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Frequently Asked Questions about DNA testing for the
BIDDLE/BECHTEL Y-DNA Surname Project at FamilyTreeDNA
1. Is BIDDLE the only surname involved in the study or are variations included?
2. Does the person being tested have to be a male BIDDLE?
3. Which test should we take to be of most value?
4. Do I need to send in another sample to have additional tests done?
5. Should additional family members be tested?
6. What about the senior members of my family?
7. Can I join more than one project?
8. Can my test results be used for my mother's ancestry?
9. How is the sample taken?
10. What about privacy?
11. What is Ysearch?
12. What about SNP testing?
13. Is this a commercial project?
14. Will you sell my sample or my data?
15. How much will it cost?
16. Can I transfer my Y-DNA test results to FTDNA?
17. How can I get my GEDCOM to upload?
1.  Is BIDDLE the only surname involved in the study or are variations included?

Phonetically similar and related surnames are included (see header on home page for examples).


2.  Does the person being tested have to be a male BIDDLE?

Yes.  Only males surnamed BIDDLE (or some variation), ones who presumably have a direct-line male BIDDLE ancestry as shown in the chart below, can meaningfully participate in the BIDDLE Y-chromosome DNA Surname Project.
Male BIDDLE Female Male Female Male Female Male Female
Male BIDDLE Female Male Female
Male BIDDLE Female
Male BIDDLE test individual

If you are a female BIDDLE descendant or if you are a male BIDDLE descendant who is not surnamed BIDDLE, you will need to find a male BIDDLE relative who is a direct-line BIDDLE descendant to be tested for you.

Not being in a direct-male-line BIDDLE line does not prevent you from being tested, of course.  You may want to join a different surname project (to take advantage of the reduced prices for project participants) or, if there is no project for your surname, to simply be the "first on your block" to have your surname tested.  You may even wish to start a project for your surname and be the group's administrator, as I am for BIDDLE.


3.  Which test would be of most value?

All levels of testing are useful for something, but most researchers have found the more markers tested the better. It partly depends on whether you turn out to have a common haplotype or a rare one, but of course, you don't know that until after you've been tested on at least 12 markers.

It's parallel to the situation with names, that is, identifying you is more difficult if you are John SMITH than if you are Engelbert HUMPERDINCK. In identifying John SMITH, it helps greatly to know his middle initial and, better yet, to know his middle name. Adding more markers to someone's haplotype is parallel to knowing John's middle name to help separate him from other John SMITHs. I guess we could think of markers 1-12 as the surname, 13-25 as the first name, and 26-37 as the middle name and 38-67 as the birth date and place! In other words, the more clues you have to the identity, the more confident you can be of the identification. And the more common the name or haplotype, the more clues you need.

From the standpoint of the project, we would ideally like everyone to go to 67 markers, but you certainly have the option of starting with the 12-marker test, then upgrading to 25, then to 37, then to 67 DNA testing on the installment plan. How soon you will need to upgrade will likely depend on how rare your haplotype turns out to be. For a unique haplotype (no 12/12 matches), moving to 67 markers isn't as urgent as for a common haplotype (many 12/12 matches). But the bottom line is, sooner or later, you will want to go to at least 37 markers, if not 67, and it's cheaper to do it at the outset (see prices below).


4.  Do I need to send in another sample to have additional tests done in the future?

No.  Your sample will be kept in cold storage for a guaranteed 25 years, so it will be available for additional testing.  It can be assumed that, over the next few years, more refined tests will be discovered.  Having your sample in storage will make it possible to have these tests done without submitting additional samples.


5.  Should additional family members be tested?

If you get an unexpected result, yes.  But even if you get an expected result, one reason to test additional family members is to get them interested in their genealogy and identifying themselves with their ancestry.  DNA testing makes a wonderful gift to bring your family together.

