tests:
* An exact match at 12 markers is usually meaningless within the Taylor surname; it may be more meaningful in low-frequency names;
* An exact match at 25 markers may or may not be meaningful;
* An exact match at 37 markers usually means a common ancestor within genealogic time;
* An exact match at 67 markers usually means a common ancestor within a few recent generations.
* An exact match at 111 markers usually means a common ancestor within one or two generations.
What is a "significant match"?
We define it as similarity of DNA sufficient to indicate a high probability of sharing a common ancestor within genealogic time, roughly 24 generations. More precise definitions depend on the type and nature of DNA compared.
How common is a significant match?
* With autosomal DNA, very common for those of European ancestry;
* With Y-DNA, more than half of those tested have significant matches within the project; ~90% have significant matches in the FTDNA database;
* With mtDNA, determining significance (even of exact matches) is problematic.
I've heard the term "NPE"; what does it mean?
It's short for "non-paternal event", sometimes called "not the parent expected" or "incorrectly ascribed paternity". It refers to a discontinuity in transmission of surname and Y-chromosome, in which a child receives a surname other than that of his/her biological father. For more, see this page.
Do you have groups (genetic families) for mtDNA?
No. We are a surname project, specifically for the Taylor name, which is associated with direct paternal lineages -- biological father to son, through many generations. Mitochondrial DNA follows maternal lineages; surnames tend to change every generation.
Do you have groups (genetic families) for autosomal DNA?
No. Autosomal DNA follows complex inheritance patterns from all ancestors. You are likely to have about as much autosomal DNA from your paternal grandfather as from your maternal grandmother. Typically, you will have four surnames among your grandparents, eight among your great-grandparents and sixteen among your great-grandparents. AuDNA is, therefore, not associated with any particular surname.
My surname is not Taylor but I have significant Y-DNA matches with Taylors; what does it mean?
It probably means your patriline at some point comes from the Taylor surname.
My surname is Taylor but I have no Y-DNA matches with any Taylors; what does it mean?
It could mean any of several things:
  (1) No one else from your Taylor patriline has tested;
  (2) Your Taylor family is a rare one;
  (3) There have been an unusual number of mutations in your haplotype;
  (4) Your biological patriline's surname wasn't originally Taylor.
Please contact the project administration team to explore this in more detail.
There are many different surnames on my Y-DNA match list; why?
This is fairly common, especially for those of Scots or Irish origins. It may be reflective of clan ties. Or, it could reflect that your haplotype is a common one and the (particularly, more distant) matches are not indicative of shared ancestry within genealogic time.


Are all Taylors related?
No, emphatically not in the normal sense. Taylors are not all related; there are many separate Taylor families. Taylor is a multi-source name, with many origins or founders. Historical records, as well as DNA, support this; Taylor families sprung up all over England in the late 14th century. (However, some academic studies say that everyone in the world is related to each other within the past 10 generations, thus a complete family tree to 10 generations would include ~8 billion people.)
If they're not all related, how many Taylor families are there?
We estimate, from the genetic evidence, that there are roughly 250 existing Taylor paternal lineages in the United States, of which at least 90 have two or more survivors who've tested Y-DNA. We think that there may be 2,500 worldwide, most tracing back to the British Isles.
My haplogroup changed from R1b to R1b1a2 (or I1 to I1a); what happened?
Just a bit more precision in the name (sort of like the difference between "mammal" and "dog".
In phylogenetic names, adding alternating letters and numbers to the end of a haplogroup/subclade refines its position on the tree. Specifically, either of two things may have happened:
  1. A SNP test pinned down your haplogroup more precisely than could be done by prediction from STR markers; or
  2. The FTDNA prediction algorithm was able to be more precise as a result of more data.
It is also possible that the phylogenetic tree was revised in light of new scientific evidence. For example, what is now known as R1b1a2 (shorthand, R-M269) was once R1b1b. 
My haplogroup changed from R1b1a2 to R-M269 (or I1 to I-M253); what happened?
Nothing really changed but terminology; these are just different ways of saying the same thing. FTDNA changed from one way to the other in April 2014. The system with alternating letters and numbers (e.g., R1b1a2) is the "phylogenetic" naming system and R-M269 is the "shorthand" system. There's movement toward the shorthand system because some phylogenetic names change every time we learn more about the human Y- tree. Shorthand names are less likely to go out of date and, for many subclades, are shorter. Click here for more.
Is Taylor Family Genes the same as Family Tree DNA?
No, they are separate entities. Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) is a for-profit company selling DNA tests and related services; Taylor Family Genes (TFG) is a non-profit group of unpaid volunteers which does not charge. TFG is sponsored by FTDNA, which provides some technical and administrative support services to the project. However, the project receives no financial support from FTDNA.
Are Taylor Family Genes administrators employees or agents of FTDNA?
No. We are volunteers and receive no compensation from FTDNA (or anyone else). We may, however, be removed by FTDNA if we do not follow their rules.
Please understand that we are not authorized to make commitments for FTDNA
How do I access my FTDNA account?
Go to https://familytreedna.com and click the "Sign in to myFTDNA" link in the upper right corner. Then, enter your kit number and password to log onto the secure site.