But just as we are warned not to do our genealogy unless we can handle finding out something we'd rather not have known, anyone being DNA tested has to be prepared for an unexpected result because about 2-5% of people tested turn out through hidden adoption or illicit paternity not to be descended from their "paper" ancestor.  Such a result is known as an "NPE" (non-paternal event).  In the case of an NPE, the testing of cousins (beginning with a first cousin, then progressing to increasingly distant cousins) can pinpoint where the NPE took place. I describe the NPE's that have occurred in my projects and the degree to which they have been resolved on this web page.

While people today are generally open about adoptions, in the past an adopted infant was much less likely to have ever been told they were adopted.  Likewise, a wife's infidelity was more likely to be hushed up than to result in divorce, even if the infidelity was uncovered.  For these reasons, assume that an NPE occurred in distant generations, rather than near ones, and don't jump to any conclusions because you get one.  Still, consider the feelings of everyone in the family before bringing the NPE out into the open.  By the way, this is the real reason to keep this testing anonymous, not because these STR test results reveal anything medically important about you (they don't).  So, I recommend quietly testing yourself, first. Then, after you have the result, decide whether to share the news with your family (or your fellow genealogists).

There is also some logic to the idea that everyone doing their genealogy would do well, at the outset, to test themselves and at least a first cousin, just to be certain they don't spend literally years working on the wrong surname. On the other hand, if other descendants of your progenitor have already been tested and you match them, you have your answer and need not test any near cousins.


6.  What about the senior members of my family?

There may be some urgency involved with testing your family's senior members.  For example, my father was 86 years old when I paid for his testing. He even joked with me at the time, "Oh, you want to get this done before I die."  Well, yes, actually, and I'm relieved that his testing was completed because he has since passed away.


7.  Can my test results be used with other projects?

Yes.  Typically, one would first join their surname project, then, once results are returned, possibly join one or more appropriate haplogroup, regional, or ethnic projects.  There's a blue Join button on your member page that will allow you to request membership in additional projects (pending approval of that project's admin). There is no cost for joining additional projects.


8.  Can my test be used for my mother's surname?

No, your Y-DNA test cannot help you with your mother's ancestry.  Your Y-chromosome came from your father, and only from your father, so Y-chromosome DNA testing will be of no help in elucidating your mother's ancestry.  To research your mother's surname, you will need to get her father or one of her brothers or uncles or nephews of that surname to be tested for you.  I know this limitation is frustrating, but it's precisely because the Y-chromosome is handed down only from father to son that makes it useful to genealogists.


9.  How is the sample taken?

Taking the sample is simple and painless, just read the directions carefully and don't hurry.  The kit arrives by mail and contains three plastic sticks rather like small toothbrushes, without the bristles.  You take the sample by rubbing the inside of your cheek with the stick, then dropping the detachable tip into a vial.  You take the samples at least eight hours apart.  Then put the vials in the provided mailer and return the kit by mail.


10.  What about privacy?

You establish your level of privacy by the way you join and the options you select.

If you want complete privacy, you should not join a project, but simply order and pay for your testing on your own.  That way, your identity and results are known only to you (and to FamilyTreeDNA, obviously).

If you join a project, the project administrator knows who you are (i.e., has access to your full name and contact information), but only your test data, lineage, and surname not your given name(s) will be placed in public view on the project's web sites.  The administrator will not reveal your identity to anyone, not even to other project members or administrators.  That doesn't prevent you from revealing yourself, just that neither FTDNA nor I will do it.

Alternatively, there is a way to join the project without allowing FTDNA to know your identity, and that is by having the project administrator purchase the kit for you. Your given name would simply be "Anonymous" in the FTDNA database, and the project admin would be the contact person. The project admin will sign the Release and your data will be shared with the project.

By signing the Release that comes with your kit, your name and email address will be shared with others tested at FamilyTreeDNA whose results match yours (and vice versa), but your name and email address will still not be displayed at the project web sites nor be released by the project administrator.  Signing the Release is a condition for joining this project as it is unfair to refuse to share your results with others when others are sharing their results with you.  If you don't want to be the contact person (i.e., if you don't want to be emailed by contacts), we can substitute your family genealogist or me as the contact person.

You do have the option of Restricting match sharing to just the members of your surname project, rather than with everyone else tested at FamilyTreeDNA, the latter of which is obviously a much larger database.  Please note that the FTDNA database is not searchable or browsable, not even by project administrators, much less by the general public, which has no access to the database.

If you want to get the most from your testing, then share the most, that is:  join a project, sign the Release, remove the sharing Restriction (via the checkbox at your member page), and upload your results to Ysearch (see next FAQ).

Speaking personally (not as a representative of FamilyTreeDNA), I frankly do not see the need for privacy.  To demonstrate just how unconcerned I am, I have placed my mtDNA results online at my website and put my mtDNA FGS (Full Genetic Sequence) online at GenBank (EU979542).  You should be much more concerned about someone knowing your Social Security number or reading your bank account number off your checks or your credit card numbers off your sales slips.  (And I'd much rather have someone know my DNA test results than my weight!)  I do have these caveats:  I recommend keeping the fact that you are being tested quiet until you've seen the results because, if your results uncover a hidden adoption or illicit paternity, you may want to limit with whom you share that information.  I made certain I was an mtDNA match with a first cousin before I "went public" with my HVR1+HVR2 results; and I got a clean slate from a medical analysis of my mtDNA FGS before I uploaded the results to GenBank.  With regard to Y-DNA testing, my father has passed away since being tested, so I have de-privatized his name (scroll to the right to see the lineage).  I didn't see any reason to keep his identity secret in the first place, so I certainly see no reason to keep it secret now.

It bears mentioning that once the Y-DNA haplogroup and modal haplotype have been determined for your progenitor, your haplogroup and matching (or near-matching) haplotype are therefore also known by anyone who knows you descend from that progenitor, whether you even get tested, or not. There is nothing left to keep secret, so why make a big deal out of privacy? (The exception possibly being in the case of an NPE, though even then, the best policy is to reveal it, so you can resolve it.)

See also FamilyTreeDNA's privacy policy.  Your privacy is further maintained by Federal Law:  see the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) summarized on the FTDNA web site. FTDNA also subscribes to the Safe Harbor program protecting personal information for those in the European Union and Switzerland.


11.  What is Ysearch?

Ysearch.org is a publicly available and searchable database on the internet, sponsored by FTDNA, but open to anyone regardless of where they were tested. Once your test results have returned, the upload is a few easy clicks from a link on the "Y-DNA Matches" tab of your member page.

Even if you upload your data to Ysearch, your anonymity is still maintained if you so wish.  At Ysearch, only the test results and surname of the test subject are necessarily displayed. You have the options of including the name and origin of the most distant ancestor, uploading a GEDCOM, and/or revealing your name as the contact person (if you wish to remain anonymous, just enter "name witheld" in the contact name field). Visitors contact you via a form that reveals neither your name or email address, giving you the option whether or not to respond and reveal yourself.

The question then becomes, why upload to Ysearch? One reason is to seek a match in a larger database, one that includes individuals tested at other companies, not just FTDNA.  The other is to make your data available to researchers, in particular, to ones studying larger issues, at the paleoanthropological level.  Anything you do to help them ultimately helps you better understand your origins.

Lastly, I hope you will upload just to have mercy on your project admin.  If you don't upload your results, I have to manually enter your test data into Ysearch every time I want to check to see if you have any matches.  Please spare me this tedium!


12.  What about SNP testing?

Results from STR (Short Tandem Repeat) testing should correlate with results from SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) testing.  In other words, haplotypes should correlate with haplogroups, and they do.  Therefore, in most cases your haplogroup can be deduced from your haplotype.  In cases where the prediction of the haplogroup from the haplotype is weak or equivocal (most likely due to a rare or unique haplotype), FTDNA will do a "backbone" SNP test (without charge) as part of its "haplogroup assurance policy."  This policy means being STR tested at FTDNA assures that you will know your basic haplogroup with certainty, without the added expense of a backbone SNP test.

Deep SNP testing determines your haplogroup subclade and is offered by FTDNA without having to submit another sample.  This determination (and, thus, this testing) is not a requirement for participation in the project, but I hope you will consider doing it, for a number of reasons.

One reason is simply to "contribute to science."  Every one of us who undergoes both STR and SNP testing is contrbuting to the databases that allow these correlations to be made and is contributing to the success of researchers engaged in reconstructing human origins.  And then, there's your own curiosity.  I'm fascinated by the progress being made, and I find it far more meaningful to know that I'm part of the process of discovery and advancement.  If you want recent history to come alive for you and your children, do your family's genealogy.  If you want human history and earth history to come alive for them, have the family DNA tested and once you have your test results, join the National Geographic Society's Genographic Project (a few easy clicks on your FTDNA member page).

On the practical side, haplogroups are a logical way to organize the project because people in different haplogroups have a zero probability of being closely related, so breaking up the project by haplogroups is simply useful.


13.  Is this a commercial project?

FamilyTreeDNA is a for-profit business.  The surname and regional projects based at FamilyTreeDNA are administered by volunteers (I'm a retired zoologist/paleontologist whose hobby is genealogy).  This arrangement is parallel to the mailing lists at RootsWeb.com and the message boards at Ancestry.com, which are administered by volunteers, but owned by a for-profit business.


14.  Will you sell my sample or my data?

No.  The sample belongs to you.  Your sample will be kept in storage at FamilyTreeDNA for 25 years, in case you wish to have more tests run (without having to submit another sample) or you can have the sample destroyed if you so direct.  Your test results will be made public on the project's web site free of charge, which means there can be no incentive for anyone to try to sell the data.


15.  How much does it cost?

FamilyTreeDNA offers a variety of tests and services.  Please see descriptions of products at their web site:
FamilyTreeDNA Products and Prices
While I do my best to keep this FAQ up-to-date, the FTDNA web site is always the final word on prices.

I do not recommend any of the bundled tests (prices in red) because it's cheaper to purchase the tests separately.  When joining a Y-DNA surname project, please order the Y-DNA test, first, then follow later with a Family Finder test.

When joining the project, please first order a Y-DNA test, followed later with a Family Finder or other tests.

Your surname project admin recommends the tests highlighted in bright yellow.  In most circumstances, males will need 67 markers to be confident a match isn't coincidental*.

Test List Price Group Price Holiday Sale Price
Y-DNA37 169 149 139
 Y-DNA67 268 248 228
Y-DNA111 359 339 309
Family Finder 99 99  89
Plus shipping and handling (includes return shipping): $9.95

*If your haplotype is rare (i.e., distant from the modal haplotype in an uncommon haplogroup), you won't need to test as many markers as someone whose haplotype is common (i.e., close to the modal haplotype for a common haplogroup). The problem is, you won't know which yours is until after you've tested and, by definition, the majority of people will have a common haplotype.

It's ultimately cheaper to purchase the maximum markers from the outset.  Upgrading the number of markers in stages reduces the initial sticker shock, but will cost more in the long run.

Test Regular Price
Y-Refine 12 to 37 99
Y-Refine 12 to 67 189
Y-Refine 12 to 111 339
Y-Refine 25 to 37  49
Y-Refine 25 to 67 148
Y-Refine 25 to 111 249
Y-Refine 37 to 67 99
Y-Refine 37 to 111 220
Y-Refine 67 to 111 129


16.  Can I transfer my Y-DNA test results to FTDNA?

Yes, if you were tested with any company using the Sorenson laboratory to run their customers' tests (viz., SMGF, GeneTree, or Ancestry), you can have your 33- or 46-marker results transferred to FTDNA.  The Transfer fee will give you an account at FTDNA and give your project administrator access to your results, allowing the results to be displayed at the project web site.  However, the transfer fee, alone, will not give you haplogroup prediction or allow you to receive automatic match notifications.  To enjoy the full benefits of being a project member at FTDNA, you need to be retested at FTDNA.  The retesting is done at a considerable discount (compare above prices), so I highly recommend doing so and from the outset.

Transfer Only (33 or 46 markers) $19
Upgrade later from Y-DNA33 to Y-DNA25 39
Upgrade later from Y-DNA46 to Y-DNA37 39
Transfer Y-DNA33 including upgrade to FTDNA Y-DNA25 58
Transfer Y-DNA46 including upgrade to FTDNA Y-DNA37 58


17.  How can I get my GEDCOM to upload?

Some people have no difficulty uploading a GEDCOM to their FTDNA account, while others fail despite repeated attempts. If you are in the latter category, experience has shown me that the method outlined below does work.  (I'm assuming you are using standard genealogy software that will export a standard GEDCOM.)

To begin with, do not try to extract a subset of your existing database.  Create a new database expressly for this purpose.  While this may seem to be a waste of time, it doesn't take nearly as much time as you will waste trying and failing to get an "extracted" GEDCOM to upload.  The new database should have the following attributes:

Make certain the first person you enter in the database is the test subject, so they are ID No. 1 in the database (and, thus, @I1@ in the GEDCOM).  Also make certain they are marked as the root person in the tree.

Enter only 12 generations, including the test subject.  FTDNA will not display more, so there's no point in including more.

Enter only these five items:

name, birth date, birth place, death date, death place
Nothing else will be displayed and no one can download your GEDCOM so there's no point including anything else.  With regard to entering the name, don't bother including prefixes (e.g., Rev., Dr., etc.), suffixes (e.g., Jr., Sr., III, etc.), titles, nicknames, or alternate names; they won't be displayed.  If you want a prefix or nickname to show up, you'll need to place it in the given name field; if you want a suffix or alternate surname to show up, you'll need to put it in the surname field.  If you do this, be certain to use a single quote ('), not a double quote ("), to enclose a nickname; and be certain not to use a slash (/) to separate alternate names.

Do not skip adding locations.  Locations are important in helping your matchees decide whether an ancestor may be related, which may influence their decision whether or not to contact you.

Do not use "upper" characters, such as ø, ß, ü, etc.  They will likely display as "garbage."  I presume there will eventually be a fix for this, but not as of the last time I checked.

Include only your ancestors (viz., parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc.), no other kin.  Do not include additional spouses or adoptive parents include biological ancestors only.

With regard to privatization, I don't see the need for privacy here.  Your pedigree is not on public display and cannot be downloaded, so the only people seeing it will be your genetic matches.  I have given my full name as test subject and the full names of my parents and everyone else.  To make certain everyone showed up, I deliberately set the Living Flag to "No" for the entire database before exporting it.  If you don't want someone to show up, then set the Living Flag to Yes before doing the export.  Do make certain the Living Flag is set, one way or the other, if you want control over the individuals displayed.  Otherwise, FTDNA's software will decide, and you may get unexpected results for people who don't have a death date.

Lastly, even if you do not know your ancestry (e.g., you are adopted), please include a GEDCOM with your name as test subject and with a father and mother named, "Adopted."  That way, your matchees won't waste your time and theirs emailing you to ask for your pedigree or urge you to upload a GEDCOM.

Whatever effort it is to create this special "lean and clean" database is likely to be well repaid in how small the file is and how easily it uploads.  If you continue to have difficulty, I can only recommend you contact FTDNA, directly, because if you follow the above, you've avoided all the reasons I know of why the upload might fail.  That is, I've never known a file created as I've described above to fail to upload.


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